Tag Archives: Deep Sky Stacker

Milky Way

Every amateur astronomer knows that the clouds will roll in as the delivery man’s van leaves your front door.  This happened to me again these last two weeks.

I treated myself to a new ZWO ASI224MC camera with a Canon lens adapter, all purchased online from Bintel. Very small and compact and it is intended to help me with my polar alignment, guiding and some planetary imaging. It’s main advantage is its very low read noise which means that you can take many short images and add the individual image frames in post processing to form a longer duration image without adding significant noise in the process. I’m not planning any huge expansion into planetary astrophotography but it would be nice to have something to do when the moon is up and I cannot do long exposure, deep sky stuff.


ZWO T2 to EOS Adapter

Last night was clear with the Moon and Jupiter right overhead and I started everything up; EQ6-R mount with the ZWO ASI224MC camera on a Canon 60mm EFS lens. For the software I used Sharpcap Pro, it will cost you 10 pounds annually to get the Pro version that lets you do polar alignment. This works very well and will work with any camera that is recognized by Sharpcap. Also read one of my previous posts about SparkoCam.

Sharpcap Polar Alignment

You just follow instructions and move the mount az and alt adjustments to get the polar axis of the mount perfectly on the celestial pole. No guessing or frustration and a perfect result. That’s worth more than 10 pounds!

My first attempts at using the ASI224MC camera with an Orion EON 80ED on the moon and Jupiter was not great, I have a lot of learning to do and I did not spend a lot of time trying. Just a quick picture of the moon…

Moon ASI224MC ED80

I then took a number of images of the Milky Way with my modified Canon 600D with a Canon 60mm EFS lens directly on the mount and took a series of 60 images of (quite short) 30 seconds exposures at f3.2 and 400ASA as well as a number of dark frames of whatever was directly overhead at the time. It happened to be the center of our galaxy. As usual, combined with Deep Sky Stacker and processed with LR4. I was sitting inside on the sofa nice and warm, watching a movie while Magic Lantern was managing the camera outside in the cold. Did I mention that it was cold?

Picture saved with settings applied.


Orion Nebula M42

The Orion Nebula must be one of the greatest objects in the night sky. At about 1,344 light years away it’s not close but it is visible to the naked eye as a fuzzy patch in the middle of Orion’s sword.

This nebula is difficult to photograph because of the large dynamic range in the image. The Trapezium is a group of bright stars that illuminate the nebula and the difference in brightness between these stars in the centre and the fainter clouds on the outside makes it hard to image and process the nebula in all its glory.

This image was taken at Rabbiter’s Hut in the Adelaide Hills on a dark night and processed from 5 light frames and 2 dark frames of 5 minutes each. I used the Orion ED80 (500mm focal length) and Canon 600D (modified). The Skywatcher EQ6-R was tracking on its own without any guiding but I do make an effort to get the polar alignment as accurate as practically possible.

Processing was normal with DSS and Lightroom 4.

Orion Nebula M42

Orion Nebula M42

Rosette Nebula

Now that was a perfect long weekend!

New moon and dark skies far from the city lights for two nights.

I took a lot of photos with the new EQ6-R mount, Canon 600D (modified) camera, an Orion ED80 EON and a Meade 8″ SCT. There will be a lot of processing required over the next few weeks to get all the photos out. I experienced a lot of problems but that is par for the course by now.

The first photo is the Rosette Nebula. About 5,000 light years away and visually it’s about three times larger than the Orion Nebula.  Its is not bright and require a large telescope to see it under dark skies. If you want to take a photos of it, it is a great target, not too difficult and it is located high in the sky this time of year, just east of Orion.

This image was processed from 22 light frames and 6 dark frames of 2 minutes each. I used the Orion ED80 (500mm focal length) and Canon 600D (modified).

Processing was different this time. I had a lot of noise in the light frames and tried processing each individual frame in LightRoom 4 for noise reduction before I stacked all of them in DSS and processed further in LR4. What do you think?

Picture saved with settings applied.

  Rosette Nebula

Canon EOS 600D IR filter Replacement Results

A couple of weekends ago, late on a Sunday afternoon I decided that the time was right to open up my 600D. I suppose I was in a hurry and couldn’t wait any longer. The clear glass replacement filter has just been sitting there and I was already prepared with all my tools and silicon, etc.

So I did it.



Opening the camera up was pretty easy. I used the following websites to guide me along:




A large number of very small and delicate connectors have to be disconnected.




Eventually the CCD assembly can be removed.


This is the complete filter and imaging chip assembly, before I took it apart (and almost broke it…)


The piezoelectric element is removed here..


