Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Space Photos Taken From Shed Stun Astronomers

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the love-the-gold-mylar dept.

Space 149

krou writes "Amateur astronomer Peter Shah has stunned astronomers around the world with amazing photos of the universe taken from his garden shed. Shah spent £20,000 on the equipment, hooking up a telescope in his shed to his home computer, and the results are being compared to images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. 'Most men like to putter about in their garden shed,' said Shah, 'but mine is a bit more high tech than most. I have fitted it with a sliding roof so I can sit in comfort and look at the heavens. I have a very modest set up, but it just goes to show that a window to the universe is there for all of us – even with the smallest budgets. I had to be patient and take the images over a period of several months because the skies in Britain are often clouded over and you need clear conditions.' His images include the Monkey's head nebula, M33 Pinwheel Galaxy, Andromeda Galaxy and the Flaming Star Nebula, and are being put together for a book."

cancel ×

149 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Stunning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30867866)

Absolutely stunning. NT

Re:Stunning (3, Insightful)

x2A (858210) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868050)

Totally... but comparable to photos from Hubble? Sure, I guess "not as good as" is a comparison. Living here in Britain I can confirm getting pictures of the sky like that is no easy feat, and are definitely impressive... but there's no way you could achieve anything like Hubble's output, what a silly thing for them to say! I expected better from news outlets than that... haha jk.

Re:Stunning; but compare (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868770)

Compare

http://www.noao.edu/image_gallery/images/d2/ngc2237.jpg
http://www.astropix.co.uk/ps/pages/rosette%20rgb.htm

The guy's kit is impressive. I'd like his garden shed. But...

Re:Stunning; but compare (4, Informative)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869836)

a major difference here is that he is taking these in RGB, whereas the hubble pictures are usually shown to us in false color. (taken in other wavelengths for scientific purposes, like studying what the nebulae are composed of)
so really, from a strictly photographic perspective, yes, this guy's pictures are better, because they show what the thing *really* looks like.

Re:Stunning (3, Interesting)

kramulous (977841) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869004)

I'll never forget taking a good friend of mine from England visiting Australia back to where I grew up. I was raised about 400 km west of Brisbane - essentially a whole lot of absolutely nothing. He just gawked at the night sky for about an hour. He'd never realised what was up there.

You can see so much that you see colours.

Re:Stunning (5, Informative)

Kentari (1265084) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869014)

Indeed, as an astrophotographer I can say his images are high quality and I'm sure the comparison with Hubble is not his own. We know better than that... I use an even simpler setup (Losmandy GM-8, Canon 300mm f/2.8 Lens or 20cm Newtonian f/4.5 and modified Canon 20D camera) and even those images get compared to Hubble by people. That setup cost me less than 5k euros.

Hubble is about science, astrophotography as you get to see it is about "pretty pictures". We get as much sciene return as a casual wildlife photographer... By accident we may discover something (and we all dream of it...). Hubble press releases are "pretty pictures" as well; but usually distilled from valuable scientific data.

There are a lot of amateurs contributing to science, but you don't get too see much of them. Tom Boles for example has discovered over 120 supernova's (from Britain) and has been featured in the media (BBC). And he's picked a hot subject. Many others monitor asteroids, variable stars, faint comets and will never get noticed by a news channel...

His and astrophotographers' work is important though to popularize science. I myself got started by seeing images of the sky in books. Now I'm making them myself...

Astronomers stunned by space photos? (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869416)

Maybe they're all just seeing stars.

Fooooosh.... (2, Funny)

reverendbeer (1496637) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867892)

My God....it's full of stars.

Re:Fooooosh.... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867956)

Better check that the shed is still there...

Re:Fooooosh.... (3, Insightful)

rmushkatblat (1690080) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867960)

Try this at home, kids!

Re:Fooooosh.... (-1, Offtopic)

dougisfunny (1200171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868298)

Just not in Boston, the local authorities will be called and panic will ensue at your terrorist activities. Especially if you have a lite-brite.

Re:Fooooosh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868566)

Is that a reference to a particular event?

Re:Fooooosh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868660)

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/01/31/boston.bombscare/index.html

Re:Fooooosh.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30869756)

That had nothing to do with someone doing amateur astronomy from their garden shed. That was, to most of the public, mysterious electronic devices scattered around the town in what could have been spots strategically selected for their damage potential. The cartoon characters portrayed were not popular, nor should they be.

