Having a Cake and Eating It Too

The Christmas Tree Cluster and Cone Nebula in Monoceros

I’m not much of a dessert person, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to have my cake and eat it too. With regards to astrophotography — which I first got into way back in 2019 — I would try to shoot 2 or 3 deep sky objects (DSOs) a night, averaging a measly 2-3 hours of acquisition time per target. The end results seemed “good enough” to me in those early, quantity-before-quality days. I look back on them now and think, “not so much.” But, I was learning. And, I have learned quite a bit since the above image was captured on January 14, 2021. The initial result was, well, less than inspiring.

So, I look forward to re-shooting this properly, with at least 5 hours of photon gathering, and with newer, more optimized gear. But, in the meantime, since all we have for the next week or so are cloudy, grey, snow-scudding skies, I thought that I’d have another go at processing the 2.5 hours worth of data taken almost 2 years ago. The telescope I was using then was my first, a Celestron 6″ reflector. I no longer use this for anything other than planetary or lunar work, but since I did have auto-guiding in place and was using ZWO’s ASI Air Pro to control the telescope and frame gathering, I figured that I had “good enough” data to try re-processing, considering all the new things I have learned about image creation.

I re-ran the 30 x 300 seconds light frames along with all the calibration data I had acquired that night through Astro Pixels Processor and then took that file into PixInsight. I have learned much in the last two years about how to better use PI and as well have a number of newer software tools installed in it. The newly processed results you can see above. So, the data WAS good, I just could have used much more of it!

At the end of 2022, I still try to have my cake and eat it too. The difference is that now I have added more scopes and mounts and cameras to feed my astrophotography addiction and can set up two or three telescopes a night. With each one gathering data from only one DSO a night, I can gather up to 6.5 hours of photo capture per target (in the winter…in the summer the nights are shorter, though warmer)! Sometimes I will shoot the same subject over two nights…12-14 hours of light gathering yields some fantastic results. Quantity AND quality…that’s my mantra these days.

See more astrophotography on ClayhausPhotography.

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