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Some clear honesty needed : Is Video Astronomy worth it?

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#26 octobass

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 02:22 PM

I have seen more in my light-polluted suburban backyard in the last three months of doing EAA than I have seen in my entire life of doing visual observations with larger scopes and darker skies.

 

It is SO worth it. You will be amazed. A few examples are attached. Note the images are shrunken down and cropped and don't represent anything close to what I saw on my screen.  These image were from approximately 2 minute stacks so they are close to real-time viewing.

Amen to this... 

 

Haven't used my big Dob at all since starting EAA 3 years ago. Light pollution worsened so much in the last 25 years in my neighborhood that I probably didn't go out observing more than 5 times a year, usually to look at planets in good seeing, never for DSO's.

 

Then I discovered video astronomy, EAA, whatever one wants to call it:

 

With a fairly modest setup (8" SCT, ASI 224 camera, and hyperstar--not so modest--) I'm observing at least 5 nights a month, enjoying jaw-dropping images of previously unthinkable targets such as Horsehead Nebula and seriously faint galaxies. Complete game changer. Rejuvenated a hobby that had nearly faded away.  


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#27 bobhen

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 03:37 PM

I did video for 15-years from just outside of Philadelphia PA so yes video is highly recommended for a light-polluted backyard.

 

I used SCTs and would recommend an SCT for video as well. SCT’s are compact, can be used on alt/az or GEMs with goto. The SCT’s moving mirror focus provides a wide range of focus travel whereas you might run into in-focus travel issues with a Dobsonian, especially if you use reducers.

 

An SCT can work from F2 for extreme wide field to F3.3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and F 10 for larger and larger image scale. And, with the addition of a barlow, at F20 for planetary imaging. Video and an SCT are a near perfect match. 

 

There are many cameras but people are getting good results with the low cost Revolution Imager II, This is a complete system including camera, monitor and all that you need for around $300. HERE is a link.

 

Bob


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#28 FourOwls

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 03:56 PM

For me, its been worth it. Showing my elderly parents Whirlpool galaxy was a highlight. No more fuzzy centers. Spiral arms and all.

That's awesome, and showing others the beauty of the universe is something I hope to do (my family initially). I remember when I got a 16" Dob, and I thought that finally I can see some great stuff, but it was the same fuzzy blob and although I tried to be scientific about it I was to be honest, disappointed. Video Astronomy so far promises to make objects more detailed and cut through LP..



#29 FourOwls

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 04:01 PM

I did video for 15-years from just outside of Philadelphia PA so yes video is highly recommended for a light-polluted backyard.

 

I used SCTs and would recommend an SCT for video as well. SCT’s are compact, can be used on alt/az or GEMs with goto. The SCT’s moving mirror focus provides a wide range of focus travel whereas you might run into in-focus travel issues with a Dobsonian, especially if you use reducers.

 

An SCT can work from F2 for extreme wide field to F3.3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and F 10 for larger and larger image scale. And, with the addition of a barlow, at F20 for planetary imaging. Video and an SCT are a near perfect match. 

 

There are many cameras but people are getting good results with the low cost Revolution Imager II, This is a complete system including camera, monitor and all that you need for around $300. HERE is a link.

 

Bob

Hi Bob

I have heard of the Revolution Imager II and I was actually contemplating that as it is a complete package. I do have a nice spare computer flat screen available also but I will definitely look into it though as I don't want to be frustrated and want to try and keep it 'simple' where possible!! Thanks for getting back to me

Regards

Andrew H



#30 FourOwls

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 04:10 PM

Yes, EAA is worthwhile, but it can plunge you into a deep money pit...

 

First, you get the excitement of seeing stuff that you have never seen through an eyepiece. My seeing conditions are so bad (light pollution) I struggle to see the Orion Sword asterism with the naked eye. Not a hope of seeing the Horsehead even with a 8" SCT, yet I had it on screen inside a few minutes with a camera. Dave's images (Post #3 and #4) are typical, but I would need a remarkably good night to tease out that clarity of detail and I tend to 'observe' rather than 'image'. EAA will beat serious light pollution.

