Astrophotos without tracking.

I have been asked to share some of my astro photos taken over the last 18 months, some with just my tripod mounted Canon 60D with a 200mm telephoto lens and some with this camera at primary focus on my EQ5 mounted SW 200P.

This was taken a few days after the clouded-out lunar eclipse of 21 January. I was a bit disappointed about the eclipse but I got a good shot in the end! Its a general wide angle view of the garden stacked (using simple star-trail stacking software) over 7 zoomed-in shots, taken 2.5 minutes apart, of a waning setting moon.

This is about 3 hours worth (!) of 30s exposures giving an apparent rotation of 45 degrees. This was one of my GCSE projects to evaluate the length of Earth’s sidereal day by extrapolating the measured angle of rotation and exposure time. I am still amazed at how well these shots reveal the star’s colour. I used PhotoImpression to get a negative of the image, printed it at A3 and drew construction lines from which to measure the angle of rotation. I did this with 3 separate dates to get an accurate figure. A lot of work!


The photo below is a 30s exposure of an aircraft flying left to right in front of Orion while banking away to reveal its wing lights. Taken just after a star trail session, so timing was pure luck but I have since noticed these planes always follow the same path from East Midland Airport.

Talking of Orion, this is its nebula taken through the SW 200P with a single shot of 1s exposure. The telescope’s fast F5 rating registers the faint nebulosity with quite short exposure times so the short star trails do not mess up the detail too much. Just needed some slight colour enhancement from MS Picture Manager. I must try this again with some manual tracking until I get motorised drives for the mount.

If you only have one telescope, the Skywatcher 200P, with adaptors for attaching a DSLR, has got to be high on the list.

First Light with my New Old Telescope

I’ve been thinking about getting another OTA to enable me to image at a higher magnification, but been a little worried about whether my mount and guide setup would support it. A few weeks back an old blue tube Skywatcher 200p OTA appeared on the SGL classified section for £50- it felt like a low risk way to find out.

As advertised, the tube has a few cosmetic marks, but the optics all seem to be good. Despite the impending Storm Gareth I really wanted to give it a go last night and see what how it would work. Collimation, balance and focus was easy enough (even though the focuser is a bit sticky), but the semi-cloudy conditions and the gusting winds causing the scope to jump around persuaded me to stick to the moon for my first effort.

Of the pictures below, the full disk is from my 600d with a 0.9 coma corrector; whilst the others are from stacked avi’s on my ZWO Barlowed to x3.2 with a bit of wavelet adjustment in Registax (I wrote that like I know what I’m doing in Registax, which I really don’t!). Finally there’s a little picture of the scope in action to record the moment!

The dehalo method for deep sky objects using GIMP.

As previously discussed in

Here is the method in words:


We need to do 2 things.

  1. We need to create an image which will provide the in-fill for the dark haloes.
  2. We need to create a layer mask that just has the haloes, but is otherwise opaque. We then use this mask and the in-fill image to fill-in the haloes.

To do 1 above we are going to use a “median blur”, and it is probably worth-while just explaining what this is.

Normally, when we filter, smooth or blur data we use an averaging technique. A straightforward “moving average” is just that – an average of the data in a “window”. A “Gaussian blur” is similar, but this is a “weighted” moving average.

For example, let us consider a very simple example where the image data represented as numbers is a smooth progression, say (1,2,3,4,5). The average of the numbers in this window is (1+2+3+4+5)/5 =3.

A Gaussian weighting scheme might be (1,4,5,4,1), and this weighted moving average is        (1X1+ 4X2 +5X3+4X4+1X5)/15 = 3 again. Note that this time the divisor is the sum of the weighting coefficients.

Now suppose we have a very “bright” point replacing the “4” point with “100”. The data is now (1,2,3,100,5). The average is now 22.2 and the weighted moving average is 28.6. Obviously the effect of the “100” point is reduced, but it is still there in the blurred data.

A “median” is the point where there are as many points above the point as below. So the median of (1,2,3,4,5) is 3, and the median of (1,2,3,100,5) is also 3. In other words the anomalous “100” point has completely gone from the “blurred” data.

So let us now apply this to an image with haloes in it.


  1. Open image file
  2. Click on “Windows”, then on “Dockable dialogs”, then “Layers”. This opens a “Layers” window.
  3. Right click on the layer that is there and then on “Duplicate layer”. We now have 2 copies of the layer
  4. Highlight the top layer, then click on “Filters” then “Blur” then “Median Blur”
  5. Expand the “Radius” until the haloes disappear. As explained above, because this is a median blur, the bright stars have little effect.
  6. Drag the lower layer up so it is on top. We are now going to create the layer mask.
  7. Right click on this, and click on “Add layer mask”.
  8. Select “Greyscale copy of layer” from the resultant window.
  9. Right click the top layer, click on “Show Layer Mask”, and, operating on the mask, click on “Filters”, then “Enhance”, then “High pass”.
  10. We now have a high pass filtered version of the mask.
  11. Click on “Colours”, then “Curves”. Manipulate the “Curves” to get a dominantly white screen with black where you want to in-fill (ie the haloes).
  12. We can now expand the haloes on the mask. Click on “Filters” then “Blur” then “Median Blur”.
  13. Reduce the “Radius” to 1, and the “Percentile” to around 20.
  14. Right click the top layer and uncheck the “Show Layer Mask” and you should see the result.
  15. If you don’t like it, Click on “Edit” and “Undo” and manipulate the parameters on the mask and try again.
  16. Once you have something you like, highlight the top layer, click on “Layer” on the top toolbar and then “Merge Down”.
  17. Export the result with a name and format of your choice.

All this might seem a bit involved, but it’s a bit like trying to explain how to ride a bike in words. Like riding a bike, once you get the hang of it, it is dead easy!

And here it is with some screenshots:

A dehalo method 3



Another attempt at using the Straton software.

The target is a large Planetary Nebula in Cancer. However, as always, it is quite dim. Only used the Ha so far but it does take a good narrow band. This was using the Atik 450 before it was sent back to the maker.

Total time on this is 1hour 30mins over 3 nights.

As before, having stacked in DSS and then Fits Liberator, the image was put through Straton to remove the stars. The remaining image was sent to PS and Stretched as much as I dared. Then the stars were put back and the result is above. When I get the camera back I’ll be adding more Ha and the O3 &S2 (That will probably be next year!!)


Window-sill Trapezium dehaloed

As I have previously posted, I have been trawling through my archive looking for likely candidates for the “dehalo” processing i came up with to get rid of those irritating dark haloes around bright objects the PD camera sometimes produces. (I think it is probably an artifact of the PD’s compression/noise reduction algorithms). Again, I’ve already posted some of these. M42 seems particularly to benefit from this:

Digital Astronomy – things to do when it is cloudy!


However, I found this one too, that I was particularly taken by. Here is the original and the dehaloed version.

It is quite simple and quick to do in GIMP and I’ll post the method if anyone is interested, but I suspect it is just my kit and methodology that creates the issue. “Proper” imagers don’t seem to get the problem!


Spider and the Fly

Hi all,

Taken with big camera Atik 4021. Spider on right (sh2-234) and Fly on left (sh2-237) in the constellation of Auriga in one session last week.

This is a total of 3 hours made up of Ha, O3 and S2 each 1 hour in 5 minute subs using the Takahashi Epsilon at f2.8.

The images I took last time with the Atik 450 only just covered the bright part of the spider and the fly.  It is now back with Atik as it has now given up the ghost completely. So I’m back with the big camera for a while.

Finally getting close with the focus which is now working with the electronic focuser after I found a screw to tighten !