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Astrophotography as an ER hobby?
Old 11-27-2011, 08:01 AM   #1
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Astrophotography as an ER hobby?

Raves have been circulating on tech blogs for an amateur astronomer in Australia who captured an image of a protoplanetary dusk disk on a distant star. Turns out he used a Toucam pro web cam on his 10 inch Newtonian telescope. That got me off on memory row thinking about the six inch Newtonian I helped my daughter build about 12 years ago. I always loved astrophotographs but assumed they were out of reach for average low budget amateurs. Then I discovered QCUIAG (quick Cam and Unconventional Imaging Astronomy Group). Within two weeks we purchased a used quick cam off ebay for $15, downloaded free imaging stacking software and snagged photographs of Saturn's rings, Jupiter and the moon.

Here what such a hobby can evolve to (the Aussie's photo):



Here is how you start out (mine)



See more here.

The protoplanetary disc around Beta Pictoris photo - Rolf Olsen photos at pbase.comThe Aussie's site has a lot of info on how he did it.
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Old 11-27-2011, 09:14 AM   #2
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I have an old Celestron Ultima 8 that I haven't used in years. Its motor drive no longer works and it needs a good cleaning. I will probably get around to it again at some point once I retire.

As to astronomy as a hobby, it helps a lot if you live way out in the sticks away from the city lights or are willing to travel far out of town.
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Old 11-27-2011, 11:21 AM   #3
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My planet photos were actually taken in DC with city light pollution all around. You could forget deep space photos here although they would be possible at my weekend place. I never tried that because our home built was not motorized. I could stack planetary images from the camera as they tracked across the field of view but couldn't follow objects for long exposures. Fix up the motor on your Celestron and you could do far more than I did.
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Old 11-27-2011, 12:34 PM   #4
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Impressive!

One of our home-improvement contractors is an amateur astronomer. (As a kid he was tracking Sputnik.) He regularly spends a night every month or so camping on a Waianae beach (minimal light pollution) with a couple of telescopes, a generator, a camera, and a laptop. His challenge is getting the scope to slew fast enough for a focused shot of the space station or other satellites.
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Old 11-27-2011, 03:33 PM   #5
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If anyone ever wants to look into astronomy, most areas have astronomy clubs that periodically host sky watch parties and they are always delighted to have folks come out and get a look thru a telescope.
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Old 11-27-2011, 04:46 PM   #6
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I started taking wide field astrophotos. Any camera that you can control the exposure on will do the job. I've gotten a few nice photos and without all the expensive equipment. Tracking is pretty simple, but wildly expensive to do accurately. Here's a couple of mine, both 25 to 30 sec exposures, stacked and darks subtracted.

http://danmcmartin.files.wordpress.c...55_900x600.jpg

http://danmcmartin.files.wordpress.c...er-900x600.jpg
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Old 11-27-2011, 05:03 PM   #7
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Astrophotagraphy is one of my favorite hobbies, especially in the winter when it's dark early! There are some amazing images out there from people using all different types of equipment, like your shot of Jupiter, I've been trying to get some good shots this fall but so far, haven't really had a good night of seeing.

I have a telescope in an observatory on my back deck, use a Mallincam video camera and enjoy observing as many nights as possible. Skies here are reasonably dark, you can see the Milky Way on good nights. If you haven't heard of it, there is a website:

Night Skies Network

where people with cameras broadcast their sessions for others to watch. You have to register to watch but there are people broadcasting from all over the world. I like to hang out there when it's too cloudy to observe here- I broadcast when I can, channel name is davemartin88.

Here's a couple of recent screen captures from my video camera. First is a spiral galaxy and the second is the Ring Nebula.