And here I was too impatient and broke the IR cut filter. The crack line can be seen from top left to bottom right. I should have ready the instructions in more detail! Take it from me, don’t be in a hurry when you do this. Fortunately there was no damage to the imager chip and after I cleaned all the filter glass fragments off the CCD surface I could start the assembly process again.

The clearglass filter replaced both the IR cut filter and the piezoelectric filter element. I have now modified the camera to a full spectrum camera.


Pieces of the IR cut filter. This is not the way to do it!


Inside of camera, looking at the back of the shutter.


Putting it all together was reasonably easy. The most difficult part was to get the imaging assembly in the correct position to allow the auto focus to work properly.  I will have to make some more adjustments to get the auto focus to be more accurate. It can wait as I mostly use manual focus for astrophotography anyway.

A big sigh of relief when the camera fires up and still works !



A weekend later and I was testing the camera under an almost dark sky. Nothing spectacular but just confirming that it all works as it should.

Orion Nebula (M42 / M43)

Picture saved with settings embedded.


Large Magelanic Cloud (LMC)


Coalsack with the Southern Cross and two pointers


And, the evening would not have been complete without a image of Carina.


Carina Nebula from under a streetlamp

I had to test my new tracker with autoguiding and could not get away to a dark site so I decided to test it in the front garden where I could reach further south towards Carina Nebula. Unfortunately I have a bright streetlamp in front of my house. I tried to shield the light from falling on the camera and lens to avoid the worst effects of the light conditions. I use a modified Canon 350D and got 29 light frames of 30 seconds each, 7 dark frames and 18 bias frames at f/5.6, ISO 800 with a 250mm focal length.  Ideally you would try to get longer exposures than 30 seconds but the sky was so bright that I had to limit the exposure time for each frame.

Picture saved with settings applied.

VicSouth Desert Spring Star Party

I joined the crowd of amateur (and probably a few professional) astronomers at a star party in Nhill, about half way between Adelaide and Melbourne. There must have been about 100+ telescopes out there and it was quite an experience.

I did not take a telescope along but I did try out my home built tracker under the dark skies. Refer to https://starsinphotos.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/diy-autoguider-for-long-exposure-astrophotography-part-4/.

The following image of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) was taken with a Canon 600D and a Canon EFS 60mm f/2.8 lens at ISO 800 on the tracker, using autoguiding. The image is made up of 23 lightframes of 1 minute each with two dark frames. Stacked in DSS and then processed in Photoshop CS2 and LR4.


I will post more images here as I get them processed over the next week or two.

Milky Way and Small Magellanic Cloud

After a  number of cloudy, wet and cold winter months we had a clear night on 3/4 August to take the cameras out for a few photos. The moon only set at about 11:15pm so it was quite a wait in the cold. This was the coldest night in Adelaide for something like 125 years! It did not bother me too much as I was dressed as if I was going to Antartica. Luckily there was no dew and that made everything easier.

I used the Canon 600D on the iOptron SkyTracker on my photographic tripod.

This image is of the Milky Way with a 60mm prime lens at f/3.2 and ISO 800. I used 11 light frames of 60 seconds each with 3 dark frames. The image is showing the Sagitarius region with the Lagoon nebula (M8) at the lower right and the M6 cluster in Scorpius at the lower left. This is a very rich star field and larger apertures will reveal incredible detail. It is also the location of the centre or core of the Milky Way Galaxy.

MW 60mm

The next wide field image is of the Milky Way with a 11-16mm Tokina lens at 14mm and f/3.2 and ISO 800. I used 9 light frames of 60 seconds each with 2 dark frames.

MW 14mm

I also took a quick image of the Small Magellanic Cloud with a 60mm prime lens at f/3.2 and ISO 1600. I used 11 light frames of 60 seconds each with 2 dark frames.

SMC 60mm

Images was stacked with DSS and stretched in PS CS2 and finished up in LR4.

I think that I need to make my exposures longer than 1 minute to get more detail. I don’t like to raise the ISO level higher as it will also increase the amount of noise.  I will try and get to 3 minutes per frame next time. It just makes it harder to get the tracking done well so that the stars don’t turn out to be lines! This should be easy with the Tokina 11-16mm lens but when using the longer focal lengths it will be a bigger challenge.