 

You then get sucked into the allure of sitting indoors in a warm 'mission control' remote controlling everything. The obvious solution is wireless, which is harder than you think with a high resolution camera. Then you fiddle with 'active' USB and find that distance is a problem. Then you try a dual computer wireless route. Then, you get obssesed by 4K UHD and end up with Cat6a cable. It can be a very deep money pit if motivated to find the ultimate solutions as I have been.

 

One thing I have learned as a technology fanatic. Sometimes, you need to arrest ambition until other technologies catch up. For example; in pursuit of the 4K UHD dream I spent big bucks and succeeded. It is wonderful to have the greater depth of zoom possible from higher resolutions, notably when using Hyperstar when you are 'observing'. But if you are an 'imager', why not simply 'observe' in 1080p and 'save' in your cameras native 4K UHD for later post processing of your region of interest? The reduction in system load possible by dropping from 4K UHD to 1080p is dramatic and that then makes WiFi connectivity possible and costs tumble steeply.

 

In summary, EAA is fantastic, but you need to make up your mind if you are primarily an 'observer' or an 'imager'. Once you have settled on the latter, DON'T (for example) pursue the 4k UHD dream. By 'observing' in 1080p even if you still 'save' in 4K UHD you will save enough cash on equipment for a holiday. But it is nice as an observer to have that extra level of zoom, but is it worth the serious extra expense, perhaps not.

I guess this hobby is one that seems to do that to people. Whether it is aperture fever or gear we all seem to want more! I honestly just want to have as good an image as I can with video astronomy (I don't want to get into imaging or astrophotography...too much mucking around for me). So hopefully I will keep it simple, but I intend to get a good camera to start with that will last for years to come. I won't be chasing utopia as I don't think it exists sadly!! Have a good day!



#31 OleCuss

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 04:44 PM

Hi Bob

I have heard of the Revolution Imager II and I was actually contemplating that as it is a complete package. I do have a nice spare computer flat screen available also but I will definitely look into it though as I don't want to be frustrated and want to try and keep it 'simple' where possible!! Thanks for getting back to me

Regards

Andrew H

The RI2 can do a lot for you, but if you plan to use a computer it is then more complex.

 

If you plan to use the RI2 it is important to remember that it is low-resolution and that it has rather low dynamic range.  If you use something like the IMX385 camera you should be able to get about 12-bit data.  The RI2 is likely using 10-bits internally and when you run it through the video capture device you'll have 8-bit data.

 

The RI2 is a great choice if you will be using a fairly small screen and run the video output directly to a screen which will accept its input (like a TV which will still take analog input).  That is simple, direct, and can be quite pleasing.

 

But if you are planning to use a computer you probably have a high-definition screen (IMHO low-definition doesn't look all that good that way) and you'll have to supply power to the camera as well as run output cable to the video capture device and then into the computer.

 

If you get one of the USB CMOS cameras then you'll be getting high-definition images and you only have to run a USB cable between your computer and your camera.  THAT is simple.

 

But again, especially if you want to run the analog output directly from the camera to a TV or other screen which will accept analog input, the RI2 can be quite pleasing and simple.  But if that is what you want to do you should also look at the Mallincam offerings.  There aren't many camera makers who still offer those analog CCD video cameras.  You could probably find some on AliExpress but you will likely do better getting the camera from someone like OCT or Mallincam who will provide some support.



#32 fteter

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 06:18 PM

Is it worth it?  I can only share my own experience...

 

A decade ago, I was deep into amateur astronomy.  One of those folks out observing most weekend nights through all four seasons.  But a move from an outlying desert location to a heavily light-polluted home was so disappointing that I lost interest.  Packed my scopes away and let them collect dust for 10 years.  Last year, I was actually checking Cloudy Nights to get a feel of price for selling my scopes, and I stumbled across the EAA forum.  I read several threads about folks using EAA to see things they'd never seen before... many from incredibly lousy observing sites like mine.  So I thought I'd give it a spin and picked up RI2.

 

To keep a long story from getting even longer, EAA brought me back into the hobby.  I can observe objects and details from my red zone LP home that I could never see visually observing form the old desert location.  So, yes, definitely worth it.


