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M57 Ring Nebula, First Attempt

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Attached is my first attempt at imaging the Ring. This is only 3x images collected together to get the best I can with limited knowledge - and only my third go at DSLR on my scope.


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coxy322, this is actually remarkably good!

I would like to know more about this image, like exposure length, if you guided, and how you processed it. The star colour is subtle but superb and the background is on my screen very uniform without showing signs of clipping.

Errm, you do know that this is at least meant to be rather difficult???

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Thanks for all the comments, they are really encouraging.

Here is a better link where you can see it in native resolution and not compressed by SGL. There is a couple of uncropped originals next to it. Maybe you might prefer either?

Skydrive - Astro Images

The final image, posted in original message here, was simply three images taken as follows:

Unguided, using an EQ5 as supplied with 200P and standard battery driven motors.

1x 40 Second @ 1600

1x 36 Second @ 200

1x 30 Second @ 400

I aligned manually and stacked using Gimp2. Before merging I adjusted some light curves. After satisfying the opacity levels for all three images (with brightest at bottom) I merged them all down.

Then I took the original image that had the 1600 ISO, the Ring is more vibrant in this. I layer masked this over the processed image above, then "rubbed" out the transparancy where the ring was, then applying some careful tweaks to the colour, contrast and brightness (and Opacity) I merged the ring mask down to the processed image.

I must add, I really am completely new to this. Hence the lack of SUBs and not even had a stab at Darks/Flats etc yet. At the moment I am trying to achieve over 40/50 seconds of exposure before I see some star trail.... However I am a) too excited with my new found hobby; I cannot stop taking lots of random images to see whats best and :D By the time I settle down to start tweaking alignment the cloud gets in OR I am far too cold and my hands are giving up. If the cloud goes tonight I'll be out for another stab....

Edited by coxy322
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I forget how small this blighter is!

Manually stacking, kudos to you. Why not use DSS to stack them and see what that does? My gut feel is with 3 subs at different ISOs and lengths it might struggle, but when you've got some more data give it a whirl.

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Thanks for the info there, this shows much promise. I had a look at the images you linked to and tweaked one of them, the full field reddish looking one. I removed the red and increased the star saturation a notch and deaturated the background just a tad too, leaving the ring alone.

It seems there were more stars there than what showed in your first image and more subs is the key to progress here - in order to keep that fine detail.

As for flats and darks, well so far you are doing very well without - for reasons I don't understand :D.

I really mean it - this is gooood!


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yup these is a very nice image. Its a tiny object and as its one of your first images its nicley processed. Like the trick of just processing in GIMP too :D:icon_salut::)

Cheers John

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Hey Jessun

I appreciate the input and advice. I actually travelled to a dark site, approx 15 miles away from home and the elevation was quite high. However shortly after getting there and setting up, polar alignment done, the clouds came in :D. Then they cleared and I could focus on Vega nicely. This gave me a good opportunity to get the Ring. But I was hampered by further cloud, which came and went for the next hour so grabbed what I could.

I would love to get more stars and a nicer depth of blues, yellows and orange/red and this would compliment a larger field image. However I liked the nice deep and clear black achieved along with a focus on the ring in particular - it is the main purpose and subject of the shot.

Any help or advice for getting longer than 60 second subs AKA less star trail with my limited setup?

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Thats a great image for so few subs, this is a small target and quite hard to capture as well. More subs will certainly bring out more detail for you but that's a great start. Also try the dumbbell nebula when its around great colors in that one just like this one I love the 200p and eq5 combo. You will find that using short subs and taken lots of them you can get some really great images. If you get the chance have a go at the Sombrero Galaxy that is truly amazing.:D

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You've done really well there for the sub time. Nice colours in the nebula itself. It's a tricky little thing to find and capture. 40 seconds is a good sub time for 200p/

EQ5 combo. As QM says, lots more subs - go for 20x40 second ISO 800 and see what that get's you :D

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Firstly, congrats on your image. for your third image and only 3 subs, that is great, i bet you are chuffed.

I know just how difficult it is to image unguided, as i did this for a number of months.

As to your questions about longer sub length, it is all down to balance and polar alignment. It just needs perfecting, and this will take time, but you will get there so stick at it.

As for darks and flats, i wouldnt even think them yet. Just enjoy taking the images, and perfecting your sub length and removing the star trails.

I would defiantly consider downloading DSS Deep Sky Stacker, it is free, and will make stacking images easier.

Again great image, and keep it up :D


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Ok - I have revisited and played further!

This is now just the one image, taken advice that I perhaps did not need different value subs. I did duplicate the frame, masked out the Ring. I could then adjust the contrast levels for the background and then concentrate on bringing out the red hue and blue centre of the ring itself:


I really wanna get back out and shoot some more now!!!

Edited by coxy322
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