Well, comet Neowise has come and (pretty-much) gone, but it put on an impressive display while it lasted. I managed to get out my camera one evening and take a few pictures, including this one:
Astroimaging has long been something I’ve wanted to explore. Having just retired and begun a “new chapter” in my life, now seems like a good time to start. My retirement gift to myself was an astroimaging “starter kit:”
- A Sky Watcher Esprit 100mm f/5.5 ED Triplet APO refractor
- An iOptron GEM45 mount and tripod
- A Canon EOS SL3 DSLR camera
along with a bunch of accessories, like a William Optics guide scope and a ZWO ASI guide camera. My intent is to start doing long-exposure imaging of deep sky objects. It’s a fairly steep learning curve, especially the image processing part of the workflow. So far I’ve had the telescope set up a couple times just to get familiar with its operation. Both the Sky Watcher scope and the iOptron mount seem very well built and up to the task of recording several minutes worth of data. Hoping for a combination of good weather and dark skies soon so I can capture my first images.
Right now I’m using Stellarium to control the mount (did you know that Stellarium recently added support for ASCOM?) along with the iOptron ASCOM drivers and the iOptron iPolar software (the GEM45 has a built-in camera for polar alignment that’s pretty cool). I’ll be using Backyard EOS for automating the imaging process, along with PHD2 for guiding and Deep Sky Stacker for stacking images.
Almost everyone seems to use Adobe products such as Photoshop for doing the final processing of astro images, but Adobe’s subscription plan for its suite of products really puts me off, so I thought I’d try another package that is quickly gaining momentum in that market: Affinity Photo. Affinity Photo is (at least to me) a very impressive package at a very modest cost of $49.95 (as of August 2020). I’m a neophyte when it comes to image processing, but from what I’ve gathered so far, Affinity Photo holds its own very well against Photoshop in every category I care about. I have a ton yet to learn about image processing, but now that I’m retired, I have plenty of time for that.