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Astrophotography Gear Research

Astrophotography Beginner Equipment
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#1 samroon

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Posted 11 May 2021 - 10:56 PM

Hi Everyone-

 

I have stumbled upon so many fantastic posts here in the forums and have gained great insight through this community, but this is my first time posting.

 

I'm still in the research phase for the gear I would like to start out with. As most of you probably know, that can be a daunting task. For a beginner, we not only don't know what we're doing, but we also have little understanding of all the gear that is needed in order to take decent photos.

 

I have been researching the gear almost daily for more than 7 months. I feel I have an 'ok' understanding of the basics around the numbers, the type of scopes, and their unique pros/cons for specific targets. What I don't know are things that can only come from experience, and so I have a couple of questions for this community.

 

This will be a bit long so I'll break it down into parts:

  1. Location challenges
  2. What I plan to use it for
  3. The OTA

Location Challenges

I have two location challenges I need advice on:

 

I live in Helsinki, Finland. My exact location is classified as Bortle 8-9, but having lived in New York City for the better part of a decade I can look at the sky and tell you that light pollution is not nearly as bad here. I can see stars and planets with the naked eye at night.

 

My assumption is that I will be able to bypass most of the light pollution using a workflow that includes shooting with narrowband filters, mono, and combining them properly in post production. 

 

My question is, can I really expect to capture anything worthwhile in bortle 8-9 skies with narrowband filters? If not, do you have any recommendations as to how I can cut through the light pollution for astrophotography specifically? 

 

The second location challenge is that I live on top of a 7-story building. I am planning to set the scope up on a part of the roof that is mostly blocking the wind, but not entirely. I know a lot of people have issues with the wind on the ground, so I'm pretty worried about whether or not this is a laughable location or if it's possible to get halfway decent long-exposure shots without putting an observatory up.

 

What I Plan To Use It For

 

The community always starts here when responding to beginner questions so I'll share my thoughts. 

 

I became obsessed with astrophotography after seeing Mars last year when it was super bright. I love looking at images of Nebulae and that's what really pushed me over the edge to get into this hobby. Right now I am obsessed with galaxies and would love to be able to capture them with great detail. I'm not that interested in imaging star clusters or planets at the moment, although I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't want to see some of the planets visually with the scope. I just don't want to make any buying decisions based on that.

 

I realize that it sounds like an easy answer is that I want to shoot deep sky objects. I agree, but with one clarification: I have created a list of potential targets and using https://astronomy.to.../field_of_view/ . Many of the targets I wish to image require some pretty extreme focal lengths and almost all of them look better to me close up.

 

My assumption is that I would most likely benefit from an OTA with a medium-range focal length that I could use with a reducer or a (reasonable) barlow lens to get closer or further away depending on what I'm imaging. (to me, medium range is anything between 700-1200mm) 

 

My question is: recognizing that I won't be able to shoot everything in the sky perfectly with a single scope, am I thinking about the focal length accurately in order to create a more versatile setup? If not, what would you recommend?

 

The OTA

 

I was pretty sold on buying an apochromatic refractor with an aperture over 100mm and a focal length of more than 700mm until I saw the price range. I realize that apochromatic refractors are ideal for astrophotography in the sense that they achieve a very high level of detail and contrast in astro-imaging. Not only would I not have to worry about collimation (hopefully) with an APO, but really good APO OTAs produce amazing images.

 

The hard reality is that I can't afford an APO that would achieve the aperture and focal length I am looking for. So that leads me to think about more affordable options. (take that statement with a grain of salt)

 

Trying to keep this post as short as I can, my thoughts have focused in on Schmidt-Cassegrain or a Maksutov. I like these options because they have corrector plates. I am very nervous about collimation - not because I don't feel I'll be able to get the hang of it, but because I don't want to do it all the time and I don't want to get discouraged from the hobby as a result.

 

And in total contrast with my own thought process, if I am going to open the door to collimation, should I just simply jump in head first with an RC? Most professionals use these types of scopes which means there is a path forward with them that can lead to amazing astro-photos. 

 

My assumption is that if I can't afford an APO, a Schmidt-Cassegrain is the best option for my needs. I can achieve the aperture and focal length at a price that works for me.

 

My question is: As a beginner should I just aim for an Achromatic refractor? They're more affordable, but I feel I won't get the image quality I am hoping for. Am I thinking the right way about this?

 

Thank You

 

If you read all of this: I really appreciate your time and any insights you can provide to any of my questions. 



