Category Archives: Equipment Testing

Autoguiding – First Light on Messier 82!

So, I’ve been putting off autoguiding for a long time now, after a lot of research, reading and asking a bunch of noob questions I decided to dive into autoguiding this week. I recently purchased a ZWO ASI290MC camera for planetary and moon photography and decided it would make an awesome guide camera when not in use. At the time of purchase, I also grabbed the Canon EOS adapter, why not. The next step was deciding to either go with an off axis guider (OAG) or a separate guide scope. I almost purchased a Celestron OAG and at the last minute decided to try out my Canon 400mm f/5.6 lens as a guide scope.

I had a piggy-back camera attachment for my Meade 12” LX90 and used that to mount the ASI camera and Canon lens to the Meade telescope. I installed PHD Guiding v1.14.2 by Stark Labs (www.stark-labs.com) for the first trial run. I kept all the default setting and was thrilled with the initial results!

Canon 400mm lens piggyback mounted on my Meade 12″ LX90.

I’ve never been able to take longer than 15-second exposures unguided. During this initial run with default settings, I was taking 60-second exposures at ISO 3200 using my Canon 6D DSLR, below is the first light image of the galaxy M82 (28-minutes total exposure taken on February 20, 2017) in the constellation Ursa Major, also known as the cigar galaxy.

Needless to say I can’t wait to image again.

The second run will be using PHD2 Guiding 2.6.3 and possibly using a Canon 100mm f/2.8 lens for guiding. My thoughts are the f/2.8 lens may bring in additional guide stars and also take a little weight off the mount (that I can use for other attachments, lol).

…Tom

Tiffen Star Point Filter and Venus

Ran across this Tiffen 67mm 4-Point Star Filter (2mm) and thought I would try it out on my 100mm lens. Here is a test shot from this morning using Venus and some trees in my backyard. Looking forward to trying this filter out on a panorama image.

Venus and Tiffen Star Point filter.

Venus and Tiffen Star Point filter.

Photo Details: Canon 6D, Canon 100mm f/2.8L, ISO 3200, 1/3 second, f/4.

Clear skies!

…Tom

My Basic Meteor Shower Photography Setup

With the Geminid meteor shower under way I thought I would take some time to show my typical setup for meteor shower photography.

First, I always have a problem with dew/frost on the lens.  My solution is mounting a hair dryer (if you have access to AC power) on a second tripod and aiming it at my lens.  I always seem to have a tripod with a missing shoe, the hair dryer handle fits perfectly through that hole. I set a speed and distance to supply a constant supply of air that is not too hot (you don’t want to overheat the camera sensor). I also place a plastic bag or cover over the camera body to help keep the dew/frost off, you can use a rubber band or something similar to help secure it. I once photographed the inside of a garbage bag for over two hours after a light wind flipped the bag up and over my lens, lol. The other plastic bag in the picture is to keep dew/frost off my power cables and switch.

My typical meteor shower photography setup using a hair dryer for dew control.

My typical meteor shower photography setup using a hair dryer for dew control.

For lens choice, the wider the view the better, IMHO.  You want to capture as much of the sky as possible. In the image above, I’m showing a Samyang 14mm f/2.8 lens.  I also plan on using a Lensbaby Circular Fisheye 5.8mm f/3.5 (image shown below).

A typical "all sky" view using the Lensbaby fisheye lens.

A typical “all sky” view using the Lensbaby fisheye lens.

I select one location and photograph it for as many hours as possible. This has two benefits:

1. You can piece the images together into a nice time-lapse video.

2. You can create a dramatic star trail picture with the 100’s or 1000’s of images you will collect with no meteors. 😉

For camera control, I run a USB cable from my Canon 6D to a laptop or desktop computer. The software package Backyard EOS manages all the photographs during the evening. Backyard EOS allows you to select exposure duration, delays, ISO setting and so much more. Depending on the lens/camera setup, you should be able to take at least 20-25 second exposures with minimal star trails, try experimenting. You’ll also have to experiment with the f-stop setting of your lens, I typically do not shoot with the lens wide-open (i.e. the lowest f-stop). Try moving it one or two f-stops higher and see the difference with your equipment. It will help cut down on noise and star flare. The fisheye lens and Canon 6D allow me to shoot at ISO 3200 for 30-seconds.

Star Trails created from a series of photographs.

Star Trails created from a series of photographs.

The above image was created by stacking images using the software package Startrails, if you use it, please consider a donation, it is well worth it.

Good luck with your meteor pics!

Clear skies!

…Tom

 

Neptune and Triton – First Time Image

I know this image will probably not mean much to seasoned astrophotographers (unless you think back to the first time you imaged this distant planet), but to me, I was thrilled! This is the first time I photographed the planet Neptune and its moon Triton. Looking forward to spending more time imaging this planet over the next several months and trying some video captures.

SETUP: Meade 12″ LX90 and Canon 6D, simple 15 second exposures at ISO 6400 (five stacked images). Image taken on October 12, 2015. You can click HERE to view my deepsky imaging setup.

Neptune and Triton

Neptune and Triton

 

Clear skies!

…Tom

Deepsky Imaging Setup

Here are the details on my current deepsky imaging setup that I will refer to in future image references. The system includes:

  • Meade 12″ LX90 Telescope.
  • Celestron CGEM DX Mount.
  • Antares f/6.3 Focal Reducer.
  • Canon 6D DSLR Camera.

Ethernet cable allow me to run the system from inside my home (useful for winter sessions and summer sessions).

Due to the weight of this setup, I’m limited to imaging sessions from my driveway. The system is on a JMI Wheeley Bar to move it in/out of the garage. Paint marks on the driveway help my quickly setup and align the system.

Deepsky Imaging Setup

Deepsky Imaging Setup

Issues:

  1. The Celestron mount should have come with a polar alignment scope, I paid an extra $39.00 to have one ordered. While you can get it close by looking through the “peep hole”, I think the scope will help.
  2. Still having some focus issues with the LX90. I use a Bahtinov mask to achieve focus, but imaging smaller stars always seem to be slightly out of focus.

I’ll keep this up-to-date as things change/or are added.

…Tom

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