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nelgin

Should I upgrade for astrophotography?

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Hi all,

 

I currently have an 8" Newtonian by Orion that I've had a number of years and happy with, however my scope has seen better days (a bit of rust, missing knobs, one of the rubber feet went missing into the lawn somehow) so trying to decide what to do.

I'm one of those "dont have much time" star gazers so I'd be looking for a tripod that can align itself for the most part and has goto functionality (This doesn't mean I will use it all the time since i like to explore). I also find the current tripod difficult to move around due to the weight of the counter weights.

Recently I've been toying with the idea of going with a 10" Schmidt-Cassegrain but research shows that can be difficult if viewing objects overhead but shouldn't be much of an issue if doing photography. Obviously the eyepeice for the Newtonian can end up in strange positions too.

As far as photographing I want to capture it all, the Moon, planets, clusters, nebula, DSOs etc.

The budget on the scope/tripod is about $2000-2500 though I don't have to spend of that, of course, especially if the best advice is just to stick with the 8" and get a new tripod.

On the camera side, I've not really decided or even looked into that. I guess something digital that I can attach to the laptop and control from there as far as apature size and exposure duration etc...I don't really know.

Right now, I'm open to suggestions and options. Specific recommendations are appreciated.


Thanks,

Nigel

 

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id say start small with the photography. i've gone the tried and trusted route of an heq5 and an ed80 with a DSLR. well within budget. its not a do-all scope, nothing is. but its a good base to start from. photographing the larger objects, nebula and such can be a lot more forgiving. 

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Hello Nigel!

Welcome to the forum.

Ive never owned an SCT myself but have had 6”, 8”, 10” and 12” Newtonians. 

Looking at the SCT though, I’d say if you are having trouble with the weight of the mount and CWs then a 10” SCT would be even worse to work with?

Fork mounted SCTs are not suitable for deep sky photography for a number of reasons.

Your current Orion scope might also not be well suited to imaging? Some more details would on it would help.

The key to good imaging is buying a good mount. My advice would be to research mounts such as the HEQ5 or EQ6 (?Orion Atlas in the states?) and spend a good portion of your budget on the mount. Suitable DSLRs can be picked up second hand for £100, and even good scopes, such as the ED80, for £250 second hand.

HTH

Adam. 

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I agree the mount is the most important item. I started with a cheap wibbly wobbly mount that was next useless but upgraded to a HEQ5 pro some while ago. That mount made life so much easier.  Yes it requires some effort to set up and there are aids available to set polar alignment if you like me are starting to suffer from restricted movement.

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Nelgin

Firstly, welcome from land down under

I also have a Skywatcher ED80 on a EQ5 mount

Just need T-ring and Celestron T-adapter #93625 for your Digital SLR camera

Attached pics taken at a recent club day, solar imaging

ED80 behind mine is on a HEQ5, and shows camera attached

John

 

Skywatcher ED80.jpg

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1 hour ago, nelgin said:

As far as photographing I want to capture it all, the Moon, planets, clusters, nebula, DSOs etc.

Hi Nigel,

For me, I break my imaging gear into these categories:

Moon, planets, small DSO (Cats eye, Eskimo, M76, M57, M97 small galaxies etc)  = SCT

Clusters, larger galaxies (M81, M33, medium sized nebula (M42) ) = Larger refractor or 8" newtonian

Extended nebula, very large DSO (M31), comets = Small refractor, 70-80mm

 

No one scope is ideal for the whole range of targets. What is your favourite type of thing to image? The moon and planets take the least amount of time to capture, whereas nebula and galaxies can require many hours of photography.

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15 hours ago, nelgin said:

Recently I've been toying with the idea of going with a 10" Schmidt-Cassegrain but research shows that can be difficult if viewing objects overhead but shouldn't be much of an issue if doing photography. Obviously the eyepeice for the Newtonian can end up in strange positions too.

I think your research about viewing overhead with a SCT is faulty. ?. All SCTs come with a diagonal, so at worst you have to look into the eyepiece horizontally. I have an 8" SCT and have found that viewing is easy and the change of eyepiece position with target height and direction is slight owing to the compact dimensions of the scope and its weight distribution and rear-mounted eyepiece, particularly with an alt-azimuth mount.  Also, for a given size, a SCT outfit is among the lightest of all designs. (One notes that the larger SCTs are popular with university observatories.)

More generally, if you want to do astrophotography (deep-space rather than planetary?) you should follow the advice given in the other posts.