#2 bobzeq25

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Posted 11 May 2021 - 11:13 PM

Insight.  No, you are not thinking the right way.  <smile>

 

You're making an extremely common error, very often seen on this site, even from experienced imagers.

 

You're not distinguishing _learning_ imaging and _doing_ imaging.  These two tasks are not the same.

 

In particular, looking at the theoretical capability of a scope or what an experienced imager can do with this, can send you down a long, hard road.

 

So, forget about images.  Think about learning how to image.  The best OTA for learning imaging is:

 

Short.  No more than 600mm.  480 is better.

 

Light.  No more than 10 pounds, 5 is better.

 

Fast.  No slower than F6.

 

If your goal is to image small targets with a biog scope, you'll reach it significantly faster/better/cheaper if you start with a small scope and big bright targets.

 

This is not an original idea with me.  It comes from studying beginner experiences, what works, what doesn't.  And reading the books from experienced imagers who also like to help beginners (as I do).

 

To demonstrate that, examples are helpful.  Note "learn" in this.

 

"I regret spending the first 6 months trying to learn imaging with an 8" Edge, with that scope it was a losing effort. Fortunately got a nice little refractor, and not only have the quality of my images improved but I'm actually enjoying the process of learning how to do it!"

 

A talented beginner, looking back on his first year.

 

"First and foremost is listen to the folks who have been there. The philosophy of 80MM APO and good $1500-2000 mount is great advice for beginners. Sure you can possibly <learn to> image as a beginner with something that is larger or that you may have but holy cow its hard enough with something small."

 

15 minutes spent watching this video could save you a lot of money, and hours of frustration.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=MNQU1hdqz4M

 

Here's a good starter book.  Scroll down to the picture of the very experienced author.  That's a $500 70mm refractor on a $1200 Sirius (aka HEQ5) mount.  He did not choose those because he had them lying around.  <smile>  For $1700 + camera, it's about the ideal setup to learn imaging with.

 

https://www.astropix...bgda_index.html

 

Yes, he spent a lot more on the mount.  Because it's more important than the scope (or the camera).  Long exposures change _everything_.

 

If that's too much money, the answer is to make the "scope" even smaller.  Camera tracker/camera/lens.

 

Big scopes do not help you learn.  They get in the way.  Make everything much harder.  And more expensive.  For learning, they are simply the wrong tool for the job.

 

The mount is all important.

 

Minor points.  The professional RCs bear no relation to the inexpensive ones you're looking at.  The dual hyperbolic mirrors are very sensitive to mechanical construction, and the professional ones show it.  Click below the picture for the view from the rear.  That look anything at all like the RCs you're looking at?

 

https://www.deepspac...remax33-version

 

The inexpensive ones put all their money into the mirrors, and the mechanical construction is shortchanged.  I, listening to people here, started with an 80mm refractor.  After a few months I was turning out halfway decent stuff and got a 6RC.  One of the worst mistakes in imaging I ever made, set my progress back months.

 

Whether or not the roof will work depends on how solid it is.  But it's unlikely to be solid enough.  .03mm of movement is too much, will ruin your image.

 

Which (coming full circle) is why the mount is so important.


Edited by bobzeq25, 11 May 2021 - 11:49 PM.

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#3 idclimber

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Posted 11 May 2021 - 11:25 PM

I purchased a 102mm refractor. I am using it this week at 700mm because I am trying to image M51 with it. It is Galaxy season. 

 

Otherwise that scope spends most of its time with a reducer at 535mm. The suggestion for a smaller refractor over a medium size one is excellent. 

 

Oh, I also have a very nice SCT with all the proper accessories to image with it. The refractor is my preference due to better image quality. 



#4 TOMDEY

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Posted 11 May 2021 - 11:33 PM

bob is right on there. --- small steps --- You really won't land on your ideal optimum forever imaging kit after seven months of ~researching~ what you think it would be. It's time to simply dive in with something modest that will give encouraging results and experience. That will steer you toward what you will ultimately know is the next manageable step (which may be anywhere from no change to grandiose). It will very likely be something significantly different from what you are imagining now.    Tom


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#5 astrohound24

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Posted 11 May 2021 - 11:36 PM

I listened to these guys on here and they were 1000% correct. I followed their advice in the beginning and I was able to learn without crashing and burning. Moved to a wide field refractor now and larger mount from cameras and lenses and trackers but still like to use them too. I haven’t regretted the progression at all.

