OMSI Astrophotography Conference 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011, 8:00 am to 10:00 pm
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)
Classroom 2
1945 SE Water Avenue
Portland, OR 97214-3354, USA

Updated on April 10, 2011

Astrophotography using cameras provides many benefits such as observing fainter details, making scientific measurements and producing stunning images that are shared with others. This OMSI Astrophotography Conference covered various aspects of astrophotography.

The OMSI Astrophotography workshop was sponsored and hosted by Jim Todd, OMSI Planetarium Manager.

The conference was organized and implemented by Neil Heacock and David Haworth.

Presentations and lab files are available at the download web page.


  • 8:00 to 8:15 am Sign-in  
  • 8:15 am Building a Micro Observatory: TARDIS,
    Duncan Kitchin
    • Objectives
      • The need to minimize setup time
      • Analyzing where the time goes
      • Solution outline
    • Constructing a permanent pier
      • Components
      • Planning
      • Construction
    • A weather cover
      • First iteration
      • A shed that's bigger on the inside
    • Remote electronics box
      • Requirements - emulating a permanent configuration
      • System configuration
      • Designing a wiring loom for fast setup
    • Wrap up
      • Setup procedure
      • Demonstration (video)

TARDIS Micro Observatory by Duncan Kitchin

  • LightBuckets Online Telescopes,
    Sean Curry
    • What is Lightbuckets?
      • Telecopes available
      • Location
      • Cost model
    • Planning a Session
      • Web interface for scheduling
      • Choosing a target and guide star
      • Other options
    • During a Session
      • Monitoring image capture
      • Checking FWHM
      • Checking guiding
    • After a Session
      • Downloading image
      • Darks, Flats, and Bias frames
    • My First Results
      • A few problems
      • Great customer service
      • A learning experience
      • Would I do it again?

LightBuckets by Sean Curry

  • Real-Time Spectroscopy,
    Tom Field
    • Spectrums like the one to the right are called the "fingerprints of the stars."
    • Spectrums reveal the composition, temperature, and movement of stars.
    • In the past, only professionals had the skill and equipment to study spectrums.
    • Recently, the cost and complexity of the necessary hardware and software has dropped enormously.
    • Today, you can easily study the spectrums of stars and planets with a minimum of expense.
    • If you have a telescope and a CCD camera (even a webcam or DSLR), then all you need is an inexpensive grating (mounted in a standard filter cell) and the RSpec software.

RSpec by Tom Field

  • Exoplanet Transits Update,
    Ken Hose
    • Ken shows the Exoplanet Transits he has detected since the last conference. He also shows how to estimate planet radius, semi-major axis, and orbital inclination from the transit data.

  • 12:00 am Lunch on your own at the OMSI cafeteria

Exoplanet Transits by Ken Hose

  • 1:00 am Successful Guiding Techniques,
    Tom Carrico
    • Prerequisites for good guiding
      • Good Polar Alignment
      • Focus
      • Proper guide star
      • Scope balance
    • Setting for great guiding
      • Exposure intervals
      • Aggressiveness
      • Setting move steps
      • Interpreting tracking graphs
    • Dithering and guiding
    • Mount guiding and Adaptive Optics guiding
      • Does it matter?
      • Additional steps for AO guiding
    • Guiding with a meridian flip
      • Using a rotator
    • Framing and syncing an image over multiple nights
      • Scripts and utilities that can help
    • Pros and cons of using an internal guide chip vs. separate guide scope
    • Results

Successful Guiding Techniques by Tom Carrico

  • Step-by-Step Imaging Processing Fixes for Image Problems,
    Neil Heacock
    • Sometimes our images have issues like color balance problems, light polluted pink skies, gradients, vignetting, bloated stars, soft focus, dust motes, etc. We'll be both discussing and walking through how to correct these to get the most out of your image data.

Cygnus by Neil Heacock

  • LRGB Processing in Images Plus,
    Sean Curry
    • Automated CCD Image Set Processing (To a Point)
      • Calibration
      • Normalize
      • Grade
    • Review and Stack Selected Frames
      • Auto Align or Manual Star Selection?
      • Stack L,R,G,B separately
    • Color Processing
      • Combine LRGB
      • Color Balance
      • Digital Development
    • Enhancements
      • Star Size and Halo Reduction
      • Noise Reduction and Sharpening
    • Final Processing in Photoshop

