Why did I start Astrophotography?
I have always loved space and managed to get myself a 200mm reflector telescope - maybe 10 years ago. I could see incredible things through my telescope I wanted to share with everyone! So I got myself an 80mm refractor telescope, the one to go for if you want to image deep sky objects like galaxies and nebulae. And I put it on a remote-controlled mount, and I put that in a scratch-built observatory in my back garden.
How is it done?
First, you need dark skies away from streetlights! Initially using a modified DSLR camera I advanced on to purpose-made astrophotography cameras made by Atik pretty quickly. I went for a mono-camera as you can get better images using a filter wheel (with red, green, blue, luminance and narrowband filters) than with a colour camera. Mostly because you end up taking 3 or 4 x as many exposures as you have to take them with each filter – and each filter is specifically designed to pick up a particular colour. Narrow-band filters (Oxygen, Sulphur and Hydrogen are the filters I use when I take my “Hubble palette” images (like the one below) – some nebulae produce these gases and so you see more colour and dust with these filters as opposed to the standard RGB palette. Oh, and "luminance" is the detail – the crisp bright and dark detail!
Exposures of up to 30 minutes are captured with the help of a “guide-camera” attached to the imaging rig. Typically, I take 30 or more exposures per image. Long exposures create “noise” which is reduced using “dark frames” (telescope cap on). “Flat frames” (white light only) are used to remove imperfections in the optics.
Images of the moon surface and planets are created using a fast frame rate camera attached to a 200 mm telescope. Frames are stacked to reveal clarity and detail.
Why do I do it?
It was more a case of being interested in astronomy really. I encourage anyone who has a stressful day to take a sun lounger in to the garden on a clear night, wrap up in a blanket and take a look at the stars. Give it ten minutes for your eyes to adjust and more stars will appear, perhaps the Milky Way will reveal itself. Give it 30 minutes and you’ll see a shooting star or two; or the International Space Station, a couple of satellites perhaps. It’s the best stress-reliever there is, and it’s free!
The Sad News
Sadly, circumstances meant I had to leave my equipment and observatory behind and move on. Hopefully The Tiny Art Co being successful will get me back doing it all again one day.
Thanks for reading this – please take a look at my astrophotography images on the Blankets and Cushions pages at www.thetinyart.co.