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My Astrotrac Advenuture

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Replied by StephenK on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

The images are getting better!
Ill have that polar scope sorted as soon as they open up :)
Stephen Kershaw
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8 years 10 months ago #99661

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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Good Morning and Happy new year.

Despite the forecast last night the skies did clear, and i was out in the garden to hear the bells ring in 2014.

I was observing Jupiter in the cracking 20x80 Bionos I won from this site (Thanks again Carl)

This is for me the major reason I got an Astrotrac, set up. I took me 5 mins to get the tripod trac and camera and get it aligned. Its not perfect, I need to get a new Polar Scope (Thanks again Stephen) to really push the limits.

I took a shot of M81 and M82 with an old Pentacon Lens (135mm f2.8, and the result was really bad. the lens is soft at 2.8 with pronounced CA.

This is the shot. 30 x 60 second shots.

www.astrobin.com/70369/

I may return to this lens and step it down to f4 and see if its any better.

While using Jupiter as a target to focus the camera I saw an open cluster to the left of the frame in the test shot.
A little digging in Stellarium showed this to be M44 Beehive Cluster in Cancer. So before the clouds rolled in i managed to shoot 20 X 30 second frames. 20 Darks and 20 Bias

all stacked in DSS and tweeked in CS6

www.astrobin.com/70367/

I am going to spend the next few cloudy nights reading up on DSS, all my images seem to loose colour when im processing.
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8 years 10 months ago #99669

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

new polar scope due today.

now if the clouds and the moon would just oblige and go away please. :)
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8 years 10 months ago #99817

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

New Polar scope arrived last week, just in time for the rain.
I was just unlucky with the first one, this one is perfect. And i had no problems getting it replaced.

attached is a shot at m82 and the recent supernova, the lens really let me down. The whole left side is badly misaligned.

Well a cheap lens will do that !
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8 years 10 months ago #99885
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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Got about 2 hours of clear skies last night before, the cold and the Derby got me back inside.

Last night i moved the astrotrac to the 2 o clock position on the wedge as advised and put a 72mm WO Apo on the gearhead with the 60D attached.

as i forgot my timer i was reduced to 30 second exposures. But i did not mind.

Polar alignment was much better and the new polar scope is making life so much easier.

I am finding the gear head a bit difficult to coax into the position in want for the shot, i kind of look like im hugging it at times.
Doing all this in my north facing driveway is resulting in more twitching curtains than normal :)

link below is M81 and M82

16 x 30 second shots
16 Darks
16 Bias Frames

Stacking in DSS with minimal adjustments in Lightroom.

id really like to learn how to stretch out the curves in Photoshop, if anyone knows a good place on the web for doing this ?

www.astrobin.com/75129/
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8 years 9 months ago #99904

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Its been a few months, but due to several things including the clouds I have been out very little.

This changed Friday, I got 3 hours of dark skies before a very bright moon came up from the east and sent me packing.

this was the first time I used my astrotrac visually, with the 72mm APO sweeping the galaxy fields of Virgo the astrotrac stayed dead on the targets. I am going to invest in the astrotrac head

This is one of several shots I took that night. Its M51.

This is 16 30 second shots, the same in darks and bias.

Deep sky stacker and processed in Photshop using the Doug German method that you can find on youtube

www.youtube.com/channel/UCvLpugEDmDVQr1JDptAsbQg


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8 years 6 months ago #100761
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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Well as some of you may know, after investing in an astrotrac pier and head deal, i managed to smash the astrotrac on Wednesday night.

its now in Bristol being repaired.

In the emantime i and some other Astrotrac owners have set up this facebook page for anyone interested.

www.facebook.com/astrotracon
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8 years 5 months ago #100868

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

So after the fun of lost parcels and several phone calls to a Bristol Parcel Force depot, my astrotrac arrives in Bristol a week after I sent it.

Dealt with the very pleasant Phill Jones @astrotrac, who had it fixed and back out to me same day.
The damage, popped out the barrel and opened up the sealed bearing plate. 130 euros repair, service and post back to me. Could have been a whole lot worse.

Astrotrac have IMO a very good aftersales service, very easy to deal with and very quick service.
Now I just need it back and a clear night.

I have ordered a TS80mm Quad APO from Ktech Telescopes and should have it in the next week. TS bench test all of their refractors before they send them out, so im very excited to see what this scope can do.

If anyone saw the 65mm Version of this at Cosmos, this is the big brother. There is a 100mm version but I think id be pushing the astrotrac with that one.
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8 years 5 months ago #100930

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Replied by michael_murphy on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

I have ordered a TS80mm Quad APO from Ktech Telescopes and should have it in the next week. TS bench test all of their refractors before they send them out, so im very excited to see what this scope can do..


That's the end of summer, then :P
Sig 1
8 years 5 months ago #100935

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Asrotrac, check
New Telescope Check
ability to stay up until I gets dark - epic fail!
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8 years 5 months ago #101047

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

So I finally got the clouds to clear for a few hours, the moon to stay out of sight, manged not to smash any of my gear and got it all set up in the garden to test this scope and the pier.

few photos





of what it all looks like set yup below. and a test shot of M31
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8 years 4 months ago #101276
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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Ok something more of a review on the astrotrac system itself.

