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Archive 2013 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount
  
 
Mystery57
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p.16 #1 · p.16 #1 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Brilliant many thanks for that and the kind welcome

Im sure this will be the first of many (quite possibly silly) questions - but I want to learn

regards
Andrew



Oct 29, 2013 at 07:46 PM
jforkner
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p.16 #2 · p.16 #2 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Please disregard.


Oct 30, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Timmeh
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p.16 #3 · p.16 #3 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


I managed to get to a dark sky finally with some good views to the southeast. Unfortunately there was a lot of moisture and haze towards the north, so I spent a lot of time around Orion.

#1 is a fairly wide view at 90mm including Betelgeuse in the upper left and very faint flame nebula around the bottom of the belt.

#2 was shot with my super cheap supertelephoto solution (Rokinon 800mm f/8 mirror lens). There wasn't any wind so I'm pretty happy with my version of the Orion Nebula on a budget.

Tim




Orion

  Canon EOS 5D Mark II    TS-E90mm f/2.8 lens    90mm    f/4.0    93s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  






Orion Nebula




Nov 03, 2013 at 09:35 PM
NickHenderson
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p.16 #4 · p.16 #4 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Awesome!


Nov 03, 2013 at 11:19 PM
kwoodard
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p.16 #5 · p.16 #5 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Well done! I always forget what one can see with clear skies and low pollution. I envy your view.


Nov 03, 2013 at 11:30 PM
danws6
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p.16 #6 · p.16 #6 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


I also just tried my shot at Orion this past weekend and I'm not sure what to think. Here is a before/after of what I got out of Deep Sky Stacker and then Lightroom. I'm really lost when it comes to Deep Sky Stacker and knowing what settings to use. Post processing is also quite challenging. I'm also not sure if I should adjust the levels in DSS before passing it on to Lightroom. Any suggestions?

Exposures were from 20, 30, 60, 90 seconds at ISO 800. In retrospect I should have bumped the ISO up. I saw earlier that Fred stacked the shorter exposures on his picture separately and than merged the stacked images. I might try that.



5D3 with the 600mm f/4L

I'm also getting the itch to buy a modified camera. Does anyone have a recommendation on a shop to modify a 5D2?

Edited on Nov 11, 2013 at 05:47 PM · View previous versions



Nov 11, 2013 at 04:50 PM
astro-ep
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p.16 #7 · p.16 #7 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Looks really good. Most folks shoot Orion as their first target, since it's so bright. But the dynamic range is huge. You did a nice job covering most of the range, with your exposures. The core is a little saturated still, but much better than most. If you processed in Raw or TIFF, you might have enough range left to be able to mask the core down a little. Post processing is definitely a killer. I've been doing this for 4 years now, and still wrestle with processing each and every image.

You can adjust the levels and saturation in DSS before saving the image (a separate tab on the lower LHS). But stretching the data in lightroom or photoshop is also perfectly acceptable. Google non-linear stretching, for some tips to stretch the nebula without blowing out the stars. It's also better to stretch a little at a time, vs. all at once. It is also better to remove gradients and noise a little at a time, while stretching, rather than all at once in the end.

DSS is OK for stacking, but if you plan to really get into Astro, you'll probably want to get a better stacking and processing program. MaximDL, Images Plus, etc. And in case it's not obvious, always shoot in RAW, to gain the benefit of the 14bit image depth. Then save in 16 or 32 bit TIFF for post processing

Thanks for sharing... Looking forward to seeing more.

Hope this helps...

Eric



Nov 11, 2013 at 05:34 PM
danws6
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p.16 #8 · p.16 #8 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Thanks for the suggestions. My goal was to avoid over exposing the core which I think I did well at. All images were shot in raw using Backyard EOS and then loaded directly into DSS. I'll look into the non-linear stretching, that sounds interesting. One thing I've noticed is that the histogram in Backyard EOS seems different compared to what I see in Lightroom. My understanding is that it is best to shoot for the exposure to be between 1/4 and 1/3 to the left on the histogram. Does that sound right?

