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Why I’m Switching to a Mono Astrophotography Camera

|Camera|18 Comments

A mono astrophotography camera gives backyard imagers in the city the opportunity to collect dynamic narrowband images from home.  Although LRGB image acquisition using a filter wheel requires some extra setup time early on, the flexibility of this configuration is appealing.

Up to this point, I have not experienced the joys of shooting through a filter wheel. But I have experienced the extraordinary power of a monochrome sensor through narrowband filters. My latest experiences in the backyard have me wondering if I should have switched to a mono astrophotography camera a long time ago…

I’ve Seen the Light, and its in Monochrome

Those of you who shoot with a one-shot-color astrophotography camera (such as DSLR) as I did for many years may be hesitant to switch to a camera that spits out black and white images. The satisfaction of a colorful nebula appearing on the back of your camera display screen after a 120-second exposure is why we got into this hobby in the first place.

Make no mistake, a color DSLR camera remains the best options for beginners looking to get started in deep sky. I’ve spent the past 7 years doing so, and nothing will ever match the enjoyment of capturing objects in space from a dark sky site with a camera and telescope.

photography through a telescope

Yet experienced backyard astrophotographers insist that monochrome is the only way to go if you want to get serious about your deep sky imaging. I took a lot of flak last year when I decided to upgrade from a DSLR to a One-shot-color Altair Hypercam 183C, particularly when shooting through narrowband filters.

The results of my color camera + narrowband experiments were promising, but I knew those 12nm filters were better suited for a mono sensor.

In this post, I’ll tell you why I’ll be shooting with a mono astrophotography camera from this point forward. But first, have a look at the Altair Hypercam 183M in action on the Cone Nebula.

Why do serious amateurs recommend a mono camera over color?

A monochrome astrophotography camera can collect more signal (light) than a color camera can. (3 times as much, to be exact). The Bayer filter array found in a color camera reduces the amount of overall light recorded on your astrophotography subject.

By design, a camera sensor with a color filter array requires you to take longer exposures to record the same level of signal as a mono camera would. By automatically collecting light through your telescope into separate RGB channels as the light is collected, you are sacrificing the full potential of the light you work so hard to collect.

Bayer filter

The Bayer filter found on color CMOS camera sensors. Wikipedia

In this article from PhotographingSpace.com, Dillon O’Donnell weighs the pros and cons of using a mono camera for astrophotography over color. In the end, it comes down to a trade-off between convenience and quality.

A color camera will get you to the finish line faster but will hold you back in terms of image quality at a certain point. You may photograph objects through your telescope for years before you reach a point where you feel like your progress has plateaued.

The bottom line is, a color camera is a jack of all trades, master of none.

mono vs. color camera

Left: The Cone Nebula using a monochrome camera and narrowband filters. Right: The Trifid Nebula using a modified Canon DSLR with an LPS filter.

Making the switch the switch to mono

Let’s get one thing straight, my color astrophotography cameras (DSLR’s) will not collect dust on the shelf as I begin to focus on capturing images in monochrome. Creating beautiful full-color images of space will always be my primary goal.

For most projects, I simply don’t have the time (clear skies) to collect all of my data using a monochrome camera with the necessary filters. In a nutshell, I’ll capture color images around the new moon, and narrowband mono images the rest of the time.

I’ll never stop shooting in color with a DSLR, but new monochrome data will give my existing color images a real boost.

Color astrophotography camera

Won’t it take three times longer to produce an image?

The added time involved with a mono astrophotography camera has been labeled a “myth” by some of the CCD manufacturers.  Until I invest in a filter wheel and run through the entire process for myself, I can only speculate that this simply can’t be true.

It’s possible that the overall image acquisition process time could be shortened due to the fact that more light is collected in each sub. Manually swapping out filters for each channel would tip the scales the other direction, but an automated setup including a filter wheel would speed this up.

camera though telescope

I thought a cooled CCD was the only way to go?

