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What's your setup to capture good pictures of the ISS.

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#1 Adrian Ruiz

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 06:12 PM

Hey guys, i was just wondering  (as the title suggests) what's your setup in photographing the ISS?

 

I've currently been attempting to do this and I know that I need more practice but was just curious if my setup isn't a good one before my next attempt. I'm currently using an Orion StarMax 90mm TableTop Maksutov-Cassegrain with an Orion Starshoot USB Eyepiece Camera II.

 

I've been thinking of getting a new camera but nothing overy $250.

 

Thank you.



#2 t_image

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 08:15 PM

I always enjoy helping feed excitement about observing and capturing photos of the ISS!

 

I've successfully captured a few solar/lunar transits and routinely catch the ISS is varying quality video at a resolvable focal length while hand-tracking.

FWIW my lenses FL setup is 1800mm with 3840x2160 video resolution, which often is barely adequate to resolve features

Here's some things I've picked up to think about as you choose a camera as well as the bigger 'picture' -no pun intended:

 

Things to keep in mind:

  • Solve moving target issue (with your mount setup):

keeping a large FL/therefore small FOV on the moving ISS can be difficult,
especially when ISS is directly above you -makes mount,etc very awkward at such point-----which ironically being directly overhead also provides the optimal distance and angular size for good photographs

 

troubleshoots:

  • stalk shooting ---lying in wait at a certain part of the sky and photographing as ISS passes through area (how solar/lunar transits are photographed)
  • stable tracking---skillful hand tracking or software programmed mount tracking of the craft in a manner that the ISS is in the FOV stable enough to get some decent photos/video frames
    • have a way to spot the ISS in case it passes out of your camera frame (spotting scope, additionally camera with smaller focal length for tracking, etc.)
  • Lucky imaging with video---the higher the framerate, the better: 30fps, 60fps, 120fps, 240fps
  • Fast succession of photos-the better the camera buffer, the more you can take---still photos are more likely to succeed with the stalk shooting scenario-most DSLRs will have better resolution in stills than any video

 

  • Solve Variable size, distance, speed issues (camera settings/optics settings):

like the appearance of airplanes flying over,

  • the ISS distance to and angular size it appears to the observer is directly related to how high overhead it is and passes-the angular speed it passes across is also directly related to this factor
  • depending on the intensity of sunlight/angle of reflection the brightness the ISS appears can vary---and will even vary as the ISS passes across
    • challenges arising:
      • focus issues?-do your optics care at near infinity if your target is 400km, 800km, 1200km away?
      • setting the proper exposure/ISO/gain-adjusting to the difference in brightness of the ISS

 

  • Solve Focal length/camera image resolution issues (camera and optics specifications):
  • The more directly overhead, the larger the ISS will appear and will be able to resolve details, given good(stability of shot, framerate, proper exposure and focus)....
  • camera pixel resolution match to focal length:
  • the higher the image resolution, the less pixelated the image will be and the higher you can "zoom" in to see details, a higher focal length will compliment this

 

Hope this helps!

 

As far as hardware, you may think about getting a cellphone eyepiece attachment and using the high def video of a cell phone or using a high framerate high definition go pro camera, etc. for a cheaper solve than the normal DSLR most shoot with.....

Even a high framerate high definition web camera would be better than your current standard resolution orion usb.



#3 Adrian Ruiz

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 08:59 PM

I always enjoy helping feed excitement about observing and capturing photos of the ISS!

 

I've successfully captured a few solar/lunar transits and routinely catch the ISS is varying quality video at a resolvable focal length while hand-tracking.

FWIW my lenses FL setup is 1800mm with 3840x2160 video resolution, which often is barely adequate to resolve features

Here's some things I've picked up to think about as you choose a camera as well as the bigger 'picture' -no pun intended:

 

Hope this helps!

 

As far as hardware, you may think about getting a cellphone eyepiece attachment and using the high def video of a cell phone or using a high framerate high definition go pro camera, etc. for a cheaper solve than the normal DSLR most shoot with.....

