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Equipment & Techniques

Equipment

  • Observatory at Rancho Hidalgo, in the high NM desert
  • Remote controlled via PC
  • 10” F/5 Newtonian, Taiwanese-made but modified for astrophotography (fan, flocking, Moonlite motorized focuser, Royce-refigured primary, oversized secondary)
  • William Optics 98mm APO refractor with Orion StarShoot autoguider
  • Canon 5D Mark III, modified by Hutech, Baader field flattener
  • Homemade thermoelectric cooler box
  • Paramount MX
  • Dell Precision Workstation, USB extenders, remotely switched power outlets

Equipment
 

Imaging Workflow

I am the “Lazy Astrophotographer,” so I have optimized my workflow to minimize “fiddling” with technology.  No nightly bias, darks or flats taken.  No dithering.  No filters.  No adaptive optics.

  • Check weather sites to ensure looks good (most nights in the desert)
  • Open the roof at twilight to let the heat out (watching & listening with webcams)
  • Turn on power to everything
  • Fire up TheSkyX Professional and “home” the scope
  • Use TheSkyX’s Camera Add-On autofocusing routine
  • BackyardEOS to compose the shot, control the Canon
  • PHD Guiding to autoguide
  • BackyardEOS to set up 2-4 hours’ worth of 5 minute exposures @ ISO 800
  • Set alarm, go to sleep
  • [if second object] get up and refocus, go again, re-set alarm
  • TheSkyX to park the scope
  • Turn everything off
  • Close the roof

 

Image Processing Workflow

  • ImagesPlus to convert the 24-60 individual frames from .raw to .fit
  • ImagesPlus to calibrate using archived bias, darks, flats
  • ImagesPlus to align and stack (sometimes grade)
  • Transfer the single .fit to home PC
  • Photoshop CC to endlessly tweak (crop, curves, noise reduction, curves some more)