Everybody knows that a cooled CCD camera is the best choice for serious deep sky astrophotography, what’s all this about CMOS sensors (that DSLRs use)?

Advances in CMOS technology have the latest astrophotography cameras that use CMOS sensors performing nearly as well as the coveted CCD. If you’ve been calling a non-DSLR dedicated astronomy camera a CCD, you’re not alone. Many software applications such as Astro Photography Tool label these CMOS astronomy cameras as a “CCD” to distinguish them from a DSLR camera.

CCD cameras vary in price by a wide margin, from the tiny Orion StarShoot G3 Deep Space Camera to “the ultimate in astronomical imaging”, the SBIG STX-16803.

For a wealth of information about CCD cameras, have a look at this video from Atik Cameras.  Stephen Chambers, of course, references cameras from the Atik line, but much of the information he shares applies to all astronomy cameras.

A monochrome CMOS image sensor

After several years of photographing deep sky targets in color through a Bayer filter,  I am now realizing the difference a camera with an improved quantum efficiency makes.

As you may have guessed, my heart once belonged to one-shot-color DSLR astrophotography. But, I am quickly realizing how a monochrome astronomy camera can give backyard imagers a tremendous advantage. It’s hard to imagine shooting with a color camera with a narrowband filter now that I have seen how much more detail can be acquired in mono.

Benefits of a monochrome camera:

  • minimize effects of light pollution (nb)
  • excels at capturing emission nebulae
  • photograph fainter objects
  • image during the full moon (nb)
  • ability to capture a wider range of objects

Have a look at this infographic shared by Atik Cameras.

Altair Hypercam 183M

The Altair Hypercam 183M

astrophotography cameraToday, I have in my hands a new Altair Hypercam 183M astronomy camera. This camera uses a monochrome Sony IMX183 sensor that can also be found inside cameras from ZWO and QHY.

The Altair Hypercam 183M camera lacks thermo-electric cooling, which is a big reason it is more affordable than its cooled mono competitors.

Even without a TEC system, the Hypercom sensor remains remarkably cool during a long exposure imaging session thanks to the open body design and fan cooling.

I put the Hypercam internal fan design to the test last summer on the 183C, and I was impressed at the difference it made. On the hottest summer nights, the DSLR remained on the shelf while the Hypercam pressed on.

Altair Hypercam 183M Specs:

  • 20MP Sony IMX183 BSI CMOS Sensor
  • Fan Cooling with temp. sensor
  • 1″ CMOS Sensor (5440 x 3648 active pixels)
  • Built-in amp glow reduction
  • high dynamic range (12 bit ADC to 16-bit output)

The Hypercam 183M is available at Ontario Telescope and Accessories.

The Altair Hypercam 183 requires the appropriate drivers to operate.  You can download them from cameras.altairastro.com.

Telescope in the backyard

Plans for deep sky imaging in monochrome

I once believed that moving to a darker location was the only way I would be able to photograph faint and challenging targets. When you couple narrowband filters with a highly sensitive mono CMOS sensor, you’ve got what it takes to break through even the worst city light pollution.

For now, I’ll focus on capturing luminance data or isolated narrowband gas details with the 183M. I can apply this new data to existing deep sky color photos for some added punch. Moving forward, adding a filter wheel to the mix will allow me to create completely new versions of my favorite objects.

Adding mono details to a color image

I’ve added new mono details using the 183M to my image of the Whirlpool Galaxy from 2014 in RGB

I’ll be sure to create a new Photoshop tutorial in the future that includes the process of adding a luminance layer to existing color images. The added “light” can make a dramatic impact on your images and provide some much-needed contrast and clarity to your photos. It is especially effective on nebulae with plenty of hydrogen gas.

