About the Blog

This blog contains recent projects, activities, and musings about astrophotography and space, to view my main webpage with prints for sale, final images, and Annie's Astro Actions, please visit: www.eprisephoto.com


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 2010's total Lunar Eclipse

As it would so happen, I moved out of the US just before the total eclipse of 2010. Amidst the clouds and current snowy/icy weather in England I was not expecting to be able to see anything, especially coupled with the fact that here in England totality would begin just before the moon set and the sun rose for the day - what timing!

It turns out I lucked out bright and early on the morning of the 21st as it was unusually clear in the sky, albeit incredibly cold. I was able to see the eclipse start and went out every 10 minutes or so until totality. Just as dawn brightened the sky I was able to watch the moon completely disappear into the shadow of the Earth. Unlike my counterparts in the States who would get to see a lovely red color to the moon during this, I literally just got to watch the moon disappear - it was pretty neat.

My telescope and tripods are all currently packed away as we still havent moved into our new place, so I just shot a few handheld images throughout. No fantastic shots, but at least I was able to document the first total lunar eclipse to fall on winter solstice in more than 400 years!

Click here to view my Eclipse sequence larger

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Comparison of 1st year of astrophotography

What can you learn in your first year of astrophotography .... well, a picture (in this case 6) is worth a 1000 words .... Here is a comparison of my very first astrophotos, fully processed to my abilities when I took them on the left one year ago to the ones I took over the past month and fully processed.

Make sure you view a Larger Version so you can see just how awful my first ones were :-) (though at the time I was happy that I was getting anything)

Yes, I have upgraded equipment, which definitely helps, but technique and processing skills have greatly increased as well.

I have cropped and adjusted the scale so they are comparable in size for comparison purposes, otherwise, no additional editing was done on the photos from my processing a year ago (ugh!)

This comparison just goes to show what a learning curve this hobby has and how much progress you can make in just one year if you keep at it! Hopefully this can encourage some of you just starting out and getting frustrated with what you are getting compared to those who have been doing it for many years!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Finally back into the night

Its been a few months of clouds and rain and so I havent gotten to get out to observe or image in quite some time. My local astronomy group (San Antonio Astronomical Association) had an outreach outing at Garner State Park this past weekend and the forecast was iffy, but had the possibility to be nice so I packed all my gear and drove out for it. We were treated to a gorgeous night free of clouds until around 245 in the morning. Each scope had lines of people, adults and kids alike, excited to see planets, globular clusters, nebulas - basically whatever we would show them. It was a great time.

About 11 pm the crowds left and I was able to start imaging. I had already selected the Trifid Nebula so retweaked my alignment since it had gotten bumped with all the people around the scope and began imaging. I got a good amount of Luminance, Red & Green data. I had just started the Blue channel when the sky got completely socked in. Once I got home the next day I ran through my normal processing except I had to take the two blue frames I got before the clouds and some tweaking with the Green channel to create a false blue to see what I had ... despite the false blue channel, I am happy with the result.

I do plan to get out and get some proper blue sometime soon, but for my first chance at imaging since April, it made me happy to be back out with the scope.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Behind the scenes, at NASA!

Earlier this week my husband and I were fortunate enough to attend NASA's latest Tweetup at Johnson Space Center. What is a Tweetup? Well, it is a gathering of Twitter followers of course. NASA has been putting them on recently to gain publicity and awareness of launches, programs, etc. Myself (@antimorris) and my husband (@vtmath) traveled the short distance to Houston for a full day at the home of astronaut training, Johnson Space Center.

We were greeted with nametags, coffee, and an hour or so to explore the Visitor Center before it was open to the public. It was very nice to see the exhibits without the noise of crowds and enthusiastic children (although I think all of us at the Tweetup were just as, if not more, enthusiastic about this than all the children!) ... after the initial free-time we all gathered in the auditorium for some briefings. These, mind you, are not your typical boring briefings. We were treated to a backdrop of the live EVA going on up on the ISS and talks from astronauts Ellen Ochoa & Jeff Williams as well as a very in-depth break-down about the new Ku-band communications antenna that was being installed by the EVA in the background. All of these "briefings" were very much audience focused and the majority of the time was spent on Q&A rather than just being talked at. I think we all thoroughly enjoyed Jeff Williams (@Astro_Jeff) describing the differences in launch and landing in the Soyuz versus the Shuttle, just how excited all the astronauts are that they now have internet up on the Space Station, and their new exercise equipment up on the ISS. 

