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Astrophotography

M20 added to Summer Mosaic Project

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My Summer Astrophotography Mosaic Project

M8 Lagoon Nebula and M20 Trifid Nebula in Sagittarius Mosaic by Trevor Jones
Above: M20 and M8: Imaged Friday, June 14, 2013 & July 13, 2013
M8: 11 subs 5 Minutes Each totaling 55 Minutes
M20: 24 subs 6 Minutes Each totaling 2 Hours, 24 Minutes

 

My summer mosaic project is coming along with the addition of the Trifid Nebula in Sagittarius. As usual, I have done a crummy job framing up my subject!

The next chance I get, I will be shooting the Cat’s Paw Nebula area to fill in the gaps, and create a much wider field image. I had quite the difficult time aligning these images up, as I did it manually in Photoshop.  The hardest part was the fact that both objects were processed separately, under very different shooting conditions.

I now know the importance of framing the objects in my field, especially when planning a mosaic!


The Trifid Nebula in Sagittarius

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Problems with my Celestron CG-5 Mount Power Port

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Problems with Celestron CG-5 Mount

Up until this point, my Celestron CG-5 mount has been very good to me. Despite what I have heard, it has been a quality mount, capable of 5+ minute exposures, no problem (with autoguiding).  Recently though, the power has been cutting in and out.  Last Friday night, under clear, dark, moonless skies at the CCCA, I was forced to head home. Devastating! 

The frustrating part, is not knowing whether the issue is the power switch, the jack, or the entire power board itself.  The only thing I know for sure is that it is not the ac adapter, as I have tested it to work fine.

I have read many stories of similar issues online, and even got some great advice from some of the telescope retailers here in Ontario. Luckily, I was able to leave the mount with The Scope Store at Camtech Photo in Hamilton to repair the mount today.  I will keep you posted with the diagnosed issue and solution to help fellow CG-5 owners who may experience the same issue.

On a more positive note, I have recently ordered a Hutech IDAS lps clip-in filter for EOS Camera bodies.  The “lps” stands for “light pollution suppression”.  I have been wanting to get one of these for a long time, and finally coughed up the $250 and ordered one. My fellow astrophotography buddy has one and he swears by it.  I think it will make a huge difference in my photos, especially when imaging from the backyard.

Another handy addition to my astrophotography rig is a battery grip for my Canon Xsi. This will hopefully allow me to run the camera all night without switching batteries!

I hope to be completely back up and running by the end of the month, ready for all of the cool Spring/Summer DSO’s!

*UPDATE* – April 15th, 2013

My mount has been taken apart and fixed by Camtech Photo. I am very pleased with the service I have been given there.  I tested everything out on Sunday night by imaging M51 in my backyard.  SUCCESS! 

It appears to have been a loose connection to the the power input, and Camtech was able to fix the issue.

Everything is working great and even PHD has started working again.  I updated to the latest version, which seems to have corrected my problem.

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Photograph the Moon with a Point and Shoot Camera

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The moon

The full moon

Photograph the Moon with a point and shoot camera

You can take some incredible pictures of the moon through a telescope using an inexpensive point and shoot camera. Some of my very first astrophotography images were of the moon in its many phases using the eyepiece projection method.

The photo above was captured way back in 2010 through my first telescope, an Orion SkyQuest Dobsonian. Since then, I have photographed the moon countless times through a telescope. You can see my best moon photos in the gallery I dedicated to Earth’s natural sattelite:

Moon Photography Gallery

In this post, I’ll share a few tips I learned the hard way through trial and error. Despite the limited gear and experience, I had at this stage, photographing the moon through my telescope created some of the most memorable moments I’ve ever had with this hobby.

The full moon is not the best phase to photograph if you wish to capture the detailed lunar surface. A first quarter, or waxing crescent moon will showcase interesting surface details along the lunar terminator.

Eyepiece projection astrophotography

Taking your point and shoot camera (an example is a Canon Powershot SX720) and pointing it into a telescope eyepiece is known as the eyepiece projection astrophotography method.

