Why Are We Always Whining About How Hard This Is?

You’re just taking pictures of the sky, right? How hard can it be to just point the camera up and click a button? Maybe set a timer. People generally aren’t that condescending when they ask me about the difficulties of imaging deep sky objects, but they clearly don’t understand how damn hard this is. And that’s fine, why would they? Most people just click away on their phone or point and shoot camera, and off they go. A more advanced photographer trying to stabilize a 500mm lens might have a slightly better idea of the difficulties of long exposure photography of a moving object through a telescope. Maybe I can offer a bit of a primer for what I find most challenging, and why I choose to take on the challenge.

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Summer Opportunities for Everyone

June has arrived and the treasures of the Southern Milky Way are coming into a viewable window for me by about 11:30PM. Great objects like M51 and M101 are still perched high in the sky after dusk, but if I’m being honest, they don’t pique my interest as much as the brightness of the Lagoon Nebula, the colors of the Trifid or the majesty of the Eagle. Just like I wait for Andromeda and the Triangulum galaxies to rise up in August and dominate the fall, and Orion to take center stage in November to dominate the Winter. The Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way can contain a Summer full of imaging in itself.

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Milky Way Treasures

I haven’t been out under the stars much at all lately due to weather and busy schedules, but I found myself staring up last night at a clear sky. It was too windy, and too late to bring out the whole rig. I dragged out the mount and my daughter’s 70mm f10 toy scope to show her Jupiter. It was windy and seeing was terrible as a cold front had just come through in the afternoon. We had our ten minutes of fun looking at a fuzzy Jupiter and I brought in the scope, Leaving the mount out as there was no chance of rain.

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64-bit Deep Sky Stacker (DSS) is Here!!

Version 4.2.1 is out now and has many speed enhancements over the initial 64bit release (link at the bottom).

I stumbled upon this last night after not imaging for a couple weeks due to weather. There are no release notes on the version, but I’ve been waiting for this since I started, so I went ahead and downloaded it. So far, so good. The look and feel are basically the same with only slight visual tweaks.

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This is Your Art

The other hobby I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with is cycling. Its freeing, as challenging or easy as you want it to be, therapeutic, and just plain damn fun. I’ve cycled tens of thousands of miles over the years, and commuted over ten miles each way to work in 100 degree heat, and 10 degree chill for ten years. All I did was get on and pedal. Unfortunately, to this day, I have magazines, and blogs, and people who have less than 1000 miles on their legs tell me everything I’m doing is “wrong”. I have the wrong tires, my cadence is off, I can’t seriously be cycling without Lycra and cycling specific socks, can I? Yes, socks are actually a debate in cycling. Throughout the years of cycling, my constant message has been this – get on and pedal. It’s that simple. I’ve been cycling seriously for a couple decades. I follow the laws. I know what is safe might not always be considered “right”, but I know I’m safe. I’m sitting on the seat, moving my feet and the bike is moving. That’s it. That’s cycling. I’m not doing it wrong.

I’m also not taking pictures wrong, either are you.

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Dithering – Do it Now!

What is Dithering?

Dithering is a process initiated by your imaging software between captures that sends a message to your guiding software to set a new position for the guide star and move the mount accordingly to recenter the guide star, effectively moving the the image a few pixels randomly between captures. This randomizes the noise between captures, allowing it to be cancelled out during stacking.

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