Help Me Picture the Stars

July 27, 2008 — Leave a comment

Those that follow me on Twitter will know that I have been taking pictures of the stars in the past couple of dayse. I’m located right down in the south of France, near Aix-en-Provence. They get very dark skies here and after several trips over the past few years I have become determined to take full astronomical advantage of the situation. I’m quite adept at using the Meade ETX90 that is handily sitting here, but astrophotography has never been my forte. I wonder if anyone out there in blogland can help me?

I am stuck and need some help in both taking and then processing the images. I know there are loads of photographic astronomers out there – I need you!

I’m using a Pentax digital SLR, which can perform exposures up to 30 seconds long. I don’t have fancy tripod but I do have a small, pocket tripod. Last night I tried out some different settings and ended up using either ISO 800 or 1600 speed and the full 30 seconds of exposure available to me.

I took, amongst other things, these three images. The first is the Plough, the second is the Summer triangle and the third is Jupiter, hanging nicely above the house.

What I need to know are what most people starting out would need to know I imagine: what are the best websites, tools and softwares packages that one should try to use when starting out? Do I need to be stacking these images to get the best results, if so how?

I have RAW image files for all of these, but what does that get me? Googling is a bit of nightmare, as all you really see are all the images everyone else has made – which are lovely (and intimidating) – but not useful in getting you there yourself.

All assistance much appreciated.

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