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Yes, this is a long "noob" post. Sorry!

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#1 MLove

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 09:19 PM

I know this is probably a post that has been typed up a thousand and one times, but I am feeling a little overwhelmed trying to organize my thoughts and newfound knowledge on all of this. I've done a lot of reading about astrophotography, the different equipment needed, and just the overall recommendations within the field. Basically, all of my Samsung devices have had 20+ open internet browser tabs for the last two weeks. I have also been reading through several posts on here, but I think part of my problem is that sometimes, I'm not quite sure what to search for or what information I'm seeking for my particular situation. Basically, "noob" doesn't even cut it for me lol.gif

 

Anyway, yes - this is one of those annoying "I'm new to this, please help" posts. Feel free to copy and paste previous comments you've made on other posts or direct me to specific threads/websites/videos. Additionally, if you just want to tackle one aspect of my post, that is totally fine; I know it's long. I'm not trying to make everyone regurgitate all of the same information over and over...

 

So, here we go: My husband bought me a fairly basic telescope for Christmas because I've always wanted one, and let's be real - I'm a huge science nerd. It's a Meade ETX80 telescope. The day after I got it, I realized that there was an adapter you could buy to attach a camera to the prime focus. Well, apparently that small realization has triggered a cascade of research and unwavering desire (obsession) to figure out how to get some of these amazing photographs that I've been seeing. I bought the T-ring and T-adapter that I needed and took my first photograph of the moon a few nights later. I was hooked! 

 

Now, here I am trying to figure out where to actually start because I have now overwhelmed myself with information in the last few days. I have a Nikon D3100 and a Nikon D7000. I've read that Canon is much better for AP, but I am not looking to turn this into a major hobby of mine. I'm also not looking to dump thousands of dollars into all of this, if possible. I'm just interested in taking a few awesome photographs here and there and to see the hidden wonders of my light polluted sky lol (Central Pennsylvania). I will say though that my husband and I were bit by the "travel bug" after we got married last year, so we've been after dark skies and fantastic views through the US now. So far, Bryce Canyon and Acadia have been my favorite night skies! So, any setup that is very easily portable would be a huge plus since we do a lot of camping and hiking. 

 

I guess my main question is: What is possible with my Nikons without completely busting the bank? I have the standard 18-55mm and 18-200mm lenses. I'd really like to get photographs of DSOs such as nebulas and galaxies, but I'm not sure if things like that are possible with just a DSLR and a certain type of lens (I hear prime lenses are much better than zooms?) or if I absolutely need a small refractor telescope with the camera, like an Orion 80mm. I do know that I need a good German equatorial mount, and I'm sure everyone has their own recommendations for that. I'd definitely take some recommendations on ones that don't bust the bank but also satisfy an intermittent astrophotographer.

 

Are filters worth it? I've read about light pollution filters and ones that help draw/cancel out certain wavelengths to aid in better images. I also understand that my Nikons require a DSUSB cable in order to do long exposures over 30 seconds. I'm under the impression that different Nikons require a different kind of cable though - anyone know which one I would need? And how exactly does it work - it then plugs into a tablet or computer where you can control the shutter release remotely? I know it helps to reduce vibrations and softness in the photographs.

 

I know that image processing is nearly half, if not more, of the battle with AP. Fortunately, I am very familiar with Photoshop and Lightroom from being in art school previously. However, I am not 100% confident in my skills since AP editing seems to be a different type of beast. I have been researching stacking and the different programs out there (any of them Mac or Samsung tablet compatible?) as well as trying to learn what dark, light, bias, etc. frames are.

 

Personally, I think a lot of this stuff I will be able to teach myself over time, such as the processing skills, learning the basics of stacking, and experimenting with ISO/exposure/f-stops etc. However, I think I need to be confident with and guided (no pun intended laugh.gif ) to the right equipment since that's where the money goes. 

 

I know I have other questions, but like I said, I have successfully overloaded myself with information in the last few days, and I just needed a place to start organizing all of the information. Thank you to anyone who has lasted to the end of this novel bow.gif and can provide any bit of advice and insight! 

