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Video Astronomy Lifecycle

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#1 ensign

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 12:56 PM

I imagine most have noticed the dearth of new threads in this forum.

I have been giving some thought to the "lifecycle" of video astronomy. Looking back, I realize that there was a period lasting about a year when I was enthralled with my Mallincam and what I could see with it. However, during this time, I also observed that some objects just look better directly through an eyepiece (the Double Cluster, M31 and M52 come to mind), so unlike some others I was not inclined to sell my eyepiece collection just yet.

After viewing "photogenic" objects like M42, the Lagoon Nebula and M51 with the Mallincam a certain number of times, the bloom came off the rose, so to speak.

I went back to VTTE ("visual-through-the-eyepiece") observing for an increasing amount of time until this last season in which VTTE dominated (more on that later).

Last year, though, after finding and displaying the Cat's Paw in Scorpius. spending several enjoyable evenings exploring subtle nebulosity around Sadr in Cygnus and doing the same in Cepheus and environs, I realized I had begun pushing the envelope with the Mallincam and that I was enjoying it, albeit at a different level, once again.

I think the reason VTTE observing dominated this year is that I am now the proud owner of a 9.25 Edge HD and am still having a blast with this new toy.

Sorry for being so long-winded before getting to the point. I suspect that there is a natural lifecycle to the way we observe and it has a lot to do with whether we're pushing our skills or not. I find if I'm not, I start to get bored.

Since this is mainly an equipment forum, I'm not surprised that we see relatively little on observing experiences. Folks that want to share photos, in my opinion, are really doing imaging.

The folks in the Deep SKy Observing forum are generally polite and tolerant (to a point) of video observers, but I have been gently chided from time to time (no offense given or taken) when describing an observation with the Mallincam that I didn't really _see_ the object in question.

I guess I'm posting this to get a read on others' experiences and thoughts on "video observing lifecycle". Also, should this forum be extended to include observing reports or do those belong in Deep Sky Observing?

Also does anyone else have any other general thoughts and observations on Video and Electronically Assisted Astronomy?

#2 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 01:44 PM

Quite simply I can't possibly see the images I have been able to see with my camera with an eyepiece and my current telescope.

There is no way I could have seen the Horse Head through an 8" scope visually. However, my 6 year old daughter was able to draw this picture of it after seeing the single exposure image below.

A digital camera(Without a filter) is made to see a whole lot more of space than our eyes can see. I have never actually used an eyepiece with my scope and never intend on using one in the future.

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#3 mclewis1

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 01:44 PM

Mike,

I agree with the "life cycle" concept. When you're going back to the same objects time and time again things get old.

Taking a break or doing something different (VTTE) really helps me too. I also enjoy popping in an eyepiece and comparing the views to what's on the CRT. Sometimes I'll use different scopes to enhance the difference (Mallincam on a C6 and VTTE on a C11 for example).

The other effective option for me is to "push the envelope" a bit too. I go looking for not only challenging objects but also just different ones. I sometimes go looking for objects based on season (spring galaxies, summer planetaries and nebulas, fall globulars, etc.) and spend more time comparing similar objects.

Pushing the envelope on good nights is also a lot of fun. I try to keep a list of challenging objects that I sometimes pull out on really good nights to see how deep I can go (arp objects are a good example). I've also been following Uncle Rod's Herschel 400 tour and that has opened up a lot of new objects that I didn't know or think about observing.

I think this is something like an athlete who trains hard in one discipline and while doing very well eventually burns out. The answer is usually to cross train in other disciplines and return to your speciality refreshed and reinvigorated. As they say - variety is the spice of life ... and that seems to apply to video observing too.

#4 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 01:52 PM

Here is the single exposure she drew the picture from. Remember this was in my light polluted back yard so no chance of seeing anything visually there.

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#5 mclewis1

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 02:06 PM

Mike,

I mentioned a little bit of this in my earlier post but I was thinking that it probably deserves more comments. I was answering another post and starting to think that those comments would also be useful here.

