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Archive 2013 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount
  
 
nburwell
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p.6 #1 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Fred Miranda wrote:
I have an update for those waiting for the iOptron Skytracker, .
I got mine yesterday and took a few test shots using my 6D and 135mm f/2L lens.

My initial impressions are very positive. The Skytracker really fixed the annoying issues I had with the Vixen Polarie. The illuminated scope works great but you must download the iOptron App to align polaris with precision.
This mount comes with a built-in wedge for latitude control but no azimuth adjustment. It's the only negative I found with the set-up. However, this problem is solved if you get a pan base like the the
...Show more

Thanks for sharing Fred! My Skytracker came on Wednesday, but it figures that we've had nothing but cloudy skies since then. I'm hoping to get out at some point this week to test my unit out.

-Nick



Mar 04, 2013 at 02:50 PM
dgdg
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p.6 #2 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Thanks for sharing Fred.
I was able to get 3-4 minute exposures at a 240mm equivalent full frame field of view with the Vixen Polarie. No star trails at 100% viewing on the monitor. Getting aligned takes me more like 20minutes however since the polar scope, while accurate, requires a bit of fiddling and manual calculations.
I am eager to see what I can get out of the ioptron as I am hoping the juxtaposed polar scope leads to better polar alignment and easier realignment with a device that I suspect probably tracks just as well. If not, I will return it. Since I already have the Polarie, I will start looking at a true GEM since the astrotrac, for me, does not do enough over the Polarie to justify the $1200 price tag. I'd really like goto and the capability for full auto guiding with my 400mm and 1.4x converter. Then one day I could upgrade to a small scope without needing another platform. Wait, that's getting expensive...



Mar 04, 2013 at 09:11 PM
EOS20
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p.6 #3 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Great Article!




Mar 04, 2013 at 09:47 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.6 #4 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


dgdg wrote:
Thanks for sharing Fred.
I was able to get 3-4 minute exposures at a 240mm equivalent full frame field of view with the Vixen Polarie. No star trails at 100% viewing on the monitor. Getting aligned takes me more like 20minutes however since the polar scope, while accurate, requires a bit of fiddling and manual calculations.
I am eager to see what I can get out of the ioptron as I am hoping the juxtaposed polar scope leads to better polar alignment and easier realignment with a device that I suspect probably tracks just as well. If not, I will return
...Show more

IMO, the Vixen Polarie has the best scope. (Compared to the scope from Astrotrac or iOptron). I didn't mind its fine adjustments but not having illumination and constant removal was a big pain in the field.

With the iOptron, I captured a 3-minute exposure at 280mm (70-200mm f/4 + 1.4x extender) but my set-up was not very stable (since I mounted the camera instead of the lens). It was a little windy that night as well...I got visible trail at 100%.

It's very easy to align polaris with the iOptron coupled with the Feisol pan base and their App. I will try again once the skies clear up. Keep in mind that my set-up was approaching 6 pounds - at the limit of these ultra portable mounts.
Once you get your iOptron, give it a try and post your results.
All the best,
Fred



Mar 04, 2013 at 10:22 PM
firstgear99
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p.6 #5 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Dale Martin wrote:
....some have alreay stated astro photography is an addiction, stay away at all cost. It started out as imaging off the deck....and ended up with this! Go figure.....

http://massapoag.org/astro_2/observatory/structure/structure.html

Dale

That is some serious stuff!



Mar 10, 2013 at 03:05 AM
CPWarner
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p.6 #6 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


So here goes the slippery slope... I am intrigued by the iOptron and also need a panning base. While the Feisol looks inexpensive, wouldn't one need a leveling base to get the panning base flat? Otherwise you would be using the legs to level the tripod. Or, am I making this too difficult?


Mar 10, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.6 #7 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


CPWarner wrote:
So here goes the slippery slope... I am intrigued by the iOptron and also need a panning base. While the Feisol looks inexpensive, wouldn't one need a leveling base to get the panning base flat? Otherwise you would be using the legs to level the tripod. Or, am I making this too difficult?


You don't need to level your tripod...
For this mount, a panning base is all you need.
Best,
Fred



Mar 10, 2013 at 04:28 PM
CPWarner
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p.6 #8 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Thanks Fred! I ordered the SkyTracker and Feisol panning base. Can't wait to get it.

