Deep Sky Astrophotography – Equipment Overview and Setup

hello my name is Nico and welcome to my
channel I specialize in deep sky Astro photography especially emission nebula
this video is all going to be about how I set up my equipment for a successful
night of imaging and I’ll also go through each piece of equipment and
explain how it works and what it does so this will be a fairly long video but
there is a table of contents right below the video here where you can jump to
different parts so if you get bored or you just really want to see one specific
thing like how to set up the pole master or something like that feel free to skip
ahead I understand that my gear will be slightly different than what you might
have but I watched a lot of videos on how people set up their mounts and and
get ready for an imaging session and I found a lot of good tips in all kinds of
different videos so hopefully you’ll find some tips in mine as well and one
last thing before we get started if you look right below this video there’s a
link to my website that’s a web page that set up specifically for this video
that will have links to all the different resources including articles
and books and gear that I mentioned throughout this video all right without
further ado we can start right here this is my German equatorial mount it’s
probably the most important part of a deep sky imagers gear collection the
reason is is because if you can’t track the sky accurately you’re not going to
have sharp round stars and beautiful details on whatever deep sky object
you’re trying to photograph so you always want to spend as much as you can
afford on the mountain in my case that was the Ryan atlas the atlas is made by
a Chinese company called cinta and it is available here in the United States
under a couple different names you can find it called the Sky Watcher eq6
my version that was called the Orion Atlas eqg they are making newer versions
of this with new features like and they now have ones with belts and different
things like that mine’s a little bit older I did buy it
used locally but I’ve been using it for two years with a lot of success I really
like it I did make two modifications or actually I bought one thing and then
made something else I’ll show you those real quick here all right the first
thing is something I bought right from Orion’s website this is the Pier
extension the reason I bought this was because a couple reasons actually one it
makes polar alignment much easier because you’ll see later it makes it
just much easier to adjust those things before I had this it was really really
tough and almost worthless trying to use the knobs to pull or a line but this has
made it a lot better the other reason is it brings the whole mount head including
your scope and the counter weights up from the tripod so I can now image
further past the meridian than I could before I could actually I can actually
image like two hours past the meridian now and so on a lot of nights instead of
doing a Meridian flip I just turned that feature off in the
software and it just goes right past it which saved some imaging time the other
thing I made is this what this is is basically an upgrade to the tripod it’s
called a tripod spreader and it basically just makes the tripod a lot
more stable by having a big base at the bottom that’s holding those tripod legs
apart you can buy commercial tripods spreaders from like deep-space products
they’re very expensive though so building this myself saved me a lot of
money and I’ll include instructions on how to do that on my website actually I
didn’t write them I found them online and they were perfect they included a
link to where to find these little clamps
everything so really good instructions on how to make this after the mount the
next most important thing and your set up is your imaging train which is this
right here this includes your imaging scope your camera your filter wheel if
you’re using a mono camera and your guiding setup if you use one this is all
connected together very securely and it’s all put on this thing called a
dovetail plate I’m going to start with the camera this is a z wo ASI 1600 mm
cool I have version 3 there now on to the pro
version which is sorta like version 4 which has made a couple improvements to
this one including a memory buffer but most of the features in the pro are in
this version 3 version it is a Panasonic micro four-thirds sensor but it is mono
and it is very sensitive in front of that I have the ZW o electronic filter
wheel it’s an eighth position I’ve filled seven of the positions I’m using
all Astrid on mounted one and a quarter inch filters I have L RGB and the three
common narrow bands h-alpha oh three and s2 basically if you’re using a mono
camera you need to use some kind of filter to choose which wavelengths of
light you’re going to be imaging in the most broadband filter would be a loom
filter which basically lets in all visible lights but you can choose just
to let in all the red wavelengths all the blue all the green these are still
broadband because there are a lot of wavelengths of light coming in including
watts from light pollution sources and other things that are here in Earth’s
atmosphere that you don’t necessarily want
I mostly shoot narrowband especially if I’m here in the yard
because it blocks most light pollution and it’s just a very it’s blocking
almost all light except a three nanometer bandpass and in that
three nanometer bandpass is very important spectral lines coming from
these emission nebulae so the most common one is hydrogen because there’s
hydrogen all over the place and so H alpha hydrogen alpha is ionized hydrogen
and that’s it’s 656 nanometers so I have a filter in there that’s only letting in
that wavelength of light and that’s what I use a lot I also use the oh three a
lot which is more sort of in the blue spectrum H a is in the red okay next up
here I have just a spacer especially with astronomical cameras as opposed to
dslr’s you have to need spacers that are and have to you know play around with
this a little bit just to make sure you get all the spacing correct and then
next up here is the scope this is the stellar view SV 86 Q it is an apple
chromatic refractor it’s a quadruplet design meaning there’s four lens
elements inside here you can basically think of it as a big camera lens and in
fact until quite recently I was imaging mostly with a 200 millimeter Canon L
lens I just recently went to this I’m not going to talk too much more about it
because I want to do a full review video because it’s pretty new onto the market
and I really like it so far but I want to give it my full attention in another
long video attached to that in the finder base right here is an Astra mania
60 millimeter guide scope this is a pretty cheap guide scope I got it off
Amazon but I liked it because it came with these nice rings and a pretty good
focus or here I did have to extend the focus or a little bit with this Orion
extender and then inside that is my guide camera