Firstly the astrotrac unit, its light weight and can carry a serious amount of kit for its size . I have it carrying a 5kg scope, DSLR, guide scope and camera. which it does with no issues. But at this weight and focal length you do need to have it on a very strong tripod or pier and the wedge is a must for polar alignment. As mounts go its easy to use and looks amazing. My only niggle with it is the 3 screws you need to attach it to the wedge are a pain to put in due to their position.

The wedge and pier are rock solid pieces of kit. And the all fold inside the body of the pier for transport, which is perfect. what does not fit inside is the astrotrac head and counter balance weights. but you can just about get bar and weights in and carry the head in your camera back as I do. what I don't like about the pier are the screws on the feet for adjustment, the could do with being an inch longer. As a travel system you will be suing ti on rough ground a lot and its a pain to have to move it once set up. The wedge is very well built and does the job perfectly. The astro trac head is a weak point, the adjustments are hard to control with a heavy set up and you need to watch where you have the screws for the weights ot you can take the astrotrac arm out when moving the scope. Fibne adjustment is just not exiestant on a system like this, so framing a subject can be a lot of fun and games. saying that I would think that 600mm focal length is about as much as you would like to be doing on this set up, or framing would be extremely difficult.

Now the real weakness of the system, the polar alignment scope is very poor. Its of bad plastic construction and sits magnetically on a holder that slides out of the astrotrac. Very very easy to knock out. I have done it, and I know people who have smashed them doing it. Also the alignment stars can be a pain to see inside as the setting is pretty much on and off, there is no good low setting for the light. Have put some tape over one half of the led and this has improved things.

For the same kind of money you could buy an EQ5 as buy the travel package as I did. This incudes the Unit, Pier, Wedge and head package. But for you are going to find it harder to lug an EQ5 out to a dark site, and I don't see it getting on a plane as hand luggage. I went down this road for portability mainly, and the fact this set up can carry everything from a 6" SCT town to a DSLR and switch functionality between a time lapse tool an astrophotgraphy tracking unit and a tracking observing aid sold it to me. There are some functions such as guiding that I have not even tried yet, but I have a whole winter of dark skies to play with yet!
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8 years 4 months ago #101277

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Replied by Keith g on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Thanks for your review Dave, I agree with all that you have stated here. I have my astrotrac for about 5 years now, and have gotten some great results with it. You do really need a steady tripod or better still a pier.

As for the polar scope, I find it manageable but it is very flimsy, sometimes I have to realign where the led shines into the scope to make the alignment stars show through. It is a bit ropey when it's pointing up at Polaris, every time I hope it won't fall out.

I have had a dslr plus a 1kg lens on it over the years, but soon I am going to do something different. I am going to have a go at using my Celestron C80Ed, plus dslr for unguided shots. I am glad to hear of the amount of weight you have on yours, I'll perhaps try this soon when skies are good.

Keith..
If a telescope can fit into your backyard it's too small. If you can't move it, it's too big." -- John Dobson
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8 years 4 months ago #101294

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

HI Keith,

yeah the polar scope is a nightmare, I have been reading up on collimation mods for it and ill have to give them a go. At a focal length of 480 - 500 (plus the effect of a crop sensor comos DSLR) the best I have seen unguided is 300 seconds, and at that the guy who did it made a few adjustments to the polar scope and the holder it sits in. I have seen a mod where a webcam is attached to the astrotrac through the mount for the polar scope to allow a much better (they say) alignment. Not sure about that one.

Im hoping to give the drift method of alignment a go over the weekend. See does that improve things. But I do have the guiding option here and ready to go.

The main difficulty im experiencing is the lack of slow motion controls. Trying to frame objects is not easy when locking down the astrotrac head moves you off target. But I guess that's another learning curve fior me.

I think if I was doing this again I would have gone for the 65mm quad and not the 80mm. I guess I just wanted a bigger scope. The weight of this set up is about on the limit of what the astrotrac can carry, and I have the full wedge - pier - head set up.

Thursday night with the astrotrac fully loaded I found it took me a good hours and 5 or 6 attempts at alignment to get 60 second subs with the 80mm. so im hoping with drifting and a few other adjustments in balance I can get up to 120 seconds.

Only then will I go for guiding

clear skies!
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8 years 4 months ago #101305

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

So Friday night despite the forecast was clear at 11pm, so after an evening on the sofa with her indoors watching the Jack Ryan movie (Don't! The Hunt for Red October this is not ! ) I set up the astrotrac in the garden.

I decided that I would not get enough time to play around with drift alignment and guiding so after consulting Stellarium I decided that my 100mm Canon f2.8 lens would give a nice field of view of the North American Nebula. Having read that if you step these down to f4 the image is much sharper (thank you DSLR Astrophotography Michael A. Covington) I set everything up and pointed at Deneb, and after only a few seconds of focusing using the simply amazing Backyard EOS I let rip into 300 second exposures at ISO 400. I managed 15 before the wind took up and the clouds rolled in, of the 15, 8 useable, 5 had clouds and 2 had satellites. Ran off 8 dark frames and set Deep Sky Stacker to work.

