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1 Year of Progress in Deep-Sky Imaging

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#1 md11spotter98

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 12:23 AM

My very first attempt at capturing an object outside the Solar System happened in August 2018. I slapped a DSLR on my childhood telescope, a 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain, and started off with planetary images. I got bored after imaging Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars for about a month. I took 106 5-second exposures of Messier 7, since it was one of the brightest targets and it was pretty high in the early night sky:

 

44057680441_df93b1bbe6_c.jpg

 

 

 

It definitely wasn't a world-class image, but I was so proud at the time. The challenge of doing better got me hooked. Thanks to the useful info from online resources (mostly CloudyNights!), I ditched the telescope and started taking pictures with a 250mm lens on the generic motorized equatorial mount from the Mak.

 

I captured my first galaxy (M31) in October 2018, and I realized that my integration times needed to increase drastically in order to capture more detail. This was impossible with the limit of 10 second subs using the generic mount.

 

I purchased a used Orion Sirius EQ-G in November. By December 2018, I had racked up 263 minutes on M31 as my longest integration:

 

32629666618_de768b8b93_c.jpg

 

 

 

Up until this point, I was using Paint.NET and GIMP for processing. By January, I got a lightly-used ES ED80 with help from my parents and I invested in PixInsight. Captured in January, February, and March 2019:

 

47838127861_de5d2f6ec0_c.jpg

 

48468015372_3911335d6c_c.jpg

 

48020859078_5c78604c91_c.jpg

 

 

 

And finally, in August 2019... 1 year later. I returned to Messier 7! (This looks much better on Flickr.)

 

48695245761_0409319812_c.jpg

 

 

 

It's been a great journey so far, and I'm so thankful for all the great info shared on CN. This shows that a good mount, a small refractor, and a stock DSLR is all you need to make it happen! That's all I have been using since January, along with a velcro dew shield to block stray light, a ton of hand warmers to prevent condensation, and a lawn chair to sit outside.

 

Until I find space in my frugal college-life budget, this easy portable setup works well for me since I don't have anywhere to leave my equipment unattended for long nights of imaging and 60 second subs work well for my light pollution.

 

I plan to invest in guiding, autofocus, and all that automation stuff in the distant future. A used modified DSLR is at the top of my list since my T3i is about to hit the 7-year mark with 139k clicks, and I need a camera for both astrophotography and aviation photography.

 

Thanks for reading or skimming! Comments appreciated as always!


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#2 Mert

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 06:46 AM

You've got a long way in only 1 year from what I read, well done

so far.

And your images starting from January 2019 are really getting

very good!

Keep them coming :waytogo:


Edited by Mert, 22 September 2019 - 06:48 AM.

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#3 Wigleydh

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 07:42 AM

You are doing great.


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#4 Starcat1231

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 09:25 AM

Awesome job!!


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#5 elmiko

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 09:30 AM

Excellent progress, my friend!! Your processing skills are very good too!

Mike


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#6 jwheel

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 09:37 AM

waytogo.gif


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#7 md11spotter98

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 03:50 PM

Thanks everyone!!



#8 holyroller11

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 06:19 PM

Great progress. 


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#9 moonrider

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 07:02 PM

Very nice progression of your work! 


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#10 Alen K

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 10:02 PM

Your story should inspire anyone who is just starting out. It might also convince a few that guiding and automation are conveniences not necessities at the image scale you are using. 


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#11 md11spotter98

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 11:19 AM

Thank you all! I sure hope this can inspire some beginners!

 

Guiding is a very nice convenience, I wish I had the budget for that since my 60-second sub limit leaves me no choice but to stack 1000+ images for my longest integrations. I'm also throwing away 5 to 35% (!!) of my subs due to trailing, and I have yet to determine why it varies so much. For now I'll work with what I have!



#12 Alen K

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 12:41 PM

1000+ 60-second subexposures? What kind of skies do you shoot from? IOW, how dark? It makes all the difference in the number of subs you need to shoot. Here is a 200mm image of M31 with 87 minutes of total exposure taken in a sky with SQM of 20.9 (between Bortle 3 and 4). Comparing it to your 263-minute image at 250mm, I would guess your skies are not quite as dark. Every magnitude more sky brightness means just over 2.5 times the total exposure required to reach the same signal-to-noise ratio (all other things being equal). You can reduce the total exposure required by shooting from a darker location. Since you aren't guiding (normally done with the aid of a computer) your power requirements in the field will be modest, especially if you forgo use of your mount's Goto; just learn the sky and use a hard-copy starchart to point your scope.

 

Re throwing out subs, are you using the PEC feature of your mount? If not, that can reduce the number of discarded subs. Unfortunately, it is not permanent on the Sirius EQ-G but it would still pay off to do it at the start of a session. The simplest and lowest-power option is to do it manually using an illuminated reticle eyepiece (and a Barlow lens). Ten minutes well spent IMO. 


