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Space Photos Taken From Shed Stun Astronomers 149

Posted by timothy
from the love-the-gold-mylar dept.
krou writes "Amateur astronomer Peter Shah has stunned astronomers around the world with amazing photos of the universe taken from his garden shed. Shah spent £20,000 on the equipment, hooking up a telescope in his shed to his home computer, and the results are being compared to images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. 'Most men like to putter about in their garden shed,' said Shah, 'but mine is a bit more high tech than most. I have fitted it with a sliding roof so I can sit in comfort and look at the heavens. I have a very modest set up, but it just goes to show that a window to the universe is there for all of us – even with the smallest budgets. I had to be patient and take the images over a period of several months because the skies in Britain are often clouded over and you need clear conditions.' His images include the Monkey's head nebula, M33 Pinwheel Galaxy, Andromeda Galaxy and the Flaming Star Nebula, and are being put together for a book."
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Space Photos Taken From Shed Stun Astronomers

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  • Beautiful pictures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheKidWho (705796) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @04:17AM (#30867904)

    Amazing, I would like to see some more details of his setup, particularly which telescope and CCD he used.

    I personally have a 6" Dobsonian, but without an equatorial mount it's nearly impossible to replicate his results.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @04:36AM (#30867984) Homepage Journal

    They may resemble some of the aesthetics of Hubble, but not the resolution. Thus, the comparison is potentially misleading. The photos in the gallery are of relatively near or bright objects. It's more about careful timing, planning, and processing that brings out details of such objects. Major observatories often don't have the budget or motivation to spend the time to carefully process images of common astronomical objects.

    One amateur reprocessed images from Soviet Venus landers and brought out some amazing detail, finding landscape features that weren't spotted before. It's simply the case that sometimes amateurs are simply motivated to spend the necessary time and attention to detail more so than "professionals", who normally have full in-boxes. Amateurs can decide to be as anal as they want. Call it open-source astronomy.
       

  • by serbanp (139486) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @05:33AM (#30868162)

    What is impressive is how accurate and stable the tracking mount must be. Some exposures are 4 hour long yet in the resulting photo the brightest spots don't have any trail.

  • Science! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Matrix14 (135171) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @06:17AM (#30868312)

    I'm wondering what sort of more scientific data one could get from a setup like this. Not for actual science purposes, but for my or his own fun. Do the CCDs used have enough intensity granularity that one could detect the red and blue shift differences in spinning galaxies, for instance, and do some dark matter calculations for oneself?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 23, 2010 @08:22AM (#30868812)

    There is more to it. What you can see at the visible light frequencies won't look that pretty. We just don't see enough. There is a lot of beauty in infra-red and UV/microwave that we can't see without aid.

    It is usual to capture a number of black-and-white images at various specific frequencies (narrow-band) and use them to create a false color picture, e.g. give blue tint to the light at hidrogen frequency, etc.

    Google for "astronomy picture of the day", search for deep-space object pictures like nebulae and galaxies, and read the descriptions.

  • by bundaegi (705619) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @08:38AM (#30868874)

    One amateur reprocessed images from Soviet Venus landers and brought out some amazing detail, finding landscape features that weren't spotted before. It's simply the case that sometimes amateurs are simply motivated to spend the necessary time and attention to detail more so than "professionals", who normally have full in-boxes. Amateurs can decide to be as anal as they want. Call it open-source astronomy.

    Thanks! I looked it up, and if you are referring to Don Mitchell's story, it is indeed well worth reading. http://www.mentallandscape.com/C_CatalogVenus.htm [mentallandscape.com]

    Even better, the re-processing pipeline for each of the Venera mission [mentallandscape.com] datasets is explained in great detail. For instance, about the Venera-9 mission images (from http://www.mentallandscape.com/V_DigitalImages.htm [mentallandscape.com]:

    The upper image is the raw 6-bit telemetry, about 115 by 512 pixels. Automatic gain control and logarithmic quantization were used to handle the unknown dynamic range of illumination. Previously published images from these probes suffered from severe analog generation loss, so it is fortunate that the original data was found. The raw image was converted to optical density according to Russian calibration data, then to linear radiance for image processing. It was interpolated with windowed sinc filter to avoid post-aliasing (a "pixilated" appearance), and the modulation transfer function ("aperture") of the camera was corrected with a 1 + 0.2*frequency**2 emphasis. This was then written out as 8-bit gamma-corrected values, using the sRGB standard gamma of 2.2. Some of the telemetry bars on the right were replaced with data from the 124 panorama. The bottom image is digitally in-painted, using Bertalmio's isophote-flow algorithm, to fill in missing data.

    ... and for a BBC coverage of the story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3387895.stm [bbc.co.uk]

  • Re:Stunning (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kramulous (977841) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @09:02AM (#30869004)

    I'll never forget taking a good friend of mine from England visiting Australia back to where I grew up. I was raised about 400 km west of Brisbane - essentially a whole lot of absolutely nothing. He just gawked at the night sky for about an hour. He'd never realised what was up there.

    You can see so much that you see colours.

  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @01:04PM (#30870486) Homepage Journal

    ...I only use a camera (a Canon 40D or 50D), not a telescope. Astro-photography is awesome fun. :)

    You can click on all sizes above any image to see larger versions:

    My tracked astro photos [flickr.com]
    My untracked astro photos [flickr.com]

  • by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc,famine&gmail,com> on Saturday January 23, 2010 @01:18PM (#30870606) Homepage Journal

    The image is definitely not all about the computer processing. In fact, that's a minor part.
     
    It all comes down to the telescope and CCD you're using.
     
    I've got a fair number of unprocessed images from my time doing astronomy which are FANTASTIC! Why? Good scope, clear night, long exposure, and a good CCD. I could make them a bit better with some processing, but I've never seen the need. Processing can never add data to a picture. The only thing that can do that is a longer exposure, better scope, or better CCD.
     
    That being said, what this guy did is pretty nice work. I'm not overly surprised, as you can get a decent CCD for less and less as times goes on, and mainstream digital photography gets bigger. A decade or two ago, and you'd have spent a good fraction of his setup cost on a 1MP CCD!

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