I just built an astro camera tracker with bits costing around £10 and tried it out with my Canon SX230HS. It seemed to track very well and here is a shot of Orion made up of 35 exposures of 150 seconds stacked together in DSS and processed in StarTools.
Another shot taken with my £95 SX530HS. Software = CHDK, Astrokam, ASPS, PHD2, DSS, StarTools and Paint.Net.
I am a member of the Powershotters group who asked for some details on how I processed this image. Here is a light image:
and here is a dark image
The 48 light and 15 dark images were stacked in Deep Sky Stacker along with 25 flats and 15 offsets to produce the FITS image below. This was then processed in StarTools to give the final result above.
Here is a shot I took with my SX530HS PowerShot at maximum optical zoom. Captured in CHDK AstroKam, guided by PHD2, stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and processed in StarTools and Paint.NET.
Not bad for a second hand camera with no telescope?
Here is my first attempt at deep sky with my new (second-hand) Canon SX530HS compact camera. I shot this with a beta version of AstroKam that I hope to release soon. I only used about a third of the optical zoom range so there is plenty of scope (pun) to chase smaller targets.
Still messing with settings for it but I think it compares well with a similar shot I took with my Canon 1100D below.
I have been working on a new app that will automatically take astro images overnight and below are some early results. All taken with a Canon 1100D and Sigma 70-300mm lens, stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and processed in StarTools.
AstroTour interfaces with PHD2 autoguider (including dithering), All Sky Plate Solver for accurate targeting and digiCamControl for capture. digiCamControl allows a wide range of Canon and Nikon DSLRs to be controlled as well as some Sony and other cameras.
Above is a trial I shot of the Horsehead Nebula using iTelescope.net which has a range of high spec remote controlled telescopes across the world. I bought 20 imaging points using their starter plan which was made up to 60 points as a new member. I then booked 45 minutes on their telescope #24 which is a 0.61 metre reflector in California. I shot 300s each of Ha, R,G,B, O and S and combined the HaRGB in Krita.
This shooting plan took 47 of my points which I think is really good value for using a scope I could never hope to own.
Note that the image is pretty noisy because I did not have enough images to stack and reduce the noise. I will be taking more shots soon and will post the results here.
Here is my latest M42 captured with my Canon 1100D thru my Nexstar 4SE at prime. I used an old 3″ Mak to guide but found the usual star guiding apps could not lock on the stars. I then switched on DSSR and used it to guide right thru the 3 hour session. Stacked in SkippyStak and processed in StarTools.
I have always admired the fantastic Milky Way mosaics that you see on the web and here is how to try it for yourself.
I shot this in Scotland in October using only a fixed tripod and a Canon 1100D with the stock 18-55mm lens. At this time of year, the Milky Way passes close to the zenith which makes this method easy to use. You could adapt it for other dates by tilting your tripod head so that it follows the Milky Way as you tilt the camera.
First, get to a dark site with clear views of the Milky Way from horizon to horizon. Set your tripod level and take some test shots to test focus and exposure. I set the lens to 18mm, wide open aperture, ISO 6400 and exposure to manual at 30sec.
Now aim at where the Milky Way crosses one horizon and take your first shot. Tilt the camera up about 15 degrees and take another shot. Repeat until the camera is pointing straight up which should give you a series of 7 shots or thereabouts. (The angle is not too important – you just need a good overlap between shots. Now turn your camera round to the other horizon and repeat for a second series.
Shooting all the images took me about 10 minutes.
Create the Mosaic
I used the amazing and free Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) to stitch the mosaic. Start by loading the first series of images (I used the raw .cr2 files). Then click Stitch and select the Transverse Mercator projection when it has finished stitching. Click Crop and then No crop and then click Export and select the .PNG image file option. Click Export to disk and select where to save your first half of the Milky Way. Repeat for the second series of images which will give you 2 mosaic halves like these.
You can now use ICE to join these 2 halves to make a complete mosaic. Load them in ICE and Clicking Stitch will give you a result like this.
We need to rotate this a little to bring the Milky Way vertical so insert a value of 10 for Roll to give this.
You can now click the Crop button and adjust the crop window to suit like this.
You can now export this image and edit it in your favorite image editor.
You can also load both sets of original images in and let ICE stitch them all together. Below is how this looks using the Fisheye projection and colors tweaked in Gimp.
Not bad for 10 minutes of field work?