Even a high framerate high definition web camera would be better than your current standard resolution orion usb.

Okay, thank you so much, especially for being so detailed, honestly didn't expect that. It helps alot.


Edited by Adrian Ruiz, 29 May 2016 - 09:00 PM.


#4 Thirteen

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 11:33 PM

I always enjoy helping feed excitement about observing and capturing photos of the ISS!

 

I've successfully captured a few solar/lunar transits and routinely catch the ISS is varying quality video at a resolvable focal length while hand-tracking.

FWIW my lenses FL setup is 1800mm with 3840x2160 video resolution, which often is barely adequate to resolve features

Here's some things I've picked up to think about as you choose a camera as well as the bigger 'picture' -no pun intended:

 

Things to keep in mind:

  • Solve moving target issue (with your mount setup):

keeping a large FL/therefore small FOV on the moving ISS can be difficult,
especially when ISS is directly above you -makes mount,etc very awkward at such point-----which ironically being directly overhead also provides the optimal distance and angular size for good photographs

 

troubleshoots:

  • stalk shooting ---lying in wait at a certain part of the sky and photographing as ISS passes through area (how solar/lunar transits are photographed)
  • stable tracking---skillful hand tracking or software programmed mount tracking of the craft in a manner that the ISS is in the FOV stable enough to get some decent photos/video frames
    • have a way to spot the ISS in case it passes out of your camera frame (spotting scope, additionally camera with smaller focal length for tracking, etc.)
  • Lucky imaging with video---the higher the framerate, the better: 30fps, 60fps, 120fps, 240fps
  • Fast succession of photos-the better the camera buffer, the more you can take---still photos are more likely to succeed with the stalk shooting scenario-most DSLRs will have better resolution in stills than any video

 

  • Solve Variable size, distance, speed issues (camera settings/optics settings):

like the appearance of airplanes flying over,

  • the ISS distance to and angular size it appears to the observer is directly related to how high overhead it is and passes-the angular speed it passes across is also directly related to this factor
  • depending on the intensity of sunlight/angle of reflection the brightness the ISS appears can vary---and will even vary as the ISS passes across
    • challenges arising:
      • focus issues?-do your optics care at near infinity if your target is 400km, 800km, 1200km away?
      • setting the proper exposure/ISO/gain-adjusting to the difference in brightness of the ISS

 

  • Solve Focal length/camera image resolution issues (camera and optics specifications):
  • The more directly overhead, the larger the ISS will appear and will be able to resolve details, given good(stability of shot, framerate, proper exposure and focus)....
  • camera pixel resolution match to focal length:
  • the higher the image resolution, the less pixelated the image will be and the higher you can "zoom" in to see details, a higher focal length will compliment this

 

Hope this helps!

 

As far as hardware, you may think about getting a cellphone eyepiece attachment and using the high def video of a cell phone or using a high framerate high definition go pro camera, etc. for a cheaper solve than the normal DSLR most shoot with.....

Even a high framerate high definition web camera would be better than your current standard resolution orion usb.

 

Interesting.  Do you have a link to any images you've taken with these methods?  This is something I'd really like to try.



#5 t_image

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Posted 30 May 2016 - 04:15 PM

Here's an old shot of a few raw 4K video frames cropped and placed side by side. Not my best work,

Sonya7s with 150-600mm tamron lens with 3x multiplier giving me 1800mm,

hand tracked with a photo tripod, ISS was not at highest point.

I have some GIFs of my transits in my CN gallery under my profile info.

 

iss600km.jpg

 

If you want to learn some history of the legends that get great shots of the ISS,

take a look at this video (skip to 32:26)

http://www.dailymoti...lite-story_tech

and this story:

https://www.youtube....h?v=1Vm7N5D5sg0

 

Google the images that Phil Masding and Mike Tyrell have taken.

