I'm glad you enjoyed the livestream - the accent as you might have guessed is from the West Country.
The primary difference between your visual and imaging setups is going to be your focus point. Thus, so long as you have everything to hand and can refocus you'll be fine switching. It may not be practical to switch back and forth multiple times unless you can set both visual and imaging up with a flip mirror, but I've no experience of this to know whether it's practical.
I plate solve with the image collected from the C8. The finder scope is there really just to give the audience a sense of some of the observing difficulties I face from my location. It is also helpful when I'm remote operating the rig, and sitting inside nice and comfy.
Yes you can setup with Starsense and then start imaging. Are you using the CPWI software from Celestron? If not, consider doing Starsense through this when imaging. Sharpcap Pro ($15/year) has an excellent polar alignment tool built-in. Use this and your polar alignment will be accurate to an arc minute or so. With platesolving you basically remove the need for multi-star alignment. All I do is ensure I've got good polar alignment (using SharpCap Pro), then Quick Align (which is basically skip alignment) in CPWI. I then slew the mount at a target, if the mounts within 15 degrees (which it will be), then platesolve through SharpCap (calling the All Sky Plate Solver) is precise. The target will appear right in the center of the screen when the mount corrects its position.
I use darks and flats. These are stored in a folder. I use these until I change the optical chain. I capture these using the appropriate SharpCap tools.
I setup focus at the beginning of a session with a Bahtinov Mask - again SharpCap Pro has a tool to help with this. If I feel I need to refocus mid session I just pop the mask back on. However, I find the C8 holds focusing without issue.
I seldom Meridian flipped when I was using the pointing model in CPWI, as I found pointing accuracy was much less (and outside my 0.5 degree FOV) on the flip side. Now I plate solve I don't worry any more. I just neutrally balance the OTA and away I go. Now the only problem with flipping is the occasional cable snag but that can be solved with better cable routing.
I do not have to weight the OTA to achieve declination balance, I have a long enough dovetail. I too use an AVX mount. I do use two counter weights, as I prefer the more central position of two weights compared to the practically-off-the-end position of one weight.
For planetary imaging I remove the focal reducer and add a Barlow. Thus, DSO and planetary imaging sessions don't really mix unless it's a long evening and you have time to make all those changes. I might even change out my 533MC for a 224MC as I get a faster frame rate with the latter, even if I use ROI selection with the 533.
I personally like color, particularly for outreach. However, mono imaging works well for galaxies, and I'm also just about to experiment near IR imaging (850-1100nm only) so even though I'm getting RGB from the 533MC I will just display in B&W. A dedicated mono camera will offer greater sensitivity so it might be a better fit for you.
Hope I got all or most of your questions - happy to answer any others you have. Great to see people getting into EAA and enhancing their astronomy experience.
PS: I wonder if my friend, Ross, will participate in Astronomy week - he runs Bolton Astronomical Assoc.
Thanks to all who have posted.
Gary I watched your YouTube. Wow -simply fantastic outreach and I watched the full 90 mins transfixed. My own Astrosoc are only now dabbling in such thinking ahead of our UK National Astronomy Week and boy is this a great example! I even understood the accent
So I have a few very simple follow ups from your session vs my situation...
Firstly I plan to continue visual observing - I mainly use the 8" for binoviewing and sketching. How realistic is it to remove the star diagonal and binoviewer and add the camera/live stacking "on the fly" during a night of casual observing or is it "one or the other" for each such session? I am thinking here of setup preps etc.
Next you used a finder scope and then plate solved. I plan to keep my StarSense as the main route for auto set up since (as I said) some nights I will just be visually observing. Can I set up via SS and just use the camera from then? My alignments can be variable depending on how I set the scope pointing to Polaris (as a guess since I cannot see it from my house) but the targets are always found in a 40mm eyepiece and often the 20 mm. I then realign using the SkySafari app on my iPad and move on from there. Could I just switch over to the camera and plate solve thereafter (I know ASIAIR has its own polar set up routine but can I just skip that bit?)
You used flats and darks. Are these set up every night or do you do this once for the camera and file them away?
You had the targets in focus as you started out. Had you done the focussing on the viewfinder star first? Can you just tweak the focussing during your go-to observations?
You were anxious about meridian passages. I never worry normally - I am next to the scope and keep an eye on things although pointing can sometimes be a little off. Is this why you were worried?
Does balance of this extended set up (especially if filters or a Barlow is adding into the chain) require any weights on the scope itself? Like you, I have the 8" SCT on the AVX? Attaching barlows all straightforward with such a set up?
Planets. I realise each camera has its main domain to work in but if you had slewed to a planet the other night, what might you have needed to do? Basically more mag and so you have to add a Barlow.? This again can be done of the fly or do you need to decide it DSOs or Planets for each session?
What was crystal clear to me was that this technique allows that extra detail to nail the target, especially (for me) nebulae and the fainter galaxies. I guess I am not yet convinced I'll move into astrophotography so black and white might be sufficient for my needs? Any visual detection advantages (beyond the view) between equivalent mono vs colour? Might mono be better for detection vs colour for presentation?
But as I said my grateful thanks to you and the group...