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About SteveNickolls

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    Sub Dwarf

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    Nottingham UK
  1. Perseus Double Cluster and Stock 2

    Hi and thanks :-) StarTools does not compromise original star colours and I was very pleased at all the red stars visible which is something I always spend ages looking at when viewing the cluster which is a personal favorite. I've just checked the processing record in StarTools and 20 pixels on the periphery were removed in the StarTools Crop module, so cropped but not by very much. It does show how good the SA mount is in operation compared to my Alt-Az Synscan mount. Thanks again for the kind comment. Cheers, Steve
  2. Best portable tracking mount for DSLR

    Well it's certainly possible to achieve and I would encourage others to try. The night previously I had only managed 150 second exposures before trailing was evident in BYEOS on the laptop then I had the idea to complete polar alignment (then switch on the Star Adventurer mount) when Polaris was just on a marked division. As for being repeatable that's waiting for the great British weather to clear but it is certainly going to be how I polar align in the future. Have a look in my album (Perseus double Cluster and Stock 2). As I get more images I will add them to my album. Cheers, Steve
  3. First Imaging Attempt

    Just before Christmas 2015 I began taking photographs of DSO's using my SkyWatcher Startravel 102mm refractor, alt-az mount and Canon 600D DSLR. To date all images except the Rosette Nebula have been taken using ten second exposure lengths and at ISO 1600. Image processing uses Deep Sky Stacker and StarTools software.
  4. binocular astrophotgraphy section

    There you go-http://www.365astronomy.com/365Astronomy-Digital-Camera-iPhone-Smartphone-Microstage-Adapter-for-Telescopes-Spotting-Scopes-and-Binoculars.html Cheers, Steve
  5. Best portable tracking mount for DSLR

    On the matter of exposure times is 3 minutes at 300mm FL without an auto-guider ok? I use BYEOS to image and when running multiple exposures have found no star movement under a cursor over 12 minutes when using a 200mm lens. I have found if you can finish polar alignment when Polaris is just on a marked division this helps maximise accuracy. Cheers, Steve
  6. Here's the site of one of the Canon camera repair specialists based in Stoke. http://www.hlehmann.co.uk/ They do a repair while you wait but at cost. Earlier this year I had a full maintenance carried out and replacement of sensor for my Canon 600D. Cheers, Steve
  7. Portable setup for AP

    Hi Arkadiusz, Thanks for your post and a warm welcome to SGL. I'm sure you will get a lot of assistance over your questions from the folks on SGL. I can vouch for the Star Adventurer (SA) mount having used one since April this year. There should be a lot of information on SGL to help you specifically with this mount, with set up, polar alignment etc. I can't help you over the iOptron mount unfortunately. How heavy is the intended telescope-SW ED80? Many people think well of using the WO Zenithstar 61. The payload maximum for the SA is 5kg. If you are intent on using the camera with the telescope the focal length will require you to use an auto-guider and remember the SA tracks only in RA. Anyway that's my contribution Arkadiusz. Good luck with your observing and imaging. Best regards, Steve
  8. Star Adventurer or EQ3?

    Hi Árpád, the finder scope should work fine helping to position your camera on target. It is a practiced art moving the camera with loosened ball head to where you want while looking through the finder and then tightening the knobs back up without affecting alignment but it is quite possible to do. I keep the '6' at the bottom of the reticule but I'd be interested in your results. I quite understand your reluctance taking a laptop out each imaging session though I would think its own internal heat would help keep the effects of dew away. Is there somewhere it would have some cover, or even make one? You would want to ensure no stray light from the laptop affected the camera too. My imaging location is outside the kitchen, a limited aspect but close enough to run an active 10m usb cable to the camera and control things from indoors. I am contemplating a gazebo down the garden which on some nights I could operate the laptop down there from and just have a mains power extension with rcd protection to run the laptop all night long. From there I'd have views to the south and west which I currently don't have outside the kitchen. On the subject of dewing I have found attaching a disposable hand warmer with an elastic band around the end of the lens works a treat all night. Not come across DigiCamControl but if it works well for you then that's fine. BYN will be quite similar to BYEOS and there's a good Astro Imaging Channel video with Guy presenting BYEOS to give a flavour of what it can do (at the time of the programme BYN was being created). There's also ATP but I found BYEOS more user friendly but it's all down to what suits the individual. BYEOS can control focusing with some lenses but not all. I manually focus using the camera's Live View then turn off Live View as its operation generates heat which the camera sensor interprets as signal. I then use BYEOS to check framing, to double check focus using the laptop's larger screen and to organise taking frames while you have the option to either stay warm indoors or go outside and observe the sky with binoculars. Cheers, Steve
  9. Star Adventurer or EQ3?