Carina Nebula (NGC 3372)

The Carina Nebula is about 300 light years across, twenty times the size of the Orion nebula. It is 9000 light years away but it stretches across 2 degrees of sky (about the width of 4 Moons).  Two million years ago, the Carina Nebula was a huge dense and dark molecular cloud. The dark dust lanes are the remains of that cloud.  Also see “The Great Nebula in Carina“. Carina Nebula 1 1200 This image of the Carina nebula was taken with my recently modified Canon 350D.  The 350D camera is now quite an old model and it is not supported by the latest Windows operating systems. This means that I have to use old software to assist me with the focussing of images such as this.  For this image I used Astro Photography Tool (APT) version 1.93  (www.astroplace.net). I am quite happy with the performance of the 350D. It now outperforms my 600D for astrophotography, especially when deep space objects is imaged. I will try to stage a comparison between the results of the two cameras in a future post. The image above was created with 17 subs of 30 seconds each with five darks. I obviously used the modded 350D and a Canon EF-S 55-250mm lens at 250mm, f/5.6 at ISO 800. I tracked the sky with iOptron SkyTracker on a Meade tripod. The full resolution image is available at http://astrob.in/74776/0/

Edit on 10/03/2015:  This image made it into the Australian Sky & Telescope gallery in the April 2015 issue.

Canon EOS 350D IR filter replacement

In the past I have used my Canon EOS 600D for astrophotography. The noise performance on this camera is quite good and I am very happy with its performance (for now). In the future somewhere I will probably upgrade to a 6D. The performace of the 600D (and 6D) is limited by the infra red (IR) cut filter that is installed in front of the CCD. This blocks the infra red light, that is invisible, from reaching the CCD and recording a very red looking image.

A large proportion of the light coming from deep space objects such as galaxies and nebulae is in the infra red part of the light spectrum and is therefore lost when you take a photo with a normal DSLR camera.

This project aimed to remove the IR cut filter from my old Canon 350D and replace it with a special filter that transmits the H-Alpha and S-II light. I used a Baader ACF2 filter that I purchased on-line from Astro Shop.

There are a lot of websites with detail, step-by-step procedures for doing the filter replacement. I used the following website by David Campbell. It was very good and I did not have any serious problem with any of the steps.

Another website describing the process for the 350D is Life Pixel ,

I need to make the point that you should not attemp this if you are not very comfortable with taking apart your DSLR and using a soldering iron on the delicate circuit boards and a sharp knife / glue / silicon on the optical components of the camera. One slip and you could be trashing the camera as nobody will repair it for you.Typically you will be doing this modification if this is your second or third camera that is not used regularly anymore. Mine was sitting on the shelf so a disaster during the modification process would not have been a problem. I found the most difficult part the reconnection of the delicate ribbon cables.

I was quite successful and the 350D is alive and well and taking great photos with a lot of colour detail coming out of the Orion nebula and Carina nebulae.  I will post photos of these once I have finished processing them.

Here are a few photos of the modification process.



Opening up the camera


Removing circuits boards and disconnecting the ribbon cables


The back of the CCD is now visible


Taking the CCD assembly off the camera


This is the shutter from the inside


The surface of the CCD chip visible through the IR cut filter



Removing the IR cut filter from the CCD assembly. It is glued in place with a silicon type glue and has to be cut out with a sharp knife.



The new Baader ACF2 filter is now glued in place with silicon sealer applied with a thin syringe and needle. In my case the needle was very thin and it look a lot of pressure to get the silicon out. A slightly larger needle would have been better.


New filter fitted back on the CCD assembly


CCD assembly back on the camera body


A few quick photos to check if it is still working ….

IMG_3395 (800 x 533)

IMG_3388 (800 x 533)

I tested the camera with an image of the Orion nebula.  The photo was taken with 6 light frames of 30 seconds each, f/2.8, ISO-800. Lens was a Canon Macro EFS 60mm lens and the mount was an iOptron SkyTracker on a Meade tripod.   I had four dark frames and stacked with DSS, processed with PS CS2 and Lightroom. Light conditions was not very good, lots of cloud around and light polution (as always…). Still need to sort out the light gradient on the image.

I used a trial version of Backyard EOS to help me with the focussing of the 350D. This camera does not have a live view function and it makes it quite difficult to achieve sharp focus.

Picture saved with settings applied.

Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy (NGC 224 or M31) is located 2.3 million light years away. This is the closest spiral-type galaxy to our own Milky Way. The Magelanic Clouds are closer but they are irregular galaxies, i.e. not in a spiral type structures like us.

The stars visible in front of Andromeda are all foreground stars that are part of the Milky Way. It is not possible to see individual stars that form part of the Andromeda Galaxy. The small galaxy below Andromeda is NGC 221 or M32. There is also a small elliptical galaxy  above and to the left of the Andromeda core, this is NGC 205.

M31 4x3min 1200

This image is made up of 4 x 3 minute exposures and three dark frames. I used an iOptron SkyTracker to guide the camera and I used a Canon EFS 18-135mm lens at 135mm with 720 second exposure in total at f/5.6 and ISO-3200. Processing with DSS, CS2 and LR4.