Hello Maroun, thanks for accepting our interview invitation. Congratulations for winning ASIWEEK competition in week #35 2022!
Q1: Could you please make a self-introduction first?
My name is Maroun Mahfoud, 42 years old, and living in Beirut, Lebanon. I have a Master’s degree in Finance and Audit and work for a Maritime shipping company.
Q2: What makes you become an astrophotographer and how long have you been?
As a child, I was always fascinated by the sky. My dream was to have a telescope to view closer the planets, the stars, and the moon. But it’s just 3 years ago that I succeeded to buy my first professional telescope for observation. At that time, I knew nothing about astrophotography and the possibility to capture and process images. By coincidence, I watched a video on youtube about astrophotography and was surprised and happy at the same time that this is doable. I knew this will definitely be my new hobby. So, I searched for the gear that I need and bought them.
It has just been 3 years now that I’m into astrophotography. I read books, watched a lot of videos, and I met a group of friends who helped me a lot through this amazing journey. Now, we are meeting once a month to shoot the sky.
Q3: Do you have any other hobbies besides astrophotography? Do you think is there any connection between them?
Yes, hiking, skiing & soccer. Hiking and skiing are types of connecting to nature on earth while Astrophotography is connecting with the Creator himself and foreseeing his ultimate creativity.
Q4: As to your winning image, The Heart of Cassiopeia, would you please tell us how did you capture it? Would you like to share with us some detailed camera settings?
I captured The Heart of Cassiopeia using a Narrowband filter ( H Alpha, Oxygen III & Sulphur II), Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro, Sky-Watcher Esprit 100ED Triplet with guiding scope ZWO ASI120MM and the main camera is ZWO ASI1600MM Pro with set offset 40, gain 139, at -17 temperature. I pointed my equipment to IC 1805; I had 350 frames of 4 minutes each (ha,oiii,sii), and when I stacked them, I got a much much better result than I expected.
Q5: We all know that astrophotography is a very difficult hobby with a very high threshold, so how did you overcome the steep learning curve?
Love and addiction to this hobby are the only key to success and excel since as you mentioned it’s a quite difficult and complicated hobby. I read books and watched a lot of YouTube videos and astrophotography channels. But most importantly, I added my touch and my flavor to create a unique signature.
Q6: Where do you usually take astrophotos, somewhere remote from home or just in your backyard?
In my backyard at Bortle 5.
Please check below my first Astronomy picture of the day from Nasa taken from my backyard.
Q7: Do you still remember your first astrophotography experience? What feelings did you have when you saw your first astrophoto?
My first astrophotography experience started 3 years ago when I was using at that time an observation telescope with an Alt-Azi mode without guiding, with a normal camera Nikon 7200. I was so happy and excited with my first image and knew it was the start of a long way…
Below is my first image along with my first setup (Observation setup)
Q8: What gear do you use, any photos of them?
Telescope: Sky-Watcher Esprit 100ED Triplet
Reducer: Apex ED-L
Camera: ZWO ASI1600MM Pro
Mount: Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro
ZWO Electronic focuser
Filters: ZWO Narrowband (Ha, OIII, SII)
Guiding Cam: ZWO ASI120MM
Guide scope: 60MM
Q9: Do you often discuss astrophotography with your family or friends? Will they join you on the imaging nights?
Yes, of course, they are fascinated with the pictures I take, and most of the time they join me on the imaging nights. Yearly, my friends and I organize an outdoor astronomy event and everybody is welcome to join.
Q10: Are there anyone who inspired you when you were into this hobby at the very start?
Actually no, astrophotography and space are in my blood.
Q11: If you are asked to choose 3 words to sum up your AP experience over these years, which 3 words will you use and why?
The addiction to the universe’s beauty which reveals God’s power in every detail will generate this excitement to give more and more and overcome the difficulties and challenges that you will face to produce an image.
Q12: Do you have any suggestions for the people who want to buy their first ASI cameras?
Yes, I advise them to choose a mono camera and narrowband filters for nebula, and to check the pixel size of the camera according to the focal length of their telescope.
Q13: What new ASI products do you expect?
Q14: Would you like to share with us your project plans in the future?
I am shooting 4 panels mosaic. I completed the first panel. Please check below.