Tag Archives: Astrophotography

IC5146 / Cocoon Nebula in HaRGB

This is my first time ever imaging this target, and like the Crescent Nebula and Pelican Nebula I am limited to a 2.5 hour window per night to acquire data due to trees / house getting in the way, luckily I managed to get a lot of Ha data on this subject to blend this into the RGB image which smoothed out the lack of data for RGB somewhat, I would have liked to have got more RGB Data and I may re-image this with longer exposures on RGB next time also

Cocoon Nebula in HaRGB
Cocoon Nebula in HaRGB with PIxInsight 2x Drizzle

Image Details:
56x150S in R
56x150S in G
66x150S in B
101x300S in Ha

Acquisition Dates: Sept. 25, 2018, Sept. 27, 2018, Sept. 29, 2018, Oct. 20, 2018, Oct. 22, 2018, Oct. 26, 2018, Oct. 28, 2018, Oct. 29, 2018, Nov. 14, 2018, Nov. 17, 2018, Nov. 18, 2018, Nov. 30, 2018, Dec. 7, 2018, Dec. 9, 2018, Dec. 12, 2018, Dec. 13, 2018, Dec. 27, 2018, Jan. 4, 2019

All frames had 101 Darks and Flats applied, the Ha layer was blended using the new NBRGB Script in PixInsight 1.8.6, the more zoomed in picture is of the same data but with a 2x drizzle applied then cropped

Equipment Details:
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M Mono ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher Finder Scope
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Focuser: Primalucelab ROBO Focuser
FIlterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium RGB and Ha
Power and USB Control: Pegasus Astro USB Ultimate Hub Pro
Acquisition Software: Main-Sequence Software Inc. Sequence Generator Pro
Processing Software: PixInsight 1.8.6

Flickr Link: https://www.flickr.com/…/465843…/in/album-72157688487449350/

AstroBin Link: https://www.astrobin.com/384658/

NGC6888 – Crescent Nebula in SHO Narrowband

This object is a little tricker for me since I only have a 3-3.5 hour window per evening due to trees and the house blocking my view, this is also the first image that I used the drizzle function within PixInsight to be able to provide a detailed up close version of the image, I was very happy to have captured the brown “Globules” within the nebula to

Crescent Nebula in SHO Narrowband
Same object but with a 2x drizzle function in PixInsight applied

Image Details:
Red Channel – SII Data – 89x300S
Green Channel – Ha Data – 64x300S
Blue Channel – OIII Data – 109x300S

101 Darks, Flats and BIAS Frames used 

Equipment Used:-
Imaging Camera: QHY183M Mono ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Imaging Scope: Skywatcher Quattro 8″ F4 Newtonian
Guide Scope: Skywatcher Finder Scope
Guide Camera: QHY5L-II
Mount: Skywatcher EQ8 Pro GEM Mount
Focuser: PrimaluceLabs ROBO Focuser
Filterwheel: StarlightXpress 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader 7nm Ha, SII and OIII
Acquision Software: Main Sequence Software Sequence Generator Pro
Processing Software: Pixinsight 1.8.5

Pegasus Astro Ultimate PowerBox

I spent a lot of time looking at PowerBoxes/USB Controllers, the late Per Frejvall had developed a very nice Remote USB Hub but of course with the passing of Per, these are no longer available. I looked at two hubs, the HitechAstro Mount Hub Pro abnd the one I settled for was the Pegasus Astro Ultimate PowerBox.

Unboxing the PowerBox I was pleased with the build quality, they even ship mounting brackets for you to be able to mount it onto your setup, here’s an image of mine mounted on top of my Sky-Watcher Quattro:

Pegasus Astro Ultimate PowerBox on Imaging Setup

I loaded up the software onto the observatory PC and again pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get started and configure the names of the powered devices connected as well as names for each of the dew heaters, in the following image you can see my power connected devices and my dew heater for my guider camera:

Screenshot of Control Software

I configured the software to automatically power my devices the moment the unit is switched on, so what do I have connected to the PowerBox?

