Astro - M6 + EOS Ra - Orion with M6 (PICS)

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Marco Nero
Marco Nero Veteran Member • Posts: 7,044
Astro - M6 + EOS Ra - Orion with M6 (PICS)
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EOS M6 + EF-M 32mm - Setting up at sunset on a mountain ridge (2 shots blended).

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You can skip the text if you're not interested.  I'm just giving some back-story to the images. 
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You can certainly capture beautiful images of the night sky with just a camera with the right lens and a regular tripod.  That's all you need if you want to capture the Milky Way and I guess that's how most of us start out.  In the last 6 months I've been putting together a mount to enable me to use heavier lenses and payloads and hopefully to be able to allow longer exposures.  Unfortunately I've failed to get it to work properly (so far).  There's a bug in the works that I'm yet to find.
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I was supposed to have clear skies last week but when I packed all my equipment into the car and drove for two hours to get to my preferred site, I found the sky to be clear when I left the house and yet completely cloudy by the time I'd arrived at my destination. This meant returning home and spending half an hour unpacking the car again. However, the night before last I was assured of a very clear sky and no clouds yet again. This time the weather was just fine so I made a third trip out there again with the EOS M6 and the EOS Ra. I took some images waiting for the sun to set and when the sky grew dark I used the Ra + EF 100-400mmL II lens to capture several astro scenes. A young couple with their own camera and tripod stopped and asked if they could park alongside my vehicle and they spent perhaps an hour taking pictures of the starscape with a compact camera. On the other side of the valley was an Astronomy Club that I'm a member of and they were enjoying the first clear, moonless sky in many months - just like I was.
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I won't pretend these were great Astro pictures because they're flawed for all sorts of reasons. You wouldn't believe the quality of the images the Astro club members were getting. I need to be able to set up the mount I was using with more accuracy using calibrated stars to align itself more efficiently. I do intend to use the EOS M cameras + EF-M lenses on the same mount but will need to add more weight to the payload rail due to the M cameras plus EF-M lenses being so much lighter than the counterweights I have.  I also have to wait for mid-year when the Galactic Core really starts to put on a show.
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EOS M6 + EF-M 32mm - When I took this picture, I thought the moon was a tempting target.

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When I first arrived, the moon was still in the sky as I waited for the stars to come out... so rather than sit in the car, I slewed the telescope towards the moon and took two pictures with different exposures - to be merged together later when I got home (see below). Unlike using the bright RF 85mm f/1.2L USM lens, the EF 100-400mmL II lens was much dimmer and therefore I could only see the brighter stars with it until a long exposure of 20 seconds was taken of the scene. There's a small Red-Dot Reticule sight that I later mounted on the camera hotshoe - and this enabled me to more precisely target what I could see with my eyes in the night sky. I sourced this on eBay years ago for about $35 and it's very useful when using long lenses against tiny targets or tracking birds in flight.
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EOS Ra - A blend of two images of the moon @ 400mm
One image captured the Earthshine & the other caught the illuminated Crescent.

EOS M6 + EF-M 32mm - A low powered laser for assisting with pointing the camera and for manual polar alignment.  Note: Laser regulations have changed in Australia in recent years (see below)