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#33 FourOwls

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 06:22 PM

Is it worth it?  I can only share my own experience...

 

A decade ago, I was deep into amateur astronomy.  One of those folks out observing most weekend nights through all four seasons.  But a move from an outlying desert location to a heavily light-polluted home was so disappointing that I lost interest.  Packed my scopes away and let them collect dust for 10 years.  Last year, I was actually checking Cloudy Nights to get a feel of price for selling my scopes, and I stumbled across the EAA forum.  I read several threads about folks using EAA to see things they'd never seen before... many from incredibly lousy observing sites like mine.  So I thought I'd give it a spin and picked up RI2.

 

To keep a long story from getting even longer, EAA brought me back into the hobby.  I can observe objects and details from my red zone LP home that I could never see visually observing form the old desert location.  So, yes, definitely worth it.

Howdy!

Thanks for sharing that, and yes I have purchased a 10inch scope (after I got rid of all my larger dobs years ago due to feeling frustrated with not seeing anything, and now choosing a camera for video, not imaging per se (therefore up to 15second exposures for a more 'real time' feel. I really was excited to be able to not give up astronomy and continue my love of the universe! Thanks for getting back to me and with luck, we both will grow in our knowledge and keep that interest going!


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#34 Ptarmigan

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 08:32 PM

Howdy from Australia!!

Brilliant, and after a lot of consideration, I have taken the plunge on a 10inch GOTO dob (F4.7) which I have been advised with short video astronomy purposes will do the job just fine, with decent enough aperture! Now to find the right camera.....hmmmmm!! I am happy with monochrome....another journey begins!!

Monochrome is more sensitive and works better in light pollution. If you have a deep red #25 or #29 filter, you should use it with monochrome. It cuts through the light pollution like a hot knife through butter. cool.gif 

 

I have an Altair GPCAM3 IMX385 and like it a lot.

 

From Australia, there are many spectacular objects from Magellanic Clouds, Eta Carinae, Omega Centauri, 47 Tucanae, etc. cool.gif


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#35 FourOwls

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 08:43 PM

Monochrome is more sensitive and works better in light pollution. If you have a deep red #25 or #29 filter, you should use it with monochrome. It cuts through the light pollution like a hot knife through butter. cool.gif

 

I have an Altair GPCAM3 IMX385 and like it a lot.

 

From Australia, there are many spectacular objects from Magellanic Clouds, Eta Carinae, Omega Centauri, 47 Tucanae, etc. cool.gif

Howdy!

Actually a few serious observers have advised me to use a monochrome and I am not going to get to a dark site and will always be observing in typical suburbia light pollution. I will look into the camera you mentioned and see if it is going to do my short exposure (non-imaging) thing for video astronomy that is my keen interest. It seems to be within my budget though at a cursory glance, and therefore looks promising!! I will see if an Australian vendor sells it or I may have to get it O/S....

Thanks kindly!



#36 Ptarmigan

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 08:48 PM

Howdy!

Actually a few serious observers have advised me to use a monochrome and I am not going to get to a dark site and will always be observing in typical suburbia light pollution. I will look into the camera you mentioned and see if it is going to do my short exposure (non-imaging) thing for video astronomy that is my keen interest. It seems to be within my budget though at a cursory glance, and therefore looks promising!! I will see if an Australian vendor sells it or I may have to get it O/S....

Thanks kindly!

Your welcome FourOwls.

 

I got color because I like everything in color. Makes everything cool. cool.gif wink.gif


Edited by Ptarmigan, 18 February 2019 - 09:28 PM.

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#37 OleCuss

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 09:43 PM

Howdy!

Actually a few serious observers have advised me to use a monochrome and I am not going to get to a dark site and will always be observing in typical suburbia light pollution. I will look into the camera you mentioned and see if it is going to do my short exposure (non-imaging) thing for video astronomy that is my keen interest. It seems to be within my budget though at a cursory glance, and therefore looks promising!! I will see if an Australian vendor sells it or I may have to get it O/S....

Thanks kindly!