Early deep sky image results

The Cone Nebula is a tough shot to get from a red/white zone. My previous attempt using a color camera and a telescope (and hindsight) that wasn’t a good fit for an object this size, did not go so well. The chip size of the 183M is a good match to the focal length of my ED102 refractor telescope. (714mm @ F/6)

This time, however, my Explore Scientific ED102 was called into action, with the Altair Hypercam 183M attached. Also, I decided to sacrifice instant color gratification for more details. The image was shot the day after the full moon, and it was shining uncomfortably close to my target during this session.

The Cone Nebula in Mono

The Cone Nebula and Fox Fur Nebula using the Altair Hypercam 183M

Image details:

24 x 5 minutes (2 Hours Total)
Gain: 40%
Black Level: 100

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED102
Camera: Altair Hypercam 183M V2
Filter: STC Optical Duo-Narrowband Filter
Guide Scope: William Optics Z72 Doublet
Guide Camera: Altair GPCAM2 AR0130 Mono
Mount: iOptron CEM60

Stacked in DeepSkyStacker

Image Processing in Adobe Photoshop.

For the image above, I used an STC Optical duo-narrowband filter that isolates both Ha and OIII and blocks out almost all other wavelengths of light. It’s designed to ignore city light pollution, while enhancing the wavelengths of Ha and OIII. Although this 48mm filter worked brilliantly with the Mono camera on the Cone Nebula, I need to test this filter with my DSLR.

STC Optical duo-narrowband filter

The Transmission Rate spectrum graph of the STC Optical Astro Duo-Narrowband filter

Plans for the Future

The Cone Nebula was my last imaging session with the winter targets, as objects on there way out to the West are not available in my backyard window.

Galaxy season is approaching, and with it, come numerous new targets for deep sky astrophotography. This time around, I’ll shoot with a longer focal length to pull the often tiny subjects into view. The telescope I’ll be using is an iOptron Photron RC6. This will be a brief departure from my refractors as we head into spring. The timing couldn’t be better.

Until next time, clear skies.

Resources:

How to Choose a CCD Camera

This is a great resource from Diffraction Limited that provides a better understanding the importance of focal length, light sensitivity and resolution in an astronomy camera. This is the company responsible for the iconic SBIG line up of CCD Cameras.

ZWO ASI Website

ZWO offers a wide range of high sensitivity CMOS astronomy cameras.  To date, I have enjoyed the ASI071MC-Cool (Color) and the ASI294MC-Pro (Color). The ASI 1600MM-C is currently one of the most impressive monochrome astrophotography cameras being used by backyard astrophotographers around the world.

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HaRGB Astrophotography

|HaRGB|6 Comments

Right now is the absolute best time of the year for backyard astrophotography.  The days are warm and the nights are clear, summer star gazing is here!  The core of our Milky Way galaxy has returned to our night sky here in the Northern Hemisphere, and with it comes many celestial delights such as the colorful nebulae located in and around the constellation Sagittarius.  For me, Summer astrophotography means pointing my telescope right where the action is – in the core of the Milky Way, soaking in as much exposure time as possible.  These days do not last long!  We have but a brief window to capture glorious deep-sky objects such as the Lagoon Nebula, Trifid Nebula, Swan Nebula, and Eagle Nebula.  All four of these glorious Messier Objects are worthy of several sleepless nights in the backyard.

Camping and Star Gazing

The warmer weather also means astronomy camping, to seek out darker skies and spend all night under the stars.  Spending time with family and friends around the campfire with my telescope collecting photons in the background is my idea of a good time!  My camping gear would not be complete without all of my astrophotography equipment coming along with me.  This includes everything from my tracking mount to my laptop!  I always book my camping trips on or around the new moon phase, and with a campsite that has a clear view to the South.  Luckily for me, there are many fantastic campgrounds located on the North shore of Lake Erie, which creates a vast dark area directly south of our location.  I recently spent a night at Selkirk Provincial Park for some astronomy camping on a warm, clear night in early June.

