My very first attempt at capturing an object outside the Solar System happened in August 2018. I slapped a DSLR on my childhood telescope, a 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain, and started off with planetary images. I got bored after imaging Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars for about a month. I took 106 5-second exposures of Messier 7, since it was one of the brightest targets and it was pretty high in the early night sky:
It definitely wasn't a world-class image, but I was so proud at the time. The challenge of doing better got me hooked. Thanks to the useful info from online resources (mostly CloudyNights!), I ditched the telescope and started taking pictures with a 250mm lens on the generic motorized equatorial mount from the Mak.
I captured my first galaxy (M31) in October 2018, and I realized that my integration times needed to increase drastically in order to capture more detail. This was impossible with the limit of 10 second subs using the generic mount.
I purchased a used Orion Sirius EQ-G in November. By December 2018, I had racked up 263 minutes on M31 as my longest integration:
Up until this point, I was using Paint.NET and GIMP for processing. By January, I got a lightly-used ES ED80 with help from my parents and I invested in PixInsight. Captured in January, February, and March 2019:
And finally, in August 2019... 1 year later. I returned to Messier 7! (This looks much better on Flickr.)
It's been a great journey so far, and I'm so thankful for all the great info shared on CN. This shows that a good mount, a small refractor, and a stock DSLR is all you need to make it happen! That's all I have been using since January, along with a velcro dew shield to block stray light, a ton of hand warmers to prevent condensation, and a lawn chair to sit outside.
Until I find space in my frugal college-life budget, this easy portable setup works well for me since I don't have anywhere to leave my equipment unattended for long nights of imaging and 60 second subs work well for my light pollution.
I plan to invest in guiding, autofocus, and all that automation stuff in the distant future. A used modified DSLR is at the top of my list since my T3i is about to hit the 7-year mark with 139k clicks, and I need a camera for both astrophotography and aviation photography.
Thanks for reading or skimming! Comments appreciated as always!