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Thank you everyone for their advice and input. There's a lot of take in and digest. 

 

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Perhaps what hasn't been highlighted sufficiently is why folk use scopes like the ED80. It's really down to focal length. For astro photography, the longer the focal length the more demanding it will be on mount performance, i.e. on your wallet! An SCT with a fl over 1500mm is certainly not easy, for DSOs especially, and will add complication. 500mm -700mm is certainly a lot more manageable.

I don't want to put you off, but be prepared for quite a learning curve, too. I recommend reading around the subject as well before you part with hard earned cash. There are a lot of recommendations for "Making Every Photon Count", by Steve Richards, though I haven't read it to be honest. I found "Astrophotography" by Thiery Legault to be a good introduction.

Do come back to the forum if you want to ask any questions, there are plenty only too pleased to help.

Ian

Edited by The Admiral

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On ‎29‎/‎07‎/‎2018 at 17:31, nelgin said:

Hi all,

Recently I've been toying with the idea of going with a 10" Schmidt-Cassegrain but research shows that can be difficult if viewing objects overhead but shouldn't be much of an issue if doing photography. Obviously the eyepeice for the Newtonian can end up in strange positions too.

As far as photographing I want to capture it all, the Moon, planets, clusters, nebula, DSOs etc.

The budget on the scope/tripod is about $2000-2500 though I don't have to spend of that, of course, especially if the best advice is just to stick with the 8" and get a new tripod.

On the camera side, I've not really decided or even looked into that. I guess something digital that I can attach to the laptop and control from there as far as apature size and exposure duration etc...I don't really know.

Right now, I'm open to suggestions and options. Specific recommendations are appreciated.


Thanks,

Nigel

 

You would be hard pressed to find a 10" SCT and a mount suitable for astrophotography in the budget range you mention, unless you find a good deal in the used market.

Difficulty with seeing directly overhead with a SCT isn't so much a consequence of the scope itself as it is the mount. A fork-type mount may be difficult to use overhead, especially if you're trying to take pictures, due to clearances between the bottom of the fork and the eyepiece or camera setup. An offset fork is better than a straight one, but an equatorial mount is much more suitable. Also, unless you have a fork mounted on an equatorial wedge, you will have issues with field rotation while doing photography.

A decent DSLR will get you started in AP. You may capture some short exposure single images, or use short exposure subs and stack them with a computer program, but long exposure photography will require guiding, which means a second camera and small scope, attached to the larger one, and directed by a computer. 

The better way to start out in AP is with a small refractor and a mount with good tracking ability and provisions for computer control. The "classic" AP scope would be a 3 to 4" aperture, focal length of 300 to 450mm, a focal ratio of f/5 to f/7. Ultimate would be an apochromat, next best an acromat or ED apo. You could find a nice apochromatic 80mm f/6 and a suitable mount within your budget. I have a William Optic GT81 (81mm apo, f/5.9) and a Skywatcher EQ6R-Pro equatorial mount, both would run at the upper limit of your stated budget, but would need little upgrade for quite a long while. Just add camera and a few accessories. If at some point you wanted to add a SCT, the EQ6R will easily handle an 9.25" SCT. I switch back and forth between my refractor and an 8" SCT, using a couple of mounts. The AVX is a decent starting mount for AP with a small scope, not so much with a bigger one, but will work visually.

DSC_2348.JPG

Edited by Luna-tic

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I joined twenty or so fellow astronomers for the recent lunar eclipse (that got clouded out).

No everyone was set up for astrophotography, but I think that there were hardly any setups you could pair up as being 'similar'. Binoculars, 'fracs of all lengths, Maks, little newts and big dobs, a big SCT and several cameras from phones and compacts through bridge cameras to DSLRs.

My point being - there are no right answers, just places on a continuum. For one person their ideal observing scope is OK for photography, another would never image, another would never observe. The next has half a dozen imaging scopes and a couple of observing ones. Then look up and realise that the targets there to observe and photograph range from pinpoint double stars to nebulas and galaxies several times the size of the full moon. From bright enough to see in a blue sky to so faint you need to be away from all light pollution to have a chance.

With such variety no telescope does everything well, but most quality scopes can do something well.

The art of getting started is choosing kit that suits what your biggest interests and then exploring its other capabilities, rather than running out and accumulating more gear for the sake of it.

So don'#t get too hung up on the 'perfect' scope, get a good one and a decent mount and see what it can do, and by the time you've done that you will have saved up some more and have better idea of your 'ideal' scope.

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