 

-M



#2 dhaval

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 09:41 PM

First of all, welcome! You're on the right path already - asking questions in here. That's a step in the right direction. Something else to consider, think of joining your local astronomy club. I am sure you will find some astrophotographers over there who may be able to help you with live demonstrations of how they use their equipment, what equipment they have and in general what it takes to take the images that you see either in here or in magazines. 

 

The other thing that you should do is, remove any expectations that you may have with regards to your astro-imaging capabilities. It is a rewarding hobby no doubt, but it does have a steep learning curve and coupled by the fact that most of live in areas that aren't necessarily suited for astrophotography, the learning curve is not only steep but long as well. 

 

After you are through with those two things, sit down and figure out what you want to image - there are plenty of targets out there. AP targets can basically be divided in to two - Deep sky objects (DSOs) and planets (including Sun and Moon). The requirements for both those types of objects are very different, including the equipment that you will need (there is a certain set of equipment that can do both, but I won't recommend that for a beginner). Even within each of those categories, there are plenty of sub-classes of targets - for example within the DSO category, you have galaxies, planetary nebula, emission nebula, star clusters, etc. Again, many of those are well suited for a particular type of equipment v/s others need a different kind. 

 

After you are through with all of this, also realize that DSO imaging is a very specialized type of imaging and at the core of it, requires a solid mount (german equatorial mount most likely, although, some folks are doing "lucky imaging" these days which can be done with an alt-az mount as well). The scope and camera are secondary - so you should look at the mount that you have and see if you want to first invest in a better mount. You may be able to do planetary imaging with an alt-az mount (my guess is that you currently have an alt-az mount and not a GEM). 

 

The scope that you have isn't exactly great for DSO imaging, in fact, there will be folks who might say it is not good at all. 

 

Having said all of this, you still have a DSLR and a couple of lenses. WIth your DSLR (BTW, between a Nikon and Canon, there are no real differences when it comes to AP - I personally would use the D7000 that you have for AP, primarily because software wise, the 3000 series not well supported). If you don't want to spend a ton of money yet, go and get yourself a star tracking mount. All you need to do at that point is slap one of your lenses on the back of the D7000 and put it on the star tracker mount and shoot multiple subs of a region in the sky that may excite you (right now, anything in the Orion belt is going to be great) - get subs around 30s, get plenty of them and then stack them in a free software like DeepSkyStacker, play with the histogram a little bit and you will have an astrophoto that you will be proud of. You will still need to learn how to take calibration images, how to process all of those in a specialized software, etc. - but you will be off to the races!

 

At that point, if you feel like the bug has bitten you, you can ask more questions to people in here or in your local club and  you will be well on your way to saying good bye to your savings account. 

CS!


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#3 SilverLitz

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 09:49 PM

Canon is not way better than Nikon for AP.  I own Canon 7Dmk2 and 5Dmk4.  Nikons are thought to have better sensors, but it will not be a big difference, as photo folks seem to exaggerate small differences.  Other differences, that will get exaggerate is that overall Canon has better lenses and better skin tones (does not matter for AP).  The main advantage Canon has is in software support, but most AP software does support Nikon.  The other main camera makers, such as Sony, this software support is WAY behind.

 

You will probably have problems with you D3100, as I do not believe it has live view support.  This is a must for AP.  I have no idea about the D7000.  Older Nikons supposedly has "star eating" problems, e.g. the cameras internal noise reduction confuses small stars and noise and therefore removes the stars.  Generally you want Nikons of at least their D5xxx series, and I think the sensors are better starting with D5300.

 

For lenses, it is better to use primes instead of zooms.  Look at websites that show different DSOs framed with different camera and scope/lens combination to see what FL lens you want to use.  Also, download Stellarium and setup you camera/lens/scope profiles.  Forget about planets, they are MUCH to small.  The Sun (w/ solar filter) and Moon are large/easy targets to start with.  You can shoot large DSOs, such as M31 Andromeda Galaxy, North America Nebula, Cygnus Loop with APS-C camera and moderate telephoto lenses.


Edited by SilverLitz, 14 January 2020 - 09:51 PM.


#4 TOMDEY

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 10:05 PM

Hi -M, and welcome to the hobby!

 

I'm with you on intentional info overload. That's the way I did projects at work... saturate with info and then >>> relax, digest, deep breath... and decide what to do next. That is to say, throttle back the delightful mania a couple of notches, and settle into enjoying astronomy for the long-haul.