Oh my... (1)

linuxgeek64 (1246964) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867898)

Amazing!

Beautiful pictures (4, Interesting)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867904)

Amazing, I would like to see some more details of his setup, particularly which telescope and CCD he used.

I personally have a 6" Dobsonian, but without an equatorial mount it's nearly impossible to replicate his results.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867932)

Well, you could always email him (see the second link) it's interesting to see that some of the photos take 1-4 hours to expose and render.

Re:Beautiful pictures (4, Informative)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867948)

It takes quite a while to collect enough light from 100s of light years away in order to create a usable image.

For example, looking through my 6" telescope you can't see any nebula's like in pictures. Another thing they do is take multiple images and stack them together to amplify the signal and minimize the noise.

Re:Beautiful pictures (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868812)

There is more to it. What you can see at the visible light frequencies won't look that pretty. We just don't see enough. There is a lot of beauty in infra-red and UV/microwave that we can't see without aid.

It is usual to capture a number of black-and-white images at various specific frequencies (narrow-band) and use them to create a false color picture, e.g. give blue tint to the light at hidrogen frequency, etc.

Google for "astronomy picture of the day", search for deep-space object pictures like nebulae and galaxies, and read the descriptions.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868962)

Yeah, the image is all about the computer processing, and webcams in particular have done wonders for backyard astromony. A lot of work collecting those images in a 8" and putting everything together though. _Very_ nice.

Re:Beautiful pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30869598)

you can't see any nebula's like in pictures

That's "nebulas", not "nebula's"

HTH. HAND.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869288)

Better idea. It's not a common name, so he should be easy to track down. Then just go round there and taff all his stuff.

Re:Beautiful pictures (4, Informative)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867936)

Information found:

He used an ORION OPTICS UK AG8 Astrograph and a STARLIGHT XPRESS SXV-H16 CCD.

http://www.astropix.co.uk/equipment.html [astropix.co.uk]

Re:Beautiful pictures (2, Funny)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869468)

STARLIGHT XPRESS SXV-H16 CCD.

So, the solution to quality astrophotography is basically a big gay Andrew Lloyd Webber musical on rollerskates?

Re:Beautiful pictures (4, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867942)

There's info on the telescope and CCD here [astropix.co.uk]

Re:Beautiful pictures (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868002)

Thats a great camera. I wonder if he does weddings?

Re:Beautiful pictures (2)

Genda (560240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868744)

Only if the ceremony is on the moon....

Computer ? (1)

Lorens (597774) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868156)

Doesn't say what he uses on his computer, though, or how much time he needs to process a picture.

Re:Beautiful pictures (2, Interesting)

serbanp (139486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868162)

What is impressive is how accurate and stable the tracking mount must be. Some exposures are 4 hour long yet in the resulting photo the brightest spots don't have any trail.

Re:Beautiful pictures (2, Insightful)

CnlPepper (140772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868766)

I would assume he collects many hundreds of frames with a much shorter exposure time and then adjusts for the motion in the frame prior to "averageing" frames. A Bayesian statistical model that accounts for motion and various noise sources, any optical aberrations etc.. would be capable of extracting the level of information seen in these images.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

Internal Modem (1281796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868918)

Several short exposures don't capture more light than a single long exposure. In fact, they capture far less.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869398)

He's mounted the scope in cement, which accounts for the stability. Apparently it's wrapped in foil to prevent heat dissipation. You can actually get much better imaging in the winter as the heat always creates distortions in the atmosphere. He had a problem with the cement mount heating up and then causing distortions in the evenings. Very clever. I would imagine he uses the same technique as most amateur astrophotographers. He either uses a long exposure camera, or a cam. With the camera, he would take various length exposures (possibly in separate color lengths, combining the rgb later), or if he's using a cam, he would collect segments of video, and then evaluate each frame from the video to cherry pick the best frames and then stack those good frames using any number of stacking programs (most of which are FOSS). The stacking allows you to increase the signal to noise ratio significantly. The only problem with cams are the fact that they aren't designed for night work, and they tend to generate a lot of noise on their own.

