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Looking to shoot Nebulas with my un-modded DSLR

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#1 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 13 August 2020 - 06:28 PM

I'm watching the days tick by and some good targets are falling into the horizon.  Today I watched a video by Nico of Nebula Photos on Youtube.  Inspired by the result with inexpensive equipment I thought to myself that I'd love to try my hand at the Lagoon Nebula.  This thought disappeared when I looked at the star chart.  It looks like I've missed another promising target.

 

I really would like to switch gears once in a while away from the galaxies and give some of the more prominent nebulas a try.  The problem is that every time that I try doing so I am not seeing the target, and even if I could I don't know if I would be able to adequately process the image if I could.

 

I own a UHC-2 filter which I only used once with disappointing results.  I don't really know what to expect out of the filter.  I bought the filter realizing that it would not bring in as much brightness as I would without the filter.  My hope was that by taking more photos of a subject that I would be able to get a very good color representation including the harder to capture color ranges such as HA.  I also have heard that you could get just as good of results if I was to process out the colors, you would perhaps just scale back on some colors and pull out the needed colors.  

 

I am wondering at what point does it make more sense to use a filter such as that which I own over going without a filter?  Would you use the filter if your photos would be otherwise over exposed with some of the color so you could pick out the correct detail?  Or would you use the images collected with the filter to combine with images captured without a filter?

 

I would love to get some images of a decent nebula if I knew it was possible to get a stack up that you could be proud of.  I have captured some images of Orion over the Winter months, but nothing else that I've tried has showed to be promising.  With the equipment I have might I be able to capture decent nebula images?  The imaging equipment that I have ranges from a 50mm lens, a 180mm lens up to my Apertura 60mm telescope.  I am shooting this with a Nikon D5500.

 

I believe the lesser problem might be in acquiring the target given a close examination of the stars with the neighborhood of the target even though in some respects this is a little like finding a blind target.

 

I don't have a lot of money to work with but I would like to at some point make purchases that would increase the capability of capturing nebula type targets.  I am wondering whether it might be a good investment to get a used DSLR with the full spectrum mod?  I like the idea of doing this because I already have several lens which could outfit to this.  I don't know though if there might be ways in which a limited amount of money might be spent.

 

Processing wise I do feel there may be a little bit more promise for the future.  I own the Astro Pixel Processor software but I just recently picked up a seat of StarTools which I really appreciated how well it drew colors out with Andromeda.

 

I've been mulling this over for a long time.  I'm hoping that there might be some good advice on the best approach to take with taking advantage of what the sky has to offer.


Edited by Paul in Northern Michigan, 13 August 2020 - 06:40 PM.


#2 celeron787

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Posted 13 August 2020 - 06:43 PM

I think you will do perfectly fine with your current equipment.
Here's mine from a few weeks ago, unmodded A6000, no filters, bortle 8, simple processing in startools.
I'm sure you can get a much better image if your skies are darker.
get.jpg?insecure
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#3 BQ Octantis

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Posted 13 August 2020 - 06:57 PM

Your 180mm f/2.8 is your best friend. The North America and Swan Nebulas are practically at zenith for you. Have you tried those? And what's the speed of your 50mm? The full extent of the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way stretches across the sky at nightfall, and a fast 50mm is ideal to capture it.

 

My workhorse is a 200mm f/2.8 on an unmodded APS-C DSLR. I get away with 30sec subs, and it only takes about 2 hours of integration on a bright nebula to get good results at 100%-200% scale:

 

get.jpg?insecure

 

For a dimmer target, it's more like 4 hours:

 

get.jpg?insecure

 

From what I've read, the "ideal" ISO on your D5500 is 100-200.

 

Cheers,

 

BQ


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#4 Devonshire

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Posted 13 August 2020 - 07:14 PM

Paul,

 

Can't speak to the lenses, but the Nikon will be fine.  I use an unmodded D5300, just southeast of you, in Essex County, Ontario, and I mostly shoot nebulas.  You probably have much less light pollution than I do.   I usually shoot with a CLS-CCD filter, due to things being a bit light polluted where I am.  Yes, a modded camera would be nice, but just log some extra time-on-target and you will be fine.

