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Backyard of the Week | October 4, 2021

The AstroBackyard Backyard of the Week highlights astrophotography setups from around the world. A “backyard” can be a balcony, driveway, garden, or wherever else you set up astrophotography equipment at home.

By taking a behind-the-scenes look at the equipment amateur astrophotographers use to take deep-sky images, you can get a better understanding of the process.

This week’s backyard astrophotography equipment profile comes to us from Michael Melwiki in the United States.

Michael Melwiki Setup

Location: Michigan, United States 

Michael Melwiki

Michael has an incredible collection of astrophotos on his Instagram. He does it all, from high magnification planetary imaging to wide-field nebulae projects. 

It’s clear to me that Michael enjoys all aspects of astrophotography, and aims to capture as much space as possible. His image processing skills allow him to produce print-worthy portraits of nebulae, galaxies, and planets. 

His lunar work with the William Optics FLT 132 and ZWO ASI178MC planetary camera really caught my eye. It has inspired me to dig a little deeper into lunar photography later this year.

For now, let’s focus on the equipment profile he submitted for BOTW, and the results he has achieved from his backyard in Michigan.

moon photography

Copernicus Crater by Michael Melwiki.

Michael’s Equipment 

Primary Imaging Camera ZWO ASI2600MC Pro
Primary Imaging Telescope William Optics Zenithstar 73
Telescope Mount Celestron CGX
Guide Scope Radian 61 Triplet APO
Guide Camera ZWO ASI290MM Mini

astrophotography equipment

Michael’s backyard deep-sky setup. 

What does Michael love most about his gear?

“It works.”

Lagoon Nebula Michael Melwiki

Lagoon and Trifid Nebula by Michael Melwiki

What can I say, I’m a fan of a nice wide-field deep-sky setup. With a hefty Celestron CGX mount complete with an autoguiding system, Michael is free to capture long exposure images of space as long as he wants.

Michael may be a man of few words, but is there really anything else you need to know about his backyard setup? It just works. 

The Camera

The ZWO ASI2600MC Pro is a popular color astronomy camera in the amateur astrophotography world, and for good reason. A large APS-C-sized astro-modified sensor with TEC cooling allows Michael to capture breathtaking long exposures of deep-sky objects.

ASI cameras are well-supported by all astro-imaging software applications, and running the ASI2600MC Pro is reliable and painless. I personally own the monochrome version of this camera (ASI2600MM Pro), and it has produced some of my best images to date.

ZWO ASI2600MC Pro

ZWO ASI2600MC Pro

The Filter

Michael uses the Optolong L-Pro to fight against light pollution in his backyard. This is a broadband filter that does a great job of preserving the natural colors of space while reducing unwanted glow from the city.

Optolong L-eNhance

Optolong L-Pro Filter

This is a great choice for anyone looking to improve their true-color, broad-spectrum data from a light-polluted location. The other option is to shoot unfiltered, which may not be possible depending on the Bortle Scale class of your imaging location. 

The Telescope

I’m going to be blunt, the William Optics Zenithstar 73 is an incredible astrophotography telescope. With the dedicated 1X field flattener in place (Flat 73A), this telescope records razor-sharp, flat, well-corrected images at a versatile focal length of 430mm.

Looking for the perfect astrophotography telescope to photograph nebulae and larger galaxies like Andromeda? This is the one you want, folks. You can read my complete William Optics Z73 review to find out more. 

William Optics Zenithstar 73

  • Type: Doublet Apo Refractor
  • Diameter: 73mm
  • Focal Length: 430mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/5.9
  • Weight: 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg) 

Zenithstar 73 APO Doublet

William Optics Zenithstar 73

The Telescope Mount

The Celestron CGX is a computerized equatorial telescope mount with a whopping 55-pound payload capacity. This is a great option for those looking to mount larger refractor telescopes, or even a big SCT like the Celestron Edge HD 11

The CGX mount can be controlled by the NexStar hand controller system with a 40K+ object database, or connected to a computer for complete control. 

Celestron CGX Mount

Celestron CGX Mount

The Guide Scope

Yes, Michael uses the Radian 61 APO as a guide scope. Should I be offended by this? I mean, an astrophotography telescope of this quality being reduced to “star chasing” instead of actual imaging? I’m just kidding, of course.

I believe OPT even marketed the Radian 61 as a suitable guide scope option, which makes sense since it is a compact 61mm refractor. And to be fair, I see that Michael uses the Radian 61 to take pictures too. 

Radian 61 APO

Radian 61 Refractor

The Guide Camera 

The ASI290MM Mini is a nearly flawless guide camera (one of the best-selling guide cameras of all time, actually), with a highly sensitive CMOS sensor. 

This camera is also a fine planetary astronomy camera and the one I have personally used to photograph the planets Mars and Saturn. 

ASI290mm mini guide camera

ZWO ASI290mm Mini.

Thank you for sharing your backyard astrophotography set up with us, Michael! You can view his astrophotography on Instagram.

Be sure to fill out the form to submit your backyard for a chance to be featured, and don’t forget to include your Instagram handle to help grow your following. 

View the Backyard of the Week Archives

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