© paulsastrophotography 2018

Step By Step

I have set out 8 rules that should make the process of imaging galaxies, nebulae or planets fairly smooth from setting up your equipment through to processing your final image. As an astronomer already you will more than likely be follow most of these steps but they are a good guide for complete beginners to follow and to hopefully speed up your progress in to Astrophotography.
Before you take any of the following points in to account the most important piece of advice that I can give you is this: Ensure all power-banks, batteries and anything that needs to be charged are full of juice. Also, ensure that you have All of your equipment. There is nothing worse than heading out and realising that you have no power or that you cannot attach your scope to the mount because you have left your dovetail bar on the kitchen table. It only takes two minutes to check that you have everything. 1: Location Make sure that you pre-plan where you are going to set up. If this will be in your garden then you will be aware of any uneven areas or steps but if you are heading out to a dark skies location then make sure that when you arrive you check the area with a red torch so that you know where any hazards may be. 2: Set up Once you have made sure that your set up area is clear & safe, now its time to start getting your equipment out and setting up. As we all have different types of equipment and, as is usually the case with people who follow a hobby, we selfishly prefer to set up our own equipment without anyone’s help just in case, God forbid, they attach your red dot finder before you have attached your eyepiece. Sacrilege behaviour. 3: Equipment Check While no one else is talking to because you have told them off for attempting to help you set up its time to do a final check to make sure that all of your bolts are tight and you have attached any leads to your camera or computer. The main thing is to check that everything is stable, you don’t want to knock over your set up because your fold out chair has fallen onto your tripod and sent your beloved scope bouncing across the field that you are currently in. 4: Align When you are happy that everything is safe & secure its time to align your mount. Star alignments or Polar alignments should be completed now. A good friend of mine has put together a guide on drift aligning which is a method he uses to fine tune his polar alignment. It takes a bit longer but it definitely worth the results if you have a GEM with just a right ascension motor, his guide can be viewed here Drift Alignment Guide . 5: Find Your Target Now that you are set up its time to locate that target and start to image. sometimes this is a lot easier said than done. There are an uncountable amount of stars up there and trying to find what you are looking for can be tricky. Thankfully, there is a plethora of information out there to guide us through the heavens. Firstly there is the good old star chart. When you buy a telescope there is more often than not some form of star chart that comes with it, be it a paperback quick guide to the constellations or a detailed book that documents the stars. If you have one it will be worth keeping it by your bedside for some light reading before bed. If you dont have one yet, you can buy one from any good high street retailer or places like eBay. Collins star charts are good and a must for every beginner and seasoned Astronomer is Turn Left at Orion. Once you have chosen you’re desired target all that’ left is to point your telescope to it. Again, easier said than done. It is advisable to have a very good look in the area of the subject that you want to image or view and get a good idea of where in that area you shouls point your scope. If you are manually using your mount, loosen both the Right Ascension and declination knobs and swing your scope so that the subject is nicely centered in the finderscope or red-dot finder then centralise the target in the telescope. At this point it will be a good idea to jeave it for 2-3 seconds then come back to make sure that your alignment is good. 6: Frame & Focus while you test you your alignment you can make a start on setting up your Camera. During the day it is worth setting up your DSLR in line with the settings posted here Canon DSLR Settings . (I believe that these settings are somewhat universal, so if you have any of those settings on your DSLR change them to match the setting if they are on your camera. Use this time to center your subject and to take some test subs at short 10 to 20 second exposures just to make sure that you are happy that the suject is centered. Use a Bhatinov mask or your computer software to ensure that you are stars are in pin-point focus. 7: Capture data This is a good time to play around with the ISO and exposure times and it will give you a good idea on what these final settings should be. Also, if you are using image capturing software the last thing that you need to do is to set up the image run by entering the subjects name and how many exposures you want along with the iso settings. The good thing about this type of software is that you can set it to capture for example; 10 x 60 second exposures @ ISO 400 on line one 20 x 90 second exposures @ ISO 200 on the next line and so on and the software will tell the camera what to do so that you can either get in to the warm on a cold night if you are in your garden or to have a look around the sky with some binoculars or a second scope for visual. If you are just using a camera without connecting to a laptop then please makesure that you have enough storage space on your memory card. When you are happy with all of the above you are ready to start taking your subs. 8: Process Once all of your subs have been taken move on to any other objects that you would like to image and leave the processing until you have packed up and got home. It is best to check each sub as they are taken then you can mark the bad ones for deletion at the time of capture to save time later. If you instead, were doing other things then now will be a good time to go through the subs and manually delete the bad subs as you don’t want any blurred or trailed subs getting in and ruining your final image. Please have a look at the Post Processing page for more information. Now you should have a great image that you can be proud of and now you will see the fruits of all of the time and effort that you have put in to capture that single image that took hours im the making. The only thing now left to do is to send in your own Astrophotography for me to display to the world on the User Images page. The details on how to send in your images can be found on the contact page .
© paulsastrophotography 2018

