Astrophotography Equipment and Techniques

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posted on Jun, 12 2012 @ 06:19 PM
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Originally posted by Hellhound604 and be aware that astronomy (and astrophotography) is a black hole for money....


Indeed, but how much money will our peers spend on nights out, sport, shoes, substance abuse...

To anyone and everyone who reads this thread my only real advice is your optics (telescope/camera lenses etc) should be seen as an investment. The most obvious reason is that whatever systems you have behind your optics: "you can't polish a poop" / "poop in, poop out" (sorry about that, new here and don't know the decorum for describing fæces).


When talking money the more important consideration is "worth". I bought my main 'scope in 2004, it cost £x. Today on ebay I'd get £y, in eight years time £z. My point is how much money is my computer, digital camera or phone from 2004 worth? I think I'd have to pay someone from Gumtree to take them.

In conclusion Astronomy/Astrophotography can be an expensive pastime. On the other hand the Mark1 eyeball is free. I like to take photo's of the Moon but the real "Wows" I get is when friends/strangers look through the eyepiece. It's real! (or the tptb have some serious mind bending stuff
)




posted on Jun, 12 2012 @ 06:26 PM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


LOL, have to agree with you with the dark frames.... but I often forget to take dark frames, and the camera heats up, so before every exposure you ideally have to take a new dark frame. I am still playing with the idea of fitting my SLR in a box with thermoelectric cooling, but I have problems enough with condensation as it is. Guess one of these days my 45A/h battery pack that I take with me will be too small, so I'll have to get another (heavy) battery to hug along for expeditions into the wild that lasts longer than a day, rofl...

I have fitted a thermoelectric cooler to my CCD camera, that I use for planetary work, but on very humid evenings and cold, I battle a lot with condensation, even with all my heaters around the optics. That is my next big obstacle to overcome here in the cold north..... In Africa I never even had to think about condensation..... (well, I didn't even have to think about planning and watching weather either, the chances were 99% that it would be clear skies). Nowadays, I have to plan, and watch with trepidation as the clouds move in when I thought it was going to be a clear night, well one of the couple of nights that we have that it is dark enough to do deepsky photography.... 5 months a year I can only photograph the sun if it is clear skies. And now that I think about it, in Africa safety was a huge concern when you were outside doing astrophotography, over here, freezing to death is a huge concern, and of course, in the cold, your batteries tend to die long before your observation session is over.



posted on Jun, 12 2012 @ 06:30 PM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 





WOW!! I literally said "oh my god" out loud. I'm so jealous!!!

That is an AWESOME set up!! I would move to the mountains and I would sleep outside or make my roof of glass! I can sit outside and stare at the sky for hours.

I would love to be able to see such things like you have with your gear. I am limited to what I can see with all the light pollution and my set up isn't all that fancy but I can see the moon! I use to sit outside on the balcony and stare at the moon all night. My apt now doesn't have a very good view, too many trees and condos in my way.








posted on Jun, 12 2012 @ 06:33 PM
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reply to post by cassegrain140
 


Indeed, there's always a healthy market for good used scopes and equipment. And once you get a good scope, you can spend years improving your skill with it and acquire better and better equipment for it, but like you said you can't make a poor scope deliver good images, whether to your eye or your camera. Here's a good site for used astronomy equipment. I wouldn't trust ebay, personally, but I've never had a problem with any purchase I've made here:
www.astromart.com...



posted on Jun, 12 2012 @ 06:44 PM
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Originally posted by Hellhound604
reply to post by ngchunter
 


LOL, have to agree with you with the dark frames.... but I often forget to take dark frames, and the camera heats up, so before every exposure you ideally have to take a new dark frame.

Well yeah, ideally you would have a thermometer on the CCD and you would take dark frames matched to that temperature, but my SLR doesn't have that. I think as long as you capture the dark frames in the same run you'll be ok; a few degrees here or there isn't going to kill you. Alternatively what you can do is spend a night or two doing dark frames starting early while it's still warm and go until the temperature bottoms out, keeping a thermometer with you, directly downloading the images to your pc, and storing the dark frames in separate folders dedicated to a given span of temperature. Then when you take your pictures you don't even have to worry about remembering to shoot darks, just note the temperature and use the appropriate library of dark frames.


I am still playing with the idea of fitting my SLR in a box with thermoelectric cooling, but I have problems enough with condensation as it is. Guess one of these days my 45A/h battery pack that I take with me will be too small, so I'll have to get another (heavy) battery to hug along for expeditions into the wild that lasts longer than a day, rofl...

Yeah, I have problems with battery life when doing deep space astrophotography remotely, and I really don't feel like buying a battery heavy enough to have the amp hours I need to go for more than a few hours. Call me a wuss, but I hate lugging marine batteries around. It's one reason I want to get a standalone guider that doesn't need a laptop since that would eliminate a big power hog from the equation altogether.