Using a very different scope with a Mallincam really helps break up some of the "life cycle" issues. I've had a ton of fun using my Mallincam on an 80mm ATED refractor in addition to the bigger scopes. The little refractor with a f5 focal reducer really opens up some interesting wide fields. It's really fun to view traditional objects (M16/17/42 etc.) in wider fields.

It's also interesting to use different filters to enhance a new variety of objects. With wide field views an Ha filter can be fun to view many of the large extended nebula. Consider these a challenging type of objects but many are surprisingly visible with a Mallincam running at under f4 and 300-500mm focal length.

#6 ensign

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 04:24 PM

Travis, I agree that video astronomy is a wonderful thing, but, for me anyway, it does not replace, but rather supplements other types of observing.

Mark, I think you've hit on the key to keeping the hobby interesting - try to see the sky and the things in it from a number of different viewpoints with a variety of instruments. Thinking of one of my favorite objects - the Lagoon Nebula - it looks great visually using my Edge HD and it also looks wonderful using the Mallincam. The same could be said of many objects.

Additionally, as Travis has pointed out, different technologies have different strengths. I, too, was wowed by the fact that I could view the Horsehead from my light-polluted driveway with an 80mm refractor.

I do wonder about the reduced number of postings I see on this forum and the number of used Mallicams I've seen for sale of late, though. :question:

#7 rmollise

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 06:18 PM

I like to do visual sometimes. When I need a break from hauling all the gear out. But I am under no illusions that I will see as much as I do with the Xtreme. At this point in my life I want to go as far and as deep as I can. And see FEATURES in those distant sprites of galaxies. See distant spiral arms, not just imagine them. The Mallincam Xtreme lets me do that. ;)

#8 jsiska

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 09:41 PM

I find I experience a lifecycle with all my toys and that is not just limited to astronomy toys. I find having several different hobbies to drift in and out of allows me to eventually regain interest is a particular hobby which resurrects a toys life a cycle; consequently, I find joy in playing with it again. Each time I get re-interested in a certain hobby I tend to learn more and get more satisfaction out of the hobby than I previously did. There is one problem with video astronomy as apposed to visual astronomy using an eyepiece. If one has high quality eyepieces they are always a pleasure to use; however, with advancements in video astronomy, after learning about the latest and greatest in video cameras – some of the older equipment may leave one a tad disappointed.

#9 Raginar

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 07:06 AM

I think the mallincam/video cameras are a great addition to a collection of equipment. For those of us without dark skies, they really open up what we're able to 'see' with our telescopes. In addition, using a mallincam can be significantly cheaper than your average imaging rig; a good polar alignment can be all that is needed and no guiding rig is required for many objects.

I go VTTE every once in awhile but I'm usually disappointed when I move away from the bright objects (globs, M42, planets, moon). Then i put in my cams and I'm blown away by the simple views of my guide camera through a finder (lodestar b/w).

I will say most people who ask to see the sky through my gear want to use an eyepiece. I think there is more of an intimate connection that can be made that way.

Regards,

#10 mega256

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 07:25 AM

I cant do Visual from my Home...too much LP..
Normally I only see 5-8 stars with out Video....

So if I want to do it from home Video only works.....IMHO
But under dark skys its nice to use a EP if I can still fine it.
But I still dont understand this averted Vision.thing.....
Is that just guessing?

#11 Raginar

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 11:56 AM

Bob,

No, it's based on the way your eye works :). Google it sometime, there are some great papers out there on how exactly it works. Essentially the 'cones' in your eyes only really generate a color image within a narrow FOV. The 'rods' that cover the rest of your vision are much more sensitive (and more numerous), thus once you swap your vision from cones to rods, you're able to see a better picture.

It's a fun read if you haven't already :)

#12 Lorence

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 02:06 PM

I guess I'm posting this to get a read on others' experiences and thoughts on "video observing lifecycle". Also, should this forum be extended to include observing reports or do those belong in Deep Sky Observing?

