Urban Astrophotography: Planetary Imaging, 2023
Thursdays, 7-9 PM, Nov. 9, 16, 30; Dec. 7, 14, 21
$75 for AAA members, $85 non-members.
Not a member? Go to aaa.org, click “Join & Support” button.
This course is about creating quality images of solar system objects using telescopes, planetary imaging cameras, and computers. The image of Jupiter above was shot from Yonkers with a 3.5” Maksutov telescope. Backyard imaging has never been easier and we can get results one might have associated with a serious observatory 20 years ago.
We are aiming to help beginners and to bring more experienced imagers up-to-date on recent software tools which were not covered in prior versions of the course. We also set the course timing in November for best positioning of Jupiter for live capture demos.
Solar system objects are sufficiently bright that the city’s light pollution is irrelevant for imaging. Note that planetary imaging works best with telescopes with high focal lengths (at least 600mm) and tracking mounts (essential for focal lengths > 1000 mm). We control small planetary imaging cameras ($130-300 new) with laptops using popular freeware, shooting high frame rate movies which are processed to overcome atmospheric turbulence – this enables the camera to reveal details of Jupiter or Mars well beyond what can be seen visually through the eyepiece. New for 2023 we’ll use AstroSurface (freeware) for processing, and also show how moderately priced software employs Artificial Intelligence to wring the last bits of detail from backyard level captures. One session on solar imaging will clarify the kind of gear required to follow and document the sun’s progress towards maximum activity in 2025. 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 2018 and we know it is fun to learn from each other.
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. NB 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, 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.
For AAA members who want to know more about imaging Deep Sky targets from the metropolitan area, we plan to teach Urban Astrophotography: Deep Sky in 2024. Deep Sky is more complex and typically requires different gear, software and techniques. But rest assured, that plenty of nebula, clusters, galaxies and comets can be imaged successfully from the city and we’re happy to continue to build the community of urban imagers from our base in NYC. If you have taken one 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.
Calendar of Topics
Session 1 (11/9): 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 (11/16, 11/30): Gas giant Capture with SharpCap/FireCapture; Processing with AstroSurface (Heavy overlap with prior years with more tips and tricks and equipment options)
Session 4 (12/7): Solar and Lunar Imaging (emphasis on H-alpha solar and October Annular Eclipse experiences from class participants. Should be helpful for April 2024 eclipse planning)
Session 5 (12/14): Students’ Show and Tell (Sharing images with each other – everyone learns something!) Also some advanced planetary topics e.g. WinJupos for derotation
Session 6 (12/21): Review and Troubleshooting Workshop – class directed topics (mostly new). Round-robin discussion of gear choices (cameras, barlows, mounts, scopes!)
Instructor: 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: (27) Urban Astrophotography Update by Mauri Rosenthal – YouTube