I have an 8" Celestron but I never use it these days. The on-board computer is a little glitchy, and I could never get it to track properly for long exposures. It was great for local sights like the outer gas giants, and it could image decent pictures of mars, including the ice caps.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

Cytotoxic (245301) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869428)

Several short exposures don't capture more light than a single long exposure. In fact, they capture far less.

Right, but atmospheric motion blurs long exposures, and background noise accumulates as well. So you take several short exposures and add them together. sort of the amateur's version of adaptive optics. TFA mentions he uses about 30 frames to make an image.

Re:Beautiful pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30869936)

I would assume he collects many hundreds of frames with a much shorter exposure time and then adjusts for the motion in the frame prior to "averageing" frames.

If your telescope can track a guide star (and with a 20K GBP setup, it ought to), then motion blur is a non-issue. The telescope stays locked onto the field of view with less than one-pixel of jitter, so there's nothing to correct — any residual the motion blur is overwhelmed by the atmospheric blurring [seeing].

What normally limits your exposure time is either the well depth of the CCD or cosmic rays. It's good to stay under the well depth everywhere in the frame because that helps keep the CCD linear. Cosmic rays are more a cosmetic defect, but you can get thousands of them in a very long exposure, particularly if you're up high, so it helps to take shorter exposures and reject the cosmic rays when combining.

Re:Beautiful pictures (3, Informative)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868166)

Dobs are useless for photography. You would have to use an equatorial mount.

It would me even more interesting to know his digital process. That's where the magic happens. Of course you have to start with a good set of the right kind of exposures, but it's the processing that brings out the sort of details you see in the photos. The images that come out of the hardware don't look anything like the photos.

In fact, with a fairly modest mount/tracking setup, a DSLR, and the right processing (also a healthy dose of patience), you can get surprisingly good astrophotos.

Re:Beautiful pictures (2, Informative)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868556)

Why worry about smooth equatorial tracking? Rig your camera using the cheapest tracking solution you have or move it by hand if you have to. Who cares if it jitters. It just can't jitter during the exposure. Merge the photos into 1 frame by removing the jitter and combining exposures.

A 100 second exposure pic is equal to 100 one second exposure pics. The problem is in finding software to stitch the photos into 1 frame. The easiest to try is to just get PhotoShop. Stitch the photos into 1 with Photo Merge [adobe.com] . You can also experiment with PhotoShop HDR merge [slashdot.org] . You may have to tweak the contrast/brightness and light levels before or after.

2nd option is using video stabilization software to remove the jitter. There are tons of software options for that but you want one will accept very large resolution pics with large dimensions. You want apps that will work on frames as individual photos instead of enforcing video formats on import and export. Off the shell software might be tuned for pics with normal daylight exposure, so look for options to fine tune the algorithm to work on dimly exposed pics.

If the software won't work on dimly exposed pics, perhaps you can experiment with batch processing the files to increase contrast and brightness or tweak the lighting levels. (Lots of software options.) Feed the result into the stabilization software. Batch process again to reverse the contrast/brightness increase.

The post-process step is to stitch and merge the photos into one as before. Plain stitching used to create panorama shots won't work. It needs to sum the exposure data. Photo apps solve these types of problems so there's a good chance it would work with PhotoShop or Paint Shop Pro (with "HDR Photo Merge [amazon.com] ). You could shoot a series of fast exposures for the raw data and 1 long blurry exposure to use as a reference point for the HDR merge. Example. [photoshopcafe.com]

Re:Beautiful pictures (2, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868896)

Frame stacking also allows you to indentify noise from the CCD. I've used a DSLR to take relatively short time exposures of lightning (30sec), I always have to touch up the photos to get rid of the random colored dots that come from it's noisy CCD.

Re:Beautiful pictures (2, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869234)

In step 11 of the HDR link you provided it seems to me that, except for a bluer sky, the HDR photo is actually somewhat worse for details than the original on the left.

The problem with stacking astronomy photos over a long time without an equatorial mount is that the image field rotates from one photo to the next. Your software should take that into account, otherwise the result will be a lot of circles centered on the celestial pole.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869766)

Step 11 is lower quality because he applied a tone mapping texture for artistic purposes. The center one in the 3 panel is the HDR one. Also, rotation is taken care with the software, however it's not ideal. Rotating image data (at angles other than 90,180,270,360) destroys a little bit of pixel information even with very high res images (not usually noticeable to the eye but it happens).

Re:Beautiful pictures (3, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869240)

"A 100 second exposure pic is equal to 100 one second exposure pics."

Not quite. Averaging multiple exposures lets you remove noise yes. Digital sensors are so sensitive that for reasonably bright objects what you say is true. But, if you want to image dimmer objects, you have to have a longer exposure simply to make sure you actually catch enough photons.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869718)

The number of photons over a fixed amount of time isn't going to change whether exposure time is sliced into a single exposure or multiple exposures. It's basic math.

Re:Beautiful pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30869280)

With an alt-azimuth mount you would still get a "field rotation" effect over long periods. So in that case you would need to slightly rotate the images while stacking them. Also, any camera shake over the course of a one-second exposure will look horrible. You would end up with very blurry images.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869800)

Btw, HDR software might not be the the right solution because it seems to be more about averaging different exposures. There's got to be software that will combine and add multiple exposures. It also wouldn't be too hard to write a simplified algorithm to do it.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868920)

I personally have a 6" Dobsonian, but without an equatorial mount it's nearly impossible to replicate his results.

Dobs are useless for photography. You would have to use an equatorial mount.

(-1, Redundant)

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869402)

By definition a Dobsonian is a cheap alt-az mount that provides steady and smooth operation by hand, so yes they are useless for any kind of photography that requires long exposures.

It doesn't follow that you need an equatorial mount to do anything. I've seen some very nice photos made by stacking short exposures of bright objects that were hand tracked using an alt-az mount. And of course professional instruments these days use computer controlled alt-az mounts, but that's a different story. Possibly an amateur with a fixed observatory might be able to build a good enough alt-az setup to do long exposures, but there's no reason to. An equatorial mount is bound to be a better investment of time given the size instrument he's likely to have. The big advantage of the alt-az mount is that it is simple, stable, and lightweight for those observers who want to haul the scope out of the garage to do some visual observations.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

ogre7299 (229737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869990)

In order to take the long exposures necessary an equatorial mount is necessary. As an object moves through the sky the field in an alt-az telescope rotates. Thus, you would have to take short enough exposures to ensure that the rotation doesn't smear the images and then rotate them as you stack them. Also, tracking is a bit more complicated since you have to drive on two axes.

The large alt-az telescopes like Magellan, Gemini, and Keck get around the field rotation problem by having the instruments on a rotator to take out the field rotation.

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

burris (122191) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869734)

Dobs are not "useless" for photography. People do manage to capture some pretty good images of the moon and planets with nice stable dobs that have tracking and a video camera. Check out Wes Higgin's images of Mars [higginsandsons.com] , Jupiter [higginsandsons.com] , and Saturn [higginsandsons.com] captured with an 14.5" Starmaster Dob. Judging by his page, he is fairly seriously into lunar imaging. Far from useless...

Re:Beautiful pictures (1)

saisuman (1041662) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868484)

I'm also assuming that he has some sort of tracking mount. The exposure times listed ran into hours, and I don't think you can produce images this sharp without tracking mounts.

Google says... (4, Informative)

reverendbeer (1496637) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867938)

...go here for more pic of his setup. I can totally see where that £20k went. http://www.opticstar.com/Run/Astronomy/Astro-Editorial-Articles-General.asp?p=0_10_19_1_6_10 [opticstar.com]

Be patient... (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868170)

/.'d

My God... (1)

He Who Has No Name (768306) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867980)

...it's full of stars.

Gorgeous pics, and nice work giving an orbital observatory a run for its money, partner.

Hubble? I don't think so (5, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30867984)

They may resemble some of the aesthetics of Hubble, but not the resolution. Thus, the comparison is potentially misleading. The photos in the gallery are of relatively near or bright objects. It's more about careful timing, planning, and processing that brings out details of such objects. Major observatories often don't have the budget or motivation to spend the time to carefully process images of common astronomical objects.

One amateur reprocessed images from Soviet Venus landers and brought out some amazing detail, finding landscape features that weren't spotted before. It's simply the case that sometimes amateurs are simply motivated to spend the necessary time and attention to detail more so than "professionals", who normally have full in-boxes. Amateurs can decide to be as anal as they want. Call it open-source astronomy.
   

Re:Hubble? I don't think so (3, Informative)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868064)

They may resemble some of the aesthetics of Hubble, but not the resolution. Thus, the comparison is potentially misleading.