Also does anyone else have any other general thoughts and observations on Video and Electronically Assisted Astronomy?


Seems to me the lifecycle would depend a lot on ones interests. If one is only interested in WOW objects it won't take long to go through the list. When you add up the number of different lists and the number of objects in those lists there are lots of things to see. That is if you're not too particular about how spectacular the object has to be.

Restricting observing to one field of view limits the choices as well. There's a lot to see up there but you need the equipment to see it.

I've got a f10 and an f6.5 telescope along with an assortment of Canon lenses from 20 to 300 mm. I also have at least 5 different focal reducers and a couple of Barlows. I've used just about every combination of that equipment that I could get to work and have found something interesting to observe just about every time. Mind you it doesn't have to be one of the WOW's to keep me happy.

The Universe opened up a whole new aspect to liveish viewing. You have to see it to believe it but seeing the brighter objects at the full resolution of that camera is something else. I'm just guessing but I think you would need some sort of Dobstrosity and a very large ladder to be able to eyepiece the equivalent of that camera. Rock hit a homer with that camera. It does take some experience to get the most out of it though but to me that's part of the fun. You don't get that sort of experience reading messages on the internet. You have to use the equipment or you end up running to Rock asking for advice all the time. :)

#13 John59

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 04:55 PM

I now have 4 different video cameras and love the video aspect of this hobby. My absolutely favorite set up is with my Orion ST80-A piggybacked on my ES AR152. I place eyepieces in the main scope (AR152) and video cams in the 80mm. It is a great combination. In my light polluted driveway M1 in the main scope is but a ghostly wisp barely detectable. While on the 7 inch monitor the video view through the 80mm gives a great wide field of stars with M1 predominantly showing in the center.
I am working on setting up my C11 with a video cam mounted in a piggybacked fast 50mm.
As far as my Life cycle"?
For me video is here to stay. I can see things not seen in the eyepiece and sharing with others is a great plus.
My wife really enjoys looking at the screen and is more apt to come out with me and share the experience than having to squint through an eyepiece all the time.

#14 Dwight J

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 05:09 PM

I don't think it is a life cycle thing. Back in the day at star parties almost everyone had either a SCT or a Dob. Now there are lots of refractors and fewer Dobs, at least from my observations. It is more of a maturation thing where video astro has assumed a place amongst the tools we all have at our disposal. I don't think it will disappear anytime soon. As for the larger numbers of Mallincams for sale used, I think a lot of Mallincamers are selling their current camera and buying the Mallincam Universe camera. I know that as I age, seeing objects in the eyepiece is becoming more difficult as I remember when they were easier to see. Video has given me a new lease on my astronomy "life". Group observing has also taken a great leap. I use the Mallincam and a 32" TV to show university students galaxies in the Hubble tuning fork diagram where they would have been largely featureless blobs of dim grey light to them visually. Lining up 30 students to peer into an eyepiece is also a drag for those waiting and freezing in a line - been there done that. We had 90 people at our last club public observing night and all had a view of many objects in great detail and color (which adds a level of detail not seen visually). It clouded up later and we viewed objects I had recorded on a previous night just for such occassions. None of this would have been possible with video. I think posting some observing experiences with a pic or two could liven things up a bit more. I would hate to see this forum become idle. I know a few have "fled" to the Mallincam Yahoo group and rarely, if ever, post here anymore. Lets put differences aside and show what these types of cameras can do. My two cents worth.

#15 skyguy88

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 09:59 PM

Well Said, Dwight.

For me one of the key benefits of using a Mallincam in large groups is that you can expand the conversation to much broader topics if you are not concentrating on one individual at a time. That makes it much more interesting for me and I get greater engagement with the crowd.

I've been addressing three or four thousand people a year and with the Mallincam, I can introduce all of them to some of the exciting ideas of modern astronomy. Wouldn't happen without the camera.

Sure takes the "lifecycle" out of my observing.

