Advice for a more mature Novice

Forums Telescopes Advice for a more mature Novice

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    Posted by Norman Morton at 15:38 on 2011 Feb 15

    Robin Vann wrote:

    Ah! I didn’t pick up that your link was for TriAtlas. Apologies for recommending something you were already on to!

    Hi RobinPlease no Apologies needed, My fault for not specifying which Atlas I meant, I have rectified that now :)I’m just so very grateful & appreciative of all the Help, Advice & Time you are all giving me :)..Norman


    Posted by Norman Morton at 16:12 on 2011 Feb 15

    Roy Hughes wrote:

    Norman,One more note – watch out which set of instructions you follow when converting the webcam for basic astro use.…and scroll down a lot(!) has a good explanation. You just need to unscrew the lens!The funny foot will just snap off (snap as in elastic not snap as in break).Some of the pages out there include the long exposure mod and start by ripping the case apart and you won’t want this, at least not at first!Roy

    RoyAgain, Thanks so much for the link & all the help your giving me. In fact the help I’m receiving from all of you is indispensable & I am truly grateful.As regards to the ‘SPC900’, It will only ever be used with the Explorer 200P Scope I have ordered, So my Webcam order consist of:-SPC880 (with firmware upgrade to SPC900)Philip’s SPC880 1.25inch webcam adaptorIR/UV blocking filter 1.25inchSo the link you put up for me is just the order thanks :-)I had the ‘Skywatcher EQ5 Polar Alignment Scope’ & ‘Light Pollution Filter’ arrived today, the Canon 1000D (Body only & (spare battery & remote)) arrived on Saturday.So it’s all beginning to come together now & as the main scope doesn’t arrive until the end of the month it’s giving me time to do alot of reading, printing, laminating & generally getting my head around things :-).The computer is pretty much ready also, so will be installing the OS & transferring all the links, software & info that everyone has given or linked to me..Thanks againNorman


    Posted by Roy Hughes at 12:50 on 2011 Feb 18

    Norman,Since you’ve homed in on the Canon DSLR you might find Michael Covington’s site(s) useful.Start with… and see what you think.(In the US of A the Canon models seem to carry the "Rebel" trade name, there are various sites with translation tables!)I’ve no personal experience with M. C. and Canons, but I have built (and modified) a couple of his projects and they worked out OK.See if you are curious – I set this one up a a learning exercise in 2002. Then the ISP went belly up and I could no longer update it. So now its a read-only, orphan, page. I think the links still work.I think you said you have a 35mm SLR. Depending on make you may be able to use the lenses with the Canon as you do not need the auto fuctions for astro work. When I last looked on ebay there were a number of adapters for Nikon and other makes, mainly from Hong Kong. But see Michael’s comments, you might need a support bar. [My SLRs are Nikon, and I was looking at Canon DSLRs too.]Roy


    Posted by TonyAngel at 13:09 on 2011 Feb 18

    …..and do not forget the BAA book on DSLR Astrophotography by Tony Morris


    Posted by Norman Morton at 15:32 on 2011 Feb 18

    Thanks once again Chaps :)@ RoyI’ll have a look at links & pages you’ve suggested, I will hang on for now before I download or order anymore gear, Until I receive my Scope & see just what I’m going to need or may require.Yes I do have an old 35mm Pentax SLR & would require some sort of adaptor to make the lenses fit the Canon 1000D, again I’ll wait & see once I receive the scope to see which way I go on this one. I have a programmable remote for my 1000D ‘LCD Timer Remote switch cord cable for Canon’ which gives me many options for timed exposures of up too 100 hours, reviews from other users sound very promising. Thanks again for the links :)..@ TonyThanks Tony, I have the BAA book on DSLR Astrophotography & it was the source of where I got the advice about the remote *see above*, It’s a good read & full of great tips & advice, so Thanks for your input :)..Just as a side note… I received the SPC880 (flashed to SPC900) webcam today & have taken the lens out and installed the adaptor & filter, so providing I get the time this weekend I will be installing the software onto my computer to give it test run in a dimly lite room, as it suggests, Although I realise the focusing will be non-plus until it’s attached to the scope, but as they also sent me a second ‘Un-flashed SPC880′(I only ordered one webcam?) will probably have more success with that one..Thanks again Gentlemen :)Norman


