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Light pollution: bigger or smaller aperture?

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#1 Huan

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 01:11 AM

I live in the New York city and am wondering this stupid question before getting a scope.

 

Do I need to go with large aperture because my area is heavily light polluted?

 

or 

 

I should settle with small aperture because the extra aperture would be wasted and useless under such heavy light pollution.

 

I have very limited experience and will choose the route of a 8 to 10" SCT or 3 to 4" APO base on the answer. Budget will be around 3-4k USD.


Edited by Huan, 03 July 2020 - 01:17 AM.


#2 bobzeq25

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 01:41 AM

If you're just starting in DSO imaging, the smaller scope will be _much_ easier to learn on.  The effect is very large (much more than your intuition would lead you to believe) and completely swamps out technical details of interest to experienced imagers like which is better for dealing with light pollution.  That's not very important to someone starting out.  For some time, think months not weeks.

 

The two chief beginner mistakes are an inadequate mount, and too big a scope.  Often combined.

 

If your budget is 3-4K I'd spend a minimum of $1400 on the mount.  It's the most important piece of the setup.

 

This is hardly something I invented.  Scroll down to the picture of the very expert author of this book.  That's a Sirius (aka HEQ5) mount.  $1200.  With  70mm refractor.  $500.  He didn't choose those because he had them lying around.  <smile>  At $1700 plus camera plus autoguiding system plus...  it's an ideal way to allocate the budget.

 

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

 

Minor point.  My skies are heavily light polluted.  Red Zone, Bortle 7, mag per arc sec squared low 18s.  Check out my astrobin (referenced below) for what I've done there.  With scopes ranging from a 70mm (the astrobin data tells you which) to an 8 inch RASA.   Which took me months and all my five years of experience to get working well.

 

Processing the data is more than half the game.  I recommend starting with Astro Pixel Processor.  Both stacks and processes, has an excellent gradient reduction tool, a good technique for reducing the effects of light pollution.


Edited by bobzeq25, 03 July 2020 - 01:48 AM.


#3 futuneral

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 01:42 AM

I guess the first question is - is this for observing or imaging ;)


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#4 jgraham

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 01:57 AM

I do all of my observing from my light polluted backyard (Bortle 8). I also used to spend a lot of time out at our club's dark sky site. My experience has been that observing under light polluted skies benefits more from aperture than does observing from a dark site. From my backyard I use several scopes from a tiny 60mm refractor up to my 16.5" homebuilt Newtonian and the view just keeps getting better with increasing aperture. However, there is a lot to see on just about any size scope and the most important feature is finding the right scope for you that is comfortable to use. Also, a good observing chair is a valuable accessory as I have found that being comfortably seated at the eyepiece is very important to being relaxed and seeing all that there is to see. My current favorite scope is a 12" SCT, but it took a bit to figure out how to set it up easily. Overall, a good 8" SCT seems to be the sweet spot between aperture and ease of use, and if I had to pick one general purpose scope that's probably where I'd start. Things really start to blossom with a 10", but a 10" is quite a bit heavier than an 8". On the refractor side, I have found that refractors compare well with an SCT that is 2" larger. They are wonderful scopes, but I find that an altaz mounted SCT tends to be more compact and easier to use.

Food for thought.

Enjoy!
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#5 Supernova74

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 03:10 AM

in heavy polluted sky’s yes I would say don,t go beyond your means regarding aperture 

and you will be limited on most deep sky objects.

so myself personally the best bang for your buck would be something like an 3-4” APO refractor as a lens based scope is a little bit more forgiving regarding light pollution.i would also invest in a good quality LP filter and a neutral density filter even tho no miracle cure thay can help those veiws.

the moon and planets would be more favourable as thay are generally bright objects to observe 

I think something like an 8” reflector would be wasted unless you can transport the scope to darker sky locations 

as even tho aperture is king in most Astronomical observing unfortunately due to dreaded LP the scope will only bring out the true conditions of the LP sky’s worse.