 

Camping and Star Gazing

The Big Dipper from our Campsite

 

Photography with the New APO

I am excited to announce that I am the proud new owner of an Explore Scientific ED102 CF astrophotography telescope.  This is a portable, light weight triplet apochromatic refractor – built for deep-sky imaging.  The increase in aperture is a welcome change from my now departed ED80 telescope I enjoyed for the past 5 years.  I have now had this refractor out a few times, and could not be more pleased with it.  I am thrilled with the fact that I can produce images with deeper, and more detailed results due to the increased size.  Going from 80mm to 102mm may not seem like a large increase, but when it comes to astrophotography, 22mm makes a BIG difference!

 

Explore Scientific ED102 CF

My new Explore Scientific ED102 CF Telescope

 

My first imaging session with the new Explore Scientific 102mm CF was on June 8th.  My deep-sky target of choice was the beautiful Eagle Nebula, an emission nebula in  the constellation Serpens.  I managed to capture just over 2 hours on this object from the backyard.  It was a weeknight, and I got about 2 hours of sleep before work the next morning.  WORTH IT!  I made a video about the dedication to this hobby, a small pep-talk if you will.  Despite the videos mixed reviews, I am still proud of this wacky, short little astrophotography video.

Speaking of YouTube, my channel has over 500 subscribers!  I cannot believe the response generated from my astrophotography videos.  It turns out that I am not the only one obsessed with photographing stars in the night sky.  If you haven’t subscribed yet, please do!  I can promise you many more useful astrophotography tutorials, vlogs, and equipment reviews in the future!

Astronomik 12nm Ha Filter

To add to the excitement, I have also added a new Astronomik 12nm Ha filter to my growing list of astrophotography equipment.  This is my first time diving into narrowband imaging, something I’ve been interested in for years.  This clip-in filter blocks out almost all wavelengths of light and only allows the light produced from emission nebulae and starlight to pass through.  What makes this feature so powerful t astrophotographers is the fact that it allows to image under heavy moonlight and light-pollution.  For a backyard astrophotographer such as myself, it is an absolute game-changer.  This means I can image twice as often, and produce more vivid and detailed deep-sky photos by adding Ha (Hydrogen Alpha) data to my existing RGB images.

 

 

Astronomik Ha Filter

Filter Purchased (For use with my Canon DSLR)
Clip-Filter (EOS) with ASTRONOMIK H-Alpha-CCD 12nm

Bought online from OPT Telescopes and shipped to Canada

 

HaRGB Astrophotography

Combining the RGB data with Ha for a stronger image

HaRGB Astrophotography

M16 – The Eagle Nebula in HaRGB

Anyways – about the Eagle Nebula.  I noticed the increased detail in M16 using the new telescope right away.  The super-sharp, high contrast images I have come to expect using a triplet apo were also evident right away.  I captured my RGB data of the Eagle Nebula on June 8th (About 2 hours), and returned to the subject on June 14th to photograph it using the Astronomik Ha Filter.  Because I use the filter ring adapter for my IDAS LPS filter on my Canon Xsi, the Astronomik 12nm Ha clip-in filter would not fit into the camera without the stock interior.  To make life easier – I captured the Ha data by clipping the Astronomik filter into my Canon 7D body.  This is the first time I have used the Canon 7D for deep-sky astrophotography.  I must say that I was impressed with the increased image resolution.  This makes me want to upgrade my aging 450D.  It never ends!  Here is my image of the Eagle Nebula combining the RGB data with the Ha:

 

Eagle Nebula in Ha + RGB

M16 – The Eagle Nebula in HaRGB

Photo Details

RGB:

Total Exposure: 2 Hours, 9 Minutes (43 frames) 
Exposure Length:  3 Minutes
ISO: 1600
Telescope: Explore Scientific ED102 CF
Camera: Canon Rebel Xsi (modified)
Filter:  IDAS Lps 

 

Ha:

