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My Telescope journey


Dave_S
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As I'm stuck under, almost endless cloud, I thought I would take a little nostalgia trip.
 
My Telescope journey from 2001 to 2014, when I left the hobby, before returning to it in late September 2021.
 
Photo1:- 8" Celestron SCT, and a tripod in the garden (circa 2001)
 
Photo 2:-Meade 12" SCT + Skywatcher ED 80, on a Fork Mount, in a Roll-off-Roof obsy (circa 2007)
 
Photo 3:-WO 110mm Triplet + Meade 8" SCT on an NEQ6. RoR Obsy converted to rotating octagonal turret, (circa 2011).
 
Then in 2014 left the hobby, and moved house.
 
2021 returned to the hobby, but this time, no obsy, just a permanent pier in the garden, and the summer house as warm room.
 
Photo 4:- the current set up. Altair 115 Triplet APO, 60mm Guide Scope, Hypercam 294c Pro TEC, GPCAM130 Guide Cam, Mini PC on the 115, HEQ5 Pro mount, on a permanent pier, and the summer house as a warm room.

scope 1.jpg

scope 2.jpg

scope 3.jpg

scope 4..jpg

Edited by Dave_S
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14 hours ago, TerryMcK said:

What cameras were you using back then Dave or was it mainly visual?

Visual at the very beginning, then very quickly into imaging.

 

They were all Starlight Xpress cameras. I started out with the MX5c, then the H9c, then the H9 mono (at which point I went over to LRGB), and lastly the SXVR H16 mono. A much larger sensor, which meant that I had to by a whole new set LRGB filters.

 

Excellent cameras, and excellent customer. support.

 

Sadly, the end of ccd based astro camera for the amateur market, is now in sight, and the cheaper cmos cameras are replacing them.

 

Although ccd cameras were less sensitive than today's cmos camera, and required longer exposure times, there was no 'starburst' or other excessive amp glow, and no gain or black point setting to be concerned with.

 

SX ccd cameras are still available, but as astro imaging is now a secondary interest to my photography, I must resist the temptation to buy one. 🙂

https://davesimaging.wixsite.com/mysite

 

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On 1/12/2022 at 12:09 PM, MartinS said:

Enjoyed your telescope journey, mine has only been since 2016. May I ask if you could describe the changes in equipment capability over the period. 

 

Hi Martin

 

An interesting question.

 

Having returned to astro  imaging after being away from it for some 8 years, I have seen a number of changes.

 

Probably the biggest change is that so much of the kit that we use, now comes from China, or Taiwan. In some ways  good, in others not, especially if you want to ask questions of the manufacturer.

 

The 'big players' in the SCT market, were Meade (I had 3)  and Celestron (I had 1), shifted their manufacturing from the US, to the far east.

 

Some of the manufactures, have stuck with old technology, such as Skywatcher, in that although their HEQ5 Pro which I now have has an RJ45 socket, instead of the old 9 pin DIN socket,  it still requires RS232 to "talk" to it.  As such it requires an EQdirect cable to enable it to connect to the USB socket on a computer. RS232 was replaced by USB on computers many years ago.

 

I find the biggest change has been in astro cameras, with the CCD sadly on its way out, and replaced by cheaper CMOS cameras. Apart from price, the CMOS cameras are more sensitive than CCD, but come with quirks that CCD doesn't have . When I got my 294c based camera, I found that I now have Black Point (Offset), and gain settings to contend with (not the case with CCD), and severe amp glow/starburst, albeit it can removed by dark frame subtraction. Apparently, so I am told, that gets more difficult with exposures over 240 seconds.

 

Whereas Starlight Xpress CCD cameras (I had several), and ATIK cameras were UK designed, and built, albeit ATIK are now manufactured in Portugal, it seems that the majority of the CMOS astro imaging cameras, are Chinese designed, and built. The two "main players" I believe are, Touptek and ZWO. As I understand it, ZWO only market theirs under their own brand, whereas Touptek cameras are re-badged, and sold by a variety of different companies.  My Touptek 294c based camera was purchased from one such company.