I have fitted a thermoelectric cooler to my CCD camera, that I use for planetary work, but on very humid evenings and cold, I battle a lot with condensation, even with all my heaters around the optics. That is my next big obstacle to overcome here in the cold north..... In Africa I never even had to think about condensation..... (well, I didn't even have to think about planning and watching weather either, the chances were 99% that it would be clear skies). Nowadays, I have to plan, and watch with trepidation as the clouds move in when I thought it was going to be a clear night, well one of the couple of nights that we have that it is dark enough to do deepsky photography.... 5 months a year I can only photograph the sun if it is clear skies. And now that I think about it, in Africa safety was a huge concern when you were outside doing astrophotography, over here, freezing to death is a huge concern, and of course, in the cold, your batteries tend to die long before your observation session is over.

In Florida I certainly don't have to worry about freezing to death, but having TEC for deep space work would be very nice. Even my TEC cooled Mallincam would greatly benefit from adding an external cooler to it as well.



posted on Jun, 12 2012 @ 06:45 PM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


That animation of Jupiter is "Top draw" stuff! Love the way the shadow and planet separate near the limb.



posted on Jun, 12 2012 @ 06:53 PM
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I will throw mine in the pot taken with a stock canon sx130 on a eq mount



posted on Jun, 12 2012 @ 07:12 PM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


Only used ebay as a sweeping generalization. In the UK astrobuysell is similar I think. It's UT+1 here so... must log off. Cheers guys.



posted on Jun, 13 2012 @ 04:09 PM
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Hi all,

Sorry I haven't been back for a while...

With all the information presented here, I have some research to do and a budget to put together. I'll post my ideas on equipment before buying to see if it makes sense to the ATS'ers who have been at this for some time.

cassegrain asked:



Ask yourself: What do you like to observe? How portable does it need to be? Is it primarily for Astrophotography? What are your local sky conditions like?


I would definitely like to observe the planets and the nebulae. It would have to be portable enough to get it into an older full sized SUV to get away from the city. And being in Southern Californiasky conditions are generally very good once I get away from the city lights.

Again, I do appreciate the advice.



posted on Jun, 13 2012 @ 06:58 PM
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reply to post by LevelHeaded
 


If you have a reasonably secure backyard and an SUV then on a beginners budget portability doesn't sound like too much of an issue. Talking of budget, this is the crux of the matter.

The best information I've got on "optics" comes from old Astronomy books. One point is; "be prepared to spend as much as you would on a good camera as on your telescope" (1960's style). If we consider the (marvellous) D5100 with some extras...

If you can get out to some dark sky sites then I'd say 10/12" Newtonian, to begin with perhaps a Dobsonian mount, (you could get a posh mount later and learn the stars now). As members have mentioned f4 isn't ideal for planets but there are alternatives... (f6)... swings and roundabouts.

You seem quite serious The best investment I ever made was a Planisphere (< £/$ 5 and it doesn't need batteries).


I want a BIG Apo triplet



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 11:20 PM
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For the longest time I had been under the wrong impression. I had assumed that apart from the Apollo 16 UV shots, there were no regular images taken by the Apollo astronauts of the perilunar stars. Well this very much turns out to not be the case. I just bought the fantastic book Apollo Over The Moon(A View From Orbit). In that book the authors MAsoursky , Colton and El-Baz inform us that during the Apollo 15,16,17 missions a 35 mm Fairchild was employed with 76 mm lens. F stop was set at 2.8 and the exposure was 1.5 seconds. This camera took a picture of the adjacent star field simultaneous with the image taken of the terrain. In this way the moon was mapped and ORIENTED by way of the stars referenced(imaged and identified) by these orbiters. FANTASTIC!

It must be the case that one can readily find these stellar images taken by the Apollo 35 mm Fairchilds. Would someone be so kind as to direct me where to find these images. Cannot wait to see them. The stars in the sky during the Apollo 15,16, 17 Missions. What could be more exciting!

ecx.images-amazon.com...]
edit on 6-3-2013 by chrisblood because: I decided to change sky to stars, more descriptive
edit on 6-3-2013 by chrisblood because: improved grammar



posted on Mar, 7 2013 @ 06:05 AM
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Originally posted by chrisblood
It must be the case that one can readily find these stellar images taken by the Apollo 35 mm Fairchilds. Would someone be so kind as to direct me where to find these images. Cannot wait to see them. The stars in the sky during the Apollo 15,16, 17 Missions. What could be more exciting!

The stellar camera only took pictures of stars. The camera was offset by 96 degrees from the mapping camera, thus none of the lunar surface is contained in the images (by design; the lunar surface would have completely over-exposed the pictures, preventing stars from being seen). They're not terribly exciting, they're just pictures of stars. If you want them, here they are:
nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov...
nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov...
nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov...



posted on Mar, 7 2013 @ 07:09 AM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


I would love a setup like that one, maybe in a few years ill be able to have one.

