Lessons from the Masters

It’s been a long time since I wrote a mini book review but after having this book recommended by a friend Astrophotographer I had to write something about it.  I’ve already been praising it and recommending it to fellow images in the Astro Society.

Lessons from the Masters is one of the few books I can use as a guide to processing astronomical images.  Yes there is plenty of information and tutorials online, several I have used, but the concepts presented in this book clearly explain and demonstrate how to put them to practise, and that makes a big difference.

Finer Control

One of the concepts I’ve never really seen is using PixelMath (not as scary as it may seem after practising it using guidance from this book) in PixInsight to split an image into Large and Small scale structures allowing different processing to be performed on each.  I actually put this into practise with my M45 image which is why I have managed to get some of the red dusty stuff to show up and not completely blow out my stars (which I didn’t get from shorter subs or anything, just controlled processing).

Images that Pop

Another useful tutorial was how to make an image pop.  This was demonstrated on Thors Helmet in the book and something I applied selectively to the Flame and Horsehead Nebula to make the Flame and Horsehead stand out more.  It’s basically using high pass filter in Photoshop but seeing it presented and coming together in the book was very useful.  There were other Photoshop tutorials, more so than the PixInsight ones, and some useful concepts on presenting your image (what a difference orientation and cropping can make).

Come on share your secrets!

There is a bit on planetary imaging but I’ve not found this particularly useful yet compared to the rest of the book, although it did tempt my into using WinJupos and the section explaining what filters are best for what planets was good.  I was expecting more!  I think there could have been more detail with regards image processing techniques, since after all that’s what the book is about.  In my opinion this section covered everything for planetary imaging which left less room to write in more depth about the image processing and demonstration by example, in fact I don’t recall seeing any step by step guide in this section.  Still it was a good read and some useful pointers.

Use the link below to take you to Amazon to view the book.

Flame and Horsehead Nebula Processed with Concepts from Book (Published in Astronomy Now Magazine May 2014)


M45 Processed with Concepts from Book

Messier 45 LRGB

Mars has Clouds

It’s amazing what you learn when imaging.  Mars has clouds and a North Polar Ice Cap.  Yep, the North Polar Ice Cap is dry ice, solid frozen carbon dioxide.  Clouds are basically the dust kicked up into the atmosphere.

Pretty pleased with this capture albeit the disc is not a perfect circle (a problem of alignment in AS!2 by using non optimum settings I think).

Captured:  14th April 2014
Scope: Celestron C8 EDGE HD @ ~f20 (x2 Televue Power Mate)
Camera: ZWO ASI120MM
Filters: Astronomik 742nm IR-Pass and ZWO RGB
Mount: NEQ6 at Elderberry Observatory
Software: Firecapture, AS!2, Pixinsight, Registax 6, Photoshop CS6

Mars IR-RGB 14th April 2014
Mars taken between 23:22 and 23:30 on the 14th April 2014

First Bash at Saturn

This is my first go at imaging Saturn.  Saturn was 837 million miles away at the time so understandably doing this from a ground based telescope is reasonably difficult.

I had limited the exposures to 2 mins per channel.  Given how dim Saturn is this meant a longer exposure to what I am used to compared to Jupiter / Mars and the number of frames was pretty low.  Saturn was also just clearing a neighbours house and was pretty low down in the sky at the time.

Nevertheless I am pleased with the image.

Captured: 23:55 on 14th April 2014
Scope: Celestron C8 EDGE HD
Camera: ZWO ASI120MM
Filters: Astronomik 742nm IR-Pass and ZWO LRGB
Mount: NEQ6 at Elderberry Observatory
Software: Firecapture, AS!2, Pixinsight, Registax 6, Photoshop CS6

Saturn - 14th April 2014
Saturn – 14th April 2014

The Sea of Nectar – Mare Nectaris

The Sea of Nectar (Mare Nectaris) is a small lunar sea.  The mare material is approximately 1000m deep.  The crater Theophilus on the Northeastern side of the mare is a prominent impact crater that partially intrudes into the crater Cyrillus.

Capture Date: 6th April 2014.
Scope: Celestron C8 EDGE HD
Camera: ZWO ASI120MM
Filters: Astronomik 742nm IR-Pass
Mount: NEQ6 in Elderberry Observatory
Software: Firecapture, AS!2, Pixinsight, Registax 6, Photoshop CS6

The Sea of Nectar
The Sea of Nectar

Aurora from Roker Pier, Sunderland

27th Feb 2014 was a very exciting day.  I’ve seen the Aurora Borealis once before from Marsden and it was pretty amazing.  On this day however, I was speechless.

Sitting quite happily in the house browsing the internet and wasting time on Facebook as usual I happened to stumble upon a post by a Newcastle Astro Society member who posted a quick photo of the back of their dSLR camera showing the Aurora.  Crikey it was strong!

I proceeded to get ready and shot off down the beach where I knew I could get away from the Light Pollution of the city.

Half way along Roker Pier I set up.  The Aurora was really strong and you could see the reds with your eye.  The green bands were lighting up the sky.  I’ve never seen the Aurora so strong before and I certainly didn’t realise you could see it so bright and intense with just the eyes.

Snapping away with the 40D I managed to capture it quite easily.  Unfortunately my focus is a little off due to the camera missing a filter (due to being a cheap skate and not fitting a replacement filter when my camera was modified for Astro use).  In hindsight I may have been better off using my point and shoot on a tripod.

Anyway – here is the shot I hope you enjoy it.  Till the next time.

Aurora Borealis
Aurora Borealis from Roker Pier in Sunderland, UK