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Best ways to approach the steep learning curve...?

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#1 Naptown Larry

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 10:36 AM

I'm finding that trying to come up to speed on mount manipulation, polar alignment, plate solving, imaging, dithering, and post processing software all at once is a pretty daunting task.

Do any of you more experienced astrophotographers have any suggestions on how to eat the elephant one bite at a time?

Edited by Naptown Larry, 23 October 2021 - 10:46 AM.


#2 FloidPienk

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 11:01 AM

I'm not experienced at all compared to the real guys, but already somewhere a bit higher on that indeed very steep learning curve. 

I tried to work step by step. First step in fact was to choose what softwares to use, and somehow I felt on Nina and PHD2 on my windows laptop. I tried ASIAIR and Astroberry, but just could not cope with all the problems. Partly also due to my wish to use my nikon Z7.
With Nina, and a ZWO camera all started to fall in order. And when I discovered that my CEM70 mount actually has a very find polar camera, I am up and running for the moment. 

Well, in fact, for the moment I am trying to find the most optimal backfocus distance. Seems not te be the official 55mm but a bit more. After that, next step. 


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#3 Ken Sturrock

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 11:04 AM

My only suggestion on this, which is deeply unpopular, is to focus on one task per session and resist the urge to take images for a project.

 

Right now, your only project is to figure out your gear. The targets will keep coming around. Be patient with yourself.

 

Don't worry about driving out to the middle of nowhere to learn how to do the basics. First night, just spend time learning how the mount works: set it up, align it, slew it, tear it down, repeat. Do that for a night until it's more comfortable. Next time, align the mount once and then learn how to connect to the camera and control it. Move on to focusing on whatever is there. Take a sequence of short pictures for fun. Next, learn how to plate solve the images that you've taken so you can begin to point the rig more accurately and frame targets. Next, worry about guider calibration and guiding of the mount. Next, learn to shoot calibration frames (darks & flats). Next, learn to calibrate your images, align them and stack those images*. After that, you can play with tools like stretching, denoise, etc.

 

Your chose of software somewhat guides this. I do believe that there's a lot to be said for learning the software functions one at a time versus expecting a perfectly automated sequence when you have never actually done the steps interactively. You have to really understand what's going on or you'll have a hard time setting it up and troubleshooting it. As the saying goes: "When you automate a mess, you get an automated mess".

 

You can certainly do more than one thing in a night but, psychologically, your goal should be to master one thing at a time. Then worry about combining those tasks. Leave the "all up" testing to NASA. You're goal is to master each task, not compete with anyone. Remember, many of us have been doing this for years and we all started somewhere. If you get annoyed, step away - it's supposed to be an "enjoyable past time" and not just more work.

 

The whole thing becomes an iterative process of improvement.

 

Remember that "be patient and kind with yourself" part. An astronomer cursing in the dark looses a certain level of majesty (trust me...)

 

 

 

* = There's a funny trend on CN. Years ago, people talked about "processing" to cover all aspects of what was done with data after it was recorded. You acquired data, then you processed it. At some point, folks decided that calibration wasn't important enough to be considered "processing", so it was re-labeled as "pre-processing". More recently, folks have decided that what you did after image calibration should be called "post-processing". In other words, nobody does actual "processing" anymore. Just "pre" and "post" processing...


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#4 kathyastro

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 11:09 AM

One bite at a time! 

 

Forget about taking pictures until you have mastered the mount.  That includes assembling all the bits correctly, balancing it, polar aligning, goto aligning, etc.  Each of those is a specific skill set, and there are tutorials available online, plus of course you can ask questions here.

 

Once you are confident that you can set up accurately enough to view through an eyepiece, find your target and track it for an appreciable length of time, then consider hanging a camera on the scope.   Work out the camera-related details, like spacing and focusing.  Decide on a "standard" exposure time that gets you results that you can learn with.

 

At that point, you will be able to take pictures, so then you should learn about stacking and some basic processing.  You will soon enough find out about the need for calibration frames, but don't worry about them until the need surfaces. 

 

Likewise, the need for guiding will surface on its own.  Likewise plate-solving.  Likewise better image processing.  Don't worry about the next step until the need is apparent.  I give the same advice for equipment junkies: don't buy a new piece of equipment until you can identify a need that the new toys will solve.