this is as ewo a si 290 mm mini they do make a fuller sized one that has USB 3
which is good for planetary but I was just going to be using it as a guide
camera so I got the mini version one thing I like about the 1600 is
that it does have a USB hub right here in the back so you can see I’m using
quite a short little cable here to connect my guide camera right in there
it also has the USB cable for my filter wheel and so now I just have one cable
coming out where if I didn’t have that hub on the camera I would have three
cables coming off the end here so that’s really nice and that’s it so this is my
whole imaging train if you see that word that’s what this that means it means
like everything that’s coming off here off the scope you put on top of your
mount one other word you might see and I think it confuses a lot of people new to
this hobby is OTA that acronym that stands for optical tube assembly and it
just means the telescope itself a lot of times they’ll sell telescopes without
the mount and so they often say OTA only just the telescope not the mount and
that’s how astrophotographers usually buy their telescopes because we get
really nice mounts and then we want to buy the telescope separately next up I
just want to mention some accessories but they’re actually pretty important
especially this first one these are do heater bands so these just heat up a
little bit and what you do is you put this around your guide scope and the
bigger one here around my imaging scope and they just keep that front lens
element a little bit warmer than the air temperature
which prevents those glass elements from doing up which you really don’t want to
happen and to power these I use this little thousand oaks
heater controller it has four channels right now I’m just using two so this one
is pretty essential especially here in the East Coast if you’re in a really dry
area you might never need it the next one I also consider pretty essential
especially if you don’t have automated focusing I’m probably moving towards
automated focusing which is where you put a motor
you’re focuser and let the computer rack the focus are in and out but I so far
haven’t been able to afford it or just haven’t found the need but I probably
will get it in this next year or so as I’m getting more and more automated
anyways this is a button off mask it’s just a focusing tool where you point the
telescope towards a bright star and it makes this very particular repeatable
pattern where you can put one spike between two other spikes and once you
reach that you know that you have the correct focus position you do have to do
it for each filter typically actually with the svq 86 I have found I don’t
have to refocus between RG and B which is really nice but I do between the
narrow bands and the broad bands anyway it’s badenov mask I got mine 3d printed
for not that much money so it fits my scope perfectly and if you go down to my
website and go to that resources page for this video I’ll link out to a botton
of mask generator which lets you make your own SVG file for your scope to get
you the right pattern and then I just used Tinkercad which is a free website
to make it into a 3d model and then that’s what I sent to the 3d printing
service pretty easy last this is definitely not
necessary with the Orion atlas because the rhein Atlas does have a built-in
polar scope an illuminated polar scope and I used that for the first year but
then I bought this and I don’t regret it because this is a really really nice
little piece of gear it’s called the qhy pole master and it’s an electronic polar
scope so it has a little camera in there a little black-and-white camera and a
wide angle lens on the front and you just point this generally towards the
area of Polaris and in the software that comes with it you pick up the pattern of
stars around Polaris and I’ll show this later on in this video and you get a
really really accurate polar alignment with this the advantage to that
especially when you’re setting up each night like I do
is then when you do your first go-to you actually get to the star on your imaging
chip so I don’t need a tell rad or finderscope on my setup because I always
get to the star right away and I think I think my polar alignment for that so you
might be wondering why do plate solving do I still need this I still just think
a good polar alignment is really handy for imaging it’s not essential though so
of these three pieces of equipment this is the one I don’t consider as essential next up we have power so I power
everything that I have off this one battery what I power includes my laptop
my camera because of its cooler thermoelectric cooler I do heater my
mount a couple other things I’m probably forgetting my USB hub so I power all of
that off this one big battery this is a really common way to do it because you
get sort of the most bang for your buck this is a really good value it’s a
deep-cycle lead-acid marine battery I bought the battery at Walmart and I
think I also got the battery case there too which just gives you easy access to
these terminals here and protects the battery a little bit and this is a 114
amp hour battery what that means in practice for my year is that I could
image for two full nights and still have the battery at something like 30 or 40
percent with this style of battery you don’t want to drain it completely
because that’s not good for it and it shortens the lifespan
the other thing you do to keep this battery happy is you plug it into
something called a charger maintainer or a trickle charger which basically even
when the battery is full it just sort of provides a little bit at all times you
don’t keep it off electricity you haven’t plugged in all the time I mean
that also lengthens the life of this kind of battery again this is a
deep-cycle lead-acid marine battery you get them in Walmart
I’ll put the link in my website okay most people who go this way I
shouldn’t say most people but a lot of people understand that this is a DC
source all of the gear that we have are also DC so it’s most efficient just to
run everything directly off the battery with some fuses in the line I haven’t
gotten there yet because I’m not super confident with electrical stuff and just
have been sort of lazy about it what I do have is this power inverter so this
plugs into the battery and you can see it has a couple just standard outlets
there and what I do is then I just plug in AC to DC adapters into this and then
run that to all my different things now that is not efficient I lose a lot of
efficiency by going from DC to AC back to DC but for me it’s just been working
it’s easy but I’ve down the road I’m gonna invest in some power pole
connectors and other things that make this a more efficient power setup last
piece of gear I want to talk about is my camera my pole master my guide set up my
filter wheel my mount are all connected to a laptop where I can control
everything with software the kind of laptop you buy isn’t super important you
are though locked into particular kinds of software based on the operating
