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Thread: Barlow or not to Barlow?

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    Default Barlow or not to Barlow?



    Hi Folks,

    It looks like I'll have a good skies in the wee hours tomorrow to make my first attempts to shoot Jupiter and a Moon/Saturn combo (if possible). I will be setting up my Nexstar 5i and ZWO ASI120 color before bed to fire it up collect images when my alarm goes off at 3AM. I have a 2X barlow to apply to the shoot. I have read conflicting accounts as to the necessity of using a barlow when shooting the planets. I'm beginning to think its an "it depends" situation. However, I am not getting a feeling on what the dependencies might be. I realize I could do both, but I don't want to run out of time so I should choose a primary setup. If it's not overly complicated, is someone willing to make a recommendation?

    Thanks!
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    Default Re: Barlow or not to Barlow?

    Well i,m not sure about your scope , but my f5 refractor gives me a tiny jupiter. I have to use a 3x barlow with my zwo 120 to get a reasonable size pic. Good luck
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    Default Re: Barlow or not to Barlow?

    Suggestion. Install Stellarium, then input your telescope and sensor. Target Jupiter and then screencap. In GIMP (or Photoshop) you can then crop and resize the capture area to match what actual captures would be. For example, your 5i without the 2x would result in a Jupiter that's about 60 pixels tall.
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    Default Re: Barlow or not to Barlow?

    Great input. I forget how small Jupiter is in the field of a 5" scope. I think I will install the Barlow and see what kind results I get. Spending all that time to collect no more than a spec of light is definitely no worthy the effort. Thanks!
    The name is Joe. Newb, but a fast learner.
    Scopes: Celestron Powerseeker 127eq (First, via Amazon flash deal), Apertura AD12 (High Point Scientific), Celestron Nexstar 5i (Craigslist - couldn't pass up)
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    Default Re: Barlow or not to Barlow?

    Hi Joe!

    With that particular camera, it takes about 30 seconds to capture 1000 frames (as a video file) so it should be an easy matter of capturing with and without barlow.

    Here are two captures of Jupiter made 3 minutes apart with an ASI120MM, the first with no barlow, the other with.





    As for "it depends", it can depend on the steadiness of the atmosphere (seeing). With good seeing, barlow that sucker and enjoy. If seeing is bad, you might like the unbarlowed version better.

    Regardless, I usually run off a 1000 frame AVI or SER video file, and then process the vid with Autostakkert and stack the best 10% of the frames. A little wavelet sharpening in Registax is icing on the cake.

    Jupiter is also a fairly fast rotator so you don't want to run a video overly long lest things start moving on you and blur the image.
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    Default Re: Barlow or not to Barlow?

    Awesome Bryan. Thanks. I am hoping for good seeing. The sky is setting up for awesome views tonight. Looking forward to sharing something nice.
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    Default Re: Barlow or not to Barlow?

    Ugh! Frustrating. A couple of things went awry. First I could not get the Nexstar tracking. I still don’t know why. I typically use the two-star method and is works like a champ. Last night no-go. The second problem is that I could not get the target (Jupiter) to show in the capture software. I’d line up with an eyepiece and swap in the camera and could not get Jupiter to show. I know the camera and software were working because I swung the scope over to the moon and it show up clear as day, or night in this case. This was really a bummer because…

    This morning at about 3AM I witnessed the most spectacular viewing sky I’d yet encountered. Keep in mind I’ve been at astronomy for less than a year. But, wow. WOW. Jupiter was just pumping out good data. Hardly any shimmer. It’s moons looked like . . . 0 . The contrast of the bands was very high through my little 5” SCT. I was stunned. Saturn was just up and left of the moon. Even though the moon’s light interfered a bit, the rings were easily scene. When I walked out my back door, looked up (we live in a rural area) and the sky was thick with stars. M-a-g-i-c. . I was also cold. About 31 F. Underdressed and 2.5 hours into the session I walk into the house and quickly realized I’d been out too long.

    The viewing was a good consolation. Certainly made the loss of sleep worth it. I wish I had evidence. I’m going to do some daytime target practice I guess. I must be missing something. I first mood shoot went so well. I know, the targets are very different. I did notice that there is a distinct difference in the brightness of the image presentation between SharpCap and FireCapture. SharpCap is much brighter. When looking at the moon you can easily overdrive the gain in SharpCap, where the same displayed image in FireCapture will take more gain. Can’t say how this effect imaging, but there’s a distinct difference in brightness on the laptop display.

    The forecast for tonight is clouds.
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    Default Re: Barlow or not to Barlow?

