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ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY AMATEUR

ISSUE 02

THIS ISSUE’S DSO HORSE HEAD NEBULA IC 434

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE MODDED CANON 350 FOR ASTRO WORK

ASTRO APPS: A list of helpful and useful Apps to get you around the night sky ----------------------------------STAR TRAILS: How to take amazing Star Trail shot using a DSLR -----------------------------------

READERS KIT A new feature in this issue. A full breakdown of readers astro kit www.amateurastrophotography.com


ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY AMATEUR

Welcome to issue 02 of the Amateur Astro-photography E-Magazine.

I hope you enjoyed issue 01 that I published as a 'taster' publication to see what if any attention it may have had. Well nobody could have been more shocked than I when after the first week the Ezine had been viewed over 28,000 times to a world wide audience.

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A Jouney Through Astrophotography by Bryan Pablo

12 Chris Sinclair Astrophotography 14 The Testing of Astronomical Telescope Optics

20 This issue’s DSOThe Horsehead Nebula

I would firstly like to thank everyone that forwarded their images and articles to be submitted within the pages of this publication. I understand the amount of time and effort you all put into helping me create this publication which really has seemed to have taken off, for this I thank you. I really do appreciate it.

24 Amazing Sky Photography - Alan Dyer

This being the second issue, I hope you find more pages with much more interesting articles and images all forwarded to me by fellow amateur astro-photographers.

34 Canon 350D Modded by Jay Bird

Myself I am very much a novice in this field, but now find astro-phototgraphy, much more of an obsession than a hobby or past time. Over the years I have produced several publications, some of which I sold and are still going today. I thought as there was not a single amateur astro-photography magazine in the UK dedicated to astro-photography alone that I could find, that maybe I should change this. My original plan was to eventually put this publication to print, but with over 66,000 views world wide online in it’s 1st monthvia lap tops, PC's but mainly mobile devices, I decided that I would never reach such a wide audience in a printed format, so I am going to keep the publication online. Well here is issue 02. I hope you enjoy the articles and images sent in by fellow amateur astro-photographers, just like you and I.

29 The Hunter Becomes The Hunted by Joe Kilker

33 Our Moon and Bryan Pablo

PLUS LOTS MORE TOO Website:

www.amateurastrophotography.com

Email:

amateurastrophotography@yahoo.co.uk

Flickr:

www.flickr.com/groups/2425230@N20/

Twitter:

@AmateurAstroMag

Facebook:

facebook.com/groups/174009916140731/ Horse Head Nebula cover image by Bryan Pablo


Image by Gareth Harding

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single 5 min exposure on M42 Orion Nebular with Running Man Nebular.

Scope: Orion Optics VX6 with 1/10 PV upgraded optics Guide Scope: Skywatcher ST80 Guide Cam: QHY 5 Mono Mount: Skywatcher HQE5 Camera: Nikon D5100 Exposure: 5 Minute Technical: iso 800, 750mm f/5 Software: Photoshop CS6, PHD

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Orion & Winter Sky (Christmas 2013) (right Image) Twas the night of Christmas 13, and all across the sky, All the stars were twinkling, and Orion shone on high.

Orion and the winter stars and constellations above a snowy prairie scene in Alberta, on Christmas night, 2013. This is a stack of 5 x 4 minute exposures with the 14mm Rokinon lens at f/2.8 and Canon 5D MkII at ISO 1600. Images tracked on the iOptron SkyTracker.

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Image by Alan Dyer amazingsky.net


Star Trails Over CTIO

Star trails shot comprised of 316 fifteen second exposures from Cerro Tolol InterAmerican Observatory in Chile last march. You can see the south celestial pole in the upper right corner (the distortion is due to the fact that I used a Sigma 10mm diagonal fisheye lens). Stars are almost too bright and numerous in this pic. Image by Robert Sparks http://www.flickr.com/photos/halfastro/ NGC 7635 Bubble Nebula in Ha This is my first try at Ha imaging with a one shot colour ccd hopefully will be adding RGB to this when I get chance. Taken on 27,28/12/2013 14 x 600 secs Subs as well as Darks,Flats,Bias. Stacked and processed in pixinsight. Used channel extraction in pixinsight to split the RGB in to three channels and I only used the red channel as thats the one that picks the most hydrogen alpha up. Camera: QHY8L CCD cooled to -20C Optics: Skywatcher ED80,Skywatcher 0.85x focal reducer Filter: Astronomik H Alpha Filter 12nm Mount: Skywatcher AZ EQ6-GT GEQ & Alt-Az Mount connected to the Sky X and Eqmod via HitecAstro EQDIR adapter Image Acquisition: Maxim DL 5 Pro Stacking and Calibrating: Pixinsight 1.8 Processing: Pixinsight 1.8 Image by David Wills

Dave ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/82940128@N03/ ) Following Venus 29th dec Venus crescent taken Phillips spc900 SW200p dual axis motors EQ5 mount edited in Flickr app on iPod touch .

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Fisheye Star Trails photo 1.2013/09/08 Fisheye Startrails Location : Taiwan Cingjing Canon 60D Sigma 4.5mm F2.8 iso 1600 30s x 442 Frames

2.2013/09/08 Fisheye Startrails Location : Taiwan Cingjing Canon 60D Sigma 4.5mm F2.8 iso 1600 30s x 225 Frames

hese AMAZING images were sent in to me by Daniel Chang 6


M16-Eagle Nebula - HST

Eagle Nebula in Narrowband. Partially imaged in France, finished up here in Suffolk. Integration Details: Ha: 13x900s, 7x1200s (5 hrs, 35 min) SII: 8 x 900s (2 hrs) OIII: 10 x 900s (2 hrs 30 min) Total time: 10 hrs 5 min Equipment: Scope: Orion EON80ED Camera: Atik 314L+ Filters: Astronomik Ha, SII, OIII ---------------------------------------------------------The Eagle Nebula (catalogued as Messier 16 or M16, and as NGC 6611, and also as the Star Queen Nebula) is a young open cluster of stars in the constellation Serpens, discovered by Jean-Philippe de Cheseaux in 1745-46. Its name derives from its shape that is thought to resemble an eagle. It contains several active star-forming gas and dust

regions, including the famous "Pillars of Creation". The Eagle Nebula is part of a diffuse emission nebula, or H II region, which is catalogued as IC 4703. This region of active current star formation is about 7000 light-years distant. The tower of that can be seen coming off the nebula is approximately 9.5 light-years or about 90 trillion kilometers high. The brightest star in the nebula (HD 168076) has an apparent magnitude of +8.24, easily visible with good binoculars. It is actually a binary star formed of an O3.5V star plus an O7.5V companion. The cluster associated with the nebula has approximately 460 stars, the brightest of spectral class O, a mass of roughly 80 solar masses, and a luminosity up to 1 million times that of the Sun. Its age has been estimated to be 1–2 million years. Content from Wikipedia, then checked.


