Saturday, December 9, 2017

Yardwork at Barn Time Lapse

Just having some fun making some time laps clips.

Here I am clearing all the branches after I trimmed the apple trees.

In this second clip I am clearing some honeysuckle but ran out of light.  I will probably be at it again tomorrow and if so I will update this post.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Cassiopeia Setting Over The Barn and Orion

This weekend was a bust, it is snowing and cloudy tonight (Saturday 12/9/2017) but I did manage to set the camera up on a tripod and play around with some time lapse stuff.

Cassiopeia Setting Over The Barn
422 subs taken every 30 seconds from 11:45 PM to 3:16 PM
Canon EOS REBEL T2i, f/4, exposure 10 sec, ISO 400,
35 mm lens at focal length 21 mm

I also made a time lapse move from the same images used to make the star trails. 

Lastly, I decided while I had the camera out I would try a wide field pic.  It was harder than I expected but also fun.  I will be doing more of theses.  I really like the results.  In this pic you can see the constellation Orion.  Orion is the most instantly recognizable of all constellations – the figure of a man represented by the stars Rigel and Betelgeuse, both among the top ten brightest stars in the sky.  If you go out tonight and look to the East you should see Orion rising sometime between 8 and 9 PM.  And as a bonus I was able to catch M45 Pleiades (The Seven Sisters) in the upper right. Very cool. 

constellation Orion, M45, 
35 subs, Canon EOS REBEL T2i, f/4, exposure 10 sec, ISO 800, 
35 mm lens at focal length 18 mm

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Super Moon Time Lapse

I create a time lapse video of the super Moon rising. This is my first time lapse video and it is not very good but I am posting here to document my starting point. I like to see progress.

Here is what I did:

That’s it.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Moon using BYE planetary mode

The Moon is very bright so I decided to take a picture. BackyardEOS has a “planetary” mode where it uses your live view to quickly capture a bunch of jpg files (about 8 per second I think). Here is what I did:

  • took about 400 frames
  • took all the align, stacking and limit defaults in RegiStax 
  • moved the top wavelet sliders to about 15
  • save image, done!

I did not want to overthink this one, I just wanted a quick image with the most bang for the buck. I like the results but I think it is a bit over exposed. Maybe next time instead of using the planetary mode in BYE I will just take a bunch of full resolution images and stack them.  That way I will have full control over the exposure.

Early December Moon taken with 8in Astrograph


  • 8in Astrograph scope
  • 700D-T5i
  • BackyardEOS planetary mode (400 subs)
  • RegiStax (stack,align,limit to 320 subs,process) 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Workflow practice M42 M45 M52 M81 M82 Horsehead nebula

Here are a few test images taken during a near full Moon. I call them test images because the sky was very bright from the Moon and because of that I do not expect the quality of the images to be the best. My main object is simply to practice my workflow. For the first time I am taking notes on my image processing workflow and hope to become more consistent and to do so I need to practice. Also, I am curious to observe the effect poor vs good seeing conditions. At some point in the future I will image these objects again under good conditions and compare the results.

M81 - Bode's Galazy - top center
M82 - Cigar Galaxy -  bottom center
M81_LIGHT_152s_1600iso_700DT5i+55f_8inAstroGraphSkyGlow_20171130 (12 subs)
seeing: near full Moon, image capture BackyardEOS, image processing: Nebulosity

M52 - Cassiopeia Salt-and-Pepper Cluster (October Salt-and-Pepper Cluster)  - center left
C11 - Bubble Nebula - bottom right (I think)

M52_LIGHT_150s_1600iso_700DT5i+59f_8inAstroGraphSkyGlow_20171130 (20 sub)
seeing: near full Moon, image capture BackyardEOS, image processing: Nebulosity

M42 - The Orion Nebula

M42_LIGHT_120s_1600iso_700DT5i+50f_SkyGlow_20171126 (19 subs)
seeing: near full Moon, image capture BackyardEOS, image processing: Nebulosity

M45 - The Pleiades 

M45_LIGHT_180s_1600iso_700DT5i+57f_SkyGlow_20171125 (17 subs)
seeing: near full Moon, image capture BackyardEOS, image processing: Nebulosity

Horsehead Nebula

On this one I did not have much signal to work with and as a result over did it in image processing but like I said, it is a baseline.