I'll take a look at MaximDL and Image Plus. I think I've spent enough time at this that if I want to continue I should either have my 5D2 modified or buy a modified camera. Trying to fix the white balance is frustrating. I seldom use the 5D2 anymore so it'd give me a reason to keep it and I'd get more range on the images.



Nov 11, 2013 at 05:54 PM
astro-ep
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p.16 #9 · p.16 #9 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Modifying the camera is not going to help the WB issues much, as this tends to be more related to light pollution. The best way to correct the WB is to set the white point on a G2V star (google white balance G2V).

The main thing that a modified DSLR will do is increase the sensitivity to the H-alpha emission line, which is mostly blocked by the stock IR blocking filter. A full spectrum mod is the most flexible. Most conversion houses use uncoated float glass or fused silica. So to get the best performance in a modification, special things should be done. Contact me off-line if you're interested in detail.

Eric






Nov 11, 2013 at 06:09 PM
danws6
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p.16 #10 · p.16 #10 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Thanks for the clarification. The site I've been going to is fairly dark but there is some light pollution still. I'll hit you up for details on camera modifications.

The same night I also was able to capture Andromda. The core is blown out a bit but overall I am happy.



Here was my prior attempt using a 200mm + 1.4x extender: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1192050/14#11737806



Nov 11, 2013 at 06:57 PM
 

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dgdg
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p.16 #11 · p.16 #11 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


wow, great stuff.
DSS works fine for the casual astro-landscaper, like myself. One day I want to grow up and be like Eric (astro-ep)!
I found with Canon raw files I could not make any edits without weird crunch put on the stars. I had to export the image without the edits applied and do all processing in PS/LR.

David



Nov 11, 2013 at 09:09 PM
cavaroc
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p.16 #12 · p.16 #12 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Looks like this thread could use a bump

I currently do a lot of nature and wildlife and in the past years, have branched into a lot of night photography as well. As a result, I found this thread while searching for telescopes to invest in to get into astrophotography, something I've been itching to dive into for years. (And I also saw How the Universe Works which is the reason I stopped procrastinating on diving in.) After reading this, I'm sold on the AstroTrac. I'm fascinated by nebulae and galaxies and wanting to capture good shots of those, so I'm wondering, if my setup right now is a Canon 5D III which I'd use with a 100-400mm L, could I get away with getting good shots of them with the minimum purchase (for now)? - that being the following, as mentioned in the original article (which I see is bundled on Adorama):

AstroTrac TT320X-AG
AstroTrac Illuminated Polar Scope
AstroTrac 12v car adapter
AstroTrac 12v “AA” Battery Pack

Or would I need to get other things like the Wedge, BackyardEOS, the 50mm scope, etc.?

Thanks! And great work on all the shots I've seen so far!



Dec 05, 2013 at 06:46 AM
astro-ep
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p.16 #13 · p.16 #13 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Howdy,

I'm not up on the Astrotrac, as I use an EQ mount (Astro-Physics Mach1 GTO) for my Astro work. But I do have some experience with the other. Large pixels, like on the 5D, are great for noise control, as we all know. They are also great for gathering light. Newer cameras also have good internal noise control. So that reduces the post processing load somewhat.

When I first got started, I used to shoot with a 30D and a 70-200 2.8L. While it's a great lens, I had trouble with it internally changing zoom factor, as the temperature dropped throughout the evening's shots. Generally, since the signal to noise will be low, on single astro photos, it's best to stack many images. But when the zoom factor changes, stacking can be problematic without some specialized software.

You might also need to be aware of dew/frost. I live in the desert and rarely have issues with this. But in areas with more humidity, you'll need ways to prevent this (dew buster/heater, etc).

Although it might not be obvious with astro, stability is your friend. Although the astrotrac is a capable unit, put it on a wobbly or light-weight tripod and you might as well be shooting without it, as you're results will be poor. The more fine adjustability that you have, the easier it will be to get a good polar alignment (crucial).