A Journey Through Astrophotography by BryanPablo

Astronomy has always been a big interest for me, as I recall getting my first astronomy book during elementary school. Flicking through the pages are images from Voyager 1 to Bryan Pablo Hubble which has caught my eye and always pondered if I myself will ever take a photo of nebulae, or a planet, let alone our own moon. Ive always loved astronomy but it was only till June 2011 that I finally did something about it, and I ask myself, why not sooner? This may sound weird but I recall seeing something from the NASA channel on my online TV app showing how long till andromeda collides with our own milkyway, and what it would look like after a vast amount of time. Our galaxy by then will never be the same as it was before, and this intrigued me so much that maybe if I checked youtube to see the full review of this cosmic event I would fully understand what is going on. So when I checked youtube I found it and watched it over and over again, and also found links with other people posting their finds as well, and this sparked me into getting my first scope.

I’d say that my first scope would be the celestron firstscope, and was the best $50 I have ever spent. This little wonder had more to it than it seems, and had an exciting time learning to use it and viewing just whatever I can see in the night sky as I was still not familiar with where things were. And these were my first shots using a nikon digital camera through the 20mm eyepiece.

After a thrilling time with the firstscope, then I decided to go for something bigger, so I purchased the Saxon 1309 EQMS 4.5 inch reflector. I was so excited when I received it, and another plus is that it came with a RA motor drive. During this time I was still learning all the different types of scopes, polar alignment and long exposures but didnt have a DSLR so I went with what I had, and had some pleasing results with afocal astrophotography. This time I used my samsung galaxy s2 with the camera 360 app. It wasnt very long till I got my first DSLR which was the Canon 600D. A Terrific Camera. On the next page are some of the images that Bryan Pablo took using this set up.

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Celestron First Scope

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Venus

Jupiter

I did alot of observing as well and I just familiarised myself with the night sky. The first nebula I ever laid eyes on was the Orion Nebula. For me that was unforgettable as I saw the trapezium surrounded by bluish wispy structures. I also checked out Ptolemys Cluster, Swan Nebula, most of the messier objects within the milkyway, Jupiter,Saturn and Venus. Then when I received my 600D and the T ring adapter, oh man did I have fun with that . One thing with the Saxon Reflector, I couldnt achieve focus with the dslr as the drawtube didn't have enough backfocus so after some research I fixed the problem by attaching the Dslr fitted the T Adapter on a 2x barlow. This is how it turned out.

I was ecstatic with what I was able to get, then finally attempted long exposures but to avail. I had a very basic idea with polar alignment but it was a long and arduous learning curve. Thats when I finally joined a local astronomy club MAS and share experiences and similar interests, particularly in the field of astrophotography. And by coincidence on the first night I attended, they were holding a forum talk about astrophotography and how it was done and what was involved. This opened my eyes even more with all the gear that was required and the hours hours of exposures and not to mention processing side. Oh did I also mention a very accurate polar alignment method too. Theres a few was to do it but I soon learned that a non ferrous spirit level and a magnetic compass and an inclinometer was the best method that suited me. Ive finally aligned it but always room for more improvement. This was gonna be a challenge, but was a fun challenge. Looking at my current gear and I thought it was time for an upgrade. And thanks to the internet age, out of all the tons of choices to build my imaging setup I narrowed everything down to the best and most effective option of what kind of setup I was going to have. Also thanks to Doug "Astrophotography Tutorials" for his helpful youtube videos . This is my AP Setup. The next page has a few more recent images taken by Bryan Pablo.

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Bryan Pablo: Images

Orion Nebula

Lambda Centauri

RCW57

The Pleaides

Nova Centauri To see more of Bryan Pablo’s amazing images please visit his Flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/96206085@N04/

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Rosette Nebula


FREE ASTRO APPS SAT TRACK This application reveals all iridium flares and satelittes (including international space station and amateur radio satellites) passing by at your location. An auto-adjusting compass pointing in the direction of the satellite or flare helps you tracing the object. Notifications can be enabled to warn you whenever a satellite of interest passes by. NIGHT SKY TOOLS This app is a collection of astronomical tools and charts perfect for anyone interested in astronomy. The calculations are of a high enough accuracy for almost all amateur astronomy applications. Due to the fact that astronomy is often best when far from civilization where mobile signal may not always be reliable. Therefore, this appis (almost) completely self-contained and does not require any internet connection for most of the information available. The only exceptions to this are the SOHO solar images and NGC/IC, Messier,Caldwell and Binary star images and weather forecast which are loaded dynamically, as well as the refreshing of satellite, comet and near-earth asteroid data. SkEye SkEye is an advanced Planetarium that can also be used as a PUSHTO guide for telescopes.Ever wondered what objects are up in the sky? Now you can get familiar with Astronomy by identifying stars, planets, and constellations. Also look up deep sky objects from the Messier and NGC catalogs. If you have a telescope, just strap the phone onto the OTA and you get a PUSHTO guide! ASTRONOMY CALENDAR If your are interested in whats going on in the universe, this is the perfect App for you. See events out the year. Offline mode, downloads events only once per year. Receive notifications for upcoming events. Add to calendar. Share with friends.

ASTROPHOTO CALCULATOR A small app for astro photographers for calculation of image filed sizes for certain combinations of camera and lens. You can also calculate the maximal exposure time for shots without guiding and calculate the length of star trails. It has a custom editable camera list. After installation and first execution of this app the list is saved on your SD card under sdcard/.com.strickling/astrocameras.txt. It can be edited with any text editor. ASTRONOMY FOR KIDS If you are looking for astronomy basics and the science of the stars, Astronomy for Kids is your free app. You can start by choosing one of the sections and enjoy Astronomy for Kids. Discover: - The Universe - Galaxies - Stars - And our Solar System: The Sun , Eight Planets, Asteriods, Comets, and more. ASTRONOMY STAR GAZING GUIDE Become a star gazer with this amazing free astronomy guide! Learn what the constellations are in the sky! Become a stargazer today, learn how astronomy works and its history! MESSIER CATALOG The Messier Catalog Pro is a list of 110 astronomical objects compiled by French astronomer Charles Messier and originally published between 1774 and 1781. Its formal title is "Catalog of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars r, seen among the fixed stars on the horizon of Paris." It also contains real images, a search engine to make it easier and faster to the location of objects and night mode so you can use it on your observations (turned-off by the icon in the upper right corner). 11


I currently work in the Offshore Oil and Gas industry as a Hydrographic Surveyor. I enjoy photography as a hobby, both at home and while away working. I love the creativity it can inspire within me, and seeing my image quality improve, (hopefully).

American Nebula These past 2 weeks I have been quite fortunate. Even with almost permanent cloud cover I managed to meet a world authority in Astronomy last week, get some Milky Way shots, and now this week I finally got the clear skies required to test out the new astro imaging gear. Last night the skies cleared nicely after a lovely sunset, so I packed the car with everything required, (including the camera this time), and drove to Castle hill Car Park in Castletown. I probably spent around

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an hour setting up, as I'm still rather new to it all. But once underway I went straight for M31. After the first pic flashed up on the camera I am not ashamed to admit I did a wee jig round the thankfully deserted car park. Most good astrophotographers will spend their night concentrating on 1,maybe 2 objects, however I was like a kid in a candy shop so slewed here there and everywhere taking shots. It was a fantastic night, and while my images are far from perfect, they are my frist venture into this world, and there is a lot of room for improvement. Roll on the next clear night.


