Imaging with an "old school" setup

For those interested in imaging and image processing with DSLR, CCD, webcam or film.
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rwilkinson
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Joined: Mon Oct 12, 2009 7:47 pm
Location: Bolton

Imaging with an "old school" setup

Post by rwilkinson » Mon Apr 20, 2020 12:15 pm

All the hardware which I use for my comet imaging dates back to the turn of the century...

I bought the Celestron C8 Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope and Meade 0.33 focal reducer brand-new back in 2003.
Originally I used it on an EQ5 mount with dual-axis motors: and so had to spend quite a while "star-hopping" to each target. Then in 2009 I picked up a second-hand Celestron CG5-AGT with GoTo.
The Starlight Xpress Mx716 monochrome cooled CCD camera also dates from around 2003, although I only acquired it second-hand four years ago. I don't use any guiding system, but for 60-90 second comet images the tracking of my mount is just about adequate. The laptop computer which runs the camera is a venerable old Dell Inspiron, "upgraded" to an early version of WindowsXP, which was donated by another BAS member.

I don't have an "observatory": just operate from a portable field-tripod and camping-table - but at least this gives me the freedom to set up anywhere in the garden, to get the best visibility of my chosen target beyond the surrounding houses, trees and overhanging phone-lines.
I power the mount (and dew-heater) from an old 12V car battery, but run out a mains extension for the computer and camera.
old school imaging.jpg
My open-air observatory. Note the kneeling-pad under the tripod which I use when looking through the polar-scope.
old school imaging.jpg (221.73 KiB) Viewed 2952 times
It takes me 20-30 minutes to set up and align the mount, then focus and find my target. But once I've set it capturing images, I can go back indoors and just pop out periodically to check that it's still running (and that it hasn't clouded over!). Then at the end of the session, I can have everything packed away within ten minutes.

The display on my laptop shows the latest image from the camera (note the vignetting from the focal-reduced SCT) and I also open a File Explorer window to be sure that I'm actually auto-saving the files (since once when I forgot to tick the box and lost an hour's data!):
SXconsole.jpg
Laptop console when capturing images
SXconsole.jpg (88.76 KiB) Viewed 2952 times
Even the IRIS post-processing software is "old school" (written between 1999-2010) and runs happily on the old WinXP "scraptop".
Here is the final image which I got from this session: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1040&start=5

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rwilkinson
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Joined: Mon Oct 12, 2009 7:47 pm
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Re: Imaging with an "old school" setup

Post by rwilkinson » Sat Apr 25, 2020 3:04 pm

In contrast to the vintage monochrome system described above, my colour imaging system is more modern (most of the kit is less than ten years old!):
sony_starwave.jpg
sony_starwave.jpg (172.8 KiB) Viewed 2892 times
This is a little Sony NEX5 mirrorless camera fitted on the back of my Starwave 80ED refractor. It's much quicker to set up as it doesn't need a laptop (nor mains supply) and all runs off the same 12V battery which powers the mount and dew-heater. The Starwave is very big and heavy for an 80mm 'scope, but it works well on on my old Celestron CG5 AGT GoTo mount.
I first use the camera's "Manual Focus Assist" magnified (x9) Live-View mode to focus on a bright star, then a Bluetooth dongle enables the mount to be controlled from a tablet running SkySafariPlus (this app has the co-ordinates of all the comets I'm following).
Once I've located the comet, I use a home-made interval timer to operate the camera's shutter via its Infra-Red interface.

Last night I used this to get another picture of comet C/2017 T2 (PanSTARRS):
c2017t2_24apr.jpg
Comet 2017 T2 on 24-Apr. 23x 60-sec + 20x 85-sec with NEX5R on 80ED at f/4.8.
c2017t2_24apr.jpg (104.6 KiB) Viewed 2892 times
All the raw data is saved on the camera's SD-card, which I then plug into my Win10 laptop and process in IRIS.

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