#6 ravenhawk82

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Posted 11 May 2021 - 11:51 PM

Everyone above me has some good insights. I think it's important to consider the goals of any aspiring astronomer before making the oft repeated recommendations of a small short scope to learn on out of habit though. I learned on a 6" RC. It wasn't nearly as easy as if I had started with a small apo refractor, but it's absolutely doable. There is more work involved, no doubt about it, and it's important to consider that reality, but that doesn't mean it can't be done as long as you're realistic with the effort you're willing to put into the craft to get results. If someone's goals are to shoot small objects I think it's counter productive to recommend something ill suited to the task because "it's easier." Especially when costs are considered, as hundreds of extra dollars spent (assuming they later move to a scope more suited to the task) to smooth the learning curve a bit aren't realistic to everyone. It's okay to start a little bigger if you do your research and make sure you're up to a little extra challenge, otherwise I'd follow other's advice and start with a nice 60-80mm apo and have a blast. 

To answer your first question, yes, narrowband imaging from under heavy light pollution is indeed possible. I'd go so far as to say that's the primary advantage of narrowband photography outside of a scientific environment. You can see what you're looking for and able to reject the rest. The tradeoff is significantly longer exposure times but the detail gained by filtering out light pollution is well worth it. Being on top of a building presents its own challenges, but if Astrobiscuit can have the success he does from the top of his London apartment I'm sure it can be done. Stability and wind will be a factor no doubt so you may end up throwing more frames away than you otherwise would but such is the tradeoff of convenience. There's always the option of traveling somewhere darker when time allows.

Of the choices you suggested, I'd steer clear of a mak-cass. They're fantastic visual and planetary scopes but ill suited to DSO photography due to their slow optical systems. My 6RC comes in at F9 without a reducer and it's a chore to get good shots of dimmer objects in that configuration. I can't imagine trying at F12 or higher. Given the criteria you have lined out, I'd actually lean toward an 8" newtonian with a coma corrector. GSO (and the companies that rebrand their scopes such as Astro Tech, Orion, etc) sells an 8" F4 newt made for imaging. This would put you at 800mm of focal length, right around where you're looking, with an optical system much faster than anything but a RASA that would lend itself well to the dim view through narrowband filters. The coma corrector will be a must for photography but it and the tube will cost less than an equivalent SCT. You'll need to learn to collimate it properly but that isn't too bad of a chore, it'll just take some practice while you get the hang of it but it quickly becomes second nature. An RC is a different beast entirely though. Collimating one is an order of magnitude more complicated than a newtonian by nature of its optical system. I'd steer clear of one at first unless you're absolutely sure you know what you're getting into. Like I said, I did it, it can be done, but the fact that I did it is how I know how difficult it is ;) 

I don't think an achro is worth it for imaging. I have a wonderful achro that is a delight to look through but is far from ideal for an imaging tool. Unless you have a very long focal ratio achro (getting back into painfully slow F12+ territory) you'll find even moderately bright stars distractingly bloated.

Of course, all of this ignores the most important component- The mount. Do you already have a mount? If so, this will be a huge factor in deciding which scope to use as you will want to work within its performance envelope. If not, understand that the mount will be the most expensive component to choose. For an 8" newt, you'll be looking at an EQ6/CEM40 on the low end for a good imaging setup. An EQ5 may be able to pull it off but you'd be pushing it and I wouldn't recommend such a configuration. This is another reason small apos are so popular- It is much easier and cheaper to mount a small scope than a large one. Depending on what you have or are planning to spend here the scope recommendations will change significantly. Let us know and we can better help guide you to the right place :)



#7 samroon

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 01:05 AM

Insight.  No, you are not thinking the right way.  <smile>

 

You're making an extremely common error, very often seen on this site, even from experienced imagers.

 

You're not distinguishing _learning_ imaging and _doing_ imaging.  These two tasks are not the same.

 

In particular, looking at the theoretical capability of a scope or what an experienced imager can do with this, can send you down a long, hard road.

 

So, forget about images.  Think about learning how to image.  The best OTA for learning imaging is:

 

Short.  No more than 600mm.  480 is better.

 

Light.  No more than 10 pounds, 5 is better.

 

Fast.  No slower than F6.

 

If your goal is to image small targets with a biog scope, you'll reach it significantly faster/better/cheaper if you start with a small scope and big bright targets.