Andromeda, M31

Comet Lovejoy

www.chrissinclairphotography.com 13


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The up close shot was taken using a C8 with Atik 314L and processed by Paul Williamson. The widefield was taken with an Equinox80 ED with Atik 314L and processed by my 10 year old daughter Olivia. Very Impressive images from both I think you will agree. It is great to see that the younger generationsuch as Olivier here is alrady an amazing Astrophotographer at the age of ten. Excellent Work Olivia :)

Further details for Olivia's picture:

Further details for the close up:

Total 3hrs H-Alpha - 9x600s, RGB 6x300s Stacked in DeepSkyStacker & processed in PS2. Camera: Atik 314L+ Mono Filters: Baader H-Alpha 7nm, RGB. Scope: Sky-Watcher Equinox 80ED . Mount: AZ EQ6-GT goto, PhD guided with Orion 50mm guidescope & SSAG.

Total 45 min H-Alpha - 3x900s Stacked in DeepSkyStacker & processed in PS2. Camera: Atik 314L+ Mono Filters: Baader H-Alpha 7nm. Scope: Celestron C8. Mount: AZ EQ6-GT goto, PhD guided with Orion OAG & SSAG.

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Image by Martin Pyott This image was taken by my Lunt 80mm ED Refractor, QHY8L CCD with Hutech IDAS LPS-V4 LPR Filter, 10 x 5mins of lights, 10 x darks, 15 flats and 15 bais frames stacked using Deepsky Stacker, and final processed in Photoshop CS 2. I wanted to get more light frames, but the weather as been so bad, this is all I can muster?? Not bad really for limited light frames, but the main key interest here is that I've got a new nebula filter from Hutech, and it's a brand new one, it's like the IDAS LPS-P2, which doesn't give out weird colours, which alot of Light polution filters do, and this filter is designed to bring out more Hydrogen and Beta gas regions more, and the filter is more suited for coloured CCDs and DSLRS!!

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Flame & Horse Head Nebula by Patrick Wilson

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wilsonp195/

NEXT ISSUES DEEP SKY OBJECT IS.....

Pinwheel Image by Gareth Harding

PINWHEEL GALAXY PLEASE ADD YOUR PINWHEEL GALAXY IMAGES TO OUR FLICK PAGE

http://www.flickr.com/groups/2425230@N20/

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I am a frequent guest expert on local and national news media. As an amateur astronomer, my interests also include deep-sky observing (I compiled some of the popular deep-sky observing lists in the annual RASC Observer’ s Handbook).

I have been photographing the night sky for many years, but never with as much success as now with digital SLR cameras. My photos have been featured on Spaceweather.com, APOD Astronomy Picture of the Day, the Weather Channel, in National Geographic magazine, and in many other magazines and calendars.

I take the opportunity as often as possible to visit the southern hemisphere to pursue both observing and photography under southern skies. My other obsession, eclipse chasing, has taken me to every continent, chalking up 15 total solar eclipses — #15 was in the mid-Atlantic Ocean in 2013. Asteroid 78434 is named for me – very nice!

I also conduct frequent workshops on astrophoto techniques and image processing with Adobe Photoshop. I am also a writer and producer of digital planetarium shows for the TELUS Spark science centre in Calgary. Over some 30 years of producing planetarium shows, my programs have played across Canada and in theatres in the U.S. I am well-known in Canada as an astronomy writer, particularly in my role as associate editor of SkyNews magazine. I also serve as a contributing editor to Sky and Telescope magazine, writing reviews of equipment. I have co-authored several best selling guidebooks for amateur astronomers, including, with Terence Dickinson, The Backyard Astronomer’ s Guide, reprinted and revised in 2010 (Firefly Books). I am also author of several children’ s books on space, notably Insiders: Space and Mission to the Moon, Moon both for Simon and Schuster. A new kids book Stars: Birth to Black Hole was published in 2011. I also contributed sections to National Geographic’ s Backyard Guide to the Night Sky.

VLA by Moonlight with Geminid Meteor #1 One of the 27 antennas of the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope complex illuminated by moonlight, on December 13, 2013, peak night for the Geminid meteor shower. A single Geminid is right of the antenna at centre frame. This is one frame of 325 shot this night for a time-lapse movie and in hopes of catching more and brighter meteors. Clouds thwarted the plans. Shot from Highway 52 with the VLA in the B configuration so that dishes were spread out and were crossing the highways. This is a single 32-second exposure with the Rokinon 14mm lens at f/2.8 and Canon 5D MkII at ISO 800.

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Big Dipper over Castle Mountain, Banff (Aug 24, 2013) The Big Dipper over Castle Mountain, Banff, on a partly cloudy and dewy night. Taken as part of a 150-frame time-lapse. With the 24mm lens and Canon 5D MkII for 30 seconds at f/2 and ISO 1600.

Circumpolar Star Trails over Canola Field (July 26, 2013) Circumpolar star trails stacked with a cometlike effect (created with Advanced Stacker Actions from Star Circle Academy), turning over a canola field in southern Alberta. A stack of several dozen 1-minute exposures with 10 lens at f/3.5 and the Canon 60Da camera at ISO 1600. Light is from the waning Moon off camera to the right.

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Milky Way over Battle Creek (July 14 2013) The Milky Way in Sagittarius over the Battle Creek valley in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, on the Alberta side, July 14, 2013. Taken as part of a 270-frame dolly time-lapse sequence. Bands of airglow tint the sky in streaks of green and red. This is a single 30-second untracked exposure at f/2 with the 24mm lens and Canon 5D MkII at ISO 3200.


Summer Milky Way from Backyard (Sept 9, 2013) The summer Milky Way on a clear moonless September evening, from my rural backyard in southern Alberta. This is a stack of 5 x 5 minute exposures with the 15mm f/2.8 lens and Canon 5D MkII at ISO 800, on the iOptron SkyTracker. Portrait version.

Moonrise Behind Prairie Grain Bins (July 27, 2013) The rising waning Moon behind grain bins near home, July 28, 2013. One frame from a 450-frame motion control time lapse. This is a single 15-second exposure at f/2.8 with the 24mm lens and Canon 5D MkII at ISO 2500 ----------------------------------------------------------------BELOW Cypress Hills Night Panorama (July 15, 2013) Comet PANSTARRS & the Moon (March 12, 2013) Comet PANSTARRS C/2011 L4 and the thin waxing Moon, March 12, 2013, over the Chiricahua Mountains, in Arizona, but seen from New Mexico, from a site on Highway 80 north of the Painted Pony Resort. A 2s exposure at f/2.8 and ISO 640 with the Canon 60Da and 135mm telephoto + 1.4x Extender.

