Image of the day

Captured by
christopher hunt

Orion Nebula

My Account

New to Astromart?

Register an account...

Need Help?

Posts Made By: Enrico Africa

May 16, 2006 11:59 AM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

Adam Block Imaging Workshop at the Cincinnati Obse

Posted By Enrico Africa

To all interested,

Adam Block will once again bring his "Making Every Pixel Count" CCD imaging workshops to the Cincinnati Observatory Center.

The two day workshop, October 7th & 8th will spend half of each day covering specific data acquisition and processing techniques using MaxIm DL & Photoshop CS.

The objects that will be covered are Nebulas (and Hydrogen Alpha data blending in Photoshop), Galaxies, Cluster (Open & Globular),and basic planet processing.

The main thrust of the workshop is advanced processing techniques using Photoshop CS to obtain the maximize image from your data .

The fall workshop will start on October 6th 2006 with a four + hour course that will get you up-to-speed with the fundamental operations of MaxIm DL and Photoshop CS for astronomical image processing.

Everything from FITS headers to using the "Set Calibration" tool in MaxIm DL will be discussed. Introductions to Photoshop's layers, levels, curves, histogram adjustments and more will also be introduced.

This workshop will be perfect for advanced imagers attending the two day workshop to brush-up on their basic MaxIm DL and Photoshop skills and beginning imagers using DSLRs or Webcams for data acquisition who want an introduction to advanced processing software that goes beyond what comes with their camera.

Please Note: If you are attending the two day workshop and not proficient in using MaxIm DL or bringing images into Photoshop from MaxIm DL, it is highly advised that you attend Friday's 4 + hour class also. The two day advanced workshop will assume you have these skills and will not be covered in detail.

The cost for the 4 + hour workshop on Friday evening (6:00pm to 10:30pm) will be $60.00 (Class limit of 20)

The cost for the two day workshop on Saturday and Sunday (9:00am to 5:30pm) will be $425.00 (Class limit of 20)

To register please go to


May 21, 2006 10:07 AM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

M44 - Work in progress?

Posted By Enrico Africa

I haven't posted anything new in a while because I've been processing quite a backlog of images taken since January. Problem with me is, I consider so many images a work in progress, I don't know when to say "finished!"

Anyway, submitted for your approval as to whether to go back and call this finished or not:

Here is first decent light for a new (to me) Takahashi FSQ-106. It was shot with an SBIG STL-6303 camera. This is 12 x 15 second unguided exposures through each filter (LRGB). It's been cropped and reduced 50% to highlight the central bright stars.


May 23, 2006 11:26 PM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

Virgo Cluster of galaxies

Posted By Enrico Africa

Here's my first try at the Virgo cluster of galaxies, which is also first "long" light with my FSQ-106/STL-6303 combo. All data was shot with that combo on a Takahashi EM200 mount. Color data was shot April 23rd at a friend's dark sky site, luminance from my light-polluted backyard on April 26th.

A shout out and thanks to Russ Croman for his Gradient Xterminator, Adam Block for additional ideas on gradient removal (combining GradientXterminator with a first pass using the classic PS gradient mask technique), and the two of them for additional tips and tricks to help me salvage the luminance data.

L: 24 x 5 minutes binned 1x1
R: 5 x 5 minutes binned 1x1
G: 5 x 5 minutes binned 1x1
B: 5 x 5 minutes binned 1x1

A 1/4 size image is attached.

Half-sized image:

Comments welcome.

May 23, 2006 11:27 PM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

Late Horsehead

Posted By Enrico Africa

I may have mentioned that I've been processing a backlog of images. Here's one with data taken last January through February. The H-alpha and S-II data were shot from my light-polluted backyard (with no discernible effect from light-pollution - yeah!), and the blue data was shot from a friend's dark sky site. There's some field curvature towards the corner, but the reduced size of the image hides them somewhat wink I'll probably eventually round the stars out, but in the end I'll probably reshoot this next season with my FSQ.

Takahashi FS102 @ f/6 with Takahashi reducer
SBIG STL-6303 camera
Astrodon H-alpha, S-II, Blue filters
Takahashi EM200 mount

H-alpha: 6 x 30 minutes binned 1x1
S-II: 6 x 30 minutes binned 1x1
Blue: 12 x 5 minutes binned 1x1

1/4 sized image attached.
1/2-sized image at:

Comments welcome.