We then had time for a quick lunch in the VC cafeteria and then broke our 100 person group into two to start the tour. This was, mind you, not the typical tour you get when you visit JSC! We first headed over to Mission Control ... yes, THE MCC which was currently running STS-132. We got to sit in the gallery and watch them finish up the EVA and have Ed Van Cise (@Carbon_Flight), a Flight Director for the ISS, speak to us.

If this wasnt enough, we then made our way through the labyrinth that is Building 30 down to the historic Apollo Mission Control. Why Annie, you might say, the Apollo Mission Control is on the regular tour. Well, yes, and no. Normally you get to go to the gallery for the Apollo MC and just look in the room, we got to go in the room, press buttons, sit in the Flight Director's chair and wave back at the people on the "regular tour" in the gallery. It was fantastic!

This day couldnt get any better, right? .... WRONG! Where we headed to next was the place I have been wanting to see for years and was the most excited about (although MCC was pretty darn neat!) ... The Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL)! Thats right, the ridiculously giant, perfectly clear swimming pool with life-size shuttle cargo bays and the ISS in parts in it so astronauts can train on them. To make it even better, there were multiple astronauts in the pool (each with 4 safety divers) training when we were there. This massive training facility is beyond description. The only thing that would have made it better was to have been able to go diving in the pool, but alas, only NASA-certified divers are allowed.

By this point, I am beyond a happy camper. But we are still not done with the tour! We next head over to the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF) to see the shuttle, Soyuz, and ISS trainers. We, of course, get an astronaut tour-guide, Dave Leestma, and also get to see STS-133 crew as they practice their post-liftoff suiting procedures. In this building they also have the new Lunar Electric Rovers, and some other robotic prototypes for future space operations. All very neat to see. 

We then capped off the day with a visit to the Rocket Park and the Saturn V rocket, which I have seen many times but am still impressed by its size every time I do. 

My overall impressions for the day ... WOW ... oh and never did I think that Twitter would be so useful. Getting to watch Mission Control run a shuttle flight, see astronauts train in the NBL, chat with multiple astronauts, and everything else we did were just amazing. Thank you Johnson Space Center and NASA for the behind-the-scenes look at everything. As someone described during the day, it was like having the golden ticket to get a special tour of the Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. It was a fantastic day and I really hope that we are fortunate to do another Tweetup with you in the future (preferably to a shuttle launch, hint hint)

Click on any photos here to see them larger or if you want to see all of my photos from the day, they are located here: STS-132 Tweetup Photos

Monday, April 19, 2010

NGC 3718 ... the comparison of dark versus urban skies

My latest project was to test the limits of imaging a) in the city and b) without an autoguider on my wedge-mounted scope. I chose NGC 3718 as I dont see many pictures of it and I think it looks cool and it has not only the main galaxy but alot of faint wispies that I figured (rightly) that I wouldnt be able to pick up in the city. I planned this so I had a week or two here in San Antonio to work on it and get data before my vacation to Big Bend where I would be able to get DARK DARK skies to get data for it there.

I found out that I can get 10 minute subs with no autoguider with my piggybacked EON (piggybacked on a CPC800) with slight tweaking over a week, though I kept most of my subs to 250sec as I still need to do a decent PEC training.

I also determined that no matter how many hours you get in the city it cant compare to a few hours in the ink black skies of Big Bend! Here is the comparison .... 

the first is 7 hours worth of Luminance data taken from San Antonio, mostly all 250sec subs, with a few 500sec subs in there. 

The second is the original 7 hours of data and then 2.5 more hours from Big Bend added to it. 

My the difference a few hours with absolutely no light pollution can make!!!! SO many more stars and now I was able to pull out the faint wispies I wanted to!