A 360째 panorama on the high plains of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Alberta, July 15, 2013 on the Graburn Road. This is an 8-section panorama with the 8mm fish-eye lens, with segments at 45째 spacings and each exposure 90s at f/3.5 and with the Canon 5D MkII at ISO 3200. North is at left, south in the middle, with the road running east to west. Visible from left to right are: very low level aurora - the Survivor Tree and lights from my other cameras shooting and my car - bands of green airglow running across the sky from east to west - a spot of light from a distant thunderstorm and lightning - the centre of the Milky Way setting in the southwest - airglow bands in the west - and horizon glow from Medicine Hat. Segments processed in Photoshop and assembled with PTGui, then further processing of stitched scene in Photoshop.

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telescope I prefer 80mm to 130mm apochromatic refractors (Astro-Physics, TMB and Officina Stellare brands) riding on Astro-Physics AP 400, AP 600 and Mach 1 mounts. For auto-guiding long exposures, I’ve used a variety of autoguiders over the years, but now settle on the Santa Barbara Instruments SG-4 or the Orion StarShoot. IMAGE PROCESSING NOTES:

Since 2004 I’ve taken almost all my astrophotos with Canon digital SLR cameras, from the original Canon 300D Rebel to the Canon 5D MkII, 7D, and now the wonderfully low-noise Canon 6D. For several years, the Canon 20Da, an astronomical variation of the trend-setting 20D, was my mainstay for most imaging. I now use its replacement, the 60Da, for many shots. You’ll see images credited to all these cameras in my galleries at www.AmazingSky.Photoshelter.com. The home page at my Gallery site features many more recent images. However, many of the old film shots still stand up well, either the shots on 35mm film but in particular ones I shot on 6× 7 medium format film, which was a favourite of mine (using a Pentax 6× 7 camera) just before making the switch to digital. All film shots were scanned with a Nikon 8000 film scanner to convert them to digital images. Many images are taken with no more than a camera on a tripod, usually with some length of time exposure. Deep-sky images require a tracking platform to allow the camera to follow the stars as the Earth turns. For some wide-angle shots I use a dedicated Kenko Sky Memo tracking platform or the new compact iOptron SkyTracker, both designed to hold a camera body and short lens. Shooting with longer focal lengths (300mm or more) requires a telescope mount, while closeups of objects requires shooting though a

I’ve long preferred to use only Adobe products, to keep the image processing workflow within the same interconnected family of software, notably Photoshop CC, and its related programs, such as Adobe Bridge (for image selection) and Adobe Camera Raw (for processing RAW images from digital SLR cameras). Adobe Lightroom serves as a wonderful image cataloguing and rating program, allowing me to sort through thousands of images and pick out the best for websites and other applications. Apple Aperture is excellent for the preparation of books, print items and slide shows, but Lightroom works best for the actual cataloguing of Photoshop images, some of which can be upwards of 1 gig in file size with Smart Objects, Adjustment Layers, etc., all required to allow for non-destructive image editing. Photoshop is also wonderful for creating stacks of images and mosaics/panoramas, such as some of the Milky Way pans in my Deep-Sky: Milky Way Gallery. Photoshop Extended CC is my main tool for stringing together images into time-lapse movies.

Many thanks to Alan Dyer. www.amazingsky.net


The Hunter Becomes the Hunted With winter being in full throes (despite the fact it hasn't "officially" started yet), one signpost constellation is Orion the Hunter, which magesitcally covers a rather wide area of the southern sky.This constellby Joe Gilker of Ontario, Canada ation is full of lore and myth from different cultures. But that aside, it's a wonderful image on the tapestry of the night sky through the winter. And it's the target of many amateur astronomers and astrophotographers due to its myriad of nebulae contained therein. I'm really not able to find a definitive answer as to how many nebulae it contains. Figures tend to range from 10-20, depending on who you ask. Either way, there's no shortage of stuff to see. The Great Orion Nebula, the Running Man Nebula, the Flame Nebula, The Horsehead Nebula, and Barnard's Loop are among some of the wonderful sights that can be seen and photographed. It's a cornucopia of targets for those willing to search them out and patient enough to find and perhaps image them.

But on a very cold evening a few nights ago, I stepped out with my camera and SkyTracker. The seeing was about 3/5 with a 60% moon in the western sky. I decided that photographing the deep sky objects wasn't going to bear great fruit, so I figured I would try to catch the entire constellation in one image. I popped on my 18-55mm lens, aligned my mount, and fired off a bunch of 30-second subs, darks and bias frames. The resulting subs didn't look like much. Once stacked, the light pollution and gradient in the background made me think that this would be a lost cause, can be seen by this image. The trees in the foreground weren't a big issue, as I planned on cropping the image anyway. Then it came to processing the image. I was able to remove the gradient and get a nice neutral, dark background. It actually turned out much better than I had anticipated. Betelgeuse shone magnificently. M42, the Orion Nebula was clearly visible, and I even managed to get a faint hint of the Flame Nebula. Overall, I'm very pleased with the results of this session.

Through the winter, I'll be making several of the well-known objects in Orion my target. I've already started with the Orion and Running Man Nebulae, as well at the Flame and Horsehead. Both have been featured here in previous installments of my blog. All are simply 1 hour's worth of 30 second exposures at this point. I'll be adding more data to those over the coming months.

One of the subs (light frames) that was stacked for the final image below. Jupiter is visible in the upper left corner.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/crunchmeister/

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2013 Christmas Day Milkyway Panorama @ Galloway Forest Park

TimmyWong Photography

We can see M31, Polaris M45, Jupiter, NGC7000, the double cluster, 2 meteors and of course, the Milkyway! Camera:Canon 6D Lens: EF 17-40 f/4L @f/4 ISO: 6400 Exposure time: 30sec x 6 panorama Mount: N/A Filter: N/A Software: PS

To see more of Timmy Wong’s amazing images please visit: https://www.facebook. com/TimmyWongPhoto graphy or his Flickr page here http://www.flickr.com/ph otos/hims1526/ I am sure you will be amazed!

Copyright: TimmyWongPhotography

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canon 350d review astrophotography SPECS 8.0 MP 3 fps with up to 14 image burst E-TTL II flash system DIGIC II 7-point AF DPP RAW image processing software Separate RAW/JPEG image recording USB 2.0 Hi-speed/Video Out Compatible with EF/EF-S lenses/EX Speedlite flashes PictBridge compatible Review by Canon 350D owner Jay Bird When my canon 300d started to fall apart, I was extremely fortunate to get an offer for the 350D, which was premodded by Hutech. The first thing I noticed, apart from a nice and obvious improvement from the 300D, was the glass replacement filter had been repositioned so snugly that the camera's autofocus worked a treat. I had read that often the mod can put the focus off and definitely caused auto-focus to stop working, and for a lot of Canon owners their normal daylight photography will have taken a hit unfortunately - however the good news is the end results are seriously worth it! If you dont have the laptop control software I recommend an intervalometer. This enables full use of the bulb mode while being selfcontained so you can still set it going and walk away. Coffee time ;) Picture quality: Although the sensor is slightly smaller than the 300D the quality is way better, and it handles higher ISO settings with lower noise.However, the highest ISO is only 1600 which is pretty normal for general astro-imaging but certain techniques milky way shots for example - will lose the edge that high ISO settings give.