HORSE_LIGHT_220s_1600iso_700DT5i+52f_SkyGlow_20171126 (22 subs)
seeing: near full Moon, image capture BackyardEOS, image processing: Nebulosity

Filename Example
I am trying to do what I can to make the process self documenting. For example, I pack a lot into the initial file name, BackyardEOS makes this easy. Then as I process the image with Nebulosity I tack on the last action taken to the front of the filename. In this way you can see my entire workflow just by looking at the filename.
Following the process outlined below you will end up with an image file named like this:
Everytime I peformed an action I save a new copy of the image(s) and tac on a descriptive prefix:

  • M81_LIGHT_152s_1600iso_700DT5i+55f_8inAstroGraph_SkyGlow_20171130 - About 17 to 30 subs named like this:<target>_<frametype>_<duration>_<iso>_<cameraname>_<tempetature>_<scope>_<filter>_<timestamp>
  • pproc - Preprocess subs by applying the calibration frames; flats, darks and bias
  • histm - Normalize subs by matching their histograms
  • recon - Convert RAW subs to color and pixel squaring
  • align - Align subs but do not combine yet
  • stackedstd15 - Combine the stack using a “std dev filter (1.5 - typical)” stacking function
  • crop - Crop the stacked image
  • adjcoloroffset - Adjust Color Background (Offset) to remove skyglow hue
  • ddp - Digital Development Processing
  • levels - Stretch with the levels tool
  • curves - Touch up with the curves tool

A Good Start To PHD2 Guiding

Lately I have taking some time to focus on good polar alignment and accurate guiding. This is the foundation that is needed before good imaging can occur.

Polar Alignment

Everything starts here. There number of blog posts, discussions threads, articles etc. on this topic is huge so I am going to be brief. I did some research and purchased Alignmaster ( but ended up (for now) using the drift align tool in PHD2 instead. I am sure Alignmaster is good software but I like the PHD2 process better. With Alignmaster you center on two guide stars and the software computes your polar alignment error, it then moves the guides stars a bit and asks you to adjust your mount’s ALT/AZ controls to recenter the stars and then you should be good. For many folks this is faster, but the list of stars that you can calibrate on change and for me that is an issue. I have to look at each star in Stellarium to see if they are up, and visible from my location. Also polar alignment is the first thing I do and my main OTA may not be aligned yet so it is sometimes hard to find the guid stars. By contrast with PHD2 I just point to a section of the sky and start the calibration process. For example, I slew to near the Meridian and the Equator for azimuth adjustment. The key word here is “near”. It does not need to be exact, I just slew, pick a star and start drifting. It is the drifting and waiting to see which way the star moves that most folks don’t like but I would rather do that than try to find specific guide stars. There are other reasons that I favor the PHD2 drift align method but the last one I will mention is my observatory, it is awesome in many respects but the large/heavy dome is hard to spin and this make finding the guide stars even more unappealing. Ok here is the real reason I like PHD2, the graphs! I am half joking but I really do like “seeing” the trend line on the drift star in real time as opposed to centering a star and getting a number. The first time I did Alignmaster my site GPS location was wrong so the Alignmaster software said I was aligned but I was not. The point is this, the PHD2 process has its own validation built. With computed procedures like Alignmaster the validation does not come until you start your imaging and by then it is too late!

I slewed to my first calibration star and forced PHD2 to run through its tracking calibration routine. Then I completed the PHD2 drift align process. After that I ran the PHD2 Guiding Assistant and wow! I have not been doing this long but seems like 0.4 arc-min is really good. I am sure I will not get this lucky every time.

