M27 Dumbbell Nebula

M27 Dumbbell Nebula captured with a Vixen R114 reflector at 900 mm focal length, OIII and H-alpha dual band filter, and an ASI 533MC astronomy camera. To find M27, use the bright stars of Aquila and Cygnus as pointer stars. This target is bright, easy to find, and should be visible even with small telescopes.

Dumbbell Nebula, 1 hour exposure

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

M104 Sombrero Galaxy

M104 Sombrero Galaxy captured with a Vixen R114 reflector at 900 mm focal length and an ASI 533MC astronomy camera. M104 is in the constellation Virgo, near the bright stars of Corvus. This galaxy is relatively bright and easy to find.

M104 Sombrero Galaxy, 1 hour exposure

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

M51 Whirlpool Galaxy

Whirlpool Galaxy M51 captured with a Vixen R114 reflector at 900 mm focal length and an ASI 533MC astronomy camera. This galaxy is found in Ursa Major, in the part of the sky in the vicinity of other galaxies such as M101M81 and M82. This target is relatively bright and may be visible through a small telescope. Use the stars of the Big Dipper to find M51.

M51 Whirlpool Galaxy, 1 hour exposure

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Vixen R114 on Great Polaris Mount

I have recently acquired a Vixen R114 Newtonian reflector (114 mm aperture, 900 mm focal length at f/7.9) on a Great Polaris equatorial mount. The mount does not have motors, but I have converted it into a fully-automated go-to and tracking mount capable of unguided exposures of at least 60 seconds (field-tested without guiding).

Vixen R114 on Great Polaris Mount

The reflector has a very good primary and secondary mirror cells which allowed precise collimation and prevent strained optics. The stock focuser is a 0.965 in barrel which I modified and converted to the 1.25 in standard. The rack-and-pinion focusing mechanism is very precise and sturdy enough to hold an ASI 533 astronomy camera even without using the focuser lock. It comes with a 6 x 30 mm finder which is adequate for pointing at bright targets.

Trifid Nebula M20, 1.7 hours exposure

The Vixen R114 on Great Polaris equatorial mount now serves as my long focal length telescope both for visual observation and imaging.

Related links:
Converting the Vixen Great Polaris mount into a Go-to mount
DIY Upgrades for a Vixen R114 on GP mount
Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Portable Telescope Setup

I have a TravelScope70 which has served as a guide scope for my imaging setup for many years. Now that I have shifted to an off-axis guider (OAG) setup, the TravelScope70 is now being repurposed back to a grab-and-go travel light telescope setup, to be used particularly in astronomy outreach events and visual observations.

Aluminum-lined hard case for the Celestron TravelScope70

The TravelScope70 is a good small-aperture low-magnification telescope, if paired with a good diagonal and set of eyepieces. It will show good views of the moon and allow decent moon photography. Due to the short focal length, small aperture, and lack of a dedicated and more robust mount, the TravelScope70 may be limited to moon viewing and other large and bright targets such as star clusters and nebula.

Related link: Celestron Travel Scope 70

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Pinwheel Galaxy M101

Pinwheel Galaxy M101 imaged with a 4 in refractor, ASI 533MC astronomy camera, and an ASI 174MM guide camera. This galaxy is found in Ursa Major, in the part of the sky in the vicinity of other galaxies such as M51, M81 and M82. This target has a very low surface brightness and requires a lot of exposure times to reveal the spiral arms. Use the stars of the Big Dipper to find M101.

Pinwheel Galaxy M101, 3 hours exposure

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Laser Pointer as Finder

I have installed a laser pointer to my telescope as a tool for locating objects. The laser pointer is mounted on a finder scope holder with collimation screws to enable alignment with the telescope. It has a toggle switch that allows the laser to be turned on and off.

Using laser pointer as a finder

To find an object such as a galaxy or a nebula, I turn the laser on and point the telescope to the target’s approximate location as indicated in a star map. If the target is too dim and there are no bright stars in the vicinity, I just use a pair of binoculars to spot the target and then slew the telescope manually to the target. The laser allows me to know precisely where the telescope is pointed at, and then use the laser to guide the telescope to the target. Observe safety precautions when using laser pointers.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines


Lagoon Nebula M8

Lagoon Nebula M8 captured with a 4 in refractor at 565 mm focal length, an ASI 533MC cooled astronomy camera, dual band H-alpha and O-III filter, with an ASI 174MM guide camera. This is the brightest deep-sky object in the Milky Way region, in the part of the sky where you can also find the Trifid Nebula. M8 is visible even with binoculars or small telescopes. You may use the bright stars of Sagittarius to find this target.

