Thursdays, 7-9 PM, via Zoom. February 2, 9, 16, 23; March 9, 16.
The night sky over New York City is filled with the same galaxies and nebulae as the skies in dark locations. We can’t see them with the naked eye. But they’re up there and we can use recent advances in camera and computer technology to push through the city’s light pollution and reveal structures millions of light years beyond the Milky Way!
This course is about creating quality images of Messier-level targets using telescopes, cooled astro imaging cameras, tracking mounts, and computers. The images above and below were shot from Yonkers with gear that fits in a backpack. Deep Sky imaging remains moderately complex and takes time to master. We designed this course is to help “newbies” who don’t own any of the needed gear understand what’s involved and get started as imagers. Experienced imagers are also welcome and will likely find that they can learn some new tricks as gear and software are evolving so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up-to-date — I always learn a lot from teaching these classes!
Astrophotographers around the world use a wide variety of techniques. I will be teaching the “Short Exposure” approach that I have been using for the past few years which has the following attributes: Laptop (not ASIAir) control of cooled, filtered CMOS cameras (not DSLR, mirrorless, or cellphone cameras); Unguided Portable Go-to mounts; 4- or 8-second second exposures captured in 6-10 minute LiveStacks; and PixInsight processing. Beginners and experienced imagers should review my images in this Flickr Album for clear expectations regarding the quality of images attainable via this technique. While I use it mostly in light polluted environments, this approach works perfectly well in darker sites too.
My goal for beginners is to have everyone understand what gear they might need to get started, and to know what they will do with this gear to image the brightest and easiest Messier targets. For more experienced imagers the goal is to help make imaging more efficient and effective in light polluted environments so you can spend less time traveling and more time imaging. Many of the same techniques used to create fine finished images can also be used for less formal Electronic Assisted Astronomy (EAA) enabling us to show galaxies and nebulae in real time at outreach events – even from the 5 boroughs!
We’ll use most of one or two later sessions to workshop student’s images – we’re proud of the community of NYC area imagers who have joined these classes since 2019 and we know it is fun to learn from each other.
Sessions 1 (2/2) and 2 (2/9): Urban AP Overview and Capture
Gear; Principles of Deep Sky Imaging; Planning; Capture with SharpCap. Weather permitting, I will do live capture demos.
Sessions 3 and 4 (2/16, 2/23): Processing with PixInsight
Overview of the PI interface; emphasis on workflow for registering and stacking livestack data into one integrated image; then color balancing, stretching, sharpening and noise reduction. The two sessions have been developed and refined over the last two iterations of the course and will be supplemented with discussion of more advanced techniques e.g. gradient removal; incorporating AI tools like Starnet and Topaz AI Denoise.
Session 5 (3/9): Show and Tell/Workshop
Students will be encouraged to share imaging attempts: what worked, what didn’t. Let’s all aim for supportive feedback that enables everyone to up their game. The Show and Tell session for the recent Planetary Imaging Course was a class favorite!
Session 6 (3/16): Review and Troubleshooting Workshop
Student directed topics including a review of gear recommendations.
You don’t need to own a telescope or camera to take the class — one of our key objectives is to help students understand what equipment is needed either to start from scratch or to supplement existing gear. We will spend a lot of time in class working with SharpCap – highly versatile camera control and livestacking software, and PixInsight – the gold standard astronomy image processing platform. Both can be downloaded in free trial versions; a SharpCap Pro license is about $15/year and PixInsight grants a perpetual license for about $265.
Please note that there are “many ways to skin the cat” for astrophotography. We are very familiar with some gear, software, and techniques that work. There are others which work but lie beyond our expertise. As we proceed through the course we’ll be interested in hearing about successful use of other approaches, but be aware that we can’t do much troubleshooting for things we don’t know, e.g. DSLR/mirrorless cameras, ASIAir, MacOS software.
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 Night Sky Photography course which has little to no content overlap with this course.
If you have taken one or more of the AAA.com astrophotography courses since 2019 and have questions regarding the wisdom of taking this class, please contact Mauri (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss.
Mauri Rosenthal combined longstanding hobbies of backyard astronomy and photography to begin astrophotography in earnest 8 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. In concert with colleagues at AAA.org, Mauri has developed and taught several rounds of Urban Astrophotography Courses since 2019. Follow Mauri’s imaging on Instagram or Flickr. You can hear a lot about Mauri’s approach to Urban Astrophotography in this recorded presentation to Westchester Amateur Astronomers: Urban Astrophotography Update by Mauri Rosenthal – YouTube