Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

the cost of doing a single night imaging run

  • Please log in to reply
55 replies to this topic

#26 bobzeq25

bobzeq25

    Hubble

  • *****
  • Posts: 16750
  • Joined: 27 Oct 2014

Posted 22 July 2019 - 10:51 PM

Built an observatory in my Bortle 7 backyard for about $1500.  It's made the whole thing vastly more enjoyable and efficient.  If I had to go back to setting up and tearing down every night, I'd quit.  Too much for the old man.  <smile>

 

Perhaps the best part is shutting down.  Turn off everything, throw a cover over the setup, slide (manually) the roofs closed, lock up.  5 minutes.

 

I do change equipment at times, but I can do that in daytime.

 

Here it is.  Not pretty, but it gets you there.  <smile>

 

https://www.cloudyni...servatory-roof/


Edited by bobzeq25, 22 July 2019 - 10:55 PM.

  • ChrisWhite likes this

#27 TelescopeGreg

TelescopeGreg

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1007
  • Joined: 16 Jul 2018
  • Loc: Auburn, California, USA

Posted 22 July 2019 - 11:54 PM

Best bet, I think, it to get in touch with a local astronomy club, and see what the other members use.  Worst case, most clubs host an occasional outing to places with the necessary support infrastructure for one or more night's viewing and imaging.  Fewer trips, but much higher payback for each.  With any luck, it will take you until the next event to process all the data you collect.

 

The comment about the street lighting restrictions in your area reminded me of a visit I made to the Lick Observatory, just up the hill from you.  After the event, we went outside to where a bunch of the locals had set up their scopes for us to view.  (Sort of anticlimactic after looking through the 30" at M13's core :) ).  The Lick staff might be able to give you a pointer to the club(s).

 

To your question, I'm on the edge of town, but still in a 6+ zone.  Imaging is from a neighbor's front driveway (far too many trees here), so it's limited to a few hours a night, as I need to sit with it.  I put the telescope on a 3-wheeled cart that I built, and simply drag it across the street when I want to image.  So the "cost" to image is essentially zero, and I still get to bed at a reasonable hour.  One thing that surprised me is that the various neighbors' porch lights and passing cars don't affect the imaging as much as I thought they would.  The key is shading the end of the telescope so that the light doesn't reflect off the rim.



#28 Alen K

Alen K

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 988
  • Joined: 25 Nov 2009

Posted 22 July 2019 - 11:57 PM

1) the dark site might have official end hours at 2am and certainly before sunrise

2) theres no where there i can legally camp next to my equipment

3) bringing a tent and other sleeping equipment is substantial extra effort

4) i have work the next day or something else that requires im out and about in the morning like at 9am

As I said, sleep is overrated. (Camping assumes sleeping.) If I could stay up imaging all night when I was your age (assuming you find a site that allows you to stay), you can do it too. I can still do it and I'm probably twice your age if your avatar is a photo of you (and I'm sure it is).

 

The first rule of great art is that you must suffer for it. :D


  • 44maurer and md11spotter98 like this

#29 Alen K

Alen K

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 988
  • Joined: 25 Nov 2009

Posted 23 July 2019 - 12:05 AM

Best bet, I think, it to get in touch with a local astronomy club, and see what the other members use.  Worst case, most clubs host an occasional outing to places with the necessary support infrastructure for one or more night's viewing and imaging.  Fewer trips, but much higher payback for each. With any luck, it will take you until the next event to process all the data you collect.

That scenario describes how I have historically taken most of my photos: at astronomy club events like star "parties"  and observing events. Skies are typically Bortle 3. Plus. our club has a ~3.5 site within a 45-minutes drive. No facilities of any kind but it's a lot darker than my backyard and anyone can stay as late as they like. Someone could even conceivably pitch a tent, although I don't think anyone in our club has.  



