Category Archives: Astrophotography

My Astrophotography Activities

Andromeda Galaxy

Also known as M31 or NGC 224

andromeda26min-1frame.jpg
This is one of the biggest target in the night sky but I had some difficulties trying to capture it as it requires a wide field of view. Also post processing is a challenge and this image doesn’t have any post processing at all except from subtracting the dark and flattening the image.

andromeda 9 frames 2min 6s ISO12800 c6n - correct.jpg

This image also shows M31 and M110

Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
Andromeda Galaxy
Andromeda Galaxy

SynScan Sky Tour

Having a hard time trying to look for targets at the night sky. I decided to use the sky tour from the SynScan hand controller and it gave me a couple of familiar targets. Andromeda Galaxy, Dumbbell Nebula and surprise, the Ring Nebula. Pointed the telescope and quickly checked on my camera if I can see the target. Well here it is, very small but pretty.

ringnebula.jpg


The Ring Nebula
100 ISO
16 min 40s (5 frames)

Peltier Cooling

Got all the parts that I need for the making my Peltier Camera Cooling

Camera peltier cooling parts ready


2 Video Card heatsink with fan
1 CPU heatsink with fan (copper based)
1 CPU heatsink with fan (arctic brand, aluminum)
1 Tube thermal paste
1 Thermoelectric cooling/heating device (Peltier)
1 486 CPU heatsink with fan
1 3 speed cooling fan

Will be updating this post on the process of building my Peltier Cooling

The Great Nebula in Orion

Orion Atlas EQ-G

Went to the Orion Telescope store in Cupertino just to buy a 182mm tube rings for my other telescope, the Celestron C6N, an old telescope that I wasn’t really able to use that much. This time wanting to fix it and learn a couple of skills such as collimating and aligning.

For some reason, already went out of the store and started the car but just can’t take my eyes on it, went back and couldn’t control my compulsive buying. Left with it unfortunately got home and the weather forecast wasn’t that good as it’s cloudy and rained for the next 4 days.

Got home and unboxed it and figured out that I don’t have the AC adapter. Good thing that I have the Celestron PowerTank that I can use the car batter adapter. Assembled to make sure everything is working, but ooopppss, the hand controller have a very old firmware, the motor controller have a very old firmware, and the motor when slewing sounds very noisy and something is not right.

Finally, clear skies, went outside my backyard and tried it. Spent a whole lot of time aligning it comparing to the Celestron AVX. Mounted, placed the telescope, waited for the Polaris to show up and did a 1, 2, 3 star aligment. Again something is odd, it doesn’t point to the right direction by a complete hemisphere. Pointed to the star in the western hemisphere but pointed on the eastern hemisphere. It was a complete disaster. Only one conclusion, return or replace.

Went back to the store talked about the problem but they couldn’t believe what was wrong with it. The guy in the store tried it and obviously the motor doesn’t sound good so the head was replaced.

Again went home and opened it and see the major difference. The hand controller is newer with the latest firmware. The motors are so quiet and smooth. Probably I got a bad old copy of the mount.

It’s time to test it, alignment was so easy, choosing the stars for alignment was a breeze, a complete turn on my first experience on setting it up.

First target, Andromeda Galaxy, to test the Celestron f/6.x focal reducer/corrector. Made some error on tracking and using a very long exposure, the result was not very good.

Second target, the Pleaides, not so sure what happened as the result are not very good. Alignment was good but the images did not turn out so good. My post processing capability seems to be lacking.

I was about to give up as it’s already very late when I saw the Orion Nebula and I gave it a shot, pointed the telescope and looked at it and I was very surprised with what I got, a very beautiful nebula so I reset the tracking and the imaging cameras and added all the exposure information. Fired all my automation and slept.

Next morning, I got this very beautiful image, with a very minimal post processing that I did before going to the office.

Single Image

Before and After comparison
single exposure before and after

The final image
ORION_LIGHT_1000s_100iso_+30c_03617stdev_20141001-02h45m58s502ms.jpg

Stacked Image

Before and After comparison
multiple exposure before and after

The final image
Orion.jpg


Software for stacking : DeepSkyStacker 3.3.2
Final image processing : Lightroom
Total number of light images : 13
Total number of flat images : 14
Total number of dark images : 11
Exposure length : 2 hrs and 14 minutes

Update

Orion 80 ED Carbon Fiber Triplet APO

Recently added the Orion 80ED Carbon Fiber Triplet APO to my arsenal. Used the Orion Nebula to test it and the following are the images. A more wide field sense of the Orion’s Belt with the Running Man on the left.

orion 80edcf-sl1 1hr 6mn 40s 8frames 800iso.jpg

Celestron C6N

Taken with an old Celestron Newtonian, the stars seems to glow with star pointers very visible. This is a very old telescope, one of my first and still the image is very good.

orion c6nsl1.jpg

Update

orion 17 frames 2 hrs 25min copy

Atlas EQ-G

I recently bought an Atlas EQ-G but wasn’t really able to test since it’s been raining. Also found some problems and returned it and luckily got replaced. The replacement was a newer model, newer firmware and hand controller.

I was really impressed with the performance, with a very minimal time was I able to align and capture some cool images without the aid of an auto guider.

Please take note that no post processing done on the images below.