 

My advice is to enjoy the scope as-is, using the eyepieces, naked eye, small binoculars and telescope for a few months. The more-difficult imagery stuff should come later. By then, you will know what equipment is appropriate and have learned a lot more regarding what is involved in collecting images. Like most worthwhile avocations, observational astronomy is more of a marathon than a sprint. The stars are patient, and will be there every clear night for years and decades to come.

 

I found this sketch; conveys what the hobby is about.    Tom

Attached Thumbnails

  • 106 browsing art site looking-at-stars-drawing stars night sky looking.jpg

Edited by TOMDEY, 15 January 2020 - 02:38 AM.

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#5 dswtan

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 10:14 PM

This is a highly regarded resource if you have not come across it yet and may save you some time: http://www.astropix....bgda/index.html

 

Something to be careful of is expectations. The nice photos you see here are usually thanks to many hours of practice and patience and it's very difficult to (reliably) short-cut the learning curve. The good news is that you don't have to spend thousands to get some pretty shots. But money will open up your options when you're ready later if you maintain the enthusiasm. Good luck!



#6 17.5Dob

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 10:38 PM

Canon is not way better than Nikon for AP.  I own Canon 7Dmk2 and 5Dmk4.  Nikons are thought to have better sensors, but it will not be a big difference, as photo folks seem to exaggerate small differences.The main advantage Canon has is in software support, but most AP software does support Nikon.

 

Every software company that supported Canon in the past, has jumped on Nikon's wagon, you can find any software you want....it's a non-issue....

Nikon/Sony sensors ARE better, much better..... there is no arguing that..... I don't need to shoot any calibration frames, and I don't have to deal with Canon banding..."Small differences" really add up when you are stacking 20-200 frames

 

The D7000 is great camera, but is really long in tooth and needs extra HW for it to be computer capable, but you can shoot it just fine using a simple $25 intervalometer . The D3xxx are too primitive to be supported by any software.

I took these using a D5300, the next generation chip above the D7000, an 85mm lens and a mount less capable than the Star Adventurer. from a White/Red Zone backyard......no computer control...just a $25 intervalometer....

40465965153_a036e1f6f6_b.jpg

 

48041407328_e5cd001cd8_b.jpg

Since you already have the D7000, the same camera that people spend $1,600 to have as the "Astrocam"  ASI071, get a generic intervalometer, a simple camera tracker that fits your budget, and just start shooting.






 


Edited by 17.5Dob, 14 January 2020 - 10:41 PM.

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#7 klaussius

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 11:05 PM

I guess my main question is: What is possible with my Nikons without completely busting the bank? I have the standard 18-55mm and 18-200mm lenses. I'd really like to get photographs of DSOs such as nebulas and galaxies, but I'm not sure if things like that are possible with just a DSLR and a certain type of lens (I hear prime lenses are much better than zooms?) or if I absolutely need a small refractor telescope with the camera, like an Orion 80mm. I do know that I need a good German equatorial mount, and I'm sure everyone has their own recommendations for that. I'd definitely take some recommendations on ones that don't bust the bank but also satisfy an intermittent astrophotographer.

 

If you're into travelling and dark skies, forget filters. You won't need them from dark skies, except maybe for narrowband, but you'd have to do some considerable investment anyway to do that.

 

So, for broadband from dark skies, you'd be surprised how little you need. Grab your favourite tripod, point your camera to the milky way, constellation of your choice, or whatever, and shoot 80+ short-exposure pictures at high iso (2-4s 3200ISO, depending on your FL). You'll barely see anything on each picture, but you should see something. Recenter every once in a while, because the sky will move.

 

Getting good focus will take some practice, but it's critical. Zoom in on a star as much as you can, and make sure you make it as small as possible. The best indication of a good focus, is that fainter stars will pop into existence that were invisible when out of focus.

 

Then grab DSS, APP or whatever stacking software you find most intuitive, and stack them all. You'll be surprised how much you can capture like that.

 

If you want longer exposures, and you do, just add a sky tracker, as already mentioned. There are small portable sky trackers that you can carry on your travels.

