Become a Time Traveling Astropotamus!

Learn how Time Machines work, the basics of astrophotography, how to process your astro images, and more! Join me as we take off on this incredible voyage together, and you can be a time traveling Astropotamus, just like me!

Light Gathering

What matters isn’t what you can see, it’s what you can capture

Astrophotography (or “AP”) is all about gathering light. The more light you gather, the better your images will be. You’re probably familiar with trying to take pictures in a dimly lit restaurant or theater. If you just take a quick pic, your image comes out dim, and maybe hard to see. If you take a longer pic – gathering more light – the image is brighter, but now you have to content with blur as you move slightly while holding the camera longer. Plus, the electronics in your camera take worse pictures as they stay on and heat up. This trade-off is what Astropotamuses have to deal with all the time – slower images capture more light but also capture more blur and noise than we want. So we use special tools, equipment, techniques, and software to try to make our images better. TALK ABOUT: aperture, focus, magnification, telescope types

Keeping Still

Don’t skimp on the moiunt

Even if we have the best tripod in the Cosmos to hold our camera still for as long as we need to gather lots of light for a great image, just about everything is moving. The wind is blowing, the Earth is turning, the Solar System is moving through the Galaxy, and even the Moon is tugging on you ever so slightly. It all adds up to blur, shake, and fuzziness that makes things look even worse on long-exposure images. To correct for this, a good, solid mount is needed to hold your Time Machine and camera. Cheaper ones are fine for DSLR or quick pics with a good general camera, but if you’re using a dedicated astronomy camera, you need a good (and unfortunately, expensive) mount. TALK ABOUT: longer exposures vs noise, de-noise software, stacking, tracking, alignment

Aperture Fever

A bigger Time Machine is no guarantee for better images

Remember that we’re trying to gather as much light as possible. So at first, it makes sense that we would want as big of a Time Machine as we can to capture as much light as possible. But just like there are different vehicles for different purposes (bikes, cars, trucks, boats, and planes) there are different Time Machines for different purposes. A good, general-purpose, all-round decent Time Machine, however, will get you going a quality one will last for a long time and bring years of time traveling to your Astropotamus world. When you’re ready to move on, remember that bigger isn’t always better. Especially with the software available to Astropotamuses, sometimes smaller is actually easier. TALK ABOUT: less weight, smaller mount, less shake, cheaper, more portable

The Cameras Have Eyes

Whether you use a DSLR or a dedicate astro camera, knoW its limitations

If you put your eye at the end of a Time Machine and focus it on the Moon, you’ll see the Moon. If you replace your eye with a camera, and take a pictures, you may or may not get a picture of the Moon because you have to juggle focus, ISO settings, exposure time, white balance, and a bunch of other things. All while standing in the dark. DSLR astrophotography can be very rewarding, cheap, and easy to do, but eventually you’ll want a dedicated astronomy camera; which in addition to being more expensive, brings its own set of options, configurations, pros, and cons. There are no shortcuts in this hobby, but there are ways of doing more with less until you can afford to move up to the next level. TALK ABOUT: mono vs color, DSLR vs ASI, eyes vs camera

Putting it all Together

Eight hours of imaging and another 80 hours of post processing

If you look at those great Hubble or Webb pictures and think “someday, I want to take one just like it,” then you’re in for a long, expensive road. Not only is it hard to take pictures like that from inside the Earth’s atmosphere, but those space-based telescopes are gigantic Time Machines compared to what most people have. So you have to settle for doing it the hard way. Spending eight hours taking images of the Andromeda Galaxy with a Classic C8 Time Machine and a Canon or Nikon DSLR may give you a great view, but you’ll need to do it a dozen times or more with that combination to capture the full extent of this closest galaxy to our own. I encourage you to do it! And when you’re done, you’ll want to use specialized (and general) image editing software to tease out the details, correct the color, reduce noise, increase gain, emphasize colors, and stitch it together into a mosaic that shows the whole galaxy in one image. This is what AP software is for, plus a lot of the things we’ve touched on in other sections can be controlled and automated through software.

With the software, equipment, and resources available to a modern Astropotamus, you can plan, control, automatic, and fix just about every aspect of amateur astrophotography.

What a glorious time to be an Astropotamus!