DaltonSkyGazer Observatory Control Room
Heated Control Room @ DaltonSkyGazer Observatory

I created the DaltonSkyGazer Astrophotography Blog and Website to share the lessons I learn as I progress on my path to mastering the fine art of astrophotography.  Everyone has seen beautiful colorful images of space in magazines, yet few truly comprehend just how difficult it can be to capture and process those images. A lot of time and effort goes into processing just a single astrophotography image.  Astrophotography is a discipline and an art and requires patience and time to master.  Learning how to take beautiful astronomical images requires an initial investment in quality gear, dedication, patience, and many hours of hands on experience in the field.

My name is Jeff Turner, DaltonSkyGazer astrophotography blog was created to share my journey into the realm of astrophotography. Along the way, I hope that by documenting my images and the techniques I use to capture and process my images I will be able to lay a solid basic foundation for those who wish to learn how to capture images of the night skies!

I was first introduced to astronomy by a friend of mine Alex in the Spring of 2001. My interest in the hobby quickly grew into a passion. Alex owned a variety of telescopes, having just purchased his dream telescope, a 20″ Obsession. A 20″ telescope is an extremely large telescope, very few hobbyists own a scope of this size. I was spoiled early on with the views afforded to me by Alex’s Obsession telescope. Alex was one of the first people to outfit his Obsession telescope with the Argo Navis digital setting circles and Servo Cat remote-controlled wireless goto drive system. We spent many nights out under the skies using the Obsession along with a few other telescopes Alex owned at the time. Alex was an incredible mentor and teacher who taught me much I know today about astronomy.

I was very fortunate to learn from someone with his background and experience. I was also lucky to have hands on experience testing a variety of telescopes while having access to a large variety of eyepieces and accessories. This “hands on” experience allowed me time to save up money for my first serious telescope purchase, a Meade 12″ LX-200 GPS. I purchased the Meade 12″ LX-200 GPS at almost half the price tag it sells for today. The purchase included a complete starter set and case for the Meade 4000 Series EP’s along with free shipping, nine eyepieces in total. Extra money was used to purchase two high-end eyepieces which had been previously tested. The Televue Panoptic 35mm “Grenade” as I call it, and a Televue Nagler type 5 20mm eyepiece, both of which still exist in my collection today. I also purchased a high quality case for my investment from JMI allowing me to transport the large ota safely while saving my back at the same time.

The new telescope arrived at my house via freight a few months after placing the order. I was very pleased with the goto and visual performance of the new LX-200 GPS, despite it having some initial firmware issues which were quickly resolved by Meade. Not soon after receiving my LX-200, Alex bought a Sac-4 Color camera and we began dabbling with imaging using several telescopes we owned. We hand guided all of our images at the time. I soon purchased several astrophotography accessories for my telescope. This included the Meade LPI planetary imager and the newly announced Sac-8 mono astrophotography camera with filterwheel.  I had just received my Meade 3.3 and 6.3 focal reducers at this time. The Taurus II OAG with focal reducer and a Meade illuminated reticule EP was also added to my collection. I was quickly drawn into the dark side of astronomy. The first leg of my astrophotography journey had begun, but I was missing one key component, a wedge; which greatly limited my ability to grab long exposures.

My time to use my telescope diminished for a few years while my responsibilities at work were quickly growing. I continued to use my gear when I had the free time, but grew frustrated with the limitations of the Alt-AZ fork mount. My knowledge and skill at the time with Photoshop was almost non-existent, furthering my frustrations. I realized that my primary interest in the hobby had become astrophotography. In 2007, I finally bought the Meade Ultra Wedge at a greatly discounted price along with a Meade DSI III color ccd camera. This purchase reignited my passion to learn astrophotography. The wedge was a great investment for the LX-200. I learned how to drift align during this time, but setup time was not favorable with my work hours. In 2008, I committed to purchasing a gem type mount. A permanent observatory to house my gear was also on my short list.

The DaltonSkyGazer astrophotography blog went online in December of 2009, initially created to highlight the construction of my used Explora-Dome observatory purchased the same month. In July of 2010, the DaltonSkyGazer Observatory build broke ground. The observatory structure was completed and fully operational by September of 2010. Final interior work on the observatory was completed in the spring of 2011.

The DaltonSkyGazer observatory is an 8 ‘ Explora-dome which resides on a custom-built 10′ diameter building with tall walls.  The extra height to the observatory was a key consideration, I wanted the dome to have plenty of head and elbow room. The extra height came about after hitting my head a few times at my friend’s observatory which was based upon the standard 10 foot rectangle Explora-Dome design.

I do hope that my astrophotography blog is helpful to those who are learning the basic steps involved in astrophotography. Please feel free to sign up and comment on the articles I share at my blog page. You can also contact me via my contact page, I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have. 

I have been expanding content at my website to include hardware and software reviews, interviews, astronomy news bites, tutorials, and more to come in the future. If you have interest in sharing a tutorial or would like to write an article feel free to contact me. Guest writers may contribute to DaltonSkyGazer periodically. I am constantly working on the website and always looking to improve the content and layout.

Clear Skies!

Jeff Turner

Administrator and owner of DaltonSkyGazer Astrophotography Blog & Website

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