#30 JP50515

JP50515

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 589
  • Joined: 23 Feb 2017

Posted 23 July 2019 - 08:35 AM

not sure about your area but around here local parks are closed 30 min past sunset...cops will stop you if you're there past dark

Is there really no public land nearby that you could setup at? That just seems a bit crazy. Got any friends who own a local business? Maybe they'd let you setup on the roof or something one and while?



#31 JP50515

JP50515

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 589
  • Joined: 23 Feb 2017

Posted 23 July 2019 - 08:36 AM

not sure about your area but around here local parks are closed 30 min past sunset...cops will stop you if you're there past dark

Is there really no public land nearby that you could setup at? That just seems a bit crazy. Got any friends who own a local business? Maybe they'd let you setup on the roof or something once and while?



#32 dhaval

dhaval

    Vendor

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 1712
  • Joined: 21 Jul 2008
  • Loc: Round Rock, TX

Posted 23 July 2019 - 09:19 AM

I think there is a reason why there are so many remote observatories popping up that rent piers. If you can swing it, it is actually a very good way to take images. I know a lot of people who love "tinkering" with their set ups and there is nothing wrong in that. But they equate being away from the set up with no tinkering. If anything, making a remote set up work every single night is a challenge in itself. I can promise you that. I don't think I have missed "feeling" my equipment since going remote - I am always tinkering the software that handles my equipment, looking at those webcams to ensure everything is running smoothly. Now, I will say this - once you get the hang of it, it does become easy and you tend to spend less time "collecting the data". But that is also the case with a set up that you are physically close to. We all want "mounts that fade in the background" - point being, we all want equipment that just does what it is supposed to do and once we figure out how to optimally use our equipment, we loose the romance in being close to the equipment. Things become mundane. 

 

You should consider remote equipment if you have as many difficulties as you describe and if you can swing it financially. Then there are also those imaging teams, just sit back and get the data. But even there, you can ask to help and there are some teams that actually look for folks that can help them - monitoring the runs, tuning the guiding, etc. 

Eventually, it does boil down to what you want though. For me, I figured out a long time ago that the challenge lies in processing the data, and not collecting it.

 

CS! 


  • calypsob likes this

#33 Pauls72

Pauls72

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2465
  • Joined: 28 Oct 2007
  • Loc: LaPorte, IN USA

Posted 23 July 2019 - 09:45 AM

There are several of us from my one club that go out to a dark sky site and observe and image all night till dawn on a Friday or Saturday night.

Go to some star parties. You can setup for the weekend or all week.

Nebraska Star Party starts this Sunday.  It is held in a state park, you can go a day or two early and stay a few days late.

 

https://www.cloudyni...d-star-parties/



#34 WadeH237

WadeH237

    Aurora

  • *****
  • Posts: 4683
  • Joined: 24 Feb 2007
  • Loc: Snohomish, WA

Posted 23 July 2019 - 10:31 AM

This hobby is supposed to be fun.

 

If it is taking a toll on your life, instead of enriching it, perhaps it's time to take a break.  There were times in my life where I could never support doing the imaging that I do.  I'm at a place now where I can do credible imaging from my back yard, and I have enough vacation time to spend several weeks per year at dark sky sites specifically for astronomy.  When I travel to a dark sky site, I set up for at least 4 nights at a time.

 

There's nothing wrong with stepping away, if it just doesn't make sense to continue.  The stars will still be there when you are at a place where it will work better for you.


  • zjc26138, psandelle, epdreher and 3 others like this

#35 nimitz69

nimitz69

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1397
  • Joined: 21 Apr 2017
  • Loc: A barrier island 18 miles south of Cocoa Beach

Posted 23 July 2019 - 10:36 AM

These days I'm finding it quite difficult to get data. The time, energy cost is high and the returns are low. 

