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A complete novice at astrophotography


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Hi all,

I am sure this might have been asked before, but I have just joined today and both a newbish to astrophotography astronomy.

I am looking intro and want to get involved into astrophotography. I do live in a light polluted area and do not have that much room for large kit. Currently I have a skywatcher 130p goto mount,

I would like some advice as I am interested in photography too, currently I am looking at the cannon eos 60d, I do not want to get it modified as ill be using it as general dslr. Will this be a good camera for astrophotography? I am not sure if my current mount will take the weight. I will be upgrading to a goto eq6 mount later.

Also not having a pc, I use an iPhone and iPad, can I use an iPhone adapter to the mount as a replacement for a pc and web cam? Is there apps for stacking on iPhones or iPads? Just in case the skywatcher 130p cannot take the weight of canon eos 60d being attached.

would it possible to just to attach the cannon eos 60d to a dove tail adapter and just attach to the mount, not sure if that option may work.

many thanks

dave

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Hi all,

I am sure this might have been asked before, but I have just joined today and both a newbish to astrophotography astronomy.

I am looking intro and want to get involved into astrophotography. I do live in a light polluted area and do not have that much room for large kit. Currently I have a skywatcher 130p goto mount,

I would like some advice as I am interested in photography too, currently I am looking at the cannon eos 60d, I do not want to get it modified as ill be using it as general dslr. Will this be a good camera for astrophotography? I am not sure if my current mount will take the weight. I will be upgrading to a goto eq6 mount later.

Also not having a pc, I use an iPhone and iPad, can I use an iPhone adapter to the mount as a replacement for a pc and web cam? Is there apps for stacking on iPhones or iPads? Just in case the skywatcher 130p cannot take the weight of canon eos 60d being attached.

would it possible to just to attach the cannon eos 60d to a dove tail adapter and just attach to the mount, not sure if that option may work.

many thanks

dave

Hi Dave, Welcome to the forum.

Do you have an AltAz mount or EQ mount? If it is an AltAz then unfortunately you are restricted to planetary imaging with a webcam or some very basic dso imaging with very high ISO and short exposures, you really need to experiment to find out the limit of the mount and the camera. An AltAz mount such as yours can not be guided either which makes long exposure DSO imaging almost impossible, an EQ mount is rather a different matter. Any DsLR can do astroimaging, Canons are popular mainly because of the software support.Also I am pretty short that a 130P can not focus with a dslr, a 130PDS is very different. Do your homework before buying.

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hi Dave, a lot will depend on whether you have an EQ or ALT/AZ mount currently. EQ generally allow a bit more exposure time as you don't have to worry about field rotation (where the stars rotate around the centre) and track better, but take longer to align. Your camera is fine, don't worry about modding it, you'll capture plenty unmodded. If you have EF lenses you can't fit an EOS-clip filter with them, but EF lenses will be fine. You may be able to attach your cam to your scope, but imaging with an effective 650mm f5 lens makes it difficult, so I would start just using your camera lenses with as wide aperture as possible. Perhaps start around 50-100mm, will make tracking much easier. Go for 30s-60s exposure, ISO800-1600 initially. Point to a fairly dense part of the milkyway, if you can see it. You'll be AMAZED what you capture!!

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just to continue my post, I got this pic with a compact camera sat on the boot of my car, albeit under good skies, just think what you'll get with a 60d and tracking mount! Regarding the filter, if you have some light pollution a CLS or UHC LP filter works wonders.

post-5168-0-07182000-1372658342_thumb.jp

Edited by sgazer
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Do you have the book 'Making Every Photon Count'? It's available in the book section of the FLO website. For any one starting out in imaging it is THE book, think of it more as a bible really!! The best £20 you will ever spend.

Is there not an issue with the 130p and not being able to achieve focus without some form of modification to either the focuser or the mirror? I know that I've read something on here about that, but I'm not totally sure that it was with that scope. Hopefully someone will be along soon to confirm.

For the long haul, you cannot beat a short tube refractor for imaging. Many start off with an 80ED and an HEQ5. A good solid performer for many. The shorter focal length places less stress on the mount with regards to guiding and exposures and polar alignment. It is definitely something to consider as it's worth starting off with something as simple as you can make it. AP is a tricky hobby and so any help you can get by getting the easiest performing kit is a bonus.