Images Plus by Sean Curry

  • Image Analysis ImageJ Lab,
    David Haworth
    • Download the free ImageJ version for your computer and install it before coming to class.
    • Lab images will be handed out at the lab
    • ImageJ introduction
    • Image measurements on Quasar KUV18217+6419
      • Image display range and vertical flip
      • Image measurements
      • Rectangular Region Measurements
      • Profile plots
      • Surface plotter and interactive 3D surface plot
    • Installing & running macros
      • Download HaworthMacros.zip
      • Dark frame noise pattern FFT analysis
      • Image statistics
      • Image stacking
      • Quasar KUV18217+6419 spectrum analysis
      • Variable star IY Dra spectrum analysis
      • Moon spectrum analysis
    • Creating macros
    • Installing Plug-ins
    • Optional labs
      • Measuring objects in the image in arcminutes
      • Measuring image rotation lab
  • 5:00 pm Dinner on your own
  • 7:00 to 8:00 pm Image Analysis ImageJ Lab Continued ,

Noise analysis with FFT by David Haworth

  • 8:00 to 10:00 pm Photoshop Processing Lab,
    Neil Heacock
    • Step By Step Processing of M42 using:
      • Levels and Curves
      • Adjustment Layers
      • Object Masks
      • Star Masks
      • Color Enhancements
      • HDR multi-image combining
      • Third party add-ons
        • GradientXTerminator
        • Astronomy Tools Action Set
        • Noise Ninja
        • StarSpikes Pro

Orion Nebula by Neil Heacock

Neil Heacock

Neil Heacock

Neil Heacock is an IT professional who moved out of the city for the first time in 2003. After living in LA, Seattle and Portland, he moved to somewhat more rural area of Clark County and really saw the stars. This birthed a strong interest in astronomy which has continued to grow and develop over the past 6 years. In 2006 Neil began to dabble in astrophotography and after attending the 2007 Northwest Astrophotography Conference his imaging stared to mature. Neil primarily considers himself a visual observer but with such amazing and easy to use imaging systems available he now images with one setup while observing with another. Neil uses a modified Canon 1000D DSLR camera and the images he produces are excellent.

Tom Carrico

Tom Carrico

Tom has been involved in astronomy for over 25 years, first visually, and shortly thereafter succumbing to imaging when Halley's comet showed up. Tom has used many CCD cameras over the last 20, starting with the tiny SBIG ST-4. Currently, he images from his backyard in Corvallis, his observatory in central Oregon that is shared with 4 other astronomers, or remotely using his 10" RC in New Mexico. Tom has been published in Sky and Telescope, the Astronomy Magazine web site, Astrophoto Insight, and numerous books and articles pertaining to astronomy. An EE by training, Tom is currently a program manager in R&D at Hewlett Packard.

Sean Curry

Sean Curry

Sean Curry lives in the beautiful Wagner Valley in Southern Oregon. He got his first telescope upon moving there in 2002, and began imaging with a modified DSLR in 2006. Sean has recently upgraded his equipment to include an AP900 Mount, a Tak FSQ106, and a QSI 583wsg camera. Once the skies clear from the Oregon Winter, he hope to take his imaging to a new level. Sean supports his astronomy hobby as a Lecturer in GIS at Southern Oregon University, and as a researcher at the University of the Pacific.

Tom Field

Tom Field

Tom is an amateur astrophysicist, amateur spectroscoper, and an amateur observer. Also, Tom is a professional software developer who's been at it decades. Tom got interested in spectroscopy, but found existing software difficult to use, prone to crash, not particularly user-friendly, and it often was in a foreign language. So Tom created RSpec that worked better for the backyard astronomer. Photo credit: Greg Scheiderer

Ken Hose

Ken Hose

Ken Hose has been active in visual astronomy for the last 10 years or so. He now has an observatory and taken up astro-imaging. As an engineer, he has an interest in the scientific aspects of the hobby and has a special interest in detecting exoplanet transits.

Duncan Kitchin

Duncan Kitchin

Duncan Kitchin has been taking astro images since 2003, starting with a point and shoot digital camera. Since 2005, he has been capturing deep sky images with a modified DSLR and various telescopes, switching more recently to a dedicated CCD camera. His current interests include capturing narrowband images from his back yard in heavily light polluted Beaverton.

David Haworth

David Haworth

David Haworth enjoys astronomy imaging and processing those images to bring out details that cannot be seen easily by visual observing with the same size optics. David Haworth started astroimaging with a Cookbook CCD camera he built in 1996 and since then has used many types of cameras to image the sky. David wrote Chapter 2: "Afocal Photography with Digital Cameras" in the second edition of "The Art and Science of CCD Astronomy" which was published in December 2005. David's images have appeared in magazine front covers, articles, books, catalogs, videos, music CD covers, T-shirts, other web sites, etc.