 

That's how you eat this elephant.  Don't move on to the next bite until you have chewed and swallowed the one in your mouth.


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#5 bobzeq25

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 11:17 AM

I'm finding that trying to come up to speed on mount manipulation, polar alignment, plate solving, imaging, dithering, and post processing software all at once is a pretty daunting task.

Do any of you more experienced astrophotographers have any suggestions on how to eat the elephant one bite at a time?

Keep things, in the words of Einstein, "as simple as possible, but no simpler."

 

For post processing software I strongly recommend Astro Pixel Processor.  Capable of fine results, much simpler than PixInsight or using DSS and trying to persuade a terrestrial editing program to do astro.  The "free" alternatives are not free in terms of your time, frustration level, and image quality.

 

Save dithering for later, it's a refinement, and not fundamental.

 

For polar alignment use one of the computer assisted options.  Many like Sharpcap Pro, I have a PoleMaster, some use iOptron's iPolar.  There's an option in PhD2.  It's irrelevant which one of these you use, they're all capable of better polar alignment than you need.

 

Platesolving actually simplifies your life.  You need not do any star alignments.  You don't care how good your GOTO is, platesolving will sort things out.  For many of us platesolving involved smacking our forehead and saying "why did I wait so long to do this?"

 

Do not omit the camera calibration frames; bias, flats, darks.  They ARE fundamental.  Omitting them will cause you to learn bad habits in processing.  Processing is hard enough without having to unlearn bad habits.  <smile>

 

Shoot simple targets like star clusters or even a random starfield first.  Fabulous images of dim nebulae or small galaxies can wait.  You can do clusters or starfields with short exposures, unguided.

 

As Ken suggests devoting at least one night to simply working out setup, polar alignment, and mount manipulation is a good idea.  Don't be in a hurry to image.

 

Hopefully you gave yourself a head start by getting a good mount and small refractor.


Edited by bobzeq25, 23 October 2021 - 11:21 AM.

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#6 rgsalinger

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 11:32 AM

I'd add to the chorus that if you have a local astronomy club join it. My bet is that you can find a mentor. That's the real "shortcut" to success, IMHO. I would also spend a few bucks on a copy of the Deep Sky Imaging Primer. I find that the explanations in the book make it much easier to understand how AP works versus "normal" photography.

 

One other thing that i would add is that you should read the documentation that's available with whatever hardware and software you plan to use. I would say that about 50 percent of the questions that I see in the imaging forums have answers in the documentation. 

 

Rgrds-Ross


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#7 WadeH237

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 12:08 PM

My only suggestion on this, which is deeply unpopular, is to focus on one task per session and resist the urge to take images for a project.

 

One bite at a time! 

The voices of wisdom...


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#8 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 12:46 PM

What every one else said.

 

I would add that this is a hobby of a bazillion details.  None of them are all that difficult - no PHDs or such required - but there are so many that it can seem overwhelming at times.  Just take things a step at a time, being as precise as you can with each.  Microns matter, and microns are really really really small. 

 

We too often are tempted (or even guided!) to throw money at fixing a problem.  Sometimes that's needed - everything has its limits.  But more often than not, the issues are our own in how we setup and use stuff.  Driving a hot car doesn't make you a professional driver, that's true.  But it's the flip side that's more important.  An experienced driver will do a lot better with a junker car than the rookie will with the fancy one.  Take the time to learn good habits, and make them routine.  Eventually it will all come together.

 

It is all about the journey, but also remember that this is a hobby.  Explore and go after the stuff that interests you.  Ask questions, try stuff.  If it doesn't work, no harm done, and you will likely have learned something in the process.


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#9 coblr

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 02:49 PM

I really like what TelescopeGreg says. waytogo.gif The main theme also being, start wherever you're comfortable, doing what you know until you know it well, then take the next step to push yourself in the direction you want to go. I don't think trying to take a photo on your first night out is a bad idea. A picture is worth 1000 words after all.

 

I took a somewhat more hasty approach to what's being said further above and found it to work quite well for me. I didn't jump into figuring out software and all that because there's so much of it all and I didn't like that it did things I didn't understand nor would give me any results that made the dopamine flow. "Kappa sigma clipping" and all these fancy new words and concepts just seemed too much. I just wanted nice photos. I know how to take a photo, a scope is just a big lens after all. K.I.S.S.