 

To go to a dark site requires about 1 hour of loading the car (pulling equipment out of the closet and making sure I didn't miss anything, also packing warm clothes, clearing out memory cards, packing food, water, checking batteries of my red flashlights), then a 1 hour drive to mag 20.7 skies, then about 45 min getting all the equipment setup (polar aligned), balanced (counterweights), connected (lots and lots of cabling), then 45 min fiddling with the software (guiding calibration, focus, checking collimation if applicable, plate solving, creating the sequence, etc.). When starting the sequence, some of my captures fail because an image doesn't finish download or the guide stars get lost or other bugs or clouds get in the way or tracking is bad due to wind. Then I need another 45 min tearing everything down and 1 hour to drive back. The next day I need another 30 min to bring everything back into the closet. 

 

In this part of California, astronomical darkness doesn't set in until about 1015pm (near summer solstice)

 

So to make it all work, I start that entire cycle at 630pm, to get to my dark site at 830pm, to hopefully begin capturing data at 10pm. At best I'll have 10-1130pm but because of various factors such as long dithers, failed downloads at best I'm capturing 50% of the time so thats 50% of 90 minutes which is 45 minutes. 

 

I'll take flats at 1130pm, tear down at 1145pm and be back in the car at 1230am. I'm home at ~130am. I'm in bed a bit later, maybe past 2am.

 

So I was working from 630pm to 130am and have maybe 45 minutes of data from mag 20.7 skies.....I'll also need 1 more hour the following day.

 

I'll go through the subs and of the 45 minutes, end up throwing out 1/3 so I'm down to 30 minutes. Maybe some more subs are thrown out because the sky wasn't fully dark yet when I started. So the summary is 8 hours of my time and 20-30 minutes of data.  I'm pretty tired and disappointed at the end of all of that. What has your experience been like?

This is why I image from my backyard.  My backyard averages around SQM 19.2- 19.5 so no where near a as bad as a lot of people but imaging from some place other than my backyard would mean 2 nights a week at most, assuming the weather would cooperate every Fri & Sat night ... never gonna happen. This is simply not practical.  So instead I’ve set myself up to exploit my situation to the max extent possible:

 

Move from a OSC to mono + filters

Build an observatory in my backyard

 

If AP meant traveling To a ‘dark site’ as the only method possible I’m pretty sure I’d stick with visual only ...


  • bobzeq25 likes this

#36 bmhjr

bmhjr

    Apollo

  • ****-
  • Posts: 1227
  • Joined: 02 Oct 2015
  • Loc: Colorado

Posted 23 July 2019 - 10:41 AM

I am in a similar situation as the OP.  No problem, build an observatory in the backyard and do narrowband?  I don't have a front or backyard.  Ok, what about the driveway?  Well it is at a severe incline right into the street.  Well then, go to the park.  I could but the ones around here close at 11pm.  Then just drive to the dark site and deal with it?  I do, but only on weekends or time off since my work day starts at 6:00AM.

 

I realize I can only image at limited times on the weekends and if I have some vacation time. Driving to the dark site is about an hour away and I choose to stay as long as I can and get as much data as possible.  Unfortunately this year, I have completed 2 images and one of those was just a simple shot with a camera tracker.  It can be hard to diagnose any issues when there is limited time, but most of my bugs have been worked out and things generally go ok.  I know that someday I will have more time, better equipment, and hopefully better images.  I don't get discouraged as I save money and keep one simple imaging setup ready to go, as was mentioned in an earlier post. For now, I will bide my time and learn as much as possible along the way.  



#37 tcchittyjr

tcchittyjr

    Explorer 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 81
  • Joined: 10 Dec 2012
  • Loc: Orlando, FL

Posted 23 July 2019 - 10:42 AM

I live in a pink zone (SQM 18.0) per light pollution map, but I live on 6 acres, so I eliminated all trees in my front yard. Even then, I stepped away while my young kids were growing. Family means everything to me. Now that they're 18 and 17, I've been back and except for the Florida summer thunderstorms, I can image 3/4 of the year from my front yard. I understand you have tree issues and live in a condo, but my favorite imaging time of the year are the two trips I make to Chiefland, FL each year - spring and fall. Dark skies, other astronomers, and no bugs!