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At first with a modified camera the pictures come out pink, due to the higher sensitivity to the red end of the light spectrum - a custom white balance can usually remedy this, if not the white balance will be mildly off-putting but still not a problem as deep sky stacker can be set to balance it out during the stacking process. Using an intervalometer to control the amount and length of exposures gives a convenience that allows you to go inside to warm up while it clicks away. Sometimes these remote timer cables can miss shots here and there as the camera can shoot several times and then have to catch up and write data to the memory card. Make sure to program a couple seconds gap between each exposure to minimise this problem as much as possible, and if using in built noise reduction be sure to set the exposure legth to double the actual exposure time as this allows the camera to take an identical image with shutter closed as a dark-frame for subtraction, removing the sensor's electrical noise much the same as when stacking using separate Darks. As for buying the 350D for astrophotography?, well! Put it this way: with the size of the sensor and it's 'one-shot-colour' style of capture, coupled with the easy to use and versatile interface and direct to RAW image recording (and this can be said of all DSLR's) you'd be hard pressed to find that kind of imaging power for the same money in


a dedicated CCD, for the price of a used Canon 350D there's not a CCD on the market that can match the dslr for performance value for money.. Here are a few images that i've managed to capture in the weeks since I started to use it:

higher up the Canon models ie 600D/60D/400D/ 450D etc. -The lack of live view, and small LCD screen. And it doesn't flip aside like some of the newer models. -The battery life gets less as the temp drops.This is the same with all dslr's batteries however. -The max ISO being 1600 (the 300d on the other hand has a firmware hack that gives 3200)

Eastern Nebula

*due to the process of dark subtraction works quite well compared to noise reduction in say photoshop or other algorithms for reducing noise in photo editors.

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Bryan Pablo’s take on the canon 350d

I delved into the exciting and challenging world of astrophotography and had alot of using dslrs as they were easy to use. My first was the Canon 600D, then moved to the 7D as I engaged with daytime photography as well, but I found it lacked the sensitivity to H Alpha emmision nebulae. Then one day I picked up the Canon Rebel XT (350D).

Dumbell Nebula

I also found some specific pro's and cons that I can note here.

I know its an old camera ans it doesnt have the other features compared to newer models like Live View and a bigger screen or even a flipscreen, but it has been modified by Hutech for the purpose of astrophotography. This was my first modded dslr and since I live under suburban lights, I use an astronomik cls light pollution filter.

PRO’S: -lightweight and compact. -In biult darkframe subraction (if you use darks then turn it off, but for nightscenes and widefield where you likely won't use darks later it can be used with great effect)* -Battery life generally good (see below). -Compatible with certain software like backyard eos. via a cable. (the earlier 300D was unsupported) -Even for an early model Canon, the picture quality is good. Even after Hutech modified it the focus remained sharp. CONS: -The age is obviously a factor and those with less budget restrictions will be advised to aim

This clips inside the camera body and does not interfere with any of the camera's functions but to only reduce or eliminate skyglow caused by suburban lights so for me it is a must, and I gave it a test drive on the horsehead nebula. I have been trying to get this object for so long and my 7D can just pick it up, but even on long exposures it was very noisy even if long exposure noise reduction was turned on, and very faint. However, the elusiveness of this nebula was no match for my Hutech modded 350D. Both the 7D and and 350D have CMOS sensors but the


350D have greater noise control. Yes it doesn't have thermoelectric cooling like CCD cameras but the noise level is pretty low and any remaining thermal noise can be removed by taking darks, and was blown away with the result. I couldnt be happier!

It even picked up the fainter details around the nebula which was a double surprise. One thing I did notice, as a modded camera it showed a strong response to the red channels since its sensitive to red emissions but that can be corrected with matching the RGB channels in photoshop via post processing. Another plus is the weight of the camera which puts less strain on the mount. The only thing I wish it had was live view to aid focusing. Ive used angle finders to fix that problem and to centre the object on the frame, but it did little to help focusing and was faint looking through it to make out anything but I quickly resolved that problem by using a handy tool called B&K Astrofocuser. This will allow you to use a bracket that will hold a diagonal small diagonal onto the viewfinder of the camera and then attach a 25mm plossl eyepiece! A formidable dslr that I definitely recommend if you ever manage to get your hands on one! I have many things to say about the Hutech moddes 350D and its either an excellent model or the guys at Hutech made it a formidable astro camera, or both. One thing is for sure, you will never look back with a modded dslr. ---------------------------------------------------------------------IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADVERTISE YOUR BUSINESS IN THE

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Sombrero Galaxy The Sombrero Galaxy (also known as Messier Object 104, M104 or NGC 4594) is an unbarred spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo located 28 megalight-years (8,600 kpc) from Earth. It has a bright nucleus, an unusually large central bulge, and a prominent dust lane in its inclined disk. The dark dust lane and the bulge give this galaxy the appearance of a sombrero. Astronomers initially thought that the halo was small and light, indicative of a spiral galaxy, but Spitzer found that the halo around the Sombrero Galaxy is larger and more massive than previously thought, indicative of a giant elliptical galaxy.

were able to connect MĂŠchain's and Herschel's observations. In 1921, Camille Flammarion found Messier's personal list of the Messier objects including the hand-written notes about the Sombrero Galaxy. This was identified with object 4594 in the New General Catalogue, and Flammarion declared that it should be included in the Messier Catalogue. Since this time, the Sombrero Galaxy has

The galaxy has an apparent magnitude of +9.0, making it easily visible with amateur telescopes. The large bulge, the central supermassive black hole, and the dust lane all attract the attention of professional astronomers. The Sombrero Galaxy was discovered on May 11, 1781 by Pierre MÊchain, who described the object in a May 1783 letter to J. Bernoulli that was later published in the Berliner Astronomisches Jahrbuch.[6][7] Charles Messier made a hand-written note about this and five other objects (now collectively recognized as M104 – M109) to his personal list of objects now known as the Messier Catalogue, but it was not "officially" included until 1921. William Herschel independently discovered the object in 1784 and additionally noted the presence of a "dark stratum" in the galaxy's disc, what is now called a dust lane. Later astronomers

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been known as M104. As noted above, this galaxy's most striking feature is the dust lane that crosses in front of the bulge of the galaxy. This dust lane is actually a symmetrical ring that encloses the bulge of the galaxy. Most of the cold atomic hydrogen gas and the dust lies within this ring. The ring might also contain most of the Sombrero Galaxy's cold molecular gas, although this is an inference based on observations with low resolution and weak detections. Additional observations are needed to confirm that the Sombrero galaxy's molecular gas is constrained to the ring. Based on infrared spectroscopy, the dust ring is the primary site of star formation within this galaxy.