PHD2 Guiding Assistant results taken on 2017-11-30

Guiding Results

Next I started an imaging session as practice. The Moon was so bright that night I didn't expect much from the images, rather I simply running running through a real process so I would have images to look and verify star quality.

Using the PHD2 Log Viewer you can see below my longest guiding session for that night. I think having an RMS of 1 or less is very good and as you can see I was at 0.78 total RMS. Note, I did exclude the beginning and the ending (I think I slewed the scope before I stopped guiding :-)

The log viewer is awesome and I am just learning how to use it. What is bad about my great tracking results is that I did not need to learn how to identify and correct problems. I am sure I will not get this lucky in the future so I am saving this log file on my astro wiki as a base line.

Guiding Results 2017-11-30

Below is the calibration results. You are looking for the RA and Dec to be at 90 degrees from each other and as best as I can tell it is on the mark.

Calibration Results 2017-11-30

Here is the Section heading (the image is hard to read):

Guiding Begins at 2017-11-30 21:07:12 Dither = RA only, Dither scale = 1.000, Image noise reduction = 2x2 mean, Guide-frame time lapse = 0, Server enabled Pixel scale = 6.62 arc-sec/px, Binning = 1, Focal length = 162 mm Search region = 30 px, Star mass tolerance = 50.0% Equipment Profile = Orion Sirius EQ-G StarShoot EQMOD Camera = StarShoot Autoguider, gain = 95, full size = 1280 x 1024, no dark, no defect map, pixel size = 5.2 um Exposure = 2000 ms Mount = EQMOD HEQ5/6, connected, guiding enabled, xAngle = -153.2, xRate = 0.346, yAngle = -63.2, yRate = 0.759, parity = +/+, X guide algorithm = Hysteresis, Hysteresis = 0.100, Aggression = 0.700, Minimum move = 0.120 Y guide algorithm = Resist Switch, Minimum move = 0.100 Aggression = 100% FastSwitch = enabled Backlash comp = enabled, pulse = 100 ms Calibration step = phdlab_placeholder, Max RA duration = 2500, Max DEC duration = 2500, DEC guide mode = Auto RA Guide Speed = 4.5 a-s/s, Dec Guide Speed = 4.5 a-s/s, Cal Dec = 5.0, Last Cal Issue = None, Timestamp = 11/30/2017 7:38:20 PM Dec = 61.6 deg, Hour angle = 1.79 hr, Pier side = East, Rotator pos = N/A Lock position = 928.155, 387.827, Star position = 928.155, 387.827, HFD = 3.69 px

Friday, November 10, 2017

A complete workflow - M31 and M33

The quality of the images here is not that important, what is important is the fact that they represent a personal milestone.  For the first time I was able to complete an entire workflow.  From in the field setup complete with auto guiding to image processing. I did the calibration frames (dark, flat, bias) an all that stuff!  All image processing was done using Nebulosity.  Most of the process was scriptable, only in the very last stages did I “take liberty” and use the curves tool or adjust the hue/saturation.   I was actually happy with the results.  My biggest challenge was the fact that the seeing was poor,  I could only get about 90 second subs due to skyglow (a filter purchase is in my future for sure) and lastly the fact that I was using my 80mm (3.14in) refactor.  My 203mm (8in)  astrograph reflector is out at the barn, so I can’t wait to do this again with my 8in f3.9.

M31, Orion 80mm ED reflector f7.5, 17 subs at 90 second exposure. 1600 ISO, canon dslr 700D-T5i, 41f, orion starshoot autoguider 50mm scope, software: image capture BackyardEOS, processing Nebulosity, 2017-11-10

M33, Orion 80mm ED reflector f7.5, 31 subs at 90 seconds exposure, 1600 ISO, canon dslr 700D-T5i, 39f, orion starshoot autoguider 50mm scope, software: image capture BackyardEOS, processing Nebulosity, 2017-11-10