Now, just to get color to add to it next month when I head out to West Texas again for a star party to get more imaging time in dark skies ....

Here is the info for the shots:
Scope: Orion EON 80ED piggybacked on a CPC800
Camera: Atik 314L+
Autoguider: NONE
Filter: Astronomik Luminance
Exposure time: Image 1: 7 hrs, Image 2: 9.5 hrs
Sub length: 250 sec, (a few thrown in at 500 sec) 

Really makes the case for getting rid of light pollution and bringing back our dark skies!!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

6 months later ....

I started astrophotography almost as soon as I got my scope, which means it has now been 6 months since I took my very first astrophoto ... I am almost ashamed to show my first few shots and processing of them.

The first ones of M31 and M13 were not focused (shooting a DSLR through a long focal length scope with no Bahtinov mask and no Live View ... soon made a mask and dont have such a focus problem with the Nikon anymore) I did get some acceptable attempts at the Lagoon Nebula, Swan Nebula, and Double Cluster - especially since I had no idea what I was doing and what darks and flats were, etc. ... but I dont have any recent ones of them to compare so I will just show the comparison ones to save on space here.

This is M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, from the second day of attempting astrophotography and from almost exactly 6 months later (3 days shy of it to be exact) ... I cropped and oriented them about the same to get a fair comparison.

Its come a long way! Although it is still not perfect, I know a lot more about what I am doing and improving with every night I spend imaging. I look forward to seeing the progress another 6 months will bring! 

Monday, March 22, 2010

First published astrophoto! (Twice!!)

Yesterday I had an astrophoto image published on Spaceweather.com!!!

On March 20, 2010 the Moon occulted Pleiades (with only occurs once every 13 years) and I took a few images while throwing a star party at my house. This was a multiple exposure image combined into an HDR astrophoto taken with my Nikon D40 which shows the occultation from my yard in San Antonio, TX. The link above will show you the front page of Spaceweather for March 21, 2010.

Addition: NASA also selected this photo for Friday, March 26, 2010's APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) .... I am very excited about this!!!, Here is the link: NASA APOD

Here is the full image:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

More data for M51

Got back out last night and got additional data to add to the data a few nights ago. Last night's data was: 25 x 210sec - Lum 15 x 210sec - R, G, B 25 x 300sec - Lum so adding that to the previous data resulted in minutes: LRGB: 297:83:83:83 Camera: Atik 314L+ Scope: Orion EON80ED piggybacked on CPC800 unguided, combination of 3, 4, & 5 min subs. Lum binned 1x1, RGB binned 2x2

The additional data helped to go a bit deeper, bring out more of not only M51 but some faint galaxies in the FOV as well. I will probably still go back and reprocess from scratch just to see if I can pull more out, but I am happy with it. I think I will move on to a new object now :-)

After culling the bad frames I had almost 5 hours of Luminance and just under
and hour and a half of RGB and that is enough for me for this object.

Same image, cropped onto M51:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Every day in every way ....

I'm getting better and better .... at least in my own humble opinion. The new Atik 314L+ camera I am using now to image greatly helped, then add in my new wedge and that has helped bumped up my imaging possibilities another level. I have also been tweaking my Actions to get some better results (and also confirming the usefulness of many of them) in processing in a shorter amount of time spent by me behind the computer processing. I still have minor tweaking with my polar alignment and at some point I hope to get a working autoguider both to increase exposure time but I am pleased with the improvement I have had in a short time. Last night I imaged M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy late into the morning as weather forecasts for the next week are not favorable to imaging.

I am still learning the advantages/disadvantages of "binning", so for last night's M51 I just left the bin at 1x1 ... the data for the image is:

Camera: Atik 314L+
Scope: Orion EON80ED piggybacked on Celestron CPC800

Astronomik LRGB filters: 84:30:39:30
180 sec subexposures

Acquired in Artemis Capture, Stacked in Nebulosity, Processed in Photoshop CS2 with "Annie's Astro Actions"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Polar Alignment at last

A bit more tweaking and I finally got my polar alignment so I can take 5 minute subs with no autoguider. YAY! I have spent the past few nights getting data on M101 - the luminance came out well but I think my focus was off for my RGB, but at least I have a decent result - I will go back and get more color at some point:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Torching a Horse with Hydrogen

I was able to get a little bit of a clear sky last night and was able to finalize an ok polar alignment (its still not PERFECT, but its getting better), get my new camera out, and finally do some proper imaging. With the moon coming up I went ahead and just shot in Hydrogen-alpha (Ha).

