Every Secret Tip You Wonder about DWARF II in AstrophotographyUpdated 12 days ago
There you are my friend, whether you're looking to pass the time or a very curious and dedicated DWARF II owner. Here, in today's seminar, you'll receive expert advice directly from our team and become the almighty of this little unit, so welcome!
When you first open Astro Mode-Function, you'll feel like 'Boom'! Suddenly, everything seems a bit more complex.
What do 'Darks' and 'Calibration' mean? With so many 'Targets', which one should I choose? Which options should I select in 'Settings'? How do I adjust the 'Curves'? Don't worry, in this section, we've prepared a thorough explanation to help you painlessly start from scratch with astrophotography!
Before we start off, there are some things you might want to know about Astrophotography:
- Astrophotography is the art of capturing celestial bodies like stars, planets, galaxies, and nebulae in the sky! Electronically Assisted Astronomy (EAA) is a very popular form these days, especially suitable for beginners. It's also the photography method used in DWARFLAB products.
- EAA typically requires a camera paired with a telescope for shooting, as well as a computer or other display device for viewing and processing. For DWARF II, a product that integrates a telescope, camera, and image stacking processor into one, saves you from huge invest and partner's ccomplaint. Therefore, all you need is a smartphone or tablet to observe and record the celestial art you create!
*Note: An important technique in EAA is "stacking enhancement". This means overlaying multiple captured celestial images on top of each other. It can significantly reduce the noise in the images (i.e., unwanted light spots or grainy substances) and enhance details, making the observation clearer.
Astro Shooting Process of DWARF II
Understanding this will make your operation more intuitive and effortless.
The shooting process of DWARF II can be summarized as: calculate location, reach your target, take images and stack.In practical terms which will turn into:
- First, choose a clear, cloudless night with little moonlight and, ideally, no work the next day.
- Take out your DWARF II, which you've already charged and managed to 1. Take Astro Darks.
- Head to an open space in your backyard or balcony, and point the lens towards the starry sky.
- Perform 2. Focus (all above is to help DWARF II clearly see the sky to determine its position).
- Then 3. Start Calibration, and DWARF II will automatically find its position on earth! (This is to navigate to different celestial targets later on).
- After a successful calibration, 4. Select Target to choose your objective.
- Next 5. Configure Settings, hit your preferred configuration.
- Click 6. Start Shooting, and let the subsequent capturing and stacking commence!
- During the shooting session, you can preview the results in real-time and 7. Adjust Curves for color adjustment, ultimately creating your own starry sky art images!
1. Take Astro Darks
1.1 What are darks?
Darks are also named as dark frames, the crucial processing technique in astrophotography. Simply put, a dark frame is a dark photo taken under the same conditions as capturing celestial bodies without any light sources in the frame. This photo records noise or other disturbances on the camera's sensor, such as dust or hot pixels.
1.2 Why capturing dark frames?
In astrophotography, the photos of stars or galaxies that are captured are often processed in stacked with dark frames. DWARF II can use these during post-processing frames to eliminate or reduce such noise and disturbances. This results in clearer, more accurate celestial images.Remember, shooting Astro Dark helps prepare for Astrophotography Adventure and ensures better images quality. Taking Darks is the preparation you can do in the daytime.
1.3 How to capture Darks?
Connect DWARF II with DWARFLAB App. Turn the lenses downside and put DWARF II in a dark place, like DWARFLAB bag. Store DWARF II in a dark environment, like a closed cabinet.Turn off the lights in the app settings.
Enter shooting interface. Select Astro mode and choose "Take Dark Frames Now".
Follow the instructions and wait for about 20 minutes for the process to complete.*Note: Don't ever forget to tap the shooting button to start!
If needed, you can continue or retake the dark frames with the same process as before.
*Some perhaps less useful but interesting facts about dark frames:
- DWARF II captures a set (three frames) of dark frames for different gains and resolutions, then automatically matches the corresponding parameters during stacking, which takes some time.
- Based on the above, you don't need to recapture dark frames every time before shooting. However, as the camera's sensor is very sensitive to temperature, and noise levels can change with the seasons, it's recommended to recapture them when the season changes.
- DWARF II stores the dark frame files both on the memory card and in the scope system. The data used for stacking is from the unit itself, so you don't need to recapture dark frames even after formatting your memory card (ingenious design!). The backup on the memory card is handy for your own post-processing stacking.
- Each new shooting session will automatically overwrite the dark frame files.
Now, look up at the perfect cloudless, moonless, star-filled night sky. You excitedly take out your DWARF II and find the perfect spot, with no obstructions from 45 to 80 degrees vertically and -20 to +20 degrees horizontally. Point the lenses to the starry night sky, turn on the device, connect, and enter Astro mode. And there are three ways to get a focus.
2.1 Auto Focus
If it's your first time doing astrophotography, switch to the telephoto view and click Focus-Auto for automatic focus.
2.2 Infinity ♾️
If you have successfully focused in astrophotography before, DWARF II will remember the focus plane at the infinity position. You can just click Infinity icon and get a good focus in 1s.