Processing these images is starting to take over my life, im reading up a lot on this and watching some serious amount of youtube. Doug German (budgetastro.net) has some great ideas and methods, and I recommend anyone who is shooting DSLR images to look him up.

The resulting image is 8 x 300 subs and Darks and 10 bias frames.

The image lacks colour and I need to look at perhaps splitting the RGB and processing separately, and I have also read about creating a false luminance channel, any and all critics welcome. And any processing tips most welcome.

Have also noticed the heat the chip is generating on 300 second subs, if anyone has any ideas on cooling a DSLR would very much welcome the input.

******Don't seem to be able to post pics today, link below*****

www.astrobin.com/109686/
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Last edit: 8 years 4 months ago by manic_dave.
8 years 4 months ago #101323

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Thought I would give the Moon a whirl last night. Looked like was going to clear for several hours, but I just could not stay up till after midnight on a school night waiting for the moon to go down.

Equipment used. Astrotrac set up, pier,wedge, head
Scope TS 80mm Quad Flatfield
Camera ZWO 120MM

I just roughly aligned the astrotrac, did not even bother with the Polar scope. just got it level and pointed the axis northish.
Again the real challenge of the astrotrac is the lack of slow motion adjustments, I am having to cantre a target in a wide field eyepiece, then push the magnification with another eyepiece, lock down the astrotrac and put I the cameras.
I'm working on an idea for using a gear head between the astrotrac head and the scope, but I'm not sure it will work.

This was my first time attempting to shoot an avi.
I shot 1000 frames on the second to highest settings on the camera using Sharpcap.
Astronomy Shed in the UK have great youtube clips on how to do this, Dion is the lads name, nice fella.
I then took the image into Registax 5, I tried to download 6, but it was saying I was missing some file, so I just went with 5. Its probably windows 8 again!
again following one of Dion's clips I processed it and had to do very little with it in Lightroom.
as a first attempt I'm very happy with it.







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Last edit: 8 years 3 months ago by manic_dave.
8 years 3 months ago #101387
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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

another clear night, but a very bright moon to contend with.

6 panel stich in photoshop, ZWO 120mm TS80ED Quad on the Astrotrac
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8 years 3 months ago #101412
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Replied by flt158 on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

You probably know this, Dave. The western side has quite a bit missing. Good shot otherwise!

Aubrey.
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8 years 3 months ago #101413

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

you got me !

blurred the last 3 images for the full disk !
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8 years 3 months ago #101414

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

This is a stack of 10 30 second shots on the astrotrac using a 100 to 400L Canon lens and a Modified 300d Canon DSLR.

The 300da is picking up much more nebulosity than my 60d, but the 60d takes images with less noise.

The astrotrac adventure hits Kerry dark Skies this weekend , see you all there.


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8 years 3 months ago #101492
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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Very quick Post, went looking for Comet c/2014 E3 Jacques last night.

Its sitting in between the heat and soul nebula, and I wish I had the time to run longer exposures to bring out the nebulae.

This is a stack of 8 30 second shots on a converted Canon 300d on the astrotrac. Taken from my porch while I was watching gold rush !

Lens was a 100 to 400l @ 200mm

That's the double cluster at the top of the image, the comet is the fuzzy ball at the 9 o clock position.

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Last edit: 8 years 3 months ago by manic_dave.
8 years 3 months ago #101520
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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Well the Skelligs lived up to its dark sky billing, some shots attached, all Canon 60d. and the large shot stitched from 7 stacks of 60 second shots on the astrotrac with a 100mm lens








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8 years 3 months ago #101593
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Replied by johnomahony on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Great shots Dave ! I love the one of the milkyway with the scope in the foreground. What lens did you use for that shot?

Get yourself a good wide angle lens for your Astrotrac set up, something around 10-20mm if you don't already have one for those milky way shots. You won't regret it.
The Canon and Sigma 10-20mm lenses work well. The Samyang 14mm lens has a good reputaton and is inexpensive. They are brilliant for milky way shots and for nightscapes and grabbing those last minute shots. At that focal length there is very little set up time and almost no tracking restrictions.. Highly recommend the Tokina 11-16mm if you plan to stick with a crop frame sensor (see below)

www.flickr.com/photos/7703127@N07/9432348452/
The Lord giveth, the Revenue taketh away. (John 1:16)

www.flickr.com/photos/7703127@N07/
Last edit: 8 years 3 months ago by johnomahony.
8 years 3 months ago #101600

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Replied by Keith g on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Great shots Dave wow they are really dark skies, looking forward to seeing some more soon !!

Keith.
If a telescope can fit into your backyard it's too small. If you can't move it, it's too big." -- John Dobson
8 years 3 months ago #101601

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Replied by manic_dave on topic My Astrotrac Advenuture

Keith, not sure if you have getting my emails? can you drop me a link This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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