If I can make a recommendation... You mentioned "Telescope". If you're planning to get into astro more heavily (like with a telescope), it would be far better to purchase a proper equatorial mount. Like regular camera equipment, there is a lot of junk out there. I can highly recommend a Losmandy GM8 for a small light set-up or a G11 for a heavier setup. These might not be the least expensive, but are excellent value. I used a GM8 with a DSLR and have used w different G11's for my 25 lb scope/filter/CCD set-up. These mounts are much better built and much more precision than 90% of the import mounts. Most folks think the telescope and camera are the most important parts of a good imaging system. But the mount is the basis of all success. The best scope and camera will not perform if installed on a poor mount. So if you plan to get serious, spend the most you can afford and get a good mount. It will make your experience much more enjoyable. You can get a scope to work with an astrotrac, but a good EQ mount will be far better in the long run.

My 2-cent's worth...

Eric



Dec 05, 2013 at 02:49 PM
cavaroc
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p.16 #14 · p.16 #14 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Thank you for your input, Eric! It definitely makes sense and while I would like to get deeper into astrophotography than just an AstroTrac, my budget at the moment is currently making that difficult, for which those mounts are just a bit out of reach at the moment. I'm hoping though that with something like the AstroTrac that I can at least break into it and begin learning by doing so that when my budget grows I'll be able to take advantage. Even if I were to buy a telescope one or several years later, I can still see me using a DSLR body on an AstroTrac while I have a modified body on the scope. I did read that earlier about the cold. I live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming so cold will probably be a factor and since it looks like I'll need to invest in a prime lens, that also takes away from my current budget.

As for a tripod, I do have a sturdy Manfrotto tripod that I've been using for some time for my other photography work.

I suppose I was originally wondering, with the equipment I listed previously, provided I could get a prime lens on there, would I need something extra to track with the stars, such as one of the mounts mentioned, or is that functionality already built into the basic setup? I apologize if this was already covered. I discovered the thread late last night and read through the last 10 pages rather quickly. I plan on reading everything from the beginning in the very near future.

-Mike



Dec 05, 2013 at 03:18 PM
astro-ep
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p.16 #15 · p.16 #15 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Mike,

I can certainly understand the finances. Astrophotography & astronomy is expensive, for sure. I was recommending an EQ mount, as they are much more stable for larger/longer focal lengths. Even with the best equipment, getting good Astro images can be challenging. I've seen many folks invest in equipment with less capability only to leave the hobby because of less than stellar results (see what I did there ).

If you're planning to stick with an Astrotrac, I'd recommend sticking with shorter focal lengths to start. I know Fred has used his 500mm howitzer on an Astrotrac. But the chances of success will be much higher starting with wider views vs. starting at long focal lengths. With an EQ mount, 500mm is a great starting focal length. But for something like an astrotrac, I'd start much wider, as your success rate will be much higher. Using your lens at 100mm would be a great place to start.

Generally wider focal lengths don't require highly accurate tracking and is more forgiving to polar alignment. But as you increase the focal length, both of these become more demanding.

If you're interested in shooting galaxies you'll need a much longer focal length (more than 1000mm is better). Most (except Andromeda) are tiny. At my 530mm focal length, most are mere specs in my frame. Conversely, shooting nebula (my passion) is much easier at wider focal lengths. Most cover large areas of the sky. In fact, an area like Cygnus has huge swaths of nebulosity. A focal length of 100mm would be great.

If you're interest is nebula, you might need to consider something else. The vast majority of nebula emit light caused from the ionization of Hydrogen (and other gasses). Hydrogen is the brightest and most common. This light is deep red (656.28 nm) and is far enough into the red that the stock UV/IR cut filter(s) block most of this color. Some cameras have more sensitivity to this than others. But generally you'll have much better results on nebula with a modified camera. Depending on preference, the UV-IR filter can be replaced with one that passes the hydrogen emission. But many choose to have a dedicated astro camera and have a full-spectrum modification, which pass all the wavelengths to which the camera is sensitive. This is a big topic in itself...