Total Exposure: 1 Hours, 40 Minutes (20 frames) 
Exposure Length:  5 Minutes
ISO: 1600
Telescope: Explore Scientific ED102 CF
Camera: Canon EOS 7D
Filter: Astronomik 12nm Ha

 

Using H-Alpha as a Luminance Channel

Creating a HaRGB image in Photoshop

I still have a lot to learn about processing HaRGB images using a DSLR.  However, my early results are very promising!  I really love the way the H-Alpha data brings out the nebulosity without bloating the surrounding stars.  The common processing method of combining the Hydrogen Alpha data is to add it to your existing RGB data as a luminosity layer in Adobe Photoshop.  This is the method I have chosen to use, although I am still learning how to best accomplish this task.  You can read a simple tutorial on the process from Starizona.com.

 

Ha luminance layer

The H-Alpha (Ha) Layer of my image

Dark Sky Camping Trip

Camping Trip with Telescope

Our campsite at Selkirk PP

I wanted to take advantage of the dark skies at Selkirk Provincial park by imaging the Swan nebula from my campsite.  I had everything all ready to go including a perfect polar alignment, and my autoguiding system with PHD running smoothly.  The only problem – MY BATTERY DIED!  I captured one amazing 5 minute frame on the Swan Nebula before my battery pack’s low-power alarm sounded off.  What a heart breaker.  Normally this battery is enough to power my astrophotography equipment all night long, but I didn’t charge it long enough before we left.  Lesson learned!

To make the most of a bad situation, I decided to turn my attention to some wide-filed landscape astrophotography using my Canon 70D and tripod.  The moon finally set, and the sky was incredibly dark after midnight.  The milky way could easily be seen with the naked eye as it stretched across the sky.  This is something everyone should witness at some point in there life.  There is something about it that makes me feel connected with our universe.

 

Camping Milky Way

The Milky Way from Selkirk Provincial Park

 

As always, thank you for your interest my website, and this incredible hobby.  I’ll do my best to answer your questions so we can continue our journey together.  Please follow my Facebook Page for the most up-to-date astrophotography information.  It’s a great way to connect with me and other backyard astrophotographers chasing the same feeling.

AstroBackyard is on Facebook

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Forgotten Light Frames

|Nebulae|0 Comments

While digging though some old folders on Adobe Bridge, I stumbled across some unprocessed, 300 second light frames of the Flaming Star Nebula from November 2013!  When you are desperate to get out and image a new target, this is like hitting gold.  I was originally looking for my raw files of the Pacman Nebula, which I feel is in desperate need a new process. (Those stars look pretty rough)  I found a folder labelled “Flaming Star – 5 Min Lights”.  I never processed this image!  The Flaming Star Nebula is a colorful collection of glowing gas and dust lit up by the bright star AE Aurigae.  The tough part about this process will be the limited exposure time.  1 hour of data is really not ideal for a quality astrophotography image.  I find that out the hard way below:

IC 405 – The Flaming Star Nebula

IC 405 - Flaming Star Nebula

 

Photo Details

Photographed on: November 29, 2013

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Stock)
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 1 hour (12 x 300s)
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop CC
Support Files: 15 darks

Guided with PHD Guiding
Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
Processed in Adobe Photoshop CC

This image was acquired using Canon EOS Utilities, and not BackyardEOS as I use now.  This was photo was also shot before I modified my Canon 450D for astrophotography.

Now you might be thinking “how could you spend hours imaging a nebula and forget to process it?”  It’s simple – life is busy!  I likely had a busy week following the the imaging session, and began I new session before I even looked at the precious data collected on that cold November night.  I don’t see any dark frames to support the image.  This may have been another reason I held off.  I bet that I wanted to take 5 minute darks of the same temperature before stacking, but never got around to it.  This could be a problem.