 

I always wanted 'a big scope' and knew nothing about them so I bought a C8 on a CG5 and a Canon 350D with an adapter to attach it. As soon as I could, I began taking images with it like a GIANT camera lens. At the time, I used Photoshop for work so just doing some basic levels and curves adjustments got me something. I liked the instant gratification of it. The WOW I had just capturing M13, the moon or M42 and being able to share it. They weren't good, but they were mine and I had a starting point...

 

My initial ascend of the learning curve:

 

  • My stars aren't totally round, why is that? Focusing is also hard (new cameras with live view make that easy now haha)
  • Each successive shot seems to be moving across the screen, why is it doing that? Is that also why my stars aren't round?
  • Ok, so I guess I really need to nail down this polar alignment thing. Just eyeballing Polaris through the center hole in the mount isn't all that accurate after all.
  • Using the polar align routines in the mount are cumbersome and adjusting the mount is a headache, too jerky and stiff. Can I fix it? I'm handy with tools. Nope. There's a whole aftermarket for adjusting these things so they're just basically toys.
  • Also my images are really dim. I need to take 10 min long photos to get things bright enough that they look good, and the longer I expose, the more oval the stars are. Mirror lockup on the camera helps reduce the vibration when the shutter moves so stars are rounder, but still not great.
  • All the cool nebula targets are also so much bigger than I want. I need to zoom out. My 'focal length is too long', whatever that means.
  • I need a new mount and maybe move to a "fast" refractor instead (if not just for some portability and storage space too!)
  • Sold it all, found a used GM-8 and bought an AT90EDT. Now I'm starting to get what focal length means to the final outcome.
  • I'm now understanding how stacking works: SNR, and integration time. I need more signal, better signal.
  • Manually stacking these in Photoshop and using difference mode to align is easy enough and results are promising, but I still have drift from image to image.
  • Images are now much brighter, and the mount is smoother and more stable, but I still have tiny ovals and focusing is hard.
  • Oh focusing masks, these are cool! Super useful and easy to make.
  • So, 'drift aligning' huh? I guess I need an illuminated reticle.
  • Oh cool, guiding during the image is a thing too.. ok. Camera takes a photo, I adjust out the movement by hand in real-time. I can do this.
  • I get a cheap scope and an illuminated reticle and manually guide. I don't want to involve a computer, I like keeping things simple. People seem to always have hardware driver issues out here and those batteries look massive haha
  • Ok, I can get nice round stars. Drift aligning takes me about 30 mins so polar alignment is tight and manually guiding is kinda fun, but boy my back and neck hurt from watching that star dance on the crosshair. Am I guiding on the seeing or am I making the right corrections? I wonder if there is an automatic way of doing this that doesn't involve a computer? An SBIG ST4. I'll need a bigger battery too.
  • ST4 is tricky to work out because I can't see what it sees, I need a flip mirror.
  • ST4 saves my neck and I also now have time to go wander and talk with folks while the camera takes photos, sequenced with an intervalometer.
  • Round stars, simple gear and can also get some sleep, so far so good. Can easily get 8-10 min exposures before LP becomes an issue, so lots of good data.
  • Now it comes to calibration images, stacking, registering, processing gets more involved.
  • Getting good results. Just need more practice. I'm at the first major plateau on the learning curve.
  • IMO, this is where I'd start to learn other software. By now you'd have a good idea of what it's doing and can finally understand what all those things even mean, or what these tools actually accomplish, and which are better at it than others.

 

From there I eventually upgraded the mount and stuff to where I am today. I wanted more accuracy and I was getting tired of always having to buy new stuff. Recently, I bought a monochrome camera and am now using filters instead of the 350D. I put Stellarmate on a Raspberry Pi and now have a wireless setup using kStars, Ekos and INDI (since I use a Mac). I'm getting into plate solving, sequencing and I'm using it for guiding, focusing, imaging.. doing all the things while I go and sit by the fire with friends. I still haven't quite got into dithering and all that yet, but that's still just a tiny bit more nuance than I'm ready for at the moment. I don't know that I'd notice the difference so if I can't tell, it's hard to know I'm doing it right and/or it's worth it. I think that's probably the first thing on the next upward slope tho. smile.gif

 

Hopefully you can see that the learning curve also comes with a gear curve as well. Just like TelescopeGreg says, as you go through each level, you start to see what you need to get to the next one and so on. Some levels can be played on longer than others because you're consistently getting the results you want in your final images. After a while, you finally see a pattern of "problems" that lead you to what you should be learning next. Sometimes it requires skill, sometimes it requires gear.


