Friday, February 16, 2018

A Test That Turns Into A 2 Hour Imaging Session!

I headed out to the obs with only the thought of breaking out my old Canon XS camera body that I had modded a few years back but was never satisfied with the results I got.
Since then I came to understand that the problem was that I was shooting on .jpg images, which are terrible to work with in astrophotography. RAW images, I learned, gave more latitude in adjusting colors, color balance and contrast.
So I thought I would take advantage of clear skies (which were going to get clouded over shortly) and run a few image tests with it... then get back indoors for the rest of the evening.
WRONG!
After a few shots and a brief effort at post-processing... I was hooked for two hours until the clouds started covering my subjects!
WOW, the images were impressive! And though I don't think the samples in this blog are anything like what they will be in the future (with more subs and better focus and more experience in post-processing) I was elated with the "test" results.

The first test shot was of the Orion Nebula (M42) region of the Orion constellation (which is in the southern evening sky now).
Wow! The reds just popped out! And a 3 minute exposure was all that was needed! Hit that EASY button!

What immediately captured my attention was the brevity of the exposures to grab the reddish portion of the nebula. In previous attempts over many years, the blues of the nebula stood out and the reds were harder to image unless I spent a lot of time with lots of sub-exposures. But because the camera was modded (the infrared blocking filter removed from the camera) the reds just plain POPPED out!
And that in just a few minutes compared to many times more than that in previous imaging sessions!
In fact, so much red that I had to combine the result with non-ir images to bring out the blues!

So I thought I would head on over to the Rosetta Nebula (just to the left of Orion). The previous night I had tried to image it only to be so disappointed in not capturing it that I didn't bother to post it on this blog. But just a 3 minute exposure with the modded camera and WOW! There it was!

Whoohoo! Hit that EASY button again!

And then, with clouds threatening, I slewed back to Orion, to the area of the star Alnitak and gave the Flame Nebula and the Horsehead Nebula a go.
Never before had I EVER captured the Horsehead Nebula with its deep reds without hours and hours of effort... and this was just a 3 minute sub! Hit that EASY button again and again!
Lessons learned:
1. An IR modified Canon camera body... DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT !
2. Shoot RAW or else go home!
3. Stack "normal" white balance images with the modified IR images to bring out all the colors!
4. Use the live stacking program AstroToaster to quickly live stack the images

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Another try at Barnard's Loop in Orion WITH a guide camera!

Another clear evening (that's two in a row!) Out to the obs for some more tests with a new guide camera my wife got me for Christmas, an Astromania SGCMOS through Amazon. First time to really use it and WOW!!  Long exposures (6 plus minutes) with no star trailing... and I haven't found the upper limit of length of exposure yet!


This is a SINGLE image using an old Canon 40D camera with some post processing using GIMP, Luminar, and Preview.

Wide field image of the region of the constellation Orion. Showing Barnard's Loop, the Great Orion Nebula, the Flame nebula, the Horsehead nebula and a touch of the Wizard's nebula (far right).

Info: Canon 40D camera (NOT modified), ISO 200, 50mm lens set at f/4, 6 minute exposure, piggy-backed on a Meade LX200GPS 8" equatorially mounted scope, guide scope 50mm, guide camera is an Astromania SGCMOS (from Amazon).

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Barnard's Loop in Orion

Clear skies in La Pine, and you know what that means: astrophotography! The region around the constellation Orion was my focus last night. That faint reddish cloud at the left is part of what is called Barnard's Loop.



It was hard to bring out Barnard's Loop in post-processing but I got as much as I could without totally messing up the rest of the nebula, especially the Great Orion Nebula.

EXPOSURE info: 35 minutes total exposure time (about 75 - 30 sec subs), Canon T3i, 40mm lens set at f/4, tracking via Celestron 4SE mount, DeepSkyStacker, post-processed using GIMP (https://www.gimp.org/)