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New Camera – EAA with ZWO ASI224 with NexStar 8SE

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#26 RafaelP

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Posted 18 August 2015 - 07:58 PM

Just received mine.  Really great stuff!  I have just been practicing indoors with Sharpcap, Fire Capture looks a little more intimidating...


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#27 StarMike8SE

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Posted 19 August 2015 - 07:23 AM

Just received mine.  Really great stuff!  I have just been practicing indoors with Sharpcap, Fire Capture looks a little more intimidating...

I would like to hear how it does with the C5



#28 Astrojedi

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Posted 19 August 2015 - 09:26 AM

Just received mine.  Really great stuff!  I have just been practicing indoors with Sharpcap, Fire Capture looks a little more intimidating...

 

Let me know how it goes. FireCap is pretty powerful but the UI can be a little overwhelming at first. Much easier to get up and running with SharpCap.

 

Will you be using a focal reducer?


Edited by Astrojedi, 19 August 2015 - 09:29 AM.


#29 Astrojedi

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Posted 19 August 2015 - 11:59 AM

Had only ~45 minutes of observing time (including setup) last night hence focused on only a couple of DSOs

First up is the Iris Nebula in Cepheus (NGC7023, C4). I love the colors of this bright reflection nebula.

I have shown 3 images at 10x10s, 30x10s and 60x10s to illustrate how time helps reduce noise and add SNR. Really enjoyed viewing as the nebulosity slowly formed and the colors appeared.

Iris 20x10s (EDIT: This is actually 10x10s)
Iris 20x10s G300


Iris 30x10s
Iris 30x10s G300


Iris 60x10s
Iris 60x10s G300

Edited by Astrojedi, 21 August 2015 - 09:20 AM.


#30 Astrojedi

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Posted 23 August 2015 - 01:27 PM

Some images with Lodestar X2C for comparison. Since the X2C is the other camera I regularly use for EAA I thought a comparison would be useful.

 

I have used 5-10s sub exposures for an apples to apples comparison for our use case (same setup as before except used ~f/4 vs. f3.7 due the difference in the length of the c-mount adapter but close enough).

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Took these images without darks to illustrate the negligible amp glow from the X2C electronics (although you still need darks to address the hot pixels). To be fair I was pushing ASI224's gain much higher which also could be a contributor.
  • I always struggle with color balance using the Lodestar X2C and Lodestar Live (could be user error - if someone on CN understands how to fix this I would like some help). I have been pleasantly surprised by the excellent color provided by the ASI224 & AstroToaster combo right out of the box even with such short exposures.
  • The ASI224's higher resolution makes a big difference although the X2C's larger pixels help compensate slightly for 8SE's poor tracking making the stars look a little sharper.
  • I also found that when using sub exposures shorter than 10s for certain DSOs Lodestar Live rejects quite a few frames due to lack of alignment stars. I feel here the flexibility of being able to set gain with ASI224 comes in very handy (although you lose dynamic range for a single sub, doesn't really matter as you are stacking so many subs)
  • But the biggest difference is the Lodestar Live software which really makes EAA an enjoyable experience

 

Conclusion: Hard to pick one as they both have their strengths. ASI224 definitely delivers much better image quality for EAA in this setup but the Lodestar X2 & X2C excel at ease of use due to the excellent Lodestar Live SW. But overall ASI224 is hard to beat in terms of value if you have a limited budget as it can double as a high speed planetary camera at half the cost.

Attached Thumbnails

  • M16_2015.8.22_22.03.44.jpg
  • M17_2015.8.22_22.30.20.jpg
  • M20_2015.8.22_21.24.19.jpg

Edited by Astrojedi, 23 August 2015 - 01:41 PM.


#31 Don Rudny

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Posted 23 August 2015 - 02:07 PM

Jedi,

 

Regarding your problem with color balance, what version of LL are you using?  The latest is v0.12 that has an auto align box that needs to be checked in the display processing window.  You should also check the modify all box before making any image corrections, so all color channels are changed equally.  I find that a slight adjustment is usually necessary with the color balance slider to offset a slight magenta tinge to the image with the default settings.

 

Hope this helps.