    Hi Árpád, Thanks for your message. All the things you mention to try will help make a more solid base for imaging off, good luck trying them out. I held back suggesting any particular right angled adapter for the polar scope as they seem to vary so much in price but I have since re-located the one I bought which can be viewed here-http://www.darkframeoptics.com/product/polarite-right-angled-polarscope I'm sure a look on the Internet might find you a cheaper but similar accessory. I have a red led finder attached to the hot shoe of my Canon 600D and it serves to get you in the right location for imaging. You need to be careful when moving the camera towards an object that you don't cause any movement to the mount or tripod that would spoil your alignment. You do get used to being gentle moving the ball head but making sure it grips the camera well. I also use BYEOS to control imaging as I have found it very useful for checking stars are pin sharp (on a laptop screen) as well as alerting me to clouds as you get to see every exposure as it downloads. One advantage of controlling through a laptop is you get to stay in the warm :-) Clear skies, Steve
  10. Star Adventurer or EQ3?

    Hi, I'm pleased to hear you received your SA mount and have been able to try it out. Two outings is early days to get used to new equipment so I wouldn't worry over the mount but try approaches that lessen the star trailing you are getting. My approach has been to steadily increase the FL lenses used and see what exposure times can be achieved, modifying my process accordingly. You really do need to take time getting a good polar alignment, especially with longer FL lenses, any error will be more evident as FL increases. Do you have the SkyWatcher SAM app meant for the smaller wi-fi controlled mount? It has a useful polar alignment capability you can put to use for the SA itself. The view you get on the app = that in the SA polar scope. Just recently when I moved up to using a 300mm lens I found that I could only achieve 150 seconds exposures without trailing but the next night, finishing aligning (moving the dial to start tracking) when Polaris was just on a division on the reticule meant polar alignment was more accurate and I could get 180 seconds. I haven't got on well with the supplied wedge which I found coarse and awkward to use in the dark and instead use an old Celestron Alt-Az mount with adjustment controls that are smooth and intuitive to use, but that's a personal thing allowing me to perform a good polar alignment where control is king). The combination of the wedge RA and DEC adjustment process and adjusting and keeping the polar illuminator device in place adds pressure to get alignment done fast which is not a good thing. If you use the bracket and counterweight the illuminator will fall off without cause so you need to engineer a means of keeping the illuminator in place. Sticky Velcro is your friend here :-) Another thing that might be causing you an issue is having to look through the polar finder at an awkward, uncomfortable angle. I find I cannot bend to see directly through the polar scope and kneeling hurts my old legs even with a cushion. You can get right angled adapters to fit on the end of the polar scope to give a comfortable view so you are not self-pressured into rushing polar alignment. Once you have polar aligned you need to be careful attaching and tightening the imaging gear so as not to knock the mount, this gets easier the more you practice and it almost goes without saying that doing this in the dark and in the cold adds to the potential for things to go awry. As regards your tripod anything you can do to make it more sturdy is good. I use a 3kg house brick to help keep the tripod sturdy. You might try not extending your tripod fully to help reduce flexure at joints and check all joints are stiff. I initially used a heavy tripod to hold the SA but it did not hold the mount still enough in use. As you mention your gear weighs 2kg I would suggest using the bracket and counterweight and see what improvement this produces for you. You can practice getting balance right in the daytime. I have found I can focus the camera with it attached to the bracket/counterweight, move it out the way of obstructing polar alignment, then with alignment completed and the mount tracking adjust the direction of the camera to point at the object to be imaged. Again practice helps. Good luck. Cheers, Steve
  11. Star Adventurer polar scope light mod