Lagoon Nebula M8, 1 hour exposure

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Bode’s (M81) and Cigar (M82) Galaxies

Bode’s Galaxy (M81) and Cigar Galaxy (M82) imaged with a 4 in refractor, ASI 533MC astronomy camera, and an ASI 174MM guide camera. This galaxy pair is found in the vicinity of the Big Dipper in Ursa Major, along with the M51 Whirlpool Galaxy. Bode’s and Cigar Galaxies are relatively bright and should be visible even with a small telescope, in relatively dark skies. There are no bright stars near the galaxy pair, making it a bit difficult to find these targets. Use the bright stars of the Big Dipper as pointer stars.

Bode’s Galaxy (left) and Cigar Galaxy (right), 2.5 hours exposure

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

M92 Globular Cluster

M92 Globular Cluster captured with a 4 in refractor at 565 mm focal length, an ASI 533MC cooled astronomy camera, with an ASI 174MM guide camera. M92 is one of the two bright globular clusters in Hercules, together with M13. To find M92, use the bright stars of Hercules that form a rectangle. This target is relatively bright and can be seen easily with a small telescope.

M92 Globular Cluster, 25 minutes exposure

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Markarian’s Chain

The Markarian’s Chain imaged under city skies captured with a 4 in refractor at 565 mm focal length, an ASI 533MC cooled astronomy camera, and an ASI 174MM guide camera. More than 10 galaxies are visible in this photo. Use the stars Denebola and Vindemiatrix to locate the galaxy chain.

Markarian’s Chain, 1 hour exposure

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Leo Triplet (M65, M66, NGC3628)

Leo Triplet, three bright galaxies in the vicinity of Leo captured with a 4 in refractor at 565 mm focal length, an ASI 533MC cooled astronomy camera, with an ASI 174MM guide camera. The trio galaxies are bright and visible with small telescopes in relatively dark skies. Two bright stars in Leo can be used to easily find this galaxy group.

Leo Triplet consisting of the Hamburger Galaxy (left), M65 galaxy (top right), and M66 galaxy (bottom right), 1.5 hours exposure

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Carina Nebula

Eta Carinae Nebula (Carina Nebula) captured with a 4 in refractor at 565 mm focal length, an ASI 533MC cooled astronomy camera, dual band H-alpha and O-III filter, with an ASI 174MM guide camera. This target is particularly difficult to image since it is very low in my local horizon, only about 15 degrees elevation. It is relatively bright and easy to find due to the presence of nearby bright stars. Due to its low elevation, however, this target needs very clear skies to allow good contrast in the captured photo.

Eta Carinae (Carina Nebula), 1 hour exposure

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Flame and Horsehead Nebula

Flame and Horsehead Nebula in the constellation Orion captured with a 4 in refractor at 565 mm focal length, an ASI 533MC cooled astronomy camera, dual band H-alpha and O-III filter, with an ASI 174MM guide camera. One limitation of the DIY focal reducer used in this image is the internal reflection, most visible in bright stars. Also noticeable is the effect of stacking more images in reducing noise, as revealed in the stacking artifact on the right side of this image.

Flame and Horsehead Nebula, 2 hours exposure

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Hercules Globular Cluster (M13)

Hercules Globular Cluster (M13) captured with a 4 in refractor at 565 mm focal length, an ASI 533MC cooled astronomy camera, with an ASI 174MM guide camera. Tracking is done using a DIY tracker built using an Arduino and a stepper motor controller. Imaging done in NINA, guiding in PHD2, and processing in SIRIL. This is a bright and relatively easy to find target.

M13 Globular Cluster in Hercules

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

M42 Orion Nebula | Sky-Watcher 100ED

Here’s an image of Orion Nebula (M42) captured with a 4 in refractor at 565 mm focal length, an ASI 533MC cooled astronomy camera, dual band H-alpha and O-III filter, with an ASI 174MM guide camera. Tracking is done using a DIY tracker built using an Arduino and a stepper motor controller. Imaging done in NINA, guiding in PHD2, and processing in SIRIL.