So here is my first REAL image from my new camera on a polar alignment.
Horsehead and Flame Nebulas (IC434 & NGC 2024)

Details :
camera: Atik 314L+
scope: Orion EON80ED piggybacked on Celestron CPC800
filter: Astronomik Ha
other: Astro-Tech field flattener
exposure: 170 x 60sec

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New update coming soon for Annie's Astro Actions

Just a heads up for those of you who have the action set and check the blog ... I will be releasing an update soon for the actions. No new actions, but a few changes in the ones that are there (specifically the new ones from last release) to make them a little smoother.

For those that have requested an "Elements" version. I am working on it, but do not have an estimated release date yet.


Monday, March 1, 2010

More polar alignment fun

Spent another night working on my polar alignment - its getting better. Finally was able to get an unguided 85sec image (keep in mind I did short sets of only 30min per channel as I was just testing my alignment) of M51 "Whirlpool Galaxy".

I still have a little polar alignment work and the next clear night I am going to give drift alignment a try, and then add in autoguiding which I tested the other day and looks like it will work well.

I am definitely looking forward to the future of my astroimaging now that I have a wedge for polar alignment and an autoguider .... until then - here is my first polar alignment image:

Friday, February 26, 2010

My first polar alignment attempt

So my first attempt at polar alignment and working with the wedge were about what I expected, meaning not that great but at least I learned alot. Though at least with the clouds and the moon I didnt feel like I was wasting a great observing night. Here's how it went: 

Got it all set up this afternoon and roughly oriented to celestial north (we had previously marked paving stones in the yard that we use for the tripod legs with the directions for celestial navigation) and waiting til dusk. About then I realized I hadnt balanced the scope on the wedge .... um yeah - that went fantastically (sarcastic of course) ... when I balanced on alt-az once I had the piggyback scope it didnt take too long to get a dynamic balance, not the case on the wedge so #1 thing to add to the "do in the daytime" list. I got it close and about that time the stars were becoming visible. 

I started to align the wedge and scope with my polar scope (the arm I made isnt SUPER sturdy (just sheet metal) - so this was just to get me roughly close) ... got close there and got closer using eyepieces. Then I ran through the Celestron Equatorial Alignment sequence (as that is what my manual says to do after you have a close polar alignment). Did that no problems. Then my manual says to do a "wedge align" - only problem is there is no wedge align in the menu .... had to come inside to read that my upgraded firmware replaced that with something else. Check - back out to the scope ..... 

At this point I wanted to see how well I was doing so I put in my Ha filter and slewed to the Horsehead Nebula -- spot on center so yay the alignment mustve been pretty close. I set it for a 60sec image just to gauge how close to a polar alignment I was .... only slight star trails so semi-encouraging. At this point I decided that perhaps I didnt run through the new sequence quite right so I powered down and ran through it all again, this time I added in the "Polar Align" after the "Eq Align" as the new firmware recommends. Slightly off for the polar align sequence so readjusted the mount in that step and then went back to HH to try again ... not center anymore - in fact it was JUST barely in the screen - AW SNAP - mustve not had as great alignment this second go-around ... tried another 60sec image - slightly worse than the first run-through ... GRRR!!! Reassessed and realized I hadnt done the "Polar Align" right. My feet were frozen by this point (note to self - dont wear sandals out on tomorrow's try) so I came in to watch tv and warm up with two giant Great Pyrenees as feet and lap warmers. 