Bill

Bill

#16 Michael Rapp

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 10:56 PM

I can add my thoughts here. I've taken a break of video astronomy, which is an odd thing to do as I was having so much fun with it.

One of those reasons is while I was doing video, I started to feel that something was missing. It took me awhile to figure out what it was. It was only until I had finished a good portion of the Hickson catalog that it hit me: this is too easy!

Type in an object, scope slews to it, and in less than five minutes, I'm looking at an image that would rival some CCDs from ten years ago. The challenge was missing. In fact, I abandoned my Galaxy Clusters project shortly after starting it because I didn't feel much sense of accomplishment doing it. (I want to be absolutely clear here that I do not consider video observing projects, such as the Herschel 2500 or the Arp list a waste of time. I admire people who have done these. But, on this particular project the sense of accomplishment just wasn't there for me.)

Now, you're exactly right. The easy of finding objects is not a shortcoming of video, but of the goto mount system, yet the two are somewhat intertwined.

Still, I did not realize how important to me that star-hopping challenge was, so I've drifted back to my alt-az dob for a bit.

Another reason is well, the technology. No, no, no, not the Mallincam technology! I strong hold that Rock has worked magic with these cameras. I keenly remember one particularly transparent night in which I had signed off NSN and was about to shut down the camera, when I decided to look at the still-displaying image of M51 for a few minutes. It was so captivating that I think an hour went by with me just looking and reflecting on that galaxy.

What I meant by the technology is that my garage now resembles a TV studio! Two computers, several monitors, a speco, video switchers, a mixer....sheesh. It's an extension of my office at the University! And that's the problem....right now I need my hobby to be a break and refuge from that.

The final reason I'm almost sheepish to admit....I've, well....I've become somewhat obsessed that I'm three years away from turning 40. (Yeah, I know, I'm still a kid...)

This may sound a little silly or contrived, but if I were to whittle all my life down to one desire, it is to know the sky. I've had the opportunity to watch, in person, both Stephen O'Meara and David Levy operate telescopes. I want that familiarity, that comfort with the sky that they have. I can't get that in my garage. I need to get out to darker skies and do photon-to-retina stuff.

One person who I think does an excellent job of balancing video and visual is our Rebel Yell-imbibing Uncle Rod and I'd love for him to write a blog post on that some day (hint, hint) :grin:, perhaps describing how he decides which to do.....how the mood to do visual differs from the mood to do video.

#17 bwallan

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 07:11 PM

I'll add my somewhat different comments simply because I found this forum via a search for "Mallincam Universe".

I started out, like a lot of people, as a visual astronomer BUT very soon lost interest in visual "fuzzies" although I did learn to navigate the sky doing visual and a clunky old tripod. At this point I almost sold all my astronomy equipment and went back to looking at Hubble images... Being under a dark sky was great but I found the targets somewhat limited.

I then tried astro-photography with an unmodded DLSR and, soon after, a modded DSLR on a good solid GoTo EQ mount. I had finally found exactly what I was looking for; the ability to "see" deep sky objects in detail and in full color. My next addition was a mono cooled CCD which added further resolving power.

At about this time I was talked into giving an intro to astronomy for a local public outreach group and acquired a color Mallincam Xtreme (MCX). I used this video device for about a year and just recently sold it. It was great for public outreach but I could never get the image quality out of it I enjoyed using either a DSLR or CCD. And yes, I know I was probably expecting far more out of the MCX than intended. It is a low light video capture system and works very well in this capacity... but not my thing.

I think cameras like the Mallincam Universe (a color CCD with large pixels, CCD quality capture, Rock's "Hyper Circuit" technology and "Constant Refresh System" software) are getting very close to my ideal way of viewing the skies. I can see the future of video / imaging moving more and more in this direction. The recently released Canon 6D has pushed the technology of noise control one more big step up the ladder, i.e.: there is no noise in images off this camera compared to my Canon 60D's... and the future will only see this trend continue.

Just my two cents...






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