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How would I go about getting into imaging

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Hi chaps, if in the future I decided I wanted to have a go at imaging which i think I do, where would I start, I am clueless as I have never done this before and some of you have lovely pictures I can only dream of producing. I have a skywatcher explorer 130p so where would I start, obviously for me I would want to start imaging at a lowish cost if possible but just interested to see what type of cameras you guys would recommend and then where I would go from there, such as what software would I need and How do some of you get beautiful colours from nebula and galaxies, I assume its done with some editing?

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i had a 130p az goto for my first scope and i used a webcam, a philips 900 nc, you can pick them up second hand for anywhere £50 upwards with adapters and a uv/ir filter.

the main advantage with this is that they are low cost, easy to use (ish), get good results on planets and Moon and are very light for your focuser.

the problem using you scope is that the focal length of it is short, 650mm if i remember correctly, and a F5, and for planets you need to increase this to get better image scale and detail

if you try anything much heavier the focuser will sag alittle.

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I'm in the same situation having bought a Skywatcher 1145PM last year.

I've tried holding a digital compact camera against the lens with limited success for the moon and saturn.

I thought about a camera holder for £20-40, as this would give a range of exposure times, plus a lot of cameras have a movies option or burst fire mode.

The webcams are hard to find, and the Toucams are going for £70+ on Ebay.

I see Sherwoods are doing the Neximage for £115 delivered, with a free reducer lens worth £20 - seeing as these sell well on Ebay then you wouldn't lose much money if you bought one and didn't like it.

So I bought one - they really are plug and play, complete with all the free software, though it looks like the Registax software will take time to learn for the more esoteric manipulations..

I've only had time to play with it during the day but it really is easy to use. The only downside is the short exposure time, unless you do the long exposure mod.

A lot will depend on your focal length - my 1145PM is 500mm, and the webcams are equivalent to a 6mm eyepiece, so a x83 mag, or x166 with a x2 barlow. I might need a x3 barlow to get to max magnification.

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the neximage are the same ccd chips as the philips, just abit more expensive but the are identical, the philips cams are hard to find as they don`t make them anymore, but they do come up for sale every now and again or go for the neximage, they are great to get started and it is a big learning curve, it took me ages to even get an image onto the chip using a 3x barlow as the chips are small, but the rewards are great when you get the hang of them

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Best thing to get is Steves' book "making every photon count" by far IMO the "best" starters guide to imaging, and I have read a few.

It is an excellent book detailing very clearly the bits and bobs plus techniques to get going in Astro Imaging.

Edited by adamsp123
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I eventually got to fire my Neximage up last night with a Skywatcher 1145P (500mm focal length), though I don't have an IR filter on it yet...so I'm a complete newby to this like you.

Some of the main problems I immediately found were that the tripod is quite light and doesn't suppress movement from light wind etc, plus everything wobbles when you're trying to focus - plus the focus knob isn't too fine in its movement.

Without a motor drive the target also moves failry quickly across the viewing area - maybe enough for about 100 frames at 5fps.

Given the above two issues, then there still is enough time to get a target aligned with an eyepiece, swap to the cam and refocus.

A quick twist of the telescope adjuster and the image is back somewhere useful to drift across the view. Then a couple of seconds to let everything settle down before collecting images.

On my scope Mars is really too small to image - a 2x barlow with the Neximage is about x170 mag. You can see the small planet, but no detail. Aperture is king, but you have to work with what you have.

Saturn should be imagable for me as we have seen the ring and moons before.

So here's the firstmoonshot I got, pretty horrendous but then it's the first time I've used the Neximage in anger.


Edited by cootuk
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