Stephen Hamilton's Astronomy Blog

My thoughts on Astronomy, Imaging, and just about anything else I may come up with.

<October 2005>



You've Come a Long Way Baby

This month, October 2005, we will be celebrating one year since the introduction of the Meade DSI family of cameras.  As you may know, one of the things we have going on to note this occasion is the First Annual DSI Imaging Contest which will conclude this month.  Our sponsors, Meade Instruments, Anacortes Telescope and Wildbird, and Willman-Bell have generously contributed soem wonderful prizes and the entries we have received so far have been amazing.

Last Week, Matt Taylor posted a message to the Meade_DSI Yahoo Group pertaining to how far he has personally come this past year in his imaging skills, understanding of processes, and general capabilities.  He posted this awesome image of the Crab Nebula (M1) which shows just how far he has come in one year.  Nice Job Matt.

Following suit, I began to look back thru my images and see what improvements, if any, I have made in that time as well.  I started to look back thru my images and actually found quite a few that qualify but the one below of M33 stood out the most to me.  The first one, taken in September of 2004 (on the right) was one of the first galaxy images I had ever taken with the DSI.  I recall being very pleased with the results at the time in looking back, with the level of experience I had at the time with this camera, I am still pleased with the results.  Of course, I must admit that when I compared the two, I was really amazed at what I considered acceptable then vs. what I consider acceptable today.  Perhaps next year I will be able to post 3 images, I certainly hope there is a significant difference once again, we'll see.

Sometimes, (like the frog in the water) we don't really see change occurring,  I suppose that as astro-photographers, we are probably much more critcal and harder on ourselves then others are and it is generally others that tend to see the improvements over time that we don't see.  I guess it just helps to take a step back every now and then and really look at where we are vs. where we have been.  For example, I was just looking thru some of my favorite galleries here on AutoStarSuite.Net and was amazed at some of the absolutely beautiful images that are here.  Most of these folks would have been considered "beginning imagers" back when these groups first started but you certainly can't tell it by their postings here.  Some of my favorites include Chuck Reese, JP Longchamp (Polo), Matt Taylor, and too many others to mention.  I personally consider these folks to be the experts in this field and definitely with these cameras, we are certainly fortunate to have them and so many others as members. 

Of course, this makes another point doesn't it?  How far would any of us have gotten in this past year without the help of the group members as a whole?  They say no man is an island unto himself and these groups really typify that statement.  I am constantly amazed at the generosity and selfless dedication of so many folks here and on the Yahoo! Groups.  These groups have grown (combined) over the past two years to close to 5,000 people, all willing to jump in and help, share a thought or experience, or just post a friendly "Good Job" when someone throws a new image up on the site.  Yes, we have all come a long way in our abilities to take images, but along the way, we have made some new friends, learned a few lessons, and hopefully, made this hobby of our just a little bit better for those that stop by.

Published Wednesday, October 12, 2005 9:30 AM by E2Pilot


# re: You've Come a Long Way Baby @ Friday, October 28, 2005 11:20 PM

You said a mouthful Stephen.

The early images posted on QCUIAG with SC1 modified webcams amazed me. I have been an amateur astronomer for many years and remember the days when these images were unheard of outside of the universities.

Over the years, we saw incredible images from dedicated film imagers, and the proliferation of expensive imaging systems and the incredible work they produced. That, we thought, was the next step forward if we wanted to move beyond our webcams.

Then, along came the little DSI, SAC, ATIK and others. The early postings quickly became a quantum leap forward in image quality at a reasonable cost and time investment. When I see postings by Chuck Reese Reese, Jean-Paul Longchamp, Matt Taylor, Chuck Domoraki, and others I am left speechless (which, as any of my Irish relative will tell you, is as rare as Venus transiting the sun.)

Maybe anyone who appreciates art can look at Matt’s recent M1 and appreciate the photograph. However, for someone who has sat huddled over a PC screen in the dark for the better part of year, that image is spellbinding.

I remember a year ago, when more than a few were quick to question the capabilities of the DSI. These comments came from folks who hefted there wonderful SBIG equipment to the light path, and came from folks who had never captured a photon on a CCD. Now, many of these questions have turned to admiration. Now, high end camera companies are producing less expensive cooled CCD cameras, as are companies that never sold CCD equipment are developing cooled I wonder what the next year will bring. One can only wonder, and smile.

Take time. Turn off the PC, let your eyes once again dark adapt. Take time. Lie in the quiet peacefulness of a dark meadow in the mountains. Take time. Look up at the Milky Way, and remember the first time it enchanted you, and change you, forever.

Steve Loos


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