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How do you decide what to image?


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I think it must be because I am so new to this, that I want to image everything!! How do you decide what you are going to image that evening if it's nice and clear? Do you go out with a set idea or just wait and see what grabs you or looks good?

I sit in the afternoon / early evening pouring over books, stellarium and Flickr to decide what is available to me and whether it may look pretty!!!

I am sure that veterans are far more discerning in their choices!!

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I'm at the point, of checking what's up at the moment and seeing what takes my fancy, and checking that it'll appear as more than a small dot on the sensor of course :(... There's a huge number of targets, and I've barely scratched the surface...

Although, if it should by, any slim chance actually star clear tonight, I'm gonna start with a Lunar mosaic, then go onto M42 and capture a bunch of 10 minute exposures to try and finish that one off. Then, I want to get a run of 12 subs each on the Auriga clusters to finish that off.. then I'm onto M51.

Edited by jgs001
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For planets it all depends on what's up. At the moment it's end of Jupiter season and Saturn season is well under way. Check Stellarium for other planetary targets.

For Dso's - some have a season and some are there all the time (in Northern hemisphere). Some targets are easier than others and it also depends on what equipment you have (scope/cameras/filters etc) and your level of expertise. But really it's a matter of personal choice.

Feel free to pick anything you want - if anyone complains tell them you have my permission lol :(

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Hi Sara, I've had this recommended to me before:


you can list types too...so if you're more into galaxies or nebulae, just pick....

I'm not sure if it will calc when they pass the meridian though...that would be when they are highest and maybe best for imaging? I'm sure someone will clarify if that's not the case.



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Hi Sara

For me it is down to (a) the limitations of my equipment, (:( the massive amount of light pollution around me, and © my passion for open clusters. At the moment I am seeing how far south I can go in the vast number available in CMa and Pup. That is a matter of imaging them in RA-order, so I get maximum visibility. Was quite pleased a to get Cr132 and Cr140 a few weeks back.

Whatever you decide to go for, there are tons of objects to choose from, so just go and enjoy:)

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Feel free to pick anything you want - if anyone complains tell them you have my permission lol :)

A friend once mentioned when we were out doing landscape photography that I could not take a picture of that rock or tree because he had already done so and could I not see it was greyed out :(

So if we did the same with the sky it would be one mass of grey I reckon! ;)



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I tend to plan on getting data for 2 or 3 targets per night if it's an all night session, and assuming no moon and good seeing.

I don't expect to finish in one session though, and usually build up an image over several nights.

I'll start a target that will be in a good position and image it until my next target is in a good position in the east, then shift to that.

I also try to get away with as few meridian flips as possible.

If the moon is out, then I'll go for narrowband tagets or clusters, and likewise, if the transparency isn't great, it's clusters again.

With clusters, you can usually get all of the data in one session, as you're not trying to tease very faint stuff out in the processing, and so don't need to worry as much about achieving a good signal to noise ratio.



Edited by RobH
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Yeah, as Rob says - try to limit yourself to what targets you go for. Its all to easy to get carried away and slew your scope all over the place trying to grab as much as many different targets as poss.

Plan your session using stellarium, choosing stuff that wont be crossing the meridian within 2 or 3 hours. Or even better choose something thats just crossed it, that will give you loads of time.

Some targets are givers too, M42, M45, M27 or the Ring nebula (though youve already missed the last two).

It always helps to have a plan B though, just in case one half of the sky gets blighted by cloud or trees etc...

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I usualy have 2 targets on the go, my main target at the moment doesn't rise above next doors roof until about 1 am, so I will image in the east(ish) for as long as it takes, then switch to my main target when it comes into view and carry on with that untill dawn/cloud/tiredness ends it all.

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I just madly want to image everything!!!!

Go for it!

All of us do to begin with, and it gives you a good feel for what different targets are like, and how much you really need to expose them for, plus, there's the thrill of seeing those images appearing on the screen!

Save the 24 hour sessions until later on :(

Have fun. :)


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This is handy: Welcome to CCDWare - CCDNavigator

CCD Navigator

Deciding what to image is always a chore, theres just so much. Nebulas, Galaxies etc...

All depends on your equipment, filters, camera etc..

If you are new, try some bright things first M42 Orion Nebula, The Andromeda Galaxy, M101 in Ursa Major things like that will usually give you some kind of results.

Dont expect Hubble style images though straight away....it is though, quite acceptable to get some very good images and detail with time and patience.

Go for the Moon, planets or bright deep sky objects first, get used to the software and the equipment and above all, soldier on and have fun.

When you stack up an image after 3 hours and see it all come together and look at it and say " I did that, that was me" then its a very satisfying experience.

Clear skies buddy!

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For me I decide where I am imaging (which determines my FOV as my front yard only allows me to image in one section of the sky), then I pull up Stellarium and see what is going to be in the area during the time I want to image.

I also used to pull up Tonight's Sky and plug in where, how long, etc and peruse through there. It was helpful before I learned what within the ranges of my scopes and cameras was going to be in what part of the sky and what time.

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I always have a project worked out and a Plan B elsewhere in the sky in case of cloud. I try to avoid pulling the equipment around too much and have a rule not to change OTAs at night so I tend to have things worked out so that OTA changes are not frequent things. I also like flats to last for more than one image cos I find them boring to do! (All my idle secrets coming out...)

I think about the framing and go for something that will cover my chip nicely, not look like a pea on a plate. You can use CCD calc for this but I use SkyMap Pro.

Like Rob and almost everyone else I loathe meridian flips so start when an object is rising in the east.

When I started I used to take three pictures in a night. Now I consider it indecently quick if I get one image in three nights!


Edited by ollypenrice
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