#6 sg6

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 03:48 AM

I cannot recall what is the general recommendation or why, so opinion only but I would have said bigger was better for viewing. Strange reason for this is that at a few outreach events we used to aim a big scope at one of the "prominent" stars. The odd bit was it was generally around 14:00 in the afternoon on a clear sunny day. And would show the public Alderbaren or Deneb or Vega.

 

We had to use a fairly big scope and I suppose that was bright daylight qualified as "light pollution" that a big scope was "required".

 

So that is a sort of "technical" reason. Personally I would suggest you just get a small and relatviely inexpensive scope to star out with. Honestly one of the ES Firstlight 80mm 640mm achros would I suggest give you a good introduction and actually be a lot more fun and enjoyment.

 

After 5-6 months you will have a better idea of what it actually is that you want, and even what you need. You can carry an ES 80/640 a lot easier then an 8SE if you have to be mobile in NY.

 

The other aspect as I have mentioned elsewhere is you can get the ES, if you stay in Astro get a Skywatcher Az GTi and have a small goto mount, then add a solar filter and do solar observing - I added a Herschel Wedge instead of a solar filter. For better quality you could swap to an 80ED. Then as they say turn to the dark side get a decent equitorial put the 80ED on that and go imaging. Put the 80/640 back on the Nano or Az Gti and back to a small visual set up as well.

 

So the start of an inexpensive ES 80/640 has a sort of progression path.



#7 pyrasanth

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 04:22 AM

Large aperture telescopes of slow focal ratios like the C14, even with the reducer, have small fields of view. This really helps with light pollution gradients under a light sky as you don't have as many gradients to correct. These gradients can still be heavy but aperture & ever reducing field helps with this. The images I've captured through my C14 are not markedly different from my earlier C11 but there is a difference. I find that for guiding the optimal focal length for my sky conditions & seeing is around 3 meters- any longer focal length and I really need to pay far greater attention to guiding.

 

It can very much be down to the quality of your mount & setup up- big aperture, slow optics need a much greater attention to setup details including a quality mount, god polar alignment & PEC.



#8 Supernova74

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 04:26 AM

I cannot recall what is the general recommendation or why, so opinion only but I would have said bigger was better for viewing. Strange reason for this is that at a few outreach events we used to aim a big scope at one of the "prominent" stars. The odd bit was it was generally around 14:00 in the afternoon on a clear sunny day. And would show the public Alderbaren or Deneb or Vega.

 

We had to use a fairly big scope and I suppose that was bright daylight qualified as "light pollution" that a big scope was "required".

 

So that is a sort of "technical" reason. Personally I would suggest you just get a small and relatviely inexpensive scope to star out with. Honestly one of the ES Firstlight 80mm 640mm achros would I suggest give you a good introduction and actually be a lot more fun and enjoyment.

 

After 5-6 months you will have a better idea of what it actually is that you want, and even what you need. You can carry an ES 80/640 a lot easier then an 8SE if you have to be mobile in NY.

 

The other aspect as I have mentioned elsewhere is you can get the ES, if you stay in Astro get a Skywatcher Az GTi and have a small goto mount, then add a solar filter and do solar observing - I added a Herschel Wedge instead of a solar filter. For better quality you could swap to an 80ED. Then as they say turn to the dark side get a decent equitorial put the 80ED on that and go imaging. Put the 80/640 back on the Nano or Az Gti and back to a small visual set up as well.

 

So the start of an inexpensive ES 80/640 has a sort of progression path.

Yes and no pointing at very bright objects is go show up more regardless your Aperture size 

in sky bortale 8 sky’s is wasted aperture as you need a level playing feild to start off with regarding the actual sky conditions however on lower magnitude deep sky objects your only living on hope and dreams in trying to see the actual object or even finding it amongst heavy LP in first place.we all would love the largest scope we can firstly afford.however for example going large is not always the best way to go.another exsample I live just outside London with a Meade sct 12”ACF sky bortale sky 6 not to be confused with actual clarity and sky conditions.

my scope is no means small howerver I’m just picking up magnitude 12-13 deep sky objects at very best even closer to 15.9 magnitude or there abouts on the spec sheet.

so just my opinion put  let’s say an 8” dob into the mix with terrible seeing conditions it is considered as wasted aperture as your only amplifying poor sky conditions instead of allowing maximum photons hitting the surface of the mirror or lens that why generally an 3-4 inch refractor is only really suitable for planetary observing in really poor conditions.