M42 through dual band filter

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Related link: M42 Orion Nebula with Vixen R114

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

DIY 40 m, 20 m, 15 m HF Dipole

I have built a multi-band DIY fan-dipole antenna for 40-meter, 20-meter, and 15-meter HF bands. A fan dipole consists of several dipoles fed at a common feed point, through an optional 1:1 balun. I have tested this antenna and I have confirmed QSOs from Philippines to Brazil (other side of the world from the Philippines, via FT8 on 15 meters) and Philippines to Sydney, Australia (SSB voice on 15 meters).

A fan dipole may be designed to operate on a number of bands simply by adding new elements to an already existing dipole, but adding new elements may change the tuning of the already tuned dipoles, making it difficult to build one that is designed to operate on too many bands. In this particular antenna build, I combined three dipoles—for 40 meters, 20 meters, and 15 meters—to form a multi-band fan dipole on a single feedline.

DIY Fan-Dipole Antenna


The driven elements are 12-gauge insulated wires, center-fed (split in the middle). I used a 7 meter RG8 coaxial cable feedline with 1:1 BU-50 balun. The feed point is housed in a weatherproof metal enclosure that has been placed on an elevated concrete ledge. I used non-metallic material to raise and anchor the ends of the wires, such as nylon rope.

The 40 meter band has 10 meters of wire on each sides (total of 20 meters both sides), the 20 meter band has 5 meters of wire on each side (total of 10 meters), while the 15 meter band has 3.38 meters of wire on each side (total of 6.77 meters). Adjust the lengths of the elements for lowest SWR on the desired operating frequency. Since there is likely interaction between the elements, always check the tuning of all the other bands when tuning the antenna for a specific band.

To view all posts about amateur radio, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines


DIY Dual-Band VHF-UHF Dipole

I have built a DIY dipole antenna for VHF (2 meter) and UHF (70 cm ) bands. I used 1/4 in diameter copper tube elements. The VHF driven element is center-fed while the UHF element is coupled (placed in close proximity but not connected to the coaxial cable) with the VHF driven element. A 5 meter RG8 coaxial cable feedline is used, with no balun. The feed point is housed in a weatherproof plastic enclosure, with one side of the VHF dipole connects to the coaxial cable’s center conductor and the other side connected to the outer conductor.

DIY VHF-UHF antenna

In this particular antenna, the VHF element has a total length of 984 mm (split in the center, to form two 1/4 wavelength element with 492 mm on each side) and the UHF element is 325 mm (1/2 wavelength element, not split in the middle). Adjust the lengths of the VHF and UHF elements for lowest SWR on the desired operating frequency.

To view all posts about amateur radio, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines


FT8 and other digital modes with ICOM 718

I have built a DIY interface for my ICOM 718 HF radio to send and receive audio signals to a laptop computer and control the PTT keying, for use with various digital modes such as FT8. I used a USB sound card for the audio interface, and a USB-to-serial port adapter for PPT keying.

FT8 with Icom 718

The audio output of ICOM 718 (from speaker out or Pin 12 in the accessories port) connects to the microphone in of the sound card (pink port, microphone port). The audio output of the sound card (green port, headphones port) connects to Pin 11 of the ICOM 718’s accessories port. The USB-to-serial port is then configured in the settings tab of the software WSJT-X to send pulses to the the serial port’s RTS pin, which then controls a BC547 transistor to key the PTT (Pin 3 in ICOM 718’s accessories port) when transmitting a signal.

DIY USB soundcard interface

The circuit board of the USB sound card and the USB-to-serial adapter are then removed from their housing and soldered directly on to a USB hub. This configuration allows both modules to work with just one USB port of the laptop. I then put everything inside the metal casing of the radio, in a section protected from radio interference. To operate in digital modes, I only need to connect one USB cable from the radio.

During my initial tests, I was able to contact a station in Brazil (South America), from the Philippines, at 21.074 MHz (15 meters), using a 40-meter band center-fed dipole wire antenna resonant to the 15-meter band.

To view all posts about amateur radio, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines


Andromeda Galaxy M31

Andromeda Galaxy M31 imaged in September 2021 with a Celestron Travel Scope 70, UV-IR cut filter, and an ASI 533 astronomy camera, guided with a DIY off-axis guider (OAG) and an ASI 174MM guide camera. A total of 25 minutes exposure stacked and processed in SIRIL without calibration frames.

Andromeda Galaxy M31

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines