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MtnGoat
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PostMon Feb 23, 2009 5:20 pm 
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Well, I finally got a Flickr account by using a different computer to sign up with. So I figured I'd post up a thread to use an an ongoing source for what an amateur astronomer can do these days.

It's really pretty cool...even with a very modest investment one can get some darned nice stuff, and as my technique improves I'm starting to get some pretty decent images. It's all about setup, then you let er rip, then post process a bit.

This is so much better than the bad old days of film it's not even funny. You'd spend hours squinting into an eyepiece and trying to manually turn knobs in the dark to keep a star in the crosshairs, then spend ten bucks and wait a week to find out you'd screwed up every single shot.

Now, the imager is more sensitive than the film you'd have to soak in hydrogen to sensitize it, and the software will not only guide for you, it'll toss bad images and you get to decide how bad is bad. Then you stack up a bunch of short exposures to get a long one, and voila, astromagic!

Here's Scopehenge, scene of the crime:
scopehenge
scopehenge

And here's some stuff I've taken with some of this gear.

Here's one of my first shots from March of 2008, using a stock ETX60, I had no clue what I was doing..

Since then, I've improved a bit...

Andromeda
M31 120mmf5 50 min
M31 120mmf5 50 min

Orion Nebula
M42 st90 10min
M42 st90 10min

M51

Veil Nebula
VEIL sept sn8 54min
VEIL sept sn8 54min

M13 with the Z12 yard cannon (12" F5 newtonian)
M13_ZHUM
M13_ZHUM

NGC6946

NGC891
Spiral Galaxy NGC891, 32 million light years distant. Seen edge on.   This shot is composed of 50 30 second subframes with a Meade Schmidt Newtonian 8" F4 telescope, Meade DSI-C imager, and Meade LXD75 mount.
Spiral Galaxy NGC891, 32 million light years distant. Seen edge on.   This shot is composed of 50 30 second subframes with a Meade Schmidt Newtonian 8" F4 telescope, Meade DSI-C imager, and Meade LXD75 mount.

M109
M109, 46 million light years distant
M109, 46 million light years distant

That's enough to kick things off. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did getting them. It's pretty fun way to spend an evening under the stars. Typically I'll decide what I want to image, get an image going, then kick back and knock about the sky with another scope and my eyeballs while the imager is collecting photons from the reaches of space.

I used to feel bad for intercepting old growth photons and ending their timeless flight, but then I realized they were mere nanoseconds from whacking the dirt anyway, so really I've saved them from a meaningless ending. If a photon hits the yard and there's no one there to see it....

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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touron
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PostMon Feb 23, 2009 5:47 pm 
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Very neat and thanks for posting! up.gif  up.gif  up.gif And don't forget you can generate a few replacement photosn with your flashlight. hmmm.gif

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whistlingmarmot
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PostMon Feb 23, 2009 5:54 pm 
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Nice setup.  Makes me want to move out to the desert.  I like the M109 shot.
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MtnGoat
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PostMon Feb 23, 2009 10:40 pm 
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Thanks. I am spoiled by the ink black skies here, The Dalles creates a barely visible light dome low on the horizon in one direction, but other than that conditions are exceptional. I'm very lucky on the dark skies front.

Still, digital imaging can blast right through a heck of a lot of light pollution, especially if you pull some tricks in processing and use a light pollution filter. I've seen some amazing shots from some very large metro areas, including very near downtown London and one guy shooting from Redmond, WA, on Redmond Ridge. It's not exactly dark there, and he gets some great stuff.

I sniped two setups off of the Seattle Craigslist which were actually in your neck of the woods, in Tacoma. One from a lady who runs Whitepeak Observatory (there's a website), she does lunar photography and double stars. I picked up the LXD75 mount and my 120mm refractor from her. The other deal was the ST90 I just got, with all sorts of extras, also from a woman in Tacoma.

Since getting refired about the hobby last spring, I've been haunting CL daily eyeballing deals. If you know what you're looking for, it's the way to go. There is a lot of decent entry level gear for very low prices if you just wait for the right deal. Scopes are famous for being used twice and then sitting in the closet for years. There are regularly decent entry level full GOTO scopes on CL for 50-100 bucks in perfect working order.

So my arsenal has tripled in the last 12 months, at minimum outlay. At some point I'll probably sell off a few I don't use as much to finance my next purchase, a decent mount for the 12". I've been using my friends borrowed mount for it, but I need one of my own. His is a 70's vintage Cave Astrola, very solid, but fully manual. Also the field of view with the 12 is so freakin narrow finding targets takes a long time unless you get really lucky. 8 minutes of arc on the long axis of the image isn't a lot of sky.

So I'd like to get a GOTO mount for the 12, but as this point, cheap deals end for a scope of this kind of mass. I'm looking to Ebay some stuff and save for a while, then find me an old Meade LXD750...a truly massive sumbitch with four 3.1' ball bearings for each axis. Even used, this will run me about $1500. The scary part is, this is considered dirt cheap for a mount that will handle a 12 properly. Once you climb above a scope mass of about 25 pounds, mounts get expensive real fast. The Z12 optical assembly is about 60 lbs.

M109 is extremely photogenic, a nice classic barred spiral.  I'll probably go back for a another pass at it, and then sum the old one and the new one. That's the other cool part of digital astrophotography..you can just keep adding data. When I get the 12 going this target will fill the frame and then I expect very cool results.

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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Dane
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PostTue Feb 24, 2009 12:31 am 
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Great captures - M51 turned out especially good.

If only you could see this stuff right through the eyepeice. I find my telescope alone is too much machinery to deal with; perhaps once I get it out to a proper darksite I'll appreciate its capabilities more, but for now I'll take my binoculars or naked eyes any day.