#9 MikeTahtib

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 05:27 AM

Well that cleared everything up, then, didn't it?  lol.gif

My experience with living in a Bortle 6-7 area is that I see more through my 15" than I do through my 8" or my 2.5" finder.

But the other thing to keep in mind is where are you going to use it?  If you have to carry it long distances, you will likely use a smaller telescope more.  When faced with the prospect of moving a big heavy telescope outside  will often result in you saying "Oh, forget ti, it's not worth it."

Also, some of the responses are based on the idea that you will be using the telescope primarily to take pictures ("imaging").  The importance of having an excellent mount (tripod) is only applicable to taking photos through your telescope.  If you are only going to be looking at things through an eyepiece, then you can use a much more modest mount.

So for direct visual use, I would say get the biggest telescope you can comfortably carry to whreever you will be using it.  For astrophotography, then a smaller telescope on an excellent mount seems to be in order, although I am not an astrophotographer.


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#10 bobhen

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 06:55 AM

I live in the New York city and am wondering this stupid question before getting a scope.

 

Do I need to go with large aperture because my area is heavily light polluted?

 

or 

 

I should settle with small aperture because the extra aperture would be wasted and useless under such heavy light pollution.

 

I have very limited experience and will choose the route of a 8 to 10" SCT or 3 to 4" APO base on the answer. Budget will be around 3-4k USD.

The sun, moon and planets will not be impacted by light pollution. Deep sky objects however will be severely impacted.

 

There is really only one solution if you want to observe deep sky objects at your location. You need to add “technology” NOT aperture.

 

Get a Celestron 8” SCT and something like an Orion Sirius Pro Go To mount. A go-to mount when set up correctly will point to the object that you want to observe. That feature is very handy in heavily light polluted locations, where finding objects can be challenging.

 

Now, instead of looking into an eyepiece consider adding an astro video camera like the $300 Revolution 2 (and nice beginner’s package). With just a 30-second exposure you will see deep sky detail that no larger telescope will show from your location when used visually – and by a lot!

 

Do some research (there are other mount choices, consider weight & also research the Revolution 2 camera), take your time, and then spend some time learning your equipment. Once mastered, you will see amazing detail from your location. Granted, it will be on a screen, but it will be amazing.

 

Bob


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#11 Supernova74

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 07:30 AM

The sun, moon and planets will not be impacted by light pollution. Deep sky objects however will be severely impacted.

 

There is really only one solution if you want to observe deep sky objects at your location. You need to add “technology” NOT aperture.

 

Get a Celestron 8” SCT and something like an Orion Sirius Pro Go To mount. A go-to mount when set up correctly will point to the object that you want to observe. That feature is very handy in heavily light polluted locations, where finding objects can be challenging.

 

Now, instead of looking into an eyepiece consider adding an astro video camera like the $300 Revolution 2 (and nice beginner’s package). With just a 30-second exposure you will see deep sky detail that no larger telescope will show from your location when used visually – and by a lot!

 

Do some research (there are other mount choices, consider weight & also research the Revolution 2 camera), take your time, and then spend some time learning your equipment. Once mastered, you will see amazing detail from your location. Granted, it will be on a screen, but it will be amazing.

 

Bob

Yes bob and if you wanted to travel to darker sky locations winner al round really 



#12 PXR-5

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 08:09 AM

I will second getting GoTo for DSOs in light pollution.

#13 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 09:28 AM

Large aperture telescopes of slow focal ratios like the C14, even with the reducer, have small fields of view.

 

 

The focal length of scope limits the maximum field of view possible. The C14 at F/11 (3900 mm FL) is not capable of the same wide fields a 14 inch F/5 (1800 mm FL) but the F/5 can duplicate anything the C14 can  do..

