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How long to get first decent image ?


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Thanks for the praise and constructive comments guys. 

The reason I started this post is that I was pleased with my early results (considering that I am completely new to both astronomy and photography). I just haven't made a lot of progress in the last month. I have spent hours trying to get decent images of M101. Do you think that it is just too difficult a target for a beginner with entry level skills/kit? Or do you think I should press on with it?

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5 hours ago, Astro Noodles said:

took this image on 25th and 29th March using a combo of 10/20 sec exposures at iso 1600 and 6400.

I would say thats quite a good image. I feel that the software used for stacking and post processing can make a big difference too. I use SIRIL and Gimp.

Ref your question about M101, just go for it 🙂 I will post my attempt shortly. Correction: that will have to wait when the skies clear and we have darker skies ;)

Edited by AstroMuni
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2 minutes ago, AstroMuni said:

I would say thats quite a good image. What software are you using for stacking and post processing? I feel that those can make a big difference too.

Thanks AstroMuni. I am using Deep Sky Stacker and GIMP.  I am comfortable with DSS but need to spend a lot more time with GIMP to get the best out of it.

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3 minutes ago, Astro Noodles said:

Thanks AstroMuni. I am using Deep Sky Stacker and GIMP.  I am comfortable with DSS but need to spend a lot more time with GIMP to get the best out of it.

Here is a link to my first attempts

 

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Let me explain what I mean by using the right software and techniques. Both these images of M51 taken by me, were generated using the same data. First was processed by me and second with help from a friend.

1557494179_M51mine.thumb.jpeg.be8281b623fbd8233116d3909cd5ddff.jpeg

And second one using the exact same data 🙂

M51.thumb.jpeg.a28d90399e3fb60a6abb10d4d93db5de.jpeg

Edited by AstroMuni
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M101 is not an easy target - it's quite faint and takes many hours to bring out the detail, so you've done very well. In fact, at the moment with Galaxy season, it's hard to pick an 'easy' target, although there are many amazing galaxies to capture. You might be better off taking a slightly different approach, and just 'tagging' different galaxies and gathering experience, then revisit them in subsequent seasons when you've learned more craft. 

Success definitely is easier with better kit and the sky's the limit with that. In the early stages, tracking and focus are absolutely key. A better mount on its own will help with tracking, and/or you may decide to go with autoguiding which will require at a minimum a mount that has at least an RA axis motor, and supports ST4 guiding (Starquest and Skyguider both do); and a separate guide scope and guide cam. This will give you long-exposure capability, possibly into multiple minutes.

With focus, you can just put in the time and effort to get the best manual focus you can - use a Bahtinov mask, they really help and are quite cheap - or upgrade to autofocus. One thing to check - I believe that Astrophotography Toolkit (APT) can autofocus AF lenses on a Canon with Digic 3 or higher - your 1100D is Digic 4 so it may work. I don't know if the lens has to be a Canon ef/efs lens in order for it to work. My DSLR isn't Digic 3 so I haven't been able to try it. I always found manual focus to be a pain and I never nailed with the DSLR. APT is a fantastic piece of software to control all aspects of your image capture workflow, but it does mean you'll need to bring a laptop to your mount.

My first image of M42 Orion was only vaguely recognisable - a big bright blur that was the trapezium, and three smaller bright blurs that were Theta Orionis. I thought it was great!

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Posted (edited)
16 minutes ago, Padraic M said:

 

 One thing to check - I believe that Astrophotography Toolkit (APT) can autofocus AF lenses on a Canon with Digic 3 or higher - your 1100D is Digic 4 so it may work. I don't know if the lens has to be a Canon ef/efs lens in order for it to work. My DSLR isn't Digic 3 so I haven't been able to try it. I always found manual focus to be a pain and I never nailed with the DSLR. APT is a fantastic piece of software to control all aspects of your image capture workflow, but it does mean you'll need to bring a laptop to your mount.

 

The 1100d only goes to x10 magnification on the lcd screen. I downloaded APT to help with the focus and had it all set up but the I dropped my camera and it broke the USB port. 😭 So I will just have to get as best focus as I can with the x10 image until I can arrange something else. A member on SGL suggested that I look into getting a wifi enabled SD card.

I will definitely be using be using APT in the future.

Edited by Astro Noodles
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How long to get “good” images? I think it all depends, I have seen first time images on SGL that look as good as some taken by renowned imagers with many years of experience. My first time images like most others I suspect, were not to this standard.

However, I wouldn’t be hesitant about posting anything, I felt the same way as I had spent upwards of £5k on my initial set up and felt the quality of my images should reflect that level of investment. In the end I posted this image of M81 which should have been way better than it was if you took the kit used to capture it into account, but, hey, I thought it was pretty cool, but more to the point, I received nothing but encouraging feedback on this forum, and also many useful pointers on how I might improve on it.

 

 

45C8DA31-4B33-4780-9B90-C41AC5779BAF.jpeg

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14 hours ago, Astro Noodles said:

I feel encouraged to get out again tonight and give M101 another bash.