If you look in the imaging section most people put what kit they use for their images, so you can get a feel for what works. The book will help too!

Look out for stuff second hand. Mount wise, the EQ8 is being released in September / October time. I'm sure that there will be a few EQ6's on ABS as people upgrade.

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Hi all,

Many thanks for the helpful replies. I do apologise for posting the post twice, I didn't spot that till now.

Firstly I chose the skywatcher 130p for its size and portability. I have a very small boot in the car. also i have found the scope to be pretty impressive especially for the goto and tracking capabilities. For example I tracked Saturn successfully for over two hours.

The mount I believe is a altaz mount. I have go admit I wasn't expecting in wanting to try astrophotography till I used my nikon p520 and got some amazing moon shots.i will be upgrading to a eq mount after the cannon upgrade.

Regarding the skywatcher 130p, what do you guys mean by modifying it? What is involved.

Can you attach a ccd camera to an iPhone for example?

Many thanks for your advice.

Dave

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HI Dave.

Sara is bang on the money here. The book "Making Every Photon Count" will save you a lot of frustration and potentially money when investing.

The first thing you need to realise is that AP gets expensive very quick. The baseline mount you need to correctly track the stars is a HEQ-5 (that is future proof and not underpowered). You can make do with cheaper options like the motorized EQ3-2 and the EQ-5. Just remember that it's all about the mount. If you put an ED80, your 130p or something else doesnt really matter. Then you might want to add correctors, guide equipment, power tanks, laptops etc

However if you decide to take the plunge, you're in for the ride of your life.

My suggestion is to play around with what you have and enjoy the night skies while you read up on different mounts, scopes and solutions. The key here is not to make investments that will be obsolete soon, and to realise that each piece of equipment has positive things and negative things. Price, flexibility, portability etc. There is no clear solution to AP, just a myriad of paths to take to the solution that fits you the best. Just be sure to arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can before you start puting the cash down. We're here to back you up when you hit a wall.

Welcome to the dark side.

Edited by VigdisVZ
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Hi,

I haven't got the Making Every Photon Count book yet, but now will do.i have recently picked up turn left at Orion too., which is very good. Yes I agree there is alot to learn and I will be reading alot more before making any choices.

I now can't wait to get up and running :).

I really appreciate the help and advice.

Thankyou

Dave

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Hi all,

Many thanks for the helpful replies. I do apologise for posting the post twice, I didn't spot that till now.

Firstly I chose the skywatcher 130p for its size and portability. I have a very small boot in the car. also i have found the scope to be pretty impressive especially for the goto and tracking capabilities. For example I tracked Saturn successfully for over two hours.

The mount I believe is a altaz mount. I have go admit I wasn't expecting in wanting to try astrophotography till I used my nikon p520 and got some amazing moon shots.i will be upgrading to a eq mount after the cannon upgrade.

Regarding the skywatcher 130p, what do you guys mean by modifying it? What is involved.

Can you attach a ccd camera to an iPhone for example?

Many thanks for your advice.

Dave

Hi Dave,

You can attach a webcam to your focuser, don't know what you mean by attaching a ccd to an iphone!!! For planetary imaging I am afraid that a fast laptop is what is needed, I don't think that either the iphone or i pad have a usb2 port for connection or the hard-disc capacity to down load enormous amount of data that a modern webcam downlodas on to your hard disk. I know that there are some APs for iphone or ipad to help you locate objects in the sky but that is as much as I know about iphones. Forget the idea of modification to your telescope for he time being, the problem is that a 130 p or any telescope not designed for imaging, does not have enough inward focus tube travel to accomodate the backfocus of a DSLR, therefore either the primary mirror has to moved up the tube by means of longer screws or the secodary mirror moved down the tube as skyWatcher did with the PDS versions, this also means that the size of the secondary mirror has to be enlarged to get all the reflected light from the primary up the focus tube, in the oldtimes if someone did not have an Astrograph telescope at times they resorted to shortening the tube by sawing it, LOL, I don't think you want to bother with that lot, if you become so serious about imaging that you need a dedicated AstroGraph then I am afraid no amount of sawing or soldering will solve your problem, best to save up hard and buy a proper scope to do the job. For the time being I think that you should keep your scope and mount until you find out how serious you are about DSO imaging, it is a serious and expensive hobby. Once you reach that stage then seek advice again.