 

This is not an original idea with me.  It comes from studying beginner experiences, what works, what doesn't.  And reading the books from experienced imagers who also like to help beginners (as I do).

 

To demonstrate that, examples are helpful.  Note "learn" in this.

 

"I regret spending the first 6 months trying to learn imaging with an 8" Edge, with that scope it was a losing effort. Fortunately got a nice little refractor, and not only have the quality of my images improved but I'm actually enjoying the process of learning how to do it!"

 

A talented beginner, looking back on his first year.

 

"First and foremost is listen to the folks who have been there. The philosophy of 80MM APO and good $1500-2000 mount is great advice for beginners. Sure you can possibly <learn to> image as a beginner with something that is larger or that you may have but holy cow its hard enough with something small."

 

15 minutes spent watching this video could save you a lot of money, and hours of frustration.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=MNQU1hdqz4M

 

Here's a good starter book.  Scroll down to the picture of the very experienced author.  That's a $500 70mm refractor on a $1200 Sirius (aka HEQ5) mount.  He did not choose those because he had them lying around.  <smile>  For $1700 + camera, it's about the ideal setup to learn imaging with.

 

https://www.astropix...bgda_index.html

 

Yes, he spent a lot more on the mount.  Because it's more important than the scope (or the camera).  Long exposures change _everything_.

 

If that's too much money, the answer is to make the "scope" even smaller.  Camera tracker/camera/lens.

 

Big scopes do not help you learn.  They get in the way.  Make everything much harder.  And more expensive.  For learning, they are simply the wrong tool for the job.

 

The mount is all important.

 

Minor points.  The professional RCs bear no relation to the inexpensive ones you're looking at.  The dual hyperbolic mirrors are very sensitive to mechanical construction, and the professional ones show it.  Click below the picture for the view from the rear.  That look anything at all like the RCs you're looking at?

 

https://www.deepspac...remax33-version

 

The inexpensive ones put all their money into the mirrors, and the mechanical construction is shortchanged.  I, listening to people here, started with an 80mm refractor.  After a few months I was turning out halfway decent stuff and got a 6RC.  One of the worst mistakes in imaging I ever made, set my progress back months.

 

Whether or not the roof will work depends on how solid it is.  But it's unlikely to be solid enough.  .03mm of movement is too much, will ruin your image.

 

Which (coming full circle) is why the mount is so important.

 

And this is why experience is so important! Thank you for the thoughtful response.

 

I have been nervous about getting a smaller scope, but I think it's mostly because I don't know what I'll be able to see in the sky with it. But one thing about your response resonates well with me, which is that with a smaller APO I can actually afford it. I care very much about buying quality.

 

I have thought a lot about 'learning to image' and I don't have crazy expectations of being able to produce Hubble quality photos on night one, but I had thought about at least having a scope that I could grow into. Being that I can't afford my ideal scope and will have to buy something that will be a 'starter' anyway, it helps me to be open minded also about focal length.

 

That video from Northwest Astronomer is a beautiful setup. I am aware of all the gear he talks about and some of it are items on my wishlist. They aren't all necessary out of the gate, but of course who wouldn't want all of that amazing gear? :)

 

Regarding the mount and other needed items, I purposefully left them out of this post because I wanted to focus the conversation on the scope. I realize the mount is absolutely the most important piece of an astrophotography setup, and with that in mind I will purchase the right mount for the scope. The reason my budget is limited on the scope is because I plan to spend much more on the mount.

 

I suppose I just need to start trying with the roof. The only way to know is to see if it will work. I have other locations around me, but none that I would eventually be able to automate and leave without someone watching it (I live in a city).

 

Thank you so much for the insight. It has helped to guide my perspective a bit. I need to sit with it in my mind for a bit and do a little re-thinking about what to start with.


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#8 samroon

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 01:06 AM

I purchased a 102mm refractor. I am using it this week at 700mm because I am trying to image M51 with it. It is Galaxy season. 

 

Otherwise that scope spends most of its time with a reducer at 535mm. The suggestion for a smaller refractor over a medium size one is excellent. 

 

Oh, I also have a very nice SCT with all the proper accessories to image with it. The refractor is my preference due to better image quality. 

This seems to be the case whenever people have both. Thank you for sharing the info with me.