 

Additionally pro Thierry Legault is quite the expert at photographing the ISS as well!
https://www.youtube....h?v=AtEVzRx9ktw

 

With many high megapixel DSLRs out there and folks with decent scopes and a little skill and luck, one can get some decent shots with amateur equipment!


Edited by t_image, 31 May 2016 - 12:46 AM.


#6 Adrian Ruiz

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 05:15 PM

Here's an old shot of a few raw 4K video frames cropped and placed side by side. Not my best work,

Sonya7s with 150-600mm tamron lens with 3x multiplier giving me 1800mm,

hand tracked with a photo tripod, ISS was not at highest point.

I have some GIFs of my transits in my CN gallery under my profile info.

 

attachicon.gifiss600km.jpg

 

If you want to learn some history of the legends that get great shots of the ISS,

take a look at this video (skip to 32:26)

http://www.dailymoti...lite-story_tech

and this story:

https://www.youtube....h?v=1Vm7N5D5sg0

 

Google the images that Phil Masding and Mike Tyrell have taken.

 

Additionally pro Thierry Legault is quite the expert at photographing the ISS as well!
https://www.youtube....h?v=AtEVzRx9ktw

 

With many high megapixel DSLRs out there and folks with decent scopes and a little skill and luck, one can get some decent shots with amateur equipment!

 

Hey, I was thinking of buying a starshoot IV camera or a Starshoot 5mp, will these work? If not, which will you recommend. I tried like you suggested using my phones camera with very little success in getting good quality (specifically because it didn't want to focus on it since it was such a small amount of time in the frame), the Starshoot USB out performed it by a lot. The 3 best frames are below.https://www.dropbox....Movie.mp4?dl=0 

Thank you so much.


Edited by Adrian Ruiz, 31 May 2016 - 05:18 PM.


#7 t_image

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Posted 01 June 2016 - 12:06 AM

Your images are pulling some great detail, it's just you are plagued by motion-blur due to inconsistent tracking and a slow fps camera.

 

focus:

My bad. Autofocus: don't use it. Not helpful in lowlight, high speed, or time-lapse application. Get focus on star and maybe fine tune as the ISS is in frame with MANUAL focus. That is probably the issue with your phone, although not all phone cameras are the same. You didn't say what type of phone camera you have.

The iphone 6 has manual focus options with slowmo 240fps video that would kill so it all depends on what you have.

 

I also get overzealous about video resolution some times, but in reality like in planetary:

if your object is not filling your field of view, it is not your video resolution that is as important as sensor pixel size.

-although some DSLRs "bin" or clump pixels to give you the video resolution which does effectively increase your pixel size so your resolution is reduced compared to a higher resolution 1:1 ratio......

The cameras that have a crop feature for lower resolution video are the ideal-see planetary discussions on this to see what I mean.

 

Everything is a trade-off.

One question as far a what is a reasonable budget for your camera, is what percentage of the price of your OTA will your camera be?

I'm amazed at people that spend $$$$$ on mount and scope but their "budget" for a camera is zero.

 

If you had a great fast fork-mount that was configured with satellite tracking software control that could get you a consistently stable image on your sensor, your camera would be less important.

 

If paired with good tracking, your had an amazing focal length with hyperstar bright optics, then again your camera choice would be less important.

 

To make up for, especially tracking, the greatest gain for you may be with a camera with high frame rates at least 60fps or more will do you well. I think I'll stay away from commenting on specific planetary cameras that I haven't used.

 

Unless you want to invest in things that will give your good steady tracking, high fps will be the best solve. Keep in mind some cameras are more sensitive to light than others. However the tradeoff (like my Sony a7s with 8.4 micro pixels-means the low light sensitivity bends to having larger pixels that give you less detail with the same size image).

 

Attached is a matrix of the factors involved and how they relate to each other.

 

 

Here's a thread for some good advice:

http://www.cloudynig...-for-planetary/

 

This all especially applies to the technique of tracking the ISS across and taking video and isolating video frames later and stack for better detail if able....

