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Noreik

Visual Astronomy And/or Imaging

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Hello all,

I wondered if I could have a little ramble and more experienced stargazers who may have asked themselves the same question when starting out may be able to offer some sage advice!

I received a Celestron Powerseeker 114EQ for Christmas, but there was a problem with one of the slow motion controls so it had to go back.  It was an unexpected present, but one that really excited me as I have always been interested in astronomy.  I found the EQ mount complicated and I was unsure if I had set it up correctly, but have since found numerous youtube clips that would probably help.  However, by that point I had ordered a Skywatcher Star Discovery 150P, putting the extra money to it myself.  I went for a GOTO mount to avoid having to learn EQ mounts, to be honest, and so that I could tell the scope I wanted to look at Jupiter or Saturn or the Orion Nebula and I'd be there pretty much straight away.

Due to inputting the wrong date format and using the wrong batteries, I still haven't got the scope working as it should but I have learned a lot more about the night sky already by learning more of the stars that are used for alignment purposes.  I was thinking of sending it back and replacing it with an 8" Dobsonian as my thinking was that if the GOTO wasn't working correctly, I may as well have a larger aperture for the same money.  I have found it very beautiful looking at the stars for alignment purposes and got a buzz of success when I located the Orion Nebula without using the GOTO system, but what I actually saw was a little disappointing.  While I knew I wouldn't be seeing the glossy photos from the books I've read, I expected a little more.  I was still proud of finding it, but if I get the GOTO system working, then that may take away that sense of achievement...

So now I'm wondering should I go down the imaging route with a 130 PDS, EQ3-2 mount (with dual axis motor, which I'm guessing is essential for imaging?) and something like a Celestron NexImage CCD - but I don't have a laptop and I'm guessing a 10m cable to my desktop would be a little impractical!  It may even be that I don't even get the extra imaging equipment yet, but from what I've read the 130 PDS would allow me to very easily move in that direction whereas the 150P wouldn't as it's on an Alt-Az mount?

Any suggestions, advice or feedback would be great!

Thanks,

Noreik

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Hello Noreik and welcome to the forum!

You will find, that with a limited budget visual and imaging astronomy are quite a different beast. When observing, a dobsonian will give you the best "bang for your buck", while the mount is everything in astrophotography. I always wanted to go down the imaging route because a colorful image is sooo much better than a grey smudge :wink: .

The better the mount the better its ability to track the motion of the stars. The EQ3-2 is really the bottom end of what is useful. Many consider the HEQ5 being a capable entry point...

But there are marvelous images you can take with just a DSLR and a camera lens. Some DSOs are really big and can easily be captured with a 50mm, 100mm or 200mm lens. The shorter the focal length, the more forgiving the setup is for tracking errors. However, you still will have to do a polar alignment. Learning how to adjust an EQ mount is unavoidable but not that complicated once you get the hang of it.

Be warned though, AP can/will be a bottomless money pit!

Good luck and clear skies!

HJ

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Ive been in the same boat as you ad have been trying to figure out what to get the last few weeks....I have a thread further down on the Skywatcher 200 !

I was initially going to go for the  Skywatcher Explorer 200 but the more I read , the more confused I got!

We don't have any stores here in Ireland but do have an oniine retailer. I was able to give him a call and drop up to his house last night to look at his scopes. He had a 200 pds and a 150pds.

In the meantime I read some great things on the 130 pds regards Astro photography.

Anyway, after seeing them I concluded the 200mm though suited to AP was way too big and from talking to him and looking at Orion there is very little between the 130 pds and the 150 pds.

You should go for the heq5 if AP is what you want to do. Its a sturdier mount and better able to hold all you'll need.... Go for an EQ5 at the least but it will limit you.

I managed to get a 2nd hand heq5 goto...you'll need goto for tracking. The heq5 will also allow for longer exposures.

And I'm getting the SWE 130pds in the next few weeks.

In the meantime I got a pair  of 20x80 binos from Amazon and put them on a mount.  I saw more of the Orion Nebula than with the 150!!

If you do a search for the 130 pds on SGL there is a thread with a ink to a gallery which is fantastic.

Just another point of learning for me. THe shorter scope will allow you to focus with your camera on the scope whereas the 1000mm scopes will cause you problems!

This is the scope http://www.firstlightoptics.com/reflectors/skywatcher-explorer-130p-ds-ota.html

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Oh my, Noreik.

This may seem trite, but what matters is whether you are having fun doing what you're doing. If you are drawn to imaging then the hobby will take you that way. I'm visual only but I'm in awe of what the forum's imagers produce. Yet I have no thought, or wish, to try imaging myself.

Many (most?) amateur astronomers have their own little niche, whether it's nailing that elusive feature on the Moon, tracking down that faintest of fuzzies, or defining that filament or sunspot on our backyard star.

And then there are those who wish to take an image of those things.

Ask yourself what you want to do, what you want to achieve, and then have fun on the journey to fulfilment.

In a word, enjoy.