VEGA_LIGHT_60s_800iso_+31c_01289stdev_20140930-20h24m47s996ms.jpg
VEGA_LIGHT_60s_800iso_+31c_01289stdev_20140930-20h24m47s996ms.jpg

VEGA_LIGHT_60s_400iso_+36c_00928stdev_20140930-20h19m08s866ms.jpg
VEGA_LIGHT_60s_400iso_+36c_00928stdev_20140930-20h19m08s866ms.jpg

POLARIS_LIGHT_60s_400iso_+28c_00580stdev_20140930-20h07m53s456ms.jpg
POLARIS_LIGHT_60s_400iso_+28c_00580stdev_20140930-20h07m53s456ms.jpg

Also, I’m very surprised about the stability of the mount. This is what I got from Auto Guiding
Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.26.22 PM

Celestron Advanced VX Mount Broken

I bought the Celestron C11 with the AVX Mount last May and was so disappointed that the mount is broken. All I’m getting from the NexStar+ hand controller was Error 16 and 17, while I’m getting a better error message on the StarSense hand controller where it says “Unknown model, can’t communicate”.

Called the service center and they we’re all very helpful but again disappointed with the repair duration where it will take 30 working days. That’s technically 6 weeks of waiting. Well what can I do than to wait. This might be good for me as it buys me time to complete my Focuser.

On it's way to service
The mount on it’s way to the service center.

UPDATE:
Yesterday I received the mount, surprised that it was early. Did a quick test and it seemed to work just fine. I noticed some problems on the mount as the cover for the RA motors seems to be missing. The cover of the declination motors seems to be touching the rotating head and I can clearly hear the friction. Took my screw driver and just readjusted to give some clearance.

Today, I just thought of checking the StarSense AutoAlign with the mount, and unfortunately it was not working. The StarSense hand controller is reporting that the mount is not known. What a bummer. Extremely dissatisfied with Celestron Repair Service.

AVX Mount with the replaced NexStar+ Hand Controller

AVX Mount with the StarSense Hand Controller

Some picture from the handcontroller

AVX mount with StarSense AutoAlign not working

AVX mount with StarSense AutoAlign not working

AVX mount with StarSense AutoAlign not working

AVX mount with StarSense AutoAlign not working

AVX mount with StarSense AutoAlign not working

Auto Guiding and Canon EOS Rebel SL1

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I got my Orion StarShoot Auto Guider and used it for a couple nights observing my favorite, the DumbBell Nebula.  And to be honest, kind of struggled in finding the optimal values for my scope. I attached it to the Celestron 50mm finderscope that came with the Celestron 11″ AVX Package. Only removed the rear lens and added the Blue Fireball T / T2 Male Thread to SCT Male & M48 (2″ Filter) Female Thread Adapter # T-07  and the fit was perfect.  A couple of adjustment on the primary lens to get the focus crystal clear.

Also my Canon EOS Rebel SL1 arrived.  I loved it because of it’s size and weight and also the features too.  It was perfect for the my setup since the Celestron AVX Mount can only handle 30lbs of load.  Making sure that I’m not overloading the mount as I know it will affect the quality of tracking.

Untitled

Using PHD 2 with all the values totally alien to me, I wasn’t really able to get anything but lost most of my time reviewing the parameters.  I got an error about “star didn’t move enough” and with a lot of web search, I’m lucky that I’m not the only who struggled with it.

For a couple of nights, testing it, one by one getting the values right till finally I’m doing 2000 secs of exposure.

First here’s my setup

  • Celestron 11″
  • Advanced VX Mount
  • StarShoot AutoGuider attached on the 50mm finder scope
  • Celestron StarSense
  • Canon Rebel SL1
  • 1.25″ Orion SkyGlow Astrophotography Filter

Here’s what I used to have on PHD-2 which is giving me a really bad result

PHD2 Bad Value
PHD2 Bad Value

The Dumbbell Nebula with stars showing the “shotgun pattern” because of the error on RA and DEC on PHD-2.  On that image, I’m getting a Polar Alignment Error of 0.25′ (6px).  I thought it’s because my polar alignment is bad but ultimately it’s the combination of values and the selected guide star that make things worsts.  Here’s the link to see the full size of the image above so you can see the values set Full Size Image.  Below is a result of the PHD settings above where stars having trails.

Dumbbell Nebula
Dumbbell Nebula
  • Number of Image : 1
  • Exposure Length : 500 secs
  • ISO : 400
  • Censor Temperature : 28c
  • No post editing

And here’s the History Graph with the Star Profile when I got all those variables to an optimal value

PHD2 Good Value
PHD2 Good Value Full Image Size.

The Dumbbell Nebula after the optimal calibration

Dumbbell Nebula
Dumbbell Nebula Full Image Here
  • Number of Image : 1
  • Exposure Length : 519 secs
  • ISO : 800
  • Censor Temperature : 32c
  • With minor post editing using Adobe Lightroom

My final settings
Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 8.43.05 PM

  •  Aggresssion – default is 100%, changed to 70% since this will cause the calculation to the stars current position affect the movement of the mount resulting in a double barrel shotgun pattern.
  • Hysteresis – the algorithm used for calculation, default is 10
  • Calibration Steps – played around with this an 2500 was the most optimal for my mount
  • Max Duration RA – 500 – default is 1000
  • Max Duration DEC – 500 – default is 1000

One of the best result of auto guiding

PHD2 Autoguiding
PHD2 Autoguiding Full Size

 

Auto Guider

Facing a couple of problem in terms of adding an Auto Guider that will definitely improve my pictures.  Instead of buying an auto guider kit, I’m thinking of building from scratch and re-using some of the things that I already have.

Recently I bought an old used Philips SPC 700 NC which I’m thinking of using primarily for planetary viewing, but since I’m already over the mount weight limit, I’ll just use it with my Celestron 50 x 9 Finder Scope as my Auto Guider.

 

UPDATE (Sept 9, 2014)

It’s not that I gave up with making my own Auto Guider but due to the lack of time, I simply went to Amazon and purchased a StarShoot AutoGuider. The post is HERE