Edited by coblr, 23 October 2021 - 03:00 PM.

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#10 JCDAstro

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 05:10 PM

I started writing a long diatribe...deleted it and decided to make a list from my learning:

Learn your mount and how to set it up, I did this by doing basic polar alignments, 2 and 3 star sync alignments with the hand controller and then looking at planets.

Get basic planetary camera that can double as a guide cam someday (462c, 290, etc).

Learn the basics of capturing data, organizing your data and what all of the file formats mean. Use sharpcap or fire capture (free)

Learn how to computer control your mount with EQMOD or similar and use cartes du ceil or other planetarium app to navigate and sync the mount to alignment stars, etc.

If you have a dslr, get that hooked up with a t-ring adapter. Move on to to APT or backyard nikon/EOS or NINA (best for dedicated astro thats free I think), for camera control.

Learn how to focus a DSLR, point to brightest star and use your first bahtinov mask.

Point to your first galaxy and hope its in the frame...futz around for a whole night trying to center it...realize you need to learn platesolving.

Take one of those images and run it through astrometry.net...take the numbers it gives for arcsec/pixel and input them into your playesolving app....it will save you time.

At this point you are well on your way, figure out your limits for image time, and slowly learn how to integrate PHD2 guiding with your camera control app.

Realize you want more Hydrogen alpha return and spend a ridiculous amount of money on a dedicated cooled astro camera...

Get sick of being cold sitting by the telescope...buy a NUC and a focuser and VNC or RDP into it from your house.

Now its time to worry about getting real about post processing...cuz now you will be automated enough to actuslly capture enough data in one night!

PixInsight, Startools or Astro pixel processor...basically listed in descending order of your desire/inclination to learn the science of image processing

Realize you need a dedicated NAS and processing computer for this hobby...cry at that CC bill, then rejoice when the new gear comes in the mail.

Realize you want a different focal length or scope and start this process over, though at a higher starting point on the learning curve!

Dang...still a long diatribe...sorry for that.
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#11 coblr

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Posted 24 October 2021 - 01:15 PM

Yea, I had the same problem. I thought I'd put a few things down, then it wasn't detailed enough and yea.

 

I guess that's why they say it's not something you learn overnight. wink.gif


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#12 Naptown Larry

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Posted 24 October 2021 - 06:40 PM

 

Hopefully you gave yourself a head start by getting a good mount and small refractor.

I bought an EQ6-r Pro mount and a Skywatcher Quattro 200P 8" Newtonian... I know a smaller refractor would have been easier to handle and would have added less complexity, but that's my starting point.

 

So far I've got both axis leveled and the clock wheels set. I've got it connected to my laptop and working with EQMOD just through the USB A/B cable. I've got the basics of NINA all configured. I've installed my Polemaster. And I'm currently working on configuring up Stellarium.

 

Meanwhile I've loaded up:

- NINA

- ASTAP

- DeepSkyStacker

- ASCOM

- EQASCOM

- PHD 2

- SharpCap

- PoleMaster

- Stellarium

 

Next goal is getting the scope on it, getting it balanced, collimated, and trying my first polar alignment without polaris, (since I have no clear view of Polaris), using NINA's 3 start alignment. Wish me luck !!!


Edited by Naptown Larry, 24 October 2021 - 08:17 PM.


#13 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 12:02 AM

I'm finding that trying to come up to speed on mount manipulation, polar alignment, plate solving, imaging, dithering, and post processing software all at once is a pretty daunting task.

Do any of you more experienced astrophotographers have any suggestions on how to eat the elephant one bite at a time?

 

I am most definitely not an experienced imager. Rather, I am a beginner like yourself. So hopefully you can relate to what I have experienced thus far.

 

I approached the problem by breaking it down into manageable tasks. Perhaps settling for "good enough" solutions instead of "perfect" in some cases. My goal was to get some early wins quickly to keep me motivated. Keep that in mind as you read - my advice is not necessarily "best in class", "optimium", or "most powerful". Rather, it is to get some early results to get (keep) you excited about imaging.