    Posted by Roy Hughes at 14:34 on 2011 Feb 19

    Norman,I’ve just flashed the SPC880 I bought as a back-up. No problems as I had a old XP machine [another one of my skip diving finds!]. Just read and follow the instructions VERY slowly and carefully.I looked up my old credit card statements and back in 2007 my original SPC900 set up cost me £48 for the camera, £20 for the adapter, £27 for the filter. That was a very good deal at the time, at the current price you got a real bargain.Roy


    Posted by Norman Morton at 18:20 on 2011 Feb 19

    Hello RoyYes it certainly does seem I got a very good deal on the SPC880 NC,I paid £9.16 for the camera,£8.32 for the adapter, £10.82 for the filter & another £2.49 for them to flash the camera to SPC900. In Total with VAT it came to £39.28 + I got an extra SPC880 NC un-flashed into the bargain, so am well pleased…I downloaded some software dedicated to acquiring Astrophotography called, ‘K3CCDTools’ (got to run that in windows xp SP2 mode for it too work on Win 7 & will have to pay for this, around £35 if I use it after the 35 day trial) & ‘WcCtrl Webcam control software’ (this is free).The Flashed Webcam is working, although obviously the pics are very blurred as it’s not on the scope yet & I don’t know how to use these pieces of software yet :),Alot more reading to do yet lol, but it appears to be working fine after me adapting the lens E.t.c. Also I have loaded the ‘VMA’ you suggested onto my computer & all is well & it runs great :-), Thanks for the Advice on that one..I have installed ‘DeepSkyStacker’ that was suggested in the BAA Book ‘Introduction to DSLR Astrophotography’ It says in the book that I’ll need an Image processing programme to get the best from it, at Present I use ‘Photoshop Elements 6’ do you think this will suffice or should I perhaps try the ‘IRIS’ Image processing package that is suggested in the book? it’s a free download so nothing to loose I guess..Sorry for the Long post & Numpty questions, I know I’m trying to look at things without even having got the Scope yet & this is probably not the best way to go about things, Just trying to sort out the best software that will suit my needs if it’s possible to do that without having all the necessary Equipment… Too Eager Huh ;-)…Thanks for all your time on this RoyRegardsNorman


    Posted by Roy Hughes at 14:23 on 2011 Feb 20

    Norman,I’m using WcCtrl for capture. There is a new kid on the block ‘SharpCap’ that looks to be better(?) and seems to have some aid to focusing built in. I’ve not tried it but it might be worth a look?Registax (free) works wonderfully on the moon for stacking the results – it appears to have been purposely designed to suit this particular task. There are tutorials out there on using it – most of it is over my head.The important step is the Registax, it’s amazing to watch the rubbish moon video you take with the webcam being transformed into the gleaming sharp photo you really wanted all along.Final polishing can be done with almost anything. I’m using GIMP (there are some Astro plugins, that I can’t quite see the utility of) but this is only 8 bit per colour depth. ULEAD Photo Impact 8 (old now – a covermount off a PC mag some years ago) and COREL something or other that came pre-installed on the laptop that I use to drive the webcam. All of which work well for me. Photoshop elements should do fine. I’m sure others with a more ‘professional’ interest will be able to suggest other choices. At this stage my gut instinct is to avoid splashing cash until you’ve at least tried the freeware options and software you’ve already got. Once you have a little practical experience then onwards and upwards is a reasonable option.One other thing.All the years I was using a SLR at the scope I was processing my own negatives & enlargements. Commercial processing cost a fortune and was hopeless for astronomical subjects. I took some digital moon photos taken with the webcam (Registaxed/Ulead polished) to Snappy Snaps on a stick and was amazed how good the prints were when I picked them up from my local shop. It seems that if you can get it looking right on screen they can print it. It’s nice to have a real photo to pass round and the price was just pennies. Other outfits are probably just as good.Roy


