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Old 01-11-2009, 10:17 AM
synthguy (Malcolm)
Malcolm Davis, Canberra,

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What's best for an absolute beginner in astro-imaging

Hi,

What are my best options for a first start in astro-imaging. At the moment, I'm looking at either a Sky Watcher HEQ-5 Pro or a Celestron CGEM Mount, initially using a 102mm ED Apo Refractor at f7. Is it better to use a dedicated CCD camera, a video system such as GSTAR, or a DSLR (which one is best?)?

Further down the track I'd be looking to upgrade the OTA to a Celestron 9.25" SCT, or a Vixen VC-200L VISAC Cassegrain, using the same mount. How would that affect my choices in terms of which is the best astro-imaging approach.

I'd initially be focused on the Moon and planets, to gain some experience, before trying DSOs.

Many thanks,

Malcolm
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  #2  
Old 01-11-2009, 10:42 AM
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Kal (Andrew)
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I think you are better off with an EQ6-PRO. It is ~$1200 cheaper than the CGEM, and a nice step up from the HEQ-5 PRO mount. It will have spare capacity as you will likely need to factor in imaging scope, guide scope, camera, and guide camera weights into the equation.

As for camera you can save alot of money as a beginner based on what you already own. Do you have a laptop or DSLR already?
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  #3  
Old 01-11-2009, 10:53 AM
synthguy (Malcolm)
Malcolm Davis, Canberra,

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Hi Andrew,

I'm starting from scratch in this regard. Right at the moment, I've got a 14" Orion Optics UK f4.5 dob, which is purely a visual instrument. I've also got a 4" Skywatcher Apo on a Vixen Porta Mount, and a Orion Telescope and Binocular ED-80 Apo on a Televue Gibraltar mount. My thinking was to use either the ED-80 or the Skywatcher 4" Apo as my initial Imaging scope, on an GOTO appropriate mount, and then upgrade to a larger OTA later to spread the cost a bit.

Would the EQ6-Pro be manageable in terms of setting up in a backyard situation? I hear that it is pretty hefty in terms of weight.

The laptop would not be an issue, as I was planning to get one in any case, not just for astronomy. Probably a Apple MacBook. I don't have a DSLR, but once again, like the laptop, was looking at getting one in any case for terrestrial photography.

thanks,

Malcolm
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  #4  
Old 01-11-2009, 12:05 PM
Dennis
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Hi Malcolm

As a general rule, high resolution imaging of the Moon and Planets does not place as severe a demand on the mount in terms of the mount’s tracking and auto guiding capabilities.

Tracking is where the mount is just purring along at the sidereal rate.

Auto guiding is where the tracking is being controlled and corrected, in real time, by an auto guider CCD which makes continuous corrections (say every 2-10 seconds) to the tracking rate.

For long exposure DSO work, it is probably fair to say that the mount is more important than the optical tube that sits on it. So, I would look at the capability of any new mount in terms of its ability to auto guide satisfactorily for long exposure (5 to 10 minutes), long focal length (1500mm +) astro photography for when you move to DSO work.

Cheers

Dennis
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  #5  
Old 02-11-2009, 07:03 PM
trackerau (Gavan)
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All black holes are not in space......

First off I agree with Malcolm and Karl

I started down this path some 18 months ago when I jumped feet first into a shop in Melbourne and said "I want to take photos like those on the wall", and I had no equipment at all.

Since then I have done nothing but upgrade, renew, trade, sell and replace equipment, look at the list on my signature, and take the occasional picture. My fault, I took the salesman's advice.

To cut a long story short I found another store in the burbs and what I have now is what I should have started with:

NEQ6 mount (room to grow)
102 refractor
Meade LPI – for planetary work
Laptop - Control, Capture, Processing pictures
Software – Control, Capture, Processing pictures

80mm as Guide scope – used for guiding during long exposures
QHY5 Guide camera – again used for guiding during long exposures
DSLR – to take pictures – can be used as normal camera as well.
Laptop - Control, Capture, Processing pictures
Various Software applications – Control, Capture, Processing pictures


OTA - The 4” would be a good start.

MOUNT - The NEQ6 – Pro is heavy but not over the top. I have a broken collar bone and still manage to set it up. This will easily cope with a 9.25” SCT, the HEQ5 may be a bit light for this. I started with the HEQ5 Pro great mount that worked really well but I have upgraded scope for deep sky images and had to upgrade the mount as well.

GUIDING – Although the tracking is very good on the mount I found though trial and mostly error that you need to guide the mount to avoid oval stars in long exposures, the ED 80 would be a suitable OTA with a guide camera attached. The QHY5 is the same as the Orion Guide camera but cheaper.

SOFTWARE - Most software that controls the mount requires a serial port or a USB – serial adapter and most are written for Windows, I don’t know much about Macbook can they use windows stuff now?
For capture and processing there are lots of different programs available many freeware others are $$$$.

LAPTOP - An important issue is battery life (if you are away from 240) so smaller screens are the go.

CAMERA – What do you want to do Planetary or deep sky?
Deep sky - I had a canon 40D prior to starting down the dark side so I used it to start out. It comes with its own pc control software for live view and timed exposures; I haven’t modified it and can use it as a normal camera.
Planetary – I have a meade LPI – rather cheap ($100+) and does a good job.

