Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Review of Backyard EOS for framing and focusing your images

After 2 years of astrophotography its time to improve things. I have resisted using a laptop for a long time but since I built my diy guiding system I know use a laptop full time while doing my astrophotography.
By far the best improvement is the ability to focus the camera much quicker then before and with less hassle. Added to this is the advantage of being able to frame my pictures better and review any changes with out having to bend over the camera in daft positions trying to see whats on the tiny screen of my Canon 350d camera.

So what am I doing that has made such a big difference I hear you asking...

Simple, I have downloaded the cool software for astrophotographers called Backyard EOS. To be fair I also tried out Astrophotography Tool another cool software but because I am dyslexic I find the lay out of Backyard EOS much easier to understand. Both are good programmes.

So using backyard EOS, as you can see it has a cool interface which is very easy to navigate with a nice big panel that shows your images as you take your shots.On the top left you see the camera icon to connect to your camera, next to that is your imaging panel and then you frame and focus panel.

Step one. Connect your camera, I am just using the USB cable that came with my cannon at the moment but need to buy a serial cable to fully control my camera on bulb setting but for now its working with out it as I also have a remote digital timer that I use once I am focused and ready to start my main imaging sessions.

Step two.
Once your connected move over to the frame and focus panel.

I find this really useful. On the bottom right panel you simply set the camera to take 10 or 15 second shot after you have targeted a bright star and put your Bahtinov Mask on your telescope. The software will then load that image on the focus panel for you so you can zoom in on it and see very clearly your close up of the star and the diffraction spikes of the Bahtinov Mask. All you need to do then is adjust focus and take another quick shot and keep at it till your Bahtinov Mask is showing you perfect focus. You can if you want to refine it further buy using the stars width at half peak using the cool focus tool but to be honest I am content with my Bahtinov Mask and once I have that all focused its job done on focusing.
So next I take of my bahtinov mask and move to my target using my finder scope. Once I am roughly in place I take another shot 30 seconds will do, if I move to bulb it wont take a shot unless I use a serial cable which I don't have yet.
No matter it takes a 30 second shot and I can then use this to frame my subject by taking a shot and adjusting the telescope axis buttons. When its all in the panel the way I want it to look its job done and so I move back to the imaging panel. In all this time the software has saved quick .jpeg images to my folder on my pc.

So back to the imaging panel.

Now we are framed and focused we can begin our imaging session. I put on my digital timer and set it to take 30x1min shots and set it going. Backyard EOS downloads my images to the defined folder and after every image is taken it come up on the nice big display panel. I can zoom in for a closer look and keep an eye on each image in the thumbnails below the main display panel. I can also see the histogram and keep an eye on how its doing.
All in all a very good bit of software for astrophotographers indeed I really like it. It has many more features then I have talked about here but I would highly recommend it if your fed up with struggling with focusing and framing your images giving Backyard EOS a try.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Sombrero Galaxy

 The amazing Sombrero Galaxy, this was taken last night at around about 1.30am I decided it was just too good a chance to miss out on as it was in just the right place at the right time. 70x1minute subs with 40 dark and flats stacked in deep sky stacker and finished in Photoshop.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Sun Flower Galaxy

Thought I had the wrong galaxy last night but pleased to find it was indeed the Sunflower Galaxy. 40 subs 20 flats and darks ISO 800 and 1600 1min subs.
A really lovely spiral galaxy this one.

Galaxy'-s Galore in Markarian'-s Chain

Markarian's Chain is an amazing chain of Galaxy's on the tail end of Leo. It took me some time to find its position but eventually got there and managed to take this image on a dark clear night. Picture was taken with 48 shots at an ISO of 800 with 30 dark's and flats applied to the final image. Stacked in deep sky stacker and finished in Photoshop. This picture was unguided which works quite well for short subs of a minute or more so long as you are polar aligned.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Thorny Rosette

Some nights can be very frustrating, bonfire smoke flood lights from distant gardens mist and wispy clouds they can all gang up on you to leave you with a very poor imaging session. This is all part of it though and you learn to keep at it. Such is the case with the Rosette Nebula I have not had a single good session with it yet but despite all that have kept trying and managed to come up with these images. Sadly it is moving away from the ideal dark part of my viewing area and it will not be back again till December this year.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Good by Bahtinov hello the Lord mask amen!

Having just got my evostar ed80 and not having a suitable Bahtinov mask for it I was going to make a smaller version but then I found this great article on the forums about making a much easier and better mask The Lord Mask
First read this article by the chap who says this..

I trust this primer in Fraunhofer diffraction demonstrates how the Bahtinov mask
functions, and how a superior mask consisting of a 'Y' shaped bar serves exactly
the same purpose, but to better effect.
So save yourself the time and effort in making a Bahtinov mask, or save your
money. Instead make a 'Y' shaped mask. Perhaps you could recognize the man
who pointed out this economical alternative and christen it the "Lord" mask

So armed with this info I then set about making my own.
You will need an old DVD case a craft knife and pencil.

First mark out on the dvd case your circle using the dew shield from you ed80

Next mark out a cross in the centre in pencil

Next mark out the Y shape using a 20% angle for the top bars

When that is cut out you can also cut out the middle section of the DVD case the bit that holds the DVD that just happens to fit nice and snug around the outside of the Dew mask if you cut it carefully with a craft knife then stick your Y shape on it with some black tape and you have neat little Y shape Lord Mask that clips on an off the dew mask with ease.

