Perfect Astronomy

Trying Out New Astrophotography Techniques

Published January 5, 2023 by Tim Trott in Observations

I haven't been very active in astro imaging the past few years for various reasons, however now I try new astrophotography techniques.

Living in a top floor flat for a few years with no garden and a lot of stairs to cart heavy equipment up and down kinda dampens astrophotography enthusiasm somewhat. A few years ago I moved to a ground floor flat with a small private garden, however there are telephone cables across most of the lawn, and the sky is heavily light polluted. Still, I've seen some good results from people in similar conditions so I'm trying out new techniques to see if I can get good results as well.

View of Orion in Light Polluted Skies with Overhead Cables
View of Orion in Light Polluted Skies with Overhead Cables

I have a good view from the South-East to South-West with the exception of a large tree due south. To the West I have a lot of light pollution from the City, to the North a leisure centre with floodlit playing fields. By eye I can just about make out 4 stars in the Pleiades cluster and estimate my limiting magnitude to be around about 4.

My normal technique would be to capture a series of long exposures using my DSLR, align and stack in Photoshop with level and curves adjustments. However with such light pollution, an exposure of more than 5 seconds has lost any trace of stars and is all skyglow. As a result I have to take a lot more photos, of shorter exposures, and take more. The problem with this is the amount of time needed to manually align and stack in Photoshop.

Step in the software automation programs that did not exist when I started out. I can quite easily take 100 photos and have them aligned, stacked and processed in a minute.

First attempt at the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024)
First attempt at the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024)

Not particularly impressive I'll admit. It was my first DSO for over 10 years, I didn't have any tracking and was still learning the software. This photo was made by stacking 200 individual photos of 1.3 seconds using Canon 80d and EF 70-300mm lens, ISO-3200, f/5 at 180mm. These frames were processed using DeepSkyStacker and final levels and curves in Photoshop CS3.

The flame nebula isn't an easy target, I think I should have probably started on M42 to make things a little easier for myself. I was quite surprised that this nebula was even visible.

So now I'm going to dust off my old HEQ5 mount and find a way to attach my camera and 150-500mm lens to the dovetail bar and try some more targets with tracking. Hopefully this will allow me to use slightly longer exposures. I also want to setup the Skymax 90 with my Bresser Full HD Deep-Sky Camera, neither of which I've used since buying them last year, and try some planetary imaging.

All I need now is some clear skies however the 10 day forecast is for rain every night.

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