New forum member

General discussion about StarTools.

New forum member

Postby Nigel Gilchrist » Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:26 am

Hello to all.
I am new to astrophotography, I started about 8 months ago.
I live in South east England with quite polluted sky's, I'm also attempting dso imaging with an Alt-Az mount and entry level DSLR .
I have a 150p reflector and a Canon eos 1200d with various lenses upto 420mm, the mount is a star discovery alt-az which I use for my imaging .
DSS is the stacking software I use.
StarTools has been a huge help when it comes to processing, dealing with most of the problems we encounter using Alt-az, field rotation, noise levels being the biggest problems. As a result I get a lot of gradients stacking artifacts and background noise to deal with.
I find the traditional ways of processing (YouTube tutorials) do not always work but StarTools has plenty of tools to work with so always find a way.
As imaging with Alt-Az is not guided and works on both axis, maximum exposure times are around 60 seconds, at a push 90s so lots of subs are needed to get the data required.
Our images are not the quality of guided Eq mounts and CCD's but it has totally amazed me what we can capture.

I would be very interested to see what someone with a lot of StarTools experience can do with one of our images.

Are there other forum members using the Alt-Az mount for imaging? I'd like to swap notes.

Nigel Gilchrist
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:42 pm

Re: New forum member

Postby GedlingSky » Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:54 pm

Hi Nige,

Thanks for posting, I had been leaving it to see if we had other Alt-Az imagers on the forum able to reply before posting so I hope you didn't mind the wait. I see more people using Alt-Az gear in the future as we are proving you can image with such 'umble equipment, overcoming the special limitations it poses and how StarTools benefits the images we take and could be developed with us in mind. For many people starting out Alt-Az imaging is a cost effective way of entering the hobby and people can see if imaging is for them. Also the way CMOS technology is heading now I expect to see more people using Alt-Az gear in the future.

The principle issues I have with my Alt-Az images in StarTools really relates to light pollution being an astronomer in the suburbs and the limitations field rotation places on imaging altitude and in azimuth-we get to image through more atmosphere and have to take lots of shorter duration light frames with lower S:N value. I can get 60 second light frames from my SkyWatcher Synscan Alt-Az mount and have most of them acceptable to Deep Sky Stacker, I've noticed that often that's better than some people starting using EQ mounts without all the complications of heavy equipment, polar alignment, balancing etc. I only have one cable to power my mount and if I go down the route of an iOptron Az Mount Pro no wires at all!

Pleased feel free Nige to contact me.

Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2016 12:59 pm

Re: New forum member

Postby Nigel Gilchrist » Fri Oct 21, 2016 11:05 am

Hi Steve.
Thanks for replying. Its good to know there's a small community of Alt-AZ imagers, however it is only a small amount of people atm but as you say with current technology I think more people will attempt it. For a grab and go setup it is hard to beat, just 5 minutes to set up and start collecting data.
With a mono CCD as you have seen the resulting images are a bound forward.
For a small cost, less than £500 for scope mount and camera you can capture some amazing images.

More people are starting to use Alt-AZ for imaging recently, joining the small group on SGL which brings more info, different scopes, mounts and cameras, sharing info and ideas, improvement for everyone.

Getting to grips with processing can be frustrating but also very rewarding StarTools is great software for dealing with the problems that come with Alt-AZ mounts, as I mentioned in my first post I would like to see a StarTools expert process an Alt-AZ captured image.
I wonder if Ivo would be interested in having ago.

Nigel Gilchrist
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:42 pm

Re: New forum member

Postby Admiral » Sat Oct 22, 2016 11:35 am

As one of a small number of Alt-Az imagers, using a refractor and DSLR, I'm often surprised that it hasn't gained more traction in the imaging field. It offers an easy entry into the world of imaging with minimal investment, allowing the user to concentrate on and develop the pertinent aspects of imaging and processing, without simultaneously having to worry about polar alignment and guiding. Apart from which, it can still produce more than adequate images, often comparable to those with more sophisticated gear.

The biggest issue I find, though, is that the very nature of Alt-Az imaging does limit the amount of time that can be devoted to a single object. With the typical British weather imaging time is really at a premium, so I generally don't re-visit an object to gather more data, but move on to something else. The upshot is that most of my images are inherently noisy, not helped by using a DSLR rather than a purpose-built astro camera, and would probably be regarded as poor compared to the conventional imagers who might devote tens of hours to a single target. Such luxury!

On the other hand, I've found StarTools to be an invaluable aid to extracting the most out of an image. It's easy to get something out, but finessing to get the best achievable I find difficult and often appears clumsy. Any guidance on how best to treat these sorts of images would be helpful. As Nigel has indicated, it would be good to see how a StarTools expert processes a typical Alt-Az image.

Cheers, Ian
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2016 8:10 am

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