Cliff



Mar 10, 2013 at 06:19 PM
dgdg
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p.6 #9 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


I guess the leveling base can make polar alignment easier but not mandatory. If you are level first, put the panning base and wedge on top, you would be able to adjust true azimuth (panning base) and zenith (wedge) independently while aligning. I forgot to level my base this weekend and was initially confused while I was adjusting my geared head. Still works, but not quite as smooth. My biggest problem this weekend was cold weather dew. In the summer and fall my sock warmers last long enough, but at the end of my session I noted some build up. Oh well, next month I'll have a real dew heater so I don't have to fuss with it anymore. Still figuring out how to pp my rose nebula. I can only see minimal trails at 100% but the exposure could have greater and the dew could have been less. I found that the rigel site finder worked well for smaller objects, put it on a hot shoe adapter. I also ordered a cheap iphone hot shoe adapter so I can use goskywatch to locate objects. I'll see which I like best. I still think wide astro landscapes are my favorite, but sometimes the landscape isn't there - so I look straight up.

Be kind on my first nebula. Wide field milky ways are quite easy compared to the less bright nebulae.





Rose nebula Canon T3i, Vixen Polarie 280mm, f5.6, 14x 3min 15 sec, iso 800, 14 darks









Mar 11, 2013 at 08:48 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.6 #10 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Yesterday was new moon and most constellations were visible from my backyard. I decided to test my new guiding system and took an image of the Orion nebula.

I used the same Astrotrac, Canon 500mm f/4L and Canon 6D, but this time, I used a guiding scope and PHD guiding software. This allowed me to capture a 25 minute exposure.
The set-up was not very complicated but a notebook was needed for the auto guiding. The benefit of that is that you can use a software like BackyardEOS and let the computer take care of all the shooting while you watch it from inside your house.

ISO 1250 is pretty clean on the full frame 6D and that is the one I used for all subs.

I think it's a good improvement from the very first Astrotrac + 500mm shot without guiding. What do you think?


Feedback from the Astro pros is appreciated!







Mar 13, 2013 at 12:28 AM
 

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Dale Martin
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p.6 #11 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Wow Fred that is amazing, the tracking is dead nuts. This is one of the best images I have seen off the Astrotrac.

But I'm confused why is everything so red especially with a non modified camera. Here is one I took a number of years ago with a 350D before I had it modified.

http://massapoag.org/astro_2/nebulae/m42_11_06/m42_11_06.html

Dale



Mar 13, 2013 at 12:41 AM
harshaj1
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p.6 #12 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


This is awesome Fred. Love the sharpness and the details. Keep them coming. Is this a single 25 minute exposure or multiple shot exposures totalling 25.
I got my astrotrac for more than a week but weather had been so bad to test it. We had 13" of snow yesterday. Forecast for next week is really bad too.
I will be doing wide field milky way shots to start. Then I want to mount my 200-400 or even 600 on my astrotrac. The wedge should help with bigger lenses. I am very intrigued by the guiding system that make the tracking accurate. I need to do more research on that.
Anyway I would like you or someone else to post how to use a guiding system. It may be a good topic to start the new astrophotography forum.?
Harsha



Mar 13, 2013 at 12:43 AM
kwilliam8
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p.6 #13 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


A guide to guiding systems would be nice, as would an astrophotography forum!
Keith W.



Mar 13, 2013 at 12:57 AM
Steve Perry
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p.6 #14 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Dang Fred - looks like you have the hang of it! Amazing image!


Mar 13, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.6 #15 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Dale Martin wrote:
Wow Fred that is amazing, the tracking is dead nuts. This is one of the best images I have seen off the Astrotrac.

But I'm confused why is everything so red especially with a non modified camera. Here is one I took a number of years ago with a 350D before I had it modified.

http://massapoag.org/astro_2/nebulae/m42_11_06/m42_11_06.html

Dale


Thanks Dale!
This was my first guiding attempt and I was not sure how well things would register in post. The camera was not modded, so I had to tweak the colors in Lightroom for this effect. I'm still waiting for my modded t4i.
Take care,
Fred



Mar 13, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.6 #16 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


harshaj1 wrote:
This is awesome Fred. Love the sharpness and the details. Keep them coming. Is this a single 25 minute exposure or multiple shot exposures totalling 25.
I got my astrotrac for more than a week but weather had been so bad to test it. We had 13" of snow yesterday. Forecast for next week is really bad too.
I will be doing wide field milky way shots to start. Then I want to mount my 200-400 or even 600 on my astrotrac. The wedge should help with bigger lenses. I am very intrigued by the guiding system that make the tracking
...Show more

Thanks Harsha!

