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I have been working on my astrophotography for about a year, probably 10 sessions in all, with very slow but positive progress. Many sessions produced nothing as I added more kit, fell into various traps, and got to grips with things. I think I have made progress but now can’t quite decide where to go next (i.e what to buy) to improve my images.

I currently have:

SW 200PDS with SW coma corrector

HEQ5 Pro

Canon 750D, unmodded (and I don’t want to mod this as it gets used for work)

Guided with SW 9x50 and ASI120mm mini using PHD2

(and a Telrad as the 200mm Newt is a pig to direct by eye)

Stacked in DSS and processed with Gimp.

I live in a Bortle 8+ area, occasionally getting out to 4 skies and really enjoy imaging galaxies.

Despite the somewhat overloaded mount I tuck it away in a corner of the garden next to the house where I can get a decent view of the E to the zenith and achieve reasonable guiding in general, at around the +/-1 arc second.

What’s going to do the most for my images with a budget of £700 or so?

·        I could go with a 80mm doublet/triplet refractor but then I lose the reach but maybe improve the resolution (but I doubt it).

·        An EQ6 mount, but is that going to improve things much given my current guiding (I know I am absolutely on the limit for the HEQ5 Pro)?

·        A good LP filter, but which one?

·        A dedicated cooled astro camera – the ZWO 1600mm would be fab, but at a £1k is a more than I want to put in at the moment?

·        Dedicated processing software, was thinking Pixinsight (not paying £40 month for the 1% of PS I would use!)?

Alas money isn’t going to buy me the dark skies for which there is no substitute – however I don’t think wanting dark skies is going to be sufficient justification for moving house! Also getting to darker skies may only take an hour but that oh so complicates matters where families and children are concerned, so home, between the airport, the car plant, the large town, and the huge urban conurbation it is going to be for the majority of the time for the next few years. Also figured out I could take the easy road and shoot nebulas through a narrow band filter avoiding the light pollution, but I like galaxies!

As a guide to where I am at I have attached a part processed (Gimp has crashed 😞 ) image of M42 (yes a nebula having stated I like galaxies), produced from around 2 hours of 60sec subs at ISO800 with darks, flats and bias frames.

Any help or suggestions greatly appreciated.

Cheers.

Autosave.jpg

Edited by philhilo

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No brainer. Go for a mono camera and narrowband imaging. Either buy second hand or wait till the CMOS camera does fall within budget.

Olly

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1 hour ago, philhilo said:

Alas money isn’t going to buy me the dark skies

No they won't, but a modified dslr or a osc cooled camera with narrowband filters  or dual narrowband, gets you really close. Olly's suggestion makes even more sense, but with the Heq5 and 1000 mm focal length it might be a struggle with the small fov of a reasonably priced mono camera.

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1 hour ago, ollypenrice said:

wait till the CMOS camera does fall within budget.

That might take a while! I don't have mono CMOS due to budget constraints, much as I'd love one, and I'm a little more wary of getting something like that second hand. Astronomers seem to take good care of their stuff, but electronics seem a bit more fragile to me.

Of the bits that helped me:

Astro modded 600d - £250

Pixinsight - £200

IDAS D2 filter - £175

Those three items all moved my imaging forward a long way. The D2 works really well in my Bortle 5 street with LED lights on galaxies- you may need a different one for where you live. 

In addition I have an Ha filter and do quite a bit of HaRGB stuff which is good fun, PI helps with all of this- although cheaper packages such as Star Tools are available. I think it's well worth downloading the trial versions to work out which is best for you.

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2 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

No brainer. Go for a mono camera and narrowband imaging. Either buy second hand or wait till the CMOS camera does fall within budget.

Olly

I'll second Olly's suggestion.  You're in a Bortle 8, so Narrowband would make a massive difference, but you'd need to get to like nebulae more than galaxies.

Otherwise, a good light pollution filter and modified DSLR will take you a step further.

John

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Another no brainer: pixinsight; since you can't do anything with your data without processing software, and Gimp crashes/is limited. 

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23 minutes ago, wimvb said:

Another no brainer: pixinsight; since you can't do anything with your data without processing software, and Gimp crashes/is limited. 

