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Hi guys,

I am thinking about taking the step from observing to AP. At this point I think I can only still be considered an enthusiastic noobies and am not very tech savvy.

In simple terms, what kit do I need to make AP work. At this point in time I have:

Alt/Az 102 frac. (Celestron 102 SLT).

DSLR.

DSLR 'mounting kit' (buy which I mean the T shaped adaptor and base plate that mounts my camera to the telescope.

What I would like to be able to achieve (short to long terms goals):

1) In the first instance just set up my telescope to take shots at the moon/Jupiter and a couple of bright DSO's.

2) In the nearer term, I would like to hook my telescope and camera to a laptop so I can use software to take photos etc.

3) In longer term I would like to be able to completely direct my telescope and arrange for all photo action etc to be directed via the PC.

All things told what kit do I need (in simple terms) for each stage and how (in simple terms) does it all work together? (I appreciate I will ultimately need a telescope on a GE mount but the is wrapped into the long term plan).

Many tasks,

-Sharpe

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One of the first things you should do is get hold of the book 'Making Every Photon Count' - available from the book section of the FLO site it's an imagers bible for DSO's. I take it that once you've

As another novice, using what you have. 1 get to grips with webcam imaging on Moon and Jupiter. 2 get to grips with wide field imaging with your dslr using your existing mount and a remote shutter rel

Please don't think I'm trying to make light of this but seriously, there is no quick simple in A.P.  I guess the closest I can come to that is :- 1) get a good quality eq mount. alt/az won't cut it fo

One of the first things you should do is get hold of the book 'Making Every Photon Count' - available from the book section of the FLO site it's an imagers bible for DSO's. I take it that once you've exhausted number 1, then DSO imaging will become your primary interest.

The mount question is valid - GEM mounts are much more suited to imaging than the alt/az as it tracks the sky. Get hold of the book, read it ....... twice ..... then think about what you need and why.

An idea of budget would help as well and also an idea of quality of images you want to achieve. Have a look in the imaging section and people generally list their kit that they've used. Be realistic about what you want to work towards and then consider your budget. 

With a DSLR and a lens you can take good widefield images.

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On an Alt/Az if it tracks = motors, then you can likely get Jupiter and the moon, you may need to drop a 3x barlow in just to get the size up.

For the moon you may be able to take a simple shot, say 1/4 second. Give it a try - that is with a barlow.

For Jupiter you will use a webcam - maybe the DSLR video mode would do but no idea. Webcams are cheap anyway.

Beyond what the above will deliver you are looking at an EQ mount with motors at least.

Not sure what the 102SLT is.

Before much more what is "basic"?

To me it is something like an EQ5 with motors (goto preferable), small scope (130PDS or 70-72mm ED refractor) and a DSLR.

For any DSLR DSO work you will need a remote timer, Amazon about £25.

You will also need to do one other aspect = Read the DSLR Manual.

The problem with "basic" is that people want exceptional results as well.

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Hey guys,

Thanks for so many responses so soon.

Yes my scope is a goto/motorised alt/az.

I already have Making Every Photon Count although I found it rather heavy going and just wanted a quick simple list.

-Sharpe

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As another novice, using what you have.

1 get to grips with webcam imaging on Moon and Jupiter.

2 get to grips with wide field imaging with your dslr using your existing mount and a remote shutter release.

Both will introduce you to capturing and image processing.

Then review next step before spending dosh.

Just a thought.

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Please don't think I'm trying to make light of this but seriously, there is no quick simple in A.P. 

I guess the closest I can come to that is :-

1) get a good quality eq mount. alt/az won't cut it for dso imaging

2)for starting out, use either a short f/l scope or dslr+lens.

3)re-read the book until it makes sense. it's full of stuff you really need to know

Sorry, no quick fix I'm afraid :)

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Hey guys,

I'll take another look at Making Every Photon Count (I promise).

All I am trying to do is try and make a subject I find difficult and have not attempted (nor have I seen implemented, thus I have no frame of reference) boil down into a few nuts and bolts.

While I appreciate the 'read the flight manual' response will be the one that ultimately aids my knowledge and decision making the most I was hoping for more of the one page 'Janice and John' bit as that can work just as well when you are simply looking at 'how to do something simply' rather than 'do something well' - at least for now.