EOS Ra - The Pleiades Constellation - Two 25 second images merged @ ISO 10,000

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STARLINK Satellites - ruining the Night Sky Experience
The number of satellites in the night sky has grown exponentially due to Elon Musk's Starlink system being deployed - with tens of thousands of new satellites now roaming the celestial dome overhead. My first shot of Orion was photo-bombed with an unusually precise vertical streak from one of these (see below). . I attempted to do long exposure tracked shots last week but was unable to get a balanced payload on the mount. It was too heavy on one side due to the Celestron 'StarSense' camera on the left. So I returned home and ordered a series of 200g and 100g weights from AMAZON and they arrived the following day. These are usually designed for stabilization on smartphone gyroscopes. With these weights clipped onto the opposite side of the payload rail from the StarSense camera, I was able to achieve a much more accurate balance on the mount. But my problems were far from over.... in order to nail the accuracy of the tracking by the EQ Mount, I needed to get it to register several stars to use as "calibration points" and I only had the time and patience for just one star.  Then the device froze up and I had to start all over again.
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I'd have put in more stars but but the freezing air had me wishing I was at home instead and my fingers were numb. However, one star was enough to give me about 15 seconds of unguided exposure for a few shots. Normally, at 400mm, you get long star streaks with just 4 seconds of exposure time... so I wasn't complaining. A couple of shots at 30 seconds were close to acceptable to me ...although experienced deep sky astrophotographers would probably not find any of these images pleasing.  The EOS Ra's modified sensor captured some bright crimson colors in the nebulae I examined.  Unlike the f/1.2L lenses I used previously with the EOS Ra, the EF 100-400mmL II lens did not reveal much of what I was looking at until a longer exposure was taken.
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EOS Ra - a 20 Second long unedited JPEG exposure - ruined by a Starlink satellite

EOS Ra - a 20 second long single JPEG exposure of the Carina Nebula @ ISO 10,000
There's quite a bit of drift and the image isn't particularly sharp... but it's closer than I've managed to get with shorter focal length lenses in the past.  This one is more easily seen in the Southern Hemisphere.

EOS Ra - Orion at 255mm - three 30 second JPEG images merged @ ISO 10,000

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Lasers (Australia)
Here in Australia, we've had some changes to the laws back around 2011 so we can't use battery powered laser "pointers" over 1mW except for a the purposes of certain applications... one of which is Astronomy. People in Astronomical Clubs and related Astronomical Society groups approved by the state Police Commissioner are exempt. I only mention this because some people may not be aware of the changes. If you need a laser for your astro hobby here in Australia, contact your local astronomy supply store rather than try to imports a laser yourself as they will otherwise be seized by Customs without an appropriate import permit. I hear that America is going to follow suit after incidents in major cities during recent incidents. Be sure to observe local regulations for their use, wherever you are.  An exception also applies to mains powered lasers and may apply to some that are USB powered.  Aside from "star parties", most astrophotographers detest using lasers near their telescopes because the beams can ruin their photographs.  But they are an essential tool for collimating numerous types of telescopes, especially refractor telescopes.
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Calibration & Remotes
I didn't expect to be using ISO 10,000 on ANY camera but it seems as good as ISO 5,000 on the EOS Ra and I can't really complain at this point. When I can more accurately aligns the mount that I'm using (by using more calibration stars) I ought to be able to capture exposures far longer than 30 seconds without needing guidance or star-tracking capability. I'd have tested the EOS Ra with BULB mode (for longer-than 30 second exposures) but I did not have a copy of my manual with me and the usual settings were not apparently visible when using the camera. I was not surprised to return home and discover that "BULB" mode is on the Command Dial (Control Dial).... and you just need to bring it up on the Top-LCD screen before accessing it.
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Canon RS-60E3 Remote Trigger
The Canon RS-60E3 remote trigger with cable is (to my surprise) compatible with quite a lot of Canon cameras. It enables vibration-free activation of both EOS M-Series cameras, G-series cameras and the R-series cameras as well. In the case of the R, it started the exposure sequence for any timed delay I had put into the camera. Holding down the button made no difference to the exposure since BULB was not activated. There's also a sliding lockdown cover on the RS-60E3 to enable long, bulb-type exposures if needed. I believe there's a programmable menu in the EOS Ra for determining multiple exposures with a timer, but I don't think it's an intervalometer and I am yet to look into this. The EOS M6 that I use works perfectly well with this remote trigger although when you release the button, the exposure stops. I used this remote trigger a couple of years ago to capture the International Space Station passing overhead with a 73 second exposure. The camera only allows a 30 second exposure maximum by default.
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My EOS M6 with the Canon RS-60E3 Remote Trigger attached.
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Last night - finally caught Orion with the EOS M6
Yesterday I noticed the skies had cleared again.  The next few weeks have a moon in the sky and plenty of clouds.  So I packed the Ra, M6 and M cameras and drove out to where there were clear skies and figured I'd have ample time to figure out how to calibrate my EQ Mount.  I didn't bother to drive anywhere remote and simply parked on the side of the road in a place I've used previously.  6 Hours later and I just couldn't get my EQ mount work properly.   I was using the Celestron StarSense camera to identify my location under the stars and to help align the mount for longer exposures... but it would refuse to slew to certain stars during setup and it would freeze during calculations, forcing me to restart it.  It's a horribly inefficient piece of equipment and I'm going to have to erase its memory before I attempt to try to use it again.  Setting up near a tree that blocked some of my view of the Milky Way stars was another mistake.
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ORION with the EOS M6 @ 300mm with f/5 and ISO 6400
After four and a half hours, the stars overhead had drifted so much that I managed to get the StarSense to align to a star without crashing/freezing. I immediately slewed the mount towards the Carina Nebula and then Orion and caught some pictures before swapping the M6 for the Ra.  I had about 13 seconds exposure times before the stars began to seriously produce trails.  Overall, the longer lenses cut down on the light and demanded longer exposures.  Especially with APS-C sensors.  I bypassed some of that by pushing the ISO settings as high as I dared.  ISO 10,000 and higher were a bit noisy on the M6 so I dropped back down to 6400 and sampled a picture of the bright core of Orion with a lower ISO setting to eliminate the bright glow and reveal some detail.  The image below is edited in lightroom (for color and levels) and then Photoshop. It's slightly cropped.  The Orion nebula is around the same diameter as the moon... just nowhere near as bright.
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EOS M (original Mk1) EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM lens.
A shot of the EOS M6 + EF 100-400mmL II lens  on the EQ Mount - waiting for the sky to darken

