Is Astrophotragphy Getting Too Easy?

Everybody should be able to take pictures of space without having an astronomy degree, IT background, or having to take out a second mortgage. A lot of us like to think our little club is exclusive, but I think it should be more inclusive. I talk a lot about how hard and frustrating this hobby is on someone starting out, so I’m all for technology making things easier on us. But are these new phone image sensors and software all they’re advertised to be? And is an upcoming all-in-one scope, mount and imager misunderstood? Is imaging space getting too easy?

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What’s Your Unobtanium?

What object in the sky always bites you in the ass when you try to image it? Endless cloudy nights, dew problems, focus issues, equipment failures… A lot of us have one object that continues to elude us year after year. We look on Astrobin or Instagram, see everyone’s beautiful images of this object and want to tackle it ourselves, but every time out the Gremlins start to work their way into our imaging session. I wouldn’t rush to say that everyone has some object they just can’t seem to capture, despite good planning and preparation, but I’m sure there are a lot of us out there with one object that just pisses us off, night after night and year after year.

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Dive into Astrophography Tonight!

The first images I took of the sky were from a point and shoot camera sitting on a stationary tripod. There’s fun to be had with equipment you might already have, but never thought to point at the night sky. That first point and shoot camera was a 2.1MP Fuji Finepix on a rickety tripod (that I still use on occasion). Unfortunately, I’m unable to find those wide-field shots from 12 years ago, but below is a single over-processed 30 second frame from my DSLR on that rickety old tripod taken last September in humid 95 degree heat. This was from when I first started to get back into this, but I’ll be getting back to the data to improve on the processing. The inset is of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy.

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Learning From Mistakes

You will keep learning – if you choose to of course. The key is to use the frustrations of a given night as a learning experience. It sounds so cliché, but sometimes clichés are just true. Take a look below at some of the issues I experienced when I started out and what I learned from them. As I learn more through screw-ups, I’ll grow this list.

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What’s the Bare Minimum to Get Started?

What you need to get started

What do you really need to get started? A camera and a tripod. I first became interested in astrophotgraphy after pointing my slightly above average point-and-shoot camera at the sky and setting the timer. If you already have a DSLR and some lenses, you might just be looking for a tracking mount for your camera for a few hundred dollars.

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Easy Astrotortilla Setup & Configuration: Plus Advanced Custom Options Settings

I have since moved on to using Astrophotography Tool and the integrated plate solving using ASPS and PlateSolve2. The information below is still relevant, especially if you’re using BackyardEOS or BackyardNikon, but I find plate solving through APT easier and more reliable.

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Setup Workflow

I found this helpful to create when I was starting out. I found myself missing steps, and having to go backwards time and again. I don’t need checklist every time I go out anymore, but creating something similar yourself will definitely save you some time when your just getting going. It will also help you work out the most efficient way to get through your setup. Here are the steps, in order, that I perform every time I setup for an imaging session. This would be considered a top-level workflow, as each of these steps have steps underneath them. Click on the linked steps to see more detail about each step.

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