Hi all from an old newbie. Firstly, many thanks to you all for the fascinating posts I've read so far at this forum.
Despite being 70, my “astrophotography” hobby is literally only three days old. So my understanding is indeed nebulous - i.e. vague and hazy. Would any of you please be kind enough to push me in the right direction?
Specifically, could anybody please tell me what I was looking at in the attached photo?
Last Tuesday (today is Good Friday) I put my DSLR camera on a tripod at the front of my house, in the Perth Hills, pointed it upwards and took some short time exposures. Mostly blurry stuff, but it was a start. The next day I managed to achieve better focus and timing and got identifiable shots of the Southern Cross and what I think was Betelgeuse and bits of Orion (?).
On the third day (last night) I was getting better shots of the previous targets, but I also took some random upwards shots while I was trying to work out how to get a basic mount to allow the camera to point up at a very steep angle. During that process I got a very intriguing picture but - being a rank newbie - I’ve no idea what I’ve captured! Absolutely stunned to see how much the camera could see that my fading old eyes can’t. Just amazing. I may have to buy a telescope now…
I have installed Stellarium but I don’t know where to start looking for a match up. All I know was that I was pointed vaguely south and up!
Newbies… who needs ‘em? Can anybody take pity on me please?
Apparently it was taken at 7.26pm on 13th April. ISO 1600. basic 50mm f1.8 Canon lens. 5 seconds.
Hi Chris, attached are a couple of pics. One showing the objects around Carina that you've captured and the other outlining what portion of the Milky Way was framed. Enjoy.
Thank you so much for that. I really appreciate the effort that you put into providing those pictures.
I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that my first step should be to become a lot more familiar with sky maps and our night skies in general, and leave the snaps until I have better idea of what I'm aiming the lens at! I was looking in roughly the right general area but had the orientation well out - which makes all the difference!
Visual and astrophotography are both very enjoyable past times. It would also be worth your while getting in touch with your local Astronomy Club and attending their meetings and observing nights - the astro community, you will find is an amazingly friendly and helpful one. Enjoy!
Wow. This is very similar to what got me started. After many years of using an old Pentax from the '60s, that my father gave me, I bought a new mirrorless digital camera. On the first night I though I might turn it at the skies and by an astonishing coincidence happened to get the Carina nebula. I thought to myself, "that was easy", and the bug has been eating me since.
There's a lot you can do with a camera and a tripod. I built myself a cheap and shonky barndoor to put on my tripod and played with that for a year. Sitting there and winding the barndoor manually for minutes at a time is definitely something that would bore all my friends to tears, but I got a kick out of it and persisted like that for a year. That convinced me that if I spent money on a telescope and mount that I would indeed use it.
You can get some great photos with the equipment you have and a few things you build for yourself. It's a steep learning curve, but if you get a kick out of just making out blurry things (like I do) then you'd probably enjoy using a telescope.
Chris, get yourself a planisphere (plastic wheely thing) to help you get oriented correctly with the sky, Sky & Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas to help you navigate around and star hop to a target, and jump onto nova.astrometry.net Where you can upload a jpeg photo of the stars and it will plate solve it for you hopefully. It doesnt take much practice to get familiar with a few constellations, they move slowly so if you go outside tonight at 8pm and find a distinctive group of stars, then go out tomorrow at 8pm it'll be in almost the precise same spot, ditto night after etc but over say a month you'l notice those same stars in a different part of the sky but in 12months time they will circle around the celestial poles to return to where they are tonight for the same 8pm time.
its amazing how little you need to get started in astrophotography and mostly mine is all from a regular tripod. Colourful nebulosity shows up with only a second or two exposure time with a dslr that you cant see with the naked eye. I use various tools for planning my astrophotography, I sometimes just do what you did, go outside, point the camera at a patch of sky and shoot, then I'll take do some simple levels boosting to bring up the dark areas. Interesting nebulosity often stands out even if it looks small in the shot, upload the shot to the astrometry site and it'll solve the image so you can see what "things" are in the shot. So for example you might want to try starting with finding a distinctive group of stars, maybe draw them onto a piece of paper for reference the following night (and it aides memory retention) no use a wide angle lens on your dslr (say 50mm) and point it at the same stars, experiment with a few shots at different shutter speeds from 1 - 30sec so you can compare how the stars streak and what you capture changes (this gives you an idea of camera settings for next shots which should be easy if you are already familiar with the Exposure Triangle from photography). After looking closely at your shots and the plate solution you might decide something at the edge of the shot you want to rephotograph with a longer lens. So using the distinctive stars as your starting guides you can work out and estimate where the interesting feature is in the sky and use that to line up your longer lens on it. Take a test shot at longer exposure just so you can look on camera and hopefully see your target in the middle of the shot. Then you get your camera to the best settings to take a bunch of photos and download DeepSkyStacker (free) and start stacking shots and climbing the processing mountain. Rinse and repeat until you've covered the entire sky and upgraded to a private Hubble along the way. Then do it all again to compare changes, its a hobby with no fixed rules or end goals.. at the center of a black hole you'll find it full of astronomers caught by the bug, welcome to the club
G day Chris,
if you have one of those newfangled smart phones with GPS, compass and gyros, download a night sky app. even if your gadget doesn't have compass its still a great tool to learn your way around and to find/search star stuff you want.
also THE way to get kids involved . . . . and to assist you with the technology if required
my 'phone and wikipedia teach me most of what i forget.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful and interesting posts.