    Posted by Norman Morton at 18:21 on 2011 Feb 20

    Hi RoyMany thanks for another very informative reply.. Like you say, I don’t really want to be ‘splashing the cash’ if I have no need to :)..I’ll certainly give the ‘Registax’ a shot, as too begin with it’ll more than likely be the moon that I will be experimenting with when I’m finally up & running, purely from the point of view that it’s the easiest to see & learn to set things up on.I’ll have a deco also at ‘SharpCap’, for now I think I’ll stick with my ‘Photoshop Elements’ for final polishing & see how it goes once I have everything up & running, It’s a fairly powerful piece of software & I already know my way around it to a certain degree, If it turns out not to be geared up for Astrophotography I can always try one of the other’s as you suggest, Again this I will find out when I’m fully geared up myself :)..I already have a very decent Colour Printer E.t.c at home & plenty of various size Photo paper, Gloss & Matt finnish because like you ,It’s nice to have actual Photo’s to look at & pass around, I even have the Mount material & cutting gear for framing for the very best shots :)..It’s probably been a good thing that I am unable to get my ‘SkyWatcher Scope’ until the end of the month, as I’ve had so much else to source & acquire, read & digest, that if I had gotten everything in one hit I think it would have given me a Brain overload lol.. OHHHH & the weather has been just awful down here in ‘sunny Cornwall’ the last couple of weeks ;)…I found I have an Astronomical Society very local to me at ‘Calington’ a mere 7 miles from me & will be getting in touch with them soon..Cheers once again Tony, you’ve been A great help :-)..Norman


    Posted by Roy Hughes at 21:28 on 2011 Feb 20

    Norman,one minor correction to my previous message.I’m actually using QCfocus to do capture, should have checked the laptop before writing, my memory is rubbish! I set the thing up ages ago and have had no reason to change it yet.Roy


    Posted by Norman Morton at 21:49 on 2011 Feb 21

    RoyThats fine, no worries:)…. The memory thing…….I have the same problem ;)..As it has come to mind that I will be using my Laptop for some Astrophotography (I say that a little tongue in cheek!!… As my laptop has a 18.4" screen & two high end graphics cards in SLi mode)) & was envisaging problems with the battery lasting longer than an hour & a half (at best) out in the field so to speak. I didn’t want to go to the expense of getting another Lappy, I have purchased (at a very good price of only £40) a 500W Power Inverter I can run off my car battery (I already have a good outdoor (waterproof) 5m extension lead & USB lead.The idea being that I can run the Scope/Mount & also the Laptop using a 5m USB lead from the scope back to the car & power it all from the inverter Which should be ample to run both, Am hoping that the vehicle will be far enough away not too interfere with the scope?? will have to see how that all works out I know & that I may be barking mad for trying it… But …Hey!! nothing ventured, nothing gained :)…My reason for this set-up is that I live Bang smack in the middle of town, so most of my work will be done out on the edge of Bodmin Moor, I also have a couple of relatives & friends back gardens out in the country that i can use on occasions, but I don’t want to keep bothering them every time I have an opportunity or chance to go out Sky Watching E.t.c..Not sure if what I’m attempting is possible or advisable, But if it isn’t then I’ll have a re-think & come up with something else, but either way I will get to do some Astrophotography & Night Sky Watching :)…RegardsNorman


    Posted by TonyAngel at 09:09 on 2011 Feb 22

    When I used to have to travel to get to a dark sky with my LX200 my son-in-law fixed a spare battery in the boot and this was wired into the car electronics in a way that emulated a caravan socket – that is to say that when my car ignition was off it stopped charging. I had this done because once I was nearly stranded after running down the main battery!


    Posted by Norman Morton at 12:01 on 2011 Feb 22

    Hi TonyThat was a good idea :)…I thought about the battery running flat & so my Idea was that if I had the scope on an extension lead (5m) from the car I could still run the car to keep the battery charged up & not have it interfering with the scope, Not sure if it will work set-up like that but thought it might be worth a try.The inverter will give a good constant power supply with no peaks or drop off of power & I know it will give me more than enough power to run the scope & BIG Laptop that i have….. Thats the theory anyway :)..I haven’t heard from ‘Harrisons Telescopes’ yet about the delivery of the scope, but am still hopeful it will arrive for the end of the month & then the experimenting will begin…..Weather permitting :)..Norman


