Lagoon (M8) and Trifid (M20) Nebulae

Mindset and Tips for Learning Deep Sky Astrophotography

It’s the middle of the night, you’re learning new photography techniques with new equipment, and photographing long exposures on dim or invisible objects.  What could go wrong?  Everything and anything!

The other night I was photographing the Lagoon Nebula.  It was my first night testing my new guide scope and camera set up.  The guiding worked great – perfectly round stars at 300 seconds.  The problem was my Go To Mount targeting was off – I wasn’t pointed at the Lagoon Nebula.  Then the clouds came rolling in about an hour later.

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I researched the reasons that my Go To targeting could be off and tried again the following week.  I also introduced another step in the process to verify the Go To Star Alignment set up by slewing to Jupiter that I could also need with the naked eye.

The feature image in this blog posts was the result after my second attempt at the Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae after making a home position correction and adding a Go To verification step to my set up.

It’s important to have this learning mindset for astrophotography.  Things will go wrong as you are learning and may cost you an entire night.  Just research what could have gone wrong, make adjustments, and try again.

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Here are a few tips that I’ve learned going through this learning process.

  • Don’t rush your set up.  I know this is tempting and I’ve done it trying to beat the clouds but it’s better to take your time and make sure everything is set up correctly.
  • Set up what you can while it’s still light.  Things like positioning your mount, balancing your scope, rough polar alignment, and leveling your tripod can all be done ahead of time.
  • Have a checklist with set up steps.  Either read it during the set up or before you go out so you don’t forget any steps.  Here are my set up steps for the Sky-Watcher Star-Adventurer.
  • Take test shots at higher ISOs to verify your composition.  Image capture software on a laptop makes this easier and most astrophotography image capture software have a stretching function where you bring out more details in your DSO to verify your composition.
  • Check your shots throughout the imaging session.  A change in temperature over the course of the night may affect the focus or you could have inadvertently bumped your mount in the dark.

Deep Sky Astrophotography Tutorial – Table of Contents

Written by Martin Belan

Related Posts

How to Set Up the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer for a Deep Sky Astrophotography Shoot
How to Polar Align a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer for Astrophotography
Deep Sky Astrophotography – Finding Your DSO Target in the Night Sky

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