    Hi Ryan, Sorry not to reply sooner (I have been at the Nottingham Beer and Cider Festival and...) but it seems you are now settled over the mirror lock issue etc. I do like your image using the SA. You are very fortunate living close-ish to very dark skies. As regards lightweight set ups it's really down to what suits the individual. Personally I have used just my camera and lenses on the mount as I don't want to go the route of auto-guiding at the longer FL's of say a WO Xenithstar 61 for example. Finding good lenses that admit lots of light do help the cause and I can recommend the Samyang 135mm f/2 ED UMC lens in that regard. I'm hoping to experiment with filters in the future as it is the local light pollution that is holding back exposure times now. Best regards, Steve
  12. Hi, Thanks for your query. I haven't used a Canon 400D (I have the later 600D) but do use it on a Star Adventurer mount sometimes with a Canon 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 III USM lens with which I have had success. I have found getting as precise a polar alignment as I can has let me achieve 180 second exposures with this 300mm lens without the need for guiding. I've found polar aligning when Polaris is on a division on the polar scope reticule helps reduce error as much as possible. With my Samyang 135mm f/2 lens I am only limited in exposure time by the local light pollution here (Mag 4.3 sky). I use BYEOS to capture images and using the cursor placed over a star have found no movement in successive exposures lasting over eight minutes with the Samyang lens. Good luck if you do decide to purchase a Star Adventurer mount. Cheers, Steve
  13. Star Adventurer polar scope light mod

    Hi Ryan, Until I got the SA mount this spring I was imaging using Alt-Az equipment (a SkyWatcher Synscan mount and either a 102mm Startravel f/4.9 refractor/Canon 600D or the camera and lenses). I could get 60-70 seconds exposures quite well depending on field rotation but always wanted to push the exposure time. The SA has been little short of a revelation and I'm sure you will be pleased with yours. I have carefully been trying out longer FL lenses to see what exposures can be had and I am now faced with a 'glass ceiling' created by the local light pollution, the limiting magnitude here is around 4.3 in the suburbs of Nottingham. I have a number of lenses, the kit Canon EFS-18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, a Canon EF 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 and most recently a Samyang 135mm f/2 ED UMC. The jewel is the Samyang lens, very capable fully open. I recently reviewed my log of imaging sessions with the SA to see what exposure times the mount has been able to deliver. At 300mm I've had 180 second exposures at f/5.6 ISO 400 with no star trailing. When I polar align I now do this when Polaris is at a marked division on the reticle to make alignment as precise as possible and take guessing out the process. I use BYEOS to image and at other FL's I have placed the cursor over a star and found no star movement over successive exposures, so at 135mm the SA tracking has been rock steady over 8 minutes. If I had no light pollution I could take very long exposures, as it is I have to cut exposures short. Here is an image of the area around Sadr taken using the SA mount and Canon 600D plus Samyang 135mm lens at f/2 from x60 forty five second light frames at ISO 400 plus x20 dark frames and x50 flat and bias frames. I use DSS to stack and StarTools to process. Using the lens at f/2 and local light pollution levels restricted me to 45 second shots. On holiday earlier this year in Cornwall I was able to increase exposure time to 180 seconds using the same combination and at ISO 1600. This image is made from eight 180 second light frames and x20 dark frames and x50 flat and bias frames. The exif temperature data showed a steady 15 degrees throughout the imaging session. Good luck with your imaging Ryan. Best regards, Steve P.S. The WO Zenithstar looks a lovely instrument, light enough for the SA to carry. I think at 360mm FL you would be looking into guiding to get the best out of it.
  14. Star Adventurer polar scope light mod

    Hi Ryan, I used the sticky backed Velcro and placed short strips of the loops along the bracket near the centre point and around the adapter. I then used two short strips of the opposite type of Velcro (hooks) (but keeping the backing still on it) to secure to the Velcro on the bracket and adapter. I hope this makes sense. Good luck! Cheers, Steve
  15. Star Adventurer polar scope light mod

    Yes, my SA came with an adapter too that connects the illuminator to the bracket the trouble is this is a very loose fit and it easily dislodges. All can be secured however with some judicious velcro :-) Cheers, Steve