As has already been mentioned, I would suggest you try first with something brighter like M81, 82, M13. This will help you gauge the ideal settings on your camera etc. But if you feel confident why NOT M101 :)

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1 hour ago, AstroMuni said:

As has already been mentioned, I would suggest you try first with something brighter like M81, 82, M13. This will help you gauge the ideal settings on your camera etc. But if you feel confident why NOT M101 :)

Too late. I spent a couple of hours last night on M101. 1st hour 60 x 60sec subs. Star trailing really bad so binned them. This one is 40x 30sec iso 1600. Star trailing still bad so I need to understand what is going on there because I spent a good deal of time getting the polar alignment spot on.

image.png.b37e4b8999108e67c28702d9b8825eaf.png

so not much improvement compared to the last one. 😞

image.png

 

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I have been wondering why the streaks are going in a different direction. The only thing I did differently was to extend the legs of the tripod. I levelled using spirit levels built into the tripod and mount but perhaps these aren't very accurate. Next time I will spend more time levelling using an independent spirit level.

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I always try and level as well as I can, I mean why not, but I have read plenty on here that says it's not "that" important to be spot on so if that's true it's not the cause of the changing streaks... Just scrolling back to check what guiding kit you're using but not sure why it would change other than a DEC versus RA issue for one or the other but even so I don't really know how that would manifest itself in the image.

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4 minutes ago, scotty38 said:

I always try and level as well as I can, I mean why not, but I have read plenty on here that says it's not "that" important to be spot on so if that's true it's not the cause of the changing streaks... Just scrolling back to check what guiding kit you're using but not sure why it would change other than a DEC versus RA issue for one or the other but even so I don't really know how that would manifest itself in the image.

Yeah, I'm scratching my head about this. Maybe something is slipping. I was very careful to ensure that the rig was balanced so it won't be that. 

I can get better results than this with a rough polar alignment with the Starquest mount. I was expecting a Skyguider Pro to be a big improvement. 

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Either will need decent PA and with that being accurate guiding in RA for a short while should be fine, which is what you're doing here. If you check the Astrobackyard videos Trevor used this type of setup without guiding and got some great results so it's definitely possible. Maybe have a look at those and see if he does anything different to you?

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1 hour ago, Astro Noodles said:

Too late. I spent a couple of hours last night on M101. 1st hour 60 x 60sec subs. Star trailing really bad so binned them. This one is 40x 30sec iso 1600. Star trailing still bad so I need to understand what is going on there because I spent a good deal of time getting the polar alignment spot on.

image.png.b37e4b8999108e67c28702d9b8825eaf.png

so not much improvement compared to the last one. 😞

image.png

 

How is your polar alignment?

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Next time out, take photo when pointing at Polaris and upload to ASTRONOMETRY.NET and it will tell you where the image is centred and the distance from NCP.

Or install https://adgsoftware.com/ansvr/ written by one of PHD2 development team

 

Edited by iapa
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3 minutes ago, iapa said:

Next time out, take photo when pointing at Polaris and upload to ASTRONOMETRY.NET and it will tell you where the image is centred and the distance from NCP.

Or install https://adgsoftware.com/ansvr/ written by one of PHD2 development team

 

Thanks iapa, I will do that.

What puzzles me is, if you look at the images, the stars streak at about 90deg from the first image. The subject is framed the same and the camera is at the same angle. The Skyguider only tracks in RA, so I think there is something going on that isn't PA related. 

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It's a very good question. I started about 13 years ago. I have the advantage of lots of clear nights so I was able to make recognizable images of larger galaxies and nebulae in a couple of months. They look now, of course, like many beginner images look. It probably took about three years for the learning curve to flatten such that what I did after three years looked something like what I do now. What I do now is not very different from what I did five years ago, so the curve is now pretty flat. That doesn't mean I've learned it all, it just means that I'm pretty much out of ideas!

Olly

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On 29/04/2021 at 09:57, Astro Noodles said:

I have been attempting DSO astrophotography for a couple of months now but haven't yet produced an image I would be prepared to share on this forum. I understand that this is a difficult and complicated thing to do and there is an enormous amount to learn, and I don't yet really have the equipment or skills.

I was just wondering how long it took you before you had produced an image you were satisfied with and prepared to share?

IMO getting an image is just the last part, taming the gear so it behaves as it should is the tough bit, once that is down the imaging part is relatively easy.

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4 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

I have the advantage of lots of clear nights so I was able to make recognizable images of larger galaxies and nebulae in a couple of months.

Olly

And I think that is probably the biggest advantage of all - time to get images and practice. I decided to get into imaging in the last year, starting with a DSLR and buying an ASI533 at the end of August. I think I have probably been out with it about 6-8 nights since then, and some of those have been short sessions as clouds have come over. I've yet to get anything I am really happy with and I'm still trying to learn the best way to get everything set up. I have a guide camera, but I'm still trying to get the basics right with both the setup and the software before I add an extra layer of complexity. I can lose time just trying to remember how to get everything set up again, as I haven't had enough time for things to become a habit.

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, Shimrod said:

And I think that is probably the biggest advantage of all - time to get images and practice. I decided to get into imaging in the last year, starting with a DSLR and buying an ASI533 at the end of August. I think I have probably been out with it about 6-8 nights since then, and some of those have been short sessions as clouds have come over. I've yet to get anything I am really happy with and I'm still trying to learn the best way to get everything set up. I have a guide camera, but I'm still trying to get the basics right with both the setup and the software before I add an extra layer of complexity. I can lose time just trying to remember how to get everything set up again, as I haven't had enough time for things to become a habit.

How true that is. Northern England is not great for cloudless nights. What I've also found is that it seems to be clear after midnight more often than before midnight. If I could become nocturnal it would help. It's so disappointing to waste a clear night's imaging when you look at the subs and they are all rubbish.

Edited by Astro Noodles
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