I just went out and put the scope to bed for the night with the following lessons learned: 
1) balance the scope in the daytime ... (and sand that metal bur off the bottom of the counterweight set - I sliced my hand open twice on it tonight)
2) work on the cord situation .... not as much as a problem on alt-az but this extra angle makes the cords quite a mess - fix that in the daytime too
3) reposition polar scope arm ... where I have it gets me close but not close enough ... perhaps move it to the center and just use it before I put the scope on the wedge
4) Dont let the scope auto-pick the alignment stars, at one point i was half-upside down balancing off the fence to get my head where I could see through the finder and eyepiece .... I am not acrobatic so was not very fun
5) be super accurate when aligning so its less error that needs to be corrected in the "polar align" step. 

I didnt expect to get it down pat the first try and be off and imaging 5-10 min subs without an autoguider just on my superb polar alignment skills an hour after attempting it, but got at about 60s subs without really knowing what I was doing so all in all a fairly successful night. I am planning another attempt tomorrow, and if it goes well might get the PEC training for the scope in as well and attempt some autoguiding (my guide camera should be in tomorrow ... though that would mean balancing my piggyback as well - hmmmm come to think of it perhaps that should wait a few more days until this polar alignment thing is slightly easier for me). 

Ok I am done rambling for tonight! 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Annie's Astro Actions have a new home!

I finally have our proper website up and running (although there are a few pages that are still being populated). Annie's Astro Actions will now be sold from there and my blog will go back to more blog-like content related to astronomy and scope modifications. I will still have an order place on the right, but no more descriptions etc, I will just have a link to the new site.

The new location of Annie's Astro Actions is: http://www.eprisephoto.com/astro-actions

Enterprise Photography and Astronomy is our new site (located at http://www.eprisephoto.com) and has not only the actions, but other photography for sale. Feel free to browse around and send us any comments you have!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Annie's Astro Actions Version 2.0 Released!

I have just completed some updates and addition of several new actions to Annie's Astro Actions. Version 2.0 has officially been released and sent out to all those who ordered Version 1.0. New actions include:

  • Create Watermark: Creates a watermark across your image to protect your images against copyright infringement
  • Reduce Vignetting Method #1: One of two methods I am providing that will help reduce vignetting in your image (needed if you dont take flats) ... try both methods to determine which will work best for your image
  • Reduce Vignetting Method #2: Second method for reducing vignetting. This one requires less user interaction
  • Gradient Remove Method #1: One of two methods I am providing that will help to remove gradients in your image and balance your background color ... try both methods to determine which will work best for your image
  • Gradient Remove Method #2: Second method for reducing vignetting. This one requires less user interaction
  • Reduce Star Bloating: Reduces star bloating that can occur when stretching your image

I will get some before/after shots of the new actions up soon. There are a few other updates and things changed in the action set (all changes described in the "Instruction" file that comes with the download. 

The entire list of Actions set is (with the new ones in blue):

Dew Heater Controller in Fork-Arm Modification for CPC

I have been wanting to get active dew control for a while, especially after multiple nights with a dripping scope and having to use my blow dryer to clear the corrector plate so I could continue imaging. I saw on the Cloudy Nights Forum a while back that someone had put their dew controller into their fork arm and thought this was a great idea, it would cut down on wires and things velcro-ed to the scope in the field. I finally got in my Dew-Not dew controller and after ensuring it worked I decided to go about performing the modification.

First, a trip to Radio Shack! Here are the parts I had to get:
-Size M coaxial DC power plug (part #274-1569)
-Size M coaxial DC panel mount power jack (part #274-1563)
-4 RCA jacks
-4 Shielded phono jacks (panel mount) (part #274-0346)

You will also need a Dew-Not dew controller, a solder gun and solder as well as a set of alan wrenches and a small flat-head & phillips screw driver. A Dremel sanding tool (or sand paper), and a Drill. Small wooden or plastic dowels are helpful to keep the circuit panel in place but not a necessity.

Next you need to disassemble your Dew-Not controller and take out the circuit board, use your small flat-head screwdriver to take off the adjustor knobs - keep them handy for later :

Now take off the panel for your fork arm with the handle with the Alan-wrench set. There are two screws on the handle and four on the inside corners of the fork-arm. The cover will come off easily. 

