P r e t t y P i c t u r e s T o u r
Hi, welcome to my tour of pretty astronomical pictures!
For nearly 20 years, I've been an early adopter and advocate for videoastronomy.
First using old modified 1/4" CCD security cameras for Lunar/Solar/Planetary viewing,
then progressing on to the StellaCam line of deep-sky cameras, doing video-observing.
As the StellaCam's advanced in their capability, going from being able to expose up to 2 seconds, then up to 8 seconds,
then multi-minute exposures with a peliter cooler, my skills and telescope equipment also advanced,
learning how to better polar align, balance my mount, and autoguide. I also began dabbling in taking dark frames and using imaging filters, and basic image processing.
But I never was very interested in moving up the ladder to become a full-blown astrophotographer, just too much post-processing on the computer for my taste.
I enjoyed the near-realtime video observing experience and for years kept finding ways to continue expanding my observation projects using the monochrome 1/2" CCD StellaCam-3.
But with the new astronomical CMOS 'video capable' cameras entering the mainstream, and the new "LiveStack" realtime ability of the SharpCap imaging program,
I decided the time was right to begin phasing out my old analog camera.
Having already become familar with ZWO branded cameras from using my ASI120MC autoguider camera as a planetary camera,
and reading the great reviews of their products, particularly their recent model - the "ASI294MC Pro", I took the plunge and bought one.
(you can thank me for the cloudy February weather,,, :) )
ZWO "ASI294MC Pro" color CMOS Peliter cooled astronomical camera
ZWO ASI294MC weblink:
Prior to ordering the new camera, I used my ASI120MC autoguider camera to self-train on using the latest version of the SharpCap imaging capture software program.
I was already familar with the basic program features, having used it for the past year doing frame grabber video-capturing with my analog cameras.
But the ASI cameras unlocks much more functionality, including the realtime stacking ability using short exposures.
By activating the "LiveStack" feature, you can watch as the image begins to build in realtime from the stacked frames, and then you can adjust the Histogram and color levels on the fly.
Once you are happy with what is being displayed on the screen, you simply pause the livestack, and save the image. (can also save the individual frame 'subs' if you want).
This is a game-changer! I can continue to enjoy the near-realtime experience of video-observing while acquiring 'astrophotography' quality images that reqire very little post-processing.
SharpCap: Using the "LiveStack" option Histogram function.
So below, you will find my 'Pretty Pictures' as I slowly begin to re-image the showcase objects that I've observed over the years.
Other than resizing the saved image to fit on this webpage, (and perhaps a little brightness/contrast tweaking), I don't intend to do any other post-processing, so what you see is what I observed.
ZWO "ASI294MC Pro" image captures using SharpCap.
Emission & Reflection Nebula:
Open Star Clusters:
Globular Star Clusters:
Hope you enjoyed the visit. Come again soon!
Larry McHenry, Pittsburgh, PA. USA