system you run so for me I ended up with a Windows laptop because I liked certain
software that was only available on Windows but other people are very happy
with Linux or Mac so just look into the different kinds of software before you
purchase a laptop the other thing you want to look at is since my camera is
USB 3 I did decide to upgrade to a laptop with USB 3 ports which makes the
download time faster before this Lenovo ThinkPad I was using
an MSI wind which was pretty old only like one gigabyte of RAM and it only had
USB 2 ports it was just sort of slow but it worked fine so I tell people you know
you don’t really need a great laptop for acquisition as long as you have a decent
souped-up laptop or a computer for processing but if you want to get
all-in-one then that’s a whole different set of considerations because I wouldn’t
want to process on a really slow computer because that’s where it uses
your computer specs a lot more heavily than acquisition which doesn’t really
put a lot of stress on the computer anyways the computer for acquisition is
really just to run the software so the software that I run is carte du ciel for
acquisition sorry cart du ciel for my planetarium program PhD 2 for guiding
sequence generator Pro for acquisition and also framing talking to the mound to
plate solving all these kinds of things and qhy pol master for the polar
alignment and something new I just won at an after imaging conference was pin
point which is just a really fast plate solver that talks to sequence generator
Pro and mix plate solving really fast well played solving is is basically it
just takes a picture of the sky and solves the image it understands the
patterns of the stars so that it knows where your mount is pointed which is
really useful for imaging because otherwise you have to do a three star
alignment to get your mount pointed in the right direction a lot of times so
plate solving speeds everything up alright that’s it for showing you all my
equipment what each piece does next up I’m gonna do a full set up this is for
real hopefully I’ll have a clear night and we can set up for my imaging session
tonight I’ll show you each step what I’m doing I’ll talk you through it
starting with setting up the mount putting the scope on balancing it doing
polar alignment all these different steps we’re gonna end with setting up
what I do on the computer before I start the sequence in sequence generator Pro
okay first thing is we set up the tripod ideally we want a pretty level piece of
ground for this and one where it’s not going to sink into the ground too much
so if you have wet ground that’s not ideal but concrete isn’t always ideal
either because it does lot off a lot of heat as it’s cooling down so sometimes a
grass field is nice like this one but more important about location is that
you have a clear view of Polaris because you’re gonna use that to set up polar
alignment of your telescope and that you also earn a good location for whatever
object you’re shooting that night a lot of people forget about this and they get
everything set up and then they realize they’re not the best location in the
yard so I always sort of look on an app or planetarium program and try to figure
that out ahead of time okay the first thing we’re going to do with the tripod
is we’re gonna level it and I’m just going to do a rough leveling because I
like to do a more fine leveling once I have a tripod fully loaded do my rough
leveling I use this app right here this is called PS align Pro and it has just
like a little basic level or in there I think this is iPhone only but I’m sure
there’s leveler programs on Android phones too so you can just watch me
doing this real quick I’ll probably speed it up in the final video next I’m going to show you is putting on
the peer extension and my home-built tripod tray I also use the normal ryan
tray because with the peer extension it isn’t necessary part and it also adds a
little bit more stability so you can watch me putting those on now okay for this next part it’s really
important that you lift with your knees not your back so you really want to bend
down because I’m lifting the mount head on to the peer extension here under the
tripod and it’s quite heavy so here we go okay that’s on there now how do you know
what direction to point it this is the front where the counter weight shaft
comes out and where the poor hole for the polar alignment scope is that’s the
front of it and that’s what you want to point to due north so I’m going to point
it this way which is north and with this particular setup I now have to add three
little screws around this ring right here to secure the mount head to the
pier extension so I’m just going to do that and speed this part of any water to let out the counterweight shaft you
just undo this little latch right here it hides up inside there Orion Atlas
mounted that lets it out and then you tighten that back up to make the
counterweight shaft more solid you then take off this little retainer screw here
and then the supplied counterweights go right on now if you had a very heavy
scope you might need to counter weights way down here when I was using just my
camera lens I really just needed one counterweight way up here I know with my
particular imaging payload right now I need to counter weights right about
there now how do I know this in a minute here we’re gonna balance the whole thing
once we get everything on there and that’s how you know where to put the
counter weights on the shaft after you put those on there you want to put the
retainer back on because if one of these fell off the shaft onto your foot you
could break your foot stir 11 pounds each I think put that back on all right we now have the weights on
there that means we can now put our imaging setup up here on the dovetail
cell okay I have my full imaging setup I keep mine completely setup like this
completely attached from night to night there’s a number of reasons I do that
one of them is because I’m working on a mosaic right now so I don’t want to
change the rotation of the camera I know that I’m in a pretty good focal position
for both the guide scope and the imaging camera right now so that makes things a
lot faster so there’s a lot of reasons if you set up every night just keep your
whole imaging train attached like this now all I have to do is just take the
whole thing put it into the right position here and slide it back onto the
dovetail saddle and if you loosen these a little bit okay
how do I know where to put it here I’ve marked it with tape right there because
I know from previous nights that this particular payload balanced in a
particular way because of how the weight is distributed so I marked it with fate
that’s a good idea if you like me can keep your whole imaging train intact
like this so now all I have to do is just tighten these two little knobs up I
do them pretty tight so that this isn’t going anywhere now this whole thing is
nice and secure and now it’s just about attaching other accessories and cables