#9 samroon

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 01:08 AM

bob is right on there. --- small steps --- You really won't land on your ideal optimum forever imaging kit after seven months of ~researching~ what you think it would be. It's time to simply dive in with something modest that will give encouraging results and experience. That will steer you toward what you will ultimately know is the next manageable step (which may be anywhere from no change to grandiose). It will very likely be something significantly different from what you are imagining now.    Tom

Good point. I will know more about what I need once I have it, or don't! :) Either way, I'm a data nerd so researching means a lot to me. But at some point you have to rip the band-aid off and start 'doing'. Thanks for the advice.



#10 samroon

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 01:09 AM

I listened to these guys on here and they were 1000% correct. I followed their advice in the beginning and I was able to learn without crashing and burning. Moved to a wide field refractor now and larger mount from cameras and lenses and trackers but still like to use them too. I haven’t regretted the progression at all.

I have found these forums to be full of incredible insight which is why I decided to post this here. There's a level of trust in asking the community for advice. Thank you for reinforcing that sentiment.



#11 bobzeq25

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 01:13 AM

Good point. I will know more about what I need once I have it, or don't! smile.gif Either way, I'm a data nerd so researching means a lot to me. But at some point you have to rip the band-aid off and start 'doing'. Thanks for the advice.

Good place for research (selected from an extensive bookshelf for you).

 

https://www.amazon.c.../dp/0999470906/



#12 samroon

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 02:44 AM

Everyone above me has some good insights. I think it's important to consider the goals of any aspiring astronomer before making the oft repeated recommendations of a small short scope to learn on out of habit though. I learned on a 6" RC. It wasn't nearly as easy as if I had started with a small apo refractor, but it's absolutely doable. There is more work involved, no doubt about it, and it's important to consider that reality, but that doesn't mean it can't be done as long as you're realistic with the effort you're willing to put into the craft to get results. If someone's goals are to shoot small objects I think it's counter productive to recommend something ill suited to the task because "it's easier." Especially when costs are considered, as hundreds of extra dollars spent (assuming they later move to a scope more suited to the task) to smooth the learning curve a bit aren't realistic to everyone. It's okay to start a little bigger if you do your research and make sure you're up to a little extra challenge, otherwise I'd follow other's advice and start with a nice 60-80mm apo and have a blast. 

To answer your first question, yes, narrowband imaging from under heavy light pollution is indeed possible. I'd go so far as to say that's the primary advantage of narrowband photography outside of a scientific environment. You can see what you're looking for and able to reject the rest. The tradeoff is significantly longer exposure times but the detail gained by filtering out light pollution is well worth it. Being on top of a building presents its own challenges, but if Astrobiscuit can have the success he does from the top of his London apartment I'm sure it can be done. Stability and wind will be a factor no doubt so you may end up throwing more frames away than you otherwise would but such is the tradeoff of convenience. There's always the option of traveling somewhere darker when time allows.

Of the choices you suggested, I'd steer clear of a mak-cass. They're fantastic visual and planetary scopes but ill suited to DSO photography due to their slow optical systems. My 6RC comes in at F9 without a reducer and it's a chore to get good shots of dimmer objects in that configuration. I can't imagine trying at F12 or higher. Given the criteria you have lined out, I'd actually lean toward an 8" newtonian with a coma corrector. GSO (and the companies that rebrand their scopes such as Astro Tech, Orion, etc) sells an 8" F4 newt made for imaging. This would put you at 800mm of focal length, right around where you're looking, with an optical system much faster than anything but a RASA that would lend itself well to the dim view through narrowband filters. The coma corrector will be a must for photography but it and the tube will cost less than an equivalent SCT. You'll need to learn to collimate it properly but that isn't too bad of a chore, it'll just take some practice while you get the hang of it but it quickly becomes second nature. An RC is a different beast entirely though. Collimating one is an order of magnitude more complicated than a newtonian by nature of its optical system. I'd steer clear of one at first unless you're absolutely sure you know what you're getting into. Like I said, I did it, it can be done, but the fact that I did it is how I know how difficult it is wink.gif 

I don't think an achro is worth it for imaging. I have a wonderful achro that is a delight to look through but is far from ideal for an imaging tool. Unless you have a very long focal ratio achro (getting back into painfully slow F12+ territory) you'll find even moderately bright stars distractingly bloated.

