Fun with Astrotracer

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DavidWright2010 Senior Member • Posts: 1,559
Fun with Astrotracer

Hi, Pentaxians-

I've already discussed how to improve my astro results with the inhabitants of the Astrophotography forum - some of you may frequent that discussion and are acquainted with my images and questions.

But I'm posting here because the Pentax Astrotracer function allows one to get some pretty nice astro photos with basically no special gear. This might appeal to a wider audience. While one can certainly go 'berserk' and buy all kinds of special equipment (and I may do that at some point), pictures like I show below are obtained simply with a Pentax camera and a suitable lens (I'm using a Rokinon 135 mm f/2, which is also is pretty nice as a walking around lens.)

So to reiterate, I calibrate the GPS, turn on the Astrotracer function. put the camera on a tripod, and aim at a nightsky object. I take multiple 30 second or 1 minute exposures, re-centering the camera every few images. Then I use a freeware astro aligning and stacking program, Deep Sky Stacker.

Here I took 27 30-second exposures of the Orion region. At the lower right is M42, the Great Nebula in Orion, and at upper left are the Horsehead and Flame nebulae. This is just what I can achieve as a newbie in this craft - much better results are within reach, and best of all they are in reach with no special gear needed. These image were either taken in my suburban backyard, or a couple of miles out of town, where it is a little darker.

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31), with two companion galaxies (63, 1 minute exposures)

The part I like about this low-cost approach is that I can hone my craft, improve the images I get, and decide if I want to spend more time on astro. And if I decide not to go any further, I haven't invested in specialty gear that I would then have to try to sell.

The astro processing programs strip off the EXIF info - this is a K-70, ISO 1600, f/2.5.

I'm including this image just for fun - it is a crop of a single 30 second exposure, processed to remove sky light pollution and enhance thin lines. Since the sensor is moving to track the stars, geo-stationary satellites show up as streaks. Orion is near zero degrees latitude in the sky, the favorite hang-out for such things. I count streaks from 11 geo-sats in this image! It's crowded up there.


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