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Digital Camera World - - SHOOT THE STARS -

The key to us­ing any mount suc­cess­fully is tak­ing the time to align it per­fectly. In the north­ern hemi­sphere you have to align the mount with the pole star, and also the lat­i­tude of your lo­ca­tion.

Next you need to aim the te­le­scope at your sub­ject. Some mounts, of­ten re­ferred to as GoTo mounts, have a com­put­erised data­base where you sim­ply choose an ob­ject and the mount will au­to­mat­i­cally move the te­le­scope to its po­si­tion. Al­ter­na­tively, you can use an on­line star map or an app to find the ob­ject, and man­u­ally po­si­tion the te­le­scope.

Now you’re ready to shoot. Take sev­eral images us­ing an ex­po­sure of one to five min­utes, along with dark and light frames to help elim­i­nate op­ti­cal de­fects and noise. A dark frame is shot us­ing the same set­tings as your main ex­po­sure, but while cov­er­ing the te­le­scope.

Fi­nally, you can com­bine all of your images us­ing Pho­to­shop or ded­i­cated stack­ing soft­ware. One of the most popular spe­cial­ist pro­grams is Deep­SkyS­tacker. Avail­able for Win­dows, it’s free to down­load from http://deep­skys­tacker.free.fr. Deep­SkyS­tacker gives you a choice of stack­ing meth­ods to help you achieve ac­cu­rate re­sults, and ac­cepts all ma­jor raw file for­mats as well as JPEG. Ba­sic post-pro­cess­ing tools are in­cluded.

YOU’RE A STAR! Steve Loughran www.steves-astro.com Am­a­teur as­tronomer Steve set up his equip­ment in his Cam­bridgeshire gar­den to get in­cred­i­ble images of stars and con­stel­la­tions. “A re­ally good im­age can take as long to process as it does to pho­to­graph,” he says. “Once I spent 14 hours work­ing on just one pic­ture.” Steve’s web­site of­fers great ad­vice, tips and more in­spi­ra­tional images.

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