and power and everything like that I don’t balance yet and if I did try to
balance right now you can see my balance is a little bit off the reason you don’t
balance yet is because once you attach cables and take off this heavy lens
cover and put on your Dew heaters and all that balance is completely different
so you don’t want to balance your stuff until it’s completely set up for imaging
what I could do at this point if it’s visible is do a rough polar alignment
with Polaris but looking over there in the sky I don’t see it yet so I’m gonna
keep setting up get my power set up and my cables run and everything like that
alright next up I get my battery really close to the base of the tripod like
cool cycling my inverter on the tray if connect the leads of my inverter to
the battery and then I connect this power squid to their I don’t turn
anything on yet I’m going to connect all the different devices and then I turn
everything on at once okay so next up I’m going to do a rough
polar alignment to do that I mean it’s cake when I pull my skirt here and take this big cap off here and then
the other thing you have to do to get this clear for the polar scope is turn
your scope up here in the deck axis I need to raise this way and now it’s clear okay so what I would normally do to
align now is I’d open up PS align pro which shows me the Ryan Sky Watcher
reticle and where Polaris should be on it and then I just go in here and look
and line it up in the scope all right with everything attached I can have
balance balance first to the death taxes and the way to balance is to just need
their scope in two different positions and
it should basically stay outside it’s falling down towards the lines so
that means I got to push weight back away from the lens a little bit just a
small adjustment will make a big difference I’m just going to push it
just a little bit there tighten that back up and now when I put it down here
you can see it’s just sort of staying on its own we’ll try the other side and a
little cable drag there that’s now balanced now keep in mind you’re going
to be pointing this in basically one direction in the sky for most of the
night probably so for me that’s this direction so balanced in this direction
is a little bit more important than the other direction I also know that
pointing in this direction my cables will be nice and loose down here so I
won’t have any cable drag that’s another big thing to pay attention to you if you
have enough cable lengths so that you don’t get any sort of tightness in the
cables which could be a big factor and stop you from getting good track all
right so I’m balanced now and deck C you know tighten that back up and then you
balance in RA which is this bigger access here this and so I go this way see if it balances on all these
different positions it arleigh looks pretty good but let’s say it wasn’t
balanced I’m gonna move this weight way down here okay it’s not balanced and
it’s obviously gonna sort of fall down towards the weight side so then I would
just move these weights up all right now balance can RA now this might master there’s a flat
okay when attaching the pull master here I
always make sure to put the USB cable off here to the right then when you see
it on the computer screen it makes a little bit more sense I used to have it
playing down but pointing it off to the right will make more sense on computer
screen this is all now set up mechanically and it’s going to tighten
up my latches here in what’s called the home position where this whole thing is
kind of a chap down clips okay now I’m at the computer and I’ve
just started it I have all my programs that I used right down here at the
bottom I’m going to open up the first one which is carte du ciel this is my
planetarium program and the first thing I’m gonna do is I’m gonna go here to the
setup menu and I’m just going to go in here to the observatory option which
lets me set where I am and the last time I use this computer is in the friend’s
yard so I’m going to set it now to my backyard and I’ve already saved that in
here but you can always put in something different and save other options now
that I have that I’m going to apply it and go ahead and
just make sure that held okay click okay and now I’m gonna go over here and click
this little button this is my connect to the telescope and I use Escom
specifically the EQ mod or tqs comm configuration for any kind of Orion or
Sky Watcher mount and this also has a place to put in site information I’m
just going to show you how you would put in a new one here so I’m just going to
type in new art backyard and what you want to do is make sure that the
information for latitude and longitude matches exactly – what’s over here in
cart do CL so they don’t match up then it’s not gonna work great
let’s enter this in 75 44 19 oh and where did I get this information I use
my smartphone a bunch of different apps will tell you your GPS coordinates but
you can also get it on Google Maps or anywhere what did I do here that was not
good since I was talking and typing I must’ve missed something up here let me
try it again let me go back in here configure I was
still down there in downstream well I know what I did
I endured oh oh right here rather than zero zero okay let me put in zero zero save okay looks good okay
save her do this let me just go back in there one more time to double-check it
yep looks good okay so now that’s all setup I can go ahead and click connect
right here and I can hear my mount just turned on it’s engaged you can see over
here it says parked I’m not gonna unpark it yet
cuz I do some other things first but I do clear my alignment points I don’t
know if this is necessary but I like to do it because now it says you know the
azimuth is zero Dec is 90 so it’s all ready to go and then I always just set
some new alignment points each night okay I’m gonna go them and minimize that
and I can see here my planetarium that I am parked at Polaris and go ahead and
open up PhD – this is my guiding program and what I do in here is I just go ahead
and connect to my mount and also to the guide camera but before I connect to the
guide camera have to go in here to camera setup the reason for this is
because I’m using two ASI cameras on the same driver so you can see it connected
automatically here to the 1600 but I don’t want to use that as my guide cam
so I’m gonna switch it to the 290 and the other thing I’m going to do here is
for some reason it always switches to 16-bit images for guiding you want the
8-bit images so that’s fine now click OK connect you can connect to
the mount and then I can close this window alright and then I go ahead and
loop just to make sure that the guide camera is working and roughly in focus
and that does not look right now let’s see what’s going on here
hold on one second Oh am i okay so it was just that my cover my lens cover was
on the guide scope so I took that off and now I can see some stars there
that’s good okay so that’s all I do at this point