Any experience with the Mallincam?

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MtnGoat
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PostTue Feb 24, 2009 12:53 am 
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Dane wrote:
Great captures - M51 turned out especially good.

If only you could see this stuff right through the eyepeice. I find my telescope alone is too much machinery to deal with; perhaps once I get it out to a proper darksite I'll appreciate its capabilities more, but for now I'll take my binoculars or naked eyes any day.

Any experience with the Mallincam?

well, you can see it in the eyepiece after all...even in a 60mm. Yes, it's a pale fuzzball, but it's undeniably there and whenever I actually see it with the twin meat cameras, a thrill goes through me I never get when i'm imaging

and it takes less than you'd expect for some fine eyeballing. dark skies and a 4" should show both cores. An 8" will show cores and huge haze around one, 12" show you the arms. Some objects cameras rarely do justice to, is saturn live on a sharp night, jupiter too, it's huge,  many globular clusters which are very detailed and highly intricate, the moon, and double stars. And the Orion Neb has some gossamer there in any scope, and it just grows in every direction as you increase aperture.

How much have you used your scope? If you don't quite get it, setting it up is more of a chore than it should be.

Mallincams work very well. Heard good things. Pricey if I remember correctly. All these shots were from a hundred dollar imager, using Meade SW that is clunky but useful, and free.

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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Dane
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PostTue Feb 24, 2009 3:26 am 
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MtnGoat wrote:
How much have you used your scope? If you don't quite get it, setting it up is more of a chore than it should be.

The setup isn't a problem, especially with the auto-align feature of my GOTO mount. I just can't surf the skies and observe constellations or discover little asterisms like I can with my binoculars. I don't fault the telescope for this, that's not the kind of viewing it was designed for. But it's the kind of viewing I enjoy.

Faint fuzzies in my binoculars are still faint fuzzies in my scope, and the same with point sources. I appreciate my scope mostly for seeing details of Jupiter and Saturn, and scanning open clusters. I need more aperture and darker skies to have fun with DSOs, but I'm still having too much fun with my binoculars to worry about it.

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MtnGoat
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PostTue Feb 24, 2009 7:47 am 
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Sounds like you have it figured out to me! Good enough.

Binos are great tools and I use mine all the time. I picked up some 20x80s for well under a hundred from Big 5 a while back, and they are the shiznit for wide field viewing with some light grasp. The Summer Milky Way is amazing and chock full of 3D feel viewing.

Something else you might consider is a shorter focal length scope from CL or a widefield eyepiece for your current scope. The Expanse series from Orion are relatively inexpensive and will open up your field of view on the scope by a lot compared to the plossls and Kellners that come as basic eyepieces with most scopes. The 20mm Expanse is a pretty decent piece and has a 66 degree apparent field of view, whereas the typical starter eyepiece has 50 degrees at best, and usually 40-45.

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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Backpacker Joe
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PostTue Feb 24, 2009 7:57 am 
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Great pics Chris.  Maybe we should start calling you MtnHubble? moon.gif

Hubblegoat? hockeygrin.gif

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Stones
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PostTue Feb 24, 2009 8:21 am 
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That is some cool stuff, really amazing what you've done.  It's not Hubble but it's pretty damn good.  Reminds me of the closing credits of the original 'Outer Limits', one of the best sci-fi teevee shows ever.

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MtnGoat
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PostTue Feb 24, 2009 9:32 am 
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Here are a couple more, M81 which is above the bowl of the Big Dipper, and M27 which is in the summer sky.

M81 is one of the nearest galaxies at about 12 million light years. It is not a member of the 'local group' around the Milky Way.
M81 is one of the nearest galaxies at about 12 million light years. It is not a member of the 'local group' around the Milky Way.
M27 with the yard cannon. This 'planetary' nebula (named for their round shape) is the brightest in the sky, even visible in binoculars.
M27 with the yard cannon. This 'planetary' nebula (named for their round shape) is the brightest in the sky, even visible in binoculars.

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whistlingmarmot
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PostTue Feb 24, 2009 11:11 am 
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How do you take these photos?  Can I use my regular hiking DSLR or would I need to get some kind of special telescope camera (in addition to a telescope).  All I have now are binos and am wondering what is needed to get my feet wet.
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MtnGoat
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PostTue Feb 24, 2009 11:57 am 
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Lots of folks use DSLRs, in fact for the comet, it's a preferred tool due to the nice wide field you get with the average telephoto lens compared to a telescopic view.

On a DSLR, anything from the standard lens to about 300mm and better than F6 will work great. Standard lens will yield really nice wide field shots like the summer milky way. Telephoto for star clouds and larger galaxies and nebula (and comets).

All you need then is some way to mount it for tracking. At these focal lengths tracking is relatively uncritical when compared to running a larger scope.

There are simple tracking platforms available for DSLR setups and these work fairly well but all they will handle is a DSLR and moderate telephoto at best, they are not designed for scopes.

To get a bit more specialized, the el cheapo mount I hacked a bit and get decent shots from is in the comet thread. It's the same mount I used to get those comet photos, it cost fifty bucks including the telescope it came with (that I don't use), and after some basic shop work does great at up to 30 seconds with a 500mm FL scope on it. So what you do then is take  as many 30 second shots as you want, then sum them all up in software.

Fifty bucks was a pretty good deal, but I just bought another one out of Seattle for a buddy, and it was a hundred, still not bad. That included full computerized control.

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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bobbi
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PostTue Feb 24, 2009 4:33 pm 
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fantastic!    way to get out there!

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Dane
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PostTue Feb 24, 2009 4:48 pm 
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Q - why do the stars in your pictures appear as discs, rather than pinpoints?

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