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How To: Imaging Satellites

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#1 mic1970

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 03:57 PM

Is there a good how to on imaging satellites?



#2 Couder

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 06:18 PM

Here's what I found. 

 

https://www.bing.com...=ANNTA1&PC=U531

 

We were out one night and saw what we thought was a satellite. We watched it for some time, could not get a decent view in a scope. It wasn't moving with the sky. It was quite some time before we could figure it was a small plane, heading exactly at us. 


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#3 Tulloch

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 06:20 PM

Here's how I do it.

 

Pre-focus on a star, align the finder with your OTA as well as you can, decide on a gain/shutter speed (and usually get it wrong smile.gif), shoot full frame at your native f/num and set the memory buffer to the maximum you can on your laptop.

 

Once you can see the satellite, start recording, loosen the clutches on your mount, peer down your finder and try to keep it on the cross-hairs by manhandling the OTA as the satellite tracks across the sky. After you've finished, analyse the 20000 frames or so you've captured in PIPP, rejecting anything that doesn't have a bright object, then manually go through the few hundred frames you've captured that actually has something in the frame. 

 

With any luck, you might have a few frames that are not over/underexposed, are not too blurry and process the best one(s) in your favourite editing software. Here's my latest effort on the ISS

https://www.cloudyni...flyover-12-dec/

 

Andrew


Edited by Tulloch, 20 April 2021 - 07:08 PM.

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#4 photoracer18

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 06:42 PM

A lot of go-to mounts can track satellites, they just have to have servo motors with high voltage power. Possibly some hybrid stepper drives. There is a minimum slewing speed needed to track them and I don't remember how many degrees per second that is.



#5 Borodog

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 08:10 PM

Or, do it the easy way: image the geosynchronous satellites. They are the dots amongst the star trails when you are *not* tracking.



#6 descott12

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 08:24 PM

I am a total newb but I have found that manually holding the OTA (unmounted) and aligning it with my finder/rdf/whatever is alot easier than trying to track it while mounted. Seems kinda of counterintuitive but, at least on a EQ mount, I found it really tough to get anything in view and to track it at all. Probably easier on an Alt-Az if you loosen the clutches?

 

Use a camera with the the widest FOV you can achieve, use a very fast exposure (like around 1 ms or less), use MONO8 to decrease the amount of data and go for it.

I have tried for the ISS about 5 times by hand-holding my C8 and each time I get a little better at keeping it on the sensor.


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#7 Borodog

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 08:39 AM

I bet you could fit some pistol grips to the mounting rail, particularly with a smaller, shorter OTA like a Mak. 



#8 mic1970

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 09:00 AM

Thanks team...



#9 descott12

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 09:55 AM

There is also a program called SkyTracker that is designed to slew your scope ahead of the satellites and allow them to drift thru your FOV. The interface looks very nice but I have never been able to get it to work successfully and my few help emails to the developer have not been replied to...

YMMV.



#10 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 10:36 AM

I'm interested in this as well.  But not just for getting pictures of dots against trailing stars, but actual detail out of a satellite.  We've all seen the ISS shots with their incredible detail but that thing is yuge.  Obviously individual satellites are much smaller, so you'd be limited to LEO objects, and the larger ones at that.

 

Has anyone successfully imaged a LEO sat with amateur equipment?



#11 RedLionNJ

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Posted 21 April 2021 - 05:50 PM

I'm interested in this as well.  But not just for getting pictures of dots against trailing stars, but actual detail out of a satellite.  We've all seen the ISS shots with their incredible detail but that thing is yuge.  Obviously individual satellites are much smaller, so you'd be limited to LEO objects, and the larger ones at that.

 

Has anyone successfully imaged a LEO sat with amateur equipment?

There are many amateur mounts capable of tracking satellites, based upon the latest TLEs.

 

If you have a Paramount, for example, in conjunction with TheSkyX, you can download latest TLEs and TSX will display predicted trails for the next few minutes - select the one you're interested in and the mount will slew to it AND FOLLOW THE PREDICTED PATH at the appropriate time.  The on-screen visualization in TSX then lets you adjust the pointing offset relative to the predicted path, allowing for centering, etc.  Once you get a target near the center, it invariably stays there until the end of its visible path.

 

Colors and shapes are most definitely visible on targets smaller than the ISS. Tian-gong is a nice one - usually a beautiful coppery color with distinct chambers (a bit like a smaller, rounder ISS). If you're near enough the equator to see the HST, that's also an impressive object, with (orientation permitting) the solar panels, OTA and cover-flap all visible.

 

I believe there's also an app called something like Sat-Tracker, which can drive an altaz-mounted LX200 (and some other ASCOM-compatible scopes supporting MoveAxis) by way of utilizing a well-aligned guide scope. Once the satellite is within the guide scope's FOV, the software literally issues "MoveAxis" commands via ASCOM to bring the object to the center of the field.  So if your guidescope is well-aligned with your main OTA, you can image for quite a few seconds during each pass.



#12 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 22 April 2021 - 08:35 AM

Are there any good sites or CN threads with pictures of these?


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