Pluto has always been on my "Astronomical Bucket List" to observe. Although I still have to make my visual observation using my "big-gun" Apertura AD12, my general observing for at least the last year and a half has been almost exclusively done via "Electronically Assisted Astronomy" and from my home site. Pluto visually is doable with a 12" aperture, but I need some nice dark skies and I just don't get out that way much anymore, especially during the week.
"Electronically Assisted Observing", as I prefer to call it, affords me the ability to use filters and exposures to cut through the majority of my light pollution, and observe faint objects that would elude me even with larger aperture from my local site. My weapon of choice from home is my trusty C8. I have two options to do my observing with it; the Mallincam Jr Pro and my Lodestar X2 M.
The Lodestar has become my weapon of choice for a few different reasons. One is it's such a simple setup over the JrPro. The JrPro is an analog device, so I need the control cable, the power cable, and the video cable. Plus, I need to have the capture devices, which is my Dazzle USB device. Second, frankly the image quality of the mono Lodestar is much preferred over the JrPro. One of the major drawbacks I find with the un-cooled JrPro are the hot pixels, "Christmas Lights" as some call em. Yeah, not a great thing to have in your astronomical image, but that's the price you pay to have an economical device capable of showing you some really faint details in deep-sky objects. Finally, the software for the Lodestar, Lodestar Live, is just plain easier to use than Miloslick in my opinion. I know much of that has to do with the fact the Lodestar is mono vs. the color JrPro (ya don't have to mess with color balance etc) but over all I find its just easier to use to get very nice images.
Mallincam just released the SkyRaider, and boy it looks NICE! A USB device and dedicated software that looks easy too, and it comes in mono or in color. Mallincam is THE go-to folks for assisted observing by the mainstream, and this camera is sure tempting. However, so far I'm keeping the Lodestar. As more folks get out on NSN and show off its capabilities, I may certainly change my mind, but for now, I'm happy. Oh, and currently the Mac version of that software has some concerns, so I'm holding off for that reason as well, until the Mac version is verified to have the same capabilities of the PC version.
Now, back to Pluto.
So the first image is Pluto done about this time last year, and with the JrPro. Not bad really, but you can see the hot pixels and even the ones that were masked out by the dark-frame. Stars are decent, but not completely round. Again, very good however for this style camera!
Now the image of Pluto on the left is from the Lodestar. Much smoother, nice round stars, etc. Easier to see Pluto in my opinion. The image directly to the right is my confirmation via Stellarium.
|Coma in the image to the left is the issue with my spacing and focal reduction, and not the Lodestar|
So Pluto is off my bucket list, well sort of. Hopefully this summer I can trek out to a dark-sky location, get the big ol' AD12 out, and track Pluto down visually. I'm going to sketch the field too, just as a verification and a nice log of my observation.
So get yourself out and track down Pluto, whether that is electronically or visually, and ideally both. It is a wonderful accomplishment, and one to take a great deal of pride in nabbing for yourself.