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Why do astrophotograpy (discussion)?

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#1 Bill001


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Posted 25 February 2020 - 12:35 PM

So why do people spend thousands of dollars on equipment & software to do astrophotography? Afterall you can find better pix in an astronomy textbook.


Respond w/ a brief comment as to why you do it.





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#2 jerahian


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Posted 25 February 2020 - 12:43 PM

Here are my brief comments, albeit 4 of them :)

  • The love of astronomy (and the fact that I can't stand looking through an eyepiece)
  • The excitement of capturing the unseen (even for those who actually do look up)
  • The technical challenge of capturing and processing faint astronomical targets (and the drive to get better at it)
  • The convergence of science and art into produced prints

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#3 Hesiod



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 12:44 PM

Personally find it is rather fun to process the data, and in any case it is something I can do by day or when it is cloudylol.gif

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#4 bmhjr



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 12:49 PM

AP as a hobby for me is a great blend of creativity, technical knowledge, nature, and relaxation.  My other hobbies include running, music, art, fishing, various outdoor activities and my day job is highly technical.  I am not the best in any of my endeavors so why they are still enjoyable?  It's called living.


I try to use my limited budget to explore the night skies and preserve the experience as imaging art.

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#5 Ishtim


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Posted 25 February 2020 - 12:54 PM

So why do people spend thousands of dollars on equipment & software to do astrophotography? Afterall you can find better pix in an astronomy textbook.


Respond w/ a brief comment as to why you do it.


For me it's always been a natural extension of "normal" photography, just bigger lenses and longer exposures. lol.gif

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#6 OhmEye



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 12:59 PM

Why travel, when you can see pictures/videos in books or youtube? Why dance, ski, scuba, or do anything that you can read books or watch videos about? I'm sorry if this comes off as snarky, but there are no end of examples of hobbies that people enjoy because the pleasure is in the doing. AP economically isn't very different from kite surfing, go-kart racing, scuba diving or numerous other activities. I know people with much more money invested their pinball machines than I do in my AP rig, yet I wouldn't think to ask them why they don't just enjoy watching tournaments on video.

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#7 Galaxyhunter



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 01:03 PM

So why do people spend thousands of dollars on equipment & software to do astrophotography? Afterall you can find better pix in an astronomy textbook.


Respond w/ a brief comment as to why you do it.


This is true,  but those images are not mine.

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#8 OldManSky



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 01:04 PM

I've been "into" photography since I was 9 years old.  Spent a few years as a professional photographer, too.

I've been "into" astronomy since my 20's.  

Combining my two favorite (well, ok, there is family and golf...) passions was a no-brainer.

I don't care if there are "better" astrophotos out there.  Those aren't mine.  Mine are for me.

And there are very few other pursuits that combine technical expertise, infinite patience, artistry, and a requirement to learn about the universe, which makes astrophotography the "perfect storm" for me.

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#9 t_image



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 01:20 PM

So why do people spend thousands of dollars on equipment & software to do astrophotography? Afterall you can find better pix in an astronomy textbook.


Respond w/ a brief comment as to why you do it.


I appreciate the question,

but if a search for more info is sought,

I must object to the underlying assumption and pedantically narrow concept that

"you can find better pix in an astronomy textbook."

I guess one has to actually be more familiar with the subject to under such defect.


My AP is:

  • process based, not really results based,
  • results are more video and motion related v. "still photo"
  • many subjects are not repeated elsewhere in same 'pose',
  • are my own work, I own any copyrights, and can use/share according to my purposes without stealing other's efforts -I'm not a socialist like the internet tempts people to be thinking that everything belongs to everybody, I instead believe in the concept of personal property.

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#10 Midnight Dan

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 01:52 PM

That's sort of like asking, why should I run a race when there are many people out there who can beat me?  Why should I play in a band when you can go out on the internet and find much better versions of the song than what I can do?  Why should I build my own bookcase when I can just go out and buy one?


We all engage in hobbies that present us with personal challenges.  They are fun, interesting, and rewarding, even though we are far from the best at any of them.  The goal is not to be the best, but to be the best we can be.