with it I just test that it’s working and I can stop and minimize that and now
I open up sgp sequence generator Pro that one takes a little longer to load
sit sometimes checks for new versions and stuff okay that was pretty fast okay
the first thing I do is I just close out of this untitled sequence that it makes
automatically here and then I’m gonna go ahead and go up here to tools and
equipment profile manager and you go into my default profile right now which
is this one the one I’m gonna use tonight and again I have to click on
settings here and set the driver because it went to the 290 but I want the 1600
for this because this is what I’m using the image with I could set my gain and
offset here but they’re already set correctly for this night so I’m gonna
hit OK and hit OK again it says would you like
to save changes to this profile yes okay then I go back to the Tools menu and I’m
going to connect all equipment this is how I do it some people do it
differently but this gets everything going the main thing it does at this
point is it starts my imaging camera cooling so if you look up here in the
upper right you see it says power and cooling now and now it’s starting to
cool down that little percentage is how hard the fans are working so as it’s
cooling down those will kick into high gear and keep going now
alright I’m gonna go ahead and take an exposure here and that looks like all
black because I haven’t set an auto stretch so I’m going to go ahead and
turn on auto stretch here I usually set it to medium and take another one okay
that’s fine I can see a bunch of stars there okay and now I’m gonna go ahead
and go into my pull master software the qhy pull master that comes up and I’m
just gonna drag this to the top to make a full screen and I’m gonna connect to
the pull master not found okay so let me go check what’s up with that one good
way in Windows 10 is I can just go here into settings and devices and it shows
me everything that’s connected and no pull master so I must have missed it let
me go see here one second there we go okay so I just hadn’t plugged it in
there it’s plugged in now I can see it right there into my devices the reason
it shows up with its name there is cuz I’d already installed the drivers for it
now when I connect here you can see the Stars it says set the parameters to the
left to make more stars around Polaris visible okay so I’m gonna turn up the
exposure and the gain a little bit yep and now I can see more stars or on
Polaris that’s good so I’ll say finished double click Polaris and use the rotate
slider okay so double click Polaris it’s right
there in the middle and then over here on the left I use this rotate slider to
match up the stars around Polaris and so you can just use this little minus plus
you can drag this when you drag it it’s sometimes a little bit hard but
oh I just got pretty close actually there so that was sort of lucky but a
lot of times when you get close you can use that your left and right arrow keys
on your keyboard to really dial it in say like this just does a little
increments okay good success and what you like to use the access center
position recorded last time you use pull master I’m going to say yes here because
I haven’t changed mouse but if you’re changing mounts you might want it you
know say no so you can actually set where pull masters center of access is
so it says double click Polaris again again use the rotate slider good looks
good click success okay and now what this is telling me is that little target
down there is where I have to use my altitude and azimuth bolts in my mouth
to get Polaris to match up with that target and then you can see up here in
the upper left it’s like a zoomed in view and that’s wherever my mouse is so
I’m just going to go over here to the mount and I’m going to try to set this
it’s going to move around a little bit wildly like that that’s just common with
this particular amount let me bring it back here and I’m looking at this live I
mean I just moved my laptop a little bit okay I’m getting closer jumps around a
little bit okay there we go no I just sort of nudge
it just by nudging this and this is not the Ryan Atlas’s strong suit this is not
a good part of its design as these things are really hard to move okay this
is a little bit easier okay we’re getting close and I like to get
this very close to that little plus sign right in the middle of the target right
away because concentrate it’s pretty good could do a little better I think nope overshot it there yeah that’s pretty good I like to
get this very accurate right away because you’ll see in a second here the
last step it sort of jumps around a little bit more so the closer I can get
in this step the better so I think I have it now I’m gonna click finished and
then I’m gonna click double-click I’m gonna double-click Polaris here again
and one more time and says you can rotate these I’ll just hit the left
arrow to get them centered click success ok now this is the last step I can click
start monitor and ideally now I would Center that Green Cross with that red
circle but if I have them at least overlapping like this I usually skip
this step because usually my seeing isn’t good enough to really support
doing this so I’m gonna go ahead and close out of the whole thing that’s good
enough for me ok I’m gonna take another exposure and there’s Polaris up there at
the top great cooling is almost at negative 15 we’re almost ready here to
get rolling I’m gonna go ahead though and move closer to my target by unpark
on my mount starting saudi riyal tracking opening this up and hit this
little green plus guy to add a star alignment now some people skip this
because they are doing plate solving but I just like to do this as a backup to
have cart to see I’ll know where mount mount is pointed as well as sequence
generator Pro so if SGP quits for some reason the mount is still tracking okay
so I’m going to go ahead and go up here and type in Vega because it’s a nice
bright star the enter moves to there in the planetarium and then I can go ahead
and click slew up here okay my mouth starts moving it’s moving
to Vega and you can see the little target moving
there on the screen and I can see my mount moving but kind of the lights set
up any worse I can’t show you that but there we go
settling in and if we’re lucky now when I go back here to sequence generator Pro
we should see they got right on the screen there we go go ahead and minimize
this and open up sequence generator Pro get this guy out of the way first of all
this check of the loom filter set I like to have the loom filter said what I’m
just doing this centering part because then I can take shorter exposures there
we go and there we go it’s up there in that upper corner now I just want to
Center it and I’m gonna Center it using this Northwest East South buttons here I
don’t really know which direction I should go so I’m just gonna try north
first that moves it down and a little bit left now I’ll try West hey what did that do I’m gonna get left