 

Halfway between a GEM and a sky tracker you have the small single-axis motorized mounts like the SkyAdventurer or the SkyGuider. I have a SkyAdventurer and it's pretty nice and portable, but it's not as portable as you might hope when going camping.

 

With your scope, you can probably get some decent pictures, but alt-az gotos designed for visual observation tend to perform poorly for AP. YMMV, so just try it out. The procedure is the same as the one above with the tripod and the milky way - except your camera is mounted on your telescope, and stars will drift a lot faster if your mount doesn't track properly due to the increased FL.

 

The higher the FL, the harder tracking gets. That's why it's easier to start small, because good tracking is one of the harder things to achieve.

 

Then you'll know if you want to invest on better equipment.



#8 bobzeq25

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 12:49 AM

I know this is probably a post that has been typed up a thousand and one times, but I am feeling a little overwhelmed trying to organize my thoughts and newfound knowledge on all of this. I've done a lot of reading about astrophotography, the different equipment needed, and just the overall recommendations within the field. Basically, all of my Samsung devices have had 20+ open internet browser tabs for the last two weeks. I have also been reading through several posts on here, but I think part of my problem is that sometimes, I'm not quite sure what to search for or what information I'm seeking for my particular situation. Basically, "noob" doesn't even cut it for me lol.gif

 

Anyway, yes - this is one of those annoying "I'm new to this, please help" posts. Feel free to copy and paste previous comments you've made on other posts or direct me to specific threads/websites/videos. Additionally, if you just want to tackle one aspect of my post, that is totally fine; I know it's long. I'm not trying to make everyone regurgitate all of the same information over and over...

 

So, here we go: My husband bought me a fairly basic telescope for Christmas because I've always wanted one, and let's be real - I'm a huge science nerd. It's a Meade ETX80 telescope. The day after I got it, I realized that there was an adapter you could buy to attach a camera to the prime focus. Well, apparently that small realization has triggered a cascade of research and unwavering desire (obsession) to figure out how to get some of these amazing photographs that I've been seeing. I bought the T-ring and T-adapter that I needed and took my first photograph of the moon a few nights later. I was hooked! 

 

Now, here I am trying to figure out where to actually start because I have now overwhelmed myself with information in the last few days. I have a Nikon D3100 and a Nikon D7000. I've read that Canon is much better for AP, but I am not looking to turn this into a major hobby of mine. I'm also not looking to dump thousands of dollars into all of this, if possible. I'm just interested in taking a few awesome photographs here and there and to see the hidden wonders of my light polluted sky lol (Central Pennsylvania). I will say though that my husband and I were bit by the "travel bug" after we got married last year, so we've been after dark skies and fantastic views through the US now. So far, Bryce Canyon and Acadia have been my favorite night skies! So, any setup that is very easily portable would be a huge plus since we do a lot of camping and hiking. 

 

I guess my main question is: What is possible with my Nikons without completely busting the bank? I have the standard 18-55mm and 18-200mm lenses. I'd really like to get photographs of DSOs such as nebulas and galaxies, but I'm not sure if things like that are possible with just a DSLR and a certain type of lens (I hear prime lenses are much better than zooms?) or if I absolutely need a small refractor telescope with the camera, like an Orion 80mm. I do know that I need a good German equatorial mount, and I'm sure everyone has their own recommendations for that. I'd definitely take some recommendations on ones that don't bust the bank but also satisfy an intermittent astrophotographer.

 

Are filters worth it? I've read about light pollution filters and ones that help draw/cancel out certain wavelengths to aid in better images. I also understand that my Nikons require a DSUSB cable in order to do long exposures over 30 seconds. I'm under the impression that different Nikons require a different kind of cable though - anyone know which one I would need? And how exactly does it work - it then plugs into a tablet or computer where you can control the shutter release remotely? I know it helps to reduce vibrations and softness in the photographs.

 

I know that image processing is nearly half, if not more, of the battle with AP. Fortunately, I am very familiar with Photoshop and Lightroom from being in art school previously. However, I am not 100% confident in my skills since AP editing seems to be a different type of beast. I have been researching stacking and the different programs out there (any of them Mac or Samsung tablet compatible?) as well as trying to learn what dark, light, bias, etc. frames are.

