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You too can make your own full-colour, high-resolution, deep-space images, just like the Tulip nebula mega-mosaic below – and you don’t even need to own a telescope.

However, you do need a copy of Photoshop and a copy of Noel Carboni’s Astronomy Actions for Photoshop.

The first thing you need to do is get your hands on the data which you will process into a full-colour image – I have described this process in an earlier Astronomy Now article – so if you are an Astronomy Now subscriber, look the process up there.

You will grab the data from the SkyView Query Form site.  Put in the co-ordinates of the object you want a picture of (or the object name) in the box at the top.  Go down to where it says what datasets are available and click on DSS2 red AND blue data.  Where it asks for image quality data put in 6000 pixels and leave the rest unchecked – this will give you a 6000 x 6000 pixel image at the highest spatial resolution on offer.  Send off the query and it will download the images to your monitor.  Go to the bottom of each image and click download the FITS files.  You will now have the red and blue channel data for your chosen object.  Now we need to process the data.

Open up Photoshop – and in Noel’s actions click on “Construct RGB image from channel files”.  This process expects you to supply red, green and blue channel data – but as you only have red and blue channel data you need to put the blue channel data into the green channel when the program asks you for it.  Go through the construct RGB process and at the end you will have a colour image of your object – but in the wrong colours as you didn’t provide any green channel data – fear not – Noel’s actions will come to the rescue!  Now click on “Synthesise Green Channel from Red and Blue” and Noel’s Actions will create an artificial green channel for your image giving something that looks a bit closer to “real” colour.

Now all you need to do is tweak the image in Photoshop to get something closer to what you are looking for.  I actually take the image into Paint Shop Pro at this point as it has a couple of very powerful “one click” processes.  I use the contrast enhancement tool on Darker/Normal/Normal and the saturation enhancement tool on More Colour/Normal – to get the image looking more how I want it – I then take it back into Photoshop for further cleaning up and to put on any (Noel Carboni) star spikes if I feel they are appropriate.

And that’s it.  You can produce deep-sky images of a quality far better than you can grab from your back garden with mega-expensive kit, and do it in far less time than it would take you to get just the data.  Makes you wonder why we actually bother to do it the hard way!

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I have been putting together a full-colour mega-mosaic of the Tulip nebula region in Cygnus using the wonderful DSS2 data.

As this is a pretty huge mosaic you can imagine the dataset was getting a bit unwieldy – and in fact my computer was starting to fall over – it couldn’t handle all the data.

So for now, until I get my hands on a Quantum Computer – this is it.  Won’t be adding any more to this one.

Printing out right now at A1-size on the HP Deskjet 130 6-colour printer.

Enjoy :)

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Just a reminder that you can see most of my Astronomical images on Flickr.

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A few posts below I gave a procedure on collimating your imaging camera to a Hyperstar III.  On reflection I thought that this could be considered as so much “hot air” without results to prove the procedure actually works.  So a few nights ago I fired up the Hyperstar III and ran through the collimation procedure with a nicely flattened M25C OSC CCD.  I flattened the M25C chip using the procedure described on the Starlight Xpress web site.  The results of around 45-minutes of collimation adjustments are given below, and the results speak for themselves :)

A larger view of the results can be seen here:

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I am in the final stages of setting up a new imaging system based on a Canon 200mm prime lens with M25C OSC imager and a 52 mm IDAS filter on the front of the lens giving me f#3.85 and spikeless images :)  As it is that time of the year an obvious target for testing out the star imaging qualities of the rig is the Double Cluster.  With a horrendous sampling of 7.97 arcseconds per pixel it makes you wonder how it can even resolve stars – but clearly it does :)  Above the Double Cluster we see the rarely images Stock 2 open cluster, which looks like a stick man on his side.  And at the very top/left you can just see the edges of the Heart & Soul nebulae.

Only 16 x 5-minute subs for this one, and very misty conditions too, a LOT of water vapour in the air – however, as a bonus, there was no Moon.

I think this is going to make a good rig for those BIG winter nebulae.  It is NOT a good rig for those single bright star shots as there are terrible ghost flares from very bright stars, probably resulting from all that glass in the 200mm lens.  Well you can’t have it all I guess.

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A friend on one of the astronomy forums asked me if these would be any good for taking flats:

Any good?  They are utterly superb!!!!!!!!!!!!  AND they are cheap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  AND you can get an A3 or even an A2 panel (also CHEAP) if you have a large aperture scope.

I think these guys may find they have an unknown market out there for their drawing light boxes :)


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In putting together the next book “Experimental Photography” I came across some unprocessed data from a while back.  It was Carbon star V623 Cassiopeiae or SAO23858 – a very nice Carbon star lying just below Pazmino’s cluster in the constellation Cassiopeia.

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I had an electric focuser lying around so with a pulley and timing belt from Radiospares I put together an electric focuser rig for the Canon 5D MkII and the 100mm macro lens that took the mega-wide-field Virgo/Coma galaxies shot.  If I find there’s mileage in this approach I will invest in a prime 200mm Canon lens which has a 72mm diameter lens (and I have an IDAS filter for this lens size).

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Simon Parkin and the Meridian Weather film team – together with satellite transmission van – did a live broadcast from the New Forest Observatory on 15/02/2013, the evening of the near miss flyby of the asteroid.  Here are a couple of stills from just before the live transmission.

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I ordered a Robofocus unit for the TS 80mm triplet APO last Friday after lunch – and it arrived at 2:00 p.m. today (Monday) – and that’s all the way from the States!!  Unbelievable speed of delivery – well done Technical Innovations Inc. that really is impressive.

So I knocked up an adapter to connect the Robofocus to the 11:1 fine adjustment knob on the TS 80 refractor – calibrated the Robofocus for the full length of travel – and I’m now ready to go.  Next clear night it will be fire up FocusMax to focus train the TS 80 :)


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