 

My recommendation would be to find a club and join. They might have much to offer in the way of a dark sky site you can camp at!

 

Good luck

TomC 



#38 bobzeq25

bobzeq25

    Hubble

  • *****
  • Posts: 16750
  • Joined: 27 Oct 2014

Posted 23 July 2019 - 10:48 AM

I am in a similar situation as the OP.  No problem, build an observatory in the backyard and do narrowband?  I don't have a front or backyard.  Ok, what about the driveway?  Well it is at a severe incline right into the street.  Well then, go to the park.  I could but the ones around here close at 11pm.  Then just drive to the dark site and deal with it?  I do, but only on weekends or time off since my work day starts at 6:00AM.

 

I realize I can only image at limited times on the weekends and if I have some vacation time. Driving to the dark site is about an hour away and I choose to stay as long as I can and get as much data as possible.  Unfortunately this year, I have completed 2 images and one of those was just a simple shot with a camera tracker.  It can be hard to diagnose any issues when there is limited time, but most of my bugs have been worked out and things generally go ok.  I know that someday I will have more time, better equipment, and hopefully better images.  I don't get discouraged as I save money and keep one simple imaging setup ready to go, as was mentioned in an earlier post. For now, I will bide my time and learn as much as possible along the way.  

A camera tracker on a tripod is a great way to go.  People do very nice work with those.


  • Dwight J, bmhjr and 44maurer like this

#39 bmhjr

bmhjr

    Apollo

  • ****-
  • Posts: 1227
  • Joined: 02 Oct 2015
  • Loc: Colorado

Posted 23 July 2019 - 11:00 AM

A camera tracker on a tripod is a great way to go.  People do very nice work with those.

Sometimes a stress free night under the stars with a light weight setup that works is just what is needed!


  • zjc26138, psandelle and ChrisWhite like this

#40 dhferguson

dhferguson

    Explorer 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 65
  • Joined: 21 Sep 2018
  • Loc: Pleasanton, CA

Posted 23 July 2019 - 11:14 AM

Cheers,

 

You can stay overnight at Fremont Peak, up in the hills above Hollister/San Juan Bautista.

 

Happy observing always,

 

Don



#41 calypsob

calypsob

    Aurora

  • *****
  • Posts: 4683
  • Joined: 20 Apr 2013

Posted 23 July 2019 - 11:15 AM

Sometimes a stress free night under the stars with a light weight setup that works is just what is needed!

This is exactly why Ive stuck to lenses and OSC for the past year.

Im slowly going to pickup scopes again now that I have confidence in my dark sites, and also pickup a portable tracker so I can hike out to some of the amazing remote hike areas I have access to.


  • bobzeq25 and bmhjr like this

#42 Alex McConahay

Alex McConahay

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Posts: 8062
  • Joined: 11 Aug 2008
  • Loc: Moreno Valley, CA

Posted 23 July 2019 - 11:37 AM

I sympathize....but have you tried a friend, fellow Astro club member, co-worker, family member (cousin, uncle, brother) who has a suburban house and back yard who will let you set up a pier and roll off shed? (or even a good scope-stuff cover)?

 

Alex



#43 elmiko

elmiko

    Gemini

  • -----
  • Posts: 3063
  • Joined: 27 Jul 2009
  • Loc: Arizona

Posted 23 July 2019 - 12:07 PM

Joelin, I thought Saratoga had a lighting ordinance that limits light pollution. My sister lived there for many years and always commented on how dark it was due to the regulations. Maybe she was in the darker part of town? I do 2-3hr sessions from my driveway in a Bortle 5 area and I am surprised at how good some of my photos come out. Sure I drop a few subs but not that many.The product I get is worth the time ....at least to me. I see some of my friends photos taken at club dark sites and they don't seem to be significantly better than mine. I am moving to AZ where there are very strict light pollution restrictions. No street lights along with a long list of home owner lighting restrictions. I am anxious to roll out my mounts in the driveway and see what the difference in photo quality will be.