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Old 11-27-2011, 06:23 PM   #8
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Great shots Dave. Very nice. I always hoped for a setup like yours. M-33 at the top?
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Old 11-27-2011, 07:30 PM   #9
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I would like to do the sort of deep sky stuff Dave does. But I would need to buy a pretty good motorized, GoTo telescope and I suspect with my ADD try something and move on personality I would never get my money's worth from one of those.
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Old 11-27-2011, 07:43 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donheff View Post
I would like to do the sort of deep sky stuff Dave does. But I would need to buy a pretty good motorized, GoTo telescope and I suspect with my ADD try something and move on personality I would never get my money's worth from one of those.
I agree with you Don. At one time I'd thought about looking into the newer 'high tech' scopes, but I just couldn't get motivated. I started out in the early 80s with a Meade 8" F-6 Newtonian. Everything was located either by 'star hopping' and/or setting circles and star charts.
The little bit of photography I did was planetary with an old 35 mm camera using eyepiece projection. Some of the pics were surprisingly good considering all that was involved.
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Old 11-27-2011, 08:30 PM   #11
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Thanks for the Quick Cam info Don. That may get me back into astrophotography. I used to do a lot of it but with film cameras. Digital looks like the way to go.
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Old 11-27-2011, 08:56 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by donheff View Post
...I suspect with my ADD try something and move on personality...
+1

Great pics, everyone. I'm going to have to try that...
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Old 11-28-2011, 07:29 AM   #13
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Thanks for the Quick Cam info Don. That may get me back into astrophotography. I used to do a lot of it but with film cameras. Digital looks like the way to go.
If you get interested look into QCUIAG. They used to be the best site for detailed instructions about web cams, astro-stack software, etc. I haven't checked them out in years so I don't know if they are still good. They also have a Yahoo Group that used to be pretty active. The biggest problem for me without a GoTo scope was zeroing in on a planet without being able to look through the objective lens (the webcam was in there - I could view the field on the laptop screen). I never could align my finder scope very well.
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Old 11-28-2011, 08:49 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by donheff View Post
If you get interested look into QCUIAG. They used to be the best site for detailed instructions about web cams, astro-stack software, etc. I haven't checked them out in years so I don't know if they are still good. They also have a Yahoo Group that used to be pretty active. The biggest problem for me without a GoTo scope was zeroing in on a planet without being able to look through the objective lens (the webcam was in there - I could view the field on the laptop screen). I never could align my finder scope very well.
I started checking them out yesterday.
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Old 11-28-2011, 06:27 PM   #15
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Very nice pictures. Thanks. Makes me remember there are other things going on then Thanksgiving & Xmas family issues .
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Old 11-28-2011, 07:22 PM   #16
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Great shots Dave. Very nice. I always hoped for a setup like yours. M-33 at the top?
Yes, M33, the Triangulum Galaxy, a nice object that you can supposedly see with the naked eye from an area with really dark skies.

Here's one more from last week, the Crab Nebula.

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Old 11-28-2011, 07:31 PM   #17
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It's amazing what you can do with CCD cameras today. Good cameras are pretty cheap and you can get something really good from Andor or Apogee. I've never done astrophotography as a hobby as it was work for me for many years. The smallest telescope I've ever used is 2.5 m
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Old 11-29-2011, 06:41 AM   #18
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Tracking is pretty simple, but wildly expensive to do accurately.
This is especially true for large caliber newtonians during long exposures.
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Old 12-02-2011, 09:59 AM   #19
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I thought this forum might have a few more astronomers out there that do astrophotography? Used a small refractor last night (80mm) and got some wide field shots of Andromeda and a second shot of the Flame/Horsehead nebulas. Horsehead is just bleow center, very small but it's there!





If you're out there lurking, please share a few shots. These are screen grabs from the video camera I use.
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Old 12-02-2011, 10:51 AM   #20
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Wish I had something to share, but the little astrophotography I did was back in the days of print film. I always wanted a high quality refractor. At one time, I seriously considered Televue's 4" F5.5.

Those are pretty impressive shots you've done. I noticed in the upper frame (Andromeda) that you captured all 3 M objects. 31, 32, and 110. Very well done.
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