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About SteveNickolls

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    Sub Dwarf

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    Nottingham UK
  1. Next Attempts at DSO's

    I have been imaging using my SkyWatcher Startravel 102mm refractor on a Go-To Synscan alt-az mount and Canon 600D DSLR since just before Christmas 2015. Having since read, "Astrophotography on the Go" by Joseph Ashley I have been inspired to use longer exposures, typically 30 seconds at ISO 1600 and to take more images per object (up to 200 light frames) weather permitting. I use Deep Sky Stacker to collate frames and subsequently process the master image using StarTools. I hope this album of images shows improvement upon my earlier attempts. Since April 2017 I have been using a SkyWatcher Star Adventurer (SA) mount on an old Celestron heavy duty tripod to image DSO's with my Canon DSLR. At Christmas 2017 I received a modified Canon 700D DSLR and an Astronomik clip-in Ha 12nm filter to complement my UHC filter. I am continually impressed by the accuracy of the little SA mount.
  2. Imaging with a Star Adventurer

    Hi All, I was taken aback last night with the unexpected clear sky so set up the Sky Adventurer mount and managed to get two and a half hours of NGC 1499, the California Nebula. The image below was taken with my modified Canon 700D and clip in Ha filter and 85mm lens. I managed 10 x 900s light frames at ISO 200 and f/s and stacked them in DSS with dark (x6) and x50 each flat and bias frames from my library. The exif tempratures of the light frames ranged from 11 to 15 degrees C over the imaging period. Processing was done in StarTools. Best Regards, Steve And I like a red version too-
  3. The lost LED revolution

    Thanks John for bringing this article to our notice. I know it just reinforces all of our fears concerning light pollution but I keep hoping it might galvanise someone in the media to publicise this more and start a debate to start changing our irresponsible misuse of lighting. Where I live they are building more than 1,000 new homes which will almost completely surround us in the light sprawl that is Nottingham. I've turned to Ha imaging as the only way apart from radio meteor detection to carry on this old hobby of mine. Still chin up. Thanks, Steve
  4. just a general rant

    Hi, thanks for your query. Excuse the 'statto' reply but...please find attached details for 2012-2013 to 2017-18 (to date). And yes we certainly could do with more clear nights. Chin up. Cheers, Steve Observing and Imaging Statistics.docx
  5. Imaging with a Star Adventurer

    I rather like the idea of a dedicated cooled astro-camera/FW and lens combination on the SA, just have to save all those thousands of pounds... Cheers, Steve
  6. Imaging with a Star Adventurer

    That should be fine as long as the tripod is rigid. I'm using an old Celestron heavy duty Alt-Az tripod and get a very responsive polar alignment using the tripod adjustment knobs. I attach a snapshot showing the arrangement. Cheers, Steve
  7. Entry level DSO ccd recommendations?

    Hi icebergahed, thanks for your post. From what you say you have already got the imaging bug using your Alt-Az mount so are prepared to expand horizons. As you know imaging can absorb any amount of money and you could still be left wanting something better/newer etc. In some ways your lack of money to go on a spending spree is a useful check allowing you to decide where you next really want to venture into as much as that is possible. You are doing right getting advice. I would say a new camera is the wrong way to go right now, use your existing camera and as happy-kat says use it with whatever lenses you already have. I am in the same circumstance to you and have found the jump from Alt-Az to a SkyWatcher Star Adventurer (SA) mount via a home made barn door tracker has been a fascinating experience and given me, for modest outlay, a big jump in imaging. Have a look on SGL at what others have produced using this little cracking mount. It costs £269 from our sponsors for the SA astro-bundle, so within your budget. The mount needs a suitable tripod but the mount is lightweight and portable. You will be free from the constraints of Alt-Az in terms of field rotation and what direction and altitude you can perform reasonable exposures to. I don't know what your local light pollution is like. If you have dark skies you will love the improved images from the SA, if you have to contend with light pollution at some point a filter, even going to a Ha filter will open up longer exposures. I bought my SA last April and after acquiring an Astronomik clip-in Ha 12nm filter for Christmas have been taking exposures of up to 15 minutes with nice results on some nebulae. Over time as you amass savings for the hobby you can decide where to travel on to the imaging adventure. If you do go down the route of mount + DSLR camera and lens have a look at these sites for inspiration and reassurance over future lenses purchases- http://www.astropix.com/html/i_astrop/lenses.html https://www.lenstip.com/lenses_reviews.html Good luck whichever way you decide to venture into. Best Regards, Steve
  8. limit of dslr exposure times