I know. They look decent, but a ~200KB image does not compare to a ~200MB (~204800KB) Hubble photo.

Re:Hubble? I don't think so (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869272)

Has it not occurred to you that he may have resized the full-res images for web posting? I'd be willing to bet that the originals aren't Hubble-quality, but they probably have more resolution than a 1996-era webcam.

Re:Hubble? I don't think so (4, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30870076)

Most amateur level astronomical CCDs (amateur is a relative term in this case) are pretty low resolution. The SBIG ST-7 I use for the observatory I run is only around 800x600. For this kind of equipment you're not looking for number of pixels nearly as much as low noise, good cooling, and pixels that are sized right for the optics you're running.

When the parent refers to resolution, he means the angular size of each pixel, not the sheer number of pixels. This is a function of aperture size and atmospheric clarity -- all the CCD can do is take maximum advantage of whats available by making each pixel about half of what can be resolved by the optics.

Re:Hubble? I don't think so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868068)

Bright, close objects. Hubble has several things on this guy: angular resolution, atmospheric distortion, optics, and camera quality are notable ones. These are just... pretty Amateur astronomy photos. Nothing particularly new or spectacular here.

Re:Hubble? I don't think so (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868092)

It's also worth pointing out that the scientific value of an astronomical picture has nothing to do with how pretty it is. And it was science that justified the huge sums spent on Hubble, not pretty pictures. We're just used to seeing spectacular Hubble photos because NASA, ever mindful of PR, keeps pushing them out, often "enhancing" them to make the skies more photogenic.

Re:Hubble? I don't think so (5, Informative)

wierdling (609715) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868228)

As someone who processes Hubble data for viewing (I am working on one right now), pretty much every image you see like the ones he show are "enhanced". They are taken through (generally) 3 narrow band filters for nebulae, and 3 wide band for galaxies. If you check his images, he even shows what filters he used.
And NASA isn't the only group putting out viewable Hubble images. The ESA publishes quite a few (which get published through the Hubble Heritage site). Check out www.spacetelescope.org. The lovely full view of Orion was done by them.

Re:Hubble? I don't think so (3, Informative)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868948)

Nice web site. Very first image I pulled up was of Perseus A, and the text said "Detail and structure from optical, radio and X-ray wavelengths have been combined for an aesthetically pleasing image which shows the violent events in the galaxy's heart." And you seem to be saying that all images produced for mass consumption are like that. So these images are even more different from the ones that scientists care about than I thought they were.

The fact that the European counterpart to NASA also uses these photos for PR is kind of beside the point. And I'm not condemning either agency for doing this. Eye candy may not be as important as science, but it does help justify the budget that gets the science done. I'm just debunking the idea that eye candy is what Hubble is for.

Nor do I want to trivialize what Shah does. His work not only gives us cool-looking pictures, it raises interest in backyard astronomy — a "hobby" which does a lot of serious science [hobbyspace.com] .

Re:Hubble? I don't think so (1)

Killjoy_NL (719667) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869530)

I just looked through a lot of those pictures in awe and amazement.
So much beauty in this universe :)

Re:Hubble? I don't think so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868106)

I'm pretty sure the resolution of his images that we see posted are not the full extent of the resolution he captured.

Re:Hubble? I don't think so (3, Interesting)

bundaegi (705619) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868874)

One amateur reprocessed images from Soviet Venus landers and brought out some amazing detail, finding landscape features that weren't spotted before. It's simply the case that sometimes amateurs are simply motivated to spend the necessary time and attention to detail more so than "professionals", who normally have full in-boxes. Amateurs can decide to be as anal as they want. Call it open-source astronomy.

Thanks! I looked it up, and if you are referring to Don Mitchell's story, it is indeed well worth reading. http://www.mentallandscape.com/C_CatalogVenus.htm [mentallandscape.com]

Even better, the re-processing pipeline for each of the Venera mission [mentallandscape.com] datasets is explained in great detail. For instance, about the Venera-9 mission images (from http://www.mentallandscape.com/V_DigitalImages.htm [mentallandscape.com] :

The upper image is the raw 6-bit telemetry, about 115 by 512 pixels. Automatic gain control and logarithmic quantization were used to handle the unknown dynamic range of illumination. Previously published images from these probes suffered from severe analog generation loss, so it is fortunate that the original data was found. The raw image was converted to optical density according to Russian calibration data, then to linear radiance for image processing. It was interpolated with windowed sinc filter to avoid post-aliasing (a "pixilated" appearance), and the modulation transfer function ("aperture") of the camera was corrected with a 1 + 0.2*frequency**2 emphasis. This was then written out as 8-bit gamma-corrected values, using the sRGB standard gamma of 2.2. Some of the telemetry bars on the right were replaced with data from the 124 panorama. The bottom image is digitally in-painted, using Bertalmio's isophote-flow algorithm, to fill in missing data.

