I am amazed at how much signal is in just 6 minutes of sub-images for this new camera, QHYCCD’s QHY183c. When you take the shot, there is really not much there without significant stretching of the image. But, since the noise is so low with this cam, it can be boosted beyond anything a DSLR image could keep up with.
Now, I did do quite a bit of noise reduction on the Veil image included here, but it had enough signal to preserve enough detail to make the image adequate for a display image. I reduced it 50% to smooth it out more, but the original size is OK, too, just quite large to be downloading on a mobile phone.
Clouds were why the session was so short. I was clouded out when it was in a prime position early on, then it went completely overcast at the end. In between, I manged to get the 6 x 1 minute subs . I gave up and tore down and stowed the rig after I couldn’t shoot anymore. Almost as soon as I had put away the last piece of gear, I went back out and it was totally clear, just like when I had started setting up. Sucker holes and I fall for them all the time. lol
I was actually just testing some tweaks to my laptop I did hoping that they would improve performance. I added memory and updated a few drivers. Stability was vastly improved, but the speed of the machine lacked. I could not do a, “live,” shot of the moon at the lower exposure needed. It would not stream with the exposure less than 350ms. Too many frames per second for it to keep up with, I guess. Means I need another field laptop. 🙁
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.
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:
The lunar eclipse of Jan 20, 2019. Top image is just after totality had set in. It is enhanced to show more background stars and brighten the moon a bit, sort of like you would see it in binoculars or a telescope.
The second image is just after mid-eclipse and is enhanced to show more background stars, but not brighten the moon too much. This was more how the eclipse looked to the naked eye.
Below is the whole eclipse saved as a 79-frame animated GIF image:
I had a hard time getting the images aligned on this one. I tried manually doing it in PS, but it is tedious and easy to make mistakes. Finally, I had to write a script in IRIS and told it to combine separate RGB files into color images that had been processed through IRIS’s planetary alignment tool. I also tried to make a video file that would upload to hosts on the web. Unfortunately, it always changed the colors to be too bright and yucky with the conversion from AVI to MP3/MP4 or WMV formats, so I gave up on that.
Images of Comets, Nebulae, Galaxies and Star Clusters