#32 Astrojedi

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Posted 23 August 2015 - 05:00 PM

 Don,

 

I am using v0.12.

 

I initially tried manual color balance but with little success. Then after getting 0.12 I tried auto align with all channels checked which is how I produced the images above but still struggling with the Magenta tinge. For e.g. I tired everything but just cannot get the blue nebulosity to show in the M20. Not sure if you or others have had any luck with this.

 

Thanks

Hiten



#33 Don Rudny

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Posted 23 August 2015 - 05:25 PM

Hiten,

 

I usually view and capture M20 with a NB Ha filter, so it doesn't capture the reflection part.  I did view M20 with my LS X2c once at the MK visitors center in a C14 Edge with Hyperstar.  The reflection portion was vivid.  I didn't get a capture  because people were crowding me out taking pictures of the computer screen with their cell phones.

 

Next time out I will try M20 without the NB filter.  Might be a while because the moon is going to be in the way for the next few nights.  I have a theory on why you are having trouble, but I would like to do some testing before I post it.

 

As soon as I get something, I'll post it in this thread.



#34 Astrojedi

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Posted 23 August 2015 - 07:17 PM

Don,

Appreciate you looking into this.

Hiten



#35 Astrojedi

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Posted 25 August 2015 - 12:27 PM

Here is a much longer integration of C12 (Fireworks Galaxy) 100x10s, I could start to see detail in the galaxy in a couple of minutes but I let the integration run to 15 minutes as an experiment to see how much more detail I could bring out.

 

Unfortunately the severe light pollution started to overwhelm the signal quite quickly. Had to use a very aggressive stretch+contrast in AstroToaster and also get aggressive on the black point to bring out detail and suppress the background but you can still see the residual green muck from light pollution (center right).

 

But I think there is a lot of potential here. Next on my to-do list is to try and use a broadband light pollution filter this weekend (hoping the clouds clear).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • C12 Fireworks 10sx100 G325.jpg

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#36 RafaelP

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Posted 30 August 2015 - 12:55 PM

Astrojedi,

So for setting up the camera for EEA, I need Fire Capture, Deepsky Stacker, and finally Astrotoaster?  Would you mind giving a quick description set-up process of the programs for EAA?  

 

I got my feet wet with Sharpcap and Firecapture, but not sure how to integrate the rest...  

 

Hopefully someday someone will be interested in integrating these things into one program!

 

~Rafael


Edited by RafaelP, 30 August 2015 - 01:32 PM.

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#37 Astrojedi

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 01:43 AM

Rafael,

 

Yes, it would be great to have a single software do all this for this camera. 

 

SharpCap is looking to introduce alignment and stacking in the next version (Edit: already has stacking but alignment coming in next version). In my opinion for images taken with typical Alt Az mounts the alignment capabilities of the SW are pretty important so looking forward to the next release.

 

As I don't have my computer with me (typing on my smartphone), here is a brief overview of the setup... Feel free to ask questions if you need more information on any of these steps.

 

Setup FireCap to capture FITs. For each session I typically setup a target folder where FireCap saves all images.

Start with the following camera settings gain 300, gamma 50, exposure 5-15s (experiment and try different exposures). If you are using a light pollution filter and if your mount supports it use 15-20s exposures.

 

Setup Deepskystacker (DSS) using the installer. Once setup go into FITs settings and select the option for color camera and the Bayer matrix as RGB (first option).

 

Finally setup AstroToaster and start it up. If not already open click on the file list button and point it to the FireCap images folder above and also set the path for DSS.

 

At the start of each session I also take ~10 darks at the intended exposure time. Make sure you use FireCap to take the darks and save them in a separate folder. Take note of the sensor temp in the file that Firecap saves. If you see temp changing more than 1deg through the night I would take fresh darks.

 

Make sure you add the darks to Astrotoaster using the calibration settings. Now you are ready to go...

 

Once you have centered the object start recording in FireCap. I would try 25-30 frames. Also I would start with a bright DSO like M13 to get the hang of it.

 

The above sounds complicated but once you are setup is pretty straightforward.


Edited by Astrojedi, 31 August 2015 - 01:50 AM.