 

But first, let’s get this cleared up

This is budget Astrophotography.  Most of my gear was purchased used from online forums and astronomy classifieds.  The total value of the equipment used to photograph this nebula was purchased for under $3,000.  It’s not top-of-the line gear by any stretch of the imagination.  My astrophotography image processing skills were self-taught.   I am no scientist, that’s for sure.  Just like you, I have a strong desire to capture beautiful images of the night sky.  I always appreciate constructive criticism, and enjoy helping others learn through my mistakes.

 

Stacking without Dark Frames?

First of all, I’ll have to use dark frames from a different night to stack with the Flaming Star light frames.  This means that it is very important to match the temperature of my light frames from that night of imaging.  I have done a poor job of creating a master dark library, so finding matching dark’s may be tough.  I usually try to record the temperature of my dark frames in the file folder, for this very situation.  There are external software applications available that can help create a dark frame library, such as Dark Library.  I remember using this years ago, but their website appears to be down right now.  I will use the 5 minute dark frames from my Pacman Nebula image taken earlier that month, labelled 4 degrees.  Another option is to just stack the light frames without any dark’s.  I’ll try both and compare the two.

 

Here is the version stacked with no dark frames:

Deep Sky Stacker with No Darks

Here is the version using dark frames from a previous night:

Deep Sky Stacker with Darks

 

As you can see, stacking with the dark frames produced a better result.  Even though the temperature of dark frames did not match perfectly, the dark frames removed some of the dead pixels and noise from the image.  Notice the red streak of dead pixels on the “no-darks” version.  All of these imperfections would become intensified after processing!  I performed a few basic edits to the examples above to have a better look at the differences. (Levels, Gradient Xterminator, and Curves)  Now that we have registered and stacked our 1 hour’s worth of data, let’s start stretching the data in Photoshop.

 

How to take proper Dark Frames for Deep Sky Stacker

The answer to this and more in the FAQ section

Processing the Image in Photoshop

If you have followed any of my astrophotography tutorials on my website, or video tutorials on YouTube, you already know the basics of my processing workflow.  This process has evolved over the years as I learn new tricks.  However, processing the Flaming Star Nebula was particularly tough because of the limited exposure time on the subject.  Add in the fact that this nebula is quite faint, with many bright stars surrounding it, and you’ve got an astrophotography challenge for even the most experienced astrophotographer.

 

Quick Astrophotography Tip

Try to frame your deep-sky object in an interesting way.  Include nearby star clusters, nebulae or galaxies.  For inspiration, search for your target on APOD, and see how the professionals have framed the object.  This may spark your creativity to photograph an existing target in a different way.

HLVG – Green Noise Remover

The entire image had a noticeable green cast over it, perhaps because of the extreme amount of noise, or the miss-matched dark frames.  I ran Deep Sky Colors HLVG on medium, which helped a lot.  HLVG was created by Rogelio Bernal Andreo of RBA Premium Astrophotography.  It is a chromatic noise reduction tool that attempts to remove green noise and the green casts this noise may cause in your astrophotography image.  It is based on PixInsight’s SCNR Average Neutral algorithm.  If you don’t already have this useful filter for Photoshop, I highly recommend it, it’s free!  You can download the plugin here:

Hasta La Vista, Green!

HLVG Filter for astrophotography

Results and Thoughts

I must admit, this post became a bit of a nightmare.  I began to document my processing steps one by one, taking screenshots of progress along the way.  I wanted to provide a detailed tutorial of how I turned this forgotten data into a masterpiece, despite having no associated dark frames, and only an hour’s worth of exposure time.  As I experimented using different methods of noise reduction, and various orders of operations, I became very discouraged with my final image results.  I spent hours taking different roads with all of my trusted astrophotography tools at my disposal, and the results continued to be unimpressive.  By adjusting the curves enough to show any substantial detail on the nebula, I introduced a frightening amount of noise into the background space.  No amount of noise reduction could remove it, without turning the entire image into a blurry mess.

I just couldn’t bring myself to post a tutorial with the end result turning out like it did.  So I scrapped the idea, and settled for a forgettable image of the Flaming Star Nebula.  Surely this gorgeous nebula that spans 5 light years across deserves more than that.