Do note that the Altair is likely made by ToupTek.  This means you can get one with a slightly different case from RisingCam:  https://www.aliexpre...sAbTest=ae803_5 So if you have trouble getting the Altair unit you'll be fine.

 

I like that Altair case so if it is an IMX385 sensor you want, I'd consider getting that and, of course I'd consider getting the ZWO version.  You can get both un-cooled and cooled ZWO versions.


Edited by OleCuss, 18 February 2019 - 09:43 PM.


#38 Biggen

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 07:18 AM

 

 

Re post #8.  mark326 is a good man, but his post could be confusing.  With the 80mm refractor and GEM, he's referring to traditional long exposure imaging.  You certainly do not want an 80mm for EAA.  It can be used, but it's far from ideal for EAA.

 

 

I’m trying to figure out why it’s not ideal? I’m going to get a 60 or 72mm refractor. Seems like it will be great for small to medium DSOs with an ASI224. Plenty of folks running 60 - 80mm refractors for EAA from what I’m seeing.



#39 jcj380

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 10:23 AM

I'm not now nor have I been into EAA, but I'm considering it and have followed the discussions here and on other forums closely.

 

It seems to me that the utility of it (the worth, if you prefer) is largely a matter of personal taste, tolerance, and preferences.

 

People list plenty of pros but people also list plenty of cons and I won't regurgitate all that.

 

I think worst case though, if you bought a decent camera or an R2, there seems to be a good used market, so you could recover at least part of your investment if you decide to drop the EAA.  And then you will have determined empirically if EAA is worth it for you.


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#40 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 10:51 AM

Hi FourOwls,

 

I'm a visual observer who tried EAA and ended going back to visual. The quick answer to your question is "yes, you will see a lot more." I wouldn't tell anyone not to try EAA, but I will say that I found the amount of equipment/cables/screens/etc., to be a real barrier to enjoying being out under the stars. (And, yes, I find heavy light pollution to be a real barrier as well...). I also found the resolution of the resulting electronic images to be disappointing. I decided to go back to visual and just get to darker skies as often as possible.

 

I do agree with Mark326. I would start small/as simple as possible and see if you actually like it before going all in.

 

Good luck!

 

The technology definitely works, and is not very difficult. The real question of whether or not you will like it is a personal one ... Three years ago I tried the Mallincam DS Raider and it seemed like a fundamentally different activity than visual astronomy to me.

 

For my tastes, even short integration times broke up the flow of observing. And of course, adjustments always needed to be made, then start the cycle over again. Not anywhere close to "real time" IMHO - and your mileage will vary.

 

Having to bring a computer outside also was a big negative. Color was a big positive.

 

I decided on the NV route while the CMOS technology improves. Absolutely real time (instantaneous in fact) and works from the city. Versatile too, it's like a "super eyepiece" and absolutely feels like normal visual astronomy to me. Downside is a monochrome image.

 

A thread on the Refractor Forum yesterday mentioned the Rev 2 imager, so I went to look it over. Actually sounds promising, getting rid of the computer at the scope fixes a big negative. If I understand it correctly, adjustments are automatic. (Which probably means it does not have the capabilities of a more sophisticated unit, but a good trade off for me.) Not quite Real Time, but close enough (maybe) to be tolerable.

 

And at the price point of a single wide field eyepiece, I would not feel bad about buying it just for occasional use.


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#41 Earthbound1

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 01:45 PM

Very informative so far, thanks!


Edited by Earthbound1, 19 February 2019 - 01:47 PM.


#42 Howie1

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 08:17 PM

FourOwls ... without telling me your exact address ... where in Oz are you? I'm in Brisbane and happy to travel up to sunshine coast or gold coast to help you out using the software etc. Done EAA since the days true 'video' Mallincam cameras outputting images right from the camera to a TV monitor. Many cameras, scopes, mounts and software later ... happy to help out. 


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#43 39.1N84.5W

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 07:43 AM

The time and money spent building a small urban EAA observatory is better than the time and money spent on gasoline, driving to slightly darker skies.
Observing large nebulae during a full moon? EAA 1, visual 0
Observing 17th magnitude galaxies? EAA 1, visual 0
Observing in under 10 minutes with a 360 degree windbreak, a heater, all hardware hooked up, Pandora music, and a glass of whiskey? EAA 1, visual 0

Yes it's worth it.
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#44 jcj380

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 08:46 AM

My HOA doesn't allow outbuildings, but I could fit an Omegon observing tent on my deck.  I would have to set it up and take it down each session.

