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Pacman Nebula – Stock Canon DSLR

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Below, you will see an image of the Pacman Nebula using a stock (non-modified) DSLR camera. A Canon EOS Rebel Xsi (450D) to be exact. I have often said that an entry-level DSLR camera is probably the best astrophotography camera to start out with.

DSLR cameras are affordable, versatile, and can be used for more than just astrophotography at night. They are also more user-friendly and don’t require additional software tools to use. The deep sky image below is an example of what you can expect to capture through a telescope without an astro-modification. Further down the page, I’ll show you what this nebula looks like using a dedicated astronomy camera and narrowband filters.

The Pacman Nebula using a stock DSLR

 Pacman Nebula

NGC 281, The Pacman Nebula – Imaged Monday., Nov 3, 2013
20 subs 5 Minutes Each totaling 1 Hour, 40 Minutes

PHOTO DETAILS

  • 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 hours 40 minutes (20 x 300s)
  • Processing Software: Calibration and Stacking in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels/Curves/Enhancements in Photoshop CC
  • Support Files: 15 darks

This is a great time of year for astrophotography, with the nights beginning so early and lasting so long. The downside, of course, is the frigid temperatures. Luckily I have a reasonable winter setup for imaging that includes a small space heater and a lot of warm clothing. I am able to enter a small shed and hang out while my camera fires away. The temperature dropped to -3 on Sunday night, great for imaging.

I have never shot the Pacman Nebula before. To be honest, I had no idea a stock DLSR could pick up so much red in this object. Cassiopeia rises nice and high in the evening this time of year, so imaging NGC 281 is a popular target right now. I am very happy with the way this DSO has turned out so far, even with the limited time I have put on it. I was also surprised at its size, comparable to the Eagle Nebula in my 80mm scope.

Frozen astrophotography equipment cases

My frozen Cases at my Dark Sky Site

The Pacman Nebula in Narrowband

My latest photograph of this nebula was taken using an Altair Hypercam 183C color CMOS camera. I captured broadband RGB light frames on this target using a 2″ Baader Moon and Skyglow (Neodymium) filter. To add a boost in signal, I also captured images with a 12nm Ha filter and combined the two using the HaRGB method.

astrophotography camera

NGC 281 – The Pacman Nebula

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IC 1848 – The Soul Nebula

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My Attempt at the Soul Nebula

ic1848 Soul Nebula

IC 1848, The Soul Nebula Imaged Weds., Oct 2, 2013
 32 subs 4 Minutes Each totaling 2 Hours, 8 Minutes

PHOTO DETAILS

Updated Version: The Soul Nebula


Scope: 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: 2 hours 8 minutes (32 x 240s)
Processing Software: Calibration and Stacking in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels/Curves/Enhancements in Photoshop
Support Files: 15 bias, 30 darks

Okay, I realize that the image above isn’t very impressive. My darn unmodded Canon Xsi isn’t picking up the reds the way an astro-modded one would. I think another 2 hours would really help.  It’s always a delicate balance between pulling out data and keeping noise under control when processing an astro-image.

Thanks to a friend at my Astronomy Club, (RASC Niagara Centre) I have been given a few invaluable tips to progress my astrophotography knowledge further.  Namely by using the Backyard EOS software for acquiring images in the field.

Currently, I use Canon EOS Utilities to run my camera and has been working fine, but Backyard EOS has features catered towards astrophotographers.  The main feature I am interested in is dithering.

Another thing I am excited to try is stacking my raw files in photoshop rather than deep sky stacker. I have recently upgraded to Adobe Photoshop CC, and so far I am loving it. The updates to  Adobe Camera Raw (ACR 8.2) and improvements to the sharpening tools are outstanding.

Trevor Jones looking through a 20 inch dobsonian telescope at the CCCA Observatory

 

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IC 5070 – The Pelican Nebula

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To view my latest image of the Pelican Nebula, have a look at the version captured using a dedicated astronomy camera (ZWO ASI294MC Pro). Narrowband filters can make capturing faint emission nebulae like the Pelican Nebula easier from the city, as it separates the light wavelengths associated with the target from a washed out sky.

IC 5070 – The Pelican Nebula

is5070 Pelican Nebula in Cygnus taken by Trevor Jones

Above: IC 5070, The Pelican Nebula Imaged Tues., Sept 4, 2013
17 subs 5 Minutes Each totaling 1 Hour, 25 Minutes

PHOTO DETAILS

Scope: 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 25 minutes (17 x 300s)
Processing Software: Calibration and Stacking in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels/Curves/Enhancements in Photoshop
Support Files: 15 bias, 15 darks

Thanks to my IDAS LPS filter, I have been able to image in my backyard in the city with decent results. Before I had the filter, a 3-minute exposure would be so washed out, that I could not make out the subject I was imaging until making a levels adjustment in Photoshop. Now, I can take 5-minute exposures at 1600 ISO with minimal effects of light pollution.

