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Thread: New Rig for Astro Imaging

  1. #1
    Join Date: Apr 2017

    Location: Manningtree, Essex

    Posts: 1,513
    I'm Tony.

    Default New Rig for Astro Imaging

    As well as listening to choons and making sourdough during these strange lockdown times I’ve taken the opportunity, while limited to my balcony, of refining a new ultra-portable imaging rig for Astro Imaging.

    Not unlike my hifi, there’s a Raspberry Pi at the core, controlling everything via bluetooth to my phone.

    The telescope has been confined to storage until I have a permanent, garden-based observatory. In the meantime, I have a slick new rig that’s even colour coordinated.

    I have used this opportunity (not helped by having a slipped disc) to refine the setup using 3 great photographic lenses to cover everything that the telescope can’t in terms of wide-field imaging.

    A Samyang 14mm for ultra widefield
    A Canon ‘nifty fifty’ 50mm f1.8 for widefield
    And the star of the show, the ultra sharp Samyang 135mm f2 for large deep space objects like Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy and Cygnus area.

    Still getting to grips with all of this but here’s some shots I’ve been taking while I’ve been quiet on the forum...


    The new rig with Samyang 135mm and custom built fine focus.



    Heart & Soul Nebula



    The Andromeda Galaxy


    The Veil Nebula Complex


    The North America Nebula




    The Sadr region of constellation Cygnus


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by mightymonoped; 14-09-2020 at 23:30.
    A mainly digital setup with a musical amplifier and endearing 1970's speakers. A CD player that hardly ever gets used and a turntable that is good enough to remind my how enjoyable my old vinyl is. Some cables and things.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: West Yorkshire

    Posts: 402
    I'm Andy.

    Default

    Brilliant
    Main system:

    Digital.
    Philips DCC 730
    Technics SL-PJ28A CD Player
    Analogue.
    Michell Orbe with arm decoupling kit & Pete's Pylons. SME V. Goldring Elite MC and Firebottle OTP MKII Phono Amp
    Lenco L75 in Birch ply plinth. Linn Basik Plus. Denon 103M cart Cairn Boost Phono Amp
    Network Player.
    Raspberry PI plus IQAudio DAC+ (also used as a CD player) plus Pi NAS Server
    Amp.
    Pure Sound A30
    Speakers
    Reiver Jenna floor standers
    HeadPhones.
    Sennheiser HD545 Ref, HD600, HD477
    Headphone Amp
    Myryad Z40 (also used as a pre amp)
    Backup Speakers.
    TDL RTL2, Some home made concoction...
    Backup Amps
    Audiolab 8000a, Armstrong something or other, Amstrad Quadraphonic something or other, home built EL34 power amps.....

  3. #3
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Moved to frozen north, beyond Inverness

    Posts: 1,850
    I'm Dave.

    Default

    Very good. I've been hoping to get into this, and one of my friends keeps suggesting it to me. The big problem is the general weather round here - it's so often cloudy - not to mention cold and raining.

    I'd consider one of those fibre glass observatory "sheds", plus at least one decent mount etc. if the weather was more reliable, but mostly it isn't, so probably not sensible for these parts.

    Celestial bodies are a bit off this year. Doesn't look as though we'll get to see the eclipse in December now, either.

    How long were your exposures? Did you have to stack up a lot of images to get those results? Did you use any filters?

    Very good, anyway!
    Dave

  4. #4
    Join Date: Apr 2017

    Location: Manningtree, Essex

    Posts: 1,513
    I'm Tony.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dave2010 View Post
    Very good. I've been hoping to get into this, and one of my friends keeps suggesting it to me. The big problem is the general weather round here - it's so often cloudy - not to mention cold and raining.

    I'd consider one of those fibre glass observatory "sheds", plus at least one decent mount etc. if the weather was more reliable, but mostly it isn't, so probably not sensible for these parts.

    Celestial bodies are a bit off this year. Doesn't look as though we'll get to see the eclipse in December now, either.