 

I have DIY lightblock panels that take about 2 minutes to set up, but I think I'd prefer more shelter if I were using a laptop outside.

 

Hmmmm...



#45 OleCuss

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 09:31 AM

If concerned about using a laptop outside you can get something like the LapDome.  There are several other products which you might find helpful but I'd have to go home to find their names.


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#46 jcj380

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 09:55 AM

If concerned about using a laptop outside you can get something like the LapDome.  There are several other products which you might find helpful but I'd have to go home to find their names.

And that would probably keep the screen glow from attracting attention.  I like it.



#47 Arthur NY

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 09:56 AM

I have the revolution imager. It's a nice little piece of gear and probably a good way to confirm if you are into EAA. I imagine you could easily sell the unit for not much of a loss.

 

I will say that I enjoyed using it a few times the month that I got it, but I haven't brought it out since....

I had these hopes and dreams of using it on really cold nights, from inside the house or the car. That just didn't happen. 

Now I just find myself drawn to either looking through great eyepieces or getting into some basic astrophotography. Perhaps it's the limitation of the RI and its screen, but it's not nearly as sharp as through the eyepiece. Granted I could see things that would be impossible to see otherwise, but I found that I'd rather have the photons travel a more direct path. In my visual astronomy, I just limit my targets to what looks best in a scope. I can enjoy a night of open clusters, for example.

 

All that said, this thread has inspired me....I think I'm going to give it another shot soon. I haven't tried it with my 80mm yet and I'm curious about what that might be like. It also might be good when my club does outreach in the warmer weather. Just thinking out loud... I could do show the basic, small scope EAA to the public (most of our club is big Dobs and SCTs) and then switch to imaging when everyone leaves around midnight.


Edited by Arthur NY, 26 February 2019 - 09:58 AM.


#48 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 11:06 AM

The time and money spent building a small urban EAA observatory is better than the time and money spent on gasoline, driving to slightly darker skies.
Observing large nebulae during a full moon? EAA 1, visual 0
Observing 17th magnitude galaxies? EAA 1, visual 0
Observing in under 10 minutes with a 360 degree windbreak, a heater, all hardware hooked up, Pandora music, and a glass of whiskey? EAA 1, visual 0

Yes it's worth it.

 

I have not built an observatory, but just the convenience factor of observing from the backyard is a big win.

 

When weather forecast is marginal, I will set up in the backyard. I will not drive to the boonies.

 

When the weather is good, I gain a solid 2 hours of eyepiece time by not having to drive to the boonies.

 

Sure, I still drive to dark skies from time to time - but having that long drive change from "Mandatory" to "Optional" is priceless.

 

More opportunity = more astronomy.


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#49 OleCuss

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 12:28 PM

I remembered the name of another.  It's the iCap:  http://www.icap-shop.com/press.htm

 

I like mine but I can't seem to get the darned thing to fold up the way they claim it is supposed to go.  But then, I don't care much whether or not it is folded.  The nice thing about this is you can get one big enough to put a good-sized notebook in the thing.

 

 

Edit:  I remembered the other one.  It's the Computer Cave:  http://www.siriusast...ccessories.html


Edited by OleCuss, 26 February 2019 - 01:03 PM.


#50 Daniel Guzas

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 08:19 PM

I would definitely get a Revolution Imager package and see how you like it. It’s the best way to give it a try with minimum complication and $$. Then go from there if you so desire.

 

Ill echo others that I have found it works much better on an equatorial mount rather than an alt az even with tracking. I have both a 15” dob with tracking and a 120 mm refractor on an AVX go to Eq mount. I find the images much better on the eq mount as it just tracks better.

 

I have seen stuff from the middle of the city that I could NEVER see without it.. so for me it’s worth every penny. Has opened up the urban skies to keep my interest percolating...

 

All the Best


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