Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 34

Astronomy Travel

three nights of camping. Every detail of the trip had to be
planned carefully. Besides the food, water, and camping gear,
we had to be creative with how we packed for my three nights
of imaging. Seventy pounds doesn't sound like much weight,
and throw in a lot of photography equipment and it can add
up quickly!
For this second trip, my youngest son came along, so
together we were permitted a generous 280 pounds of gear
between the four of us. We also were allowed carry-on items
that aren't included in the limit, so we loaded up on whatever we could carry, just like most people do when flying. I
strapped my big Canon 5D Mark III DSLR and lens around
my neck, loaded the telescope in a hand carrier, and even put
a 10-pound counterweight in my backpack.
My primary goal this time was deep-sky astrophotography with a small telescope under these remote dark skies. I
brought along my Software Bisque Paramount MyT robotic
mount, a Sky-Watcher Esprit 80-mm ED refractor, and a
Starlight Xpress Trius SX694C cooled CCD camera. Getting
this to, and using it from, what was essentially a desert island
was quite a trick. The mount itself weighs 35 pounds, and the
tripod is another 20. Throw in two lithium batteries, counterweights, and a telescope, and I'd already soared way past
my 70-pound limit. Success depended on asking my family to
sacrifice some of their weight allotment.
I opted for the small 80-mm refractor because it would
present less of a problem under the predicted windy conditions and would be lightweight and easier to hand-carry. Its
short 400-mm focal length is quite forgiving of bad seeing
as well. The one-shot color camera I settled on was chosen

specifically to eliminate the extra weight and power draw of a
color filter wheel. Combined with its low-noise Sony detector,
modest power requirements, and the scope's reasonably fast
f/5 focal ratio, I figured this "bare-bones" setup should do
well for me if I took relatively short exposures under exceptionally dark skies.
To power the mount, I brought an EGO 56-volt 7.5-amphour battery that ideally would last two full nights. I also had
a custom battery box with a LiFePO4 25-amp-hour lithium
battery I'd made that would power the CCD camera for two
nights. This battery technology is expensive but extremely
lightweight. I also knew that if it was going to be windy, dew
was not going to be an issue, so I could forgo any dew heaters.
Surprisingly, the largest power drain for most portable
imaging setups used to be the laptop computer needed to
control the mount and camera. These days, there are computers the size of a deck of cards that can run Windows or some
variant of Linux, which draw very little power. While most
people overestimate how much computer horsepower they
need for imaging in the field, these tiny computers are more
than up to the task.
I chose the Raspberry Pi2 kit for this purpose and installed
Software Bisque's TheSkyX imaging suite on the Raspberry
Pi2 myself. All that is required to run it is a remote desktop
server on the device and a corresponding remote desktop
client on my tablet computer. I simply had to connect to the
system over its built-in Wi-Fi and use it just like a laptop,
except I could then disconnect the tablet and put it to sleep
after starting my imaging run, and the system would keep on
chugging along taking pictures.

WW SIMPLE SETUP On
his first trip to the island,
the author used a SkyWatcher Star Adventurer
tracking mount and Canon
EOS 5D Mark III DSLR
with a wide-angle lens to
record constellations and
a few nightscapes over
Fort Jefferson.
W DEEP, DARK SKY
The island's small stand
of mangrove trees doesn't
interfere with the views of
the Milky Way. This image
featuring the author's
children was captured
with the setup seen at left
using a 50-mm lens and
a 60-second exposure at
ISO 800.

34

F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 * SK Y & TELESCOPE



Sky and Telescope - February 2017

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky and Telescope - February 2017

Contents
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - Cover1
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - Cover2
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 1
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - Contents
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 3
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 4
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 5
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 6
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 7
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 8
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 9
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Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 31
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Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 33
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 34
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Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - Cover3
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - Cover4
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