 

As to acquiring and framing the target, the usual drill is to use plate solving with with ASCOM or INDI and guide.  That will get you bang on target, even if you cannot see the target, and then enable longer exposures.  I'm not familiar with your Skyguider, but you might want to look into how far it can take you down that road.   

 

Anyway, your camera is probably not going to limit you for a long time.  And if you have dark skies, you may not need those filters (beyond, maybe...a UV/IR filter if fringing is a problem).  

 

Hope this helps...


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#5 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 13 August 2020 - 09:33 PM

Your 180mm f/2.8 is your best friend. The North America and Swan Nebulas are practically at zenith for you. Have you tried those? And what's the speed of your 50mm? The full extent of the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way stretches across the sky at nightfall, and a fast 50mm is ideal to capture it.

 

My workhorse is a 200mm f/2.8 on an unmodded APS-C DSLR. I get away with 30sec subs, and it only takes about 2 hours of integration on a bright nebula to get good results at 100%-200% scale:

 

get.jpg?insecure

 

For a dimmer target, it's more like 4 hours:

 

get.jpg?insecure

 

From what I've read, the "ideal" ISO on your D5500 is 100-200.

 

Cheers,

 

BQ

BQ:  The focal ratio of my 50mm lens is 1.8.  I have not shot a lot with it, but I have been tempted to try shooting a portion of the Milky Way with this.

 

Even though nebulosity is not evident I am going to attempt to capture a large region of what Stellarium shows as nebulosity surrounding the star Sadr in the Cygnus constellation.  This was super easy to set up but I really have no elevated expectations at this point.

 

I appreciate your reminder of the best ISO range for Nikon D5500.  I have been shooting around ISO800.  I dropped down to ISO400 tonight.  Baby steps until I can see the true ability of my camera to shoot as low as the recommended.  I will be trying 1 minute exposures.  I will be using my 180mm lens for tonight using the focal ratio of 4.0 (which was recommended to me due to the vignetting with this older lens).

 

So, I have no idea of what to expect.  I don't know whether I should be using different settings with my camera from what I was using for shooting galaxies.  It may be that I dive a little with my ISO if I see StarTools (which I'm new with) can pull out the detail.

 

Everyone:  Thanks for the encouragement! It is great to know that success is possible with moderate equipment.  I'm crossing my fingers for success this evening, it would go a long way towards catching the Nebula bug.



#6 BQ Octantis

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 02:24 AM

BQ:  The focal ratio of my 50mm lens is 1.8.  I have not shot a lot with it, but I have been tempted to try shooting a portion of the Milky Way with this.

 

Even though nebulosity is not evident I am going to attempt to capture a large region of what Stellarium shows as nebulosity surrounding the star Sadr in the Cygnus constellation.  This was super easy to set up but I really have no elevated expectations at this point.

 

I appreciate your reminder of the best ISO range for Nikon D5500.  I have been shooting around ISO800.  I dropped down to ISO400 tonight.  Baby steps until I can see the true ability of my camera to shoot as low as the recommended.  I will be trying 1 minute exposures.  I will be using my 180mm lens for tonight using the focal ratio of 4.0 (which was recommended to me due to the vignetting with this older lens).

 

So, I have no idea of what to expect.  I don't know whether I should be using different settings with my camera from what I was using for shooting galaxies.  It may be that I dive a little with my ISO if I see StarTools (which I'm new with) can pull out the detail.

 

Everyone:  Thanks for the encouragement! It is great to know that success is possible with moderate equipment.  I'm crossing my fingers for success this evening, it would go a long way towards catching the Nebula bug.

For the nebula, I highly recommend shooting the 300 f/2.8 at f/2.8. The purpose of a flat is to correct the vignetting. And the difference in integration times is equal to the square of the focal ratios. So the integration times needed at f/2.8 are (2.8/4)2 = 50% that of f/4. Otherwise, I would recommend no less than 60 second subs at f/4. And 4-8 hours of integration time.


Edited by BQ Octantis, 14 August 2020 - 03:42 AM.


#7 spereira

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 07:17 AM

Moving to DSLR ...

 

smp



#8 06AwzIyI

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 10:19 AM

I believe the lesser problem might be in acquiring the target given a close examination of the stars with the neighborhood of the target even though in some respects this is a little like finding a blind target.


