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Ricks Telescope & Astronomy Notes

I regularly get asked about the equipment I’m using for astronomy and astrophotography.

As a newbie to the subject, this list is likely to change over time and as I get more educated about it, but currently I am using the following…



EQUIPMENT


Mount:

HEQ5 Pro Equatorial Mount with Synscan GOTO system.


Telescope:

Explore Scientific AR152, 152mm (6”) f/6.5 Air Spaced Doublet Refractor OTA


Camera:

Canon EOS 1100D with T-mount (unmodified)


Computer software to drive Telescope remotely:

Stellarium (freeware)


Computer software to drive Camera:

EOS Backyard (free to trial for 1 month)



My most Recent astro photo…  (M42)

Astrophotography Basics

So far, researching the world of astrophotography has been a steep learning curve, and I’m still learning the basics.

I have to say the learning has also been hindered by so many forum posts that insist on abbreviating everything…

“You should adjust your AEP in order to get the HC to work with the AG”  - ???


Essentially, you need to take a series of long-exposure photos with specific camera settings, as well as something called “calibration frames”. Then you use special software like Deep Sky Stacker to blend them all together.


Below is a summary of the basics that I’ve figured out so far:


LIGHT FRAMES:

These are your master frames that contain the main picture data. 20 to 30 frames are a good number to aim for, more if possible.


DARK FRAMES:

These are frames that are taken with the lens cap placed over the telescope lens, but are taken at exactly the same settings (shutter speed, ISO, aperture and temperature as the light frames.

20 or more is a good number of frames to aim for.


BIAS FRAMES:

These are frames taken at exactly the same settings as the light frames, except the shutter speed is changed to as fast as the camera can do.  The temperature of bias frames is not important.

20 or more is a good number of frames to aim for.



FLAT FRAMES:

These are frames shot in exactly the same way as your light frames, except the shutter speed is changed to about 0.2 to 0.4 sec and there must be an even light source across the lens (white t-shirt and torch method?)  Experimentation may be necessary but you are looking for an even-grey lightness across the picture frame. Ideally, a mean pixel status of between 3500 and 20,000 is required - no, I don’t know what that means either! But 30-45 flat frames are a good number to have.


It is still possible to take long-exposure astro photos without calibration frames, but the detail will be less pronounced.

This is still a pretty new hobby for me, so this page isnt that big at the moment, but hopefully it will gain more content as I progress.


In the meanwhile here’s my latest video on the subject…

If you are a stargazer, the weather chart below is configured for stargazing. Just type in your location…

Weather

One of the biggest issues we have living in the UK is the constantly overcast weather. So far I have been able to use the telescope only a tiny handful of times. Obviously it’s a little frustrating, but also it makes for a much slower learning process because experience counts a lot in learning any new skill. It also highlights the value in planning ahead what you intend to take pictures of, because of the finite windows of opportunity that present themselves.


I am hoping once the spring and summer gets here, the number of clear nights will increase and offer better stargazing opportunities.  

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