... and for a BBC coverage of the story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3387895.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Cool project and all... (5, Insightful)

kale77in (703316) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868008)

... but the article is rather light on quotes from actual, stunned astronomers.

Re:Cool project and all... (4, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868046)

quotes from actual, stunned astronomers.

Ever been stunned before? Obviously the astronomers were just too stunned to say anything worth quoting.

Re:Cool project and all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868082)

or they where just too stunned that someone could compare this to Hubble photos.

Re:Cool project and all... (2, Insightful)

Stephan Schulz (948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868072)

Well, they are obviously too baffled to comment! Or maybe too flummoxed. Or the Daily Telegraph is the kind of newspaper that thinks "Lara Croft picks up six Guinness world records [telegraph.co.uk] " is related to astronomy and just pulls headlines out of its...

Re:Cool project and all... (5, Funny)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868138)

How many astronomers were stunned to make these pictures. Was it done humanely?

A random assault or did he planet? (1)

xigxag (167441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868840)

No, you've misunderstood. The astronomers weren't stunned to make the pictures, they were stunned BY the pictures.

Evidently Mr. Shah silk-screened his photos onto the blade of a cricket bat and used said instrument to whack a cluster of astronomers upside their noggins, whereupon, they saw stars!

Re:Cool project and all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30869956)

How many astronomers were stunned to make these pictures. Was it done humanely?

DON'T STUN ME, BRO!

Re:Cool project and all... (5, Insightful)

Trapezium Artist (919330) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868604)

IAAPA (I am a professional astronomer), and I'm not stunned. Sorry. Nice work for a back-garden job, but any comparison with Hubble or any of our 4, 8, 10m class telescopes is utterly specious.

What's he and many other (admittedly very dedicated) amateurs are benefitting from is the enormous improvement in detectors (in this case, CCDs) over the past 20-odd years, plus the not-unrelated improvement in computer processing power to align, stack, and mosaic digital images. Obviously, professional astronomers have access to all that in spades, as well as much larger telescopes / telescopes above the atmosphere as well.

So yes, superficially similar and impressive coming from an amateur with limited resources, but to compare this with Hubble is completely lame-brained. Indeed, the cynic in me notes that TFA is puffing a book of his images: what a coincidence. A sidebar link takes you to a similar article in 2008 about another amateur who's "seeing the beginning of the Universe" from his shed: surprise, surprise, that article also puffs a book of his pictures. Of course, the article's in the Torygraph, which delights in celebrating a fifty years out of date vision of Britain populated by toffs, proles, and eccentric back garden amateur boffins, so hardly unexpected.

Going back to the point about better detectors, however, it's interesting to note that although we've built bigger and bigger telescopes over the past twenty years (as well as developing adaptive optics, space telescopes, broader wavelength coverage, etc.), the main gain we've experienced in terms of scientific performance has come from the vastly improved detectors. Problem is, we're now pretty close to detecting every photon that falls on the detectors and we can build detector arrays that almost fill the available focal plane.

To go further in ground-based astronomy then, we need much (much) larger telescopes, such as the E-ELT, TMT, and GMT. With their much larger collecting area and higher spatial resolution, you can expect truly fabulous things in the next ten years. From space, it's JWST, of course ...

Even with the smallest budgets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868014)

£20,000? Was I the only one who thought this was NOT a small budget?

I know it's small in relation to a NASA budget but to compare it to "all of us" makes me wonder what the writer actually gets paid.

Re:Even with the smallest budgets? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868128)

£20,000? Was I the only one who thought this was NOT a small budget?

I know it's small in relation to a NASA budget but to compare it to "all of us" makes me wonder what the writer actually gets paid.