What part of Az? You can't be talking about the Phoenix area. This place is getting more light polluted as I type this up.

As soon as my wife retires, we are selling and moving somewhere alot darker!

Mike



#44 John Tucker

John Tucker

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 788
  • Joined: 03 Mar 2018

Posted 23 July 2019 - 12:57 PM

These days I'm finding it quite difficult to get data. The time, energy cost is high and the returns are low. 

 

To go to a dark site requires about 1 hour of loading the car (pulling equipment out of the closet and making sure I didn't miss anything, also packing warm clothes, clearing out memory cards, packing food, water, checking batteries of my red flashlights), then a 1 hour drive to mag 20.7 skies, then about 45 min getting all the equipment setup (polar aligned), balanced (counterweights), connected (lots and lots of cabling), then 45 min fiddling with the software (guiding calibration, focus, checking collimation if applicable, plate solving, creating the sequence, etc.). When starting the sequence, some of my captures fail because an image doesn't finish download or the guide stars get lost or other bugs or clouds get in the way or tracking is bad due to wind. Then I need another 45 min tearing everything down and 1 hour to drive back. The next day I need another 30 min to bring everything back into the closet. 

 

In this part of California, astronomical darkness doesn't set in until about 1015pm (near summer solstice)

 

So to make it all work, I start that entire cycle at 630pm, to get to my dark site at 830pm, to hopefully begin capturing data at 10pm. At best I'll have 10-1130pm but because of various factors such as long dithers, failed downloads at best I'm capturing 50% of the time so thats 50% of 90 minutes which is 45 minutes. 

 

I'll take flats at 1130pm, tear down at 1145pm and be back in the car at 1230am. I'm home at ~130am. I'm in bed a bit later, maybe past 2am.

 

So I was working from 630pm to 130am and have maybe 45 minutes of data from mag 20.7 skies.....I'll also need 1 more hour the following day.

 

I'll go through the subs and of the 45 minutes, end up throwing out 1/3 so I'm down to 30 minutes. Maybe some more subs are thrown out because the sky wasn't fully dark yet when I started. So the summary is 8 hours of my time and 20-30 minutes of data.  I'm pretty tired and disappointed at the end of all of that. What has your experience been like?

 

I concluded pretty early on that the only way to do this is to find a dark site where I can set up a tent next to the scope and spend the night.  Its actually become an important part of the process for me, sitting out there at 2 am listening to the coyotes and knowing I don't have to drive back till the next day.

 

Aside from that, and that you didn't mention bad weather forecasts or driving all the way out there only to realize you'd forgotten your camera or laptop, our experiencez are very similar.


  • psandelle likes this

#45 Domtbol

Domtbol

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • Posts: 8
  • Joined: 20 Apr 2019

Posted 23 July 2019 - 01:42 PM

Good Preparation goes a long way, I have a big box on wheels that contains absolutly everything I need , I load it into the back of my van and I dont have to think about forgetting something , it takes exactly 10 minutes and im off. I have already checked everything on the numerous previous nights of bad seeing.

When I get to the site it takes exactly 10 minutes to set up without polar aligning , I dont do plate solving , I rely on good polar aligning and shorter subs plate solving and so forth , I make sure that I can perfectly polar allign and that the OTA and polar scope are colimated and perfectly alligned to rule out any time consuming problems .

When i get to my regular site it is a paved surface and I have put 3x tiny circles on the pavement for my tripod so it is pointing in the right direction , also the legs are left at the previous correct position so I dont have to worry about leveling the mount.

When you are at home practice setting up in your garage/living room and then practice with the lights off smile.gif you will be surprised how much time you will save in the end.  When you get home or the next day prepare for the next outing , charging stuff etc. dont leave it until the day you have to go.

