Sunday, January 15, 2012

Astrophotography Update

Some of you might remember, back in 2011, I purchased some astrophotography equipment: an equatorial mount and a IR modified Canon XS. After that, I've spent countless hours freezing my ass off outside in my backyard learning how to set it up and doing some trials. I haven't had any *cool* results until last night where I spent several hours outside in -20C weather.

I was just going to do some testing again since we had a very clear night (which naturally coincides with freezing temperatures). After an hour or so of setting everything up, I looked up at the sky to see which patch of sky I should test out this time. Then I saw this interestingly pattern of 3 bright stars in a row towards the southern patch of sky. A quick check on Stellarium and I found out they were Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, also known as, the Belt of Orion. And just a bit underneath it is the famous Orion's Nebula which is one of the most common targets for an astro-newbie like myself. So I setup the imaging program and let the computer take over. I imaged for about 2 hours with 60 1 minute exposures and 30 2 minute exposures. But I found out in post-processing that my polar alignment was a bit off so the 2 minute exposures had drifted so I was only able to use my 1 minute exposures.

This is the first time I've gone as far as to stacking the RAW files in DeepSkyStacker, a free software for stacking multiple exposures. And then to manipulate the output file to bring out the colors. I am still a noob at this, but the process was really fun and somewhat rewarding. I literally LOL outside in the backyard by myself in the freezing cold when I saw the Orion Nebula show up on my screen!

First post-process: I was trying too hard to bring out the reds here because other than the Orion Nebula, there is also the Horsehead nebula where Alnitak is (first on the left of the 3 bright stars). In this image, you can see a faint hint of it, but I just can't bring it out. I guess I need more data. Click for full size image.

Same image, but I just tried to bring out more details in the Orion nebula and forget about the Horsehead.

Crop of image above with some more aggressive processing, I think I overdid it here though.

Belt of Orion on top and the Orion nebula on the bottom.

These are nothing amazing, but I am happy since I finally got *something* LOL!

All these were shot with a Nikon 50mm f1.8 stopped down to f4. Since it's a cheap lens, the edges of the pictures are not too good. I want more focal length!!!


  1. I'm still struck with my point-and-shoot digital camera that is almost useless at dim lightings. Lol...