    Hi Andy, Thanks for your thread. An interesting question you set. Now I haven’t a Canon 1000D to directly compare with you but I do use a Star Adventurer (SA) mount for imaging and which I use with two Canon DSLR’s, a 600D and 700D (modified), so here goes. Since I got the SA last April I have been progressively increasing the lens FL used and exposure times and always my exposures are limited not by the camera or mount but by the light pollution conditions here. In November I began using an Astronomik clip–in UHC filter (as I image in a quite light polluted suburb just 3 miles out of Nottingham) which allowed for 5 minute exposures. Last Christmas I obtained a similar 12nm Ha filter to obtain better (and much longer exposure) images of nebulae. The longest exposures so far have been 15 minutes using the Canon 85mm lens in my signature plus the Ha filter. These were taken at ISO 200 and f/2. I use BYEOS to image and the exposure histogram after 15 minutes showed a red channel peak below the first division indicating I can expose for longer another time. Atmospheric conditions also affect performance and exposure duration night to night. As we are in our winter season these images had an exif temperature of around 10 degrees C (or around 10 degrees above the ambient air temperature). In warmer months expect greater thermal noise to affect the camera sensor. There are things you can do to help reduce noise such as switching off ‘Live View’ when on the imaging run and allowing a long pause between images (I currently use 60 second pause between images) which gives a pretty stable temperature profile to the images for later processing. I also try to match as best I can the dark frame temperatures to the light frames as this has an effect on overall picture quality. You also need to take enough dark frames else run the risk of actually adding noise. If you drop your ISO from 800-1600 you will be able to image longer and if you use lenses with faster f/ratios can collect light quicker, so time while important is only one influencing factor. Out of all of this the SA mount has performed marvellously and while at some point I must find a limit to its capability I have not yet found it at 85mm. Used within its design the mount is a really excellent and portable mount and keeps on producing. I hope this is helpful but you see it isn’t just duration that affects the image or sensor temperature. Good luck with your future imaging. Cheers, Steve
  9. Reality has kicked in

    Hi, it is fair to say a lot of improvement for a given image can come out of being familiar with the software you use to stack and process, it will involve some time and practice while not one piece of software works for everybody. DSS has it's own, shall I say, 'peculiarities' and learning curve but my own use of DSS is geared towards producing a master image to be used in StarTools and for that you don't want DSS doing anything untoward in the background while otherwise stacking and there are a number of settings to master to your requirements. It sounds as if you are doing this though in DSS. Joseph Ashley, author of, "Astro-photography on the Go, Using Short Exposures with Light Mounts" has a whole chapter devoted to using DSS in his book and I recall two editions of the Sky at Night magazine not too long ago had an exposition on its use. Others here will be able to assist as regards PhotoShop. Cheers, Steve
  10. DSLR 650D

    Hi, Thanks for your post. I have the Canon 600D and a modded 700D so they straddle your 650D. The 650D does have an improved processor over the 600D but for astronomy purposes that won't really impress you much. I'd say one very useful feature of the 650D is the articulated LCD screen as cameras can get placed at peculiar angles when composing shots. I've found manual focusing with a camera lens with the Live View is easy if you take you time using a bright star. If you are attaching the camera to a telescope a Bhatinov Mask will work very well. I'd advise removing the rubber around the optical viewfinder and taping it over to prevent any stray light entering the camera. Also turn off the Live View once you are focused to prevent heat being detected by the sensor as signal. I use a mains powered supply to operate the camera as this gives indefinite power, fiddling with batteries on a cold night is not a pleasure. Hope these little tips help. Enjoy your camera! Cheers, Steve
  11. Imaging with a Star Adventurer

    Hi Wirral man, Thanks for the photo of your imaging equipment. I'm always impressed by the inventiveness associated with astronomy, I particularly like your extra weight below your tripod-hey even the colour matches the rest of the gear. Good luck with your future imaging and processing and don't let the light pollution spoil your enjoyment. Best wishes, Steve
  12. Reality has kicked in

    Hi, thanks for your post. Please don't get disheartened at your predicament with light pollution, try and treat it as a challenge instead. Light pollution is a scourge of our modern age unfortunately and the few really dark sites in the UK make them inaccessible to many of us apart from on holiday if we can so arrange them. There are many brighter DSO's you can hone your imaging and processing skills on though before deciding to perhaps move to narrowband imaging or employ CLS/UHC filters depending on the target and level of light pollution you face, I'd name globular clusters, the M42 region and Rosette Nebula to be on your imaging list as quite achievable even in a light polluted environment. Plenty to do :-) Chin up. Cheers, Steve
  13. Imaging with a Star Adventurer

    The past two night's have been clear here and I began taking exposures of Simeis 147 (Spaghetti Nebula) as suggested by serbiadarksky :-) For Christmas I received a modded Canon 700D DSLR and an Astronomik clip-in Ha 12nm filter which were both used with the SA mount capturing exposures on both nights. The image below is a slightly cropped composite from 28x 600s plus 1x 780s and 5 x 900s light frames (in total just over 6 hours) at 85mm, f/2 and ISO 200 together with 32 assorted dark frames and a master flat and bias frame (each from x50 exposures). The frames were stacked In DSS and processed in StarTools. Judging by what others have employed in terms of hours of exposures to image this faint region I'm still happy to have imaged something I would never be able to observe from where I live. At the 2 o'clock position in the composition is Elnath and to the left, M37. Cheers, Steve
  14. Coping with wind & imaging?

    Sorry to hear your predicament. If you can, add a weight to the tripod to make it more sturdy. You could make/buy a wind break. I've used one for a few years now made from some timber and weed suppressant fabric and bolted together which fits over a fence and gate. I now use it with my Star Adventurer to cut out the chill winds blowing from the North-North East. Cheers, Steve
  15. Unistellar eVscope

    So by that 'logic' we shouldn't watch football on the tv...because it's an image-right and somehow not real? Definitely time to cut back on Journalism courses, or is that what the interviewer needs to attend? It will be good to see how the product roll out, I can see a lot of newcomers purchasing the product if the price is right. Thanks for posting. Cheers, Steve