I have an advantag in having one box but it weighs 65 kg !!! but its on wheels and the light end weighs 28 kg. wink.gif

 


  • elmiko likes this

#46 bobzeq25

bobzeq25

    Hubble

  • *****
  • Posts: 16750
  • Joined: 27 Oct 2014

Posted 23 July 2019 - 01:52 PM

Good Preparation goes a long way, I have a big box on wheels that contains absolutly everything I need , I load it into the back of my van and I dont have to think about forgetting something , it takes exactly 10 minutes and im off. I have already checked everything on the numerous previous nights of bad seeing.

When I get to the site it takes exactly 10 minutes to set up without polar aligning , I dont do plate solving , I rely on good polar aligning and shorter subs plate solving and so forth , I make sure that I can perfectly polar allign and that the OTA and polar scope are colimated and perfectly alligned to rule out any time consuming problems .

When i get to my regular site it is a paved surface and I have put 3x tiny circles on the pavement for my tripod so it is pointing in the right direction , also the legs are left at the previous correct position so I dont have to worry about leveling the mount.

When you are at home practice setting up in your garage/living room and then practice with the lights off smile.gif you will be surprised how much time you will save in the end.  When you get home or the next day prepare for the next outing , charging stuff etc. dont leave it until the day you have to go.

I have an advantag in having one box but it weighs 65 kg !!! but its on wheels and the light end weighs 28 kg. wink.gif

Polar aligning does not replace platesolving.   Polar aligning is to improve tracking, once the scope is pointed at something.  Platesolving is to point the telescope at something.

 

Leveling the mount is not necessary, except to stop the scope from toppling over.  If the RA axis is pointed at the North Celestial Pole, it matters little if the mount is not level.  Unless you have a PoleMaster, it's a bit easier to point the RA axis at the NCP if the mount is close to level.


  • Michael Covington likes this

#47 Domtbol

Domtbol

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • Posts: 8
  • Joined: 20 Apr 2019

Posted 23 July 2019 - 02:00 PM

Sorry I ment  " NO plate solving and so forth " I try to keep it as simple as possible and fast as possible . Besides I have never tried plate solving grin.gif so all i know is it can take a bit of time .



#48 cfosterstars

cfosterstars

    Mercury-Atlas

  • *****
  • Posts: 2523
  • Joined: 05 Sep 2014
  • Loc: Austin, Texas

Posted 23 July 2019 - 03:57 PM

Sorry I ment  " NO plate solving and so forth " I try to keep it as simple as possible and fast as possible . Besides I have never tried plate solving grin.gif so all i know is it can take a bit of time .

It takes my rig about 60s to plate solve on a bad day. 10 sec for the exposure and about 30-45s for the platesolve. It help to have a well aligned TELRAD so that you can tell you are close to a easily visible star and then platesolve is easy. 



#49 bobzeq25

bobzeq25

    Hubble

  • *****
  • Posts: 16750
  • Joined: 27 Oct 2014

Posted 23 July 2019 - 04:13 PM

It takes my rig about 60s to plate solve on a bad day. 10 sec for the exposure and about 30-45s for the platesolve. It help to have a well aligned TELRAD so that you can tell you are close to a easily visible star and then platesolve is easy. 

For me GOTO is "close enough" for PlateSolve2 to solve fast and easy, it never takes me more than one try these days.


Edited by bobzeq25, 23 July 2019 - 04:13 PM.

  • cfosterstars likes this

#50 RazvanUnderStars

RazvanUnderStars

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 676
  • Joined: 15 Jul 2014
  • Loc: Toronto, Canada

Posted 23 July 2019 - 04:39 PM

Joelin, are you using the drift method for PA? You can get a very good PA within 3 minutes with SharpCap (see https://www.sharpcap...polar-alignment). I recently bough an equatorial mount (was doing EAA before, still do) precisely because now it's so quick.

 

Like 2ghouls, I travel with the OTA + filter wheel + camera attached, on large pillows on my car's back bench. So I only need to put it on the mount and connect the cables.

 

Also, why 45 min to tear down? It should be faster than the set up.

 

You're also saying some images fail to download - that shouldn't happen. Buggy software? Bad cables/connections?




CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics