Digitizing the Cosmos - An Introduction to Astroimaging


 

I'm an amateur astronomer and imaging scientist living in Concord, MA. I’ve been imaging since about 2011, and so far, it's been a *lot* of fun. It's also been amazingly easy to do, despite the seeming complexity of the process. As with most things in this wonderful life, the first step is the hardest, and so it is with this. But, once you get started, I promise you, the fun never stops! That said, I thought I would put together some notes on how to get started with both planetary and deep sky imaging. I am by no means an expert, but the beauty of this is you don't have to be, and remember, *everyone* starts out as an amateur. Here are some of my tips, for what they're worth:) Below that are a number of links to resources that I refer to.

Planetary Imaging        Deep Sky Imaging

 

 

  • DeepSkyStacker: a wonderful freeware program for astrophotographers, by Luc Coiffier, that simplifies all the pre-processing steps for stacking deep sky images. There are many commercial alternatives, but I've had a great deal of success and fun using this program to create wonderful records of some fantastic objects in the Universe. You can see some of the results here.
  • RegiStax: free software by Cor Berrevoets et al. for alignment/stacking/processing of planetary images.

  • Castrator: a very useful tool by Emil Kraaikamp for reducing the size of planetary videos to drastically speed up processing in RegiStax
  • STOIK Video Converter: this website has a link to a trial version of software that does WMV to AVI conversion. I'm sure there are other programs, but this seems to be virus / ad free and has the minimal functionality I need. And, of course, if you like it, you can always purchase the entire product!
  • GIMP: a great general FREE image processing program that does almost everything that Photoshop does! I can do all my postprocessing with this program!
  • UFRaw: a FREE plugin for GIMP (or works standalone too) that can handle processing of 16 bit images. I've played with it myself, but don't use it in general. However if you want to overcome the 8 bit limitation of GIMP, you might find this useful. I find that if I do my processing in DeepSkyStacker well enough, the 8 bits in GIMP is good enough. Freeware and it's safe, but your call!

  • Go to this site, if you need *any* type of adapter for your camera and telescope. It's run by CNC Parts Supply Inc. and they are always willing to respond to emailed questions about any of their products.
  • Another site that has a huge supply of telescope related items that you might not find elsewhere is Scope Stuff

  • Go to iTelescope.net to get a FREE trial membership on a robotic on-line telescope. They give you approximately 30 minutes on a single color shot telescope in New Mexico that you can use on a first come first serve basis! Great fun if you want to get a glimmer of what it's like to start imaging yourself!

  • If you're interested in converting a Logitech 9000 camera to a web cam for planetary photography, this site by Gary Homis gives a great detailed play-by-play description, which may even be useful for adapting other web cams as well! Definitely worth a look...I took all my planetary images with a converted Logitech 9000 and am getting *really* nice results. Check out a movie of Jupiter I made recently!

  • And remember...the internet is your friend! There are a lot of people out there that are very knowledgeable and more than willing to help. Try out these three yahoo newsgroups: DeepSkyStacker, RegiStax and ISSTracking. There are of course, many others, but these are specifically applicable to the programs I list above.

 

For those who might be interested in attending sessions of the Skylight Astronomical Society, Inc. we have our regular meetings on the last Thursday of every month at Rockbottom Observatory in Stow, MA. Several maps with directions appear below. Please also visit the Skylight Astronomical Society main website (which may or may not be up to date:) for more information about Rockbottom Observatory.



Image from mapquest.com for 18 Rockbottom Road, Stow, MA - with arrows showing where to go. From wherever you're coming, route 62 takes you right there. Don't be intimidated by the desolate buildings as you drive in:) There is plenty of parking space.



Image from googlemaps.com for 18 Rockbottom Road, Stow, MA - with street labels. From wherever you're coming, route 62 takes you right there. Don't be intimidated by the desolate buildings as you drive in:) There is plenty of parking space.



moon info

 

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