Practical Astronomy

ISSN 2042-2687

Beginner’s Guide To DSLR Astrophotography - Part 1

December 2009 DSLR Astrophotography Binocular Observing Challenge Holiday Gift Ideas Astronomy Recipe Of The Month Astro Imaging Start-Up Story

Practical Astronomy
In this month’s issue..
3 5 7 9 BINOCULAR CHALLENGE - 12 OBJECTS IN 12 DAYS? A collection of target objects, for the holiday period RADIO, OPTICAL AND INFRARED OBSERVATORY The multi-wavelength project of a reader in Sweden DSLR ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY - PART 1 Practical guide to this powerful imaging technique READERS IMAGE GALLERY Your astronomy images (have you sent one yet?)

December 2009

First Light
Welcome to the December issue of Practical Astronomy. Yet again, more features and more pages this month.. Please welcome especially our new contributors, who have written magazine articles and sent great images for the gallery. I put out a call for help to the subscribed members ... and YOU answered. Thank you very much (and keep it up!) This issue also sees the start of a new guide to digital SLR astrophotography. Presented in parts, it will build over coming months into a very Practical Astronomy how-to guide to this new and powerful imaging technique. There’s also the holiday season binocular challenge, a very tasty fishy recipe and many other features, So, I do hope you enjoy this December issue. Please leave a little feedback at..
Kevin Brown Sponsored By

11 HOLIDAY SEASON: ASTRONOMY GIFT IDEAS Some gift ideas for the astronomers in your life! 12 ASTRONOMY RECIPE OF THE MONTH Sirius Pisces Oriental - a feisty fishy thing 13 INTERVIEW: SKYLIVE ROBOTIC TELESCOPE Interview with a reader, who’s a member of this project 14 ASTRO IMAGING: A START-UP STORY Entertaining account of Hugh’s first steps into imaging 16 SKY VIEW - DECEMBER Maps of the Night Sky - Looking East, South, West, North

20 OBSERVERS’ DELIGHTS Special observing sights not to miss this month

Practical Astronomy December 2009 Editor: Kevin Brown Advertising: Website: Publisher: Structure Ltd Telephone: +44 (0)1622 891151

Practical Astronomy magazine is published monthly online. ISSN 2042-2687 Views expressed are not necessarily those of the editor or publisher. May include errors and omissions. Trademarks are the property of their respective owners. The publisher is not responsible for the conduct of advertisers or external websites. Compensation disclosure: may contain advertising and affiliate hyperlinks, which may pay compensation to the publisher for purchases made. ©2009 All contents copyright. No reproduction without express permission.

Practical Astronomy December 2009


you should find this large scattered S-shaped cluster. Please tell everyone how you are doing with this binocular challenge . M36 and M38. Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31) The furthest naked-eye object. Star Cluster Melotte 20 in Perseus Close to star Mirphak (alpha Persei). in a rough East to West line in Auriga. 5. The Pleiades (M45) The showpiece open star cluster in Just click to view the Challenge comments so far (and get more observing tips). 2.. Do let us know if it works for you on the Feedback page.. (password is BINS) Here are twelve December targets for binoculars . 4. The famous Double Cluster A related pair of star clusters (NGC 884/869). but close to Casseopeia. clear skies. PracticalAstronomy. 3. All should be observable with modest binoculars (say 10x50). Use the password BINS (with CAPS) to be let in. 1. in Perseus.leave a comment on this (password protected) blog post.. modest binoculars should be good enough. given reasonably dark. Practical Astronomy December 2009 3 . Auriga’s Star Cluster Trio Small star clusters M37.Binocular Challenge: 12 Targets In 12 Days? Can YOU observe these selected objects over the Christmas period? Depending on your local sky conditions. But note that some will be Northern hemisphere only.