He gets paid bupkas, the author of TFA is Peter Shah himself, who actually paid them to publish TFA, it's a paid advertisement for his book. If you think it's not a paid ad go ahead and try to find the name of the journalist who wrote TFA. What, the author's name is missing from TFA? How odd.

Re:Even with the smallest budgets? (2, Insightful)

mike2R (721965) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868234)

He gets paid bupkas, the author of TFA is Peter Shah himself, who actually paid them to publish TFA, it's a paid advertisement for his book. If you think it's not a paid ad go ahead and try to find the name of the journalist who wrote TFA. What, the author's name is missing from TFA? How odd.

Jesus, some people will make up conspiracy theories about anything.

Re:Even with the smallest budgets? (3, Funny)

Steve Max (1235710) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868502)

It's all a conspiracy to make conspiracy theorist sound overly paranoid, thus removing any credibility from true conspiracy theories.

20 000 British pounds = 34 127.25 Canadian dollars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30869958)

This amount would allow me to live for more than three years (apartment, food, electricity, phone, internet, car expenses).

Stunning? (4, Insightful)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868028)

Yes, those are very nice pictures for an 8 inch scope. But stunning??? Did he do anything else besides getting a scope with good optics, a steady mount, and a high resolution CCD? Any special processing? What software? Did he have to stack a whole lot of images and toss out bad ones where the atmosphere messed the image up too much? Details! We need the gritty details!

Re:Stunning? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868350)

I guess the software was plain old Photoshop - that's what most amateurs (and pros, for "publicity shots") use. The best mount is a "Paramount" (about £10k). The camera might even be a british Starlite-Xpress model.

The thing is, the advent of CCD imagers (cameras) has increased sensitivity so much and the use of PCs has allowed such better processing, that an amateur (even me!) today can easily get better pics than the professionals from 40 or 50 years ago: when everything had to be recorded on film, developed and with no hope of post-processing if you messed up.

What you won't be able to do, unless you live in the middle of nowhere, is get dark enough skies: without any light-pollution, to produce images of this quality. Oh yes, you'll also have to wait for the two or three days every month when it's not cloudy or raining.

If you want to know how it's done, visit http://ukastroimaging.co.uk/ [ukastroimaging.co.uk] of any of the other amateur astronomy sites.

Re:Stunning? (2, Informative)

Angostura (703910) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868488)

From the article: "....The superb photos, each made up of about 30 frames..."

Conspiracy, I tell ya! (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868040)

NGC1499 is also known as the "California Nebula". Most of the other nebulas are identified by their colloquial name, so why did they skip California? Bloody Brits still pissed about 1776! ;-)

Is it bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868090)

...if I was more interested in pictures of the shed?

Nah (2, Funny)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868134)

Nah. Clearly photoshopped.

Re:Nah (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868254)

Nah. Clearly photoshopped.

Indeed. I can tell from some the of pixels and having shooped quite a few whoops in my time.

Cuts to UK astronomy (3, Insightful)

Saboo (1190071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868150)

The UK Science and Technologies Facilities Council is busily slashing funding to much of UK astronomy. I guess this article is great for the powers that be to point out the UK doesn't need to spend money to e.g. stay as a partner in the Gemini Observatory when they can get results comparable to Hubble for 20 grand!

That's Nothing (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868192)

You should see the pictures of his voluptuous neighbor. It took months of patience to get those, as well.

Not THAT stunning. (2, Informative)

tumutbound (549414) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868200)

Nice images but hardly Hubble. There are other amateurs doing work that is just as good or better. Check out this guy http://www.pbase.com/strongmanmike2002 [pbase.com]

Pretty pics, but not research grade (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868310)

What NASA releases for general consumption are highly filtered, highly photoshopped images that are promoted for their vivid colours and "cosmic" impressions. That's not what Hubble is used for. If that was all it did then yes, this guy (and the thousands of others around the world like him) could fill the media with colourful images all day long.

However, none of them is worth a dam' for research use: where calibration is much more important that prettiness and resolution, low noise and even the spectrum of light used (not all light makes it through the atmosphere - esp. IR) are the sole reasons for spening all that money getting Hubble up there.

While I applaud the Telegraph for publicising this, it not what professional astronomers do - nor is it even close to what Hubble does to earn it's money.