    How long were your exposures? Did you have to stack up a lot of images to get those results? Did you use any filters?

    Very good, anyway!
    Thanks guys!

    The first shot (Heart & Soul) is my first foray into ‘narrowband’ imaging (i.e using a filter that restricts light to certain frequencies). In this case, I used an Optolong L-eNhance filter, which only lets through Hydrogen Alpha, Hydrogen Beta and Oxygen III frequencies. The advantage of this kind of imaging is that to a large extend it ignores light pollution or unwanted nuisances such as Moonlight.

    Generally, the more image time you capture, the better. This increases signal to noise ratio and gives cleaner images.

    The Deep Sky process is roughly the following process.

    1. Capture lights, darks, flats and bias images.
    2. Calibrate the lights - use the darks, flats and bias to remove any unwanted elements such as hot pixels, vignetting and light gradients.
    3. Align/Stack the calibrated lights.
    4. Process - stretch and refine the stacked image.

    In the case of the Heart & Soul image, I captured:-

    34 x 180s lights plus about 15 darks, 20 flats and 40 bias. (The flats and bias can be captured anytime though).

    You’re right about the weather, that and light pollution are two critical factors. Narrowband imaging is starting to help with one, but the British weather will alway be the biggest challenge (hence me shifting to a more mobile setup at the moment, I can fit it all into a single holdall).


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    A mainly digital setup with a musical amplifier and endearing 1970's speakers. A CD player that hardly ever gets used and a turntable that is good enough to remind my how enjoyable my old vinyl is. Some cables and things.

  5. #5
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Moved to frozen north, beyond Inverness

    Posts: 1,850
    I'm Dave.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by mightymonoped View Post
    You’re right about the weather, that and light pollution are two critical factors. Narrowband imaging is starting to help with one, but the British weather will alway be the biggest challenge (hence me shifting to a more mobile setup at the moment, I can fit it all into a single holdall).
    Do you move it about a lot?

    My enthusiast friend suggested the following factors, which are not complementary.

    Strong and stable mount. Acceptable ones are maybe 10 kgs, but better ones may be 15kgs or more. I suppose to get some shots having a mobile mount is helpful, but lugging heavy kit around might not be fun.

    On top of the weight of the mount, there is also the extra kit.

    Also, can we ask roughly what the cost of your rig is? Mon ami has relocated his to France for the time being, but unfortunately that is now effectively out of reach for the foreseeable future. I don’t want to spend £10-£20k on kit which won’t give any good results because of the British weather.

    Some of us might do better to buy time on a remote telescope.

    I’m not ruling out this kind of activity in the future, but the weather has been a very significant deterrent factor for me. However, in some parts of the UK - even in light polluted cities in the Midlands, it is surprising that it is possible to get really quite good results, with filters etc.
    Dave

  6. #6
    Join Date: Apr 2017

    Location: Manningtree, Essex

    Posts: 1,513
    I'm Tony.

    Default

    It’s all about acceptable compromise really. Most people who do it quite seriously have both a permanent rig and a ‘grab and go’ rig.

    I sold my permanent rig when I moved accommodation but will be looking to get another in the near future.

    The key item in all of this is always the ‘mount’.
    In a permanent setup, this would preferably be set on a pillar or effectively unmovable fixture.

    For grab and go (such as mine) you are looking for something that will be easily movable but still have a good load weight once setup. Star Trackers such as the Skywatcher Star Adventurer (£269) and iOptron Skyguider Pro (£375) have dominated this market recently.

    Good permanent mounts start roughly from about £800 - £20k+ This is were the sensible compromise needs to rear it’s head. Are you really going to get a return on £20k given UK weather and seeing. IMHO, I wouldn’t do it (unless I won the lottery).

    Being in this position myself I would recommend what I consider to be the best and most helpful online Shops available to the UK astronomer, in no particular order...

