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THE GREAT

AMERICAN

ELCIPSE

2017

Image by Samara Nagle

To view our readers increidble images of the 2017 Eclipse, please click here to purchase Issue 44 of the Magazine to enjoy the gallery.

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BUDGET LENSES FOR ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY

The lens in question is a 200mm SMC Takumar f4. It was manufactured sometime in the early 1970s and I picked it up off eBay for £22.

 

READ MORE HERE...

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Taking Pictures with a C8

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GETTING MORE OUT OF YOUR EQ MOUNT

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To subscribe to this website and Ezine, please email us with the word SUBSCRIBE in the Subject of your email.

 

contact@amateurastrophotography.com

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A New Horizon for Atik Cameras

Atik Cameras utilise their success with CCD cameras to develop an exceptional 16MP CMOS camera – the Atik Horizon

Atik Cameras are releasing their first camera with a CMOS sensor, the Atik Horizon. It’s a strong step forwards for the company, combining exceptionally low

 

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Subscribe

I am very pleased to report that the purchase of the QSI brand completed on Thursday 1st of February.

 

At Atik, we have a sincere respect and admiration for the QSI camera designs and the people behind them. After the incredibly sad news that the QSI joint founder Neal Barry passed away in 2017, QSI’s board of directors decided to restructure the company. QSI have long been both a market leader in Astro-imaging, and an important part of the astronomical community. By purchasing QSI, we can provide a bright future for this much-loved brand.

QSI is now part of the same group as Atik

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Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Under the Hood

 

One of my favourite cars is the Jaguar E-type. It caused a sensation when it was first launched and compared to the XK150 it replaced it epitomised the flare and panache of the 1960's. Thing is Jaguar had a bit of a problem, they wanted the car to be advertised that it was capable of 150 miles per hour... so they took it to the test rack, but the problem was that the original 3.8ltr original 6 cylinder engine wasn't quite up to the task! So they had to use a few tricks to get it past the magic 150 mph barrier. Such as – pumping up the tyres rock hard (it actually ran Dunlop R5 racing tyres) and tuned the car so it produced more power so it would make the timing run. Sounds familiar – doesn't it?

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In the middle of the last decade, and thanks to the success of DSLR in astronomy, Canon suddenly surprised the astrophotographers with a specialized camera. The Canon EOS 20Da was introduced in February 2005, and this was the first time for Canon and all other manufacturers to produce such a version of a standard camera. The 20Da was mainly based on 20D, but with substantial modifications, both hardware and software, and immediately was identified as the reflex for the astronomical usage, but also traditional diurnal usage was still possible.

 

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Canon EOS 60Da: the return in astrophotography

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Real Results with a Budget Astrophotography Lens

A great astrophotography lens is only as good as the images it produces. Not all camera lenses are created equal, and imaging a night sky full of stars has a way of pushing your photography gear to its limits.On a recent astrophotography session in the backyard, I discovered how enjoyable it can be to squeeze in a brief mid-week session using a camera lens in place of the telescope.For this imaging run, I used the refreshingly simple and affordable Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 lens. The lens was attached to my Canon Rebel T3i DSLR, which rode atop an iOptron SkyTracker camera mount.

 

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Going remote with your Astrophotography Rig? You’ll need power.  Quite a bit of it.  Most people won’t want to have a generator ruining the peaceful solitude of the night, so battery power is the usual solution.So how much power do you need, what kind of batteries will do, how to connect to them, how to house them, how to charge them.  all are good questions.How much power (capacity) do you need: This part isn’t hard to figure out, just be sure to count everything that needs power.  Here’s some rough guidlines:

 

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Powering your rig

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Astrophotography on a Budget

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Astrophotography can seem like a daunting hobby to jump into. Indeed, there are definitely learning curves to overcome, but if it’s something you’re interested in pursuing, our astronomers are always happy to help you along in your goal to capture some deep sky objects with your camera. To help you get started, I’ve written up a simple guide to help you get going!The Camera (of course!)Naturally, the first thing you’ll need is a camera to photograph the night sky with. Though many options exist, we’re going to stick to the more budget-minded route since that’s where most people will be coming from. The most accessible option would be to get a DSLR camera, such as a Canon Rebel. 

 

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Why I’m Switching to a

Mono Astrophotography Camera!!