Astrophotography Processing Tutorial

My unused processing tutorial screenshots

At the end of the day:

No amount of processing can make up for lack of exposure time!

I guess you could say I was doomed from the start.  I am not going to spend any more time on this image until I am able to capture at least another 2 hours of data on it.  I hope you can learn from my experiences in astrophotography, in both victories and failures.  But I guess that’s why you’re here 🙂  Please follow AstroBackyard on Facebook for the latest updates.

 

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New Astrophotography Telescope

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I am thrilled to announce the purchase of a brand new telescope for astrophotography, and one that I’ve had my eye on for some time. Those of you looking to dive into the hobby of deep-sky astrophotography for the first time should see my post a choosing a telescope for astrophotography. I break down my top 5 choices for a beginner, which includes the 80mm version of the telescope mentioned below. Spoiler alert, they’re all refractors!

It’s a very exciting time of year for astrophotographers with the return of the central bulge of the milky way in our night sky (in the Northern Hemisphere). I’ve got astronomy camping trips booked for June, July, and August – as well as some time off at work so I can spend more time in the backyard under the stars.   With that being said, I’ve decided to invest in some new astrophotography equipment that will hopefully lead to some incredible new astrophotos this summer.  Let’s start with the most exciting purchase I’ve made this year.

Explore Scientific ED102 Carbon Fiber

102mm F/7 Triplet Apochromatic Refractor

 

Explore Scientific ED102 CF

Explore Scientific 102mm Triplet Apochromatic Telescope – Carbon Fiber Edition

That’s right, I loved the Explore Scientific ED80 so much that the next logical move was to step up to the slick black carbon fiber 102mm version.  Many of you are like me and do not have a large budget for astrophotography gear. With so many astrophotography telescopes available, you better believe I did my homework first!   This triplet “apo” has received top marks from many deep-sky astrophotographers and was even my number 1 choice on my old “Top Astrophotography Telescopes Under $2,000” post.

This telescope from Explore Scientific is considered to be a wide-field instrument, but the increased focal length of 714mm is a big step up from the 480mm on my 80ED.  So what finally provoked me to take the plunge?  Well, the team at Explore Scientific reached out to me after finding this blog!  I was invited to provide a testimonial about my beloved ED80 Apo as well as share some of my astrophotography images on their website, social media networks, and Sky’s Up Magazine.

Related Post: Explore Scientific ED102 CF Review

 

Explore Scientific ED102 CF

 

 

Telescope Specifications

Focal Length: 714mm
Focal Ratio: f/7
Resolution: 1.14 arcsec
Diameter: 120mm
Weight: 7 lbs
Dovetail: Vixen

New Astronomik 12nm Ha Filter

This is another long-time coming item that I have had my eye on for years. I will now be able to capture some Hydrogen Alpha data through my light-polluted skies in the backyard. This filter also blocks out the glow from the full moon, so it will be interesting to see how much extra imaging I will be able to get in!  The Clip-in version for Canon EOS DSLR’s will fit snugly into my Modified 450D, replacing the IDAS LPS filter.

I will shoot my regular RGB data using the LPS filter, and add in some powerful Ha data to overlay in post-processing.  I am really excited to see how it reduces the star glow in my images as well. I ordered this filter from OPT telescopes today, and it should be arriving in as early as two weeks. Some of my favorite astrophotographers from around the web have used this filter and gotten impressive results.

Below, you’ll see my photo of the Soul Nebula using the Astronomik 12nm Ha Filter clipped into a Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR camera.

Soul Nebula in Ha

 

AstroBackyard on YouTube

 

I am blown away by the response from my YouTube channel.  In the latest video posted from my backyard, I mentioned how I couldn’t believe that I had almost 70 subscribers – that number has since jumped to almost 450 in about 1 month’s time.  Needless to say, I couldn’t be more inspired to make new astrophotography videos and share them with my YouTube audience. The comments and feedback from the videos have been very humbling, and confirm my efforts of making this website. It is already becoming hard to keep up with all of the astrophotography questions I am receiving on YouTube, which leads me to my next point.