 

For visual, larger apertures show more from a light polluted sky. But there are many factors to consider. The effort required to setup and tear down the scope, transporting the scope. The operation of the scope.  How easy is it to use..

 

Jon


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#14 Echolight

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 10:22 AM

With $3-4k you could have both.



#15 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 10:24 AM

I would keep the first scope modest (and portable) until you decide if this hobby is for you. Something geared towards the moon and planets.

 

You don't need GO2 for that, but since GO2 is cheap and becoming standard equipment on many mounts, get as a hedge for future need.

 

If things are working out, the only way to see DSO's as more than an ill-defined gray patch will be technology, not aperture. Low budget (< $500), a CMOS imager. High budget ($1500-$4000) is a image intensifier (NV eyepiece). Either one will allow you to start pulling in DSO's from the city.


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#16 Hesiod

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 11:01 AM

Bigger aperture means higher magnification, and this is always nice; so, if this has to be your only telescope, the suggestion to get the larger aperture you can handle is very sound (about this, there is a very meaningful difference between an 8" and 10" SCT so I suggest to see them in the shop before making the purchase. The 8" is the largest "small telescope" and ride quite well rather light mount, so the whole package enjoy a significant advantage in portability).

An object looking a smudge of light at 30x reveals a lot of details at 100x even if, in the end, what it matters is to have fun: I enjoy spending 40 minutes in my 2" refractor trying to detect the patchy aspect of M12 core at 30x  as much as observing the same object in the C8 at 100x.

Light pollution is a scourge, but with care and patience can see much more than could expect. Some objects, such as double stars, are also very "resilient" (another class of rather resilient objects are the planetary nebulae: since these are very small for the most, with high surface brightness, to see details have to use really high magnifications and that of course makes really striking the advantage of greater aperture).

Furthermore, planetary/lunar observations, a traditional staple for light-pollution plagued stargazers (and a source of light pollution by themselves, the Moon above all) greatly enjoy bigger apertures: again, I like to observe them in the 2" as much as in the 8", but the experience is really different (as, obviously, the amount of details you can see) and in my opinion the larger telescope allows for easier and more relaxed observations.

 

As for "electronic aids", I am also a modest "astrophotographer" and theoretically could use this equipment also to "enhance" my stargazing but do not like it at all.

I feel and perceive the two activities as totally different, to the point that using the sensor does not feel as an "enhancement" but rather a "replacement" of visual observation with data manipulation (the fun in astroimaging is IMHO basically this, working with the data).

Furthermore, I do not agree with the persuasion that sensors are always better than stargazing: so far I have yet to see a picture of M42, or the North America nebula, or of countless other objects, as glorious as their sight in the eyepiece (and am not referring to my half-baked attempt, but to APOD-level pictures: wonderful, amazing pictures for sure, but in the end just pictures).

Of course this is just my opinion, and there are others swearing by it, but anyway...


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#17 bobhen

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 12:19 PM

 

Furthermore, I do not agree with the persuasion that sensors are always better than stargazing: so far I have yet to see a picture of M42, or the North America nebula, or of countless other objects, as glorious as their sight in the eyepiece (and am not referring to my half-baked attempt, but to APOD-level pictures: wonderful, amazing pictures for sure, but in the end just pictures).

Of course this is just my opinion, and there are others swearing by it, but anyway...

He lives in NYC. The North American Nebula and countless other nebula and galaxies will not be visible and the ones that are visible will be but shadows of themselves.

 

Bob 



#18 Hesiod

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 12:57 PM

As half-baked pictures are just "shadows" of professional pictures, APODs, etc...of course this is just an hobby, and what it matters is to have fun, so, if one prefers to use a camera, good, there are many options: but doing that is wholly another thing than putting the eye in the eyepiece so may lead to disappointment as well as failing to see an object from a light-polluted site.

 

In the case of the eyepiece, the "touchstone" is the user's own memory but, for electronic-driven "experience", there is the web: if have never observed from a site better than Bortle X, it is hard  for me to figure how things would look.; however when see the crappy picture shown "real time" by my asi120 of the Horsehead, it would take a few seconds to open google and find a good picture of it from the best astrophotographers, NASA, etc...hey, even Skysafari has a better picture of the Horsehead, or of most of the objects!

