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Imaging Pluto


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#1 MistrBadgr

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 03:04 PM

I have had a thing in my "bucket list" since I was about seven years old. My friend across the street was given a three inch Gilbert Telescope his birthday. Not much of a scope, but still enchanting for kids our age. We used it several times and then he forgot to bring it in from the back yard. It rained that night, the tube sagged into a U shape and that was that.

At that point, I had imagined finding and seeing Pluto. I asked my parents for a telescope, but was told that they were very expensive, which they were by ours standards, in those days. I was told I needed to study to be an astronomer, then I could work at an observatory. This pretty much squelched the idea of searching and finding Pluto at that time.

It took me many years to actually get into astronomy, but I finally made it, after my kids graduated from high school. I really have not been interested in the photography aspect of astronomy. I was a professional photographer and had my own studio for a while. Due to my experiences, I have been pretty much burned out on photography for a long time.

However, in honor of that dream of a seven year old child, I am planning on finding Pluto this time around. I know that my memory and my drawing skills are not good enough to remember star placements well enough to know which point of light in an image moved and which did not. Therefore, I want to take pictures from one night to the next for several nights, maybe up to a week. Then, do the hokus pokus with a computer, put them all together, and see the series of dots that mark Pluto as it travels along its orbit.

With all that said, I am wondering what kind of imager would I need to do this? I would either use my LS 8 or an 11 inch SCT on an equatorial mount that I bought years ago for this purpose. I plan on traveling to a dark site. At one time, I purchased a Meade LPI to start trying to figure out this imaging thing, but have never used it. I am expecting that the LPI would not be good enough for this task, but maybe it is. I would like to end up with maybe an 8" by 10" print that I could hang on the wall in my observatory, when I get it built, that shows the trail of dots among the surrounding stars.

At this point, I am thinking I have about six months to get this all figured out and make it happen.

For some of you experienced imagers, what do you think it would take to make this image?

Thanks,

Bill Steen
Bill Steen, Sky Hunters' Haven Observatory, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

#2 JohnGraham

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 04:24 PM

Two things; a modern DSLR (a Canon XSi or later) and a little practice. I've imaged Pluto several times and it is certainly within reach of modest equipment. I've recently been using my stock Canon T2i (550D) to take photometric images of variable stars with my SC8 at f/10 and I've found that you can easily reach magnitude 17.5 using 60 second exposures at ISO 800. Reaching Pluto with 30 second exposures (which should be within the limits of the LS8) should be fairly easy. The trick is taking enough images to sift through them and to toss out the bad ones.

My most recent image of Pluto was taken with an ETX-60 using my trusty DSI Pro III. The details are as follows...


Telescope: ETX-60BB, altaz mode, #497 controller, #884 tripod, AC adapter
DSI Pro III, low-profile face plate, IDAS LPS2 filter, binned 2x2
9-5-10 1h 30m UT (left): 88x10sec
9-7-10 1h 30m UT (right): 62x10sec
Envisage (1.5x drizzle, 0.8 pixel fraction), ASIP, Photoshop Elements

Pluto (9-4 9-6-2010)-2j.jpg

#3 JohnGraham

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 04:24 PM

Two things; a modern DSLR (a Canon XSi or later) and a little practice. I've imaged Pluto several times and it is certainly within reach of modest equipment. I've recently been using my stock Canon T2i (550D) to take photometric images of variable stars with my SC8 at f/10 and I've found that you can easily reach magnitude 17.5 using 60 second exposures at ISO 800. Reaching Pluto with 30 second exposures (which should be within the limits of the LS8) should be fairly easy. The trick is taking enough images to sift through them and to toss out the bad ones.

My most recent image of Pluto was taken with an ETX-60 using my trusty DSI Pro III. The sky in this region was so crowded the biggest task was locating it. In the images below it is marked with the small red triangles. You may have to pull up the full-size image to see them. The details are as follows...


Telescope: ETX-60BB, altaz mode, #497 controller, #884 tripod, AC adapter
DSI Pro III, low-profile face plate, IDAS LPS2 filter, binned 2x2
9-5-10 1h 30m UT (left): 88x10sec
9-7-10 1h 30m UT (right): 62x10sec
Envisage (1.5x drizzle, 0.8 pixel fraction), ASIP, Photoshop Elements

Pluto (9-4 9-6-2010)-2j.jpg

#4 MistrBadgr

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 05:07 PM

Thanks, John!

What you have there is very much like what I would like to do.

I just missed a DSI Pro setup that was for sale on Cloudy Nights. It had everything in it, including the color filters. It was sold for $180.00.

I am keeping my eye out for one of the DSI.

Best Regards,

Bill Steen
Bill Steen, Sky Hunters' Haven Observatory, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

#5 Am33r

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 03:52 AM

Nice work there with finding the illusive pluto.  An 8" Aperture seems to be a must, and like you said a newer DSLR is a must too.  With good seeing conditions, you are in for a good viewing of pluto






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