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.

 

 

 

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Synscan Wifi Adapter

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I was perusing Facebook and saw that Rother Valley Optics (fantastic astro shop btw) had some synscan wifi adapters back in stock for £53. Now being the gadget girl that I am, I had to buy one.It arrived very quickly and packaged well. One of the main reasons that I wanted to get the wifi adapter was that I wanted to do away with the hand controller and using my phone as a planetarium and generally juggling multiple devices to reach the same ends.Now before we go any furtherif you use iOS sadly at the moment you’re still going to need multiple devices to get it to work. i.e two iPhones, an iPhone plus iPad or whatever. If you’re on android be happy in the fact that it should work straight off the bat.

 

 

 

Read more here....

For the postprocessing description we do not include screenshots of our various PixInsight settings. The reality is that settings are different for each image. We will, however, provide links to online resources which give descriptions of the techniques we use. These resources often provide settings to get you started.While the individual subexposures were saved in the .fit file format (a long time standard for astrophoto files), once in PixInsight we use their native .xisf format in 32-bit. When moving files back and forth between PixInsight and Photoshop, we use 16-bit TIFF images.

 

 

 

 

 

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Processing in PixInsight and Photoshop

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Processing a (noisy) DSLR image stack with StarTools

Using a DSLR camera for astrophotography has you dealing with quite noisy data, and the issue is compounded if you are shooting from the city under light-polluted skies. Noisy data gives you a hard time when processing, so it would initially take me quite some time and effort to get to pleasing results, even with dedicated software.StarTools has made my life much easier as it does many things that require many manual steps in other software almost automatically, allowing me to get decent results from an image in just 10-15 minutes. You can always tweak some more of course, but the example process I am going to demonstrate on this post will get you to the following result in just a few minutes:Apart from very powerful and quite easy, StarTools is also inexpensive, at just 60 AUD, it is available on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux and even has a full-featured evaluation version which you can download freely – only saving is disabled (you can still take a screenshot of your result) – but you have all the time to make sure it’s for you as it doesn’t expire.

 

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Using PHD for Troubleshooting

The problem with being a mount tuner is that you are always working to 2 decimal paces. Tracking a Star is a very precise game. The cool thing is that we know what the sidereal movement should be over a given amount of time. This is how the basics of guiding works. You can, of course, track a star with one motor which if you have precise polar alignment you should be doing, as DEC is positional. However, we humans aren't so precise. There are so many variables in astro imaging it makes it both a challenge and a curse at the same time.I've been told many times that I've made a rod for my own back by basing what we do solely on the basis of PHD graphs and I'm beginning to agree. But we actually use PHD to identify how themount is behaving, not only to it's guiding input but how the mount was set up in terms of polar alignment, balance and even cable management. Anyone who's had a mount from us knows that after a re-build they all need 15 up to 50 hours running in.

 

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Portable Alt-Az mount with precision Equatorial tracking for the discerning Astro Imager and Observer.

The sky is clear and wonderful but I have to be up early tomorrow morning.

I don’t have the strength to setup and polar align my telescope.

 

With the Panther Mount the setup and alignment is much easier.

Just setup the Pier, Mount Head and Telescope

 

NO LEVELING needed. polar-aligemenleveling

NO POLAR ALIGNMENT needed

 

For visual observations align on just one object and you have goto and tracking.

 

For Astrophotograpy align on just two objects and you have precision goto and tracking.

 

Click here to read more...

 

 

A New Ritchey-Chrétien Telescope for Astrophotography

I've been given the unique opportunity to review a new Ritchey-Chrétien Telescope, the iOptron Photron RC6. This telescope has a longer focal length than any of my refractors, which I plan on putting to good use. The impressive 1370mm focal length means that this stocky red Ritchey-Chrétien is a perfect choice for astrophotography during galaxy season.

 

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Astro Automation for Wide Field Setups with DSLR Lenses

The goal of automation is to be able to perform all your astro-imaging functions (slewing, target acquisition, plate solving, focusing, filter changing, and image capture) without going anywhere near your telescope, mount, or camera.

 

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Homemade Equatorial Mount

A number of years ago, as you may have already read on my homemade telescope blog, I built my own 10 inch Dobsonian telescope.  While carrying out all the research at the time before I built it, I realised that one day I would eventually want to mount this scope onto something that would enable me to do some imaging.

