Category Archives: Technical

Poor Transparency on March 21, 2017

I tried setting up last evening, March 21, 2017, with no luck. While the skies looked good overhead (visually) and there were clouds around the horizon, I decided to try and shoot some images of M95 in Leo. The first 60-second image showed me how bad the transparency was. High level, thin clouds covered the sky which I failed to see before setting up. After I broke down the telescope, I captured this image showing the light cloud cover in the area as an example of bad transparency.

Tech Specs: Canon 6D with a Samyang 14mm f/2.8 lens, tripod mounted. Single 20 second exposure, ISO 1600, 14mm, f/2.8, Imaging was done on March 21, 2017 from Weatherly, Pennsylvania.

…Tom

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

Ganymede and Io Transit of the Planet Jupiter on March 23, 2016

I have set a goal to do more planetary imaging this year and try to improve my planetary imaging techniques and skills using my Canon 6D (although I may investigate a different camera for planetary imaging). So, to kick things off, I setup my Celestron C6-A SCT and attached my Canon 6D to a Televue 5x Powermate and snapped some images of Jupiter. I opted to start my planetary imaging season using my Celestron versus my Meade 12” due to the ease of setup. I used Backyard EOS v3 for camera control and video capture. Backyard EOS has the added benefit of video capture at 5x and 10x magnification, I used the 5x option as 10x was way too much on top of the Televue.

I took a series of nine videos, each video consisting of 2000 frames (ISO 1000, 1/30 second). Seeing was not the best with severe fluctuations in focus – Jupiter was only 29-degrees above the horizon during this session. Registax was used to process each video series, stacking the best 25% into the final image. I tried using a higher percentage and it didn’t seem to make much of a difference, at least not with the quality of the individual frames for this session. Thoughts?

The mosaic shows the nine processed images capturing the transit of Ganymede and Io across Jupiter including both shadows, a first for me, I was pretty happy with these first results. The imaging session lasted from 20:18 to 20:47 Eastern Time.

Transit of Ganymede and Io.

Transit of Ganymede and Io.

I’m more than happy to share my Registax settings, just let me know if you are interested in them.

Clear skies!

…Tom

A View of the Crater CLAVIUS

I snapped this picture of the crater Clavius, on our moon, back on September 22, 2015 and just finished processing it. Clavius is a large crater found on the southern side of the moon, it measures approximately 136 miles across. The crater was named after Christoph Klau (or Christophorus Clavius) a 16th century German mathematician and astronomer.

I will always remember this crater as being the location of the lunar base in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Yellow box shows the location of Clavius.

Yellow box shows the location of Clavius.

Crater Clavius

Crater Clavius

Technical Info: Images were captured using a Celestron 6″ telescope with a Canon 6D at prime focus, mounted on an iOptron ZEQ25 mount. Video stream captured using Backyard EOS, 2000 total frames captured. I then processed the frames using AS!2, the best 400 frames were stacked. Captured on September 22, 2015.

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

 

%d bloggers like this: