A Mid Summers Dream
No it’s not a Hubble photo . . . far from that imaging quality, but, none the less, I am pleased with the quality and the image itself. It is very amazing how far imaging has come, no longer (or seldom) is film used in astronomical photography. The advent of digital revolutionized amateur astro-photography, and pushing the quality of both sensors, cameras and telescopes to new levels of quality for the average astronomer. I am sure most of you in my age bracket can remember at least one of those tasco or perhaps a Sears branded 60mm telescopes, with those horrible blurry hard to use eyepieces, and yet we’d look up at the moon or where ever else we pointed them . . . those early feeble telescopes coupled with an young active imagination and a few good science fiction books led to many a dream . . . both nocturnal and day . . . a version of my own “mid-summers dream” . . .
Those little dime store telescopes and cheap binoculars were relegated to toy boxes or more often the dark back recesses of a closet or garage where they gathered dust and cobwebs like memories forgotten. I am straying from my thoughts, I do that now, especially more so that I am as vintage as one of those dime store telescopes LOL . . . .
Back to the task at hand. DSO’s or Deep-sky object’s using relatively (I use that term relatively loosely) inexpensive amateur astronomical equipment to image same said DSO’s . . . like the two images so far. It has taken me about a year to gather appropriate equipment (mostly used gear) and almost another year learn how to image the objects I was interested in, but, I can say this . . . thank god I didn’t try this with film! I do not think I would have had enough patience or the funds to pursue such an undertaking. Yet another advantage afforded by digital photography to this niche’ of very specialized imaging. Today’s imaging tools are becoming easier to use and much more affordable as well. From sensors and telescopes to mounts, all very capable of producing images that would have made your Grand Dad (assuming he was into astronomy) green with envy . . . and all this has occurred over the last 20 years. The personal computer, digital devices, digital camera sensors . . . all have made it possible to fulfill those dreams of a young boy so long ago . . . to make it possible to attain what was once . . . just “A Mid Summers Dream” . . .
We’ve come a long way with imaging capabilities. You can use a dSLR or a dedicated astro camera (CCD or CMOS) color or monochromatic . . . or if your into the way of the dSLR young padawan as I was when I started out, but now, I have since switched to a dedicated monochrome CCD. I found the dSLR to be easy but difficult at the same time. I was not pleased with the long times required and the problems that come with using a sensor designed for terrestrial imaging. As is, a standard dSLR has a color bayer pattern screen and IR suppression filter built in. Since we are imaging objects and dust that are mainly visible in the RED spectrum (HII or H-alpha band) the non modified dSLR cannot see it very well. So a dim object becomes even harder to image as it takes longer exposures meaning you need to track your object over that longer exposure time to obtain a usable image, not as easy as it sounds. As we increase the power of the telescope the tracking accuracy needs to increase (this is called guiding which requires another camera and computer to talk to the computerized mount to maintain a tight track to eliminate elongating the stars and blurring the object). One doesn’t want star trails in the DSO image. Yep another camera / scope combination which means more $$$, but again, depending on what you are imaging is what dictates the need for this type of precision. One plus the digital camera has over many ccd or cmos cameras at the entry level is Sensor size (FOV relates directly to sensor size/telescope size) and can present problems as to what one can image. Since I use camera lenses and refracting telescopes here is what I have learnt so far. 1) purchase the best EQ telescope mount you can afford as this will give you good tracking (up to 3 minute exposures can be achieved if you get a good polar alignment and balance of the scope) . . . 2) you do not need a telescope for wide field astro photography (the shorter the lens the less critical tracking becomes, see sometimes bigger isn’t always better) . . . 3) you can buy used gear but research it first to ensure it meets your need . . . 4) read, read, read . . . and then read some more before you spend any real money, find an astronomy club, most amateur astronomers are more then happy to show you how “they” do it and their gear, they will be a wealth of their experience. By visiting a club and even going to a star party you can get a feel for the gear and what you might need and what might interest you. With few exceptions, the pictures you see here and in the astronomy magazines are NOT what you see through the eyepiece of a telescope, but, are the end results of extensive post processing. Sadly many a budding enthusiast has had their egos and wallet dashed with their first views and realization that the view isn’t what they expected. How often, sadly, have I heard this from people, and not just with astronomy but photography and other hobbies . . . so my final advice is . . . research and study your subject, know your expectations and what it will take to meet your imagined final image. You’ll spend less money, less time learning and mostly have less disappointment in the end.
What resides in the current stable of toys
- refracting telescopes, Lunt 102 ed, AT 72 ed, AT 60 ed, WO 66 petzval, Orion 80ed
- old 10″ Dobsonian much fun especially observing the moon
- Celestron AVX mount
- ZWO asi 1600mm Pro camera, zwo asi 120mm-s, 120mc-s cameras
- lots of little items, the minutia of astronomy (what keeps the pockets empty)
At this point I will leave you with this kernel of wisdom . . . (Spoiler Alert) be prepared to spend lots of money, even used this crap costs a bunch of $$$ . . . again if you research what it takes to achieve what you expect then you will know what that picture cost you in time, frustration and money to make . . . ok . . . ok . . . enough already with the SKEERY SHTUFF . . .
go forth and have fun.
de Tim . . . . aka (Digi)