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Feeling overwhelmed


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I currently have my humble little set-up so far (see signature) as I try to learn the basics of things and so far I have to say I'm getting pretty good.  I can align my mount/scope in 90 seconds but as you can see I'm only working with beginner level equipment and taking some crude pics from an iPhone through whatever EP I have attached at that moment.  So far I've seen all the popular beginner stuff - Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Moon, Polaris, Arcturus, Vega, you get the idea.

As I continue on this journey, I do believe I have my eyes set on some things to get to the next level.  I think I've settled my AP intentions as the following - I want to do planetary & lunar imaging mainly with a light touch every now and again on DSO (M16, M51, M101) but nothing groundbreaking, intense or obscure.

The problem I face now is that I feel very overwhelmed with how to proceed and I need some kind of support to bring me back down to the ground and explain things to me like I'm a 2-year old.  It's interesting, I didn't just jump into the most expensive/biggest/best end of the pool which I have seen tends to happen to beginners...but the more research I do and the more knowledge I (think) I gain, the more lost I feel.  I almost have information overload where the things I have studied over and over again begin to not make sense and since I have no practical application of these products yet, they remain as just theory to me until I take the plunge.

I know that I want a Celestron 8 or 9.25 EdgeHD on a CGEM II - that much I have solid
But as far as all of the other accessories and necessities, I feel almost lost because of this info overload I'm experiencing.  I do think I want to go down the ZWO path though, they seem popular and reliable.

I'd appreciate if someone could guide me and let me know exactly what the hell I need to get started in AP according to the parameter I mentioned above.  Guiders, focusers, cameras, ASI Air's, Registax, etc etc - I almost feel like I need to see a workflow charted out in front of me to see exactly how things connect to where and what they do.  I'm trying to avoid making expensive trial-and-error mistakes and I feel my brain has turned to goop. Cheers.

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There are some good guides on Youtube for beginning astrophotography.  The creators also have webpages. These ones I have found useful:

Nebula Photos Nico Carver

AstroBackyard | Astrophotography Tips and Tutorials Trevor Jones

AstroFarsography - Inform. Inspire. Share. Ruzeen Farsad

This one in particular has influenced my choices:

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=starting+astrophotography%3f+this+is+what&docid=608029805717640149&mid=5A5B86466AB43D69E1375A5B86466AB43D69E137&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

 

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"Making Every Photon Count" has very little to say about planetary imaging.

A C8 or C9.25 would do nicely for planetary imaging. While an Edge HD would be very nice, IMHO you don't need this  for planetary imaging as the actual fields of view you will be working with are very small (except for the moon).

Likewise you may not need a CGEM II - the mount requirements for planetary imaging are not exacting, and I found I could get images with the alt-azimuth SE mount which were just as good as with a CPC fork mount.  But the SE is awful to use for imaging while the CPC is very pleasant to use - easy to set up, rock steady, low backlash.  If you do not intend to do deep sky long exposure imaging, you can dispense with an equatorial mount and also dispense with the aggro of polar alignment, meridian flips etc.

If you do intend to image galaxies.  the EDGE HD and CGEM II will be more appropriate.  Be warned that by all accounts imaging small galaxies with a SCT is NOT a beginner activity. (and check the price of a EDGE HD focal reducer 🙁).

 

As for cameras and workflow, for planets use an ASI224MC + ZWO ADC, and capture .ser files with Sharpcap and process with Registax6.  For DSOs, I don't even try using a SCT.

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4 hours ago, Maideneer said:

I'm going to order that today, many thanks for that.

As Geoff rightly says, this focuses on DSO imaging which is perhaps not your focus. Still very useful for future understanding more about imaging though and what pitfalls to avoid!

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48 minutes ago, Cosmic Geoff said:

"Making Every Photon Count" has very little to say about planetary imaging.

A C8 or C9.25 would do nicely for planetary imaging. While an Edge HD would be very nice, IMHO you don't need this  for planetary imaging as the actual fields of view you will be working with are very small (except for the moon).

Likewise you may not need a CGEM II - the mount requirements for planetary imaging are not exacting, and I found I could get images with the alt-azimuth SE mount which were just as good as with a CPC fork mount.  But the SE is awful to use for imaging while the CPC is very pleasant to use - easy to set up, rock steady, low backlash.  If you do not intend to do deep sky long exposure imaging, you can dispense with an equatorial mount and also dispense with the aggro of polar alignment, meridian flips etc.

If you do intend to image galaxies.  the EDGE HD and CGEM II will be more appropriate.  Be warned that by all accounts imaging small galaxies with a SCT is NOT a beginner activity. (and check the price of a EDGE HD focal reducer 🙁).

 

As for cameras and workflow, for planets use an ASI224MC + ZWO ADC, and capture .ser files with Sharpcap and process with Registax6.  For DSOs, I don't even try using a SCT.

Right so you make great points here.  The reasoning for the CGEM/SCT is because I want the future flexibility to get more into AP if I choose and not have to go back to the planning board and re-buy another scope, mount etc.  So it's my sort of hedging the bet here on the front end in case I eventually change my mind.

The 224 is in my cart as we speak but thanks for the ADC note, didn't know that existed.  For this instance, what would connect to what?  224->Barlow (if used)->ADC->Scope?

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1 minute ago, Cosmic Geoff said:

I did use them in that order.

I suppose I could play with it to see what works best.  Often times, I feel like I have to get too rigid with the operations aspect of things and then I remind myself that trial-and-error is a wonderful thing.

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It's hard to disagree with what Geoff said earlier. I just wanted to reinforce the point that planetary and DSO imaging are poles apart, and really need completely different equipment, software and processing techniques. Best to pick one for now, and stick with that. Lunar kind of fits in the middle, so whichever way you go, you can do lunar.

For planetary, you don't need to worry about guiding. If your mount tracks reasonably well you'll be ok; you'll shoot video sequences of the planet rather than long exposures. Likewise, the ASI uncooled cameras are designed for short exposure planetary, while the expensive cooled ones are for DSO long exposure. 

Software wise, SharpCap is a good candidate for capturing those planetary videos, as is FireCapture or even ZWO's own ASICAP. Registax or AutoStakkert will do your post-processing for you. For DSOs, you're more likely to use APT or NINA for capture, and AstroPixelProcessor, StarTools or PixInsight for processing.

I have both a Celestron C8, which I hope to use as soon as I get to see a planet again (!), and an 80mm refractor. I set the C8 up for DSO for the first time recently with an off-axis guider, but I'm glad that I have the experience from the refractor behind me as using the SCT for DSOs is challenging. Many DSOs won't fit in the narrow field of view of the C8.

Finally! I'd suggest not using an ASIAIR for now, just connect to your laptop and get to understand the capture and control techniques first hand.

One simple step-up option could be to look at a C6 or 5" Mak with your current AZ-GTi mount - just keep it within the 5kg weight specification? Otherwise, you won't go wrong with either the 8" or 9.25 SCT on a hefty mount like the CGEM or a HEQ5/EQ6 class. Use Stellarium to preview what field of view any combination of scope and camera will give you before you decide what to buy.

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