I feel lucky to have entered the hobby in this era of (relatively) affordable CMOS sensors and processing programs.

Sensor technology (for astrophotography) is driven not by the consumer camera market, but by the surveillance camera market. The current generation (basically all Sony) are really excellent - highly efficient at converting photons into signal and very low noise. 10 years ago amateur astrophotographers used either very expensive CCD cameras or consumer dslrs.

The processing program I use (StarTools) is written by an amazingly smart guy. It basically keeps a complicated equation for converting the raw (“linear”) data from the camera into the final on-screen brightness for every pixel (and color - the two are processed separately until very near the end). Along the way it estimates the signal and noise component for each pixel, to use in a final noise-smoothing step.

There is a very trendy AI noise-reduction approach, but I have avoided it. To me, it is using an AI to paint what your image “should” look like without noise, as opposed to StarTools’ insistence on relying only on the actual data from your camera.

It is very nice how you got all this faint detail while preserving the basic visual appearance of the cluster. Beats the old “blue diamonds” pics of the Pleiades nebulosity.

One more image - quite a different subject. There are clouds of dust that we only see because they obscure the stars behind them. A huge number were originally cataloged in the early 20th century by the professional astronomer E. E. Barnard, who was an early adopter of film in astronomy. This one is known as “Barnard’s E”. It is found in the constellation Aquila, and is a great object to find on a summer night with binoculars:

Not much decent imaging weather lately. Not only does that mean that I don’t have images of very many new objects, it also means that I am not happy with how much time I have been able to accrue on each.

This is the Jellyfish Nebula. Shot mostly with the duoband filter that passes Ha and Oiii emissions, but combined with a bit of data without the filter to layer in the star colors. Needs more time…

The Horsehead Nebula (no duh) and the Flame. It took me almost 3 years of astrophotography to finally get around to this image that everyone has their own version of. Mine is certainly no better than most anyone elese’s. This is sort of the opposite approach compared to the Jellyfish. Most of the image is from the full-color data, with some filtered data layered in to boost the reds. Getting more time on this will have to wait until next year, because by the time of the next new moon it will only be in a suitable position for an hour or so each night.

BS. Those are awesome.

Thank you!

Speaking as someone that got his PhD studying and imaging emission nebulae on a small telescope at our university’s dark site using narrow band filters, I think you’re doing lovely work all through this thread. You’ve got a good eye for color balance and you’re clearly a patient and careful image compositer. That M52 shot upthread belongs on APOD.

Speaking as someone who thinks stars are pretty, what he said :)

Thank you - I appreciate the kind words. I don’t know if you are familiar with the amazing CMOS sensors that are within pretty easy reach of amateur astrophotographers these days - but it is sooo much easier to make pretty pictures now than it would have been back in your grad student days. There are also a couple of very sophisticated processing programs available, with very sophisticated stretching and deconvolution algorithms implemented. So yeah, my images are pretty typical of what people are doing these days.

Of course, AI processing is invading - I refuse to go down that path, but plenty of people are.

Great pics @gruntled. Are you still using your 6" RC or your refractor, or both?

@Petey have you had the dob out lately? Cold here in Canada but had one nice night the other day. Great view of Orion Nebula, Pleiades. Haven’t had enough luck with Mars to see the polar caps or dark spots this year - could my Newtonian be out of collimation? Seems ok for the rest.

Yep, a few weeks back, so clear and beautiful. Pleiades, Jupiter, a few other open clusters. I have not tried the Starsense that came with the scope but heard it works great so will try that out the next time I have a good amount of time.

I keep looking at other scopes and mounts and really want to get into AP but just need to chill and use the dob as much as I can.

I also have not collimated my dob yet. I got rid of all my tools when I sold my last scope years ago so need to get the same laser collimation tool I had before that worked great and really get that collimation tight.

Clear skies!

Nice! I have the Starsense for my telescope too and it is remarkable. Except it doesn’t work on my Pixel 6, but works on my Pixel 2XL which I keep around.

The app makes finding tricky targets extremely easy. I don’t think I actually could find Neptune at all; it’s just too small and mainly visible through averted vision. Galaxies too. But with the app, about six seconds to find.

The last several images are with the little refractor. I can’t remember if I said anything here when I upgraded from the doublet to a triplet objective. It made a really nice improvement in star colors.

I couple of weekends ago I impulse-bought a big refractor - 130mm (~5 inch) f/7. It was close enough to go pick up in person and a really good price. Still in the process of getting all the pieces to set it up for imaging. It’s a beast. Not sure how many more years I have where I can lift something like that onto the mount safely, so I figured I might as well go for it. Assuming I don’t decide I made a big mistake, the RC6 will be going up for sale.

I almost bought an Astro Tech 130mm F7. We had some fun money from my wife changing jobs and cashing in her 401K and so that beauty was mine but then bought some music gear instead and now am jonesing for the refractor. I also want to get that Zwo AM5 mount so darn bad but again, music equipment…there is never enough cash.

Enjoy that 130!!!

Gradually coming to terms with the AT130EDT. It’s been a very cloudy winter/spring, so it’s been slow going. I don’t think any of the images I have yet with it have enough time to think of as being finished, but here’s a few that are closer to finished than others:

M42, the Great Orion Nebula
I’ve had a ton of issues tracking down light leaks (there may be a bit through the focuser drawtube, but most are not the fault of the telescope). I bring that up because this was one of my first attempts with the scope and flat-field correction was a disaster - so I cropped the image quite a lot to hide as much as I could. I took very short exposures to try to keep the 4 stars at the heart of the nebula distinctly visible (the Trapezium). That part worked out as planned, at least. This is with the 0.8x reducer.

M51 - a big galaxy eating a smaller galaxy. This is with the non-reducing flattener. It just needs more time, which might have to wait all the way til next year.

M101 the Pinwheel Galaxy

Most shot the last couple of nights through pretty thick smoke from the Canadian wildfires. Will need a complete replacement with better sky conditions someday

Those are goddam insane.

They just detected a supernova only 21 million ly away. It’s the closest one in years and should be detectable by regular telescope.

The astronomy equivalent to QT3 (you know - the best and most important forum in its field where only the best are allowed in…) has a monthly imaging target - which just happened to be M101 this month.

The supernova lit up early Friday morning my time (if we ignore the 20 million years of light travel time!), but it was cloudy here. Supposed to be clear tonight (though very hazy with forest fire smoke).

Here’s a before-and-after of the supernova:

I would really like to get into this someday.