Reagrds,

A.G

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I definitely recommend that book too, it will answer a lot of questions for you and is very well written. I share your keenness to try out your camera. I started a few years ago with a 10" scope and quickly got bored seeing similar dots in the sky and faint grey smudges of nebula. The moment I took a photo (and I love cameras and technology), everything was transformed. However, imaging feint deep sky objects through a scope (say with a 1000mm focal length) is difficult and takes a lot of expertise and good equipment. I'm sure you are aware that a longer focal length lens on your camera makes taking a sharp photo even more difficult, requiring large aperture (eg f2.8) and fast shutter (eg. 1/250ths). Imagine trying to photograph something moving at 1 degree every 4 minutes, with a 1000mm lens, small f5 aperture, long 3 minutes exposure with a tracking accuracy of 1/1000th of a degree. It takes some pretty decent kit, fantastic alignment with the earths axis and very accurate tracking! Not only that, the subject being photographed is a dot which fits on 1 or 4 pixels (ie. stars), if there's any error in the tracking and the stars shift a couple of pixels, you'll notice, because they are single points of light. You've got all the equipment compatibility and image processing (there is a 300 page Photoshop book just on how to process the photos) on top. That's just to give you an idea of the level of difficulty in doing good imaging with a scope. But, you don't need to start like that. As I say, you'll be able to capture images that you'll never be able to see, even with the biggest scope, with a simple 30s shot with your camera and a lens (say 100-200mm). Do good alignment with your ALT/AZ mount and you'll get up to a minute exposure. Add a nice UHC EOS-clip filter and the light pollution will drop drastically, bringing out nebula nicely. The 60d is low noise, so ISO1600 will be great. Read up on stacking the images in Deep Sky Stacker to reduce the noise further (noise reduces by the square root of the number of images stacked, so 9 images with reduce the noise by a third). Practise some levels and curves in Photoshop or Gimp (free) to bring out the details. I'd recommend upgrading your mount before the scope, go for at least a HEQ5, GOTO is very nice and allows you to spend significantly more time imaging than finding stuff. Use your camera/lens on the HEQ5 and you'll get 5 minute exposures, revealing even more. Once you're getting the hang of it and want to image smaller objects (basically a scope is just a camera lens with a longer focal length), then get one you can attach the camera to and work on your skills with that setup. Imaging planets is a whole new subject (and has a complete book to itself!), requiring a completely different approach. Reasonable tracking helps, but not critical as exposures are very short. You need a long focal length (2000-6000mm!), a stable mount and usually a webcam, to capture hundreds of short exposures. The best ones (hundreds chosen) are then stacked in Registax and processed from there on, but the book will explain all that. Hope that gives you an ideal of what's involved and the easiest route to get into imaging.

Edited by sgazer
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Welcome to the forum Dave,

As others have said, an Alt/Az mount is not ideal for imaging anything other than planetary work with a web cam. This is due to an effect called field rotation as the mount can only go up/down and left/right and not rotate as with an EQ mount. With imaging its all down to the mount, and as others have said the accepted minimum for a serious attempt is the HEQ5. However whilst it's portable, it is considerably larger than the mount you have, so not as portable. That said there are people on here who have taken very good deep sky images with EQ3 / EQ5 mounts. The main issue is that you need a stable platform especially if you are going to attach a heavy camera body to the scope, and then at some stage you will probably add some sort of guide scope to get perfect tracking.

I would suggest you start with a web cam (Philips 880 /900) and see how you get on capturing and processing AVis of the Moon and brighter planets using your existing kit. If you then have the funds and wish to go further then look at investing in an HEQ5. Even if you use that as a platform and bolt you camera to it you'll get some fantastic wide field images, especially if you drive out to a dark site away from pollution.

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Hi all,

Many thanks for the useful information. I am pleased I took the plunge and asked these questions now. However it has raised more questions. Once I have received making every photon count, I am sure that will clarify a few more. I have to admit it was not an area I was expecting to get into. However now this hobby has taken my interest to the next level I can't wait.

many thanks

dave

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