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#38 Don Rudny

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 02:32 AM

 Don,

 

I am using v0.12.

 

I initially tried manual color balance but with little success. Then after getting 0.12 I tried auto align with all channels checked which is how I produced the images above but still struggling with the Magenta tinge. For e.g. I tired everything but just cannot get the blue nebulosity to show in the M20. Not sure if you or others have had any luck with this.

 

Thanks

Hiten

Hi Hiten,

 

I had a chance tonight to get M20 before the moon came up.  I have attached the image capture and also the screen capture of the LL settings.  My theory is that the short exposure that you are trying is insufficient to get all the object data.  Stacking will increase the signal, but only for data that is actually recorded.  If the dynamic range of the object falls outside the dynamic range of the camera, that data will not be collected and stacking will not bring it out.  If the exposure is too short, you will lose dim areas of the object.  What I usually do is to get a properly exposed single frame of the object and then mean stack a few frames, usually five, to reduce the random noise.  I'm not sure how you were adjusting the color, but the screen capture below should give you some idea of what's necessary to get a decent balance and saturation.  I use the non linear scaling as well to bring out the dimmer reflection portion without blowing out the central stars.

 

I also included a capture of M17 to show how much data is lost with the short exposure you used.

 

I thought that the sky condition may be a factor, but your ASI224 images suggest otherwise.

 

Hope this makes sense and helps.

 

M20.Trifid.Nebula_2015.8.30_19.37.38.jpg

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 7.44.10 PM.jpg

M17.Omega.Nebula_2015.8.30_20.19.56.jpg


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#39 Astrojedi

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 05:02 PM

 

 Don,

 

I am using v0.12.

 

I initially tried manual color balance but with little success. Then after getting 0.12 I tried auto align with all channels checked which is how I produced the images above but still struggling with the Magenta tinge. For e.g. I tired everything but just cannot get the blue nebulosity to show in the M20. Not sure if you or others have had any luck with this.

 

Thanks

Hiten

Hi Hiten,

 

I had a chance tonight to get M20 before the moon came up.  I have attached the image capture and also the screen capture of the LL settings.  My theory is that the short exposure that you are trying is insufficient to get all the object data.  Stacking will increase the signal, but only for data that is actually recorded.  If the dynamic range of the object falls outside the dynamic range of the camera, that data will not be collected and stacking will not bring it out.  If the exposure is too short, you will lose dim areas of the object.  What I usually do is to get a properly exposed single frame of the object and then mean stack a few frames, usually five, to reduce the random noise.  I'm not sure how you were adjusting the color, but the screen capture below should give you some idea of what's necessary to get a decent balance and saturation.  I use the non linear scaling as well to bring out the dimmer reflection portion without blowing out the central stars.

 

I also included a capture of M17 to show how much data is lost with the short exposure you used.

 

I thought that the sky condition may be a factor, but your ASI224 images suggest otherwise.

 

Hope this makes sense and helps.

 

attachicon.gifM20.Trifid.Nebula_2015.8.30_19.37.38.jpg

attachicon.gifScreen Shot 2015-08-30 at 7.44.10 PM.jpg

attachicon.gifM17.Omega.Nebula_2015.8.30_20.19.56.jpg

 

 

Thanks Don. While I have not tested it scientifically, what you are saying makes sense. The read noise for ASI224 is about 1-2e and for the X2C is ~6e so more signal is needed to overcome the read noise and achieve the same dynamic range. These effects of course diminish as the exposure time increases but looks like it does matter here.

 

Based on my experience with the X2C I have also found that the sweet spot for the X2C for EAA is 20-45sec exposures. 

 

This thread/exercise was focused on exploring EAA using my nexstar mount which unfortunately cannot handle more than 10 sec exposures. But I will give it a go with my AVX mount this weekend.



#40 RafaelP

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 09:53 PM

Thanks for the quick overview!

When directing Astrotoaster to the image folder, I can only direct it to the images within the folder as opposed to the folder itself(same with DSS.) Is that correct? For DSS I use "Open picture files" at the very top? Will it continuously recheck the folder for new images or just Astrotoaster will do that?  Do I need to use DSS to actually do anything other that allow Astrotoaster to use its engine?