Next you will need to drill the appropriate holes in the fork arm cover. Use the circuit board to determine exactly where. You will need 2 for the temperature knobs and 3 for the lights. Don't make them too big else it will allow movement in the board which could pull wires loose.  After you have the circuit board able to fit in the cover you can determine where to drill the holes for the power plug and the RCA jacks. I found with the circuit board, space was tight so the RCA jacks are on the sides rather than the front face, and my power jack is to the right of the temperature knobs. Once you decide where, drill those holes and attach the appropriate jacks. 

Next I decided to cut the wooden dowels to help keep the circuit board stable on the left side (looking from the inside) ... the right side will be held by the temp. knobs. I put the circuit board in and decided how long to cut them then used the small silver circuit board screws that were used in the Dew-Not box to put the dowels on the board. At the same time I used the Dremel sanding tool to sand the ridge down on the cover so that the RCA jacks wouldnt raise up the circuit board. 

(the wooden dowels are on the bottom edge)

Now its time to solder! Put the circuit board in place and affix the temp. knobs so it will hold in place and then solder on your RCA wires and your power wires.

Before you attach it back to the scope, test it out. I used my Starizona power pack to make sure it worked as I havent attached the Size M coaxial power plug to the wire yet. Once you are sure all the connections work, attach your fork-arm cover back to the scope and you are done!!!

For the power plug, just solder on the wires onto the Size M coaxial power plug and you are done. I found the included power wire was a bit short so I am going to run back to RS and get a longer wire for the power to avoid cord wrap, but other than that, my Dew-Heater Fork-Arm mod is complete!!! Hey, if I can do it all by myself without ever having soldered anything before, anyone can!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Finally the clouds clear

After endless rain and clouds for weeks, we have finally gotten some nice evenings. I was able to get to a semi-dark spot but still within a reasonable driving distance this past weekend and did a little imaging while socializing with the other astronomers there. Its not super dark, but better than my back yard. I am still waiting on my new ccd so I just hooked up my Nikon D40 to my CPC 800 and had a go at NGC 2403.

For 30 sec subs I was pretty happy with it. I still get alot of color blotching from the chip in my D40, but once I can get over the frustration of that I got to processing my stack of 249 subs. a heavy hand on the saturation allowed me to pull out some decent color from the arms, but nothing like I would get if I were on an equatorial mount. Same with the detail in the galaxy's arms, but all in all, not a bad result.

I am looking forward to my new camera getting in and getting back out to some more serious imaging. I have plenty of time to learn the new camera before our trip to Big Bend where I will finally get some seriously dark skies for the first time since our Yosemite trip. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Updates . . .

nothing but clouds and rain here still, and thanks to the NE "snowmageddon" my new ATIK camera hasnt been shipped to me since they are snowed out of their building . . . sigh . . .

The good news is that I have finally had the chance to play with the action set some more. There are a few minor updates as well as two new actions to add to the next release (hopefully I will have more than that soon).

I am also working on a proper website for not only the actions, but my other photography, etc. . . more on that later.

If you have any ideas you want to throw my way for actions for the update let me know! I am always open to suggestions.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Orion Nebula Mosaic completion

This was a month's worth of work thanks to clouds. Ended up being a 5 panel mosaic of M42 and my final image with my Meade DSI II Pro (it is getting traded in for a better CCD)

Each panel is roughly 340 x 30sec images (80xL, 60xR,G,B) for a collective total of just over 14 hours of data in 30 sec. snippets. Each channel stacked in Nebulosity then brought over to Photoshop where I used "Annie's Astro Actions" to process it (used the "Channel Process", "Make DSO Stand Out", and "Create Mosaic - 6 panel" , other than that I just used some slight levels to balance the colors between panels.

There are areas that could stand more data (top right and bottom left), but thanks to weeks of clouds with only a day or two of clear in between massive rain storms I ran out of time and my camera sold so this is it.

Overall, I am quite happy with the result, especially considering it was all with 30s subs and I havent been at this all that long.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Back to astronomy ... or not

After creating my action set (thanks to a few weeks of clouds) I was hoping to get back out to observing and imaging, but apparently the weatherman didnt agree and I got about 2 nights worth of clear skies before I have had another week of solid clouds and no end in sight. I got about half way done with a mosaic of M42 with my Meade DSI II Pro and Orion EON 80ED I am doing and now that is on hold again pending some more clear skies.