I know I could get better results by using a more modern camera, but as of the current state of technology, nothing remotely comparable to truly good pictures; just as observing from light polluted sites is not remotely comparable to observing from pristine sites.

 

Of course, if am enjoying the process of taking the picture, dabbling with the camera, software, settings, etc... or the challenge of detecting some really elusive target, how the actual picture looks is of little interest.


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#19 bobzeq25

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 01:16 PM

Yes bob and if you wanted to travel to darker sky locations winner al round really 

Totally agree.  But the old man is no longer physically capable.  So I image from my very light polluted backyard, and I don't do badly at all.  See my astrobin, referenced below.  There's a certain satisfaction to being able to do that, my friends are utterly amazed.

 

With $3-4k you could have both.

Maybe $4-5K.  You'd need a good mount, and two scopes.

 

Bigger aperture means higher magnification, and this is always nice; so, if this has to be your only telescope, the suggestion to get the larger aperture you can handle is very sound (about this, there is a very meaningful difference between an 8" and 10" SCT so I suggest to see them in the shop before making the purchase. The 8" is the largest "small telescope" and ride quite well rather light mount, so the whole package enjoy a significant advantage in portability).

An object looking a smudge of light at 30x reveals a lot of details at 100x even if, in the end, what it matters is to have fun: I enjoy spending 40 minutes in my 2" refractor trying to detect the patchy aspect of M12 core at 30x  as much as observing the same object in the C8 at 100x.

Light pollution is a scourge, but with care and patience can see much more than could expect. Some objects, such as double stars, are also very "resilient" (another class of rather resilient objects are the planetary nebulae: since these are very small for the most, with high surface brightness, to see details have to use really high magnifications and that of course makes really striking the advantage of greater aperture).

Furthermore, planetary/lunar observations, a traditional staple for light-pollution plagued stargazers (and a source of light pollution by themselves, the Moon above all) greatly enjoy bigger apertures: again, I like to observe them in the 2" as much as in the 8", but the experience is really different (as, obviously, the amount of details you can see) and in my opinion the larger telescope allows for easier and more relaxed observations.

 

As for "electronic aids", I am also a modest "astrophotographer" and theoretically could use this equipment also to "enhance" my stargazing but do not like it at all.

I feel and perceive the two activities as totally different, to the point that using the sensor does not feel as an "enhancement" but rather a "replacement" of visual observation with data manipulation (the fun in astroimaging is IMHO basically this, working with the data).

Furthermore, I do not agree with the persuasion that sensors are always better than stargazing: so far I have yet to see a picture of M42, or the North America nebula, or of countless other objects, as glorious as their sight in the eyepiece (and am not referring to my half-baked attempt, but to APOD-level pictures: wonderful, amazing pictures for sure, but in the end just pictures).

Of course this is just my opinion, and there are others swearing by it, but anyway...

 

 

As half-baked pictures are just "shadows" of professional pictures, APODs, etc...of course this is just an hobby, and what it matters is to have fun, so, if one prefers to use a camera, good, there are many options: but doing that is wholly another thing than putting the eye in the eyepiece so may lead to disappointment as well as failing to see an object from a light-polluted site.

 

In the case of the eyepiece, the "touchstone" is the user's own memory but, for electronic-driven "experience", there is the web: if have never observed from a site better than Bortle X, it is hard  for me to figure how things would look.; however when see the crappy picture shown "real time" by my asi120 of the Horsehead, it would take a few seconds to open google and find a good picture of it from the best astrophotographers, NASA, etc...hey, even Skysafari has a better picture of the Horsehead, or of most of the objects!

I know I could get better results by using a more modern camera, but as of the current state of technology, nothing remotely comparable to truly good pictures; just as observing from light polluted sites is not remotely comparable to observing from pristine sites.

 

Of course, if am enjoying the process of taking the picture, dabbling with the camera, software, settings, etc... or the challenge of detecting some really elusive target, how the actual picture looks is of little interest.