For the technically inclined, and the astronomically inclined, astrophotography provides such a challenge. I get a great deal of satisfaction from getting a good result after many hours of effort.  And I also get satisfaction out of seeing my own progress over the years.  That's what it's all about!



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#11 Shopaholic


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Posted 25 February 2020 - 03:13 PM

Interesting topic: I think the same some times, but like others said, just the fun of doing thinks and kill free time smile.gif

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#12 TrustyChords


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Posted 25 February 2020 - 03:13 PM

Amongst these other things, imaging gets you much more familiarity with, and understanding of the objects as opposed to viewing a picture.


From the surrounding stars, to the faint dust lanes, the dimensions, orientation in the sky, neighboring objects, and so on, all of these get seen at a level I'm not sure you can easily appreciate from looking at a picture.

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#13 jgraham



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 03:32 PM

I spent over 30 years building larger and larger telescopes to see deeper and more clearly only to discover that I was chasing a ghost. I will never forget the very first image that came off of my very first modern imaging rig; a lowly Meade DSI on an Orion StarBlast and a Meade DS-2000 mount. (I had over 35 years of prior experience with film.) I chose as my first target M1 because M1 was a perpetual challenge object barely showing as a faint, obscure puff of gray smoke from my Bortle 8 backyard even in my 16.5" Newtonian. With that very first 15 second image I could instantly see M1, the characteristic claw shape, and its color! With a 4.5" Newtonian! On a quirky ETX-like mount! With a $299 camera! From my Bortle 8 backyard! Only feet away from my house, family, coffee, and a warm bed! I instantly 'got it' and it has been a heck of a journey every since. I instantly learned that the images in text books, magazine, observing guides, and all over the Internet have been processed beyond all recognition, they can _never_ look like that visually. If you search the web for image of a deepsky object you won't see what that object looks like, instead you'll get hundreds of different interpretations of what it looks like depending on how the imager processed their data. Only by taking my own, unprocessed images could I see for the first time what these objects really looks like. I instantly gained a new appreciation for what I could see with my telescopes and how taking an processing my own images I could make the invisible visible. Also, all of the frustration of not being able to see what I thought I should be seeing was wiped away. I can now easily 'see' all the way down to my skyglow limit (about magnitude 18) with modest equipment, and the images that I take make the best darned finder charts showing me exactly where to look and what to look for. Imaging easily more than doubled my hobby making accessible entire realms that would otherwise be out of my grasp.


Soooo, while I enjoy getting in some serious eyepiece time when it is comfortable to be out at the scope, imaging has greatly expanded my hobby and it will easily keep me busy for the rest of my days as it has since I was 5 years old.


What a wonderful hobby!

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#14 Dwight J

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 03:45 PM

We do it because it is hard.

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#15 kathyastro



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 04:12 PM

Why run a marathon?  Presumably there are professional athletes who can run one faster than you.


People do things like running marathons or astrophotography because they enjoy a challenge.  I don't care that Hubble can take a better picture of just about anything.  My picture is mine, and I take pride in having done it myself.

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#16 DeanS



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 04:15 PM

All those photons are not going to collect themselves ;)


It is the challenge to see where no man as seen before??

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#17 dhaval



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 04:26 PM

Because I am competing with my wife to see who can spend money the fastest...



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#18 HowardSD


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Posted 25 February 2020 - 04:38 PM

I'm new to the astrophotography scene and I totally "get it"!


I was interested as a kid in Astronomy and recently rekindled my love affair with the stars having moved to a location where i've more opportunity to observe (and a bigger "piggy bank"). For just over a year i've been using various scopes to "look up", never had a goto mount before and having an AVX/C8 combo "initially" show me the Universe, fell back in love with observing and many more telescopes, mounts & eyepieces later still wanted more... aperture fever took a hold! Nearing my 60th Birthday (and back issues) there's a limit, my C11 rarely gets mounted, my ES AR127 doesn't see a whole lot of light, my AT102ED was my most used scope, seeing the planets a few nebulae & star clusters was great fun, galaxies though somewhat disappointing that grey green smudge albeit fascinating to see and process what i was actually looking at left me wanting more.