STAR TRAIL TUTORIAL What equipment will you need? A camera with manual mode, tripod, timer remote and a computer.

by Gareth Harding

I’ve been into astrophotography for just over a

year now, one of my favourite things to shoot is star trails, I love the beauty of the image how the world seems calm with the heavens rushing by, we obviously know this is quite the opposite,, it still amazes me now how fast the earth spins you will see this in the photographs you take. Im going to share with you the method I use to produce star trail images, by no means do I claim to be an expert in anything I have just found a way that works for me.

Star Trails over Sedgwick House

My equipment Camera: Nikon D7100, Sigma 10-20mm f/4 lens, manfrotto tripod

Setting up the camera You are taking a photograph so firstly you need to think about the composition of the image, In my opinion star trail images look much better when you have something in the foreground you could use anything, a tree, house or landscape most things will work, also pointing towards the pole star.

Star Trails while setting scope up

Composite of Light & Star Trails Nikon D5100. Sigma 10-24mm. star trials image 1 hour of stacked 30 sec exposures

Camera settings Settings will depend on a number of things, your camera, how dark it is and how light polluted your sky is, I always start with the following on manual mode, exposure 30 seconds, ISO 1000, aperture f/4 (or as low as your lens will allow) then I will adjust the ISO to until I’m happy with the amount of stars I can see on the image, if your image is to bright lower the ISO, if to dark raise the ISO. Taking the images Once your happy with your setting its time to start imaging, this is the part you will need a timer, set a program, at least 120 images this will give you

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an hours’ worth of trails, set timer at 30 seconds (your camera will need to be on “ Bulb”), with between 5-7 second gap between each image its also best to have your camera set to jpeg or tiff.

A TALE OF PATIENCE AND TWO ANDROMEDA’S In any hobby a great amount of patience is needed. When I first started astrophotography my images looked like…well crap! Perfect example is the image below of M31 The Andromeda Galaxy. The main reason why this is that I had no understanding of exposby Randall Evans ure time and how to watch the

star trails and 1 Geminids took 450 photos got one meteor, this stack only contains about 80 photos

Merging the images Once you have all your images it’s time to build your star trails image. I use some free software called The “startrails” application available from http://www.startrails.de/html/software.html then its a matter of loading the images and building your final image, the software is easy to use its just a matter of playing with the settings until you find out what works best, you also have the option to add dark frames or create video.

Andromeda by Randall Evans

histogram during my exposures. I also had no idea on how to process my sub frames using calibration frames. After numerous trial and error, I started reading books and asking questions on forums. Eventually I figured out the basics and started applying them when I set up my gear for a night of imaging. Now for me, none of this happened over night. It took night after night and month after month for me to get a presentable image I was proud to show off. I still learn something new almost every night when I am under the stars. I still have the occasional stinker, but hey, this is a hobby and a fun one at that. As for what can be accomplished with a little patience, time, trial and error. Compare the two images of Andormeda (above and on the next page). Now, I haven’t won any awards with my work..... Well,not yet any ways. But a guy can dream.....

41 Star Trails. 90 minutes in total


The Spaghetti Nebula by Vincent Cheng

The Spaghetti Nebula (Simeis 147 / Sh2-240) Hydrongen-alpha 3-7,Jan,2014 MeiZhou, CHINA Camera : Astro60D (cooled at-16C) Telescope/Lens : Takahashi FSQ-85ED w 0.73x reducer (327mm f/3.8 ) Filter : Astronomik 6nm Ha ISO : 3200 Tracking Mount : Takahashi EM-11 Autoguide : SBIG SG-4 Total Exposure Time : 10mins x 63frames w Dark Frames, Bias Frames process w DSS,PI, PS5

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Book Reviews

Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Collection 2

This really is a stunning book fabulous photos, all taken by amateurs, some of them new to 'astro-photography' - and all of a very high standard. I think my favourites are those of the Milky Way, taken in spectacular and very isolated places with no artificial light pollution, eg. Yosemite USA. Also the cover photo, which is repeated inside the book, is an amazing shot of the Milky Way over the 'Durdle Door' natural archway near Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Plus there are absolute stunners of the Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis, photographed among rugged scenery in places such as Iceland and Norway. Warmer climes feature too - eg. a shot of Venus in transit across the setting Sun, over the Black Sea, and others of meteors in Indonesia and Australia. There are other great shots of comets and meteors - and in other categories there are close-ups of the Moon, the Sun and other planets - plus amazing nebulae and other 'deep space' photos taken using specialised telescopes etc. There are interesting notes alongside each photo, about the locations and circumstances, the equipment and techniques used, and scientific explanations of the subjects of the photographs. Kerry Bevan Astrophotography for the Amateur Michael A. Covington I bought this book only two weeks ago, and since then I can say that I have a great new hobby! I shot one film (fixed tripod method, according the instructions in the book) and the results are amazing. With this book everyone who is seriously interested can become an astrophotographer! I am looking forward to the results of my next step: I built a so-called barndoor tracker, which is a simple device to enable longer exposures, by compensating for the earth's rotation. Sam Burgess

DSLR Astro Photography made easy by Keith Beadman This is a well written and very readable book. It appears to be self published- another reviewer commented on the "college text book" appearance which I agree with, though it is well set out and a lot of thought and work has obviously gone into it. The author uses a canon 450D which happens to be the camera I own. The advice regarding freeware and post processing is really good. The author has a website with some images and step by step projects to work through- I have not looked at these yet but this would make up for the black and white production of the book. The image on the front cover is not very inspiring which was one of my main concerns prior to purchase!! What I like about this book is that the author is relatively new to the hobby and has clearly researched what works for him. He explains things in a way that shows practical understanding and imparts this well. This is proper back garden astrophotography. The scope of the book is limited, and is well suited to any of the current Canon EOS range though if you know your camera well the principles would be easy to cross over to other makes. The book concentrates on deep sky objects and I would have liked some information about photographing planets. There is a list of deep sky objects in the back of the book but it would have been nice to list them as easy, intermediate and challenging from a photography perspective rather than simply have astronomical listings which could be found in any book on the night sky. Brian Evans If you have read a good book on any part of astrophotography and would like to write a review on that biik, please get in touch via the website www.amateurastrophotography.net Looking forward to hearing from you. Something to do on the cloudy nights.

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Witch Head Nebula by Henry Weiland

Subs: 10*600sec Lens: Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L Camera: Celestron NightScape CCD Mount: CGEM-DX

To view more of Henry Weilands’ work please visit www.flickr.com/photos/hweiland/


Stargazing Live 2014. What an event! Saturday, January 11th, we held our 2nd Stargazing Live event, our first one gave us around 120 people attending, which for a first attempt is good, we hoped we could double that this year. We hoped! We set up during the day, I love crepes set up, Central Midlands Astronomers joined us, So did some from Liverpool Astro and also Cov & Warks Astro Society. Gates opened at 6:30pm, I love crepe were preparing to feed the public and keep them happy with Tea and Coffee too., Well, we got a bit more through the gates than we expected.

