Looking for some help when viewing with a ZWO camera

Discussions of using SharpCap for Planetary Imaging
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Hovlandbound
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Looking for some help when viewing with a ZWO camera

Post by Hovlandbound » Sat Aug 10, 2019 11:09 pm

Hi everyone,

It’s time once again to ask the experts being I am not. Thanks again for taking the time to read this and review my issues. First a little background about what I do and the equipment I’m using.

Equipment being used
1 Celestron 8SE scope
2 Celestron AVX mount
3 ZWO ASI 1600MC-cool camera
4 Celestron low magnification eyepiece (Not sure of the strength, numbers worn off)
5 LV High magnification LV9mm eyepiece
6 Laptop
7 Sony 40” large flat screen TV

So, what I do is volunteer my services at assisted living facilities and throw star parties. I get these people to go outside in the evening which they never do anymore and sit in front of my large flat screen TV either with the chairs we set up or their wheelchairs and talk about the stars and when it’s dark enough show them maybe Saturn and its rings. Oh, the reactions I get make it all worthwhile!

My setup is first pointing the scope to the viewing object and look at it through my low power eyepiece and center. Then put in my higher magnification eyepiece and center again for more accuracy before installing my camera. As you know the viewing object must be pinpoint centered or you will not see it and if it’s not there it’s a guessing game if you should go up, down, left or right. Not an easy thing to do and most of the time after putzing with it moving back and forth with the eyepiece and camera I can usually get it to appear on the TV which is hooked up to my laptop. It’s impossible to explain the joy and emotions coming out of the folks. Very rewarding and on a side note, give it a try!

But disaster set in for me last Thursday. I was not able to get Saturn centered enough and I never was able to show them the rings on the TV. Only the people that were able to walk up to the scope and look through the eyepiece got the thrill. I really failed for the folks in the wheelchairs. I felt so bad, I questioned if this is really a good thing for me to do.

Help!!! Here is where you folks can steer me in a BETTER direction. Maybe a setting on my ZWO color 1600 camera. Maybe a way to view on the camera what I’m seeing through the eyepiece and not just a percentage of the viewing window. Even if the clarity is poor, I can always move to the better setting once I get it centered or in view. Maybe some attachment I can add to help me with the beginning setup. I must admit I am far from an expert on the camera and settings. It’s complicated with tons of settings and features. I have the settings saved for Jupiter that work well for me and here is a list I have put together for you all.

1 Color Space RGB24
2 Capture Area 800X600
3 Binning 1
4 Exposure 1.1 ms
5 ROI Selection Pan 1928 Tilt 1460 (This very well could be my problem. Have yet to change any setting here but maybe could have something to do with what percentage of viewing area).
6 Frame Rate Maximum
7 Brightness 48
8 Cooler Off
Well, there you have it. Any suggestions I would really appreciate and let me know if you have questions about my setup.
Thanks AGAIN folks for taking the time to read this!! If I could only get over this hurtle life would be better for all!

Pete Schneider (Pete’s Star Parties)

NeilG
Posts: 58
Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:36 pm

Re: Looking for some help when viewing with a ZWO camera

Post by NeilG » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:34 am

How about using a flip mirror?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qqdpTgjAOk

Regards
Neil
Scopes: Celestron C11 , Ascension 127mm Apo, Opticstar 152mm Mak, Nexstar 102 SLT, Ascension 80mm Apo
Mounts: EQ8, EQ5 Pro, Nexstar SLT
Imaging: ASI1600MM-Cool, ASI290MM, ASI224MC, Quark, QHY5L-II-M,
Opticstar 82 eyepieces, lots of other stuff

Hovlandbound
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Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2018 12:30 am

Re: Looking for some help when viewing with a ZWO camera

Post by Hovlandbound » Sun Aug 11, 2019 3:08 pm

Hi Neil,

Great Idea! Just looked at the video you sent and this looks like the ticket. I'm going to order one up. Also on Cloudy Nights web site someone said to increase the resolution to 4656x3520 and this will give me a bigger area to look at

Thanks again for your reply Neil. I'm sold!

Pete (Pete's Star Parties)

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Re: Looking for some help when viewing with a ZWO camera

Post by admin » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:11 pm

Hi,

Yes, a flip mirror is great for this sort of problem. Not only does it help with the alignment but it also means you can switch backwards and forwards between the eyepiece and the camera much more easily. I would say two things about flip mirrors though…

1) make sure you get one that can be collimated – that is where you can adjust the tilt of the mirror in two directions so that you can adjust it to make the centre of the eyepiece lineup with the centre of the camera
2) when everything appears black through either the eyepiece or the camera, the chances are that you may have left the mirror in the wrong position!