I am still deciding what other processes I do with my photos that I could create actions for so since the astronomy forecast is solid white I think I am going to pull out my hard drive and reprocess some of my earlier images.

If you have any ideas for me - please feel free to shoot me an email or comment to this blog post. I am always open to ideas!!!

Meanwhile - the promotional pricing has ended - the regular price of $12 is now active (includes free updates). I have gotten a few questions if I am going to release a Photoshop Elements version. Right now I am not actively working on one (as I dont have Elements), some of the actions DO work, though not all. The current release of Annie's Astro Actions works with all full versions of Photoshop.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Release Date!!!!

Annie's Astro Actions v1.0 have been released as of 19 January 2010. 
All orders taken between now and the published release date of 30 January 2010 will still receive the pre-order rate so hurry and order before regular prices go in effect!

To see the latest version of the Actions as well as to order, please visit our official webpage

Finalizing Action List

The 25 free pre-orders went fairly quickly, which is exciting and I hope that everyone who gets them will find them a valuable set for processing and will spread the word about them.

Likewise, I would appreciate any feedback about the actions or if you encounter any problems so I can get them fixed for everyone.

I am running a few more tests, and then it looks like the set will be released early!!! (The special Pre-Order price will continue to be valid until after the published release date of 30 January)

The final list of actions in Annie's Astro Actions is:
  • Channel Process: Used to do most of the initial processing for each channel file you have (or a combined RGB image)
  • Create LRGB: Takes 4 channel files to create a complete LRGB image
  • Create RGB: Takes 3 channel files to create a complete RGB image (can be used for Ha, SII, and OIII as well)
  • Enhance Galaxy Dust Lanes: Used to bring out and sharpen the dust lanes of a galaxy
  • Make DSO Stand Out: Highlights and Sharpens your DSO - for color images [first update will allow for greyscale images as well ... if you have a greyscale and want to use this, just convert to RGB first]
  • Brighten Color & Sharpen: Increases the saturation of colors in the image while also sharpening the image slightly
  • Smooth Out Image: Gives the overall appearance a "softer" look
  • Remove Stars (Large Image): Removes the Stars from your image (for large chip cameras & DSLRs)
  • Remove Stars (Small Image):  Removes the Stars from your image (for small chip cameras)
  • Create Mosaic (6 panel): Takes 6 panels and does the initial processing for a mosaic
  • Create Mosaic (4 panel): Takes 4 panels and does the initial processing for a mosaic
  • Star Layer Separate (Large Image): Separates the Stars from your DSO and places them in separate layers, ideal for large chip cameras as well as DSLR images
  • Star Layer Separate (Small Image): Separates the Stars from your DSO and places them in separate layers, ideal for small chip cameras 
Before and afters for many of the actions are in the next blog post down.
Let me know if you have any questions!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Before and After of Annie's Astro Actions

Here are some of the actions in action (no pun intended). I will soon have Before and Afters for all of the ones I am putting on the set:

Channel Processing:

Star Layer Separate:

Remove Stars:
(Note: Large stars might leave behind faint remnants, they are easily removed after the action with the "healing tool" in the tool panel

Increase Color/Saturation:
(Note: the effect of this action is subtle so as to not overdo it in a single action, feel free to run this action multiple times to get the effect you desire)

Create a Mosaic (6 panel):

The final result of the mosaic is in a thread below after some fine alignment of the panels (since I shot in alt-az and therefore had rotation throughout the night) and final levels adjustment then changing the opacity of the panels back to 100%.

More to come!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Annie's Astro Actions - almost ready for release!

I am still developing more actions, but my Astroimaging Actions are almost ready for release!!!

The first 25 people who pre-order will get the entire action set for FREE!!! After that, any preorders will only be $8 (this is reduced from previously posted rate of $10).