As an example take a look at these. This is an RGB shot, similar to what a DSLR would see:


And this is the same area shot in RGB, with the addition of Hydrogen (called Hydrogen Alpha ) added:


As a review:
Nebula -better with shorter focal length telephoto lenses, may need a modified camera, lower guiding accuracy requirements, more allowable error on polar alignment

Galaxies - Most need very long focal lengths, could be better with a crop-sensor camera, requires more accurate guiding, requiresmore accurate polar alignment, can use stock camera.

Hope this helps...

Eric



Dec 05, 2013 at 05:02 PM
cavaroc
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p.16 #16 · p.16 #16 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Very helpful, Eric. I really appreciate it. Until I can really afford to do galaxies, I can definitely be happy doing nebulae. I was also going to make a modified camera a very high priority since I had seen that right away in my initial research, as well as the great example you posted. Thanks again! Looking forward to getting everything together.


Dec 05, 2013 at 05:29 PM
dgdg
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p.16 #17 · p.16 #17 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


If your main interest is deep sky objects, I think using a tripod and tracker is going to be fairly limiting if you want high quality imaging. Not that you can't have some nice stuff, but it depends on how demanding you will be on your images.

The astrotrac and wedge shines with wide to short telephoto astro landscapes. Certainly Fred and others have used 400 or 500 mm lenses on a crop body for some great shots, and I have done some as well, but again you are kinda pushing the envelope.

Even a bit of wind can mess up an image, so a sturdy tripod is a must. I use a 5 series tripod and found even with some gusty winds my short wide angle lens did very well.

I've had major battles with dew in much of the USA... and lost, until I broke down and purchased a dew heater. A dew heater coupled with a small jump start battery is a real joy for night imaging of any significant length. Don't know why I waited so long on this.

You might be able to locate a local astronomy club that has a club telescope. You can start imaging with that and see what you think.

David

Edited on Dec 05, 2013 at 06:33 PM · View previous versions



Dec 05, 2013 at 05:58 PM
cavaroc
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p.16 #18 · p.16 #18 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Thank you, David! I certainly don't expect this to be my final foray into astrophotography. At the moment I'm looking for a (relatively) affordable solution just to get my foot in the door while also being able to get some good shots farther than what I can get with my standard nature photography setup. Currently that doesn't amount to much beyond a wide open sky of stars above the mountains. Since I've had a craving for this for years, I'm sure it's something I'll be doing well into the future, so because of the affordability of the AstroTrac, that seemed like the best avenue for now. However, given that I'd probably be getting a modified DSLR (probably a Rebel) sooner than later, would you recommend I jump straight to a telescope? Based on a what I've seen, a decent telescope and mount would probably run me a little over $1000 if I remember right...not much more than the AstroTrac and the mount for that.

There is a local astronomy club that I'm going to join, but they're not meeting any time soon, probably due to the frigid temperatures that have settled in here.

-Mike



Dec 05, 2013 at 06:24 PM
dgdg
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p.16 #19 · p.16 #19 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Eric would give you better advice about a foray into telescopes. Imaging with telescopes is a very expensive hobby compared to simple telescope observing with an eyepiece. Before you even considered putting down significant cash on a astrophotography telescope & mount, you should get involved with your local astronomy club. Maybe buy a cheap observing telescope, learn the constellations, learn to use the club equipment, do some imaging and processing. Then after a year or two, decide. Sometimes the clubs will have informal impromptu observing sessions, so make sure to let point of contacts know you would like to be notified. Go to their administrative and educational meetings so you can all get to know each other.

In the meanwhile, you can enjoy the astrotrac wherever you travel. Its a great kit. don't discount the Vixen Polarie.

David



Dec 05, 2013 at 06:38 PM
cavaroc
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p.16 #20 · p.16 #20 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Excellent! Sounds like that's the best course of action. Thanks again for your help!

-Mike



Dec 05, 2013 at 07:05 PM
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