left and up try again now getting close it just has to go a little down a little
more north mmm just do it touch east okay I’m gonna say that is centered so
I’m gonna go ahead and click accept and then let’s click end here because you
really I don’t do more than a one-star line especially with plate solving let
me just show you actually how plate solving works you just right-click on
the image you click plate solve you click solve it solves the image meaning
it looks for patterns and the image says solve complete down there and now sequence generator Pro knows where it’s
pointed to okay good enough so now everything knows where it’s pointed it’s
pointed to Vega Vega is not actually where I’m ending up for the night but
I’m gonna stay here a little bit longer because I’m gonna focus on Vega really
bright stars Vega is the brightest star but in the winter you have you know
Rigel or things like that or serious really bright stars like that are nice
to focus on when you’re using a botton off-task like I do let me know switch to
my o3 filter here it’s now set to the o3 cuz that’s what I’m shooting tonight I’m
just going to put on the botton of mask I’ll be right back okay
I’m gonna set this exposure a little bit higher because of the oh three filter
I’m gonna set it to eight go ahead and take one take one means
take an exposure of course and we’ll see how far I’m out of focus looks pretty close from here but let me
go ahead and zoom in okay that’s pretty good but you can see the central spike
is a little bit to the right zoom in a little further not too far off
but noticeably closer to that right spike than the left spike so I always
start by moving my focus or travel inward and so go ahead and do that and
then I’m gonna go ahead and take another exposure and we’re gonna see which
direction left or right the central spike moves okay and it definitely moved
further right so now we’re more out of focus if we were this out of focus that
would be a bad thing so I’m going to now move my focus or travel outward okay and
I think I overshot just a tiny bit but that’s looking pretty close you just
move it a tad inward I do have a I mean obviously this is a manual focus or
because I’m doing this manually but I’ll take another one here
but I do have a two-speed focus or so it has that ten-to-one reduction so I can
do pretty small moves and see it move at all let me take me move it a little bit
more sometimes I get a little backlash in the focus here okay see how this does sorry this is
this is boring but this is sort of typical okay that looks pretty good I
think that might be it I mean the zoom out of here I think I’m
done so I’m gonna take off the botton of mask for now I want file open sequence
and because I’ve already started this Oh three collection it’s my mosaic there we
go open up that existing sequence and pull this up here now I’m three frames
into this panel panel number six but right now I’m just gonna check
everything that’s connected this is important with a mosaic that your manual
rotator it says is connected you’ll see why in a second here
the next thing I do here is I go create this a little bit here and I’m going to
go ahead and see there we go double click it and slew to my targets okay yes
so remember I already played solved in this GP on Vega so it sort of knows
where it is now it’s slowing to my panel not too far away and that’s done and then I like to go
ahead and center it now so we’ll see how far it’s off so it first takes a image and it solves it and it
says I failed because I’m not within a critical eye when I’m a hundred and nine
pixels off in the RA 254 in the deck so instead of clicking run again since not
sure if that’s gonna work right now I’m gonna click done and I’m going to
complete solve this image salt see that came back really snappy this is
pin point go ahead and click OK and I’m going to slough again so I’m gonna go up
here to this gear you can actually right click it yeah yep and I can get solved
flew to target right from that menu ok yep okay sloughs again it was much
closer this time but now it new sort of where it was and I’m gonna go ahead and
try Center again we’ll see if it does a better job this time there we go
0 Dec X is there negative 9 ra 9 pixel toll okay so that’s within my 10 that’s
good okay we’re gonna start looping exposures in the guide camera lots of
stars to choose from you can see there’s some wispy clouds moving through but
that’s ok this is just for practice and I’m just gonna click through some stars
here I’m trying to find one that’s pretty high SNR but not saturated and
you see that down at the bottom of the screen there it’s pretty good ok around
the mid 30s looks reasonably InFocus not saturated ok so now what I’m gonna do is
gonna hold down shift and click on this little start guiding thing it says do
you want to force recalibration I do I do this every night I’m gonna go ahead
and click OK ok now it goes through the calibration process I’m gonna go ahead
and speed this up in the video because it is quite tedious what the calibration process just did
though was it set basically the steps that the guide camera cans the kinds of
Corrections that the camera can send to the mount which is based on a bunch of
different things and you need to do that so that it sends accurate corrections
okay another thing I’ve noticed the reason I’d like to do this guiding
separately from before I start my sequence is because my mount takes a
little while to settle in here you can see that that red line of the Dec axis
right now it’s just just keeps going under where it should be and these big
Corrections aren’t moving it well now now it’s finally moving it now that I
said that but you get the idea it just takes a little while to settle in I’ve
noticed and so I like to give it a few seconds before I start the sequence here
just make sure it can settle a little bit once I feel like it’s settling I’m
gonna go ahead and start the sequence when I start the sequence it actually
pauses the guider and then usually Auto selects a new star anyways but typically
it does a really good job of selecting a star sometimes better than me so that’s
looking good now I’m gonna go ahead and switch back to sequence generator Pro
here and like I said I’ve already started the sequence so I’m just gonna
go ahead and click run okay what does it do it makes sure’s I’m still centered on
target yep and now it’s resuming the auto guider we can go switch back to PhD
and watch you do that yep there pick that star yeah that’s a good star
closer to the edge mid-30s SNR Wow look at how could those Corrections
are it’s pretty stable and it’s not a good night but that’s looking like it’s
gonna be a good guide star all right I’m going to switch back to sgp here make
sure I’m integrating yep I can see down there at the bottom I’m integrating my
first frame of the night so that’s it I’m done thank you for listening and I
hope to do a lot more of these I can check out my website nebula
and I’m definitely open to suggestions as well thanks so much