Step By Step

I have set out 8 rules that should make the process of imaging galaxies, nebulae or planets fairly smooth from setting up your equipment through to processing your final image. As an astronomer already you will more than likely be follow most of these steps but they are a good guide for complete beginners to follow and to hopefully speed up your progress in to Astrophotography.
Before you take any of the following points in to account the most important piece of advice that I can give you is this: Ensure all power-banks, batteries and anything that needs to be charged are full of juice. Also, ensure that you have All of your equipment. There is nothing worse than heading out and realising that you have no power or that you cannot attach your scope to the mount because you have left your dovetail bar on the kitchen table. It only takes two minutes to check that you have everything. 1: Location Make sure that you pre-plan where you are going to set up. If this will be in your garden then you will be aware of any uneven areas or steps but if you are heading out to a dark skies location then make sure that when you arrive you check the area with a red torch so that you know where any hazards may be. 2: Set up Once you have made sure that your set up area is clear & safe, now its time to start getting your equipment out and setting up. As we all have different types of equipment and, as is usually the case with people who follow a hobby, we selfishly prefer to set up our own equipment without anyone’s help just in case, God forbid, they attach your red dot finder before you have attached your eyepiece. Sacrilege behaviour. 3: Equipment Check While no one else is talking to because you have told them off for attempting to help you set up its time to do a final check to make sure that all of your bolts are tight and you have attached any leads to your camera or computer. The main thing is to check that everything is stable, you don’t want to knock over your set up because your fold out chair has fallen onto your tripod and sent your beloved scope bouncing across the field that you are currently in. 4: Align When you are happy that everything is safe & secure its time to align your mount. Star alignments or Polar alignments should be completed now. A good friend of mine has put together a guide on drift aligning which is a method he uses to fine tune his polar alignment. It takes a bit longer but it definitely worth the results if you have a GEM with just a right ascension motor, his guide can be viewed here Drift Alignment Guide . 5: Find Your Target Now that you are set up its time to locate that target and start to image. sometimes this is a lot easier said than done. There are an uncountable amount of stars up there and trying to find what you are looking for can be tricky. Thankfully, there is a plethora of information out there to guide us through the heavens. Firstly there is the good old star chart. When you buy a telescope there is more often than not some form of star chart that comes with it, be it a paperback quick guide to the constellations or a detailed book that documents the stars. If you have one it will be worth keeping it by your bedside for some light reading before bed. If you dont have one yet, you can buy one from any good high street retailer or places like eBay. Collins star charts are good and a must for every beginner and seasoned Astronomer is Turn Left at Orion. Once you have chosen you’re desired target all that’ left is to point your telescope to it. Again, easier said than done. It is advisable to have a very good look in the area of the subject that you want to image or view and get a good idea of where in that area you shouls point your scope. If you are manually using your mount, loosen both the Right Ascension and declination knobs and swing your scope so that the subject is nicely centered in the finderscope or red- dot finder then centralise the target in the telescope. At this point it will be a good idea to jeave it for 2-3 seconds then come back to make sure that your alignment is good. 6: Frame & Focus while you test you your alignment you can make a start on setting up your Camera. During the day it is worth setting up your DSLR in line with the settings posted here Canon DSLR Settings . (I believe that these settings are somewhat universal, so if you have any of those settings on your DSLR change them to match the setting if they are on your camera. Use this time to center your subject and to take some test subs at short 10 to 20 second exposures just to make sure that you are happy that the suject is centered. Use a Bhatinov mask or your computer software to ensure that you are stars are in pin-point focus. 7: Capture data This is a good time to play around with the ISO and exposure times and it will give you a good idea on what these final settings should be. Also, if you are using image capturing software the last thing that you need to do is to set up the image run by entering the subjects name and how many exposures you want along with the iso settings. The good thing about this type of software is that you can set it to capture for example; 10 x 60 second exposures @ ISO 400 on line one 20 x 90 second exposures @ ISO 200 on the next line and so on and the software will tell the camera what to do so that you can either get in to the warm on a cold night if you are in your garden or to have a look around the sky with some binoculars or a second scope for visual. If you are just using a camera without connecting to a laptop then please makesure that you have enough storage space on your memory card. When you are happy with all of the above you are ready to start taking your subs. 8: Process Once all of your subs have been taken move on to any other objects that you would like to image and leave the processing until you have packed up and got home. It is best to check each sub as they are taken then you can mark the bad ones for deletion at the time of capture to save time later. If you instead, were doing other things then now will be a good time to go through the subs and manually delete the bad subs as you don’t want any blurred or trailed subs getting in and ruining your final image. Please have a look at the Post Processing page for more information. Now you should have a great image that you can be proud of and now you will see the fruits of all of the time and effort that you have put in to capture that single image that took hours im the making. The only thing now left to do is to send in your own Astrophotography for me to display to the world on the User Images page. The details on how to send in your images can be found on the contact page .