On the 2nd Live Link up, Some of our admin and Andy Green were recognised for their outreach work, and were presented with some certificates, Which had this on them ”The NASA night sky networks awards this certificate of appreciation too…for sharing the wonders of the night sky and the inspiration of NASA missions with students, families and your community” An honour i know, I personally love. Images taken by Mathew Foyle and Richard Mathews Article written by Gary Colville Taken from Astronomy for Fun website astroforfun.word press.com/


How To Collimate A Telescope 1. A Cheshire Collimator

2. A Collimating Cap

By collimating your reflector you are fine tuning your viewing experience. The process of collimation involves lining up all the mirrors of your telescope so that the reflected light is directed directly up the focus tube to your eye. When I first bought my own telescope a Skywatcher 150p, I had read a lot about the need for these to collimated and that this procedure is difficult and time consuming. I then came across these items on ebay, a laser collimator (ÂŁ 20), and I thought to myself brilliant this will put all my worries to rest, I mean whats more accurate than a laser.

Step 1. Focus Tube & Secondary Mirror Alignment

The first step is to get the secondary mirror lined up properly. You do this by placing the collimating cap into the focuser and looking through the small hole. We are trying to get the secondary mirror to appear as a circle in the centre of the view through the collimating cap. A secondary mirror that is well aligned will look like this. (Excuse the flash from the camera in the reflection).

My Mistake

I had used this collimator since day one, until I posted a question on a foum as to why my laser pointer would move as I rotated the collimator in the focus tube. At this point the members of the forum there informed me that my laser collimator was probably not collimated. The realisation dawned on me that my telescope was never collimated and that I was probably making things worse by chasing this laser dot around the mirror. So take note that cheap collimators from ebay are probably not the best tool to use for collimating. There are more expensive laser collimators that will work perfectly but for now I decided to do it the manual way. Don’t be scared doing this, but also if it is your first time don’t start this before a viewing session. Give yourself a couple of hours, or in my case a weekend. Once you do it once it will all make sense.

What Do You Need?

To do a complete manual collimation you will need the following:-

The first time I looked through the focuser at directly at the secondary mirror I was lost with all the reflections going on. A suggestion is to put a card behind the mirror and in front of the primary mirror to rule out these reflections, this helps a lot. I still had to from time to time wave my hand behind the secondary mirror to get my orientation right, be careful not to touch the glass with your fingers, It is a pain to wipe clean.


Here is the image above labeled.

tightening the screws, but it will allow you to get close enough so you can fine tune it. Be sure not to over tighten any of the screws, finger tight is good enough. Once you are happy you have the secondary in the middle of the focuser tube it is time to move onto the next step. Remember we are using the collimation cap for these steps, the cheshire will be used in step 3.

A secondary mirror that is out of alignment will look oval or will not be centered in the focuser tube view. To fix that we need to adjust the tilt and the height of the mirror. This is done with the screws and on top of the secondary mirror holder.

Step 2. Secondary and Primary Mirror Alignment

Something to to note here is that while doing step 2 you may upset some of your settings in step 1. Don’t worry about this you just need to go alternate between step 1 and step 2 until you get both right. OK the goal of step 2 is to line the secondary and primary mirror up. You do this by looking through the collimation cap, your are trying to get the 3 clips of the primary mirror into view on the secondary. So your view through the collimation cap should look something like this. Notice you can see the 3 clips that hold the primary mirror around the edge.

An important note here is that when you are working on the secondary mirror ensure that your telescope is in the horizontal position, You don’t want tools or screws or worse the secondary mirror itself falling onto your primary. When adjusting the secondary mirror, you use the middle screw to help centre the mirror in the focuser circle, Tightening and loosening the screw allows you to move the mirror up or down. Once the mirror is centered in your view, you use the allen keys to adjust the tilt to get that circle shape. One thing I found that helped was to loosen the allen screws and the centre screw so that the mirror is very loose (always keep a good hold of it so that it does not fall). Then while looking down the tube move the mirror to a position that looks right. Then very carefully tighten the centre screw and allen keys, You will never be able to hold the mirror in the exact right place while

Your goal is to get a similar view through the collimation cap. You can adjust the view (the tilt of the secondary) by using the 3 allen screws mentioned above. IGNORE EVERYTHING ELSE, DONT WORRY ABOUT THE DOTS IN THE CENTER OF THE VIEW. JUST GET THESE 3 CLIPS INTO VIEW. As I mentioned before doing this may knock out what you have done in step 1. So when you can see the clips, go back to step 1 and ensure that the secondary mirror still appears as a circle and is centered in the focuser tube. Patience is the key skill here, This part almost drove me insane, I went back to 7 or 8 times over two days but out of no-where it came together and the good news is that once done you shouldn’t really have to do it again, unless the telescope gets a big bang (pun intended) or you remove the mirror for cleaning. One tip I will give you though is that small movements is all that is necessary on the allen screws.


In the next issue of Amateur Astrophotography, there will be several pages dedicated to ‘Wide Field Astrophotography’. This could be an image of the night sky that has been photographed with a pooint and shoot, your mobile phone or a DSLR. I hope this guide help when you are manually collimating. The first time it did i thought it was the worst thing in the world, but once I understood how the mirrors tilted and moved it became a lot easier. I am now relatively happy with my collimation, but would like to get a proper laser collimator someday to confirm my settings.

The only rule is that there must be no telescope of any description involved. Tracking mounts, piggy backing or on a tripod is all fine, but certainly NO TELESCOPES. I am working hard on companies to offer astro equipment in return for advertising so I can set up competitions and so on, but as of yet I have had no absolute positive responses to this offer.

Many thanks to Ronan of www.viewfromascope.com/

So, consider this practice I suppose, for when I can offer a prize for the winner.

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You can forward your Wide Field Astro images to either amateurastrophotography@yahoo.co.uk or to our Facebook Group www.facebook.com/groups/ AmateurAstrophotography/ or our Flickr page http://www.flickr.com/groups/2425230@N20/

Next Issue Wide Field Astro Photography

Night Sky North Rim Grand Canyon. Image by Wayne Pinkston


Getting Started in Astrophotography using a Webcam Astrophotography is a

very difficult subject in the past, but it has becoming easy. In this article, we introduce one of the easiest and cheapest ways to take images of the night sky. Webcam Imaging Webcams are cheap, and widely available. No film is required for taking pictures. Results can be seen instantly, and they are in digital format, which can be processed very easily. And the most important, it is very easy and it can produce very high quality images! Therefore, it is a very good starting point for any people who wants to get their hands wet with some forms of astrophotography. Equipment Here is a list of equipment required: - Any telescope which can exchange eyepiece -A good quality webcam, usually with CCD instead of CMOS, with hardware resolution of 640x480 or better -A tracking mount, either altazimuth or equatorial, but it is not a must -Suitable barlow lens to get larger images, but again, it is not a must -A desktop PC or better yet, a notebook PC which you can carry round more easily Almost any telescope will do, I have captured the Great Red Spot on the Jupiter and the Cassini division on the ring of Saturn with a 70mm telescope on a fixed camera tripod without tracking. So, you probably get better equipments than that already. A very good webcam for this purpose will cost under $100 USD shipped to most place on the Earth, some good models are the Philips ToUCam, the QuickCam Pro.