Here's what you're not understanding, and it's enormous.

 

I've been an amateur astronomer for maybe 60 years.  In my 50s I gave it up.  My eyes had deteriorated to the point where I could no longer see much detail, surely not as much as in my younger days, with _much_ darker skies as well.  I sold off everything except an old 66mm on a tripod, to show the grandkids the Moon, Saturn's rings, etc.

 

Five years ago I discovered astrophotography.  Now I can see far more than I ever did, even from my light polluted backyard.  Sample below.  I would never have been able to see the Horsehead at all with the equipment I could afford.  Yet I can now see this.

 

Bottom line.  Forget the idea of being enamored of the process.  Astrophotography is what brought me back to my beloved astronomy after 20 years had passed away from it.  How big is that?

 

Anticipating the obvious "why not just look at professional pictures?", which is also not the point.  Why play golf, when Tiger Woods exists?  Why paint pictures?  Why do anything at all, when professionals can do it better?  Just sit in your house, and look at their products?
 

Horsehead HaRGB V19.jpg


Edited by bobzeq25, 03 July 2020 - 01:40 PM.

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#20 Hesiod

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 02:31 PM

Well, the whole point of hobbies and amateur activities is to enjoy the activity itself more than the result.
Why playing golf if not a PRO? Obviously because like to swing the mace and stroll on the green, and getting better in a sort of match against ourselves, not against Tiger Woods!
The same is for photography, astrophotography included.
The joy is to take the data, spending a night under the stars, and above all dabbling with them through softwares (a wonderful way to deal with bad weather btw).
Maybe the result will be nice, maybe not, but does not matter at all.

#21 bobzeq25

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 03:03 PM

Well, the whole point of hobbies and amateur activities is to enjoy the activity itself more than the result.
Why playing golf if not a PRO? Obviously because like to swing the mace and stroll on the green, and getting better in a sort of match against ourselves, not against Tiger Woods!
The same is for photography, astrophotography included.
The joy is to take the data, spending a night under the stars, and above all dabbling with them through softwares (a wonderful way to deal with bad weather btw).
Maybe the result will be nice, maybe not, but does not matter at all.

It matters to me, but I'm not obsessed about it.  And I'm quite content doing images that are a bit better than average.  My "competition" is myself, last year.  <smile>
 



#22 Supernova74

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 03:52 PM

hi guys I’m a visual observer mainly and was considering to go into imaging of some kind myself.however the reality for me is apart from the added exspense it’s another extensive learning curve to consider and to be perfectly frank my scope is not really designed for imaging purposes anyway.even if I decided to throw another £2000 or so ie on half decent ZWO camera guide scope,laptop and an awful lot of time and patience in the process.all to find out in the out run that I made a silly mistake and wasted hrs of time in the freezing cold.however I can really relate to it.Does the risk out weigh the reward!?

of course it does as in the scheme of things practice does make perfect.and I admire amateurs who do take thease images and often put the pros to shame.its not just about trying to achieve those perfect images and it’s only the time and knowledge which is granted over time that you can produce those great shots in first place 

it’s also about the sense of achieving through the trials and errors you will be come triumphant.


Edited by Supernova74, 03 July 2020 - 03:58 PM.


#23 Echolight

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 04:28 PM

Maybe $4-5K.  You'd need a good mount, and two scopes.

The OP never mentioned AP. You could get both a C8/AVX and a ED80 on a Porta II or AZ-GTi and have some left over for a few eyepieces for $3k.

#24 MikeTahtib

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 04:39 PM

I've always had the opinion of "why look at EAA feeds or do astrophotography, when I can just google pictures of anything I want and see better results than I have the time or patience to learn how to produce?"  Now that I read Bobzeq and Hesiod's posts, I understand it better now, it makes more sense to me.   I will continue to be a visual-only person for the foreseeable future, but at least now I can appreciate the rationale better.  Thanks to both of you for posting. 

And of course, I have always enjoyed the fruits of the labor of astrophotographers who post here.  Really a highlight of reading through Cloudy Nights posts, seeing all the great photos.


