Astrofest 2020 in Kensington – Day 1 – 31/1/2020

We are back at Astrofest!

Ed Mann, myself and two friends from London – Kelvin and Joseph – exhibitors looking a bit thin on ground and Ed did search for bargains and not many to find so far although some might be hidden on some stalls…..we will let you know! (See below.)

However, the hall was virtually full to capacity – seating around 400 this is a remarkable achievement on day 1 of the conference,  given competition from IAS, Practical Astronomy Show, etc.

Talks covered wide variety subjects including legality of mining the moon, history of amateur astrophotography, history of Hubble Space Telescope, role of ESA, and many more. As usual, the speakers were excellent.

In practice, the exhibitors did provide a wide range of interesting items to look at and some new/relatively new kit was available, although this was limited. Astrotrak have a very exciting new mount and this would be my pick of the show. I have a photo of this below.

Nik Syzmanek signed copies of his new book on astrophotography. I purchased a copy of this as it includes specific instructions on how to use Photoshop and other software to do things such as Hubble Palate.

The conference has also been a chance to meet new and old friends from other astro groups, and breakfast at our hotel was a bit like a who’s who of amateur astrophotography!

I’m glad I came again.


The Ghost of Cassiopeia

This is my first full colour picture from a mono camera 🙂

This nebula sits next to Navi in Cassiopeia (Gamma Cass)- apparently the star is gradually eroding the nebula. The nebula itself is both an emission and a reflection nebula, but I think I’ve only managed to capture the emission parts here.

I took this over 2 nights on 15th and 17th Jan. It’s been a bit of a learning process to put this together:

  • 40 mins of 2 minute subs in each of LRGB on 15th
  • 100 mins of 5 minute subs in Ha on 17th

It certainly takes a bit more effort to process mono, and it wasn’t helped by loads of problems with ice and fogging on my secondary. This led to not getting much Ha signal, and I’ve used layers in Gimp to bring it out (don’t tell Pixinsight- they’ll excommunicate me!). I think there’s probably more can be extracted from this data- especially around the body of the nebula- but I’m still pleased to have a full colour image!

I had another go at this a few days later and the whole scope completely iced up- see picture at the bottom!



Another version of my M42 data from 17/1/2020 processed with Astroflat Pro but without flat frames I took on night 27/1/2020

My previous version of M42 processed with Astroflat Pro plug in for Photoshop CS2 used my stacked image that included flat frames I took on evening 17/1/2020 – the software is not designed for this but rather to provide artifical flat calibration for images without flat frames and therefore, with Damian’s help, we have re-processed the image without flat frames.

Damian stacked the image I took in Nebulosity 4 without flat frames.

I have applied curves in Photoshop and Astroflat Pro in iterative process to get following image – I found that some curves then using the plug in and repeating process seemed to work well – although I am not sure that it is supposed to work that way!

There is certainly more nebulosity visible around edges of M42 and in the blue emission nebulae elsewhere in the image than previously. I am very happy with this image as I never expected to be able to produce something like this when I started on my astrophotography journey in July 2019 following my operation. I still have long way to go.

For those that don’t own Photoshop, it is an amazing piece of software – very addictive! Not sure I want to be without it now. Old versions work well and are ot cheaper that current version. Google searches will tell you how to carry out same actions as in current version on old versions. At least has done for me do far. I have also enrolled on an online Shaw Academy course on using Photoshop – helping me understand the software.

Below the image is the results of running the image through free online astrometry site.


Another process of my M42 data from 17/1/2020 using this time Astroflat Pro plug in for Photoshop on Photoshop CS2 for Windows 26/1/2020

Astroflat Pro from ProDigital Software creates artificial flat frames and allows features of flat frame to be easily and quickly modified.


First version is applying Astroflat Pro plugin for Photoshop to existing stacked image using flats I had taken on night (I know there are some problems with those flats):

Next version is one Damian did on my data without using my flats data – but then I used Astroflat Pro plugin for Photoshop on it – significantly more detail visible!

Winter Widefield

Here are a couple from last week. First up, here’s a widefield view of the Milky Way- taken at 18mm on my 18-55 zoom. I did one of these about 4 months ago- it’s nice to catch the ‘next bit’ of the galaxy so to speak. This is an hours worth of 60 second exposures.

With hindsight I think I’d have been better off stopping it down a bit (this was f3) and going for, say, 30 2 minute exposures, as it was a swine to focus and the star shapes at the edges of the frame are more like fans. Still- it’s been nice to work my way around the frame and pick out some familiar objects- here’s an annotated version below:

A bit more successful was this slightly tighter view taken with the 50mm lens on the 15th when Neil came over and was working on his rather splendid Rosette. Again- this was an hours worth of 60 second exposures at f3.5, but the lens made a better job of keeping things sharp(ish).

The plan on this one was to be looking out past the edge of our galaxy at Andromeda (coming to get us!), but I haven’t been able to pick up of a drop off in the star density to pick up the edge of the galaxy. I might try this one again one day from a darker site. I still like this image a little better than the wider one as the objects in it are a bit more distinct- Pacman is really clear, Caroline’s Rose is quite prominent and you can see the dark nebulae of our galaxy.


Process of my M42 photo 17/1/2020 by Damian 23/1/2020

The following is the result of Damian’s processing of my M42 data. I wish I had got this result when I processed the image!

Damian’s comment:

“Very quickly took a look at the .tif file you included with those downloads. You have plenty of data in that file – proper flat frames would certainly help…. I’ll reprocess from scratch over the weekend (hopefully). Here is a version though – from your own file. This was a quick 5 minute process, just to see what data is in the file. I’ve made no effort to keep detail in the core, allowed the stars to bloat and added no noise reduction. All I’ve done was to try and neutralise the light pollution gradients and stretched…. Gave it a bit of colour to keep you happy for now!”


Damian’s version of my photo:

Compare above with my version:

The most obvious thing to me is that I have clipped the black.