After having had great success with my tracking platform while imaging the Pinwheel Galaxy, I wanted to try the other famous galaxy in the Big Dipper, the Whirlpool galaxy. This galaxy is actually two galaxies that are interacting! You can see the funnel of stars going from the sister dwarf galaxy, NGC 5195, to M51a, the Whirlpool.
I attempted to polar align my tracking mount a bit better this time, though I still don’t think I got it right, as the galaxy would slowly move in frame as I was taking photos. This is something I need to learn to do better. However, I felt brave and decided to try taking 15 seconds exposures. Maybe 30-40% of them turned out decent. I have a friction tape on the rollers on my platform to be able to grip the aluminum runners enough to actually move the platform, but I might need to figure out something else, as I think the tape causes slight vibrations that ruin a good number of shots.
Again, light pollution and the associated noise was bad in my backyard. Diffuse clouds eventually started rolling in, and I took about a hundred pictures before I realized that my secondary mirror was totally coated in dew. Next project: light shroud for the open portion of the scope, and a dew shield.
After all of the work of getting the tracking to behave and taking a couple of hours of pictures, I was only able to get about 25 frames that were decent with no trailing and no dew. However, I think a handful of 15 second exposures beats hundreds of 6 second ones.
And again, I got a satellite coming through at one point!
UPDATE: I updated my Siril program and tried the new background removal tool they recently added. It seems to work better than the previous one. I stacked only the best hand-picked images, which was not very many. I only had a handful of images that were from before the dew coated the secondary mirror, and many of them were streaked to all hell as I was still tweaking the tracking speed then. However, for maybe 8 frames, the result is not horrible. There seems to be a bit more detail and contrast within the spiral arms.