 

Cheers!

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • tradeoff matrix.jpg


#8 Thirteen

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 07:25 AM

I did it!

get.jpg

I encourage folks to try. It's really not that hard!

Having the moon around is key. I used if for exposure estimation and focus. I have a solid list of things to work on for the next try. The good thing is that I captured it with my DSO setup. So I can try often with just a short break from the regularly scheduled programming.

Edited by Thirteen, 13 June 2016 - 07:45 AM.


#9 nitegeezer

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 11:15 AM

That is a fantastic capture!!   :bow:



#10 t_image

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 04:36 PM

Great job Jason! :waytogo:

Feel free to share details or lessons learned to benefit others!



#11 Thirteen

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 10:18 PM

Thanks, guys.  I'm not wanting to hijack the thread with my experience, but in the case of the OP, I suppose it applies.

 

I have a short description in my Astrobin version, but generally, I'll give a short walkthrough.

 

Setup:

For my attempt, here's the equipment list:

Mount:  AtlasPro

Scope:  EdgeHD8

Reducer:  .7x (yes, with a reducer!)

Camera: ASI1600MM-Cool

Capture software:  Firecapture

 

Prep:

This thread was timely for me mainly because I had considered doing this for a long while with my C8.   I had always considered that I'd need some form of automated satellite tracking to get the job done.  Two nights ago I casually looked up and noticed the ISS crossing right overhead.  I just kind of put two and two together and considered that I could probably track this thing through the finderscope and hand controller with a little practice.  Directly overhead it really cooks but until then it is not a particularly fast moving object.   I looked at SkySafari and noticed that I had a decent opportunity the next night (last night).  I got set up with my mount and capture software and pointed to where it was supposed to appear.

 

Exposure:

I really just winged this one.  I figured the proper exposure for the moon would be close because they are similar in brightness.   This was a bad assumption for the most part.  The ISS is brighter indeed.   But regardless I set the exposure and focus on the moon about 5 minutes to go time.   I used unity gain for the camera GAIN=139 and exposure was 0.9ms.   The camera achieves a maximum of 23fps in high speed mode. 

 

Tracking:

The pass crested at about 50 degrees, so it wasn't directly overhead.  I considered this a good thing to practice tracking.  I got all set up and waited with the hand controller in hand and the clutches pretty loose so I could manually override if necessary.   The ringer here is the ASI1600.  That big chip allows some leniency my targeting and should allow far more frames with the station in it that a traditional planetary camera.  

 

Showtime:

By marvel of modern technology, the ISS rose right where I was pointed and I was able to manually swing the finderscope to the station.  I hit record and began capturing at full resolution (which is roughly 4k video).   My initial tracking rate was good to hold the station in the finder for a good number of seconds.   It wasn't long before it exceeded the rate I had set though and I entered panic mode.  I released the clutches and tried like heck to have a smooth pan but the axes are pretty sticky still with the clutches off.  It's not like a video pan head or anything (that would be better than an EQ mount).    I did the best I could until I hit the meridian.  I tried to flip and keep going but I could never reacquire it. 

 

The Result:

I quickly took a look at what I had.  And...well... it's hilarious.   The beginning with the motorized tracking was not bad.  But once I went manual the thing was zinging all over the place.  It would have a few frames then rocket off to one side and then zoom back through and off the other side of the chip about 50 times.  But I looked at stills and the .9ms exposure was enough to freeze all but a few frames.   Good news!

 

Post:

I loaded the video into PIPP, which has an ISS mode to sort frames that show the station.  It then aligns and dumps all those frames into a format of your choosing.    Here is that AVI of the 400 or so frames (out of 5000) I captured. 

https://vimeo.com/170517321

I saved off the individual frames as uncompressed TIFFs, stacked the initial 150 or so smooth ones in AutoStakkert, processed in PixInsight and Photoshop, and that result is here...

get.jpg

 

Lessons Learned:

Looking at the video makes a few things apparent. 