May 30, 2006 06:25 PM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky


Posted By Enrico Africa

I got an Extender-Q recently to image at around 800mm with my FSQ-106. Here's first light with that combo. Maxim's Pinpoint LE measured a lower focal length of 814mm, a little less than I expected, but I'm pretty happy with the image scale. There are just some objects that could use longer focal lengths (hence my still on-going quest for a nice scope > 1000mm), but M101 works at 800mm.

Takahashi FSQ-106 @ f/8 with Extender-Q
Takahashi EM200 Temma-2 mount
SBIG ST-8XE camera with CFW-8a filter wheel
Astrodon LRGB filters

L: 18 x 10 minutes (3 hours) binned 1 x 1
R: 12 x 5 minutes (1 hour) binned 2 x 2
G: 12 x 5 minutes (1 hour) binned 2 x 2
B: 12 x 5 minutes (1 hour) binned 2 x 2

I ended up with several versions of this image. A few have the blue arms typically depicted, but these resulted in clipped histograms, especially in the green. What I am presenting is a compromise with more or less balanced histograms (well, slightly skewed to blue).

Half-sized image attached. Full-sized image can be seen at

Comments welcome.

June 19, 2006 07:59 PM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

This year's M13

Posted By Enrico Africa

Hello all!

I've been a little behind on catching up with the posts and images on this board. Nice images, everyone!

Here is a "more or less finished" attempt at M13 for the year (unless I go whole hog and try some more later!). This was shot over the Memorial Day weekend as I entertained some company (a visiting cousin, who enjoyed the idea of surfing wirelessly on my patio as I imaged and we gazed with my LX200 while my CCD setup was going).

I rejected some luminance images to bad focus, but I hope I gained some back via the 1x1 binned RGB data.

Takahashi FSQ-106 @f/8 with Extender-Q
SBIG ST-8XE with CFW-8a filter wheel
Takahashi EM200 Temma2
Astrodon LRGB filters

L: 5 x 5 minutes
R: 6 x 5 minutes
G: 6 x 5 minutes
B: 6 x 5 minutes

All data binned 1x1.

Captured, calibrated and combined in MaximDL. Post-processed in Photoshop CS.

1/2-sized image attached.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

June 19, 2006 08:05 PM Forum: Takahashi

Can this harm my scope?

Posted By Enrico Africa


I wanted to shoot some darks for my CCD camera. It is currently attached to my FSQ, and it's oriented perfectly so that I can compose my target for my imaging project in the least amount of time: the CCD is rotated as it was when I first composed the image, and the focuser is extended to the focal point when I tore down.

It rarely gets cool enough in my house to get the CCD to cool to my target temperature. Tonight, I had a "brilliant" idea: put the camera next to a vent. Since I did not want to change my camera's orientation, the scope was also placed next to the vent. Sure enough, I was able to cool my camera down with cooler room to spare.

Towards the end of shooting my darks, I was seized by a sudden fear: could the temperature differential affect the optics somehow? Or am I being paranoid?

Thanks for any words, be they reassurance or caution. The scope and camera are back on a table away from the vents.

July 3, 2006 10:06 PM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

A preview

Posted By Enrico Africa

North American/Pelican Nebula

Narrow-band composite

Hubble Palette color mappings (SII=Red, H-alpha=Green, OIII=blue)

Takahashi FSQ-106 @ f/5
Takahashi EM200 Temma 2 mount
SBIG STL-6303 Class 1 Camera
Astrodon Ha/SII/OIII filters

SII: 6 x 30 minutes binned 1x1
H-alpha: 6 x 30 minutes binned 1x1
OIII: 6 x 30 minutes binned 1x1

Captured, calibrated, aligned, combined and DDP'd in Maxim DL
Final processing in Photoshop CS

I'm liking narrowband imaging 8)

This is a 40% preview size. The full-sized TIFF is enjoyable to see, but very hard to peruse at full size. wink


July 18, 2006 08:10 AM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

An Ode to a Pelican

Posted By Enrico Africa

My wife and I had the pleasure of hosting Adam Block when he held his image processing workshop in Cincinnati early this year. On the last night of his stay, over dinner, he shared a story about Pelicans.

