New autoguiding camera at Kingman Observatory
Physics | Posted on June 24, 2019
Until now, capturing quality images of galaxies and nebulae using the Celestron 14" telescope at the Kingman Observatory was impossible.
Producing an image with a telescope requires taking a long-exposure photograph. In order for the image to be sharp, everything within the frame must remain absolutely still through the entirety of the exposure.
Due to the apparent motion of the stars, it is necessary that the telescope’s mount rotate to match this movement. However, at such high magnifications, the movement of the mount must be flawless in order to produce sharp images. The gears within telescope mounts cannot be easily manufactured to this sort of precision, so the mount’s movement will not be perfect. The tracking on our equatorial mount works well for visual observing but does not work for taking images.
Recently, the Department of Physics purchased a specialized camera for use in off-axis autoguiding. "Off-axis" refers to how a small section of the telescope’s image is redirected using a small prism. This redirected light is then sent to the autoguiding camera, which focuses on stars in the image and monitors their movement. It is connected to the mount and sends information to it regarding how to keep the image steady. Using this real-time information from the camera, the mount can track the movement of the stars perfectly. This allows beautiful long-exposure photographs to be taken of galaxies and nebulae using a separate camera.