Of course, all of this ignores the most important component- The mount. Do you already have a mount? If so, this will be a huge factor in deciding which scope to use as you will want to work within its performance envelope. If not, understand that the mount will be the most expensive component to choose. For an 8" newt, you'll be looking at an EQ6/CEM40 on the low end for a good imaging setup. An EQ5 may be able to pull it off but you'd be pushing it and I wouldn't recommend such a configuration. This is another reason small apos are so popular- It is much easier and cheaper to mount a small scope than a large one. Depending on what you have or are planning to spend here the scope recommendations will change significantly. Let us know and we can better help guide you to the right place smile.gif

Thank you for the alternative perspective and additional insights about mak-cass scopes. Learning on an RC sounds like a difficult task but it's great to know it can be done by a beginner. 

 

I have given a lot of thought to Newtonians but I want to buy a really good mount with considerable extra weight capacity, and that will get pretty expensive. That, plus when I travel to places with darker skies I will also have my family with me and space will become an issue. 

 

I mentioned in another reply but I will also mention here that the mount is the most important thing and I plan to buy the best possible mount based on what scope I decide on. I want to make sure I have ample extra weight after the scope, guide scope, camera, and all the other gear. So I'm not ignoring the mount, I'm prioritizing it budget-wise.



#13 luxo II

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 03:00 AM

... when I travel to places with darker skies I will also have my family with me and space will become an issue. 

 

I mentioned in another reply but I will also mention here that the mount is the most important thing and I plan to buy the best possible mount based on what scope I decide on. I want to make sure I have ample extra weight after the scope, guide scope, camera, and all the other gear. So I'm not ignoring the mount, I'm prioritizing it budget-wise.

You're going to need a big box (one of those Thule things) on the roof, trailer, or a second car...

 

I'm learning with an ASI533 camera, and my choice of scope is my 6" mak with a 0.5X reducer, this combination works quite well. The focal plane is flat and no vignetting with this small sensor.

 

In a Bortle 8 sky at home I can image M65/M66 and some of the galaxies in Markarian's chain in about 1 minute with this; which is so short that I can use an altaz mount (AZEQ6) and let SharpCap deal with de-rotating the frames as it stacks them.

 

The other aspect of the mak-cass is that it can be easily boosted to f/18-20 using a Barlow to image the moon/planets with very nice results.

 

But yes at its native focal ratio (f/12) it isn't much use for imaging.


Edited by luxo II, 12 May 2021 - 03:08 AM.

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#14 bobzeq25

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 10:33 AM

 Learning on an RC sounds like a difficult task but it's great to know it can be done by a beginner.
 

It can be done.  The learning process will be substantially longer, and substantially more expensive.  If you have family concerns....

 

These apply.

 

"I started out with a CPC 800.  In hindsight, I'd have started with an 80mm refractor.  I would have saved a lot of money and gotten up the learning curve a lot quicker."

 

"Of all the recommendations though, if you want to get into imaging then a short imaging refractor is probably the best one (IMHO).  I have a C8 and this was the scope I learned AP on.  It was a long, tough struggle and I have no good pictures to show for it.  I could have easily saved a year by starting with a more image-friendly scope."

 

Got an extra year?  <smile>

 

I study what works for beginners a lot.  People who successfully start out with a 6RC or a Mak-Cass are rare.  You don't want to bet your time and money that you'll be one of them.

 

The thing about most people is that they are like most people.  (The other thing about most people is that they think they are not.  <smile> )

 

Learning DSO AP is very likely harder than you think.  There will be problems.  The best scopes for learning are the ones that add no problems.  They get out of your way and let you learn.  They make the inevitable problems far easier to diagnose.  They're the right tools for the job.

 

They're short, light, and fast.

 

You'll be using an autoguiding program by Dr. Craig Stark, noted astrophotographer who writes and lectures.  His advice on the best scope to start with.  It's not so much what he says, it's how he says it.  He's talking straight to you.

 

"As light as possible.

 

 

 

Seriously.

 

 

 

No, seriously."

 

He's shorthanding, knows that with light comes short and fast.


Edited by bobzeq25, 12 May 2021 - 10:35 AM.

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#15 Glass Eye

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 01:24 PM

Got an extra year?  <smile>

 

We all hope we do!


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#16 Islander13

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 03:47 PM

Samroon... Although it seems counter intuitive (much of AP is...) starting wider for me made things so much easier. I was able to achieve almost instant results without frustration. I'm blessed to live in Bortle 4 with no local light pollution. 

 

I run unguided, and unplugged with a simple Skyguider Pro and a WO Z61 (360mm). This is a minimal investment as I already had a good (though 12-year old) DSLR and beefy tripods. So I was able to try this hobby out for less than 1,000 USD. 