My goals are long term (really long term) and I just want to know what plugs into where, how to connect a laptop to a pc and what items are needed to allow it tto follow a target etc. But this can all wait for now.

At this point in time (and probably till this time next year) my intent will be to use the kit I have and 'make do'. While I appreciate this is not the idea set up I hope it will be enough to help me learn the ropes (while I read MEPC). Besides while I get the need for a GEM this site implied I can get along my way with my current scope:

http://community.dur.ac.uk/nigel.metcalfe/astro/slt_canon.php

I am interested to hear a lot of people mention Webcams though. While this would have to wait a year (I don't have a laptop to connect it too) what is the benefit of a Webcam over, say, one of the new breeds of Celestron CCD cams (that I saw today at a star watches event). It seems these work as imaging devices and are perhaps better than a Web cam? When it comes to buying 'the next bit of kit' I am happy to spend a couple of hundred on such a piece of kit over a Webcam as I can take it forward with me when/IF I ever get a decent telescope on a GEM and really start to put together a decent AP rig (in 3-5 years time).

Sorry I appreciate I am rambling and that I am coming at this from sixes and sevens. I think I just need to sit down and chat with someone and explain my circumstance and goals in more detail while being shown how others have set up their systems and what they do with them and what they get out of them.

Again many thanks for all your posts:

-Sharpe

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Use the setup as well. Why dont you hook up your dslr to your mount and try to make 30 shots, each 20 seconds, of m42? It is one of the brightest deep sky objects i know. Take also 10 darks and stack it all in dss. That would be a start! :-)

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Long term your need a EQ Mount, scope depending on what you want to images, something to image with, so the cheap end would cost around £1400, going for better equipment there's no limit but expect to quadruple  the cheap end, then add another £1000 for odds and ends, as people have said read the book make notes as you go along, then read it again,,, 

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What you *could* do is buy an inexpensive mount, such as an EQ3-2 with polar 'scope and RA drive. Mount a DSLR on that with its own lenses. You don't even need a laptop provided your camera can take a remote release, and preferably has a mirror lock facility. Take lots of subs, even as short as 30 sec will get you something. Use this to image with and learn about stacking and post-pro.

When you *do* move on / up the little mount is not wasted as you can still be taking wide-field shots while your main imaging rig is doing the more serious stuff.

Be warned, imaging can get very expensive very quickly if you let it. The kit I'm using ATM comes in at a shade under £4.5k, and that's *budget*. There are members here with kit worth as much as quite a nice car. Or even a very nice car!

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Uhb, some very good advice and I will look into this as soon as I get a decent night with my scope and camera - many thanks.

DaveS, I particularly like your idea of getting a GEM and just mounting my camera to it for a while. While I am at least 2-3 years away from being able to buy any kind of GEM (regardless of cost) this seems like a very sensible stepping stone. This way I could (as you say) still get into some of the art of AP as I slowly build my kit bag. I dare say I could even find a way of mounting my 102 from my SLT onto it.

Many thanks both.

-Sharpe

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Hey guys,

I'll take another look at Making Every Photon Count (I promise).

All I am trying to do is try and make a subject I find difficult and have not attempted (nor have I seen implemented, thus I have no frame of reference) boil down into a few nuts and bolts.

While I appreciate the 'read the flight manual' response will be the one that ultimately aids my knowledge and decision making the most I was hoping for more of the one page 'Janice and John' bit as that can work just as well when you are simply looking at 'how to do something simply' rather than 'do something well' - at least for now.

My goals are long term (really long term) and I just want to know what plugs into where, how to connect a laptop to a pc and what items are needed to allow it tto follow a target etc. But this can all wait for now.

At this point in time (and probably till this time next year) my intent will be to use the kit I have and 'make do'. While I appreciate this is not the idea set up I hope it will be enough to help me learn the ropes (while I read MEPC). Besides while I get the need for a GEM this site implied I can get along my way with my current scope:

http://community.dur.ac.uk/nigel.metcalfe/astro/slt_canon.php

I am interested to hear a lot of people mention Webcams though. While this would have to wait a year (I don't have a laptop to connect it too) what is the benefit of a Webcam over, say, one of the new breeds of Celestron CCD cams (that I saw today at a star watches event). It seems these work as imaging devices and are perhaps better than a Web cam? When it comes to buying 'the next bit of kit' I am happy to spend a couple of hundred on such a piece of kit over a Webcam as I can take it forward with me when/IF I ever get a decent telescope on a GEM and really start to put together a decent AP rig (in 3-5 years time).