 

CCD cameras are still available, and are likely to be some time, as I'm sure the likes of SX and ATIK will have bought large quantities of the  sensor  'chips' when Sony announced it was going to discontinue manufacturing them. As I mentioned earlier, I am trying the resist the temptation of buying an SX CCD camera. But astro imaging is now very much a secondary interest to my photography.

 

When it comes to software, there now seems to be more choices than you can "shake a stick at", some free, some cheap, some more expensive, and one still very expensive. From what I see on forums, many of today's imagers opt for the free, or budget options.

 

Back in the day, I used both Astroart, and Maxim DL. Maxim DL was considered to be the "industry standard' but very expensive. I had AA versions 3, 4, and 5, and for me it was a "no brainer" to upgrade my old version 5 to the current V 8 when I returned to the hobby. Given that as I said, astro imaging is now a secondary interest, Maxim DL was not going to be an option, based on cost.

 

Personal preference of course, but I much prefer an 'all in one' package for capture, guiding, and processing, rather than separate applications for each function. AA8 does all three perfectly. Of course as a keen photographer, I also have Photoshop CS for the 'final polish'. I do have PHD2, but AA8 does the same job, and just as well.

 

I would add that I also have PixInsight, which I have had since its first release, and now updated to the current release. It is an excellent, and powerful piece of software, promoted very early on by Harry Page's excellent tutorials. However, it can be quite a learning curve for the novice, and I find it a bit laborious in use, so I stick with AA8 and Photoshop CS.

 

Back in the day, ASCOM didn't exist, and software such as Astroart and Maxim required the native drivers for individual cameras.  Now of course ASCOM compatible cameras are the 'norm', which makes it easier for software developers, having a cross product platform to work with. ASCOM camera control does not provide the refined camera control attributes that the 'native drivers' do, and if you use Robin Glover's Sharpcap, it will tell you so. That said, ASCOM control does the job. 

 

You can control your mount with the ASCOM platform, and EQmod, and of course guide using it. Back in the day, all we had was the then industry standard ST4. That said, despite it being often stated that ASCOM Pulse guiding is better than ST4, there is no difference, both are pulse guiding. Its only interface to the mount that is different. The only other difference is that ASCOM does not need the extra ST4 connection/cable that ST4 does.

 

I hope that I have answered your question Martin, albeit I bet you didn't expect it to be so "long winded" (lol), and if some of it is "teaching granny to suck eggs", I apologise both to you, and other experienced members, albeit it might be useful/interesting reading to those new to the hobby.

 

Right, I now need to give my fingers a rest, and grab a cup of tea. 😅

 

Edited by Dave_S
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Dave, thank you for an interesting and informative response. My experience since starting this hobby mirrors much of what you described with slight variations, in I now have a mix of SX, Zwo and Qhy. My last CCD Camera (SX36) will be the next to be replaced, then I will only have CMOs main camera’s with the exception of 3 Loadstar x2 units. The CCD’s are great cameras but were not suited to the U.K. sky conditions. I have a lot of partial frame sets which will never be completed, frames of 15/30 mins were just too long.

Mount wise I finalised on Mesu200 and an NEQ6 pro (mobile system).

My Software experience has been a journey through most of the applications you mention and I have settled on SGP, Nina, SkyX and Pixinsight. In the early days I found Sharpcap and Nebulosity 4 were great for a beginner where ease of use was paramount given the steep learning curve associated with adopting AP.

The choice of telescope, mount, camera and software available to anyone taking up AP has never been better and continues to grow. Wether you like it or not, much of the hardware benefits are down to Chinese copies with some new innovation.

A review of images across various forums bears testament to a massive increase in quality images, not too long ago this was the domain of a handful of dedicated persons. Will the development continue or has it stalled against  the environmental constraints of terrestrial imagers.

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I appreciate what you say about UK skies, and the limit they place on long exposure imaging, albeit I can't recall ever taking subs any longer than 10 minutes, with any of my SX  ccd cameras, and 5 mins was the 'norm'.

 

What was time consuming, was LRGB imaging, which I did for many years, and given that, here in Suffolk, we now don't seem get same frequency of clear night that we used to get, so now its OSC.  Less harsh winters, but cloudier ones. Climate change?.

 

The other problem now, is the number of satellites,  so many more than we had back in the day.

 

However, it is what is, we just have to work with it.

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