  • QHY5L-II Guide Camera
  • StarlightXpress USB Filterwheel
  • PrimaluceLabs ROBO Focuser
  • EQ8 Pro Mount PC-Direct Cable

I didn’t connect my QHY183M at the moment as I discovered that during image download it seemed to cause a timeout on the QHY5L-II Camera, I have raised a ticket with Pegasus Astro on this one. From a Power perspective, I only have my QHY183M and my Rear Fan assembly/heater connected as I currently do not have the power cable to connect directly to the hub for the EQ8 Pro (On Order). There is also a temperature sensor for the ultimate version, which works well as an interface for Sequence Generator Pro and my Auto Focuser routines.

I have been using the Hub now for a good few months, I am pretty happy with it, am I totally happy you might ask, well to be honest there’s a couple of niggly things that I have emailed Pegasus Astro about (awaiting a response):

  • Voltage. I am running 13.8V regulated bench power supply capable of delivering up to 15A which is powering the hub, however when devices such as the camera, dew heater, fan assembly are all running, the voltage level drops down to around 12V according to the software, I would not expect this to do so, I would expect it to remain 13.8V. My EQ8 Pro mount is powered by the same supply (but not through the hub currently) and during slew the voltage in the software does not change, so it’s obviously something being caluclated within the hub somewhere.
  • Issue with USB3 Camera (QHY183M) is still outstanding
  • When you set the power to the dew heater for example I always run it at 170, however when the software restarts you have to manually go and set this again
  • Ability to reboot or “Disconnect” a specific USB Port remotely would have been nice.

The main reason I wanted something like this was the ability to reboot the hub remotely, with standard USB Hubs this is not possible, as above, I would love to have a bit more granularity on this and have it on a per USB port but it works well for me right now.


M51 – Whirlpool Galaxy in LRGB

Another Image that I have previously imaged with the Atik Camera, again demonstrating a different resolution obviously showing off a bit more detail, here’s the image previously:

Equipment Used:
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M 20mpx ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher Finder Scope
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8-Pro GEM Goto Mount
Filterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm LRGB Filters

Software:
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro 3
Guiding: PHD2
Image Processing: PixInsight

Target Details:
Name: M51 / NGC5194 / Whirlpool Galaxy
Constellation:Canes Venatici
RA: 13h 29m 53.00s
Dec: 47° 11′ 51.10″
Distance from Earth: >23 Million Light Years

Image Details:
Luminance: 101×150 Second Exposures
Red: 85×150 Second Exposures
Green: 85×150 Second Exposures
Blue: 85×150 Second Exposures
Total Exposure Time: 14.83 Hours

Acquisition Dates: 6 Apr 2018, 19/20/21 Apr 2018, 5/6/7/8/9 May 2018

 

 

 

Leo Triplet in LRGB

This is not the first time I have imaged this trio of trespassers, I have imaged them before on the same scope but with my previous Atik 383L+ CCD Imager, so again similar to M81 and M82, you can clearly see the difference in resolution the new camera offers, here’s the previous image taken from my previous post here:

Equipment Used:
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M 20mpx ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher Finder Scope
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8-Pro GEM Goto Mount
Filterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm LRGB Filters

Software:
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro 3
Guiding: PHD2
Image Processing: PixInsight

Image Details:
Luminance: 101×150 Second Exposures
Red: 101×150 Second Exposures
Green: 101×150 Second Exposures
Blue: 101×150 Second Exposures
Acquisition Dates: 18/19/20/21 Apr 2018,  4/5/6/7/8/9 May 2018

Total Exposure Time: 16.83 Hours

Target Details: Leo Triplet
Constellation: Leo
RA: 11h 19m 36.15s
Dec: 13° 17′ 2.90″
Distance from Earth: 35 Million Light Years
Galaxies: M65 (Top Right), M66 (Bottom Right) and NGC3628 (Bottom Left) also known as The Hamburger Galaxy or Sarah’s Galaxy

M81 and M82 Bodes Galaxy and Cigar Galaxy in LHaRGB

After much waiting, I finally have the RGB Data to go with the luminance layer, a new learning curve was the HDR Compose process in PixInsight, I used this to include the 300S Exposures I had previously that were burning out the core.