  1. The best resulting frames I had were early in the pass where I was using motorized tracking.  I need to find a way to make this happen, and there is a way to load custom satellite tracks in to EQMOD.  I am investigating. 
  2. You can see 4 or 5 times in the video where I required the target.  Physically the size changed quite a bit.  If I can get an overhead pass with good tracking, I can get a lot more detail.
  3. Exposure ramping is something I need to figure out.  It changes a lot in brightness.  My initial guess was surprisingly accurate, but it became very blown out as it began to pass and the sunlit side became visible.

The coolness:

Best I can figure from the info in SkySafari for that pass, that image is a view of the ISS about 500 miles distant.  Think about that.  I'm imaging from Michigan and that's like photographing a building in NYC!


Edited by Thirteen, 13 June 2016 - 10:27 PM.


#12 rkayakr

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 06:04 AM

Nice

With EQMODLX you can use Satellite Tracker.



#13 Thirteen

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 09:37 AM

Yes, that's what I've been looking at. I would love to hear of anyone with firsthand experience. The tutorial is all done with simulators. I just don't have a feeling for how much correction would be necessary in practice. I suppose there's nothing left but to try it.

#14 t_image

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Posted 17 June 2016 - 12:17 AM

Everyone needs to see the work done with good equipment by this fellow:

http://www.cloudynig...1926/?p=7276619



#15 Thirteen

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Posted 17 June 2016 - 08:57 AM

His equipment does seem a little better than mine.

But yeah, that's pretty awesome.

Edited by Thirteen, 17 June 2016 - 08:57 AM.


#16 Thirteen

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 12:37 PM

I just wanted to bump this after a major fail last night. I attempted to track Tiangong 1 on a twilight pass with EQMODLX on an AtlasPro. I started tracking at 0degrees altitude and it cleared the trees at 40 degrees in the finder scope! I was successful up to about 45 degrees altitude where the tracking rate got too much and the mount started leapfrogging the station and ultimately failed miserably.

Anyone happen to have experience with trying this?

#17 lucutes

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 11:44 AM

I tried using my Orion 8 Dob last night with a ASI290MM attached. I focused on Arcturus and then turned it on for the ISS pass and tracked as best as I could.  It was about 40fps but when I opened up the ser. file later on AutoStakkert all I got was this a bunch of times.  Can someone tell me what I am doing wrong? I had the gain down to 0 and the gamma up around 1200.

 

ps, I try to piggyback on old threads to prevent opening new ones.
Cheers

Attached Thumbnails

  • Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 11.31.08 PM.jpg


#18 Thirteen

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 12:14 PM

I found that my best successes came when I could focus and set exposure on the full moon prior to the pass. So the next few days are good times.

My guess is you were over exposed or the gamma correction is causing problems. I always leave gamma at the default level so the data doesn't have any nonlinear transformations while it is being written. I found that the best exposure was when I underexposed the moon to about 20% of the histogram. The ISS starts dim in the evening passes because you are looking at the shaded side. Once you get a peek at the sunlit side about halfway through the pass you really need a lot less exposure. Ultimately it would work best as a two person operation. One to deal with tracking and the other to manage capture.

Here is a look at my attempt last summer. You can clearly see I should have been backing off the exposure but I only had two hands and one brain.

Here is that video I linked to above
https://vimeo.com/170517321

Good job getting it on the chip. That's half the battle!

I sorted and cropped my images with PIPP first before autostakkert. It worked well to get it centered and toss all the blank frames.

Also, framerate is less important than keeping the individual exposures short to freeze motion. I was capturing 0.9ms exposures but only at 23fps. Make sure you find a balance with gain, if you crank the gain way up, you may have problems with retaining dynamic range you need.

Edited by Thirteen, 06 August 2017 - 12:42 PM.


