Astro-photography using Scientific Data

I have spent the last 14 hours training myself in an aspect of astro-photography I did not think I would get to for some time to come. To be able to take images of distant galaxies and  nebula, I would need to upgrade my telescope and camera hardware to achieve the pictures I want to take. And to be honest I am not sure how long that will take. But there is no rush and I am happy to work my way through the different levels of astro-photography.

My ambition is to be able to take a simple black and white picture and process it and produce an image full in color and detail. When you take a picture through a telescope, you do not see the detail and colors that you see in the astronomy magazines. It needs to be processed and worked on to get a result like that.

M82 Red FITS file (Click to Enlarge)

Well after a very interesting session on astro-photography at the Northern Sydney Astronomical Society last night, I signed myself up to a service over in Europe where I now have access to 12 terrabytes of scientific data coming from the Hubble Telescope. Producing beautiful astronomical images from raw data used to be something only a select few groups could do. Now this has ability has being opened up by NASA and ESA who are now making this raw data available to teachers, students, amateur astronomers and so on.

So I have gained membership and spent 14 hours working through the process of  how to create a color image of a galaxy called M82 using raw scientific data.

The picture above  is one of the four files I used as a source. I worked out the steps on how to process it through photoshop and documented it so I could use it as a guide for the next object I wanted to target.

After umpteen hours I managed to come up with this image of M82 which I processed in a way to try and highlight the gas clouds in the center of the galaxy. I will more than likely get better at this with practice but I am more than happy with the result I got which I posted below.
There are a few areas of the picture below which are a little rough but I will work out how to improve the pictures as I go along.

M82 processed last night (Click to Enlarge)

~ by sydneystargazers on December 23, 2009.

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