Or Photoshop, but you really need both! 👹

:icon_mrgreen:lly

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There's some great suggestions already, but here are a couple more.

Startools has been mentioned, get the latest beta (it's stable and free to try) and the latest DSS beta (the one that allows 'no white balance'). Reprocess your data with these and you should see a difference in colour and detail. 

Consider getting the dedicated TS Canon OAG. I found this made quite a difference to the roundness of stars and allowed me to ditch the guidescope with some weight saving as well. 

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Thank you everyone for the advice so far, some suggestions confirming what I thought , some others that were totally new.

An EQ6 mount isn't actually a big expense as I would sell the HEQ5 Pro (and I have an EQ5 doing nothing) - probably only a couple of hundred in it second hand.

2nd hand cooled astro cams seem to be as rare as hens teeth - people have nowhere else to go so they stick with them - and they kick in at £800 plus filters, so probably more like £1500, one to save for. Or a modded DSLR plus filter plus new software.  Will definitely go look at Startools. 

The Canon TS OAG (had to look that up) - interesting, reduces the amount of kit required, weight on the mount, and should reduce set up time, always a good thing. I would be interested to see reports on this. One thing it would help with is alignment. It was definitely easier before I started using the finder as the guidescope, then I added the Telrad, but this doesn't seem to have been the silver bullet, still groping around trying to find the selected alignment stars.

Thanks all, and will be back now winter is here and I have more free time - lots more time to think between clear skies too.

Cheers.

 

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3 hours ago, philhilo said:

Thank you everyone for the advice so far, some suggestions confirming what I thought , some others that were totally new.

An EQ6 mount isn't actually a big expense as I would sell the HEQ5 Pro (and I have an EQ5 doing nothing) - probably only a couple of hundred in it second hand.

2nd hand cooled astro cams seem to be as rare as hens teeth - people have nowhere else to go so they stick with them - and they kick in at £800 plus filters, so probably more like £1500, one to save for. Or a modded DSLR plus filter plus new software.  Will definitely go look at Startools. 

The Canon TS OAG (had to look that up) - interesting, reduces the amount of kit required, weight on the mount, and should reduce set up time, always a good thing. I would be interested to see reports on this. One thing it would help with is alignment. It was definitely easier before I started using the finder as the guidescope, then I added the Telrad, but this doesn't seem to have been the silver bullet, still groping around trying to find the selected alignment stars.

Thanks all, and will be back now winter is here and I have more free time - lots more time to think between clear skies too.

Cheers.

 

Have you seen this on the classifieds section?

 

You could get the camera, manual filter wheel for £780 it seems, also the poster has said they are open to offers.  I have this camera and it is a great camera!!

You would have to check your sample rate though with 200 pds and this camera.

BTW...I'm in no way connected to the seller..

Rob

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1 hour ago, philhilo said:

Thank you everyone for the advice so far, some suggestions confirming what I thought , some others that were totally new.

An EQ6 mount isn't actually a big expense as I would sell the HEQ5 Pro (and I have an EQ5 doing nothing) - probably only a couple of hundred in it second hand.

2nd hand cooled astro cams seem to be as rare as hens teeth - people have nowhere else to go so they stick with them - and they kick in at £800 plus filters, so probably more like £1500, one to save for. Or a modded DSLR plus filter plus new software.  Will definitely go look at Startools. 

The Canon TS OAG (had to look that up) - interesting, reduces the amount of kit required, weight on the mount, and should reduce set up time, always a good thing. I would be interested to see reports on this. One thing it would help with is alignment. It was definitely easier before I started using the finder as the guidescope, then I added the Telrad, but this doesn't seem to have been the silver bullet, still groping around trying to find the selected alignment stars.

Thanks all, and will be back now winter is here and I have more free time - lots more time to think between clear skies too.

Cheers.

 

Just a little note on finding alignment stars. I invested in a green laser pointer pen and a laser pen holder. Then I am always 100 % sure what star I am pointing at. Green lasers come in two types. The cheap ones (emitting at 532 nm) need to be heated to ca 20°C to work properly (I found that out the hard way) but there are more expensive ones for about 100 £ (using a different diode that emits at 520 nm) that work a subzero temperatures. I bough mine here http://www.roithner-laser.com/laser_pointers_520.html, but there are of course others selling them.

