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Old 07-05-2013, 12:28 PM
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Question New Astrophotography Set Up $8k Budget ?

I am looking into various options for venturing into astrophotography with the constraints of a smallish car and the need to be able to also provide decent viewing via my scope.

I am upgrading from a 8" Dob.

At the moment I am considering a Meade LX 200 + Wedge

Meade LX200 8"
Orion Starshoot Pro V2
Bintel Orion Guide Scope Package
Losmandy Dovetail Bar
Losmandy Guidescope Rings
Meade Series 5000 Eyepiece Set (all pieces)
Bintel 12V Power Solution for 12v in field
Meade Equatorial Wedge 8"

However I am open to all ideas. Can anyone provide any feedback about this set up or alternative gear which may provide better results at this stage ?
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Old 07-05-2013, 01:10 PM
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Hi Rez,

Spend as much as you can possibly afford on the mount. A good GEM will beat an 8" SCT on a wedge for portability no doubt. I think that there is a Losmandy G11 in the classified section, this has the Ovision worm installed and these are great portable mounts.

You made no mention of the type of camera you are planning on using (edit, just saw the Starshoot Pro, I'll leave what I wrote as it applies to the Orion as well). If you are using a DSLR, then I would suggest looking at an OAG type setup rather than guide scope, less trouble over all and with a nice small sensitive guide camera (which could be used as a planetary cam down the road) you shouldn't have to worry about acquiring guide stars.

After getting all of this, next consider the scope. I know it sounds stupid to leave the optics to last, but with the general quality of optics at the moment, there are plenty of good OTAs out there for well under $2k, an 8" GSO RC is under $1k at Andrews. Or a nice small refractor will give you plenty of field and will be easier to guide as well.

Cheers
Stuart
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Old 07-05-2013, 01:15 PM
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Thanks for your advice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rat156 View Post
You made no mention of the type of camera you are planning on using
The camera I am considering is the Orion Starshoot Pro V2 (Color CCD 6.3 Megapixels. I'd prefer a dedicated cooled camera rather than a DSLR I think.

One other option I am considering is a Meade LX850 10" OTA on a Skywatcher NEQ6
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Old 07-05-2013, 01:34 PM
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Hi Rez,

As Stuart suggested, I'd strongly recommend looking at an OAG for the focal length you'd be imaging at.
Its quite difficult to eliminate non-differential flexure between the main scope and guide scope.
Also look at getting a sensitive guide cam. the lodestar or the qhy5L-2.
I've gone from guidescopes to OAG and the difference is remarkable. But there are threads here where the results have been the opposite for some. so I'd suggest a read through.
Also look at issues posted here with the Orion CCD. I believe there were some cooling issues, but could've been a manufacturing defect.
finally, what are you planning to image, nebulae, planets, galaxies?
Also for eyepieces, rather than getting multiple, I'd suggest spending the money on a few renowned ones at select focal lengths. the difference is amazing on the premium ones.
Not many get used below 9mm and over 40mm.
Cheers
Alistair
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Old 07-05-2013, 01:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alistairsam View Post
As Stuart suggested, I'd strongly recommend looking at an OAG for the focal length you'd be imaging at.
I'd probably lean toward an OAG, the community seems quite divided on them. Personally I think it makes sense, but it concerns me I've read others rubbish the idea.

Quote:
Also look at getting a sensitive guide cam. the lodestar or the qhy5L-2.
I've gone from guidescopes to OAG and the difference is remarkable. But there are threads here where the results have been the opposite for some. so I'd suggest a read through.
I've considered the Synguider Camera which I believe should eliminate the need for using the PC for guiding.


Quote:
Also look at issues posted here with the Orion CCD. I believe there were some cooling issues, but could've been a manufacturing defect.
finally, what are you planning to image, nebulae, planets, galaxies?
I'll mostly want to be imaging galaxies and nebulae.

Quote:
Also for eyepieces, rather than getting multiple, I'd suggest spending the money on a few renowned ones at select focal lengths. the difference is amazing on the premium ones.
I have quite an array of eyepieces already, Nagler, Bresser and Baader. I was simply thinking of getting the full set of HD 5000 series to complement the Meade scope.
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Old 07-05-2013, 01:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rez View Post
I'd probably lean toward an OAG, the community seems quite divided on them. Personally I think it makes sense, but it concerns me I've read others rubbish the idea.

I've considered the Synguider Camera which I believe should eliminate the need for using the PC for guiding.
yes, whilst opinions are divided on the OAG, there are heaps of users here who have no issues. the key is get the spacing correct. so it can be a bit of a pain initially, but once you get it right, it just works.
also account for a filter draw or wheel if you'll be using filters. they'd need to be in front of the OAG.
I use a TS-9 OAG with a QHY8 on my 10inch F4 reflector with a QHY5L-2, and I have managed 30min subs whereas before I could barely get past 5 mins with a guidescope.
but yes, you'll have to check if the spacing works with your camera and the OTA back focus available.