Check out All Sky Plate Solver

#9 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 10:49 AM

As to acquiring and framing the target, the usual drill is to use plate solving with with ASCOM or INDI and guide.  That will get you bang on target, even if you cannot see the target, and then enable longer exposures.  I'm not familiar with your Skyguider, but you might want to look into how far it can take you down that road.   

 

Check out All Sky Plate Solver

I don't know if this addresses plate solving but at this point I really don't have any electronic assistance with my setup.  The SkyGuider Pro is not capable of auto movement in all axis (even with the name SkyGuider Pro).

 

 

I could attach something to my SkyGuider Pro such as through ASIAir and INDI but then I lose some portability as well as requiring a power source.

 

I also do not use a computer with my setup, even though I am using my iPad as an intervalometer with the Cascable app.

 

I would like to eventually get a mount that is more conducive to true auto guiding, but not within the foreseeable future with my SkyGuider Pro.

 

I guess my question is whether there might be a simple plate solving solution without any electronic control?

 

I briefly looked at the "All Sky Plate Solver".  I am questioning whether this might work with my DSLR and no electronic tie ins?

 

This would be awesome to be able to know from just an image how close to the target I actually am.

 

Last night I easily found Sadr (which I am processing) but I have no clue whether I found the Heart and Soul Nebula which I also targeted due to Sadr falling under tree line.  By eye it is difficult to determine whether I was lined up or not.



#10 Blackbelt76

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 11:00 AM

Like you, I too shoot a un-modded DSLR, but decided to get away from my 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom.

Although I got some OK images, I decided to buy a AT 72EDII; not a mistake as my results are dramatically improved...

Less coma/distortion from using a zoom.

 

Don't forget to "dither" some between frames.

I do it manually with the hand controller, just a few random moves in DEC and RA, usually just a few arc secs between frames.

Walking noise was killing my images; dithering cured it.



#11 DubbelDerp

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 11:08 AM

If you have a laptop in the field, you can use ASPS to platesolve any image, like one you just took. Then sync it with a planetarium program like Stellarium, and it will show you on your screen where your camera is pointing. Adjust, take another photo, platesolve, sync... it works pretty well.

#12 Alen K

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 11:18 AM

Ah, seems most young pups rely on plate solving nowadays to find anything they can't see by eye. "There's an app for that." You know what we did before plate solving was available? We used a star chart (dead tree edition) and, if necessary, a pair of binoculars. We just looked for stars surrounding the location of the target that we _could_ see in the camera's viewfinder, which enabled both finding and framing. In fact, that's how I still find and frame things for which I don't already know the location from previous efforts.

Want to find and frame the Heart and Soul? With Cassiopeia in the eastern sky, look to the left of the Double Cluster. All three fit into the frame of a 100mm lens on APS-C. Aim there and take short high ISO exposures to refine your aim.


Edited by Alen K, 14 August 2020 - 11:21 AM.

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#13 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 11:18 AM

Like you, I too shoot a un-modded DSLR, but decided to get away from my 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom.

Although I got some OK images, I decided to buy a AT 72EDII; not a mistake as my results are dramatically improved...

Less coma/distortion from using a zoom.

 

Don't forget to "dither" some between frames.

I do it manually with the hand controller, just a few random moves in DEC and RA, usually just a few arc secs between frames.

Walking noise was killing my images; dithering cured it.

I am glad that you were able to get better results from getting your zoom lens out of the setup, and importantly you can do this without a modded camera and I'm assuming no filter.

 

Unfortunately I don't believe I can dither because I can't automatically control DEC and RA with the SkyGuider Pro.  Ivo at StarTools too suggested that dithering would be a great help.  Yet another reason to purchase at some point a new mount.



#14 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 11:43 AM

If you have a laptop in the field, you can use ASPS to platesolve any image, like one you just took. Then sync it with a planetarium program like Stellarium, and it will show you on your screen where your camera is pointing. Adjust, take another photo, platesolve, sync... it works pretty well.

Thank you for your 2nd on the All Sky Plate Solver.

 

Unfortunately this appears only to be Windows based, my MacBook is the only laptop I own that I could take outside with me.

 

I am quite interested in something that could plate solve portably to an image.

 

There are likely Raspberry pi solutions but I don't own that and would need to be able to power this.