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Great advice from Floater above. You seem to have got a kick from finding Orion by yourself. You may not have been overly impressed with the view, but observing does take experience and above all patience as you learn the ropes. You will soon find that quick views of objects often do not achieve much. The longer you spend viewing the more you will see. Also using better quality eye pieces will help. The main thing is to buy a scope that you feel you will use as often as the clouds permit and as was pointed out to enjoy the experience.

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While you ponder the ineffable reaches of the Universe - how about getting a "roadmap?" While the goto mount will get you to desired objects, a good planetarium-program can show you what's up by showing you detailed images of the night sky from your own location - which you enter. Your sky-image can include as many types of objects up there as you wish - stars and planets, galaxies and nebulae, quasers and man-made satellites - name it. The choices are almost as limitless as the Universe itself. Similar programs can cost you over £200. This one - Stellarium - is completely free.

So here it is:

Without further ado - STELLARIUM:

http://www.stellarium.org/

As the developer's (one of them is a member of SGL) are always adding new things, and fixing
minor problems, the current instructions are posted in a Wiki. Which is here:

http://www.stellarium.org/wiki/index.php/Stellarium_User_Guide
 

And a slightly outdated Pdf. is located - perfectly usable - here:

http://barry.sarcasmogerdes.com/stellarium/stellarium_user_guide-new.pdf

Set-up can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 days - depending on what you'd like it to do. It can even run your telescope remotely.

Sounds like a very nice telescope you have. Congratulations! I'll leave an image of mine - bear in mind I have it set to my standards. It will be much less complex out-of-the-box.

Enjoy,

Dave

post-38438-0-10660200-1452759994_thumb.p

Click on image for full size.

Edited by Dave In Vermont

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The trouble with AP is that it's complicated and expensive. The manufacturers do make lower-end kit which has all the right words in place but just not the quality needed to work properly. If I were you I'd get to know amateur astronomy by using a Dob and an assortment of star charts. As you do this you'll build up a better understanding of the whole picture and then be able to make an informed choice over things like planetary imaging and deep sky imaging. (They are entirely unrelated.) Don't chase the illusory 'one scope for all.' It's never been found...

Olly

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Thanks for the feedback.

I'm struggling to get my current scope aligned correctly using the GOTO system as it claims to be aligned and then when I test it to look at another star it doesn't point anywhere near where it should - but my woes are in another thread!

I think maybe changing to a Dobsonian might be the best advice because it seems like I wouldn't get a huge amount of change out of £800 with a 130PDS, motor driven mount, CCD and laptop, which is a bit much seeing as I didn't have a telescope at all until 3 weeks ago.  The Dobsonian would then let me just enjoy finding my way around rather than getting annoyed because I can't get the GOTO system that I paid extra for working correctly!

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There has been an  accelerated advance in the last few years regarding 'video' astronomy, although expensive, some of the high quality cameras nowadays can deliver to a laptop screen 'real time' DSO colour images in under 30 seconds (even under light polluted skies)

Set up time is also minimal and friends and family can view the DSO on screen at the time.

I am into visual only at the moment , and find astrophotography quite daunting from a beginners point of view, albeit I have seen some superb images taken by my society members and really do admire their technique, equipment and patience in finally producing these images of great detail.

It may be worthwhile for anyone interested in capturing images they see via their scope and mount, (eq or alt/az) to have a go with the cheaper end astro video cameras from a reputable dealer.

Edited by 2STAR

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Whilst I am a keen photographer of macro subjects in nature, astro imaging (it's imaging not photography) never grabbed me.  even visual astronomy can be expensive if you let it be but I get a buzz out of even my 80mm refractor on most objects as I understand what what I  am looking at. Space is amazing is you give it time to learn what's going on. 

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The only advice I can give is to stand back & look up, and ponder for a while, rushing in making rash decsions never seem to work out in the long term without a large outgoing of money, at least not for me! Get to know the equipment you have, snap views at objects never show the most detail, take time to really look at objects, you will start to see more detail.

4 years ago I was in a simular position, not 100% sure what I wanted, but knew I wanted to be able to produce pictures like I had seen in magazines, & on various websites including SGL. but after checking prices & loads of different conbinations of scope, mount, camera etc. I felt I was going under with so much information, and not seeing anything, without spending far more money than I had.

So I made a phone call to FLO and bought myself a Skywatcher Explorer 150P & EQ3-2, and that was 4 years ago. I spend all my spare evenings/nights when its not cloudy or raining, just sat out there looking upwards, I still want to be able to take great photos, but still after these 4 years I have not seen everything out there! There is so much to see out there, and manual is the best way to learn your way around the night sky.

There is so much choice out there with equipment, I would recommend spending time looking skywards, yes some do look small grey dusty clouds, but when you find them yourself and realise how far that light has travelled to your eye, its just amazing that you can see it without £1000's of poundsworth of equipment. Maybe when I have seen everything in the night sky I will look at imaging again, but at this rate of looking at things, it could well be a few more years yet!

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Buy the book "Every photon counts" by Steve Richards click the Flo logo at top of screen and read it several times before you decide to go all Darth Vader,Astrophotography can be a very expensive and very daunting.There are people on here that produce stunning images but they have had time and patience to amass the kit they have.

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