Learning curve – HUGE


I hope this helps
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  #6  
Old 02-11-2009, 07:28 PM
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Davros (Lauren)
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I to am taking baby steps with this. Just a note re the laptop. I have a 17 inch macbook pro which i love but it is not the best tool for imaging due to software issues. I just picked up an old PC notebook with XP installed purely for imaging as it is just way less painful due to the PC dominated astro software.
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  #7  
Old 05-11-2009, 02:00 PM
synthguy (Malcolm)
Malcolm Davis, Canberra,

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Many thanks for advice

Thanks all. This has been useful. I take away from this that its better to start with a heavier mount, with room to expand in terms of larger OTAs, guide scopes, etc. Start with my 4" Apo, and use the 80mm scope as a guide scope.

Food for thought, and good news in that I only need focus on buying the mount first.

Malcolm
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Old 05-11-2009, 02:42 PM
Dennis
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Maybe “heavier” is not the best term to describe the mount?

Ideally, it should have a smooth periodic error that can be guided out by the auto guider system. A heavy mount can still have “spikey” periodic error where the worm gear/wheel combo makes sudden “jumps” due to poor manufacturing/machining tolerances. It is almost impossible to guide out these large, sudden jumps when imaging at long focal lengths for say, 5 to 10 minute sub frames.

Think of gently rolling hills with smooth, undulating valleys and tops, as opposed to sharply rising mountain ranges with steep valleys and soaring peaks.

Cheers

Dennis
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  #9  
Old 06-11-2009, 08:39 AM
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White Rabbit
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Check out the classifieds here on on the planet. You could have yourself set up very cheaply and very quickley.
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  #10  
Old 06-11-2009, 02:48 PM
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I wrote this attached article that was published in Sky & Space in Jan 2006. It will give you a pretty good feel for what sort of things you should look for in scope, mount, camera etc... Obviously all the info on cameras, mounts etc.. are now outdated, but the principles have not changed at all.

trackerau in his post entitled All black holes are not in space...... hit the nail on the head.

Get a good mount and start with short focal length refractors and you will save yourself lots of frustrations and actually enjoy the wonderful journey you are about to embark on.

good luck

Chris
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Beginners guide to Deepsky Astrophotography.pdf (189.2 KB, 66 views)
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  #11  
Old 09-11-2009, 08:51 AM
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White Rabbit
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I have most of the things you've mentioned in your post.

My set up is this.

8" Newt (GSO)
102 ED Orion
HEQPro 5
Orion guide scope package ST80
Meade DSI2 for guiding.
Canon 1000d Dslr.

It's a very capable set up, I can get 10min guided subs no problem. I've never tried longer because of light pollution. Even 10mins where I am is too long.

My recommendation would be to start out with a DSLR for imaging. It is so much easier than a CCD. When you are starting out believe me when I say "you want easy".

You’re going to be struggling with polar alignment of the first few weeks. It took me months to get to the point where I was sure I was doing it right . The last thing you want is be learning how to use your mount and how to use a CCD camera as well. What I thought were limitations in my mount turned out to be limitations in my skill level and understanding of the equipment. It doesn’t take much understanding to get reasonable results, but to get great results requires an enormous amount of understanding. That is something that comes with time. I'm still waiting .

Then there is the steep learning curve associated with processing. That is 98% of the learning curve IMO. You take the best data in world but if you can’t manipulate in it Photoshop then there is no point.

An EQ6 would be better than an EQ5, that’s a no brainer but there is nothing wrong with the EQ5. I use to want a bigger mount but that was just me lusting after bigger and better. When I actually sat down and looked at what I can do with my current set up, I'm perfectly happy with it, for now . I'm sure I'll upgrade in a few years, but if I'm going to get something bigger I'll be looking at a Losmandy and not the EQ6. But that’s years off. You cant beat the EQ5 and an 102 ed for portability, you just can’t.

In a nut shell my recommendation would be to start out as simple as you can and build on what you learn. If you start out to technical you'll just get frustrated and end up losing interest.

Learn how to drift align properly, once you can get subs up to about 1 or 2 mins unguided your ready to start guiding.

When I started out (not so long ago) I tried to do everything at the same time and it took me twice as long to do anything. .

Sandy

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  #12  
Old 09-11-2009, 04:55 PM
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toryglen-boy (Duncan)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by synthguy View Post
Thanks all. This has been useful. I take away from this that its better to start with a heavier mount, with room to expand in terms of larger OTAs, guide scopes, etc. Start with my 4" Apo, and use the 80mm scope as a guide scope.

Food for thought, and good news in that I only need focus on buying the mount first.

Malcolm

Fella

There are lots of us local lads on here, i am sure some them would be only too willing to let you have a look at some of the gear

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  #13  
Old 12-11-2009, 08:07 AM
Chris Southby (Chris)
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I'm a beginner too

Hi Malcolm
I'm just starting out on the long road of astro- imaging as well.
I have an EQ5 goto with a 8 inch skywatcher newt (was all I could afford at the time). I jumped in feet first as well and recommend researching more that I did before you buy. I would like to upgrade to and HEQ5 or 6 at some point but I will try to get the most out of what I have got for a while yet.
I am struggling with polar alingment at the moment, just when you think you have it, it goes off a bit. Its all part of the fun and learning process.


Have fun

Cheers
chris
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