 

1) You are not married to your early choices. If they are not the best choices, or you outgrow them, move on.

 

2) Bring a good mount to playing field to get things started. Easily the most important (and expensive) piece of the puzzle. As a life-long (starting as an 8 year old) visual astronomer, I was totally keyed in on the quality of the optics. In imaging, your telescope absolutely takes a back seat to mount quality.

 

3) Start with a small scope. It helps the #2 above. Everything is easier at 500mm. And there are plenty of big targets to shoot.

 

4) Consider an "all in one" solution for the acquisition computer - ASIAir. Easy to use, does everything a beginner needs. Runs on a phone, or better yet a tablet. Eliminates the complexities of a laptop. I have been using an iPad to run my Dob for 9 years, and tablets are great in the field. When I tried dragging a laptop out in the field (to run a Mallincam) I hated it. Needs power. Extra cables. Too bright. Requires a table. And if it is a nice laptop you worry about dust, dirt, and moisture.

 

5) On the processing side, I know little of Color Theory (I need the girlfriend for wardrobe choices more complex than blue jeans and a Polo shirt). I was the math/science nerd who flunked Art class in the 3rd grade. Knowing my limitations, I went with Astro Pixel Processor. The "standard" is PixInsight, but I knew I lacked the requisite knowledge to use the software effectively. OTOH, with APP I can crank out a pretty nice image using default settings. When I learn more about image processing, APP offers more depth in settings. It may be the bridge to PixInsight - or it may be good enough to be the final destination.

 

6) Start by imaging from your back yard (instead of hauling all of your gear to that remote site). There are a whole slew of mechanical/procedural things to get wrong starting out. It takes time to hammer them all out, so trips to the remote site just add to the lost time.

 

7) Start watching YouTube videos. In particular, I like Cuiv the Lazy Geek. Peter Zelinka is also very good, geared to beginners. What I like about both of them is they don't let the Perfect be the enemy of the Good. Always time for Perfection later.

 

8) And of course, temper expectations. Your early results will probably be limited. Watching videos and actually doing something are quite different indeed. The good news is that each time out, knowledge seems to double and it gets you excited for the next opportunity to image.


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#14 acommonsoul

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 08:33 AM

 I would also spend a few bucks on a copy of the Deep Sky Imaging Primer. I find that the explanations in the book make it much easier to understand how AP works versus "normal" photography.

 

This is a good one. This book helped tremendously with the basics, including processing. There are a great number of videos on youtube that assist you in getting started with the basics. Cuiv the Lazy Geek is a great channel for this, along with many others, and of course this forum.



#15 jgraham

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 08:54 AM

Start as simple as you can and build a foundation for growth. Spend enough time with each step so that you are ready for the next. Everyone is different and you need to find your own pace. I have made several trips up the learning curve each time that there has been a major change in the technology and where i was at in my own journey in life starting with large format roll film in the 1960s. I started digital with some very early CCDs in the mid 1980s, but I still consider this to be my first 'real' modern imaging platform from 2003...

 

StarBlast-DSI.jpg

 

I spent almost 2 years with this little system learning a _lot_ about the basics of modern imaging before starting the climb that continues to this day.

 

Start at the beginning, take it one step at a time, and enjoy the ride!

 

 

P.S.

 

I recently gave a program on getting started in astrophotography. The theme was to as much as possible start with what you have, learn the limits of your kit, and spend a lot of time working within the parameter space that gives you. Experience is your most valuable tool as to start this journey. They example that I used was an altaz mounted 8" SCT at f/6.3 using a stock Canon 600D and an interval timer.

 

Have fun!

 


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#16 AstroVagabond

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 09:32 AM

I'm finding that trying to come up to speed on mount manipulation, polar alignment, plate solving, imaging, dithering, and post processing software all at once is a pretty daunting task.

Do any of you more experienced astrophotographers have any suggestions on how to eat the elephant one bite at a time?

 

I'm a beginner. I started putting together gear in December 2020. I broke my learning challenge into two phases:

 

1.) Data Acquisition : Assemble gear, learn how to use, and discover and implement the best practices and processes to acquire good data.

2.) Data Processing : Learn to process the data using Astro Pixel Processor and PixInsight.

 

I'm just now collecting good data so I'm moving on to phase 2 to learn how to process images.