    Posted by Roy Hughes at 15:30 on 2011 Feb 22

    Norman,just make sure the car is behind you, pointing the scope over a hot engine is bound to be bad.If you have to make up any cables try to use white or bright yellow wire, in the dark even the orange cables just disapear into the grass – right up to the moment you trip over them! I speak from experience here – fortunatly I had friction fit plug/sockets on the scope and they just pulled out rather than topple anything. Nothing damaged but my ego.Roy


    Posted by Norman Morton at 16:39 on 2011 Feb 22

    Hi RoyYep, I understand what you mean about the car being behind me & as it happens my leads are white so hopefully I shan’t trip over them, but a good point, thanks :)..Norman


    Posted by Norman Morton at 14:14 on 2011 Feb 24

    Just a quick up-date..Had the good news today from ‘Harrison Telescopes’ that my scope has been dispatched & should be with me tommorro….. The Excitement is now at fever pitch ;-)..Am looking forward to getting to grips with the learning of setting up & getting used to the scope & what I’m looking at before I go for the Photography part of things :-)…..NormanEdit~ Scope arrived today & It’s Beautiful :-)….. Was surprised how heavy the mount is after it’s all put together, But I realise that is important & means it should be very Steady, The motors are beautifully smooth running & the whole thing seems very nicely put together…My only problem is that my Rather Large Laptop doesn’t have a ‘6 pin Serial Com port’ so I have to order an adapter from the ‘6 pin connector on the RS-232 Cable’ to a USB connection so I can connect it up to my puter & use some auto guider software OHH & a Mains adapter to run from the Inverter (rather than using the cigarette lighter socket from the car)… So I’m well Pleased & am now looking forward to some better weather so I can at least get to learn how to set it up & begin Star Gazing :-)..N.


    Posted by Roy Hughes at 19:56 on 2011 Mar 02

    Norman,I know this a bit off topic, but….if you are not all set up yet you might get a laugh trying something I just thought of (several years late!).Out of dumb curiosity I just put one of the webcams (with original lens) on a tripod hooked it to the laptop and shot a 20 secs. AVI of Orion from just outside the back door. Just made a guess at focussing, and let the camera use all its automatic settings.Slapped it into Registax which removed all the noise and an overflying aircraft. (I’m under the Heathrow flightpath.) Then into Corel Photobook to push the contrast a bit.From such a quick and dirty experiment I was quite surprised at the result. Certainly NOT a candidate for picture of the week but the constellation was recognisable and I think I can detect a bit of nebulosity in the sword.This is manifestly NOT what the cameras are best at… but still.BestRoy


    Posted by Norman Morton at 19:51 on 2011 Mar 03

    Hi RoyCrikey!! Thats amazing you got such clear pics just using a standard Webcam, Very interesting indeed,Just goes to show though, that you don’t have to have alot of expensive gear to get to view & take pics of our Night sky’s, Thanks for sharing :)..considering I got a spare SPC880 NC when I got the flashed one, It means I have an ever growing means of getting some pics & alot of experimenting to do on my part :)…I now have pretty much everything organized now, I’m going to be Collimating the Skywatcher this weekend, so am hoping for some good clear nights next week so I can get the hang of setting up the scope (First set up will be in day light on a distant object) & getting to terms with setting up on some night images, before I attempt any photo work with it. But am excited about getting to grips & learning about this fascinating subject..I’ve already Flashed the up-dates into the Synscan Handset & Motor Drives (had to get an adapter to go from the RS-232 cable that comes with the Synscan to a USB (my laptop doesn’t have a Com port)) Hence why it’s taken me until now before I’ve gone out with the scope, wanted to make sure I had everything up to date…. Although from what you achieved with just a normal Webcam, maybe I’m too over cautious ;-)….As I said, I’m hoping to be able to get out & about next week, Weather permitting & free time permitting :)…. Will be going to Liverpool Next weekend to visit Son, so really want to get out & at least get the scope set-up & pear into the cosmos if only for a little while :)…All the BestNorman


    Posted by Norman Morton at 15:03 on 2011 Apr 13

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