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The role of Telescope Live in my astrophotography Journey

Mark Mayer

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I'd like to share my astrophotography journey and the role Telescope Live has played in this. I'm a research scientist working in the fields of molecular biophysics and structural biology. Shortly before the start of the Covid epidemic I purchased an inexpensive Newtonian reflector on a manual mount with the vague idea that it would be fun to look at the planets.

I was incredibly naive, and despite decades of experience using technically sophisticated equipment, including synchrotron radiation for X-ray diffraction experiments, I knew nothing about astronomy. I very quickly learned that the gas giants I was able to observe quickly drifted out of the field of view! This very quickly led to purchase of a go-to Alt/Az mount with a 9.25” SCT. Now the planets stayed in view and I thought about learning planetary imaging. I purchased a high speed OSC camera, and learned to use FireCapture, Autostakkert! and RegiStax. My only goal was to do planetary imaging which was fun for a while.

Perhaps because I started with Planetary imaging, which uses brief exposures and high speed video capture, I was intimidated by deep sky imaging, with the need for long exposures, accurate tracking, and hours of imaging per target. But, using the same mount and telescope, I added an APS-C OSC and got my first images. The learning curve was very steep, and eventually I was persuaded that if you were serious about this hobby you needed to learn to use PixInsight. 

PixInsight had, for me, an incredibly steep learning curve, reduced in part by Adam Block’s PixInsight FastTrack for Beginners, followed by more tutorials from Masters of Pixinsight. 

On one of their sessions MOP introduced Telescope Live and offered a discounted rate for new subscribers. So I signed up.

Telescope Live immediately introduced yet another challenge: Working with monochromatic data (my own cameras were OSC) and the need to learn about LRGB and narrow band imaging. 

As all users know, the data from Telescope Live is usually of very high quality. It’s acquired at dark sites at some of the best imaging locations on the planet including the Southern Hemisphere, and the equipment is of much higher quality than available to all but the wealthiest Astro photographers with unlimited budgets.

With my own equipment, in the North East US, in a Bortle 8 sky, the rate at which I could acquire data sets limited improving my image processing skills. 

Telescope Live has had a huge impact, and my processing skills have grown substantially in large part because I learned something every time I process a new data set, and I can process multiple sets every month, which I could never achieve with my own equipment. 

 Currently I’ve downloaded > 560 hours of data and this grows weekly!

Mark Mayer

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