95 thoughts on “Deep Sky Astrophotography – Equipment Overview and Setup

  1. Excellent video and website… An end-to-end setup demo in a nutshell… This is exactly I was looking for… Just a couple of questions… The first one – did you sync the Cartes Du Ciel with Vega after you finish centering it? The second one – Can you please update your site with resources to design and get printed the Bahtinov Mask? But again this is an excellent video and many thanks for it…

  2. Awesome video! helped me alot!
    I just got an EQ6 (belt modded) and have never tried a a big mount like this (only used skyguider pro).
    I do have a question im hoping you could answer.
    In terms of money, i cant afford a guide scope and camera, i wanna try shooting with a DSLR and a telelens unguided.
    Ive heard the PEC could help me a lot without guiding, do you know of a guide on how to set up PEC on my mount?
    Thanks in advance and again, Awesome vid!

  3. Hello Nico Carver, I just watched the whole video. I think you have done a good job going through the steps, because other videos do not give such details of the set up. I am an electrical engineer and I always wanted to have my telescope. But now in the electronic age I stumbled across ORION Premium 190 mm and felt drawn to buying it along with Atlas GoTo mount, because they seemed automatic enough for me as a beginner.
    However, you seemed to have struggled somewhat, compared to another video I saw, in which GoTo instruction worked effortlessly, while ORION does not have any demo of their product, showing astro-photography in action.
    I will find your opinion extremely valuable, about my desire to do astro photography, as a beginner. Also do more videos, showing how different gears compare. Thank you.

  4. This set-up and equipment review video is destined to become a classic tutorial. Nico  does not assume we understand the telescope terms, and even though the video almost an hour, it isn't tiring. Congratulations on the outline, which is a great didactic help. We are waiting for more broadcasts!

  5. who do we love ? NICO who do we love ? NICO who do we love ? NICO
    thank you so much for the great video, so entertaining and helpful , just subbed to you and waiting for ur upcoming videos, much love <3

  6. One of the best video. You have showed me where I have been making monumental mistakes in a few areas. look forward to the next video!! I hope you do more on sequence pro

  7. Excellent Video, for me i learned alot, ive just swapped over to a GEM mount from an alt az nexstar evolution, so found this vid very informative
    and educational, Thankyou.

  8. Hey Nico, great video! I noticed you mentioned using plate solving in lieu of polar alignment but it’s important to do both. The polar alignment prevents field rotation and the plate solve handles object centering. Cheers!

  9. Have you tried the polar alignment facility on sharpcap pro? I can easily polar align to within 10 arcsecs with the polar feature from the program

  10. Thank you this information is really helpful Nico, but I just got lost right after setup the guider. Should I find the objects that I want to photograph and then calibrate the Autoguider somewhere near, before taking the frames?

  11. Hello.
    New subscriber here. I just wanted to thank you for explaining things well and thoroughly. We sometimes as astrophotographers move on up in equipment but do not necessarily understand how all things work and function. Please if you can continue to explain everything. As well as your process of an imaging night. I am glad that you use SGPro because that in itself is very powerful but yet quite daunting when you start with as a program. Cheers to you from an astrophotographer with a lot of the same gear as you have but doesn’t quite understand it all … Thank you from Québec, Canada

  12. This is one of the best videos on Youtube on equipment review, use, and setup without getting too technical. What?? It was one hour long?? Didn't feel like it when you learn useful tips. Next, can you post video on image acquisition and processing? Thanks much! Subscribed.

  13. Buenisimo video, es un tutorial en si, muy claro y descriptivo,incluso para algunos como yo muy novatos en esto gracias por compartir. gracias Nebula Photos

  14. I like how your rings raise the telescope up. What kind are they, I want a pair? It's like putting a lift on your truck.

  15. Watched your whole video , very good. I use most of the programs you showed, not eqmod but may try that. I have SGP but have not figured it out of yet. Thanks for the info. I guess you are in Newark DE. Was in New Castle yesterday, I live in Edison NJ… Weather has been so bad here it is hard to learn new stuff because of not using for such a long time. Anyway thanks for the info, hope to bounce some stuff off of you in the future if you dont mind.

  16. Awesome video thank you for this… had a question? What did you do and how did you do to set manual rotate?? Thank you very much

  17. This is awesome!
    I'd like to get a Bahtinov mask 3D printed for my SVT 70mm–maybe one for a 90mm objective too, but the 70mm especially. That Tinkercad site seems cool, I signed up for it, and got to the plans easy enough, but don't see where/how I would adjust the plans to suit a 70mm aperture. It would be really cool if there was a percentage key chart–like I could just say to the 3D printer "Print this please, at 84%" or whatever %.

  18. Nico, thank you for a well-organized presentation. Your presentation style is outstanding; a key reason this hour long video did not feel long.

    Soup to nuts here and I agree with the comment that alluded to the fact that this video will be one anyone interested in Astrophotography will seek out or be referred to!

