I'm green, with under 20 images under my belt. So I'm drinking from the fire hydrant, so to speak. But I'm wondering what can make the biggest improvements in my imaging... including changes I may not even realize I should be making.
I imaged Markarian's Chain last night from my Bortle 7/8 sky in New Jersey. I'm imaging from my driveway, with bright house and street lights about 50 feet away. In all of my images, I get wild gradients. APP does an amazing, but not nearly perfect job of removing them, as you can see in the right half of my image.
While I know that the sky glow from being between NYC and Philly probably has the most effect on the gradients, I'm wondering if you advise relocating to my back yard, where the glare of the neighborhood lights is significantly blocked; or if I should pack up and drive 5 minutes to a public space where there are no lights; or if my HyperStar is simply going to soak up all the ambient light no matter what? Perhaps a slower refractor would be the better way to go? Or maybe I should reduce my exposure time on the HyperStar? I use 30s for essentially every target now. When I was doing 60s I was blowing out stars, so I moved to 30s to recover star colors. But now I'm wondering if I should go even shorter.
Brighter stars look bloated... not sure whether I should blame my exposure time, the optical limits of the HyperStar (not that I've reached them) or the very, very fine touch needed to focus with the HyperStar. Again, another issue that makes me wonder if I should just go to a slower refractor that's easier to focus and harder to blow out stars with.
I'm aware that my OSC camera is suboptimal in my polluted skies, but time on clear nights is very hard to come by for me. That's how I ended up with this "lazy man's" setup and philosophy.
I processed in APP. I did a very rough post-processing in APP as well because I have no PhotoShop knowledge. So much to learn...
Reducer: HyperStar (f1.9, 388 mm)
Camera: ASI294 MC Pro
Filter: Optolong L-Pro
Acquisition software: ASI Air Pro
Lights: 30s x 120 (1 hour total)
Flats: 10 (0.0015 seconds)
Dark Flats: 20
Bias: 100 (0.001 seconds)
Processing and post-processing: APP for OS X