 

Personally, I think a lot of this stuff I will be able to teach myself over time, such as the processing skills, learning the basics of stacking, and experimenting with ISO/exposure/f-stops etc. However, I think I need to be confident with and guided (no pun intended laugh.gif ) to the right equipment since that's where the money goes. 

 

I know I have other questions, but like I said, I have successfully overloaded myself with information in the last few days, and I just needed a place to start organizing all of the information. Thank you to anyone who has lasted to the end of this novel bow.gif and can provide any bit of advice and insight! 

 

-M

You're doing good.  Keep in mind that the best equipment to _learn_ AP is more specialized than the various setups used to _do_ AP in the long run.  The best setup for learning gets out of your way, and lets you learn.

 

The most important part of the setup is the mount.  You're trying to capture a moving target with .005mm pixels.  The slightest tracking error, and you get a blur.  The way to deal with that most economically is to use a camera and a wide angle lens.  Short focal lengths are more forgiving of tracking errors.  The longer your focal length, the more problems you have.  That's why the ETX80 is not a help, it's a hindrance.

 

That's the important stuff.  Some answers to relatively minor issues.  The Nikons will do fine.   You can start with the zooms, also.  No big deal for starting out.  Filters complicate things, do without them for now, complications are the _last_ thing you'll need.  <smile>

 

Back to important stuff.  You can control the Nikon with this.  I'd use the 7000.

 

https://www.amazon.c...r/dp/B016W3KCW4

 

Astro Pixel Processor is a combined stacking/processing program that's Mac compatible.  Relatively easy to use, as these things go.

 

https://www.astropixelprocessor.com/

 

You'll never learn enough from short posts here.  This an excellent, inexpensive, downloadable book.

 

http://www.astropix....bgda/index.html

 

Just a bit more.  Lights are what you take of your target.   Bias are the shortest possible exposure with the lens covered.  Darks are lens covered, exposures equal in every way to the lights.  Temperature is a big deal, you're characterizing the thermal noise of the camera.  Flats are pictures of an evenly illuminated surface, I used a wall at first.

 

Important.  Do them all from the get go.  Otherwise you are most likely to learn some bad habits in processing, and processing is hard enough as it is, with having to unlearn bad habits.  APP makes it easy to combine these four.


Edited by bobzeq25, 15 January 2020 - 01:04 AM.


#9 Huangdi

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 08:57 AM

There's a lot of good info in this topic, here's my 3 cents:
1. Canon (especially the consumer cameras) cameras have on countless occasions shown worse performance than cheap nikon cameras. Especially the banding issues show up very commonly.
2. Take a look at a used ed80 scope. I bought mine for 300€(+flattener/reducer=200€) and it performs amazingly. You'd want a decent mount to support it tho. I use the cheap but great iExos100(400€) and to improve performance a simple guiding setup (200-250€)

That would total at roughly 1200€. Most people here will recommend your starting mount to be more than that...just to give you an idea of prices :p

3. Take a look at carbonis Astro actions for Photoshop, it makes your life a LOT easier.


"The D7000 is great camera, but is really long in tooth and needs extra HW for it to be computer capable, but you can shoot it just fine using a simple $25 intervalometer . The D3xxx are too primitive to be supported by any software."

You actually can use digicamcontrol with nikon D3xxx's and it works just fine when using jpegs to view!

Edited by Huangdi, 15 January 2020 - 09:01 AM.


#10 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 02:16 PM

"The D7000 is great camera, but is really long in tooth and needs extra HW for it to be computer capable, but you can shoot it just fine using a simple $25 intervalometer . The D3xxx are too primitive to be supported by any software."

You actually can use digicamcontrol with nikon D3xxx's and it works just fine when using jpegs to view!

Not sure about the D3100, but while my D3200 can be controlled by a computer, it is only up to 30 seconds exposure.  There is no support for "Bulb" mode via the computer (USB) interface, and Bulb is needed for any exposure longer than that.  The D3100, being older, may be even further limited.  Note this has nothing to do with the image format (jpeg vs NEF/raw).

 

I still recommend using the Intervalometer approach.  Simple, inexpensive, and reliable, traits that are very important at this stage of the journey.