 

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PointCraft and Plate-Solving

Plate-solving is a image analysis that detects the stars and then tries to identify them using catalogs of know stars. If the analysis is successful it is possible to calculate the Right Accession (RA) and Declination (Dec) of the image center which tells where exactly is pointing the telescope, image orientation, resolution and etc. Plate-solving is the engine of many scientific studies for example comet, asteroid hunting and orbit analysis. 

Nowadays we are lucky to have access to many advanced techniques and devices that in the past were available only for the biggest professional observatories. Plate-solving is one these techniques that makes imaging much productive, accurate and pleasant.

 

 

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New Site and Magazine Sponsor

I would like to take this opportunity to firstly that David of

darkframeoptics.com for sponsoring the website and magazine over the past 18 months.

 

Secondly, we would like to introduce our new sponsor.

Starlight-Xpress.

 

Starlight-Xpress  are a leading UK supplier of cost-effective cooled CCD cameras and accessories for astronomy and industrial imaging.

 

Many thanks Starlight-Xpress.

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As the largest mount re-tuner in Europe we don't hold any affiliation to any manufacturer. Thewhole point of this review is to give you the pros and cons of each mount, which is what any of us would do if making a buying decision. The advantage we have is that I've rebuilt, refurbished and hypertuned all these mounts many times over.

 

In my last Editorial I wrote about the longevity of mounts and why you need to get them serviced.Now we look at the real world performance and use of these very popular mounts.

 

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SUPER SHOOT OUT AVX vs HEQ5 vs NEQ6 vs EQ6-R

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Hypertuning vs new Mounts

Now just from the title you'll probably think I'm being biased! But actually it's impossible to beanything by pragmatic. I've published so much data on this you can really see the differencesyourself. However, the question isn't just about which ones better on paper but one of economics.Like any hobby it comes back to that cost vs use equation. The more time you use something thecheaper it gets. If you only spend 10 nights a year imaging and $4000 on your gear then that's not exactly a cheap night out! Of course, that's an extreme example. But the elephant I the room, when it comes to astronomy equipment, is about life span.

 

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Low light Scientific Imaging Applications for cooled CCD cameras. Atik Cameras

This page displays a number of applications where Atik Cameras have proven to be ideal for scientific imaging. If you have an application which requires high quality images over long exposure times then Atik will have the ideal product for you. Contact us for more details.

 

Fluorescence inspection of jet turbine bladesDr John Day and Scott Greenwell at the Interface Analysis Centre, University of Bristol have been using a VS60 to image the Aluminium Oxide (Alumina) used as a protective coating for turbine blades by Rolls-Royce PLC*.

 

Click here to read more.....

 

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Photograph the Milky Way this Summer

I recently returned from an unforgettable astrophotography trip where I photographed the Milky Way under some of the darkest skies in the Eastern United States. The Cherry Springs Star party is an annual astronomy event where night sky enthusiasts come together to appreciate the true beauty of an unspoiled night sky.In this post, I’ll explain how I photographed the Milky Way with my DSLR camera, using a wide-angle lens and a small star tracker mount. I’ll also share the deep sky image of the Trifid Nebula I captured through my refractor telescope and a cooled CMOS camera. As far as astrophotography-based camping trips go, it doesn’t get any better than this.

 

Click here to read more,,,,

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Bringing Balance to the Force(s)

There is this common mythology that spending more money on astronomy gear will either a. provide you with a better view or image or b. save you time. Now you could go the other way – down the cheap and cheerful route. But when it comes to mounts and telescopes – physics and logic are often thrown out of the window. If you think of the photons of light coming from a star or cloud of dust millions of light years away, then it's taken an awful long time to get here. Your telescope will then collect those photons and your camera will convert them into an image. I've oversimplified the physics perhap, but it's the stuff from the front lens of your telescope down to the ground that becomes the tricky part.

