In retirement, my wife and I plan to do some traveling in our Jayco Class C RV, especially during the winter months when we can temporarily relocate to someplace a bit warmer than the Colorado mountains. However, the winter months are the best time of the year for astrophotography, and I wasn’t thrilled about missing the opportunity for some prime imaging. I decided that it would be a good idea to put together a more portable setup for astrophotography–something that could ride along with us without taking up too much space or weight. When Sky-Watcher announced their new full-goto star tracker, the Star Adventurer GTi, I resolved to give it a go.
the SA GTi claims an 11-lb capacity and full goto capabilities, so as long as I could come up with a payload under that limit that included a scope, camera, guidescope, and guide camera, it seemed like an ideal portable setup. Sky-Watcher had recently released the Evolux 62ED refractor (with accompanying 0.9x flattener) that seemed like an ideal match. Having used my Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 refractor now for a couple years, I had some confidence that the Evolux would also be a piece of quality equipment. I added a Pegasus Astro Focus Cube 2 to the Evolux, knowing how useful it is to be able to automatically focus and refocus throughout an imaging session. I also chose ZWO’s mini guide scope (30 mm f/4) as a lightweight guiding option to use with my ASI290MM mini guide camera. Throw in my ASI533MC Pro camera and a ZWO filter drawer, and the rig’s total weight comes in at about 8.5 lbs.
The SA GTi has an integral polar alignment scope as well as built-in wifi. The polar alignment scope is fine for rough alignment but I use N.I.N.A. to manage my imaging sessions, and I found N.I.N.A.’s polar alignment plugin to be much easier to use as well as more accurate. I don’t use the built-in wifi at all, but rather connect to the mount through its USB port.
Any time you put together a new imaging setup, it takes a bit of time and effort to get everything up and running, and this setup was no exception. It was probably the third time out with this rig that I finally had some decent results. Guiding was never great–generally between 1″ and 1.5″–but it was evidently good enough for the 360 mm of focal length that the Evolux provided with its flattener. I was honestly surprised at the quality of the subs that were rolling in when I pointed at M31. I shot a total of 38 2-minute subs that evening, and processing in PixInsight and Affinity Photo yielded the image above. I also used StarXTerminator and NoiseXTerminator, both from Russell Croman.