You simply line the camera lens up with the opening of the eyepiece and try to capture the view seen through the telescope at that magnification. In the early days, I shot many astrophotography images using this method through my Orion SkyQuest Dobsonian telescope.

This method of taking pictures through a telescope produces mixed results. In my experience, it’s most effective when taking pictures of the moon.

Here is a video I shot long ago, where you’ll see me using the eyepiece projection method with my point and shoot camera:


 

Eyepiece Projection: How To

It can be difficult to properly align your camera lens to the eyepiece, but the idea is the get the lens up flat against it. Even a slight angle between your camera lens and the eyepiece is enough to make the image disappear.

To make matters even more difficult, the target will slowly move out of view unless you are using a tracking mount. This was the case with my Dobsonian telescope, but using a wider (lower magnification) eyepiece can reduce this issue.  (I typically used a 25mm eyepiece when photographing the moon)

It’s easiest to practice on a bright target such as the moon, before trying to photograph one of the planets or a deep sky object. Many people will say that you “can’t photograph deep sky objects without a tracking mount” using the eyepiece projection method, but you can.

The images will just be quite underwhelming!

I’d stick with shooting solar system objects only, as they are bright enough to capture in a short “auto” exposure from your camera.

Here are some of the night sky targets I shot using the eyepiece projection method:

  • The Moon
  • Mars
  • Saturn
  • Venus
  • Mercury
  • Uranus
  • Neptune
  • The Pleiades Star Cluster
  • The Andromeda Galaxy
  • The Orion Nebula

None of the deep sky objects I captured turned out very good, so set your expectations accordingly. To photograph deep sky objects you’ll need a tracking camera mount to compensate for the movement of thew sky.

Remember, a wide field eyepiece will result in a slower moving target. This a great for a large object like the moon, but Barlow lenses and eyepieces with higher magnification are better for photographing planets.

A high magnification eyepiece such as a 10mm Plossl will provide you with an up-close look at Saturn, but it will be moving rather quickly on a stationary telescope mount. Add a 2X Barlow lens to the mix, and it will zip by even faster.

Camera Settings

One of the main reasons point and shoot cameras are so popular among amateur photographers, is their ease of use. This idea is encapsulated in the ever-popular “auto” mode of the camera, which means that it will select the correct ISO, aperture and exposure length for the current scene.

Related Post: Cameras for astrophotography

The problem with auto mode for astrophotography is that it was not designed for taking images at night without a flash. Using the auto camera mode pointing up towards a dark sky or through the telescope will result in the “night-vision-ruining” camera flash going off. Not good.

Instead, use manual mode, where you can select each camera setting yourself.

The moon is easiest, as it is so bright you can get away with a quick 1/1000 of a second exposure. Even auto may work, as long I have turned the flash off. Below, I list some generic settings for photographing the moon through your telescope eyepiece.

Point and Shoot Camera Settings for the Moon:

Mode: Manual

Aperture: F/5.6

ISO: 200

Exposure: 1/1000

White Balance: Auto

You’ll need to experiment heavily with settings on the eyepiece here. For dimmer targets, I found it best to use an exposure length of about 1/250, with an ISO of 800. Increasing the ISO too much will let you shoot faster shots, but will always increase noise.

Noise can be largely removed in post-processing, but it’s always best to avoid it when possible.

This was enough to pull in a little extra light on my target, but not so long that I couldn’t keep the camera still during the shot. This is how I captured photos of the Orion Nebula that actually showed color.

Point and Shoot Camera Settings for Planets and DSO’s

Mode: Manual

Aperture: F/5.6

ISO: 800

Exposure: 1/250

White Balance: Auto

Orion makes an interesting product for eyepiece projection imaging called the SteadyPix Deluxe Camera Mount:

Orion SteadyPix camera mount

Learn the basics of astrophotography: A Beginner’s Astrophotography Guide

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