Around Christmas thought I'd try my hand at AP, treated myself to yet another scope... a little EON 72mm. Setting my equipment out at home and taking some shots of the Orion Nebula I was hooked! WOW!!! yes that is one of the nicest objects to view through an eyepiece but when those colors popped on my computer screen what a difference! So for the past 2 months and a few more scope purchases I've got the bug!!! I'll still do visual but now i'm getting the hang of AP, there is a whole new Universe that's opened up to me!

#19 shawnhar



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 04:59 PM

I do it for the money, the free beer and all the chicks....

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#20 Midnight Dan

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 05:10 PM

I do it for the money, the free beer and all the chicks....

Clearly I'm not doing it right! bow.gif

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#21 Sonya6500


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Posted 25 February 2020 - 08:50 PM

I have built two 8,10, and 12" dobs. Sort of fun showing the neighbors Jupiter and the moon.The first time I pointed my 72mm refractor at the Lagoon nebula with my camera shutter  clicking and then came the great anticipated stack and develop..... I was blown away. Then came the first time imaging Orion... Amazing. I was hooked. I am getting better. It is not easy, lots to remember and checklists help. We live in a beautiful universe.

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#22 khobar



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 09:31 PM

I'm looking for ET? You never know. ;)


I look at every frame to see if I captured something unexpected/unusual. AP is something I enjoy even if I'll forever be an amateur (forget too much too quickly). But to see the beauty unfold when it comes out right is just so rewarding.

#23 Sam Danigelis

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 02:00 AM

Let me respond to one part of your question, "Why spend thousands...?"

Actually, part of the fun for me is figuring out how to do it as economically and simply as possible, yet still getting a good image. I enjoy the personal triumph of achieving a good result with basic equipment. I made my own scope, for instance.
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#24 Ballyhoo


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Posted 26 February 2020 - 02:24 AM

It does not make a lot of sense if you try an think  practically about why one does AP. Fishing. Why do people go crazy for fishing and hunting, when you can just go to the market? I think it is somewhat an intangible hobby and not one that you could talk someone into enjoying. I mean, at the end of it, I get a nice image that few people even notice on AB, and look what happen to all those. But for me it is a bit transcendent. That is, I am getting imagery of insanely interesting objects lying thousands of light-years away. Perhaps that is tangible enough.  


I do miss my visual gear. My Televue Ethos are collecting dust.




what would Charles Messier have thought if I could go back in time with my pictures, and show him his catalog?

Edited by Ballyhoo, 26 February 2020 - 02:25 AM.

#25 freestar8n


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Posted 26 February 2020 - 06:48 AM

I have a fairly specific take on this question.  My form of "astrophotography" is a particular type of documentary imaging - and it is technical and multi-disciplinary.


If you look at what professional observatories are doing - it tends not to be be "imaging" at all - and instead focuses on particular types of measurements for specific purposes.  And it is done at huge expense and with state of the art equipment that skirts the more mundane issues that limit what can be done in a backyard with more humble technology and poorer seeing.


As a result, there is a large area of unexplored territory in terms of novel approaches to guiding, imaging, noise modeling, and statistics that can advance the state of the art of what can be accomplished in a backyard at modest expense.


I never use the term "hobby" to describe what I do.  Hobby implies doing things in traditional ways to pass the time and immerse yourself in a shared activity with others.  But for me, technical imaging involves the same scientific principles applied in professional circles - but to a backyard setup with imperfect seeing, optics, and tracking.


Since it combines optics, statistics, noise models, control theory, skill and experience to capture a scene in the sky directly from the data - it is highly multi-disciplinary and there are new things to try to improve results. That is why I do it and why I find it interesting.


Other people can do it for whatever reason they like and that is perfectly fine. But this isn't a single activity and it isn't all just a 'hobby' - and we aren't all just trying to duplicate images others have taken of the same objects in similar ways - and process them in the same ways to achieve similar results.



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