10. Star Cluster M41 in Canis Major 12.. Don’t forget to let us know how you’re doing (and also get some useful observing tips).Binocular Challenge: 12 Targets In 12 Days? (cont. Star Mu Cephei (another red sight) Called the ‘Garnet star’ by Herschel. Star Cluster M34 Find this large cluster to the West of Algol (beta Persei) in Perseus. The password is BINS Practical Astronomy December 2009 4 . Star Cluster M35 in Gemini 11. this distant and highly luminous star appears very red. The Great Nebula M42 in Orion 7. Best around 1st or 3rd quarter. Mars Only a point of light through binoculars.. PracticalAstronomy. but the planet’s red tinge should still be visible. 8. The Appennine Mountains on the Moon An easy one.) 6.

. 12 GHz dish for observing the noise radiation of the Sun The IR sign of the Moon Practical Astronomy December 2009 5 .Reader’s Project: Radio. Arpad Cserkuti’s very interesting project to build a radio. optical and infrared space observatory in Sweden.only a line. Sweden In pictures. They do not produce the usual display . to inspect the inside of ovens. Observing the IR radiation of the Moon Infrared line scanners These infrared scanners were originally produced for the cement industry. Optical And Infrared Space Observatory By Arpad Cserkuti.

January Issue Out 17 December Practical Astronomy December 2009 6 .) Antenna for 12 GHz and 400-600 MHz Disassembled optical telescope (will be mounted with the radio and infrared telescopes) If you find this project interesting.Part 2 • Image Gallery • Astronomy Recipe Of The Month • Plus much more . http://PracticalAstronomy. please leave a comment or question at the feedback Homebuilt dish for 400-800 MHz (not in use) Next Month • Readers projects from around the World • DSLR Astrophotography ....Reader’s Project: Radio-Optical And Infrared Space Observatory (cont.. One click and you’re there .

it has the camera’s lens mounting on one side to join with the camera and a standard “T” thread on the other side (this is the 42mm diameter thread which is widely used on many photographic accessories).. The intention here is to provide a very “Practical Astronomy” howto guide. you will of course need a DSLR camera . le( and 2 inch.. ready and waiting. T-thread camera adaptors Most cameras have a lens mounting mechanism which is proprietary to the brand. a DSLR can also do totally excellent. one for my Canon EOS camera was £12 ($18) recently. you will need a nosepiece having an external T thread on one side (to take the T adaptor) and a short extension on the other side.. I’m going to look at using the camera at your telescope’s prime focus.affordable for many people and well below the cost of the dedicated CCD astro imaging devices. However.DSLR Astrophotography (Part 1): Joining Camera And Telescope At Prime Focus Words/Pics by Kevin Brown Welcome to Part 1 of our guide to using a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera for astrophotography. the cost has come down to a few hundred pounds or dollars . you can screw the camera T adaptor directly to the telescope. congratulations. The T adaptor plus nosepiece. planet Earth photography (unless you have it specially modified for astronomy use). If yours is not like this. goes into Practical Astronomy December 2009 7 . to slide inside an Nosepiece and T ring on eyepiece tube.25 and 2 inch eyepiece tubes. is to attach the T thread on the adaptor to your telescope. The first step To take part in this astrophotography revolution. Prime focus means using your telescope as the camera lens. Prime focus Armed with a DSLR camera. Plus of course. So you will need to buy a camera specific adaptor. In this article.. This is likely to deliver the most startling results.. You can get these for both 1.25 inch. I hope you wi' also achieve. Some telescopes have eyepiece tubes with external T threads on the end.. You are going to need an adaptor . these are not expensive . there are many ways you can use it for astrophotography. Personally speaking. Termed a “T ring” or “T adaptor”. So you remove the camera’s own lens (this is the big capability of SLR’s) and attach it to the telescope in the correct position. at the lowest cost. Thankfully. If yours is like this. They are not cheap. Canon EOS “T adaptor” Telescope nosepieces Nosepieces with T adaptors attached 1. right The next step. which helps you get started with this new imaging method. we have become (sort of) used to. the very enjoyable results I’ve had recently. my Canon 1000D is unmodified and I have been bowled-over by its astronomical AND terrestrial performance.