 

I made several mistakes where I thought I knew something that turned out to be not quite true. I had islands of knowledge which were disconnected causing some confusion on my part at times and this slowed me down. The biggest mistake was thinking I could image from my backyard. 

 

So it took me 11 months to achieve my phase 1 goals. Key to my success was not to get frustrated. I made fun of myself at times and shared it with other beginners through my YouTube channel to communicate the ups and downs of being a beginner. This is the most challenging hobby I've tried, next to maybe getting my Airplane Single Engine Land certificate. 

 

I've recently joined two Astronomical Societies and have already met people who have accelerated my progress up my learning curve. Also more experienced viewers of my channel have help immensely through their comments. And right here, Cloudy Nights, is a gold mine for knowledge nuggets.

 

If you can build a learning roadmap with some simple goals you can use it to guide and focus your learning progression.

 

Most of all make sure you are having fun. To me anyway, this is about keeping my brain busy as I age in retirement while having fun learning about the cosmos. 


Edited by AstroVagabond, 25 October 2021 - 09:33 AM.

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#17 bobzeq25

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 09:41 AM

I bought an EQ6-r Pro mount and a Skywatcher Quattro 200P 8" Newtonian... I know a smaller refractor would have been easier to handle and would have added less complexity, but that's my starting point.

 

So far I've got both axis leveled and the clock wheels set. I've got it connected to my laptop and working with EQMOD just through the USB A/B cable. I've got the basics of NINA all configured. I've installed my Polemaster. And I'm currently working on configuring up Stellarium.

 

Meanwhile I've loaded up:

- NINA

- ASTAP

- DeepSkyStacker

- ASCOM

- EQASCOM

- PHD 2

- SharpCap

- PoleMaster

- Stellarium

 

Next goal is getting the scope on it, getting it balanced, collimated, and trying my first polar alignment without polaris, (since I have no clear view of Polaris), using NINA's 3 start alignment. Wish me luck !!!

Recommendations, based on that.  They'll really help with the steep learning curve.

 

Put a camera and a lens on the mount with this. You can learn many of the techniques with that, and faster/better if you don't also have to deal with a big scope at the same time.  And, people take nice images that way.  I have a number of excellent scopes, still use camera lenses sometimes.  Many of us do.

 

https://www.amazon.c...e/dp/B0000XMYFQ

 

I recommend against using DSS.  Astro Pixel Processor, mentioned above.  Doing calibration/stacking/processing in one program really helps.  Has a built in numbered workflow that actually teaches you how to process.   APP is not specifically discussed in the Deep Sky Imaging Primer, but the general material (there's a lot of that) applies.

 

Yeah, it's not free.  How much have you spent so far on data acquisition?  That's only half the process.  $200 to learn to do the second half better, more easily, is beyond trivial.  <smile>


Edited by bobzeq25, 25 October 2021 - 09:50 AM.


#18 acommonsoul

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 09:44 AM

 The biggest mistake was thinking I could image from my backyard. 

 

I do have to disagree with this part. I image from my Bortle 8/9 backyard almost exclusively. It does make it more difficult, but it is possible, especially with narrowband filters, such as the L-extreme. BTW, I really enjoy your channel. Keep up the good work!
 



#19 AstroVagabond

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 09:54 AM

I do have to disagree with this part. I image from my Bortle 8/9 backyard almost exclusively. It does make it more difficult, but it is possible, especially with narrowband filters, such as the L-extreme. BTW, I really enjoy your channel. Keep up the good work!
 

 

I'm happy for you to disagree wink.gif  but that will not change the fact that my neighbors very tall redwoods surrounding my backyard, along with multistory homes where there is almost zero lot lines, offer a very small unobstructed field of view. I really did not understand when I started how the constellations and DSO's moved through the sky. shocked.gif

 

It's not a light pollution issue. I mitigated that the best I could going mono and filters so I'm in total agreement on light pollution challenges.

 

I fixed the redwood and multistory building challenge by getting a cement pad assigned at a Bortle 3/4 site in the Southern California desert which I travel to in my campervan. 

 

All good now.

 

Thanks for the nod on my channel! smile.gif


Edited by AstroVagabond, 25 October 2021 - 09:59 AM.