#11 Huangdi

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 02:28 PM

Not sure about the D3100, but while my D3200 can be controlled by a computer, it is only up to 30 seconds exposure.  There is no support for "Bulb" mode via the computer (USB) interface, and Bulb is needed for any exposure longer than that.  The D3100, being older, may be even further limited.  Note this has nothing to do with the image format (jpeg vs NEF/raw).

 

I still recommend using the Intervalometer approach.  Simple, inexpensive, and reliable, traits that are very important at this stage of the journey.

That is true. But then again, I only use Digicamcontrol to focus my camera (And plate solve through NINA/autofocus once I'm done building it). After that I plug in my Intervalometer, start it up and let it image for the rest of the night. Full USB functions would be nice but it works just fine without those for me. 

 

But yeah, you can EASILY do AP without connecting your camera to your laptop so it's not really a criteria to rule out a camera imo. I'd have a bigger issue with the AA filters inside it



#12 MLove

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 08:23 PM

There's a lot of good info in this topic, here's my 3 cents:
1. Canon (especially the consumer cameras) cameras have on countless occasions shown worse performance than cheap nikon cameras. Especially the banding issues show up very commonly.
2. Take a look at a used ed80 scope. I bought mine for 300€(+flattener/reducer=200€) and it performs amazingly. You'd want a decent mount to support it tho. I use the cheap but great iExos100(400€) and to improve performance a simple guiding setup (200-250€)

That would total at roughly 1200€. Most people here will recommend your starting mount to be more than that...just to give you an idea of prices tongue2.gif

3. Take a look at carbonis Astro actions for Photoshop, it makes your life a LOT easier.


"The D7000 is great camera, but is really long in tooth and needs extra HW for it to be computer capable, but you can shoot it just fine using a simple $25 intervalometer . The D3xxx are too primitive to be supported by any software."

You actually can use digicamcontrol with nikon D3xxx's and it works just fine when using jpegs to view!

Wow, you all are great! Thank you so much for quick and helpful responses!

 

Just to clarify: a guide scope (aka "simple guiding setup", I assume) is not necessary but helps quite a bit. What is actually the purpose of it though if you have a mount/tracker? Is it just another means of ensuring proper tracking?



#13 klaussius

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 09:03 PM

Wow, you all are great! Thank you so much for quick and helpful responses!

 

Just to clarify: a guide scope (aka "simple guiding setup", I assume) is not necessary but helps quite a bit. What is actually the purpose of it though if you have a mount/tracker? Is it just another means of ensuring proper tracking?

Pretty much that. Trackers aren't perfect, and affordable ones are far from it. Guiding (through a guide scope and guide camera, or through an OAG) lets software measure deviations and issue corrections in real time while your imaging camera is taking long exposures, increasing tracking precision considerably, in a way that is far more cost-effective and precise than getting perfect mechanical tracking would be.



#14 fewayne

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 09:22 PM

Since you're all about swamping yourself in detail... :-)

 

As has been noted, planets are so tiny that you need a really long focal length. But heck, you can slap in a Barlow lens and see what you get!

 

Deep-sky objects are so dim that folks resort to expensively-machined equatorial mounts, long exposures, cooled cameras, autoguiding, and all sorts of dodges trying to get them photons. The longer the exposure, the more critical your...well, your everything, really. Tiny deviations in tracking accumulate over time into blur or streaking. Field rotation from an altazimuth mount becomes more of a problem (given the research you've done so far, I don't feel guilty throwing new tech terms at you, you'll know what that means two minutes from now).

 

Autoguiding is going to be a non-starter for this setup -- it's a means of using a computer-controlled feedback loop to reduce errors over long exposures. But you won't get long exposures (see also "field rotation").

 

My advice, FWIW, is to get a reasonably cheap adapter, bung your Nikon on there, and see what you can accomplish. And also to revel in the visual spectacle that your new scope and dark skies will bring you. I always find it ironic that I'm out there in the dark with telescopes every chance I get, but never seem to look through the things unless I'm doing a presentation for the public.

 

Oh! Focusing! Easy-peasey, buy or make yourself a Bahtinov mask. More Googling there. :-)

 

And welcome!


Edited by fewayne, 15 January 2020 - 09:34 PM.



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