AstroBackyard on YouTube

Frequently Asked Questions Section

I now receive anywhere from 3-10 e-mails a day asking different astrophotography related questions. I am always happy to help beginner astrophotographers get started, but my time is very limited. I have decided to use this opportunity to build out a Frequently Asked Questions section of this website.  This way, we can all learn from each other. This will also build out a helpful resource page that includes many of the most commonly asked questions about astrophotography.  I will likely divide the page up into subsections including equipment, software, acquisition, and processing questions.

NGC 4631 Whale Galaxy

Latest Imaging Session

I am currently taking my last number of images using my trusty ED80 – Is it weird that I feel emotional about that? My deal with Explore Scientific includes exchanging the ED80 for the new 102mm. This means that I will likely do my imaging with the 8″ Orion Astrograph while I wait for the ED102 to arrive. I did not shoot any deep-sky images during the last new moon because of an annual birding trip my Fiance and I go on. However, I have begun shooting some frames on NGC 4631 – the Whale Galaxy from the backyard. My first set of frames are not pretty, as they were shot under the bright glow of a 89% illuminated waning gibbous moon.  I am hoping to capture another hour or two of this object tonight if the weather cooperates.

2016-06-01 – Update!

I have imaged the Whale Galaxy for 4 nights (totaling 3 Hours and 52 Minutes of Exposure) The signal to noise ratio has improved greatly, and you can view my final image here.

Related Posts:

Explore Scientific ED80 Review

How a DSLR Ha Filter can Improve your Astrophotos

Deep Sky Astrophotography Beginners Guide

 

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Wizard Nebula through 80mm Telescope

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The Wizard Nebula through my 80mm Telescope

Clear August Nights

More consecutive clear summer nights have allowed me to put in some serious time on the Wizard Nebula!  In fact, this is the most amount of exposure time I have put into any object!  Over 7 Hours! Truth be told, I would have hopped over to a new subject, but this attractive nebula is in the sweet spot of the sky right now.

View an updated image of the Wizard Nebula using my current astrophotography equipment.

Wizard Nebula 80mm telescope

The Wizard Nebula using an 80mm Refractor Telescope

NGC 7380 – Wizard Nebula Details:

Total Exposure Time:  7 Hours, 15 Minutes (87 x 5 Minute Subs)

Telescope Mount: Skywatcher HEQ-5 Pro Synscan
Camera and Telescope: Modified Canon 450D through Explore Scientific ED80

Guided with PHD Guiding
Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
Processed in Adobe Photoshop CC

NGC 7380 (also known as the Wizard Nebula) was discovered in 1787 by Caroline Herschel.  It is an open cluster located in the constellation of Cepheus.  The large nebula is extremely difficult to observe visually!

Travel Astrophotography Equipment

I have recently moved into an apartment, so I cannot image from home. To get my imaging fix I have to set up my scope in a friends backyard across town.  I leave it unattended all night long and cross my fingers everything worked out in the morning!  It’s a bit nerve-racking thinking about my expensive equipment running all night with no supervision, but I have my procedure down-pat and can count on good results now.

View my updated portable astrophotography setup

explore_scientific_ed80_telescope

I have been using my small refractor a lot lately because it is just so darn easy to transport and setup!  Not to mention that there is no need to collimate it like a Newtonian.  My Orion 8″ Newtonian Reflector is in desperate need of collimation at the moment (Oval stars!).  Until I can use a friends laser collimating tools, I will continue to shoot wide-field shots with the ED80.

Orion has started popping up in the mornings now, a familiar sign that summer is coming to an end.  I am excited to shoot one of my favorite winter objects (M78) with the 8″ Orion!

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