Sorry I appreciate I am rambling and that I am coming at this from sixes and sevens. I think I just need to sit down and chat with someone and explain my circumstance and goals in more detail while being shown how others have set up their systems and what they do with them and what they get out of them.

Again many thanks for all your posts:

-Sharpe

'Webcams' are generally for taking images of the moon and planets. That would be suitable for your AltAz mount but the 102mm achromat would struggle.

There are some quite inspiring images on the website you linked to but some of the concepts mentioned have been totally misunderstood. Presenting DSLR images as 'shown 5x5 binned' is simply false. 'Binning' is a method of electronically combining the signals from adjacent pixels into a grouped 'binned' pixel output. This is not possible with DSLR cameras without extensive physical modification rendering the camera monochrome output only. 'Skydarks' is also not right. It's just a way of clipping the black point which you can do quite effectively in Photoshop or Gimp by duplicating the layer, adding a huge blur and then subtracting it from your original image layer. Not a good technique if you want to preserve faint detail in your images.

To use the kit you have now, simply get a T-adaptor and connect your camera to the 102 in place of a camera lens. It fits in where the eyepiece /diagonal would normally go. point at a bright star and focus using the normal telescope focuser. Then point at an object, set the motors tracking and take a 10sec exposure. Have a look at it in preview and if the stars are still round, try 20sc, then 30sec. Go as long as you can until the stars in the centre start showing as streaks rather than points. The stars at the edges will show as streaks anyway because of the design of the telescope. There is nothing you can do without changing the telescope. Once you find out how long an exposure time you use, take as many images as you have time for. E.g. If you do 30 sec, try for 20 to start with (you will want to go up to 100+ eventually! but start small while you are learning). Download Deep Sky Stacker and load and stack your exposures using 'sigma-kappa clipping' or similar, can't remember the exact name. Then play about with the sliders unit it looks how you want it.

I will say that none of that is 'best practise' way to go about it, but it will allow you to get an image on screen with your current kit while you read Steve's book. It will also show the limitations of what you have, and why you will need different equipment if you want to improve.

It will still be fun though :) I think you have to do it wrong to enjoy getting it right later!

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Yeah you can go with a webcam .. a few mods and its ready to go . But on he downside you will get satisfactory picture . But ifnyou opt for dslr imaging youll surely get excellent pics with overwhelming resolution but you have to learn the the basics of photography and to AP you just dont need basics

You have to practice. You have to learn bout a stacking software like registax etc . Clear skies nd enjoy.!

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. What you *could* do is buy an inexpensive mount, such as an EQ3-2 with polar 'scope and RA drive. Mount a DSLR on that with its own lenses

Exactly what I do! Although my EQ3-2 is goto as well. I would also add that practice makes perfect.........in the end (I'm not at the end yet;))

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RikM,

Many thanks for your post that is exactly what I was looking for.

I very much appreciate this is not the idea set up but it's all I can hope for until this time next year at best. As you say by doing it wrong it will teach me a lot about what I need in the future.

Will this method be acceptable for the moon and planets or will that absolutely require a Web cam (noting that I think my DSLR has a video)?

Also in the future I would expect (once I have the GEM) to purchase one of the astro specialist CCD cameras with a filter wheel- will that be OK for plants/moon shots or would I still require a Webcam?

Finally there are two items that confuse me - guide scopes and auto focuser. What role do each of these items serve and when are they needed?

Many thanks again,

-Sharpe

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RikM,

Many thanks for your post that is exactly what I was looking for.

I very much appreciate this is not the idea set up but it's all I can hope for until this time next year at best. As you say by doing it wrong it will teach me a lot about what I need in the future.

Will this method be acceptable for the moon and planets or will that absolutely require a Web cam (noting that I think my DSLR has a video)?

Also in the future I would expect (once I have the GEM) to purchase one of the astro specialist CCD cameras with a filter wheel- will that be OK for plants/moon shots or would I still require a Webcam?

Finally there are two items that confuse me - guide scopes and auto focuser. What role do each of these items serve and when are they needed?

Many thanks again,

-Sharpe

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