    Quote Originally Posted by JAS62 View Post
    Ugh! Frustrating. A couple of things went awry. First I could not get the Nexstar tracking. I still don’t know why. I typically use the two-star method and is works like a champ. Last night no-go. The second problem is that I could not get the target (Jupiter) to show in the capture software. I’d line up with an eyepiece and swap in the camera and could not get Jupiter to show. I know the camera and software were working because I swung the scope over to the moon and it show up clear as day, or night in this case. This was really a bummer because…

    This morning at about 3AM I witnessed the most spectacular viewing sky I’d yet encountered. Keep in mind I’ve been at astronomy for less than a year. But, wow. WOW. Jupiter was just pumping out good data. Hardly any shimmer. It’s moons looked like . . . 0 . The contrast of the bands was very high through my little 5” SCT. I was stunned. Saturn was just up and left of the moon. Even though the moon’s light interfered a bit, the rings were easily scene. When I walked out my back door, looked up (we live in a rural area) and the sky was thick with stars. M-a-g-i-c. . I was also cold. About 31 F. Underdressed and 2.5 hours into the session I walk into the house and quickly realized I’d been out too long.

    The viewing was a good consolation. Certainly made the loss of sleep worth it. I wish I had evidence. I’m going to do some daytime target practice I guess. I must be missing something. I first mood shoot went so well. I know, the targets are very different. I did notice that there is a distinct difference in the brightness of the image presentation between SharpCap and FireCapture. SharpCap is much brighter. When looking at the moon you can easily overdrive the gain in SharpCap, where the same displayed image in FireCapture will take more gain. Can’t say how this effect imaging, but there’s a distinct difference in brightness on the laptop display.

    The forecast for tonight is clouds.
    Yeah, that sucks on not being able to get Jupiter centered in the software.

    Some thoughts for you...

    If your cam is not focused and your exposure is very short, the planet can hide in plain sight on the screen and you will not realize it. So until you acquire the target, best to kick up the exposure to about 700 milliseconds or so to ensure you see the planet on the screen. Once you've acquired it, you can then pull the exposure back and adjust focus accordingly.

    Do you have an optical finder scope on your OTA (as opposed to a red dot or other reflex finder)? If you have an optical finder, having it aligned with the main optics as best as possible is very helpful. Thus, if you have Jupiter centered in the cross hairs of the finder scope, chances are you'll have it in the frame on your computer. Also, make sure you are running the cam at the highest resolution possible (largest frame size) to allow for more room to see the planet if it is off to the side somewhat.

    The ASI120 has a very small sensor and is the approximation of a 6mm eyepiece as far as magnification goes. When the camera is connected to the scope, you have a very small field of view. Jupiter can be right outside of the frame and you will never know it. Even with moving about a bit, it is very easy to miss.

    To mitigate this, I like to employ a low power eyepiece in the scope to get Jupiter centered, and then maybe an intermediate eyepiece, say around a 15mm or a 12.5mm and center again, and then finally, grab a high power eyepiece (around 9mm or 6mm if you have it) and get Jupiter centered up once again. At this point, the planet should be dead centered of the scope's field of view. Swap out the eyepiece for the cam, kick up the exposure a few notches, and you should see the planet on screen.

    In SharpCap, I tend to run the gain low on the Moon (around 50), but with deep sky I kick it up to 200. Planets can fall somewhere in between. Whether I am doing it properly or not, I have no idea, but I am satisfied with my results. Just experiment and see what you like. It costs you nothing but a little disk space and time.

    Hope that helps some for your next outing. Once Jupiter is back around in the evening and the sky is cooperative, you will hopefully have many opportunities to hone your skillset and get your workflow and prep nailed own.
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    Default Re: Barlow or not to Barlow?

    I appreciate the encouragement. I figured it would be related to getting the pieces dialed in. I’d not given myself enough time (or space)/. Troubleshooting a setup is not something to engage in at 3AM in the cold. I’ll get it. The DIY in me will never let it go. It was just so…beautiful.

    I have the stock red dot on the Nexstar. It works, but I know isn’t all that accurate. I’ll look at acquiring an optical finder. Something that will be useful with scope upgrade.

    I do have a 9mm, maybe a 7. The Powerseeker came with a 4mm that’s pretty much unusable, but I’ll try it anyway.

    I will certainly give your setting suggestions a go. I wouldn’t be surprised it is was there he whole time, but were hiding.

    I think I will have good practice skies at sunset. I might leave everything up just to see how Jupiter looks a 3 tomorrow morning. I’m trying to get ready for the Oregon Start Party this summer. It’ll be my first time, but I hear it’s a big to-do. It in the National Forest about 50 miles from my place. I have no excuse.

    There are two great observatories in our area. Even one on top a local brew pub. You’d think there’s be an active club or something around here. I’ve not found one. There’s an Astronomy Meetup that likes topic other than astronomy. (?) I guess I’ll have to start one.

    Thanks much Bryan!
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    Default Re: Barlow or not to Barlow?

    I found an eyepiece that's shimmed to match the camera's focus helps. For me, I picked up a cheap zoom for this specific purpose. I view wide to find the target, then zoom in to center it. When I swap out for the camera, it's just a matter of fine focuser adjustments to nail focus.
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