My interest peaked last year when all the talk of "earth passing comets" came about, i was determined to get a telescope as i'd never owned or even looked through one. After many hours of searching the net for one that was both useful-ish and within my budget range i settled for a Celestron LCM114.

Now i know the serious skywatchers are probably guffawing at my telescope right now, but even with this "budget" piece of equipment i was amazed at what it revealed in the sky. I bought the computerized version and also got a 5x Barlow lens, ive also bought the lead which enables me to control it through Stellarium.

The 5x lens is a little too powerful for the scope so im hoping to get a 2x or 3x lens soon, i havent managed to get it running through Stellarium yet as the weather hasnt allowed me to get it out lately.

What im trying to say through this post (for others reading) is, if your new to this like i was only 6 month ago, then start at the bottom and work up, teach yourself the basics. Im sure every night you go out and find something new, youll be amazed.

I'd love for someone to give me a few tips on how to get the most from what i have. Im new to this so im very wet behind the ears. In the future when i can get a better scope and accessories i would love to capture the type of images we see on here, i know thats a long way off yet and the scope i have isnt ideal for astrophtography but its great to learn with.




posted on Mar, 7 2013 @ 07:37 AM
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Originally posted by Catch_a_Fire
I'd love for someone to give me a few tips on how to get the most from what i have. Im new to this so im very wet behind the ears. In the future when i can get a better scope and accessories i would love to capture the type of images we see on here, i know thats a long way off yet and the scope i have isnt ideal for astrophtography but its great to learn with.

Well the first tip I would give you is that wide field is just as important as high magnification. This year it's going to be especially important to get your best possible views of the various comets we may get to see. Don't underestimate the value of a high end eyepiece. You can always take it with you to your next scope too. A good Nagler can stay with you for life and I find them much more immersive than a plossl. Now you're limited to 1.25" eyepieces with your scope, but a 16mm type 5 Nagler might be a nice addition. Though the focal length is shorter than the 25mm that came with your scope, the very wide field of view in the eyepiece will effectively make up for it. I find the viewing experience in a Nagler to be much more enjoyable, but again that's my personal preference. You should go visit a local astronomy club when they're doing a public viewing and ask about the various kinds of eyepieces you're looking through. Chances are at least one person there will be using a Nagler.



posted on Mar, 7 2013 @ 07:50 AM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


Thanks for the quick reply NGC, would the weight of this eyepiece be an issue with my scope?. Ive just had a little read and some can weigh upto 1.6 lbs and are known as "grenades". Its one of the reasons why im not looking into astrophotography with this scope yet, as the weight of the camera/s needed are apparently a little heavy for the scope.



posted on Mar, 7 2013 @ 08:09 AM
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Originally posted by Catch_a_Fire
reply to post by ngchunter
 


Thanks for the quick reply NGC, would the weight of this eyepiece be an issue with my scope?. Ive just had a little read and some can weigh upto 1.6 lbs and are known as "grenades". Its one of the reasons why im not looking into astrophotography with this scope yet, as the weight of the camera/s needed are apparently a little heavy for the scope.

Yeah, I would be cautious of that as well. A 16mm nagler like the one I suggested is just shy of half a pound. The key with these things is to make sure the telescope is reasonably well balanced. I've modified my scope with a homemade counterweight system to accommodate heavy loads. I use an aluminum bar with a 90 degree angle and a channel running through it through which I can screw into place a plastic electrical junction box containing as many fishing weights as I need to offset the load on the top or rear of the telescope.



posted on Mar, 7 2013 @ 09:28 AM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


Although the balance of the scope would be an issue, its the actual eyepiece/focus adjuster that i'd be worried about taking the weight, Its very flimsy.

I can see exactly what your saying though, ive had the Andromeda galaxy and the orion nebula in view during the few times ive managed to use it and just wished they would appear "bigger" somehow. You may have just solved that problem now i know what to look for.

I also hadnt heard of the Nagler eyepieces and their functionality before so a double thanks is in order i think.
edit on 7/3/2013 by Catch_a_Fire because: typo



posted on Mar, 8 2013 @ 01:37 AM
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Originally posted by Catch_a_Fire
reply to post by ngchunter
 


Although the balance of the scope would be an issue, its the actual eyepiece/focus adjuster that i'd be worried about taking the weight, Its very flimsy.

As long as it has a set screw you should be ok. I had a mostly-plastic focuser on a newtonian once and it was able to take a "grenade." If your focuser doesn't have a set screw that might not work though.



posted on Mar, 9 2013 @ 08:26 AM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


OH my GOSH! may i ask how much one would hae to spend for this set up?



posted on Mar, 9 2013 @ 09:58 PM
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Originally posted by Tahnya86
reply to post by ngchunter
 


OH my GOSH! may i ask how much one would hae to spend for this set up?

For everything I showed there, including all the equipment for lunar/planetary/satellite imaging, deep space video, and high resolution still photography, you could replicate the whole setup for about $4000-5000, depending on how much you bought used versus new.





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