We suffer a lot of pain in the astro-imaging hobby. Bad luck and tired fingers causes numerous problems. Problems in this business quickly means wasted imaging time. Whilst I like to whinge and complain as much as the next man, I always remember to thank the astronomy gods when I have a good problem free run.

Whilst the last couple of nights have gone really well, the weekend didnít start that way. On the Friday of the August bank holiday weekend, I was once more visited by my LX200 astronomy colleague, Pete. The skies looked promising and early imaging was possible. The clouds then came along to spoil things as at about 10.30pm and it was still cloudy at midnight. Very frustrating.

The following night was almost exactly the same. Clear skies in the evening, and then conditions deteriorated as darkness fell.

Finally on Sunday night the skies behaved. I am still imaging with my 135mm SLR lens and ICS285 sensor giving about a 3.75 degree field using 900 second exposures. I started off on the Eagle Nebula M16 in hydrogen alpha. This is a tricky target from the UK because it is very low in the skies. I canít start imaging it until it transits due to trees, so I can only get 2 hours of data in an evening. The last frame usually has the neighbours chimney in it!

At about Midnight I re-targeted onto the Heart Nebula (or the sticky-out-tongue nebula, or IC1805 or sh2-190). Cassiopeia rises in the darkest part of my skies, and because it is so far north, it remains high in the sky for a long time each night Ė making large integrations much easier than with the swift southern objects. I started collecting data on this region at around 12:30am and left the scope to image all night. I set the timer to turn off the scope at 5.30 am and I went and got some sleep.

The scope guiding system worked perfectly all night, and I had 4.5 hours of decent 15 minute sub-exposures waiting for me in the morning. I find 15 minute exposures are about the optimum for this setup. There is a tiny amount of differential flexure between the imaging SLR lens and the main Newtonian that Iím using to guide with, plus the polar alignment isnít exact, so there is a tiny bit of rotation.

The following day was a repeat. On Monday night the clouds departed at nightfall and conditions looked very good again. Naturally I needed to be up and going to work on Tuesday morning, so I couldnít stay up late changing targets. To keep things simple, I repeated the previous nightís programme. Two hours on the Eagle Nebula, M16 and then over to the Heart Nebula just before midnight for the rest of the night. My custom telescope control program slews the scope to Parked and turns off the imaging and guiding software at a preset time.

This morning I now have a pile of raw frames. An additional 2 hours data on the Eagle nebula, giving a total of between 4 and 4.5 hours. I also have an additional 21 frames on the heart region, which gives a total imaging time of 9 to 9.5 hours on one object. Normally I wouldnít spend quite that much time in one place, however, the moon is still bright so it was better to get some data on something bright and rich with contrast, rather than no data nothing. I admit that this is probably enough Ha data, and Iíll move onto the other filters.

Interestingly I'd previously imaged the middle of the heart nebula in high resolution, so it was nice to see it in wide field. Maybe I can borrow some of that data when processing the wide field stuff!

Shockingly it is looking clear again tonight. Iíll have to swap over to the SII filter. A long run from midnight to 5am on the Heart nebula will be great, but I will have to find something to do with it before midnight. I will probably return to the IC1396 region and get SII data on either IC1396 itself, or try some binned shots on Sharpless 129 to see if there is any signal there.

There is also a temptation to shoot SII for the Eagle nebula. You generally need more exposure on SII and OIII than the Ha, but getting 4 hours on each channel with the eagle will be difficult, so the best thing to do is use the ccd camera binning function to get more sensitivity. This means that I get a half sized picture, but considering how limited the imaging opertunities are on the eagle, I am happy with anything. Just an hour of SII and OIII will give a pleasing colour result... I HOPE!

I will do the Heart region properly and try to get a good 5 hours each SII and OIII unbinned.

So thank-you Mr Astronomy God for letting me take advantage og the conditions :)