Thursdays, 7 PM. Dec. 2, 9, 16; Jan. 6, 20, 27; field night TBD
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. As we wrap up 101, we are pleased to hear from students that they are already successfully applying what they’ve learned – and we’ve seen their terrific first images of Saturn and Jupiter!
Deep Sky imaging from the city is more complicated but we’ve learned a lot from each other about how to apply newer cameras and software to shoot first-rate images of celestial wonders without leaving the metropolitan area, and we think this course can help anyone get started.
Urban AP 102 teaches the use of for-purpose cooled astronomy cameras, filters, tracking mounts, and software to pull surprising detail from small amateur telescopes, even from the heart of the city. Just about all of the “faint fuzzy” Messier objects (catalogued from Paris around the time of the American revolution) can be imaged with the techniques and equipment we discuss in class. We go way past the solar system: whether Nebulae and Globular Clusters in our own galaxy; or distant galaxies like the Leo Trio 35 million light years out in space, for astro-imagers they’re as accessible from Manhattan rooftops as from backyards in Indiana or campsites in the Catskills.
Here’s our provisional course outline with guidance for members who have previously taken one of our Urban AP courses:
Session 1 (12/2): Urban AP Overview, interactive discussion on where to image from the NYC area; intro to deep sky imaging, deep sky capture demo (Heavy overlap with prior years!)
Sessions 2 and 3 (12/9, 12/16): Deep Sky Capture Principles, Gear, and Technique (Moderate overlap with prior years with more tips and tricks and equipment options). Mauri will be demonstrating the use of laptop-based SharpCap with LiveStacking of short exposures; and Parker will demonstrate the ASIAIR which can be controlled via phones and tablets. Topics include Cameras, Tracking, Guiding, Filters, Calibration Frames, Scopes/Lenses and Field of View, Planning and Targeting with Stellarium and Cartes Du Ciel.
HOLIDAY BREAK: GO OUT AND PRACTICE!
Sessions 4 and 5 (1/6, 1/20): Deep Sky Processing with PixInsight (heavy overlap with Fall 2020 course). Ok from the city we can’t collect the photons we want as efficiently as we could from dark sky sites. But the “equalizer” is the astonishing processing power we all have lurking in our home computers, and powerful astronomy imaging software is designed to make the most out of every photon. We teach the basic workflow for PixInsight, the gold standard imaging software developed by a consortium of European observatories and preferred by imagers around the world. Please note one week break for MLK holiday weekend mid-January.
Session 6 (1/27): Review and Troubleshooting
Workshop – class directed topics (mostly new). We’ll add a “what about DSLRs and mirrorless cameras” discussion (spoiler alert – some but not all are compatible with the software and techniques we teach in this course).
Field night (TBD)
Weather and interest permitting, we will offer a field night in Central Park or Pier I. This will be a good chance to practice with your equipment (if you have it), get a feel for what others are doing, and give us some data to process.
Please Note regarding Software: For class workshops, we’ll want you to load imaging software 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 our preferred capture software, SharpCap, is Windows based. We will touch on alternatives for capture in the Mac environment, as well as OS-independent solutions (ASIAIR). PixInsight processing is one third of this course. PI has excellent implementations in Windows, Mac, and Linux. BUT be aware that a PI license cost ~$265. We strongly recommend that students new to this wait and consider downloading a 45-day trial version of PI in January before committing to the cost.
NOTE REGARDING CAMERAS: Our main focus in this course revolves around the use of cooled astro cameras, with a typical price new of $1000. These cameras, which are designed for astrophotography, are controlled via laptop and simplify image capture. Our emphasis on the advances that make Urban AP more feasible today reflects the generation of cameras and software only available since 2016. Some DSLR cameras can be controlled the same way, but many cannot. We will not allocate class time to DSLR imaging without laptop/ASIAIR control. 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 our astrophotography courses in 2019 or 2020 and have questions regarding the wisdom of taking this class, please contact Mauri or Parker 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. Mauri has played a central role in developing and teaching AAA.org’s Astrophotography courses since 2019. Follow Mauri’s imaging on Instagram.
Parker Bossier spent his free time exploring astrophysics and orbital mechanics. About 5 years ago, his wife gifted him a telescope to deepen his interest in the skies. He’s been imaging ever since. After taking Urban Astrophotography 101, he’s become a regular urban imager in Manhattan. He has meticulously selected his gear to fit into a backpack and has imaged on the go in Manhattan, upstate NY, New Orleans, and Puerto Rico. Parker currently runs the AAA’s technology committee, helping to spread his passion for astronomy. His descent into the astrophotography hobby is documented on his Instagram.