I decided to try to upgrade the tracking yet again on my platform, and purchased and installed a 100:1 planetary reduction stepper motor with a driver and an adjustable controller. It still has some bugs that need worked out, notably, the drive roller seems to slip on the aluminum runners. I’ll need to figure out something crafty for that.
For the first night playing with the stepper motor, it was not too bad! The running speed of the motor definitely seems more consistent than the cheap DC motor I was using. Although it didn’t totally agree with me all night, I was able to get 15 exposures of 30 seconds each of the Crescent nebula.
I was also testing a new program, DeepSkyStacker Live, which will analyze and stack the images in real time as I take them. The wonderful part about this program is that I can have it discard images based on any number of parameters, negating the need to visually inspect and trim the dozens of images I take an evening. Even though this image was a combination of a lower number of frames than I would normally like to use, the quality of the frames was much higher, as I let DeepSkyStacker keep only the best based on a “score” that it gives each frame, I assume based on a combination of parameters of each image. I think the results are just as good as dozens of subframes of varying qualities.
Also, according to the Siril star detection, there are at least 5000 stars in this image. It didn’t detect the minute but visible stars, so I’d say the estimate is probably at least a third off. That’s a lot of stars in an area about a quarter of the size of the moon! The vastness of space is breathtaking.