Hello Antoine, thanks for accepting our interview invitation. Congratulations on winning the ASIWEEK competition in week #37/2023!
Q1: At first, congratulation that your nice image won #ASIWEEK. Can you introduce yourself to us?
Thank you, my name is Antoine Grelin and I do astrophotography from Las Vegas, NV, with my wife Dalia. Together we have a YouTube channel called “Galactic Hunter” where we upload useful astrophotography content.
Q2: Besides astrophotography, are you actively involved in other astronomy-related activities?
I am part of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society, so I try to go to the meetings a few times a year, as well as the special events when I can. This is a great way to do some visual astronomy with all the different types of telescopes available, and to meet local amateur astronomers and astrophotographers.
Q3: How is the air quality in your region? Where do you normally take astrophotos?
We live in Las Vegas, so it is Bortle 9, AKA very polluted by light. We used to drive one hour out to the desert to Bortle 3 skies every single clear nights before, but we now fully embraced narrowband imaging from home and only go to the desert when shooting broadband. The good thing about Las Vegas is that it is very clear most of the year, and that despite being extremely light polluted, it is surrounded by desert, so driving any direction for an hour or so gives you nice dark skies.
Q4: Can you tell us about the winning photo？
This is my first ever 2×2 mosaic. I was scared of doing it at first because I never tried mosaics before (besides for my Green Comet + Mars image but that was just 1×1 so very simple to stitch). After 8+ years of doing astrophotography, it was finally time to embrace mosaics!
The target is the Rho Ophiuchi molecular cloud complex in the constellation Ophiuchus. I spent about 2-3 hours on each panel for a total of approximately 10 hours altogether.
It was a great timing because the JWST released a picture of Rho Ophiuchi the day before mine! It was nice to annotate my image showing where exactly the JWST pointed.
Q5: What gear do you use? Any pictures of them?
I used a RASA 8 for this target, and a ZWO ASI2600MC Pro camera. The mount is the 10Micron GM1000HPS, the computer a PrimaLuce Lab Eagle 5S, and it is all set up at Utah Desert Remote Observatories which is under Bortle 2 skies. The fast f/2 of the RASA + Bortle 2 is a combo made in heaven.
Q6: How do you normally do post-processing? Would you like to share with us your workflow?
I use PixInsight for all my processing. I calibrate and stack everything using Weighted Batch Pre-Processing, then I start working on the image. I always start with background extraction, followed by BlurXTerminator and NoiseXTerminator without being too harsh. I then proceed to color calibrate, stretch the image, remove the stars, and reveal as much detail as possible from the starless image. After enhancing that starless image to the best, I re-add the stars again using PixelMath and reduce their size a little bit so that they do not overwhelm the view.
Q7: Can you share with us some of your favorite photos you’ve captured?
Sure, here are a few:
Q8: Is there any memorable story you can share with us from your astrophotography days?
Several years ago, Dalia and I were in the desert, and back then there was no cell-service or internet. We were in the middle of nowhere. While imaging, we saw a bright light going up in the sky (this was before the Space-X days so rocket launches were much rarer and we had no clue what it was). The bright light separated high in the sky, then exploded. A huge blue cloud in the distance started forming, and stayed in the sky for 30 minutes before dissipating. It ended up being a test missile launch from the US Navy, and the explosion was controlled. This, at the time, was very shocking to see, especially since we had no internet and could not check social media or the news. Nowadays, rocket launches happen often so it is not scary, but back then it was.
Q9: We know that you created Galactic Hunter with your wife, how does it feel to be involved in astrophotography with your family? Have you encountered any difficulties?
It feels nice, especially when we didn’t have a backyard and had to spend each clear night in the desert without service. Being there alone for hours while waiting for the image to be finished is very, very boring. Yes, you can look at the stars and enjoy, but it still gets boring to just wait during hours alone. Being together made it much more fun. Difficulties occur sometimes but it is rare, it is mostly about filming videos and not astrophotography itself. For example, it can get stressful to have to record a video in the desert during the night, and remember what we have to say or find the motivation to do it. These are the hardest moments and they occur at random.
Q10: How did astrophotography affect you when it went from a hobby to a job?
It was a scary time, but I am glad I quit my job to do astrophotography full time. the most stressful part is that nothing is consistent, so you can never know how much money you’ll earn the next month. Some months are good, some are bad, you never know.
Dalia joined me full time this year too, and we have been able to be more productive which is good. The main thing that this move affected is that we now have much more free time, and this allows us to produce more for our website.
Q11: What do you consider to be your highlight moment in astrophotography?
There are a few. Winning AAPOD2 of the year in 2021 was very cool. Our first interview ever, back in 2016 with Orion Telescopes meant a lot to us.
This ASIWEEK win is great too! Another highlight was to be able to watch a rocket launch with members of NASA, which was possible thanks to our channel and content. This was incredible.
But the ultimate highlight has not happened yet, it will be when we finally get one APOD, which apparently is never going to happen.
Q12: When did you start using ZWO’s products and do you have any suggestions for us?
I started using ZWO products as soon as I upgraded my very first rig. I went from DSLR straight to a the ZWO ASI1600MC camera. This was a huge step forward. I quickly bought the ASIAIR and the ZWO guide cam to go along with the camera, and fell in love with ZWO products during that time.
For suggestions, it is difficult to find something to say considering it’s all so good already, but I would love seeing in the future:
– A high-end mount with through-the-mount cabling
– A tiny portable star tracker that would be lighter and smaller than anything ever seen
Know more about “Galactic Hunter”: https://www.galactic-hunter.com/