I not sure if the synguider is sensitive enough with an OAG, check the QE response for it beforehand and compare with others.
I haven't read comparisons with it and software guiding, but most guiding software have sub pixel guiding, so that's a factor to compare if you're using a guide scope due to the differing pixel scale. if an OAG, then the scale is the same so should be fine, however sensitivity is important else you won't have many stars to guide on.
I've tried a QHY5 mono with the OAG from suburban skies, and saw nothing. then I changed to the QHY5L-2, and I've always had plenty of stars. I couldn't afford the lodestar, so settled for the L2 which I'm very happy with.

as for eliminating the PC, I presume you'll be using a PC for capturing the images, so why not use PHd or other software to guide using either ST4 or pulse guiding?
with pulse guiding, you don't need an ST4 cable. just one usb to the guidecam.
also look at the hitec astrohub. handy to have as it has a usb hub, dew heater, power outlets all built in. helps reduce cables.
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Old 07-05-2013, 02:03 PM
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Hi Rez,

Other problems with SCTs and imaging;
  • Dew on the corrector, can be overcome, but is a PITA
  • Long focal length (not limited to SCTs, but all SCTs are)
  • Focus shift with temperature change (again not limited to SCTs)
  • Mirror flop

This is not to say that you can't use them, many people do use them, but if you want to take pictures and don't already have one, I would not advise to buy one. At the price that they're likely to be in Aus (~$4k) there are many, many better options.

I don't know enough about the NEQ6 to recommend or not, but there are many long threads about modifications to similar mounts being necessary to get decent long exposures. Why not just buy something that'll be great out of the box. Not everyone can afford a Paramount or an AP, but there are some really good mounts out there that you'll keep even when you change your OTA. Look into ASA (may be a bit pricey), Losmandy, Takahashi etc. I say again, spend most of you money on the mount, it's the one part of imaging which can give you the most headaches and usually offers the best "bang for Buck".

Try to avoid what most of us here have done, I am a perfect example;
  • First imaging rig, Meade SCT on wedge, with Orion ED80, imaged through the ED80, guided through the SCT.
  • Next, Meade RCX, Sbig camera with Adaptive Optics, wedge, permanently mounted.
  • Next, Losmandy G11, GSO RC, Sbig camera with AO.
  • Next Losmandy G11, Deep Sky Instruments RC10C, SBig with AO.
  • Next Paramount MX, DSI RC10C, Sbig with AO.
  • Now, PMX, ASA N12, Sbig without AO.

Now, the first rig is a consequence of what I had bought to start out, the rest is learnt from experience. Each stage of this evolution has cost me a fair bit of cash, so try to limit the stages. The Sbig cameras have changed as well, started out with an ST7, moved to an ST10, then to an STL11k, now I have an STT8300.

Cheers
Stuart

Last edited by rat156; 07-05-2013 at 04:34 PM.
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Old 07-05-2013, 02:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rez View Post
I'd probably lean toward an OAG, the community seems quite divided on them. Personally I think it makes sense, but it concerns me I've read others rubbish the idea.

I'll mostly want to be imaging galaxies and nebulae.
A good OAG beats a guidescope, always, a poor OAG will cause headaches.

Imaging galaxies requires long FL in the southern hemisphere. More importantly it require very dark skies. Nebulae are best imaged at short FL, so you are stuck in-between, better to have two OTAs for these two different requirements.

I am considering the 16" GSO RC for galaxies, the ASA does a beautiful job on nebulae, but I'll require longer FL for galaxies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alistairsam View Post
also account for a filter draw or wheel if you'll be using filters. they'd need to be in front of the OAG.
Or not, my OAG (the internal guide chip in the CFW for STT) is in front of the filters, as can the MOAG setup, it is so much better.

Cheers
Stuart

Last edited by rat156; 07-05-2013 at 04:34 PM.
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Old 07-05-2013, 04:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alistairsam View Post
also account for a filter draw or wheel if you'll be using filters. they'd need to be in front of the OAG.
correction, the filters will need to be behind the OAG as Stuart mentioned, so no filters used for the guidecam. just the main camera.

As for the NEQ6, they work well enough for the price. They do have higher PE than Losmandy or other mounts, but that can be corrected with guiding and/or PEC training.
EQASCOM works well with a PEC curve along with ASCOM guiding so it takes into account both the PEC correction and the guiding correction before sending it to the mount. this can't be used with ST4 guiding.
But other mounts mentioned are definitely more precise.

Other bits to account for are software.
A good planetarium software with plate solving, mount control is invaluable but can cost a fair bit. The SkyX seems popular here. but the whole suite is substantial.
Something that has guiding built in and support for sequencing also helps a lot so you get the most out of the time the skies stay clear.
Something like T-Point or Maxpoint can help with improving pointing accuracy. PEMPro or similar can help with PEC training.
Imaging software can also be pricey but there are good alternatives.
Then you have the processing software. PI and startools do a very good job at image processing, Photoshop can yield similar results but experience is handy at getting the best.

Having two scopes, one short and one long FL would be ideal. You can use reducers with the SCT's and RC's, but an F4 or similar does have its advantages. At F8, integration times would be quite long so mount and tracking stability are very important, and that's where AO or OAG's help.
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Old 08-05-2013, 11:06 AM
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Check out this page http://www.danlessmann.com/Articles/AstroMistakes.htm

Geoff
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Old 09-05-2013, 05:51 PM
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Good luck Rez,

I'm in the process of upgrading myself. The common advice is to get the best mount you can afford and then work your way up from there.

For me my budget allowed either a Losmandy G11 or a new EQ8.

Here's what I'm going with - it may give you some ideas on how you might move forward.

Mount: EQ8
Scope: 12" newt
OAG: TSOAG9
Guide camera: SX lodestar
Coma corrector: MPCC

Ancillary stuff: cables; adaptors; collimation tools; bobs knobs; springs etc

On the list for down the track includes:

Quality focuser: eg feather touch
Carbon fibre tube upgrade (can order from germany)
Astro camera (upgrading from modded DSLR)
Refractor for widefield

best of luck

cheers,

Rusty
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Old 09-05-2013, 08:00 PM
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+1 for Mount

Spend at least 70% of your budget on the mount and have no regrets.
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