Edited by Alen K, 23 September 2019 - 12:45 PM.

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#13 miwitte

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 12:53 PM

Nice progress. similar to mine i used a DLSR for a while. Guiding does not have to be expensive and a good next step honestly so you can get longer exposures and not throw sky time away sometimes it gets rare to have a clear night(months for me right now) 

 

Look into the ZWO guide scope and a ZWO ASI 120mm-s. make sure you get the -S lots of USB issues with the non -S. Ive seen a bung of 120s on the forums and ive had no issues with the ZWO guide scope it was recommended here by someone good quality helical focuser. PHD2 is free so youll just need the guidescope and camera and they work good at that price point and your setup


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#14 md11spotter98

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Posted 24 September 2019 - 04:30 PM

1000+ 60-second subexposures? What kind of skies do you shoot from? IOW, how dark? It makes all the difference in the number of subs you need to shoot. Here is a 200mm image of M31 with 87 minutes of total exposure taken in a sky with SQM of 20.9 (between Bortle 3 and 4). Comparing it to your 263-minute image at 250mm, I would guess your skies are not quite as dark. Every magnitude more sky brightness means just over 2.5 times the total exposure required to reach the same signal-to-noise ratio (all other things being equal). You can reduce the total exposure required by shooting from a darker location. Since you aren't guiding (normally done with the aid of a computer) your power requirements in the field will be modest, especially if you forgo use of your mount's Goto; just learn the sky and use a hard-copy starchart to point your scope.

 

Re throwing out subs, are you using the PEC feature of your mount? If not, that can reduce the number of discarded subs. Unfortunately, it is not permanent on the Sirius EQ-G but it would still pay off to do it at the start of a session. The simplest and lowest-power option is to do it manually using an illuminated reticle eyepiece (and a Barlow lens). Ten minutes well spent IMO. 

That's a beautiful M31 image! Here's my 115 minute M31 from Bortle 3 in the Everglades (SQM 21.75). This one was 1235 subs from mostly Bortle 7. Most of my images are shot from either SQM 18.44 skies in Coral Springs or 19.32 skies in Charlottesville. I have a spreadsheet with all the math, 1 hour in the Everglades is ~9 hours in Charlottesville and ~21 hours in Coral Springs! The only reason I can't take advantage of the darker skies more often is because (while in FL) I didn't think it would be safe going to the Everglades alone so I had to organize group trips and (in VA now) I don't have a car up here yet, although I have equally dark skies 5 times closer. It's also very convenient to image right outside where I live (in case I forget something, get hungry, or have homework to do).

 

I've never gotten around to using the PEC feature. I should definitely look into that (not sure why I haven't yet), anything to reduce the number of discarded subs would be great! Thanks for the advice!


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#15 Alen K

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Posted 24 September 2019 - 05:02 PM

That's a beautiful M31 image! Here's my 115 minute M31 from Bortle 3 in the Everglades (SQM 21.75). This one was 1235 subs from mostly Bortle 7. Most of my images are shot from either SQM 18.44 skies in Coral Springs or 19.32 skies in Charlottesville. I have a spreadsheet with all the math, 1 hour in the Everglades is ~9 hours in Charlottesville and ~21 hours in Coral Springs! The only reason I can't take advantage of the darker skies more often is because (while in FL) I didn't think it would be safe going to the Everglades alone so I had to organize group trips and (in VA now) I don't have a car up here yet, although I have equally dark skies 5 times closer. It's also very convenient to image right outside where I live (in case I forget something, get hungry, or have homework to do).

Nice M31 from Bortle 3. I get the convenience of imaging from home but I have pretty well given it up. In my case SQM 18.6 typically at home and 20.9 after a 45-minute drive to a safe location. The math is inescapable. Even though the "remote" site is safe my wife doesn't like me to go out there alone (thinks I might get eaten by a coyote?) so I try to go out with other imagers. It's certainly more fun that way.


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#16 md11spotter98

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Posted 24 September 2019 - 05:06 PM

Nice progress. similar to mine i used a DLSR for a while. Guiding does not have to be expensive and a good next step honestly so you can get longer exposures and not throw sky time away sometimes it gets rare to have a clear night(months for me right now) 

 

Look into the ZWO guide scope and a ZWO ASI 120mm-s. make sure you get the -S lots of USB issues with the non -S. Ive seen a bung of 120s on the forums and ive had no issues with the ZWO guide scope it was recommended here by someone good quality helical focuser. PHD2 is free so youll just need the guidescope and camera and they work good at that price point and your setup

Thank you! I'm just having a hard time deciding between getting a used DSLR (since my T3i is well over its expected lifespan) or investing in guiding. Although after considering it for a while, I'm leaning more towards guiding if I can find some good deals on classifieds for the guiding camera and scope. I've heard of some using very cheap finder scopes. I appreciate the recommendations!




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