 

I use AstroPixel Processor on it's default settings usually - on my 2013 iMac then tweak in Lightroom. 

 

I still need to work on many things and will eventually upgrade both my scope and mount. I just stated in March of this year. I have had satisfying pics of M42 and M31 before they got too low. Each with less than 3-minutes of integration. 

 

And later M81/82, M51, and now Markarians chain in the Virgo Cluster. With the wide field refractor I crop heavily, but it is a great way to start. You get satisfying images without a significant expense.

 

Clear skies!

 

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • M81-RGB-session_1-mod-St-1-6.JPG

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#17 Northrim

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 08:01 PM

I use an ES ED80 and an AVX mount.  I don't have a back yard so I need portability and this rig works well.  I started with a dslr then got a ZWO ASI294.

 

I'm still working on guiding and backfocus issues but I'm very happy with the 80 mm refractor.


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#18 kel123

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Posted 12 May 2021 - 09:22 PM

I will say Bob is right on the money. Take it easy, slow and steady. Gauge your expectations.

An 80mm aperture, 600mm focal length scope is a good for a start. You can always crop you images to make them "bigger".
One step at a time and you will eventually get there.

You are currently obsessed with galaxies but remember that there is a galaxy season. What would you be doing at other times of the year when other stuffs are up? There is no doubt that you will eventually be interested in imaging other stuffs.

You may want to image planets later. Remember you were gravitationally pulled into the hobby by Mars as you said. For that, you may need another scope. The good thing is that as investment in astrophotography goes, scopes for planets are not that expensive. A Mak or SCT from 5" can cut it. However, you may even barlow the refractor, although you will get more details from larger apertures from, say 5". Even an 8" newt is not expensive.

But I believe a 600mm refractor is a good compromise for where you are right now. It wouldn't be nearly as difficult to learn with and the focal length is not too meager. You can go shorter with focal reducers, which is a must-have. You need it to fit in Andromeda galaxy with that focal length, depending on your camera sensor size. We in the Milkyway love to image that galaxy and I learnt people in Andromeda love imaging our galaxy too 😃

As far as your roof is concerned, you need to try it out first. Experience is the best teacher. A lot of people image from roofs, including a number of YouTube astrophotography personalities.
You may need the inexpensive vibrations suppression pads to stand your tripod on, if you have vibrations problems on the roof.

People image in the thick of light pollution everyday, so it should be no problem but you will need narrowband filters for emission targets. If you go the one shot color route, there are now dual and triband single narrowband filters, enabling imagers do great things from polluted locations with color cameras.

Edited by kel123, 13 May 2021 - 06:33 AM.

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#19 samroon

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Posted 16 May 2021 - 03:47 AM

The thing about most people is that they are like most people.  (The other thing about most people is that they think they are not.  <smile> )

What, you mean I'm not especially gifted?! lol.gif

 

I fully expect there to be problems. Actually, my expectation is to be disappointed with everything for the first year, and then maybe a little better the second. I hope to get some exciting results, but I also know that those will be flukes and accidents and I won't know how to recreate them.

 

I'm very much into the learning process.

 

Your advice about the APO only reinforced my initial thoughts that I would like to start with one. I'm pretty set on it at this point. If there's one thing I've learned in the last few months is that most people have more than one scope. (bye-bye savings!) Once I get the hang of it I can evolve.  It's a smart way to start.


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#20 samroon

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Posted 16 May 2021 - 03:49 AM

Samroon... Although it seems counter intuitive (much of AP is...) starting wider for me made things so much easier. I was able to achieve almost instant results without frustration. I'm blessed to live in Bortle 4 with no local light pollution. 

 

I run unguided, and unplugged with a simple Skyguider Pro and a WO Z61 (360mm). This is a minimal investment as I already had a good (though 12-year old) DSLR and beefy tripods. So I was able to try this hobby out for less than 1,000 USD. 

 

I use AstroPixel Processor on it's default settings usually - on my 2013 iMac then tweak in Lightroom. 

 

I still need to work on many things and will eventually upgrade both my scope and mount. I just stated in March of this year. I have had satisfying pics of M42 and M31 before they got too low. Each with less than 3-minutes of integration. 

 

And later M81/82, M51, and now Markarians chain in the Virgo Cluster. With the wide field refractor I crop heavily, but it is a great way to start. You get satisfying images without a significant expense.

 

Clear skies!

Wow! Well done! Thank you for sharing.


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