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Need another hobby....

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It is now more than 6 months since I managed to successfully take an astro pic other than the Moon. The weather here in northern Salopia has been truly awful. It has been truly depressing the number of times I have seen people say that they've been imaging or are imaging and I look outside and it's - no. Even if it's 'clear' it's either right on top of a full Moon, or there's lots of thin high-level haze or cloud making seeing very poor. I have missed I think two possibilities which sadly coincided with me not being free. I have had several so-called clear nights (i.e forecast as clear) where by the time I had got polar aligned, it had clouded over.


Yes, I could get some filters to enable photographing nearer to a full Moon, but I was trying to walk before running.... Given my experience with weather I don't see any point in even thinking about NB - I can't even get enough clear skies to photograph RGB, let alone the 3x or more needed for NB. 


Call me old-fashioned, but I'm not very interested in "it might be clear" at 2.30am and setting my alarm to find out.


Although I have not been an active photographer/observer for a very long time (until last year) I was in the past and I can cheerfully say that in 50 years I have never known such a protracted run of poor weather as I've experienced this last half year.


You will understand this has got me rather depressed. I retired last month and I live on my own. Lockdown has curtailed all my music-based activities, so astrophotography should have been a good thing to fill my time. My target plan for autumn/winter was more on M31, then move to M42, M45, Horse Head, Rosette etc. None of it - not one. The couple of times that Orion has been visible (I live in Bortle class 4) the seeing has been awful.


My photography course has kept me going and I'm pleased that is now back in person as online was not working for me. My new project is a photo book and I will be doing some bookbinding, which is a new skillset...


This is a pic I took today on the canal (it's a short walk from the house). I've edited it to look like a watercolour painting.    


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Yes Ron , i know how you feel. I am in retirement and have spent thousands at it and it does get to you.  Seeing so much of other peoples  success's  on line, and in forums from all over the world  don't help. It makes me realise how poor our weather is for this hobby.



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We all are at the mercy of the weather and it really is a PITA, but as I have said before Ron, there are ways around it.


I am in my 6th year of being an Astronomer and I very quickly realised that at my age and with my spinal issues that setting up and stripping down at the end of each night/morning was a no no.


I decided that at the time as my wife wasn't happy about an Observatory that I would get a permanent pier made (drawings available if you need them)and set it into a block of concrete, I bought two very good waterproof covers and set everything up in the garden, so all that I had to do was remove the covers, plug my laptop in under a spring loaded camping WC Tent and it increased my imaging time ten fold, where I needed just an hour here and an hour there, it proved wonderful and all controlled by the warmth of my office: -




Here's a photo from three years ago, showing how I used to set up




Even now although I have an observatory. I still have another rig setup in the garden covered up at the end of the session with my 40EC and a different shorter FL scope and camera on it: -



And at the end of the session I still cover up the 40EC as below: -




So you see Ron, it all depends how much you want to image, I work very long hours, to the public we are operational 9-9 7 days a week 365 days a year, I rarely go to bed before 03:00, I very rarely have a day off or even a holiday (6 Years ago was the last one), I have an exceptionally ill wife with Stage 4 Cancer that takes a lot of my time up, we have just taken on a rescue pup from Romania, I have exceptionally bad spinal issues requiring two 12 hour operations, some days the pain is so bad I don't know where to put myself and I still manage to grab a good number of images each year.


So I would suggest to you to rethink how you can take advantage of the short/occasional/sometimes exceptional clear nights, that's what I did and it turned my imaging around.


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If you have the space and have a few basic tools you can quickly make an permanent setup for not much. Having got through the storms over the winter with ease my lash up has proven itself and has got me enjoying the hobby more as I take advantage of the brief clear spells. 



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Thank you for the various suggestions. 


We all have challenges of various types, some more than others, and some more visible than others. 


A more permanent set-up is on the agenda, but it is a non-starter until the major hard-landscaping work on the garden is complete (should be middle of this year, but this 9 month project is now into it's 4th year as of two weeks ago). I'm not sure which part of the garden to locate it - hence the lack of decision until it's more complete. I will have power, which will make life easier. 

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On 3/27/2021 at 7:31 PM, RPK_Astro said:

I'm not sure which part of the garden to locate it

That's the easy Part, Ron, firstly as I know you live on your own, you have no one to seek consent from, then all you need to do is find the location which gives you the best views of the southern skies and also allows you to PA (Although not strictly essential), 5 min decision and you are ready to start getting the builders in!

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Due to being in a dip, and the garden rising steeply behind the house, SW - NW is blocked. The house is essentially blocking NE - E. At patio level I have a clean run from very low in north to south, but S is cut-off due to fence.


If I step up onto the 1st terrace, I can add NE, but neighbour has recently installed a wretched light that is on all night.


If I go to the top of the garden, upper terrace, that gives a fair view from N - E - S albeit E is over the roof of the house. Doesn't solve the neighbour's light issue though. It puts me much nearer to the trees and blocks more of the SW and W.   

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If you are imaging then local insecurity lights are not really a major problem. Using suitable filters you can minimize the pollution. One shot colour cameras can benefit from the IDAS D2 which filters out LED, tungsten, sodium, mercury vapour. Mono cameras can use narrowband filters, RGB filters have gaps suited for some of the above. The only one I don’t use is L. But detail can be brought in with Ha.


My options for directions are severely hampered to the east and low angle south by trees but I have reasonable views north and west. Overhead of course is unhampered. But I make the most of it and am not too fussed about not being able to see the entire sky. There are countless targets just in the areas I have outlined so don’t become disheartened. In any case lower than 20 degrees is difficult due to the atmosphere being thicker.


I never bother with planets as I don’t have any interest in them apart from seeing them as dots. My area is Bortle 7/8 and I have lots of local light pollution but am still able to produce great results. You will find a suitable position so take the mount out with the tripod and experiment with different areas of the garden. There will be a sweet spot.

Edited by TerryMcK
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Totally agree Terry, I can't image much to the SE, S, due to being directly over Wolverhampton, SW I am restricted by trees, NE, N and NE by my home and neighbours, so I just take advantage of what I can, once it is over 45 degrees then I am mostly fine. To the East is a bloody great loads of flood lamps from the local golf course.


With Orion as my nemesis, I can only usually manage an hour/1.5 hours on it, so I just choose my subjects which give ma good view and generally I tend to get objects like planetary that most don't bother with.

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