Equipment Used:
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M Back Illuminated ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher 8″ Quattro F4
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher 90×50 Finder
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium LRGB + 7nm Ha
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro
Image Processing: PixInsight

Image Details:
101x150S in LRGB, Total 16.83 Hours
25x300S in LRGB, Total 8.33 Hours
25x600S in Ha, Total 4.16 Hours
Total exposure time: 29.32 Hours
BIAS, Darks and Flats subtracted
Target: M81 and M82 in Ursa Major
Acquisition Dates: Feb. 11, 2018,  Feb. 12, 2018,  Feb. 16, 2018,  Feb. 23, 2018,  Feb. 24, 2018,  March 13, 2018,  March 14, 2018,  March 15, 2018,  March 16, 2018,  March 19, 2018,  March 20, 2018

M97 / NGC3587 – Owl Nebula in LHaRGB

I have imaged this before in the same frame as the Surfboard Galaxy, however the 0.62 Arcseconds Per Pixel the Qhyccd 183M gives me on my Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 gives me a much higher resolution image, so here it is, the Owl Nebula in the constellation of Ursa Major at a distance of 2030 Light years from Earth

Gear:
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M 20mpx ColdMOS Camera at -20C and DSO Gain
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II Mono
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher 50×90 Finder Scope
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm RGB
Coma Corrector: Sky-Watcher Aplanatic Coma Corrector
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro
Image Processing: PixInsight

Image Details:
Target: M97/NGC3587 – Owl Nebula
Constelation: Ursa Major
Red: 27x300S
Green: 27x300S
Blue: 27x300S
Ha: 25x600S
Darks: 51x300S
Flats: 101
Bias: 251 converted to SuperBIAS and deducted from Flats
Imaging Dates: Feb. 12, 2018,  Feb. 16, 2018,  Feb. 24, 2018,  Feb. 25, 2018

PixInsight Image processing workflow:
1. Calibrated against darks and Bias Subtracted Flats
2. Star Alignment for all RGB and Ha Frames
3. Least noise frame from each colour chosen as Normalization Frame and Dynamic Background Extraction Performed
4. Normalization of all frames
5. Stacking of frames and generation of drizle data (for larger quality image in future)
6. Performed LinearFit using Red stacked image as reference for RGB Frames
7. Performed DynamicCrop on all channels and Ha
8. Performed MultiMedianTransformation to reduce background noise
9. Performed SCNR to remove excessive green in image
10. Stretched the image using HistogramTransformation
11. Performed an Unsharp Mask on RGB and HA Data
12. Performed an ATWT on the Background
11. Merged the Ha Data using the HaRVB-AIP Script in PixInsight
12. Performed a CurvesTransformation to bring out the star colour

IC434 – Horsehead Nebula in LRGB

My first RGB Image from the Qhyccd 183M 20mpx Back Illuminated ColdMOS Camera, so here’s what I hope is one of many images taken with this awesome camera

Gear:
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M 20mpx ColdMOS Camera at -20C and DSO Gain
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II Mono
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher 50×90 Finder Scope
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm RGB
Coma Corrector: Sky-Watcher Aplanatic Coma Corrector
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro
Image Processing: PixInsight

Image Details:
Target: IC434 – Horsehead Nebula
Constelation: Orion
Red: 19x300S
Green: 19x300S
Blue: 19x300S
Darks: 51x300S
Flats: 101
Bias: 251 converted to SuperBIAS and deducted from Flats

Data acquired on: Feb. 9, 2018,  Feb. 11, 2018,  Feb. 15, 2018

PixInsight Image processing workflow:
1. Calibrated against darks and Bias Subtracted Flats
2. Star Alignment
3. Least noise frame from each colour chosen as Normalization Frame and Dynamic Background Extraction Performed
4. Normalization of all frames
5. Stacking of frames and generation of drizle data (for larger quality image in future)
6. Performed LinearFit using Red stacked image as reference
7. Performed MultiMedianTransformation to reduce background noise
8. Performed SCNR to remove excessive green in image
9. Stretched the image using HistogramTransformation
10. Performed a CurvesTransformation to bring out the star colour

Right now I have not performed any Sharpening of the image, nor have I added the Ha data to this image, I’ll post an updated image when I get round to doing that

QHY183M Review – Part 2

As promised, now that I have done some imaging with my new QHYCCD 183M Mono ColdMOS Back Illuminated camera here’s the second part of my review on the camera.