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15 minutes ago, Robny said:

Have you seen this on the classifieds section?

 

You could get the camera, manual filter wheel for £780 it seems, also the poster has said they are open to offers.  I have this camera and it is a great camera!!

You would have to check your sample rate though with 200 pds and this camera.

BTW...I'm in no way connected to the seller..

Rob

Thank you for the link Rob. I’ll throw the manual filter wheel in for free, so if you are interested, a cooled mono cmos camera and filter wheel for £750.

thanks, James

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8 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

  Or Photoshop, but you really need both!👹

:icon_mrgreen:lly

The OP's view on that was given in the original post:

21 hours ago, philhilo said:

not paying £40 month for the 1% of PS I would use!

😉

Performance-wise one could go either way, imo. 

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Doesn't have to be a 1600 type CMOS camera for galaxies. I would keep the scope and don't bother about narrow band either, as you won't get a big enough benefit from NB filters on galaxies. Second hand is a great option and there is a QHY8 for £450 for example  (admittedly an OSC sensor). There is even an Atik 414ex mono there below budget too. I would then get a manual filter wheel and a L filter and go to town on those galaxies and add RGB when you can find a bargain, as you could add colour from DSLR if you wanted in the interim.

Edited by MattJenko
qhy8 is osc

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2 hours ago, gorann said:

Just a little note on finding alignment stars. I invested in a green laser pointer pen and a laser pen holder. Then I am always 100 % sure what star I am pointing at. Green lasers come in two types. The cheap ones (emitting at 532 nm) need to be heated to ca 20°C to work properly (I found that out the hard way) but there are more expensive ones for about 100 £ (using a different diode that emits at 520 nm) that work a subzero temperatures. I bough mine here http://www.roithner-laser.com/laser_pointers_520.html, but there are of course others selling them.

I was just thinking, that's a great tip re laser pointer (I have lost whole nights where I had polar aligned not on polaris, doh) ...… then I realised basically where I am aimed at most of the time is the flight approach for Birmingham International Airport, and they aren't going to be pleased with me shining a laser pointer at the aircraft, even if benignly. We have regular problems with idiots in this country shining laser pointers at aircraft trying to blind the pilots, now a jailable offence.

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2 hours ago, gorann said:

Or a modded DSLR plus filter plus new software. 

If you're imaging from a lp area (bortle 8+), you should probably reconsider the dslr as an option. Mono + rgb is generally more lp-proof than osc because rgb filters have a transmission gap at the most dominant wavelengths for light pollution sources. Some rgb filters are better in this respect than others. You may also need to adopt a different data collection method than standard lrgb, because your luminance will collect all the light pollution. Rgb filters combined with Ha and Oiii in a 5 filter wheel and a camera with a smaller sensor may be the way to go. 

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For dedicated imaging of small galaxies with a 200PDS then either a QHY178m or a QHY290m. Wider view vs higher sensitivity, as the 178 can fit things like m81 in the FOV i might sway towards that and I would be using short exposures <10s for detail. 

https://www.modernastronomy.com/shop/cameras/cooled-ccd/qhy-cooled-ccd-cameras/qhy290-coldmos-uk/

https://www.modernastronomy.com/shop/cameras/cooled-ccd/qhy-cooled-ccd-cameras/qhy178m-cool/

If you want to work on large nebula though the scope will have to go, I would look at selling it and switching to a 130PDS and a second hand mono camera. Or you could go even shorter and grab a 70-80mm refactor at a little more cost.  

But for small galaxies keep your scope get a small sensor mono CMOS and try the short exposure technique. 

Adam

 

Edited by Adam J
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3 hours ago, philhilo said:

I was just thinking, that's a great tip re laser pointer (I have lost whole nights where I had polar aligned not on polaris, doh) ...… then I realised basically where I am aimed at most of the time is the flight approach for Birmingham International Airport, and they aren't going to be pleased with me shining a laser pointer at the aircraft, even if benignly. We have regular problems with idiots in this country shining laser pointers at aircraft trying to blind the pilots, now a jailable offence.