Job done and cost nothing to have a focusing mask for your ed80.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Skywatcher Evostar ED80 review

After some time imaging with a Skywatcher 200p I felt the need to upgrade my kit to a new refractor telescope and the  Skywatcher Evostar ED80 Pro had very good reviews as an imaging scope and also for observing.

My first telescope the Skywatcher 200p and EQ5 mount was purchased from Phil Burton photography in Bungay, Suffolk.

Phil is a professional photographer and I can highly recommend him as personal friend and a great choice for buying your first telescope from.
Customer service and after care service is excellent and Phil is a keen astronomer himself so understands just what you need to get started if your new to this fascinating hobby.

After 2 years of using the Skywatcher 200p I called Phil and ordered a new Skywatcher Evostar ED80 Pro Refractor telescope. So here is my review for those of you who are thinking of getting one.

As usual service from Phil Burton was excellent and the ED80 arrived the next day after my order went in so I went to the shop to collect it and take a look.

First impressions were of a comprehensive package will thought out with everything you need to get started.
The ED80 comes in a very smart foam lined carrying case that is well made and will protect your telescope from damage.

Here's a picture of the case it comes in, very smart with plastic studs on the bottom and a set of keys to lock it up with as well.

Once open everything inside was well packaged and protected, Inside you have the telescope with its rings and dovetail plate to mount it to your telescope mount, in my case an EQ5. Above the telescope you have a 10x50 finder scope, I have this on my 200p and it is great finder scope that can also double up as a guide scope.

Next to this you have a solid built diagonal for holding your eye pieces with brass lining and it hold standard 1.25 and 2 inch eye pieces very well made indeed this and saves you getting a neck ach a must have item. Next to that an adaptor for a DSLR camera, this screws into a standard T'-adaptor that fits on you camera and then that lot screws onto the next item which is your eye piece holder for putting directly into the end of the telescope.

And lastly you have a super wide angle 28m eye piece that gives suburb views of the night sky.

Here is a photo of the telescope inside the case with the above items..

The ED80 comes with a very nice crayford type focuser that is very smooth to operate and has a fine adjustment control knob for extra fine focus, it works very well and I found with my camera attached to it focusing was smooth and easy to do.

Here is a close up of the focuser..

The main lens has a white removable due shield over it ..

And here are the extra items included in the full package..

Once all this is assembled and placed on my Eq5 Mount in the garden it looks like this..

And a close up..

Now onto how it preforms as I use it for my first imaging session on M43 in the constellation of Orion.

I found it very easy and light to set up having been used to a very large reflector and fast to focus on my target for the evening. Optics are crisp and very clear but I did have a problem with dew later on. This can be sorted out with a dew strap though as standard so is not a problem.

Because it is so light compared to my 200p the Eq5 mount I had no problems at all and I was able to take 60 one minute exsposures with out any star trailing at all and longer if needed.
Views of the planets mars and the moon were crisp and sharp with very good definition and wide field views with the 28m lens were breath taking.
I was very impressed with the sharpness of the view and the telescope feels solid and very well made.

Now dispite there being a full moon which is bad for imaging deep sky objects generally, I managed to take enough subs of M42 the Orion Nebula to give me a resonable result and when I had finished for the night packing it all away was quick and easy.

The supplyed camera adapter works well and my canon 350d had no problems focusing. Also found the extra fine focus adjustment knob was a real blessing on closer observations.

So to sum up my first night with the Skywatcher Evostar ED80 Pro. A brilliant telescope that does everything I need it to do and does it very well. Solid and well built with good optics and crisp clear views of planets I viewed that evening, Mars Jupiter Saturn and Venus and the Moon. Deep sky objects give you a lovely wide field view and the results from a very poor imaging night due to a full moon were still very good indeed.

Here is my first image of the Orion Nebula 60x 1 min subs at ISO of 800 with normal darks flats and bias offsets applied.

Ten out of ten for a great telescope a joy to use and own.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

First image with my new telescope Sky-watcher evostar ed80

What a great day got my new telescope a Sky watcher ED80 pro refractor and tried it out tonight on M42
its a very nice telescope full review coming next..

And Heres tonight's first image Orion Nebula on full moon lit night as well..

Monday, 5 March 2012


Weather has been dire lately but managed to get out on Sat and have another go at M101. A full moon is not a good time to do this one but my modded cannon 350D gave me a bit more detail on the core. Will have to come back to this again when its dark clear night.
M101 is in Ursa Major its hard to spot with a telescope so I use my camera to find it by taking a 30 second shot while the telescope and camera are pointing in the general area. This works very well and I can now find it pretty quickly.

Here is a cropped version of the above image to bring up a bit more detail still not happy with the focus and details yet but a nice clear dark night should sort this out. M101 is in a good postion right now for me as its normally right above the street lights in my area. They all go off at midnight so its worth waiting for a clear night in March after midnight. Astronomers dont sleep much on clear nights.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Saturn returns and mars is high in the sky

Messing around with my webcam last night and tried out Saturn and Mars lots to improve here but its a start..