can be tricky and will probably involve adding extra counterweights to the optical tube. If it's not balanced. Balancing is fairly straightforward with an equatorial mount. some telescopes use removable eyepiece extension tubes .you may be able to swap yours. you will need a driven. because they have been designed for eyepiece use. Point the telescope at a distant object. For balance about the declination axis.) the lens fitting of the camera. you are ready to do some exciting astrophotography work! We will look at this. for another of different length. Then. there are movable counterweights which slide up and down. Take advice for your particular instrument. you need to make sure it's balanced about both axes. Inserted into draw tube For most astrophotography (that is. YouTube. You can also slide the dovetail bar in the mount's head if necessary. in the next part of this guide. If you can't do Balance by sliding telescope rings and dovetail bar Practical Astronomy December 2009 8 .DSLR Astrophotography (Part 1): Joining Camera And Telescope At Prime Focus (cont. the next step is to make sure its balanced on the mount. preferably equatorial mount. Some telescope focusers have insufficient in-travel to allow the camera to reach focus. Balancing one of these. you loosen the mounting rings and slide the optical tube up and down. once you have attached a large camera. undue stress will be placed on the driving motors leading to damage (especially risky with plastic gear components in today’s lightweight mounts). Conclusion Once the DSLR camera is properly joined with the telescope at prime focus and balanced on a motorised mount. For the polar axis. then seek advice for your specific telescope . shown right). This is often the situation with modern telescopes on computerized go-to mounts. you slot the nosepiece into the eyepiece tube (2 inch diameter. It's easiest to check this in may help to use a barlow lens or focal reducer. With telescope and camera on the mount. such as a high building or tree and make sure you can get a good terrestrial focus in the camera. See our YouTube channel for DSLR astrophotography video tutorials. But what about the balance? Having joined camera and telescope. But it's not so easy for telescopes having optical tubes integrated solidly with the mount. Focusing The final part of basic set-up is to make sure you can achieve focus with the DSLR camera. inserted into the optical path between telescope and camera.. If you can't get focus. anything other than imaging the Moon or star trails).

Chris comments: “This was taken over two nights. Total = 80 mins The Bubble Nebula (NGC7635) by Chris Longhorn Guiding: None ISO: 800 Processing: Deep Sky Stacker. the first night was the colour data and the second night I took luminance data through a H alpha filter. the Rosette Nebula. Beginner. Exposure: 50 min combined (added) image (30 sec exposures). Noel Carboni's actions. just send to: editor@practicalastronomy. The luminance data was layered over the colour data in Photoshop. H-alpha filter Telescope: Williams Optics 80mm F4. This is a crop of the whole frame to highlight the Bubble Nebula.Readers Image Gallery We welcome your images for publication.8 Camera: SBIG 2000XM A full FITS file is available upon and your request will be forwarded to Mitch.” Rosette Nebula by Mitch Fry Object: NGC2244. unguided. Photoshop CS2. The Rosette Nebula (NGC2244) by Mitch Fry Practical Astronomy December 2009 9 . total = 40 mins for colour. 10 at 240 secs. total = 40 mins for H Bubble Nebula by Chris Longhorn Date: 11th/12th October 2009 Time: 22:40 BST (start of the last exposure on the 2nd night) Camera: Modified Canon EOS 300D plus Astronomik CLS clip filter. Telescope: William Optics Megrez 80II FD Exposure: 10 at 240 secs. Email editor@practicalastronomy. advanced or expert.

EQ6 SkyScan Mount.shot with a Canon 450D and Canon EF 50mm lens.25” SCT Other equipment: 1. Processing: Captured and stacked in Maxim DL using SDMask. Date: early October Iridium Flare by John Scouros Misty Iridium Flare . average transparency Sharpless SH-115 Nebula by Steve Richards Practical Astronomy December 2009 10 . Conditions: Average seeing. each. just send to: editor@practicalastronomy. Beginner. Telescope: Celestron 9. guided with SXV slave autoguider and Skywatcher ST 80mm guide 'scope. processed in PS7.Readers Image Gallery We welcome your images for publication. on a home-made mount. Exposure: 42 subframes of 300 secs. advanced or expert. with a transit of moon Ganymede visible.5x Barlow lens Iridium flare by John Scouros Sharpless SH-115 Nebula by Steve Richards Camera: SXVF-M25C Equipment: 8" Skywatcher Reflector with Baader MPCC. Jupiter by Ade Swash Jupiter by Ade Swash Object: Jupiter.

