Upgraded tracking and trying M51 again

The all-in-one tracking motor that I was using for my equatorial platform was a real pain in the neck. It would take me almost an hour to finally get tracking mostly correct, as I would have to take an exposure, think about it, kneel down on the ground, and try to ever so slightly correct the miniscule potentiometer on the tracking motor housing. This was a very inefficient use of good imaging time, so I decided to upgrade it.

I purchased a cheap constant voltage power supply from Amazon, and I replaced the motor controller and battery on the motor with some banana plugs. This lets me keep the power supply up on the table by my laptop, where I can very easily get the tracking speed close with the camera live preview, and pinpoint it by taking test images. This ended up working extremely well, and I was able to get some really good 20 second long exposures.

Here’s a first test of the tracking after just setting it up and quickly finding a suitable voltage.

The final image turned out better than last time, I believe. There seems to be more dynamic range and contrast in the galaxy. I also chose to skip taking and applying flat frames this time, as I don’t think I know how to do them correctly, and they significantly reduce the dynamic range of my subframes before I stack and process them.