Thursdays, 7 pm, online via Zoom
Light pollution has a huge impact on the way we perceive the night sky from New York. But readily available technology gives us great tools for taking photos and doing real time electronic viewing right through the light dome.
We have divided our popular Urban Astrophotography Class into two courses: Urban AP 101 for Solar System objects, and Urban AP 102 for Deep Sky. Twice as many sessions means we can cover more topics at a more comfortable pace than the 2020 version of the course.
The sun, the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars are bright objects familiar to all of us, and most of us have enjoyed the fun of sharing views through telescopes which blow people’s minds thanks to the rings of Saturn, the craters and mountains on the moon, the dynamic and colorful surface of Jupiter, and so forth. When conditions are right you can shoot a cellphone image through the eyepiece and capture the view – and sometimes these are pretty good!
Urban AP 101 teaches the use of Planetary Cameras and software (cameras and software designed specifically for this purpose) which go to the next level – pulling surprising detail from small amateur telescopes, even from the heart of the city. New planetary cameras are widely available for $170-250 and operate through a USB connection to a laptop. If you can see the object through an eyepiece, you can probably remove the eyepiece, drop in the camera, and capture the image with free or inexpensive software. We’ll show how to do all the steps including converting the fuzzy raw capture into a detailed finished image, also using free or inexpensive software. We’ve set the timing for this course to correspond with dates when Saturn and Jupiter are well positioned for live demos from Mauri’s and Alfredo’s homes as long as the weather cooperates (we think 6 sessions should be enough to get in at least a couple of good demos!). Note that planetary imaging works best with telescopes with high focal lengths (at least 600mm) and tracking mounts (essential for focal lengths >1000 mm).
Here’s our provisional course outline with guidance for members who have previously taken one of our Urban AP courses:
Session 1 (9/30): Urban AP Overview, interactive discussion on where to image from the NYC area; intro to planetary imaging, Jupiter/Saturn capture demo (Heavy overlap with prior years!)
Sessions 2 and 3 (10/7, 10/14): Gas giant Capture with SharpCap/FireCapture; Processing with PIPP, AutoStakkert, and Registax (Heavy overlap with prior years with more tips and tricks and equipment options)
Session 4 (10/21): Solar and Lunar Imaging (mostly new material)
Session 5 (10/28): Advanced planetary Topics e.g. WinJupos for derotation; ADC; RGB imaging (mostly new)
Session 6 (11/4): Review and Troubleshooting Workshop – class directed topics (mostly new). Also brief preview of Urban AP 102 (Deep Sky).
For class workshops, we’ll need you to load imaging software –mostly freeware – on your computer. You don’t need to own a telescope or camera to take the class but one of our key objectives is to help students understand what equipment is needed either to start from scratch or to supplement existing gear. NB we are Windows and Linux guys and know very little about Macs. Most but not all of the software we use will run in Bootcamp-type environments but we have seen a lot of variability for Mac-only students. We won’t be able to help you but other students might.
NOTE: Urban AP 101 WILL FOCUS EXCLUSIVELY ON USING DEDICATED ASTRO CAMS – These cameras, which are designed for use with telescopes, are controlled via laptop and simplify image capture. WE WILL NOT DISCUSS USING DSLR CAMERAS. While it is possible to use DSLR cameras for nightscapes and other astrophotography, we will not be allocating class time to this. For AAA members who want to learn to use DSLR’s for Milky Way and other Nightscape photography (like great shots of the moon over the skyline), please watch for Stan Honda’s excellent course which has little to no content overlap with this course.
This course is aimed at individuals who have some familiarity with the night sky, the use of a telescope and the basics of digital photography, but limited or no prior experience imaging celestial objects. If you have taken one of the astrophotography courses in 2019 or 2020 and have questions regarding the wisdom of taking this class, please contact Mauri or Alfredo to discuss.
Mauri Rosenthal combined longstanding hobbies of backyard astronomy and photography to begin astrophotography in earnest 6 years ago. Surprised by the image quality achievable with small telescopes from his yard in Westchester County, Mauri has been developing deep expertise in Ultraportable Urban Astrophotography and is on a mission to use new technology to extend the access of city-dwellers to the wonders of the night sky. Follow Mauri’s imaging on Instagram.
Alfredo Viegas is a member of the board of the AAA and teaches the Urban Astrophotography (101/102) courses of the AAA. He is a life-long astronomy nut, who still has his first telescope which he got for Christmas in 1976. Alfredo has a M.S. in Astronomy from the Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University. While in college he ran the public observing program at Van Vleck Observatory and contributed to on-going astronomy research at Wesleyan University. Alfredo works in finance by day and captures photons at night.