Science! (2, Interesting)

Matrix14 (135171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868312)

I'm wondering what sort of more scientific data one could get from a setup like this. Not for actual science purposes, but for my or his own fun. Do the CCDs used have enough intensity granularity that one could detect the red and blue shift differences in spinning galaxies, for instance, and do some dark matter calculations for oneself?

Re:Science! (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869452)

If you want to things with redshift you need to have a spectrometer. You could probably build one without too much trouble, but it would take more than hooking up a camera to a telescope.

These are great pictures! (3, Insightful)

cvtan (752695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868612)

The basic implication from this article is that real scientists are idiots who waste money building expensive toys when a regular person with a modest budget can get the same results. (Similar to endless homemade electric car articles about how a guy in his garage made something better than a Prius.) These photos are wonderful, but not like those from the Hubble. Also, there is a notable lack of quotes from "stunned" astronomers as others have pointed out. Shah is a talented amateur who spent $32000 on his advanced hobby. How many of us have spent that much on a hobby? [Nevermind...] He IS an astronomer. The photos were not taken with a "garden shed" but with $32k of equipment. I have no problem with Shah, but this is borderline anti-scientist propaganda. And no I am not paranoid! Wait, I just had to turn around to see if that scary splicer from BioShock was standing behind me.

Brilliant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868662)

Those pictures are awesome.

What a load of whiney tossers there are on Slashdot. Yes, I already knew that's what the majority of readers were before I read this, and yes, I keep coming back and reading more of their drivel, so more fool me.

I know Hubble takes amazing photos. But you can't have a hubble in your back garden. I think it's amazing that you can get photos of stuff like that from your shed. It's quite inspiring.

Re:Brilliant (1)

scifiber_phil (630217) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869934)

I feel the same way. Yes, they may not really compare to Hubble's, and others may have done better, still, the man used what is not a small amount of his own time, money, and effort to produce something worthwhile in the true tradition of the amateur, that is out of love of the work. To complain that the results are not good enough always reminds me of the crabs in a bucket syndrome where when one crab expends the effort to climb halfway out of the bucket, the other crabs drag him back down. Is it too much to ask to praise someone who has achieved something, rather than to say that he didn't do enough?

Well, eight inches ought to be enough. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30868946)

/obscure?

Yes they can be compared to Hubble's pictures (1)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869020)

They can indeed be compared to HST pictures, as in, they are not as good.

They are pretty, an impressive achievement for an amateur using a 8" telescope, an inspiration to many, but the pictures not as detailed or scientifically interesting.

Comparison (2, Informative)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869102)

Sorry for duplicated post

Compare the referred author picture of NGC 6888 here [astropix.co.uk] to a professional job there [nasa.gov] . The former is still very impressive for an amateur, indeed this is the verbatim comment from the IAC site [www.iac.es] (where the professional picture was taken):

NGC 6888 is out of the reach of an amateur telescope. The nebula can only be observed in deep images. Large telescopes like the 2.5-m Isaac Newton Telescope on La Palma and narrow-band filters are needed to image the intricate structure of the gas shells.

Small nit with summary (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869238)

Amateur astronomer Peter Shah has stunned astronomers around the world with amazing photos of the universe taken from his garden shed.

As remarkable an accomplishment as these photos are, it would have been even more remarkable if he'd managed to take pictures of something other than the universe.

Comparing the results. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30869276)

Silly hyperbole. “[A]nd the results are being compared to images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.” Yes, you could also compare Honda Civics to Formula-1 Supercars. Both use ICE, burn fuel, have wheels, and may transport at least one person from point A to B.

Not Impressive (4, Informative)

burris (122191) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869582)

I'm sorry, but his pics just aren't that great compared to other amateur imagers.

Compare Peter Shah's image [astropix.co.uk] of M42 with Rob Gendler's [robgendlerastropics.com] . Or how about this even more stunning one [astrophoto.com] captured by Tony and Daphne Hallas with a 6" refractor at the Winter Star Party.

IMHO, Peter Shah's self promotion is more impressive than his images.

stunning starbursts? (2, Informative)

Walter White (1573805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869638)

The starbursts are aesthetically pleasing (stunning) but I suspect they would be detrimental to any scientific use of the images. Their presence is most likely the result of post processing that favors artistic appearance over scientific accuracy. IANAA but I doubt that the images have any scientific relevance.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>