 

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fix focuser creep on  Williams Optics

In this article I will show you how I managed to fix focuser creep on my Williams Optics Zenith Star Crayford focuser. The short video below demonstrates an exaggerated version of what I mean:

 

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Introducing Alfredo Sayalero

The first telescope I had was a 60mm f12 ZEUS refractor with 0.96 "eyepieces that I modified for use with 1.25" eyepieces and I still have a rather bad telescope that opened the doors to the universe In the year 2.002 in love with the rings of Saturn through my Zeus of 60mm I investigate in the network to build my own telescope and contact with the illustrious Mr. Josep Costas Carver of Mirrors and one of the most long-lived astronomers of our country.

 

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The first three inches are the most important

In the bad old days, ambitious astrophotographers had to accept the risk of a slipped disk in order to make serious work under the stars. Corpulent flat-field scopes, noisy large format cameras, heavy mounts, car batteries, computer stuff and cable salad spiced with unfailing patience were in the menu when an astrophotographer decided to meet the competition at eye level. As time goes by, the wish to abandon the mass while keeping the class comes up.This is a description of a fast telephoto setup for narrowband astrophotography. It consists of an ICX814-based CCD camera, a Carl Zeiss Sonnar 135mm (f/2) APO lens, a guiding subsystem, an Astroholgi MicroFocuser (AH-MF), an Avalon Zero mount and a Gitzo GT5532s tripod. Seemly invisible customized parts are placed at key positions to make those standard products work together as one system. This portable configuration offers a wide 6x5° field-of-view (FOV) and a useful resolution of 5.6".

 

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MEADE LX65 8" ACF F/10 TELESCOPE

The 8” LX65 ACF Telescope delivers the highest level of optical performance, giving a flatter, and advanced coma-free field of view with pinpoint images and outstanding contrast. Its optics coupled with its versatile Single Arm Alt-Azimuth Mount delivers top-notch performance for both beginner and advanced astronomers!

 

This Telescopes Advanced Coma-Free (ACF) optical system features a large aperture and an Ultra-High Transmission Coating (UHTC), making it both ideal for high-resolution visual observing and more cultivated areas of astronomy such as deep-sky and planetary astrophotography.

 

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ZWO ASIAIR

This is a new milestone in ZWO history, astrophotography has never been easier!

ASIAIR is a smart WiFi device that allows you to control all ASI USB 3.0 cameras, ASI Mini series cameras, and an equatorial mount to do plate solving and imaging with your phone or tablet/iPad when connected to ASIAIR via WiFi.

 

 

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In this post, I'll break down everything you need for deep sky astrophotography with a telescope. I'll cover each piece of gear I use, and explain how it can be used to capture beautiful deep-sky images of space from your backyard. Deep-sky astrophotography is a rewarding and fulfilling hobby, especially once you're able to achieve impressive results from your own home. This post aims to give beginners a better idea of what you need, and what you can expect to accomplish yourself.

 

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Deep Sky Astrophotography Step-by-Step Walkthrough

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USING CARTES DU CIEL WITH ASCOM CONTROLLED MOUNT

For a long time I was a user of Stellarium – however, I wouldn’t say I was using it to its full potential. I struggled with its quirky interface, and didn’t quite get to grips with the requirements to connect it to my mount and scope. Stellarium is resigned to my phone these days. Enter stage left, Cartes du Ciel / Sky Charts.

 

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Avalon M-Zero Mount and StarGo Motor Drive Review

German Equatorial mounts are probably the most popular type of mount, available in a wide range of builds, load capacities and price. This wide variety is somehow “reflected” in performance, but the basic features and principles are pretty much the same.

 

Not many alternatives to the German model are available, mainly in the form of the traditional double-arm fork mount. A few years ago, Avalon Instruments, an Italian-based astronomical equipment maker, came up with a sturdy single-arm fork mount, the Avalon M-Uno, which has had good success. The concept of a single-arm fork per se is certainly not new, but is nevertheless not so common in the mid-range market sector.

 

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I am sure that you will admit that the 2017 astro-season, in the UK at least, was not the greatest for astrophotography. Say what you want about Global warming – in Northern Europe we're getting milder, wetter winters and hotter summers.

 

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Summer Prep....

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The Case of the Mysterious Filter Wheel

Several years ago my beloved Santa Barbara Instrument Group ST-2000 died a horrible death. Somehow the power supply melted a couple of chips. This included evidence of an actual flame inside the camera. Still not sure why or how it happened but the wonderful ST-2000 was no more!

 

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