Apparently, Arizona roads are posing a danger to a species of pelican. This species flies over that state as part of its migratory route. Flying over Arizona, they mistake the dark lanes of Arizona highway for waterways.

Here's a little bit of trivia about pelicans: they are very buoyant birds. So buoyant that they have trouble submerging themselves in water. Now given that they have to go underwater for the fish they prey on, they have to modify their behavior in order to submerge themselves: they dive-bomb straight down onto the water at high speed.

This is quite unfortunate for those pelicans flying over Arizona thinking that they are about to go on a dip.

Switching topics for a minute, I am delighted about the stories unfolding in the skies above us handed down from the Ancients. And how the characters in the stories are immortalized in the heavens above.

That all having been said, here is my own feeble attempt at contributing to the characters of myth and legend as I immortalize the Migrating Pelican Story. Quite obviously, it is the North American Nebula (NGC 7000) and the Pelican Nebula (IC 5070), done in narrowband.

When I first saw pictures of the Pelican Nebula several years ago, I often saw (with my somewhat twisted sense of humor) that there was something off about that bird. To my eyes, it didn't look at all like it was in the best of health (and that's putting it mildly). In the context of Adam's story, it's now making sense

So here is my first attempt at imaging this pair of gargantuan nebulae, depicting a dazed ol' bird staring somewhat dazedly at the continent harboring the state whose roads fool it into taking a dive:

This is a total of nine hours' worth of exposure taken with an SBIG STL-6303 camera with Astrodon narrow-band filters on a Takahashi FSQ-106 riding a Takahashi EM200 mount.

H-alpha: 6 x 30 minutes binned 1 x 1
S-II: 6 x 30 minutes binned 1 x 1
O-III: 6 x 30 minutes binned 1 x 1

Image was taken over three weeks in June 2006 from my light-polluted backyard. MaximDL was used to capture and preprocess (calibrate, align, median-combine, gradient-removal, DDP) the images, and Photoshop CS was used for the final color combine and processing. Color mapping was done using the Hubble Palette (SII = R, H-alpha = G, O-III = B).

This is less than half-size, and the conversion to JPG didn't help either (the green channel looks clipped in the JPG, but it's really not in the TIF). The full-sized TIF looks a lot nicer.

Many thanks to Jay Ballauer and Don Goldman, who helped me get past my first attempts at processing this image (you might remember the first version I posted a couple of weeks ago: This is my first full attempt at doing SII/Ha/OIII processing using data gathered from a light-polluted site, so I was initially unsure of the data. It turns out that there were gradients in the OIII data, which I did not remove in the first version. A quick pass at gradient removal using Maxim's tool helped big time. Jay was especially encouraging, as he assured me that I have very nice data - he processed a binned version of the combined files, and turned up with a killer image indeed - my current version doesn't hold water to his processing of my data, but I present mine to the world anyway as I slowly learn multiple aspects of this hobby all at once.

I'll probably look at this version tomorrow and think "What was I smoking when I posted this?!?" And truth is, this has already happened two or three times.

So anyways, enjoy what will probably end up being yet another work-in-progess image. As hinted, I welcome comments and suggestions.

Clear skies!

July 19, 2006 06:50 PM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

More works-in-progress

Posted By Enrico Africa

Since we're talking about works in progress, here are snippets from one.

I started imaging M8 and M20 in narrowband last week. Unfortunately, I also found out that I have a very small window of opportunity to shoot these magnificent objects before they duck behind a tree (2 hours max).

I have a feeling that this will be a multi-year project, unless I manage to pull an all-nighter or two at a site with an open southern horizon.

They both fit in the FOV of my STL-6303 on a Takahashi FSQ-106, but given the size of the full image I cropped out the objects of interest.

Here is M8, around 60% of actual size, cropped from the full frame.

Exposures (H-alpha only):
2 x 20 minutes
3 x 15 minutes

This object is so bright I may have fried the core in the 20-minute shots. Even the 15-minute shots were a bit bright/bloomed in the core.