#19 Thirteen

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 12:25 PM

I'd love to give this another try. Thanks for reminding me ;)

#20 t_image

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 12:59 AM

I tried using my Orion 8 Dob last night with a ASI290MM attached. I focused on Arcturus and then turned it on for the ISS pass and tracked as best as I could.  It was about 40fps but when I opened up the ser. file later on AutoStakkert all I got was this a bunch of times.  Can someone tell me what I am doing wrong? I had the gain down to 0 and the gamma up around 1200.

 

ps, I try to piggyback on old threads to prevent opening new ones.
Cheers

Lucutes,

 

#1 how did you track it? (software) or by hand? (I assume hand w/ a dob but don't want to play mind-reader).

how often was the ISS on frame?

how often was the ISS in the same area of frame?

#2 Could you be more specific on how you recorded the video frames?

I get the ser file thing,

but did you try scrubbing through the video to find individual frames with discernible images?

That should be your first step.

PIPP has a ser player.

You should at least,

WITHOUT PROCESSING OR STACKING,

try to view individual frames for good images.

If necessary, convert the video to individual still frames and open them in PS in scripts>open files as a stack....

 

You screencap looks like AS! is trying to stack a lot of frames that aren't aligned and are in different places

 

AS was developed for planets that often stay in the exact place in the frame, and don't change orientation within seconds.

The ISS is a different thing, especially if hand tracked with only 40fps,

getting motion-blur,

the object in different places in the frame,

and different orientation movement along a pass.

 

Notice thirteen itemized he used PIPP in two post above BEFORE he used AS!.

I think that is your #1 issue. Don't go to AS! until you've found good frames and aligned them first...



#21 lucutes

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Posted 10 August 2017 - 10:48 PM

 

I tried using my Orion 8 Dob last night with a ASI290MM attached. I focused on Arcturus and then turned it on for the ISS pass and tracked as best as I could.  It was about 40fps but when I opened up the ser. file later on AutoStakkert all I got was this a bunch of times.  Can someone tell me what I am doing wrong? I had the gain down to 0 and the gamma up around 1200.

 

ps, I try to piggyback on old threads to prevent opening new ones.
Cheers

Lucutes,

 

#1 how did you track it? (software) or by hand? (I assume hand w/ a dob but don't want to play mind-reader).

how often was the ISS on frame?

how often was the ISS in the same area of frame?

#2 Could you be more specific on how you recorded the video frames?

I get the ser file thing,

but did you try scrubbing through the video to find individual frames with discernible images?

That should be your first step.

PIPP has a ser player.

You should at least,

WITHOUT PROCESSING OR STACKING,

try to view individual frames for good images.

If necessary, convert the video to individual still frames and open them in PS in scripts>open files as a stack....

 

You screencap looks like AS! is trying to stack a lot of frames that aren't aligned and are in different places

 

AS was developed for planets that often stay in the exact place in the frame, and don't change orientation within seconds.

The ISS is a different thing, especially if hand tracked with only 40fps,

getting motion-blur,

the object in different places in the frame,

and different orientation movement along a pass.

 

Notice thirteen itemized he used PIPP in two post above BEFORE he used AS!.

I think that is your #1 issue. Don't go to AS! until you've found good frames and aligned them first...

 

I tracked this by hand.

I got probably 100 frames of the ISS out of the 2 or 3000 frames.  Each frame looked basically like this. I've done some digging and most people that I have seen using a mono camera have used a filter in front, mostly red.  Should I try that? I went to straight to AS because I did do one ISS capture in the past with my Nikon D750 and it seemed to so the job. After I converted the video to raw of course... Long story there.

This was captured using the new AstroImager 3.0.

What is PIPP?

 

Cheers,



#22 Thirteen

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Posted 10 August 2017 - 11:11 PM

https://sites.google...site/astropipp/

 

It has an ISS mode where it will cull out the blank frames and crop and center those with the ISS, it makes stacking them much easier.  Though, as you've probably seen, the angle changes fast, so you can only stack a few before geometry is a problem.  




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