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Astrophotography

About me

A brief description of how I got into astrophotography, where my focus lies, and where the journey is leading me.

About me and this blog:

I am Thomas and live in Koblenz. I discovered astrophotography in stages. Like many others, I had a small reflector as a child. However, I never went beyond observing the moon and the sun (with the appropriate filter) back then.

In 2019, I seized the opportunity and acquired a small refractor for my son 🙂 (first the Carrera track, then the refractor). However, this telescope ended up collecting more dust than photons.

at Deutsches Eck in Koblenz with my Brompton Bike.

How the love for astrophotography awakened:

In 2020, the comet Neowise essentially marked the starting point for my new hobby with an extreme addictive factor. Due to the lack of a T-ring, I captured the comet with my existing EOS M100 and a standard lens.

Over the course of a few months, I focused on photographing Mars, especially during opposition, using the small refractor and the M100. By then, I had acquired the appropriate T-ring and an adapter for eyepiece projection. The grand conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter became the highlight for the ‘old’ equipment before it was handed back for my son’s use 🙂 Occasionally, it is still employed during the long exposure nights for the joint visual observation of deep-sky objects.

Together with my son in our backyard, visual and taking astrophotos at the same time.

By the way, the Skywatcher Evostar, with its 90/900 characteristics, remains my preferred telescope for photographing the sun, equipped with a Herschel wedge and Solar Continuum filter.

The “solid entry point”:

To be able to return my son’s telescope, I naturally needed something of my own. Personally, I refer to what I then acquired as ‘solid entry-level equipment.’ This, of course, involved various research efforts. In the end, I opted for the following equipment for my entry into astrophotography:

  • Refractor Telescope Vixen ED80sf
  • Mount Skywatcher HEQ-5 Pro
  • Canon EOS M100(a)
  • Omegon 1200b as a guiding camera

Over the months, I expanded the refractor with a micro-focusing unit and a universal flattener. Additionally, I made my first attempts with a duo-narrowband filter. Later on, the HEQ-5 received a Rowan Belt Upgrade.

Due to the existing Canon EOS M100, I was compelled to use EKOS/INDI as control software on a Linux basis, specifically on Ubuntu. This was because the EOS M100 is unfortunately not supported under Windows but is supported by GPhoto2 on Linux. As is well known, there are issues with the maximum exposure time, which I fortunately managed to extend from 180s to 300s over time using various tricks.

Regarding the software used for photo development, in the first 1.5 years, I primarily relied on ‘Deep Sky Stacker,’ ‘SiriL,’ and especially ‘Affinity Photo.’ At this point, I had to save money somewhere.

Learning the relevant techniques and methods:

Over the first few months, I was able to learn and apply many excellent methods and techniques that consistently improved the results. These included (presumably in this order):

  • Mount guiding through a guide telescope.
  • The use of calibration frames (BIAS and FLATS).
  • Dithering.
  • Plate-solving.
  • Extension of the single exposure from 180s to 300s.

In addition, there was, of course, much more to learn, especially in the development of the photos.

The next step:

By mid-2022, I found myself repeatedly reaching a point where I realized that the equipment, and not myself, was the limiting factor. Of course, there were still times when I was the issue, but when things were working well, I encountered the limitations of the equipment.

At this juncture, I began restructuring my equipment. In doing so, I desired a telescope with significantly more focal length for capturing smaller objects. However, it was clear to me that I did not want to replace the mount at the moment. Therefore, the new telescope needed to have more focal length, be compatible with the HEQ-5 Pro, and be suitable for astrophotography. My choice ultimately fell on the VIXEN VISAC VC200L.
So, I parted ways with the ED80sf and switched to the VISAC. Additionally, I wanted a small backup refractor. Unfortunately, my preferred telescope was not available at the time. I opted for the small Takahashi FS-60CB. The little Takahashi was intended to serve as a travel telescope or simply as my small apo.

Meanwhile, I had also acquired a portable power supply. From then on, I was able to embark on photon hunts in the Eifel, Westerwald, and Taunus regions.
Furthermore, I treated my HEQ5 Pro to a hypertuning.

The small Takahashi didn’t stay for long when the Baader Travel Companion with a 95mm aperture and 580mm focal length suddenly and unexpectedly became available. I just had to seize the opportunity.

Additionally, as a new travel-friendly apo unexpectedly joined the household, I parted ways with the Takahashi and used the funds to finally purchase the long-awaited full-frame camera. I opted for the CANON EOS R, which was promptly astro-modified within the first week.

And then came the inevitable: a long period of nothing but clouds!

What’s next?

For now, the plan is to get back to capturing more photos! I can envision expanding to a monochrome setup in the future, but that’s currently just a possibility on the horizon.

Best regards and always clear skies!
Thomas

My blogging activities in the past

Blogging and Community Reward: “Regional Lead Germany | Microsoft Certified Trainer” 2013-2020

microsoftlearning Blog (2012-2017)

My most important and first blog. I worked as a technical trainer for Microsoft Datacenter Software Producs around the year 2010 to 2017 and wrote more than 200 blogarticles in those years.
These blogging rewarded me the official Microsoft title “Regional Lead Germany | Microsoft Certified Trainer”.

systemcenter Blog (2015-2018)

In my second blog i wrote and published round about 110 technical blogarticles about the Microsoft System Center Suite. i moved these articles to the blog of a friend when i stopped my own technical blog. They are still online under his design: old technical articles

projectmanagement Blog (2019)

My 3rd and shortest blogging activities count only 15 articles. They are still online: http://www.hanrath.de
I had to stop writing about projectmanagement topics, because i simply made my way up too fast 🙂

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