The other suggestion about setting the camera to its highest resolution at least until you have the target centred is a good one too.

Cheers, Robin

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turfpit
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Re: Looking for some help when viewing with a ZWO camera

Post by turfpit » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:33 pm

Pete

I used to set up how you describe and swapping the eyepiece for the camera as the last step. This lead to many failures with alignment and finding objects. After some experimentation I made some changes. The big problem I identified was that changing from an eyepiece to a camera resulted in an 'optical shift', sometime losing the image altogether. This would cause issues with finding planets but for deep sky I could never track well. I have an AVX mount and C8 scope.

align-on-land-based-object.JPG
align-on-land-based-object.JPG (66.79 KiB) Viewed 746 times

This is what I do now (and have for about 18 months):

1. Use a land based object some distance away. The tower in the image is about a mile away. I try to set up in the daylight or dusk.
2. Using either a red dot finder or finder scope with cross hairs slew to the object.
3. Using the scope eyepiece, centre on the object and achieve focus.
4. Adjust the red dot finder or finder scope to fix on the same part of the object as the eyepiece. This means that future slews using the red dot finder will have the scope also pointing at the object.
5. Swap the eyepiece for the camera. Start SharpCap, connect the camera and set the exposure to around 1 second and set the Capture Area to the maximum available for the camera. Turn on the reticule in SharpCap.
6. Re-focus the image on the capture screen.

At this point I am ready to carry out the alignment process. Finder and scope (with camera attached) are aligned to an object some distance away. This means that for a celestial object the focus will be very near.

With the Atik shown in the picture, my Capture Area is 1391 x 1039. I can use this to consistently get good alignments and 1m, 2m ,3m exposures with unguided tracking . With a QHY mono the area is 1280 x 960 and still works well. If using a 183C I get 5000 x 3000 which makes it hard to miss.

If going after a planet, I would always start off with the largest capture area and step down gradually to the target area (say 640 x 480). Reducing in steps will keep the planet framed and small alignment adjustments can be made.

With the AVX, if I am after the moon or planets then I use Solar System Align.

For deep sky I go 2 alignment + 4 calibration stars followed by All Star Polar Align (ASPA).

I have a pier which is permanently pointing north and do a polar scope align of NCP. An alternative would be to use SharpCap's Polar Align routine.

Remember a higher power eyepiece (or Barlow) will reduce FOV and light.

Using the above workflow has helped improve my images and brought consistency to my imaging sessions. https://www.astrobin.com/users/turfpit/

This doesn't happen overnight and takes patience and practise to develop. Good Luck!

Dave

Hovlandbound
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Re: Looking for some help when viewing with a ZWO camera

Post by Hovlandbound » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:43 pm

HI Robin,

More good suggestions. Yes, in the YouTube video you shared with me, he mentioned about the screws for collimating. I can see that's critical. Do you have a recommendation what type I should get or maybe look at some reviews would be a good idea. Not sure what one costs yet but I do really need one.

Thanks again Robin, this has been great help!

Pete

Hovlandbound
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Re: Looking for some help when viewing with a ZWO camera

Post by Hovlandbound » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:50 pm

Hi Dave and thanks for your reply. Yes, I can see this needs practice but once you have it down your results I bet are great. Never learning process isn't it. :)

Thanks again!

Pete

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turfpit
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Re: Looking for some help when viewing with a ZWO camera

Post by turfpit » Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:00 pm

Pete

With my Celestron C8 I have fitted a set of Bob's Knobs for collimating. There are different types depending on scope - can be to do with the screw threads . Can't say for sure which you need but this link may give some insight. Or ask a supplier.

https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/5460 ... or-my-8se/

Dave

Hovlandbound
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Re: Looking for some help when viewing with a ZWO camera

Post by Hovlandbound » Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:14 pm

Thanks Dave!!

Hovlandbound
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Re: Looking for some help when viewing with a ZWO camera

Post by Hovlandbound » Mon Aug 12, 2019 1:32 am

NeilG wrote:
Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:34 am
How about using a flip mirror?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qqdpTgjAOk

Regards
Neil
Just ordered a flip mirror Neil. Astromania. 125 bucks. This should do the trick. Thanks again for the tip.

Pete

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