Pixel size:- The pixel size on the 183M is 2.4um which I absolutely love, on my Sky-Watcher 8 Inch Quattro F4 the camera gives me a field of view of 0.62 Arcseconds/Pixel, which is a fantastic resolution, I remember when I had my Atik 383L+ and my Astro-Tech AT8RC F8, that offered me a resolution of around 0.63 Arcseconds/Pixel, so I am now imaging at almost the same field of view but at F4 and at 20mpx, but let’s just put that into comparison on the same scope, the first image below is IC434 taken with the Atik 383L+ on the Quattro, and the second image below is taken with the QHY183M on the same telescope, you can see what impact it has on the field of view:

FOV on Atik 383L+ with 8″ Quattro F4

FOV on QHY183M with 8″ Quattro F4

As you can see from the above two images the difference in the field of view due to the chip and pixel size, to put that in comparison, the following table compares the two cameras:

CameraQHY183MAtik 383L+
Pixel Size2.4um5.4um
Chip Size13.3mm x 8.9mm17.6mm x 13.52mm
Chip Resolution in Pixels5544x36943354 x 2529
Total pixels20,479,5368,482,226
Field of View on 8" Quattro F40.62 Arcsec/Pixel1.389 Arcsec/Pixel

Camera Sensitivity:- Since moving to the QHY183M I have had to make changes to how I image, having owned the Atik 383L+ for a good few years, I got used to imaging with it, so when I moved to the QHY183M I suddenly noticed that this camera was quite a bit more sensitive, the first image above consists of 300 second frames for the LRGB whereas the second image consists of just 150 second frames, yes 150 second frames!!!

When I first started imaging M81/M82 with the QHY183M, I immediately started with 300 Second frames, I ended up with the same amount of 300 second frames that I had with the Atik 383L+ but I just could not process it, after further analysis I noticed then that the lights were severely clipped, to put this into perspective, below is the Sequence Generator Pro Histogram for both the 300 second exposure (left) and the 150 second exposure (right)

As you can see the histogram on the left for the 300 second exposure is severly clipped on the right side of the histogram indicating that the exposure was too long, the histogram on the right for the 150 second exposure is a lot better, there is still some slight clipping happening but this was a luminance frame, this clearly indicates that the 183M is much more sensitive than my previous CCD imager.

The following two images were produced with the 183M, firstly IC434 consists of 19×300 Second Exposures in RGB and the Second Image of The Owl Nebula consists of 27×300 second exposures in RGB + 25x600S in Ha

Software Integration:- As you probably know already, I use Sequence Generator Pro for my image acquisition and the integration with the camera has been pretty seemless, the ASCOM platform driver works pretty well, and I have the camera set to the default gain and offset setting that QHY have provided which is 16 of Gain and 76 for offset:

UV/IR Sensitivity:- I have read online that the 183M is a little bit sensitive to UV/IR Light, so I asked the guys at QHYCCD about this abd they informed be that the window on the senor is straight clear glass, so it also lets in UV/IR Light, which for me is not an issue as all of my Baader filters are UV/IR Blocked anyway, but it is something to consider if I ever change filters.

Conclusion
The camera has performed way beyond my expectations, had to change some of my approaches to image acquisition but that was to be expected, I am extremely happy with the camera and look forward to getting more data to compliment the Luminance for M81/M82 in the not so distant future.

If you are considering the QHY183M as an imaging camera, and would like to discuss, then feel free to reach out to me.

Clear Skies

QHY183M Review – Part 1

After much waiting (due to delays on Sony Sensors) I have finally received my QHY183M ColdMOS camera from QHYCCD which I collected from ModernAstronomy last weekend, so I apologise for the really bad weather we’ve had.

As you all know, for the past few years I have been using an Atik 383L+ Mono 8.3Mpx CCD Camera, so when QHY announced the QHY183C I immediately asked them if there was going to be a mono version to which they said….Yes!