 

I can easily import a photo into my iPad or MacBook through Cascable over the camera's wifi connection.



#15 DubbelDerp

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 11:52 AM

Even better! Download Kstars (a planetarium app) and use the bundled Ekos, which is a capture/focus/platesolve/guide/everything you could imagine program. You can drive your camera through it and platesolve directly without having to switch between programs.

And for the record, I find invisible targets the old fashioned way. It’s not that difficult with a bit of practice.

 

Edit - I’ve been dithering my Skyguider Pro in RA-only, and it works really well. It requires a guidescope and guide camera, but you can either use PHD2 or the internal Ekos guider to control the Skyguider Pro. I think there’s a skyguider pro driver in Ekos, but I’m not sure how it works. I think there’s even a way to dither without guiding, but again, not sure how you would connect it to the tracker. 


Edited by DubbelDerp, 14 August 2020 - 12:02 PM.

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#16 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 01:14 PM

Even better! Download Kstars (a planetarium app) and use the bundled Ekos, which is a capture/focus/platesolve/guide/everything you could imagine program. You can drive your camera through it and platesolve directly without having to switch between programs.

And for the record, I find invisible targets the old fashioned way. It’s not that difficult with a bit of practice.

 

Edit - I’ve been dithering my Skyguider Pro in RA-only, and it works really well. It requires a guidescope and guide camera, but you can either use PHD2 or the internal Ekos guider to control the Skyguider Pro. I think there’s a skyguider pro driver in Ekos, but I’m not sure how it works. I think there’s even a way to dither without guiding, but again, not sure how you would connect it to the tracker. 

When using the Kstars in conjunction with Ekos does this necessitate the use of Raspberry Pi?  Not that I'm dead set against including the requirement to attach something electronic along with it's power source but I'm leaning away from that if possible with this setup.  If it isn't I'm curious how this would interface to the camera.

 

I too might be a hold out for doing manual star hopping to find a target of interest.  With galaxies I'm not having very much issue with this anymore.

 

Last evening I made a mistake by taking a test image intended to be ISO400 for 60 seconds and ended up taking an ISO6400 at 90 seconds (because I didn't program a 60 second test program in Cascable) and immediately could see the red nebulosity.  This confirmed what otherwise would have been a blind shoot.  This might be one way of achieving a manual solution to the approximate area of the target.  It really seems to help being able to see the actual target on the screen to be able to make appropriate adjustments.  Unfortunately the same test did not reveal the Heart and Soul Nebula.

 

I do have Charles Bracken's astrophotography atlas, and also have Stellarium as a visual guide. I quite easily get fooled however by star brightness, sometimes not seeing the intended star pattern in the sky.

 

Allen K:  In finding the Heart and Soul I can see the double cluster by eye as well of course Cassiopeia.  I'm just not visually locating Heart and Soul.  With my present set up I am using my 180mm lens which would not capture the trio.  I could step down to my 50mm lens but it might not have the same visual impact as the 180mm would.



#17 DubbelDerp

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 01:19 PM

You can run it right from a Mac or Linux laptop. You only need a raspberry pi if you’re running windows, since ekos doesn’t work on windows. Connect your camera via USB, and when you get a guide camera, connect the camera to the laptop via usb and then the guide camera to the skyguider with an ST4 cable. Then you can set up a shot sequence in Ekos and have it guide and dither the mount. 


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#18 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 02:39 PM

You can run it right from a Mac or Linux laptop. You only need a raspberry pi if you’re running windows, since ekos doesn’t work on windows. Connect your camera via USB, and when you get a guide camera, connect the camera to the laptop via usb and then the guide camera to the skyguider with an ST4 cable. Then you can set up a shot sequence in Ekos and have it guide and dither the mount. 

That is very interesting.  It appears the advantage here would be that you wouldn't have to power anything as it would operate over the Mac.  The big secondary advantage would be that you could actually perform a dither (which I'm assuming could work in only 1 axis).  The downside would be that you would need to somehow set up a guide camera that would be able to be mounted to potentially several different lens combinations.  

 

Thanks for the idea, I love what it might be able to do.  