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#25 Eddgie

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Posted 03 July 2020 - 06:47 PM

Image Intensified astronomy is very effective in light polluted skies.

 

Generation 3 image intensifiers are very sensitive to near infra-red light and as result of that, by using a long pass filter, a filter that only passes deep red and near infra-red light, almost all man made light pollution is very effectively suppressed.

 

Also, an image intensifier can produce as much limiting magnitude gain as tripling the aperture of a scope.  A 6" scope can show as many stars as faint as can be seen in an 18" scope. 

 

With narrow pass filters, nebula that you would struggle to see even from very dark skies, can sometimes be seen from semi-urban locations.  I live in a red zone, and the first time I ever saw the Horse Head Nebula in 30 years of trying was from my light polluted front yard, sitting on the curb, holding a $225 Comet Catcher in my lap.

 

I paid $2300 for every thing you see here, and with it, I have seen crazy amounts of stuff from my light polluted yard.

 

Orange Comet Catcher.jpg

 

Image intensified astronomy is probably the fastest growing segment on Cloudy Nights. At the end of 2019 I did a census and we had 49 people using image intensifiers (which was almost double from the year before) and in the last seven months, we have added about 34 more people and will probably pass the 100 mark before the end of the year.

 

Using an image intensifier is very much a visual observing experience.  There are no laptops or software involved, no external power cables, or anything else.   In the picture above, there is an image intensified eyepiece in the focuser of the Comet Catcher, and to use it, I point the scope at the subject, turn on the eyepiece, focus it, and look in to see the subject.  The view is real time.  There is no integration time, no shutter speed, no ISO or white balance or anything.

 

From my red zone, I can see all of Marcarian's Chain of galaxies, I can see striking detail in the Dumbell, Nebula, and using a 10" scope, seeing the Pillars of Creation, even from a light polluted yard is possible. 

 

On a very clear night (it happens when strong cold fronts move through) I can see incredible detail in Barnard's Loop.

 

On a decent night, the Milky Way is resplendent with the Great Rift being beautifully detailed, and the rich star clouds easily visible.   Night Vision observers spend a lot of time using very low power eyepieces because there are lots of big nebula and most many of these are visible even from semi-urban environments (California Nebula is huge and bright, Barnard's Loop is huge and it has a fish over it...)

 

Now it takes patience to find a nice used Gen 3 monocular but they come along in the $2000 price range sometimes, and with even a $300 6" imaging Newtonian, there is a staggering amount of stuff you can see. Spiral arms of M51?  Maybe not every night, that depends on your actual sky conditions, but I see them regularly from my red zone sky. using a 6" reflector.

 

Image intensifiers are saving astronomy for a lot of CN members.  I have been doing it for five years and of the 35 years I have been doing this, the last five have been by far and away the most productive and most fun of all of the 30 years before that put together.

 

 

This is a cell phone picture.  The phone is simply held up to the eyepiece.  There is no processing or enhancing.  It is essentially about a 2 second snapshot and I can tell you that the view in the eyepiece is much better than what this picture shows.   At the eyepiece, it is simply spectacular.  The level of nebulosity and the amount of detail is not really captured by this cell phone picture. This was taken from my red zone sky 4 miles from down town Austin and pointing toward the down town light dome.  Again, the picture fails at showing the sublime amount of detail that was visible (scope was a 12" dob, but even in a 6" reflector it is pretty outrageously beautiful.)

 

MX on M42 70.jpg

 

This is not imaging, though you can image with it, but most people are attracted to it because it is real time, so you can sit down, look in, and see amazing things.

 

And if you can get to dark skies, I will take your breath away.   I have been doing this for 5 years, and every time I go to darker skies, I still get humbled by majesty of our home galaxy.  Everyone should see the Milky Way through an image intensifier at least once in their lives.

 

If you want to know more, we have a dedicated forum here (Night Vision). One of our newest members just posted some of his first session results.  He lives jut north of Los Angeles. You might want to see what he has to say!


Edited by Eddgie, 03 July 2020 - 06:59 PM.

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