#20 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 11:54 AM

As AstroVagabond said, it's not just about Bortle zones.  I can't image from home due to trees (my "Oak Nebula"), so I put the scope on a 3-wheel trolley that I constructed for the purpose, and wheel it across the street to my neighbor's driveway (with their permission, of course).  Great views from there, but I keep the imaging sessions short (a few hours) since it gets really cold sitting there in the winter time (yes, even in California).


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#21 abcdefghii

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 12:00 PM

Forget about taking pictures until you have mastered the mount.  That includes assembling all the bits correctly, balancing it, polar aligning, goto aligning, etc.  Each of those is a specific skill set, and there are tutorials available online, plus of course you can ask questions here.

The first thing I did when I got an actual telescope and mount was set it up in the house, figure out where everything plugged in, get it balanced and all of those things. Then I looked at the wires and how could I simplify / clean up the routing of them (still working on that one). At that point I simply used the hand controller to get a feel for how the mount reacted to button presses. 

 

Then, connected to ASIAir and made sure everything worked through that interface. 

 

Finally, took it all outside and put all that into practice. Then promptly spent way too long trying to get PA dialed in, forgot certain settings or to turn something on / off and wasted a bunch of time. Thankfully, now as long as everything goes smoothly I can be up and running in about 15-20 minutes or so. 

 

What I am trying to say though, is that you can spend as much time as you want practicing little pieces of it, but don't underestimate that the second you try to set everything up and get it working, you'll forget or miss something small. But, ultimately, don't worry over it too much, it's a hobby, it is supposed to be fun. 


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#22 Zensurgeon

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 01:18 PM

 

 

What I am trying to say though, is that you can spend as much time as you want practicing little pieces of it, but don't underestimate that the second you try to set everything up and get it working, you'll forget or miss something small. But, ultimately, don't worry over it too much, it's a hobby, it is supposed to be fun. 

 

I had similar experience - I actually wrote out a checklist on APT to follow so I didn't miss any steps

I am up an running in less than 20 minutes but sometimes there are still snags



#23 abcdefghii

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 03:24 PM

I can't image from home due to trees (my "Oak Nebula"),

I've got one of those.... It's funny, I am in the process of getting a detached garage built in the back yard and plan to use some old deck boards (getting the main deck on the house replaced) to make a small deck near the garage. I was thinking of how awesome a spot it would be for a semi permanent spot where I can set up, then I looked in the back yard at where the garage is going, 3 enormous oak trees and a smaller tree (not sure what it is) would pretty much block 80% of the sky. So, that ruled that out. 

 

I had similar experience - I actually wrote out a checklist on APT to follow so I didn't miss any steps

I am up an running in less than 20 minutes but sometimes there are still snags

Before I sold my drone, someone on the Mavic forums had a really comprehensive pre-flight checklist that I downloaded and would use, I try to keep that sort of mentality in setting up the photography rig and do things in a specific order so I don't forget or miss something. 

 

No matter how well prepared you are though, there are always those nights when something comes along and causes a headache.



#24 fuadramsey

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 03:44 PM

Start easy and build on that. Get comfortable with a process and then add to that:

 

 

Learn the major constellations and stars. I've seen it a bunch of times with people having go-to issues because they aligned on the wrong star. You can do a lot with just binos.

 

Start imaging widefield. Use just a camera and lens first. This reduces tracking issues when you go with shorter focal lengths. Try milkyway shots, or wideshots. That'll teach you how to use your camera. You get great results a lot faster.

 

And the foundation for tracking is good polar alignment. Know how to do this and know the relationship with accurate date and time and location regarding your setup. Once you know how to use your polar scope well, start fine tuning that with SharpCap or another polar alignment software routine. Most mounts will have a polar alignment routine in them as well. 

 

Know how to collimate your scope! -No tracking will help if you have bad collimation. 

 

From there you can start guiding. But work your way up in focal length so you don't get burnt out too fast. Stick with the default settings in PHD2 and use the best practices guide that is out there. If you don't get good guiding with that then you have other issues. 



#25 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 03:47 PM

Before I sold my drone, someone on the Mavic forums had a really comprehensive pre-flight checklist that I downloaded and would use, I try to keep that sort of mentality in setting up the photography rig and do things in a specific order so I don't forget or miss something. 

 

No matter how well prepared you are though, there are always those nights when something comes along and causes a headache.

Another rule of life that I try to remind myself of from time to time:  "Never let any piece of technology know you're in a hurry."


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