2.3 Manual Focus by Pressing ➕/➖
You can also perform Manual focus by Pressing ➕/➖, but generally (with good sky conditions), you can trust DWARF II’s autofocus results!
- The first-time Auto Focus will take a longer time, say about 1 minute.
- The Auto button will remain green during focusing and turn white once focusing is complete.
3. Start Calibration
After successful focusing, you will see clear stars on the screen.
Now click Function-Calibration to begin calibration, which typically involves 3 parts: axis position, sky position and geographic location.
3.1 Axis Position
Choose Calibration and click confirm. You will notice DWARF II suddenly starts to rotate, both horizontally and vertically, returning to the starting point (reset) and then back to your set shooting position. This helps it identify its initial position - calibrating the axis position.
3.2 Sky Position
Next, DWARF II will take 3 photos of the sky, analyzing the stars overhead for Plate Solving, which is the sky position calibration. This process usually involves:
Capturing 3 sky photos.
Analyzing stars in the photos.
Comparing with star charts with an embedded database to pinpoint the exact position in the sky.
3.3 Geographic Location
The acquisition of geographic location relies on your mobile device, so make sure your device's GPS is on and the DWARFLAB App has permission to access it.
- If the first 3 photos are not clear enough for star analysis, DWARF II will indicate calibration failure and continue to take more photos, trying up to 9 times until 3 qualified ones are obtained.
- DONNOT wear any filters or adaptor during calibration! Obviously, it would hinder the lens from resetting and calibration.
- After calibration, don't let anyone touch your DWARF II especially your curious dog. Obviously, changing the position of the sky overhead or the axis is not a good idea for accurately finding celestial bodies. However, you can move DWARF II with the joystick, as it's smart enough to record and update its position.
4. Select Target
After a successful calibration, head to 'Star Target' to pick your celestial!
You (might not) notice that there are about 500 celestial objects, divided into deep space objects (nebulae, clusters, galaxies), stars, planets, the sun & moon. There are two ways to get the target you want.
If you are using a small-screen device, long press the target to see the full name of it.
4.1 Search Name/Nickname
If you have something to chase in mind already, stay in the 'All' category, click the search box, and type in the name or nickname (Atlas) of the target, like Andromeda (M31).
4.2 Manually Input the RA/DEC
If you want to see something special which is not included in this list, click Manual and enter its coordinates(J2000), then confirm.
DWARF II was invented for deep space object (DSO) photography. For beginners, here is some recommendation. Below pics are taken by DWARF II owners.
- Andromeda Galaxy (M31): One of the nearest spiral galaxies to us, known for its bright core and clear spiral arms.
- Orion Nebula (M42): One of the brightest and easiest-to-observe nebulae, located near Orion's belt, known for its unique brightness and color variations.
- Crab Nebula (M1): A supernova remnant composed of gas and dust left after a supernova explosion.
- Ring Nebula (M57): A planetary nebula known for its unique ring structure.
- Eagle Nebula (M16): Contains the famous "Pillars of Creation," an active area of new star formation.
- Pleiades (M45): Also known as the Seven Sisters, a bright and widespread open cluster, easy to observe and photograph.
- Cassiopeia Cluster (M52): A beautiful open cluster located in Cassiopeia, suitable for deep space photography.
- Once selecting the target, DWARF II will execute GOTO & Tracking to reach the target and start tracking, keeping the target at the center of the screen.
- It's worth noting that in the astronomical mode, there are also options for targeting the sun and the moon. The only difference in photographing the sun and moon here from those in other modes is that it offers stacked photography of them and the shooting process/methods are exactly the same: leveling, positioning the target in the center of the screen, focusing, adjusting settings, and then shooting.
- Unlike other celestial bodies, if you click on the sun or moon in Target, DWARF II will not move to find them but will only enter their tracking trajectory (Tracking Only), so manual positioning is necessary.
- Planetary photography is not the main feature of DWARF II, but we have strengthened the post-enhancement algorithm. You can also try stacking images to observe planets. Saturn and Jupiter are good choices. Planets are brighter than other DSOs, so remember to choose the appropriate exposure settings before shooting.
- After selecting your target, you can adjust the exposure to 5-10s and stay in this tracking view for a while to see if the stars remain pinned and without trails, checking if DWARF II is successfully tracking the target. If trailing occurs, make sure there is no sudden wind, then try reselecting the target from the star library and GoTo again.
- If your celestial object exceeds the maximum range that DWARF II can reach, the axis will hover at the limit/hit the limit once and once again indicate that the target is beyond the limit and the screen might tell you: goto failed. Manually rotate DWARF II in that direction. Since the position has moved, remember to RECALIBRATE and then GoTo!
- If your target is near the zenith, due to the Earth's rotation, tracking might not be very accurate, and field rotation can be more severe. You can choose to shoot in polar alignment mode. For more information about field rotation and polar alignment, which are common concepts in astrophotography, you can search for more information on the internet or join our FB group: DWARF II Smart Telescope User Community to discuss with more astronomy enthusiasts!
- You might have noticed, for the accurate tracking of the unit, the joystick will disappear after you reach your target and are in tracking, in other words, there is no way for you to adjust the view at this moment.