  19. What a fantastic video!! Really love how calm you are and you simply took your time to explain everything. Really great job

  20. Awesome!

    A lot of videos out there seem catered to people that already understand a lot about astrophotography. This was a great breakdown for people new to the hobby.

    I’ll take a look to see if you have any other videos. If you haven’t done so already, I’d suggest making a video that takes a more in depth look at all of the imaging programs and explains the functions and settings in a little more detail. For example, when you said you had to enable auto stretch – many are curious what that does, why you need to do it, etc. the software seems to have a steep learning curve, so any info with that stuff is a help.


  21. Nicely done! Even though I have different equipment and software, it very much helped me get a better understanding of processes and procedures..

  22. Man its all so complicated with computers and stuff .. my method is A LOT easier .. drift scope into alignment .. point scope at object using setting circles .. put film in camera .. camera onto easyguider .. open shutter .. look through illuminated reticle and push ra or dec buttons as needed .. two hours later close shutter .. take film to drugstore .. scan film .. edit in photoshop .. done 😬 (p.s. great video)

  23. Ahh someone using SGP and EQMOD, do you happen to have a tutorial on setting up SGP auto meridian flip? lot's of conflicting suggestions on whether setting up is done in SGP – or in both software.

  24. Fantastic Video it has helped me a lot ,being a newbie in astrophotography,I had issues with connecting EQMod to my Orion atlas eq mount. It shows as port connection error port not available, could you tell which cables did you use for the set up.?

  25. I'm a total newbie I don't understand any of your lingo. What can I view with this? Can I see the moon like Bruce Swartz up close and personal? How much is it? It looks too small to see anything?

  26. Great video. Thank you for taking the time to show us how you set up your equipment. I am brand new to astrophotography. Got an explore Scientific 127mm Carbon Fiber Refractor Scope and the EQ6-R Pro Mount for Christmas. Also got a whole lot of accessories, cameras and all of that. Haven’t taken my first pics yet but looking forward to getting started with it soon. If you’re ever in the Bucks County area in Pennsylvania, let me know. I would love to meet you and talk about this amazing hobby over coffee or something like that, if that’s ok with you. Anyhow, take care and looking forward to watching more of your videos soon. Regard, Pablo.

  27. Once you got everything set up and were working on the laptop I thought you could have explained what you were doing more. You would switch between programs but not say why, and what you were doing. Setup was excellent.

  28. That was awesome thank you for putting it all together, As a future tip for another video, you might want to look at different OTA, long vs short focal length, what is best for astro photography..

  29. APT – Astro Photography Tool is awsome software…. the owner is awsome to deal with and its not bad in price. worth checking it out.. you might be suprised… it does PLT SOLV automatated so on so on.. check it out if u havent ..

  30. Awesome video! I have been over analyzing all of the equipment I want to purchase for my next deep sky setup. Glad I ran across this video, thanks for making it!

  31. Cool video. Thanks for the very in-depth POV. Just FYI: Kind'a odd that you don't move your left arm (at all) during the first 20 minutes (in a very noticeable way) . . . to the point that I started to wonder if you had lost the use of it.

  32. You can drain a marine battery that's why it's called a deep cycle battery… Maybe I should look elsewhere for astrophotography advice

  33. I like your videos they are a great visual aid to help understand a lot of stuff I've read but have no practice in yet. Plus you give a good practical information.

  34. Thanks Nico for a great well presented video. Although I started in astronomy nearly 40 years ago I've only recently taken an interest in imaging. It seems to me I spend too long setting up and not enough time observing so it's a real treat to see that there are guys who seem to have mastered the technology. Well done for showing us that it is possible to use a portable set up which doesn't take hours of battling with flaky connectors and software. Well done.
    Terry Lockyer UK

  35. Hi Nico,
    Nice video! Just asking do you just directly mount the guide scope bracket on the finder bracket?

  36. I have been waiting far too long for a video like this. thank you! Now hopefully i can get my equipment to work!

  37. Excellent tutorial video. You are an excellent teacher, if I may use that word for description? Well worded, well thought out, excellent knowledge of equipment and excellent tutoring to a basic level for all to understand. I subbed and will be watching your work. Saving this video for reference.

  38. Your videos are incredibly helpful! As a complete beginner, I'm so grateful! Thank you for posting <3

  39. Great videos! You will enjoy the Anderson Power Poles, they are a very easy connection to make and you will get significantly increased battery efficiency.

  40. 15:15 when charging lead acid batteries they release hydrogen gas so when having it hooked up to a trickle charger you should have the top of the box to allow the gas to escape because those type of battery boxes don’t have great ventilation and it could become dangerous. Clear skies 👍🏻.

  41. I will echo what others have said – best overall beginner guide . Extremely helpful to us folks trying to understand how to put all the pieces together and do in what order, etc. Well done, and I look forward to more of your videos.

  42. 1. One of the best videos on the subject I've seen.

    2. One of the best arguments, also, for building one's own, small backyard observatory, rather than going through this every…damned…time. Lol…

  43. I would also like to add my congratulation at a well presented if long set of learning tools. Thank you. I would also welcome tutorials on planetary photography but perhaps not using film which is a possibility I am considering but will probably reject.

  44. Why do you use the polemaster? Can you use the guidescope and SmartCAP for example to do a super accurate polar alignment?

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