So far in the action set are the following actions:
Channel Process
Creating LRGB image from 4 channel files
Create RGB image from 3 channel files
Create a 6 panel mosaic
Create a 4 panel mosaic

Enhance Galaxy dust trails
Separate Star Field & DSO into separate layers (Large image)
Separate Star Field & DSO into separate layers (Small image)

[edit] Newly added
Brighten Color & Sharpen
Make DSO Stand Out
Smooth Out Image
Remove Stars (Large Image)
Remove Stars (Small Image)

I am adding to the "Newly added" list as I add more. I want to make sure that all actions in the set are useful and will work for a variety of images (which is why there are some that are broken down for large and small images)! Spread the word and preorder before they are released to save a few $!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Making a mosaic

If you want to image a larger object with a small chip CCD it inevitably leaves to one thing: Mosaics. My first attempt turned out fairly well (I made a 6 panel mosaic of the Rosette Nebula), but did take a good bit of figuring out, aligning, and minute stretching adjustments to balance the panels once they were processed and aligned. I tried various ways to create the mosaic and found that Photoshop was the easiest way out of the programs I currently have.

I was going to specify all the steps to make a mosaic, but instead I created actions for my new action set to do this for both a 6 panel and a 4 panel mosaic (I might expand to a 9 panel as well - havent decided). From there its just a matter of rotating and continuous slight stretching with levels and curves around and around until they all merge together seamlessly.

Here is my result:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Astronomy Processing Tools for Photoshop CS2

I am in the process of creating some astronomy tools for Photoshop CS2. If you are interested in testing them with me, please let me know ...

I only have CS2 on my computers but believe they are compatible with a few other versions of Photoshop as well, so if you have different versions of Photoshop and want to let me know how they work with them let me know as well ...

For those willing to help test and provide me with your thoughts/information on how it works for you I will provide you will free updates of the actions. These actions will be free while in testing phase but I might eventually charge for them (not much, but still) so get in on the ground floor if you want!!

I currently have five actions:
Processing individual channel files
Creating LRGB image from 4 channel files
Create RGB image from 3 channel files
Create a 6 panel mosaic
Create a 4 panel mosaic

Please let me know what other processes in astro-imaging you would like to see actions for, ie things that would make your processing life easier!!

Anyone willing to donate (even $1 or more if you want!) to my development of these actions, please click the following button.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Small objects are quite difficult (at least for me!)

So I have quickly learned that for some reason I have alot more difficulties shooting small objects (relatively speaking in the sky), such as galaxies and small planetary nebulas, than objects like nebulas. I had always heard nebula photography was incredibly difficult so this flip-flop in what I expected has kinda taken me by surprise. Over Christmas I shot a few smaller galaxies, most of which I had to scrap the data on as wind caused too much movement in the scope, but here is one I got of the Bear Claw Galaxy in LRGB, 30 second subs, about 80 of each channel:

Processing this to get an even background was difficult, even with flats and darks, so I thought I would give another small object a try once I got back home. Last night I shot NGC 1501, a small planetary nebula and found I had the same problems with the background, but eventually I think I came up with an ok result. LRGB, 27 second subs, Lum channel - 180 subs, RGB channels - 85 subs each.

Neither are great and neither are up to being hung on anyone's wall, but its all about learning, and over the past few months I think I have done just that. . .

I dont know if the small object difficulty is due to me being on an alt-az mount still and limited to 30 second or less subexposures (I suspect it does play a great part of it), or some other reason, but with the ccd camera I am using (Meade DSI II Pro), and my CPC800 I have a very narrow FOV so small objects are about all I can do in there. I do have an Orion EON 80ED that I use for imaging as well and get a larger FOV, not to mention my Nikon D40 that has a significantly larger chip than the DSI II Pro does, but it's results are not ideal either thanks to chromatic aberrations and other issues.

I suppose no camera will ever be perfect, and it does indeed seem like processing is the main limiting factor in astrophotography, so as the New Year starts I will continue to collect photons and in my spare time work on processing and reprocessing objects until small objects dont cause as much processing frustrations and I continue to roam the skies for more of them to shoot.

Monitor Calibration

Monitor Calibration
The grayscale above presents 24 shades of gray from pure white to solid black. If you cannot see all 24, your monitor needs calibration to view the astrophotos correctly: I recommend the site linked in the image