- When manually entering the coordinates, make sure you use RA/DEC(J2000) data since that is what we embedded in the system.(Stellarium will show both current and J2000 coordinates.)
5. Configure Settings
Once you have successfully tracked your target, you can proceed to customize your shooting settings!
5.1 Parameter Adjustment
First, enter the parameter adjustment area. For specific meanings of the parameters, refer to section 2.9.2 Parameter Settings in this manual.
It's crucial to ensure the photos have the optimal brightness. In the Exposure Section, adjust the Shutter, Gain, and IR in the tele view. A commonly used setting for DSOs is Shutter 15s, Gain 80, IR Pass. As for Tone, you can keep the default value or adjust it according to your preference.
5.2 Shooting Options
Next, configure the shooting options by returning to Function-Feature-Settings.
As mentioned, DWARF II will stack multiple single-frames to create a final image stored in the album, while the single frames are stored on the memory card. Here, choose whether to store the single frames in FITS or TIFF, which will depend on the format supported by your preferred image processing software. Popular software includes Siril and Pixinsight. For more tutorials and information on post-processing in astrophotography, recommend a check of their official websites, they really know their job.
Set the number of frames you want to stack. Don't worry, even if you select the maximum of 999 frames, you can stop at any time during shooting to get the current result.
Select Single to view individual frames or Stacked to view the live stacked result. You can change this option anytime during shooting to check the state of the target (whether there are clear stars of normal brightness, good focus, no sudden wind or tracking failure causing trails). Especially in case of a stacking failure, you can troubleshoot this way first yourself, saving all the bothersome things to locate them in your card later! Try to re-focus when you see stars are elongated.
*Note this is the only option that can be revised during shooting.
Binning is a common technique in astrophotography. It combines adjacent pixels into a larger pixel, improving the image's signal-to-noise ratio and sensitivity. Here are some key points to understanding this concept:
- Increased Sensitivity: Through binning, multiple small pixels merge into one large pixel, capturing more light and thus enhancing the camera's performance in low-light conditions.
- Reduced Resolution: While this process enhances the image's brightness, color, and detection of dark objects, it also reduces the image's resolution.
- Reduced Noise: Binning lowers the noise level in images, as the signals from multiple pixels are combined, averaging out the noise.
Conclusion: In environments with light pollution or weak lighting, turning on Binning (selecting 2k) is an effective way to improve image quality. In good sky conditions, turning off Binning (selecting 4k) can increase image resolution and capture more details of celestial bodies.
6. Start Shooting
After setting up, click the shoot button to start your astrophotography!
- The bottom of the shooting interface will display some parameters like the target name, number of shots taken, etc.
- In this preview interface, enjoy the pleasure of witnessing celestial bodies gradually appearing on the screen! You can pinch in and out with two fingers to zoom in and observe more details of the nebulae.
7. Adjust Curves
After the shooting is complete, DWARF II will not immediately exit this shooting session. The interface will stay on your preview image.
7.1 Click Function-Feature-Curves
Before exiting, click 'Function-Feature-Curves', and freely stretch your astronomical photo!
*Note: Pulling down the left side of the line will darken the background of the image while raising the right side will brighten the nebulae and galaxies. For more information on stretching (rearranging pixels to get different image results), we suggest browsing the internet. But don't worry, sometimes it's just a matter of intuition!
After adjusting, don't forget to click Save to save your results. We directly save this photo to your phone's Gallery for easy sharing, so you won't find it in the DWARFLAB Album.
If you're not satisfied with the current result, click 'Reset' to revert everything back to the original state.
7.4 Go Live
After completing the shooting session, click 'Go Live' to exit and choose your next targetfor your celestial marathon!
- The specific values for exposure parameters need to be adjusted according to the brightness of different celestial bodies and the environment. However, for DSOs, long exposure (above 8 seconds) is a start-off parameter.
- When you click Auto Focus, ♾️ focus, Calibration, Select Your Target (GoTo), or Go Live, the parameters of DWARF II will switch to Shutter 1s, Gain 80, IR cut (Except for your targets are the Sun and Moon, which will auto turn to other suitable sets). This setting is designed so that each time DWARF II wants to position a celestial body, it adjusts to the optimal brightness to clearly see the sky and complete the operation. So, don't be surprised if your carefully set parameters suddenly change. It's not a malfunction or something supernatural. The most effortless way is to proceed with your parameter adjustments after successfully reaching your target.
- We recommend attaching your UHC, dual narrow-band, or other astronomical filters only while adjusting parameters before you press the shooting button. Remember we mentioned not to use filters during calibration. For safety, it's also best not to use them during GoTo as well.
Well, this is all the wisdom we could muster for you! Congratulations on achieving the status of a celestial photography guru through unmatched patience and unbelievable learning prowess. You're now equipped to dodge and tackle a whopping 99% of photography mishaps, making you the astronomical photography superstar that everyone in the community idolizes.
One more thing, if you find it helpful, don't forget to give it a thumbs up and schedule some time for your next adventure with DWARF II!
Keep looking up and reaching for the stars!