I’ve been trying to get enough data in one session for a rendition of the Horse Head with my new camera. Each time, my session was cut short due to trees in the way, the break of dawn or clouds. This morning was no exception and clouds ruined my session even before the sun could.
No matter. I took all the short, incomplete sessions I had and combined the data into one composite image. I even used the BW stuff I had before I got the camera working correctly with the right drivers. I estimate I have about 70 minutes of time in the above image, with up to 4 separate stacks combined into it.
After a few all-nighters during the recent good weather we’ve been having down here in Cajun Country, I must say I’m worn out. LoL. But, I had lots of fun shooting very dim objects through Bortle Red Zone skies that I would have never thought would let me capture what I did. Modern progress with astro-filters and more sensitive cameras save the day! Plus, none of the stuff I bought broke the bank.
Since I shot the Eastern Veil with the new setup, I had to try the western part, aka the Witch’s Broom. It was easy with the QHY183c and a cheap UHC filter. I got 45 minutes worth of 30 second sub-images and they stacked automatically in SmartCap 3.2. Star colors could be better, but this is about normal for a UHC filter shot. The red channel was not quite in focus, however. I fixed it after acquiring the data for the above image.
I shot 3 other objects on this night, Gamma Cas, M33 (again) and the Horse Head Nebula, with 2 of them completed. I got clouded out during the last session with the Horse Head. Below are the results:
What a night! My new QHY183c astro camera worked really well once I had it hooked to a computer that could handle the 20MP downloads and live stacking requirements of SharpCap 3.2. I used my older Panasonic ToughBook for controlling the scope and the guiding while another laptop, a Toshiba i7-based unit, was used for image acquisition and live-stacking. I was able to bag six objects with this setup before I had to turn in and get some sleep.
(BTW, EAA is Electronically Assisted Astronomy. It is a way to “observe” from a light-polluted metro area with real-time captures and strong LP filters on a computer using highly sensitive astro cameras.)
SharpCap 3.2 works really well on the faster machine but not on the ToughBook. The USB 3 port and it’s 2.5Ghz processor are just not powerful enough, I guess. I will have to tuneup the Toshiba to do all the stuff the ToughBook was doing and live-stack with SharpCap, all at the same time. Hopefully, I’ll take care of that soon.
I finally did it. I bought a new camera for imaging (and Electronically Assisted Astronomy or EAA for short) that has a cooler and is dedicated for astrophotography. It is a QHY183c from QHYCCD. It is a 20MP, Sony IMX183 BSI CMOS-based camera with electronic refrigeration to cool the CMOS chip and reduce noise.
I chose a color camera since I shoot comets and it is easier to do those with a one-shot-color (OSC) camera vs. a mono camera needing filters and a filter wheel. Plus, it was cheaper by far for the color version ($699 vs $999 or $1199 w/filter wheel) since Sony sells and produces lots more of them than the mono version of the chip. And, you don’t need a set of filters and the filter wheel, which adds to the cost considerably.
The moon image above was shot when it was still low in the sky and reddish in hue. I shot a short video of it with 61 frames. I used SharpCap 2.9, since the newer SharpCap 3.2 version did not want to work for some reason. I opened the .SER video file it produced in AutoStakkert and stacked half the frames with the default AutoStakkert settings. Some sharpening and other enhancement was done in PS.
I had a few problems with the laptop not handling the amount of data that the 20MP cam produces at it’s full resolution and highest bit-depth settings. I could get it to work in mono mode but not in color mode reliably. Later, I tried the camera with a much more robust and newer laptop and it seemed to work much better. Looks like I will need to upgrade my field laptop, which is an older Panasonic ToughBook with an i5 processor.
EAA was a blast with this camera. I was in the middle of the city and was picking up the Veil Nebula and the Horse Head Nebula with no problems. I was using a cheap UHC filter that had sharp cutoffs for H-beta/OIII and H-alpha wavelengths and that helped with all the LP. I did more EAA than trying to get data to produce finished images. I kept a few that I will tack on to the end of this post.
Imaging with a color camera during a full moon night is pointless for dim nebula, but star clusters will come out decent if you have enough sub-images and the noise is kept low with good calibration frames.
I got a chance to do an equipment shakedown imaging session on Saturday night, Oct 12, 2019. It was my first one this season. I thought I would run into numerous problems, but it was not as bad as I thought it might be. Only a few things were not working and needed fixing or replacing. It was all small stuff, like a busted dew strap and broken focus mask, which I was able to glue back together. The main thing I was able to fix were some issues with my mount’s declination axis and backlash settings. It had been needing some adjustments since before the last time I imaged and I finally got it done.
The weather was nice, at least at first. We had a cold front pass through the night before down here in Cajun Country – the first significant front of the season and it brought the temps down into the 50’s. It was very clear at the start of the night and cool. But, clouds eventually came in and spoiled everything as the night wore on, unfortunately. By 2:00 AM, I was completely clouded out, so I packed it in and called it a night.
Here’s another version of that moon image, which being a Hunter’s Full Moon, made it a worthwhile keeper:
Images of Comets, Nebulae, Galaxies and Star Clusters