I am trying to practice indoors before struggling through this in the dark...  I feel like I need to be a software engineer!

Thanks again!

Rafael



#41 Astrojedi

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 02:51 AM

Rafael,

 

You should not need to open or change any settings in DSS once you are working with AstroToaster as per the steps outlined above.

 

AstroToaster supports monitoring of a folder and automatically detects and stacks new images. In AstroToaster you need to open 'Settings' and specify which folder AstroToaster should monitor.

 

Feel free to PM me if you need more help.



#42 Astrojedi

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Posted 07 September 2015 - 02:48 PM

Taken from a dark sky site last night. The M51 at ~2min and ~7min integration time. All subs were 15s. The scope was a C8 @ f3.3

 

M51 10x15s
M51 Dark Site f3.3 10x15s D15sx10 G300_Resized.jpg


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#43 Astrojedi

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Posted 07 September 2015 - 02:50 PM

M51 30x15s (total exposure time ~7mins)

 

[Edit: Uploading again... this is the correct 7 min integration]

M51 Dark Site f3.3 30x15s D15s x10 G300_Resized.jpg


Edited by Astrojedi, 09 September 2015 - 05:20 PM.

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#44 Astrojedi

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 04:15 PM

Using a broadband LP Filter...

 

As summer turns into fall I wanted to view the bright summer nebulae once more before bidding them farewell till next summer.

 

As the nebulae were already pretty low at the horizon and in the direction of downtown city lights I was not able to pull much detail out due to the light pollution.

 

So, I decided to use a broadband LP filter. But here is the challenge… I have tried using a broadband filter before with my X2C but the Nexstar mount just does not support the exposure length required to make the exercise viable. But I decided to experiment anyways.

 

Needed a few tweaks to my usual ASI224 capture settings but here are the results…

 

I have of course achieved much better results using my AVX but I was surprised by how much can be achieved with a Nexstar 8SE with its low quality mount & the ASI224.

 

Note these have all been resized to 800x600 from ~1280x970 to fit into the CN file size limits. All images taken with a C8 @ f3.3, Nexstar mount and ASI224

 

The Lagoon Nebula 15x10s exposure

 

Lagoon 15x10s G350 2.jpg


Edited by Astrojedi, 15 September 2015 - 02:44 PM.


#45 Astrojedi

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 04:20 PM

And the Eagle Nebula 10x10s

 

Eagle 10x10s G350.jpg



#46 Astrojedi

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 04:27 PM

The Swan or Omega Nebula 15x10s

 

Swan 15x10s G350 2.jpg



#47 Astrojedi

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 04:43 PM

And finally the Trifid... 16x10s

 

Trifid 16x10s G350.jpg


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#48 Astrojedi

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 04:53 PM

And here were the key settings used in FireCap...

 

Gain 350 (make sure you take darks at this gain setting)

Exposure 10s

Gamma 50

 

The higher gain compensates for the loss of light due to the light pollution filter and brings the histogram back to the center. Make sure there is no clipping on the left of the histogram.

 

The image may look a little overexposed and the histogram will be choppy due to the high gain but don't worry, after stacking you will regain the bit depth and ability to apply a stretch.

 

Also in AstroToaster set it to stack the best 70-80% of subs. I find that using 10s exposures I end up discarding ~20% of the subs due to the Nexstar mount tracking errors.


Edited by Astrojedi, 14 September 2015 - 04:55 PM.


#49 Astrojedi

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 07:25 PM

Spot the H II regions....

 

M33 from last night... 28x10s. Same setup using a broadband LP filter... Used an aggressive stretch in AstroToaster. Studying the H II regions in live view!

 

M33

 

M33 28x10s G350 4.jpg

 

Now with my guess at the HII regions...

 

M33 28x10s G350 H II Regions.jpg

 

Image quality is not quite AP quality but keep in mind that this is from a live view image using an Alt Az mount... My AVX of course produces better results than this as I can do longer single exposures but there is something exciting about going against conventional wisdom by using a average Alt Az mount to view this in real time.

 

 


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#50 Astrojedi

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 07:28 PM

And here are the AstroToaster Settings...

 

M33 Screenshot 2.jpg




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