Process

 I capture images of the moon, stars, nebulas and galaxies where most exposure times can range up to 15-30 hours for one image.  The amount of time varies depending on the distance of the object from the Earth, on how dim the objects are in the sky, and whether the images are taken in Roswell, Georgia or at the The Deerlick Astronomy Village in Sharon, Georgia.  Deerlick is one of the best areas in Georgia with some of the darkest skies available.


These objects can be anywhere from a few light-years to over 320 million light-years away.  A light-year is approximately 5.88 trillion miles.

Because of unpredictable weather, the finalization of one photo can take weeks or even months of imaging.  Since these are seasonal, due to the Earth’s rotation, some images will be finished one or two years after they are started.

Technical Information:

My camera is a ST2000 manufactured from SBIG.  It is a monochrome camera with 7.2 micron pixels.  The camera has a ten position filter wheel for the color and narrowband filters.  I attach the camera to the back of one of two telescopes.  The first is a 4” diameter Takahashi FSQF5 telescope used for wide field imaging.  The second is a Deep Sky Instruments RC10C 10” diameter F7.3 scope used for higher magnification images.

Most photos are a combination of 15 minute exposures of narrowband and individual color filters being used over a number of nights.  Layering, adjusting and processing gives the extraordinary results.  Objects that are very seldom visible by the human eye through the telescope are captured by the camera.

Narrowband Imaging signal obtained through each filter is usually quite small when compared to traditional RGB (red, green, blue) filters especially the S2 and O3 filters.  To make up for that I try to get as much time through each filter as I can until I see the diminishing returns.

For color balancing and a narrowband image, I look and try to show contrast between each color in the image as well as highlight my area of interest in the photo.  Now this is totally different than the traditional LRGB combination where you weight each “R”, “G”, “B” during combination for a balanced G2V white star.

For instance, with my scope/camera/filter combination the RGB weights are typically 1.23:1:1.03. For narrowband, I usually start with a ratio of 9:1:5 for a typical RGB narrowband combine where the S2filter is used for red, the HA is used for green and the O3 is used for blue.

Narrowband images are not a true color representation, but a “False” color combine to show detail and structure not normally seen in traditional astro photos.  Since there are no hard and fast rules to achieving a narrowband color balance, I usually spend most of my time until I’m content with the outcome – or I go and collect more data to try again.