very useful and actually very budget (click here for more info) Meade Lightbridge 12” Dobsonian telescope (click here for more info) Canon Remote Camera Control (click for more info) Compensation disclosure: this page has affiliate links to show you interesting items from the Amazon website. Amazon may pay us 5% commission (but you will not pay a penny extra).Holiday Season: Astronomy Gift Ideas Budget Gifts Celestron Binocular Tripod Adaptor (click here for more info) Mid-Range Pentax 12X50 Binoculars (click here for more info) For That Special Person Celestron CGE100 XLT Schmidt Cassegrain telescope (click here for more info) Bresser 10X50 Binoculars (click here for more info) Celestron 15X70 Binoculars (click here for more info) Canon 1000D Digital SLR Camera (click here for more info) Celestron Canon EOS T-Ring Adaptor (click here for more info) Hama Tripod . Please consider supporting Practical Astronomy magazine in this way. Practical Astronomy December 2009 11 . If you use these links to purchase.

4 tbs olive oil. Sirius Pisces Oriental finished and plated Practical Astronomy December 2009 12 . Asian-inspired. add for last 2 mins only. By Kevin Brown Cook the noodles as per instructions (if dried. probably 3 mins in boiling water). sweetcorn and mange tout. Add 1 tbs rice vinegar and season with salt. chili. Serve with the prawns and vegetables on top of the dressed noodles. peas and prawns for 5 mins in 2 tbs olive oil. specia'y created to inspire you for observing sessions this month! Here’s a very full-flavored. Chop the red onion.Astronomy Recipe: Sirius Pisces Oriental From a co'ection of recipes. fry the red pepper. Then stir in the dressing. ginger. Add salt and black pepper. garlic and ginger. If the prawns are precooked. 1 tbs rice vinegar Method (15 mins) At the same time. spicy vegetable and prawn recipe (serve hot or warm as a salad) Ingredients (to serve 2) 8-10 large prawns half a red pepper a few mange tout peas half a red onion 3-4 small sweetcorn (optional) medium noodles 1 clove garlic small slice of fresh ginger small green chili (to taste) 2 tbs sesame seed oil. Coarsely chop the red pepper. red onion and chilli for 5 mins in the sesame oil and 2 tbs olive oil. To make the noodle dressing: Gently fry the garlic.

How does Skylive compare to other robotic telescopes available on the internet? AL. Plus. Free is where one can connect in and watch. Any final points you would like to make? AL. Some others seem to offer little more than a Celestial DJ service. They are accessible remotely from your computer desktop. Apertures range from 90mm to 16". I think. visit www. Q. Q.. then download the control panel. Though Italian based. Paid.. it has a fantastic chat facility with devoted staff who are always happy to help. lol. How does someone actually use the telescopes remotely? AL. especially programmers of Python.some people even do astrometry Q.] It’s a combination of SCT LX200 and a Takahashi refractor. Each is complemented with CCD cameras. Q. about the SKYLIVE project he’s involved in. They pay their subscription. With Skylive. please use the Feedback Page Q. Takes the realness out of the experience. Once you've paid. Of course they are! Q. for example over target objects and image capture settings? AL. you log on and wait your turn. Do you have to wait a long time. We are easier and more spontaneous.Inteview: Skylive Robotic Telescope An interview with Alastair Leith Here’s a short Q+A interview (by email) with reader Alastair Leith. You can run sequences in all the main filters . Please tell us about the equipment available? AL. It is a network of robotic telescopes based in Sicily and Australia.skylive. We are aiming for 24/7 astronomy in total. what's the difference and how much does it cost? AL. especially ace for nebulae and galaxies. how easy is to control a telescope yourself? What options do you have. usually an hour or less to use it :-) Q. before your "time slot" comes around? Or is it easy to get time on the telescopes? Practical Astronomy December 2009 13 . AL. you can run image sequences and control the instruments. What's your personal involvement with it? AL. Q. [There are 6 telescopes. What can you do with the images captured? Are they "yours" to do with as you please? AL. and take a snap shot. What is the Skylive robotic telescope project? AL. login in and control the telescope. I am looking to do one in English. The observatory also hosts free online meetings where presentations can be beamed direct to your desktop. Also keen for more people to To comment or ask Alastair more questions. no telling how long you have to wait for the images to be taken and sent to you :-) Q. The other great thing with Skylive is its community. you take control of the telescope yourself and take the images. For more details. Q.. Looking to expand further into Australia. International coordinator and project trainer. True it’s in Italian. Its a Go-To. I believe there's a free and paid service. “tell me what you want and I'll image it for you” type of thing.