Emission Nebulae like the North America Nebula, Pelican and California really don’t show up well with a stock camera, but I have tried my best to pull out as much nebulosity as possible anyway. As the nights get cooler and longer, I will be switching my focus to fall objects in the coming weeks:)

North America Nebula dn Pelican Nebula taken by Trevor Jones

North America Nebula & Pelican Nebula

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Back in the Game – My New Mount!

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This post talks about upgrading from a Celestron CG-5 astrophotography mount to the Sky-Watcher HEQ5. I have been using the Sky-Watcher mount ever since with over 5 years of successful deep sky imaging under its belt!

My New Mount

Sky-Watcher Astrophotography Mount

NGC 7000 - The North American Nebula

NGC 7000: Imaged Monday, June 3, 2013.
32 subs 5 Minutes Each totoaling 2 Hours 40 Minutes

The above image was taken using my old mount last Monday. After fighting with it for over an hour (mount shutting off, restarting, re-aligning 3 times!) I finally got it to work for one more night!

I am officially back in the saddle again! My Celestron CG-5 issues had me a tad depressed about missing imaging time through the absolute best time of year. After the CG-5 was fixed in April, it quickly began acting up again, and shutting off in the middle of in the middle of my imaging sessions. I realized that I had to replace my aging “starter mount” fast!

After doing hours of research online (forums, vendor sites, blogs) I decided I was going to spring for an Orion Sirus EQ-G. It is a modest mount, but still quite expensive for my limited astro-budget. But before I put the order in, I checked Astrobuysell.ca. Wouldn’t you know it, there was a Skywatcher HEQ-5 Pro Synscan GPS for sale in my area!

Skywatcher HEQ-5 Pro Synscan

The HEQ-5 has a stellar reputation in the astrophotography community. Everything I have read about this mount has been positive.  The mount is rated to carry a 40lb payload!  It is so much heavier and solid than my Celestron.  I can’t wait to bring it to my dark sky site and spend a night imaging with it!

View my current deep sky astrophotography equipment.

You can also have a look at the Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan with my refractor telescope mounted to it in the following video. This should give you a better idea of whats involved with a typical deep sky astrophotography telescope setup.

Deep Sky Astrophotography Camera and Telescope Setup


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Autumn Stars Arise

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Autumn Stars - The Pleiades rises this season
M45 – The Pleiades

Autumn Stars – Pleiades Rising

Last Saturday I spent a very cold, but very dark and clear night at the RASC Observatory in Wellandport, Ontario.  There were 4 of us that stayed the night, and I think every one of us complained about being underdressed!  I began my night by shooting NGC 7293 – The Helix Nebula.  I have never tried to shoot this object before, and to be honest, I didn’t think it was possible from Southern Ontario.  I ended up with about 2 hours on it, but I think I will need to double that to really bring out the detail.  As you can see, my unmodified Canon 450d makes this object look rather bluish-purple.

NGC 7293 - Helix Nebula

NGC 7293 – The Helix Nebula

My main focus for the night was The Pleiades.  This wonderful star cluster is located in the constellation Taurus the Bull.  At this time of year, Taurus is just starting to rise high enough in the East to start photographing Messier Object 45, the Pleiades open star cluster. I imaged this object last year, and was relatively happy with it, but I have learned a lot since then!  The details of the above photo (of Pleiades) are as follows:

M45 – The Pleiades Photo Details

Also known as “The Seven Sisters” in the Constellation Taurus

38 x 210″ ISO 1600 Totaling 2 Hours 13 Minutes

Stacked with 16 darks, 16 flats, 16 bias

Explore Scientific 80mm ED Triplet Apo
Celestron CG-5
Orion 50mm Mini Guidescope
Meade DSI II CCD Camera
Canon 450d unmodded
Stacked in DSS
Processed in PS CS5

Removing Reflections in M45 image

Astrophotography processing The Pleiades

The autumn stars seem to shine extra bright as they bring in the winter constellations behind them. M45 can be surprisingly challenging to process, considering the inherent reflection issues that may arise.  The healing brush in Adobe Photoshop is helpful in removing the unwanted halos and reflections in your image.  You will definitely want to be careful not to remove any background stars or nebulosity in the process!

I will probably give it another shot once I have added more time.  I am looking forward to re-doing Orion once it stays up for a little bit longer.  Thanks for looking!

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