Apologies for the delay in responding but I've spent the last two days assembling and playing with the new toy! I bought a telescope and have been enjoying setting it up and experimenting with it.
I got a small inexpensive Skywatcher 80x400 refractor, on an AZ mount, which shows the stars the same way up as I’m used to seeing them. It has relatively modest magnification, and it can also be used for daytime terrestrial viewing. The idea is that I can use it to help learn the general layout of the skies. It’s pretty basic but I was able to see Jupiter and some of its moons on the first night. No detail, but who cares - I’ve see plenty of pictures, so I know what it looks like - but it was just a thrill to see another planet for the first time! And the telescope shows far more stars than I can see with the naked eye. More than enough to cope with for now. Once I’m a bit more familiar with the maps of the stars then I can move onto a more powerful Newtonian telescope.
I have also made a simple sighting tube to go on the camera. It's just a piece of standard PVC plumbing pipe with a small metal plate attached so that it fits into the shoe on the top of the body. I found that crouching at weird angles trying to squint through the regular viewfinder was a bit too awkward for old bones, but sighting through an open tube seems quicker and easier. It's also reasonably accurate and gives me a quick way of checking what I'll be photographing!
I'm still checking out the various apps that might work on my old Android phone, or on an iPad, but I haven't yet got the direction finding functions working reliably yet. For the moment, an old fashion hand held compass, together with the Stellarium software, is doing the job. I also got a planisphere and some maps, so I should be occupied for a good while now trying to learn all the constellations and ...um.... general starry stuff..... I really liked sil's suggestion of doing a drawing of areas to aid identification and memory retention, so I'll try and discipline myself to do that too.
Thanks again to everybody for your tips and suggestions. I’ll be working through them all. Fascinating hobby.
Welcome to the wonderful world of the universe. Hope you don't mind me jumping in at this stage. As was said in an earlier post by Paul, astro societies are great places to learn. Check out your local group. http://aswa.info/index.html
You can buy cheap a red dot finder that has a camera hotshoe fitting which will do the job of your pvc pipe and give you a red dot to more precisely targetsomething of interest, like a planet or comet (you cant see em, but you can photograph them, they are always whizzing about).
ipad/iphone i highly recommend Sky Safari, its just awsome, thought there are cheaper and free options for beginners too i think Star Walk can help you learn the sky from your location.
Dont be afraid of hooking up with a local astronomy group, every single one of them started off lost with the sky and you'll find them a friendly and helpful bunch always happy to share knowledge to help you avoid the mistakes they made. Astronomy attracts the interested and patient types rather than the egotistical ones.
Hint #1 never show up to a gathering with a regular torch, at least make an effort to affix some red plastic over the end. red light torches don't destroy night vision like regular white light torches. Its a good habit to get into using red light torches at home anyway. It can take an hour or more for your eyes to adjust to the dark at night and another sketching exercises is when you get outside after dark is to sketch all the stars you can see in a recognisable group (say the southern cross) and sit admiring the night sky for at least 30min then repeat the process on the same group. You'll see heaps more stars with the second sketch. You could just count the stars within a region too but I find sketching forces you to focus better, looking up and down to sketch you orient faster plus it helps with scales too to navigating from a star map especially when looking for something in particular. You'll appreciate too how fast you loose your night vision as soon as a white light torch, car headlight or street lamp is in your field of view, so if you show up at a gathering with one you'll hear groans from everyone at the very least. No particular brands or anything needed here, just a torch with a red bulb, usually red leds these days which are cheap. or dodgy up a mod to a torch.
I've got a small red torch, which does the job well. When I first step outside it's little more than a very faint glow, but as the eyes get accustomed to the dark it's very effective indeed.
I haven't located any nearby groups yet (The ASWA group that Robert kindly mentioned looks good but it's fairly expensive to join and meets too far away from where I live to be convenient, so I'll leave them for a while yet) However, I have been given some local leads to follow up.
I haven't done any sketching yet but have started putting up a small camping table next to the telescope when I set up, so it's on the do to list!
The weather has been very kind since I began, with only a couple of nights with clouds. So - with the aid of Stellarium - I've been able to identify a number of the brighter stars and can now use them to get a general feel for where I'm looking. Apart from getting a better view of moon craters, I've also been able to see Jupiter and its moons and also a rather lovely crescent Venus. Also what looks like the Southern Pleiades. Saturn was a bit more elusive - partly because there were trees in the way early in the night, but mostly because I mistook Arcturus for Antares and was therefore looking at completely the wrong spot! No wonder I couldn't see any rings.... Doh... However, I was about to pack up when I finally got a good sighting - in the right place - at 1.30 in the morning. Well past when I usually stop!
Modest steps, but I feel that I've made good progress in only two weeks and been fortunate with what I've been able to see so far. I've also got a couple of books, and I'll check out the apps that you mentioned, so there's plenty to be getting on with.