Astronomy equipment usually comes in B-I-G boxes. I thought to myself. small. recording 2 minute ‘videos’ of Jupiter onto my old and slow spare laptop. so I was quite happy. Now the LPI is pretty easy to use. launch Autosuite.. By Hugh Collings Mine is just grateful that she can watch Eastenders in peace and scan FaceTube without me pestering for the computer. How true the second word was to be! The deal gets done So I offered a 5mm planetary EP (eyepiece) I had going spare and the chap accepted (God bless you Vinny!) The LPI duly arrived in the post. Someone was offering a Meade LPI webcam in exchange for WHY? (I didn’t know either. Whose wife is ever interested in astronomy?? Practical Astronomy December 2009 14 .. I came across a ‘For Swap’ post on the Star Gazers Lounge website. well. A beginners guide to imaging Now. Start the laptop. I set it up in daylight and took some exploratory shots of my neighbour’s chimney during the day. webcams are REALLY easy? I read a couple of reviews on the web and saw comments like ‘I had it working straight out of the box …’ and ‘My wife. but this was. it was finally clear.Astro Imaging: A Start-Up Story A reader’s entertaining and informative account of setting-out *om imaging ‘base-camp’ . Inspecting next door’s chimney! Still. but I thought I had it all sussed out. but not so! Read on and I will explain … I’ve had about 8 years of visual astronomy behind me and still find that I’m learning new things and seeing new sights. Here he goes with one of those guides.. was completely amazed …’ I should have smelled a rat with the second comment. As the astronomy rule of thumb goes. so I set up my kit and focused in on Jupiter. I must say I was a little disheartened. Out of the blue. I know what you’re all thinking . But it looked simple enough. Any fool could do it.. get something new and you are guaranteed cloud .. with my limited knowledge of photography (point and shoot) could hope to compete with such talented amateurs. but apparently it stands for ‘What Have You?’ as it what have you got?) But. that is far too technical to understand past the 3rd sentence. I really had no clue 3. I didn’t want to start imaging I was not interested AT ALL in astrophotography for three reasons: 1. The chimney was a bit too close to bring into focus... It slots into the focuser and plugs into a laptop. I was a scaredy cat! There was no way I. It even sorts out the good frames from the duff ones and stacks them for you. Moving on to Jupiter Some days later . who was looking over my shoulder. I was intimidated by all those fantastic. I set to work. I could not justify the expensive equipment 2. focus on the object and start recording. professional looking shots that grace the pages of magazines and websites! Yep. It all seemed OK.

