One area of astronomy that I haven't really explored is wide angle astrophotography. It has always been of interest to capture the Milky Way and other constellations though never have had the kit to do this. I don't have a permanent mount for my Meade 10" SCT which is always in alt-azimuth so needed to see what else was out there Now over the years I had always been interested in manually controlled barn door trackers but didn't got around to making one. Then in recent years the Vixen Polarie, iOptron Sky Tracker and others have emerged. With a trip to the northern hemisphere looming thought it was time to give it a go.
I ended up going with the iOptron Sky Tracker, mainly due to it's ability to handle a decent amount of weight (3.5kg). I have a variety of telephoto Canon lenses and wanted the tracker to be able to handle the weight with ease. So in August 2014 I visited Bintel in Glebe, Sydney and picked one up for around $500 AUD. After a period of cold and wet weather A couple of weeks later decide to give it a go.
For my first attempt I decided to go wide angle with a manually focused 15-85mm Canon EF lens attached to a EOS 7D. Adjusted the Sky Tracker for the latitude for Sydney, mounted it on the tripod and pointed it in the direction of south. Attempted to look through the polar scope but found it difficult to really know what I was looking for. In the southern hemisphere we don't have an obvious star like Polaris to align to. Final step was to attach my Giottos ball head and frame in the Southern Cross and The Pointers.
The shot I ended up taking with a cable release was at ISO 1000 f/13 on bulb mode for around 5 minutes. Then it was time to bring everything back in side to see what I captured. After some rough tweaking in Photoshop to remove noise and lessen light polution I arrived with the following. I am extremely happy with the results given this was my very first attempt. I can definitely see the potential that it offers and with a bit of trial and error, I will definitely look to get the images I have been looking for. Click the image below to see a full sized version and make sure you zoom in.