EOS M6 + EF 100-400mmL II lens - untracked but with slight beneficial movement from the mount.
* 15 second exposure with a few merged shots of the bright core of the Orion Nebula.
* Shot at 300mm to enable f/5 for gathering more light (rather than 400mm).
* ISO 6400 - because, why not?

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I wish I had clearer skies with unimpeded views from my own backyard in the suburbs.  It would save me the grief involved with transporting and using a heavy mount.  Those of you with lighter camera payloads will be just fine with a Star Adventurer or an iOptron mount for tracking the skies.  An additional issue I have to deal with here in the Southern Hemisphere is that there's no visible Southern Polar Star to align a mount to.
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EOS M6 + EF 100-400mmL II lens - No extender (for a change). Cropped to show detail
The rippling on the horizon of the moon shows how much thermal interference was occurring. .

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The colors of the Orion nebula that the M6 captured were taken with Auto WB.  The same with the Ra although it should be noted that the Ra has a modified sensor that picks up on the pinks and reds with far greater sensitivity.  But as per several threads here recently, the M cameras are more than capable of capturing some great results without a need to modify them.  But if you want to use a longer lens, star trails become a problem unless you use an EQ Mount that can track the rotating sky dome and keep up a little with the moving stars overhead.
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On an slightly unrelated note, I caught a strange yet unusual image showing the key elements of the Orion nebula when I activated the shutter on the EOS Ra + EF 135mm f/2L lens + EF 1.4x III Extender and then slewed the tracking mount to center the constellation during the exposure.  The Pink glow of Orion is one aspect and the three blue lines are from the three blue stars in the constellation.  The result looks about as arty as I could have hoped for...
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EOS Ra + EF 135mm f/2L USM + 1.4x III Extender
This is what happens when you slew the mount during exposure.... Orion or TRON?

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Regards,
Marco Nero.

 Marco Nero's gear list:Marco Nero's gear list
Canon EOS M6 Canon EOS Ra Canon EOS R6 Canon EF-M 32mm F1.4 Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM +20 more
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