This advice was from the members at the Moon watch. Click here and leave a comment on the December feedback page. I am now currently at this stage: 1. I was made welcome. as everyone needs a telescope. because of Venus back in September. This is when I informed my wife of another hobby (much to her delight). with not too much cost to yourself.. ed. I went along and navigated the hordes of kids flinging themselves around the Satrosphere (which is a childrens science centre in Aberdeen) and was able to meet some of the members of the society who gave me some good advice.. It’s good advice because if you find astronomy is not for you. I packed up and went in to view my first ever picture of Jupiter .] Wrap up warm and happy observing. I have been to an Astronomy Society meeting. there were women too and I even came across another newbie.) I had the LPI connected to my trusty Soligor 152mm Newtonian on a Tal motorised pier. Do you agree? Leave a ‘YES PLEASE HUGH’ comment on the feedback page to encourage him. Doing this you will buy the scope suited to you. hardly a beard. but in all honesty was getting frustrated and confused. As the mornings went on. the warning being if that’s another lot of stuff that’s going in the back of the wardrobe after a couple of times. Ed Walker Reader’s Letter Practical Astronomy December 2009 15 . They had a great talk on the eclipse in China and it was fun. I think so. I realised that what I thought was a star was actually the planet Venus.. it might be divorce! Having got her approval.. 2. By Hugh Collings Hugh’s LPI Jupiter image (with sate'ite moons) Oh! What Have I Got Myself Into? (or a beginner’s path to astronomy enlightenment) My interest in astronomy started this year. don’t they? I trawled the magazines and internet amazed at the wonders offered. as we are all different. The best bit of advice I have been given is to wait for a group night. if I am allowed back by Kevin! [very welcome Ed. It was made even worse by myself not having a clue about what’s up there anyway!! I eventually came across Aberdeen Astronomical Society’s website which advertised a Moon watch locally. This I hope will introduce me to the different types of telescopes and advice from those more seasoned observers. I have bought 10 x 50 binoculars and a star guide. 3. you can watch earthly sights when nothing is on TV. I felt I had enough to be getting on with. I was now at the stage of where to start and what telescope should I get. I began to look at other stuff and was amazed at what I had been missing. I’m supposed to use a Barlow too! Shall we try to persuade Hugh to write PART 2 of this astrophotography journey? Personally. I live in Aberdeen in Scotland where we have one of the busiest heliports in the world due to the oil industry. Apparently. Do not buy a telescope until you have tried some out at a group night. I am awaiting my first night viewing session with the society. so I assumed it was something flying in.Astro Imaging: A Start-Up Story (cont. I will keep you updated on my progress. which cleared up the myth that amateur astronomers are all bearded geeks with no life. All went quite well and a couple of hours later. your needs and your wallet.

for an observer at latitude 51 degrees North. Further South? Objects are higher above your local horizon. but patterns are the same. Practical Astronomy December 2009 16 .00 GMT in mid-December.Sky View Mid-December 9pm (lat 51N) Looking East These maps show the sky view looking in different directions at 21. in your local time.00 hrs. Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 21.

but patterns are the same.00 hrs. Practical Astronomy December 2009 17 .00 GMT in mid-December.Sky View Mid-December 9pm (lat 51N) Looking South These maps show the sky view looking in different directions at 21. for an observer at latitude 51 degrees North. Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 21. Further South? Objects are higher above your local horizon. in your local time.

Sky View Mid-December 9pm (lat 51N) Looking West These maps show the sky view looking in different directions at 21.00 GMT in mid-December. Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 21. Practical Astronomy December 2009 18 . for an observer at latitude 51 degrees North. Further South? Objects are higher above your local horizon. in your local time.00 hrs. but patterns are the same.

Further South? Objects are higher above your local horizon. for an observer at latitude 51 degrees North.Sky View Mid-December 9pm (lat 51N) Looking North These maps show the sky view looking in different directions at 21. Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 21. in your local time.00 hrs.00 GMT in mid-December. but patterns are the same. Practical Astronomy December 2009 19 .

Observers’ Delights MOON Full 2nd Dec New 16th Dec December 2009 Full 31st Dec (and partial eclipse) Date range 7-16 Dec.5 deg S of Neptune 19-21Dec SATURN Rising at midnight by end-Dec VENUS Too close to the Sun for observation Very favorable rich shower See IYA2009. Just 0. but 100 ZHR (meteors per Peak 14th Dec GEMINIDS hour) only likely within in the early METEOR SHOWER hours UT (GMT) 10 hours of peak JUPITER Still very bright in the South evening sky (in Capricorn).PracticalAstronomy. An evening object in December DEEP SKY “WINDOW” Starts ~ 10th Dec 2009 Ends ~ 22st Dec 2009 Make the most of it! Don’t Miss the Next FREE Issue Get Priority Notification . Simply visit our website and subscribe for MARS Still brightening and now larger to observe.. As soon as the next issue of Practical Astronomy is published. Practical Astronomy December 2009 20 .. you’ll get a short email to let you know it’s ready to download.

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