    Modern Astronomy
    First Light Optics
    Rother Valley Optics

    They will all give sound advice, once they know the context and your requirements.

    The standard recommendations (which coincide with my own preferences) would usually be:-

    Good mount with wide scope for growth from beginner to more advanced.

    Skywatcher HEQ5 - £789
    Skywatcher EQ6-R - £1,229 (My choice)
    IOptron CEM40 - £1,440

    Scope - to big a choice to go into here but I would recommend a flavour of ED80 apochromatic refractor to cover the widest range from visual to photography.

    I would say s good mid-range permanent rig would cost roughly -

    Mount £1,200 approx
    Scope £1,200 approx
    Camera £1,500 approx (with filters)

    Then, like hifi, you can throw as much money as you want at tweakery


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    A mainly digital setup with a musical amplifier and endearing 1970's speakers. A CD player that hardly ever gets used and a turntable that is good enough to remind my how enjoyable my old vinyl is. Some cables and things.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Apr 2017

    Location: Manningtree, Essex

    Posts: 1,513
    I'm Tony.

    Default

    Forgot to answer your first question....
    Yes I do move it around. I have to be able to move this rig with one hand as I use crutches, so portability is the biggest factor in my grab and go setup.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    A mainly digital setup with a musical amplifier and endearing 1970's speakers. A CD player that hardly ever gets used and a turntable that is good enough to remind my how enjoyable my old vinyl is. Some cables and things.

  8. #8
    Join Date: Apr 2017

    Location: Manningtree, Essex

    Posts: 1,513
    I'm Tony.

    Default

    Another one, this one is a crop I rescued from a huge mosaic that went disastrously wrong.
    Liked the cloud details too much to chuck it away

    The North America Nebula & The Pelican Nebula.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    A mainly digital setup with a musical amplifier and endearing 1970's speakers. A CD player that hardly ever gets used and a turntable that is good enough to remind my how enjoyable my old vinyl is. Some cables and things.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Bristol

    Posts: 6,585
    I'm Justin.

    Default

    Pretty amazing Tony.

    Can you get a good Saturn or Jupiter with that rig? Be really curious to see that.

  10. #10
    Join Date: Apr 2017

    Location: Manningtree, Essex

    Posts: 1,513
    I'm Tony.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by User211 View Post
    Pretty amazing Tony.

    Can you get a good Saturn or Jupiter with that rig? Be really curious to see that.
    Deep Sky and Planetary are completely different beasts really Justin.

    The emphasis with Deep Sky is on accuracy of tracking and gathering lots of light. Optics with fast focal ratios (e.g f4 or f5) are ideal for this as they gather lots of light very quickly. The size of the optics just determines the field of view and the resolution.

    My setup is great for wide field views of objects such as nebulas but doesn’t really have the resolution for smaller objects such as galaxies etc. To capture them well, I would need to use a bigger scope and therefore a heftier mount.

    Planetary is a completely different emphasis. You generally need longer focal length to get the magnification/resolution. You are actually capturing many frames and selecting the ones which are best. You then stack the best together and pull out the details. Effectively, you capture a short film and weed out all the bad frames.

    The bad frames are down to ‘bad seeing’, the effects of atmospheric distortion, clouds and the position of the object in the night sky. The lower the planet is, the more atmosphere it’s light has to pass through and therefore the greater the chance of distortion.

    I haven’t done any planetary for years really. When I did, I only had an ED80 refractor to image with. It’s not bad, but not ideal. The preferred beast for planetary used to be a 9.25” Cassegrain variant.

    I used to capture planetary with my ED80 on a basic alt-azimuth mount on a photographic tripod and using a modified £30 webcam

    Here’s a couple of examples of what you can get with the old-school stuff, the new kit is much better I imagine.







    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    A mainly digital setup with a musical amplifier and endearing 1970's speakers. A CD player that hardly ever gets used and a turntable that is good enough to remind my how enjoyable my old vinyl is. Some cables and things.

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