 

Right now I pretty much have a way to attach my camera to the 3 lens that I own and simply tighten the arca swiss plates to the arca swiss clamp and it is plug and play.  I could potentially get rid of my laser sight for the telescope and the 180mm lens, purchase 1 or 2 of the guide cameras and still be plug and play with them.  Theoretically for the 50mm lens I wouldn't need any guiding; just find the correct neighborhood and fine tune.

 

I will certainly look into this as it could solve 2 problems.

 

I'm not sure I will decide to go this route but there certainly has been an evolution process to the fine tuning of the SkyGuider Pro setup.  If not for some small limitations you can have a nearly endless amount of things to image and improve upon.



#19 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 02:48 PM

I just processed last evening's images in APP and StarTools.

 

No, it isn't perfect but I'm extremely happy with the prospect of finding other targets to shoot and not having to avoid targets due to the amount of red within them.

 

This was 192 light frames at 1 minute each exposure using ISO400.

 

Sadr 200813 St


#20 fmeschia

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 02:58 PM

Go ahead and shoot with the unmodified camera! These were all taken with an unmodified Nikon:

 

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#21 brlasy1

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 03:22 PM

Shoot away.  

 

Here's Lagoon/Trifid and Milky Way.  

 

Unmodded Nikon D5100, twenty(ish) lights and darks X 25 seconds, 55-200 and 18-55 Nikon zoom lens at f5.6, Omegon XL2 "oven timer" tracker, JPEGs (oh! the horror!), processed with Starry Sky Stacker and Photos on my Mac.  

 

Not great, by any measure, but only about an hour invested on each, and my Facebook friends like them. 

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#22 BQ Octantis

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 07:37 PM

I am glad that you were able to get better results from getting your zoom lens out of the setup, and importantly you can do this without a modded camera and I'm assuming no filter.

 

Unfortunately I don't believe I can dither because I can't automatically control DEC and RA with the SkyGuider Pro.  Ivo at StarTools too suggested that dithering would be a great help.  Yet another reason to purchase at some point a new mount.

You can dither without guiding. Just manually offset the DEC by a few 10's of pixels once every 20-30 minutes. Nothing to it.



#23 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 07:55 PM

You can dither without guiding. Just manually offset the DEC by a few 10's of pixels once every 20-30 minutes. Nothing to it.

Perhaps you can do this but it likely is beyond my coordination or lack therof.smile.gif

 

Invariably when I'm fine tuning the positioning after dark I loosen up the axis too much or too little so when I turn the camera/lens combo the end result is very unpredictable.

 

Seriously though; is this something in which you initially go in one direction and then after 20 minutes go a little to the opposite direction of the declination axis, trading back and forth?



#24 BQ Octantis

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 08:24 PM

Perhaps you can do this but it likely is beyond my coordination or lack therof.smile.gif

 

Invariably when I'm fine tuning the positioning after dark I loosen up the axis too much or too little so when I turn the camera/lens combo the end result is very unpredictable.

 

Seriously though; is this something in which you initially go in one direction and then after 20 minutes go a little to the opposite direction of the declination axis, trading back and forth?

Even better—just loosen and tighten up the axes and you're dithered! laugh.gif I have the same problem with the azimuth bolt on my EQ2, but it has a motor controller on the RA and a fine-control knob on the DEC. Does the Skyguider Pro not allow you to drive the mount without touching it?

 

Seriously, it doesn't take all that much—and at 180mm f/2.8, there are usually at least one or two stars in the field in LiveView to key on. When there aren't, I'll just hit the DEC button briefly and then verify on the screen with a 5 second ISO12800 shot. I don't have a precise repointing method that I follow. Last night I shot C101, and I purposefully started with the galaxy on one side of the DEC center with the intent to offset it to the middle and then to the other side. But usually it's just random.



#25 DubbelDerp

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 09:44 PM

Paul, here’s how I have my guide camera attached. I put the guidescope base on an arca-Swiss clamp, and mounted the imaging camera to a long arca-Swiss plate. The long plate with the imaging camera clamps on a pano-head on the skyguider pro, and then the guide scope/camera clamps to the bottom of the plate towards the front. This helps counterbalance the imaging camera, and lowers the moment of inertia in RA with having the guide camera below the imaging camera. Plug and play, and it easily swaps between lenses and scopes.  

Sorry about the image rotation...

76DFB108-3D8C-4C67-83BB-860037679931.jpeg


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