A barlow is important to yield larger image scale for planets imaging, you will want your telescope to operate from f/20 to f/30 or even more for webcam imaging. A cheap model will be fine as the CCD chip is very small inside a webcam, and the on-axis performance of cheaper barlow lens will not be too bad usually. A desktop PC is enough. I took images inside my home which is located at the urban center of Hong Kong. Light pollution is not important for imaging the moon and the planets. A notebook PC would be nicer in terms of portability, if the view from your home is obstructed by other buildings. Limitations The exposure time of a typical webcam is limited to 1/25s, that means it can only be used for taking brighter objects, namely the moon and the planets, and the sun with proper filter. For imaging with longer exposure time, the world wide web contains a lot of information on how to modify the electronic circuit of a webcam. With those modifications, you can take images of those dimmer objects. However, CCD has a drawback that noise will accumulate during longer exposure. The amount of noise is related to the temperature of the CCD chip, the higher the temperature, the more noise you will get. Thus, you will also want to cool the webcam to reduce the noise for longer exposure and it further complicates the matter. Also, the small size of the CCD chip inside webcam makes them less desirable for taking images of extended objects. Therefore, beginners are not advised to attempt longer exposure using webcams.


The picture shows the webcam with its lens removed. Notice that if you buy an adapter for your particular webcam, it will have thread which matches with the lens thread of your webcam nicely. On the other end of the adapter, standard filter thread is available as well. You can also see the CCD chip inside the webcam. Try not to let dust fall onto it. If you see dust on it, just blow it away with a Hurricane bulb. An optical window is usually available to protect the CCD.

The above picture shows the webcam with its adapter on, you can simply plug it into your telescope like what you do with an eyepiece. A barlows can be added to yield larger image scale. Capturing the Images Ok, things were basically ready, and we can start taking pictures. Normally, I will go like this: 1) Boot up the PC, with the webcam plugged in (it takes time!!) 2) Setup telescope (a very fast step for me) 3) Collimate your scope!!! 4) Aim your target with an eyepiece, center it, use the barlow if needed 5) Launch your webcam video recording software, fix the settings 6) Remove the eyepiece, plug in the webcam 7) Focus using your webcam, by looking at the display of your PC 8) Center your target again with the webcam 9) Sit back and refine the focus during moments of better seeing 10) Capture when seeing is good Some points to notice: 1) Do not under expose or over expose your images, trivial? em...

2) Use a gain value as low as you didn't under expose your image, it will give less noise 3) Slower frame rate will give less noise, 10 fps is good enough, it will also avoid dropped frame for slower PC 4) The planets rotate so that features will shift during the time you capture your video. To avoid problem for stacking, a video clip should not be too long, for around 4000mm, 100s is around the maximum duration. Such a limit would also be nice for altazimuth tracking which will result in field rotation, yet another source of problem for stacking. 5) Don't capture too much video, it burns up your storage space and it burns up your time later when you have to process them, haha...

The picture above shows my bigger setup, which is a 8" SCT on an alt-az tracking mount. This picture is taken during a real imaging session inside my home, which is an apartment inside a heavily light polluted city. You can see that my window is pretty small, and it is barely enough to use a 8" SCT. When the webcam is pluged into your telescope, you can start taking images using it in the same way you use it normally for video conferencing or video recording. Please see the picture below to see what I usually see in the display of my desktop PC. It is just the software that comes with my webcam.


Since the CCD chip on the webcam is very very small, it therefore, effectively a very high power eyepiece with a very very small field. So, you will want to center your target first before plugging your webcam in, or else you will have a hard time to point your telescope with a webcam. Dual axis motor drives will be useful since the CCD chip is so small that you will have to guide it during image capturing. So, my dual axis controller is usually placed at my side like below:

Even the exposure for planets are short, there are considerable amount of noise as you can see. Some raws are better than the others even in the same video clip. Some raws are better at one part and some raws are better at the other part of your target, so we can process them, to get the most out of them. You can see some raw images below:

Processing the Images Stacking is a way to reduce the noise. Noise are random unwanted signals in our raw images. By combining the raw images, the signal to noise ratio increases, and we can therefore, obtain a cleaner image for further processing. You can also see two eyepieces in the background, the 2" 40mm eyepiece is used for searching the target and the small orthoscopic is used for centering the target. If you are using a tracking mount, you can proceed to take images immediately. However, if you're using a non-tracking mount, be sure to put your target object in a position with the consideration about that it will move by quite a bit during the time you plug your webcam into your telescope. It is not terribly difficult with some practice. You can take images during the time when your target drifts across the CCD chip. It is a good habbit to use the detail about your shot as the file name for record. For example, I will use the name sat-c8-3x-20030223-2200.jpg as the file name for the video clip captured at 22:00 in 2003-Feb-23 with a C8 using a 3x barlow lens and the target was Saturn. Invent your own naming convention. Processing the Images Image processing will not turn dead images alive, but it is one of the best way to bring out subtle detail on your raw images. Usually, we will stack the frames from a video, and then we will process the stacked image further to get the most out of it. Raw images Raw image appear on the computer screen will not be very attractive, as you can see the Jupiter in the previous section on my display.

There are a number of free software for stacking, for examples, the AstroStack, the Skeye, and the Registax. Each of them are different, and you can try to see which one suits you most. They have tutorial on their website and I am not going to repeat it here. You can see a stacked image below, notice that it's far more cleaner in terms of noise than any raw frames:

Processing the Images Some of the above stacking software includes the functionalities for unsharp masking. It is also available in Photoshop and many image processing software, and they are usually more powerful and flexible. Registax supports wavelet processing which worths some exploration as well. Avoid excessive unsharp masking, for it will bring out noise. What is "excessive" is a matter of personal taste. Apply some Gaussian Blur can somehow fix excessive unsharp masking. "Despeckle" and "Remove Moire" can be used to remove some noise as well.


Color balance is required in some cases. Due to different atmospheric condition, your image maybe color shifted. For example, air pollution in Hong Kong from nearby cities will usually make images become yellowish, you can do some color balance to make the final image looks better. Also, don't rely on the auto white balance or color balance of your webcam, for it won't work well under the condition for planets imaging.

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You can see a final processed stacked image:

Some final words This is a starter guide only and we strongly recommend you to go further, and the most important, to practise more. If you think you love to go with other forms of astrophotography, here is a few keywords you can start looking at: prime focus, eyepiece projection, single lens reflex, guide scope, off axis guider, cooled CCD, etc. Examples Pictures

Please see below some examples captured by a 8" SCT:

www.wyas.org.uk

Many thanks to So King Yan Oldfield for this very interesting and informative article.

Get in touch if you would like to have ASTRO GROUP / CLUB OR ASSOCIATION advertised for FREE in the next issue of Amateur Astrophotography Ezine.


Amateur Astrophotography Ezine Issue 02  

Amateur Astrophotography Magazine contains articles and images by other amateur astrophotographers in astrophotography. A typical issue will...

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