Sunday, November 23, 2014

Massive Improvement in M42 with Orion EQ-1 Motor Driven Mount

I've been making incremental improvements over the past 2 years, but this was my first time imaging the Orion Nebula (M42) with my motor driven equatorial mount. I did a quick alignment (still trying to figure that out) but was able to get up to about 13 second exposures without star trails. Here is the resulting image:

orion nebula m42 with canon t5i 300mm
Canon T5i on EQ1 mount stacked in DSS, 159 subs, 28 darks, 25 bias, 20 flats, ISO 1600, f/5.6, 300mm, 13 sec, total exposure time about 27 minutes
I did most of my curves in DSS, even though I hear doing curves in Photoshop is a lot better. I just can't get it, but I keep trying. I used Photoshop for a bit of contrast and saturation. I was so pleased with the original color that remained even after stacking in DSS.

improvement in orion m42 photography
It feels amazing to look back on my improvement over the years - I remember being excited about each of these images at one point and now they seem so basic!

I have a lot to learn in processing, but I did make some major progress using flats at my EQ mount for the first time on Orion. Yes that's right! Flat frames! I found this article by BudgetAstro to be the most helpful, because I didn't realize the goal of flat frames is to get the histogram in the middle - unlike dark frames where you just slap the lens cap on and use the exact same settings. I tried using flats before but just used the same settings like dark frames and massively over-exposed my flats, which is pretty pointless because then no gradient or vignette remains.

flat frames
Me taking flat frames in my family room, trying to get the histogram just barely to the left of center. Adjusted exposure time and kept f-number, focus, and ISO the same as my light frames.

flat frames
Tried to get the screen as close to the lens as possible, and moved it around slightly while snapping frames to try to get even lighting
I had massive hot spots in the center of my deep sky images last time, and with the flats this time I didn't have that issue with vignettes. Not saying I had a perfectly gradient-free field, but it was way better than a right gray hot spot.

More gray November skies in the forecast, maybe I'll get some more time to practice my Photoshop curves - but either way I'm extremely proud of my big leap forward in M42!

canon t5i on orion EQ1
A rather blurry shot of my setup, Canon T5i on Orion EQ-1 mount

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