I am sure you can spot the aircaft at night and turn it off when needed, And if you go for a legal 5mW pointer you will at least not end up in jail😱

Edited by gorann
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On 05/11/2019 at 12:57, Robny said:

Have you seen this on the classifieds section?

 

You could get the camera, manual filter wheel for £780 it seems, also the poster has said they are open to offers.  I have this camera and it is a great camera!!

You would have to check your sample rate though with 200 pds and this camera.

BTW...I'm in no way connected to the seller..

Rob

I did but it went very very quickly - before I got to look at it!

 

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Re narrowband on the cheap: You can start without a filter wheel, and with a single filter (H-alpha is the obvious choice). I never thought I'd say this before I tried it, but black and white imaging can be really satisfying too. So e.g. a 183MM Pro can be had brand-new for £780, and used filters are widely available. It is truly incredible what's still possible even city skies with narrowband. This is two filters, not one, but was shot in the brightly-lit parking lot of a dog park near my house! And unguided, at that. APOD? No. Amazing to me? Absolutely.

(Edited to add) And this one, while shot at a darker site, gives you an idea of the rich tonality that's accessible to monochrome narrowbanders.

 

Veil_bicolor_bluer_2048.jpg

St-avg-5040.0s-WC_1_3.0_none-x_1.0_LZ3-NS-full-eq-add-sc_BWMV_nor-AAD-RL-noMBB-St.jpg

Edited by rickwayne
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Hi,

two things moved me a long way in imaging: 1) Astro Pixel processor License and 2) ZWO ASI294MC-Pro camera. I understand the camera may be out of budget for now but I would rather save for that than trying to change the telescope. When making my choice of camera I concluded that with the weather in the UK and the useful time I can spend outside a colour camera with a Tri-Band filter was a much better option for me, since I will be able to capture all the important bands of emission nebulae in one shot. I do image under Class 5 skies and I find this combination very satisfactory. If looking at a good light pollution filter I found the SkyTech LPro to perform very well, although I was undecided between this one and and IDAS, but the price difference helped me decide.

Hope this helps!

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On 14/11/2019 at 17:11, adoldesa said:

When making my choice of camera I concluded that with the weather in the UK and the useful time I can spend outside a colour camera with a Tri-Band filter was a much better option for me, since I will be able to capture all the important bands of emission nebulae in one shot.

Using a mono camera doesn't really take any more imaging time than a one-shot colour camera.  With each filter of RGB, the exposure time is around a third of the time for the one-shot colour camera as all the pixels are in play for each filter.  The bayer matrix  filter in the colour camera means the pixels in use for each channel is reduced.  I remember Olly Penrice posting about this in the past with a more knowledgeable description than I can give.

I have found, however, that mono requires a lot more processing time afterward due processing each channel separately.

John

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On 05/11/2019 at 19:29, gorann said:

I am sure you can spot the aircaft at night and turn it off when needed, And if you go for a legal 5mW pointer you will at least not end up in jail😱

It is illegal to point a laser at aircraft irrespective of power so really would not do this close to a active runway. The 5mW level is based on safety against eye damage not Dazzle and you can Dazzle with much less power leaving the pilot with temporary flash blindness.

I am not saying dont use a laser for astronomy, just dont expect to get away with pointing one close to aircraft irrespective of power output.

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Quick note on Photoshop - you can get the photographer subscription which gives you full Photoshop and Lightroom for £10 p/m. Well worth the asking price imo. 
 

As for your £700. Save it until you can afford an SW AZ EQ6 GT. Brilliant mount imo and will survive future scope upgrades. 
 

The mount is king but may as well put toward a serious upgrade. 

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44 minutes ago, dannybgoode said:

Quick note on Photoshop - you can get the photographer subscription which gives you full Photoshop and Lightroom for £10 p/m. Well worth the asking price imo. 

That argument is one of the reasons why I bought Pixinsight some three years ago. It has so far saved me roughly 200 €. Pay once, cry once.

But I agree on the rest.

51 minutes ago, dannybgoode said:

As for your £700. Save it until you can afford an SW AZ EQ6 GT. Brilliant mount imo and will survive future scope upgrades. 
 

The mount is king but may as well put toward a serious upgrade. 

 

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