So firstly you might ask why I chose the QHY183 camera?  Well the simple reason for this is that it offered me a higher pixel resolution for almost the same field of view that my Atik 383L+ offered, however there were other factors that swayed my decission:

  • Back Illuminated Sensor
  • High Quantum Efficiency (QE)
  • Optimal Cooling
  • Lightweight

So let’s first of all talk about the back illumination and what this means to astrophotography.  Typically CMOS sensors are orientated with the light receiving surface and the transistors/wiring facing the light, so when imaging it is possible to get reflections of light bouncing off the circuitry, with a back illuminated sensor, all the circuitry are on the underside of the surface that faces the light, thus elliminating the possibility of reflections bouncing off the transistors, the following image shows this in a bit more detail (Courtesty of QHYCCD):

So obviously the more light we can get to the imaging surface the better it is for our data acquisition, every photon counts right?!

The QHY183M has an extremely high Quantum Efficiency (QE) of 84% which means that more data is absorbed by the chip than my previous imaging camera which had a QE of just over 60% based on the KAF-8300 sensor from Kodak.

One of the first things I tested when I unpacked the camera was the cooling system, I wanted to know how good the cooling system was, QHY stated between 40-45C Delta, so considering the outside temperature was +5C I managed to get the camera down to -41.6C which was a delta slightly above the 45C promised by QHY, so considering I typically image at -20C this now means I can image when the outside temperature at night is even as high as +25C which typically doesn’t happen in the UK.  I also noticed that the QHY183M uses less current than my 383L+ did to get ot the same temperature, so another bonus of less power requirement.

Weight is always an astrophotographers enemy, so it was much to my delight that the QHY183M weighs a lot less than my ATIK 383L+ did, the 383L+ weighed in around 700g and the QHY183M weighs in around 450g.

Out of the box
My first impression of the camera is that it is well built, a bit more of a compact design in comparison to my previous camera, has a USB3.0 connector (even though I am still using USB 2.0) and has a port to connect a dessicant tube to if required.

Software Installation
Driver installation was relatively straight forward, if you are using a third party imaging program like Sequence Generator Pro, make sure you install the ASCOM drivers so that SGPro can then speak to the camera.  In SGPro there are options for Gain settings, according to QHY the unity gain for the 183M is 11, so I have mine set to this value in SGPro.

Image Download Speed
After completing my dark frames library, I noticed that the download speed from Camera to Observatory PC was much much faster than my Atik was, even though I am using the same USB 2.0 Hub, on the Atik it could take anywhere up to 20 seconds to download the image at 1×1 binning, obviously the QHY183M is a much bigger sensor at 20mpx, however the image download time is circa 5 seconds which reduces image acquisition time greatly for multiple exposures.

Dark Frames
My dark frame library is completed, below are four different exposure times, 90, 180, 300 and 600 seconds, each image consists of 25 frames combined using PixInsight

90 Seconds:

180 Seconds:

300 Seconds:

600 Seconds:

As you can see the darks are really good, if you stretch out the images you will see the AMP glow on the right side of the image, this will be removed in dark frame subtraction and is a common artifact on all CMOS based imagers.

I did have the occasional icing issue on my 383L+, however the QHY183M has a heated optical window, so time will tell on how often I will need to use the dessicant tube.

Conclusion so far…before imaging

Pros:

  • Excellent design.
  • Lightweight.
  • Very predictable cooling system cools to -45C below ambient.
  • Cooling system is much quieter than my previous camera
  • Less current draw versus my previous camera.
  • Easy software installation.
  • Very fast download speed of around 5 seconds per frame at 1×1 Binning.
  • Very high QE of 84%

Cons:

  • AMP glow, I am probably being a bit mean considering all CMOS based cameras are subjected to this.
  • M42 thread on the camera is not long enough for the StarlightXpress EFW, I had to place a piece of card between the camera and the Filterwheel otherwise the camera just keeps spinning round and doesn’t tighten.
  • There’s no electronic shutter like my previous camera, which means for my dark frames it has to be completely dark in the observatory

I hope this review is beneficial to you all, especially if you are considering either the 183C or the 183M.  I will post part 2 of my review when I have actually got it all focused and acquired some photons from the sky.