They were actually a bunch of images for a total of 25m exposure time.

I think I captured 30 light subs:
(5) 240s, (5) 360s, (5) 180s, (5) 120s, (5) 30s, (5) 10s plus the dark and bias subs.

I don't know if this is the best way to shoot Orion but to get the center not overexposed, there is a need for shorter exposures like the 20s and 60s subs. I was using ISO 1250 for all images.

About the guiding. The info is on the net but Astro-ep (Eric) helped me figure this out. It is a little time consuming but once you get everything set-up and practice with it a couple times, it works.

The Astrotrac mount has some limitations like the inability to be guided for the Dec axis (Declination), 2-hour max time and poorly designed guiding scope. (Very hard to see the 2nd and 3rd starts for very precise alignment)



Mar 13, 2013 at 03:08 PM
dgdg
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p.6 #17 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Very nice Fred!
As you can see from my photos, you will need more lights and darks with your Rebel camera than your full frame due to increased noise (I used iso 800).
I found processing astro images quite challenging. I actually found one tutorial that processes the Orion nebula from DSS to photoshop including improving the core. You may find it interesting.
http://www.astronomyshed.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1328



Mar 13, 2013 at 04:43 PM
astro-ep
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p.6 #18 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Great shot Fred. You're making extraordinary progress with this venture, Congrats!

Here are a few of my suggestions:

Orion is a target with a lot of dynamic range. With my Orion image, I had to shoot several different exposures, in order not to saturate the core. All these were blended together into the final image. Most astro targets are pretty faint, but Orion ( M42) is an exception. You've seen it but look at the exposure data below it:

http://smu.gs/14bAWIu

Processing different exposures into the same frame (sort of an astro-HDR, for lack of a better description), you'll be able to get into the core of the nebula.

Also (if you're not already) be sure to shoot in RAW, to get the benefit of the 14bit data depth (12 bit on older cameras). It will make a huge difference in processing and the final result.

As a final note, when adjusting the image background (black sky), most people (including me), set the black point in the image to about 20,20,20. This makes the blacks not quite perfect black and adds a look of realism.

Great progress, Fred.

Eric

Edit: With the frames and exposure times that you recorded, you should be able to bring out the core a lot better. Try doing some masking between the exposures, on different layers, bringing out only what you want to see.



Mar 13, 2013 at 08:28 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.6 #19 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


astro-ep wrote:
Great shot Fred. You're making extraordinary progress with this venture, Congrats!

Here are a few of my suggestions:

Orion is a target with a lot of dynamic range. With my Orion image, I had to shoot several different exposures, in order not to saturate the core. All these were blended together into the final image. Most astro targets are pretty faint, but Orion ( M42) is an exception. You've seen it but look at the exposure data below it:

http://smu.gs/14bAWIu

Processing different exposures into the same frame (sort of an astro-HDR, for lack of a better description), you'll be able to get into the
...Show more


Eric,
Whatever progress I have made, your advice has been a big part of it.
Thanks for the great tips on black point settings. I did use many exposure times for this one. I will try your masking idea. I thought that stacking all exposure times in DSS would give me a more automatic blended result.

Take care,
Fred



Mar 14, 2013 at 01:21 AM
astro-ep
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p.6 #20 · Nightscapes using AstroTrac Tracking Mount


Fred,

Thanks Fred! I've learned a ton here on this site. I'm glad that I can finally give something back.

Try stacking each of the exposure time sets, separately in DSS. Add them all into photoshop as different layers, mask them and start bringing in the core from the appropriate layers. On your shortest exposure, you should be able to see the trapezium cluster in the core.

It took me several iterations to get deep enough, to where I was pleased with the final image. Keep in mind that ideally you'd want darks, flats and bias calibration frames from each exposure set. The flats and bias would be the same, but you'd need a different set of darks for each exposure set (to minimize the noise).

We're having a stretch of clear weather - Yay!!!

Eric



Mar 14, 2013 at 03:00 PM
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