New Mount: "First Light" for my Sky-Watcher HEQ5 PRO

17 July 2021

My astrophotography journey began modestly. Using only a camera, a super-zoom lens, and a tripod I took my first pictures of stars from home. Those were simple pictures: A mostly black picture with white dots sprinkled throughout the image. This was by no means a good image but got me thinking about what I needed to change to take better and most of all, more interesting pictures of the sky.

So I began to read and test and read more and test more. This was how I dabbled into landscape astrophotography. As I mostly went out with some deep-sky photographers they were naturally more interested in dark places than interesting landscapes. They weren't taking pictures of the environment after all and it was sufficient to go to the same dark spot over and over again.

Taking starry landscape shots quickly became redundant and so I gave deep-sky photography a go. This must have been around winter as the first DSO I can remember to take an image of was M42, the Orion Nebula. It is pretty easy to find and even without a star tracker, there is a chance to see at least some of the nebulosity.

Fast forward 4 years: For quite some time I feel that I have outgrown my trusty Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer, which is a nifty little tracker for simple and importantly lightweight camera equipment. My current gear of choice weighs around 4 kilos which is just shy of the maximum payload of 5 kilos. Moreover, I messed up my polar alignment regularly when I was trying to find and frame my target. All together lead to my wish for a new mount:

  • A more sturdy mount.
  • A mount with GOTO-capabilities
  • A mount that gives me room to grow and use real telescopes (refractors and reflectors)

As I was satisfied with all Sky-Watcher products I own I didn't feel like switching manufacturers, so my choice was down to one of the following options:

  • An EQM-35
  • A HEQ5 PRO
  • An EQ6R PRO

All in their respective GOTO-Version. The HEQ5 PRO seemed to be a good compromise between portability, affordability, and room for further upgrades. So I saved up my money and finally got myself a new toy.

This weekend was the first use of the mount and the goal was not primarily to get a good image but to get to know the mount, how the setup and tear down works, how it connects with my ASIAIR and how polar alignment and GOTO can be used with the ASIAIR. Nevertheless there is an image of NGC 7000, the North America Nebula, which I can show:

NGC 7000 - North America Nebula

Compared to all the other images of NGC 7000 I took, this one is my favorite until now.

One thing to conclude with: As it is with new equipment, not everything went smooth this time. In the beginning, I had major problems getting the mount to slew to the position I wanted to. However this was by no means the fault of the mount, it was a problem in the interaction between my Nikon D5300 and the ASIAIR. Although the camera took pictures, or at least it seemed like it, the ASIAIR did always receive or process the same image of the region around the north celestial pole. That this will not work is no surprise at all and a problem I have to look after some other time. After replacing the D5300 with the D7500 the rest of the night was a piece of cake.

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