How much do dark skies really matter?

If you are even a little into astronomy or astrophotography you will hear people extol the virtues of “really dark skies”, but do dark skies really make that much of a difference? The short answer is yes, dark skies are crucial, what follows is a somewhat longer answer 🙂 I planned a trip from where I live in Huntsville to a little town in south west Texas named Terlingua. Terlingua is pretty much right in between Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park just a few miles from the border with Mexico. It is home to a… Continue reading

Cooling a camera sensor, why and how. Part 1

If you are into astrophotography for any length of time you will run across people cooling a camera sensor or read camera specifications for CCD cameras that include cooling information. Why would anyone want to cool a camera? What does it accomplish? Is it important? Let’s start with what cooling a camera (actually the sensor) does. Camera sensors are a grid of light sensors called photosites. These sensors react to light and create voltages or data which increases based on the amount of light that hits them. The resulting signal from the photosite to the computer in the camera can… Continue reading

Pixel size, sensor size and more

Pixel size, sensor size and many other factors seem to complicate our choices for cameras these days. Just when you thought cameras could not get any more complex with ISO range, well depth, and active/passive cooling I’m here to throw another wrench or several into the mix. Lets start with pixel size or pixel measurement which should really be called photosite size. The actual sensor on a digital camera is made up of light detectors called photosites. These photosites are what create the pixels in the image. Each photosite measures the light hitting that sensor and generates a signal in… Continue reading

Five planets in the morning sky

This morning I viewed five planets aligned and the moon in the morning sky. It was a simply amazing sight. I had to get up really early in the morning to get out to the dark site so that I could spend a little time imaging, and a lot of time just admiring the view, and still go to work the next morning. The five planets that were visible were Mercury, Venus, the Moon (yes, not a planet, but still a wonderful addition to this lineup), Saturn, Mars and Jupiter in that order from west to east along the ecliptic.… Continue reading

Full well capacity and why does it matter?

What is full well capacity? The full well capacity of a camera (sometimes called pixel well depth or just well depth) is a measurement of the amount of light a photosite (the part of a sensor that collects the light for a single pixel on monochrome cameras or that is used as the luminance value for a single pixel on a color camera) can record before becoming saturated, that is no longer being able to collect any more. Lets explain this a little more in depth before we move on. This subject can get a little overwhelming for those who… Continue reading

Why have a separate astrophotography laptop?

One of the best decisions I have made in my astrophotography endeavors is to have bought a completely separate astrophotography laptop for use out in the field. This is also one of the first things I tell newcomers to the hobby. They often look at me strangely which then leads to a lengthy explanation. Hopefully this article will help everyone understand the benefits. Let talk about what an astrophotography laptop does. My astrophotography laptop pretty much does everything. The only computer related task that it does not do in the field is play movies to keep me entertained while imaging.… Continue reading

Keeping warm while observing or imaging

It is time to start thinking about keeping warm while observing and imaging as winter is right around the corner. Observing is a very low energy activity. During the winter when views are the best you will be shocked at how cold you can get when you are not moving. Even in warmer climates like down here in Texas where a really cold winter night might typically hit 20F, it is amazing how cold you feel when you haven’t really moved in hours. The key is to always take far more warmth than you expect to need and to layer.… Continue reading