Discovery Astrophotography with ZWO ASTRO

Astrophotographer’s Story: Виктор Пенков (Viktor Penkov)

Hello Viktor, thanks for accepting our interview invitation. Congratulations on winning the ASIWEEK competition in week #47/2023!

Q1: At first, congratulation that your nice image won #ASIWEEK. Can you introduce yourself to us? 

Thank you very much! My name is Viktor Penkov. I’m 38years old and I am an amateur Astrophotographer from Sofia, Bulgaria.

Currently I’m working in the film industry in the wardrobe department, it’s not the camera operator, but is a fun job 🙂

Q2: When did you start astrophotography and how?

My first photo was in 2017 and I took it through my cousin’s telescope with my dslr camera. And the next year I bought my first telescope!

Q3: Why do you love astronomy? What does it mean to you?

Astrophotography is an escape from everyday life! Going to distance location, fresh air and mountains is soul relaxing! I love the silence of night J  

Q4: Can you tell us about the winning photo?

NGC 7822 is a young star-forming complex in the constellation Cepheus. I first saw this object (NGC 7822) last year (2021), but until then I didn’t have a nice telescope with a perfectly flat field to photograph it. This is my first mosaic and it won’t be my last. I capture this photo from NAO Rozhen in Bortle 3 Sky With perfect seeing.

NAO Rozhen, Bulgaria

Total integration is 35h 30m.

I photographed this object as bi-color (Ha & OIII)

For Ha make I only 15h of data, 7.5h per channel (bad weather), and for OIII 10h, per channel Total 20h.

I stacked and processed in PixInsight and put the final touches in Photoshop.

Steps of processing:

  1. Blink
  2. Stack
  3. Drizzle
  4. Mosaic combination
  5. Removing the stars
  6. Stretch
  7. Pixel Math Combination
  8. Masks
  9. Curves
  10. ……..

Q5: What gear do you use? Any pictures of them?

Camera: ZWO ASI1600MM Pro

Telescope: Askar FRA400 + Reducer 0.7

Mount: iOptron CEM25P

Filter Wheel: ZWO EFW 7x36mm

Filters: Optolong LRGB, Ha – 7nm, S-II – 6,5nm, OIII – 6.5nm

ZWO OAG

Guide Camera: QHY 5L-II-M

Focuser: SESTO SENSO 2

Mini PC: Male Q2 + Windows 11 pro

Q6: Which is your favorite astronomical target that you have photographed so far?

I don’t have a favorite photo at the moment! Maybe my next one 🙂 But I have someone I prefer over others.

W63 (SNRG082.2+05.3) in Cygnus
LBN576
SH2-132 The Lion Nebula
IC1396 Elephant Trunk Nebula

Q7: How is the air quality in your region? Where do you normally take astrophotos?

I live in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia . It’s a bortle 7. For that reason every time I go to shoot, I travel an hour and a half each way to bortle 3-4 near Sofia. No excuses for our wonderful hobby 🙂 Every year there is a star party of Star Society Bulgaria ( https://forum.starrydreams.com/ ) in NAO Rozhen! I stay 7-10 days to take my photos from there. Big thanks to National Astronomy Observatory Rozhen for allowing us to have the star parties there.

Q8: How long do you usually spend on processing? What do you think is the most important part of this stage?

I usually take about a week to process one photo! When I think this is the finished picture, I stop and look at it the next day! All stages are important J Don’t skip stages!! For me the most important is stretching. Because if you have not stretched the footage well, you will lose a lot of detail that is available.

Q9: Besides astrophotography, are you actively involved in other astronomy-related activities?

I left this work to people more competent than me (astronomers).

Q10: Is there any memorable story you can share with us from your astrophotography days?

I will never forget how in 17 February 2021 we stood at -17 degrees Celsius to take pictures all night. Then I forgot to cool the camera for the first two hours of shooting, but all the photos were perfect 🙂

Q11: What advice do you have for newcomers to astrophotography?

Use mono camera, and do as many hours per channel as possible!

Q12: How many ZWO products do you have, what’s your first ASI camera?

I have 3 ZWO Products! My first and still first camera is ASI1600MM Pro, maybe one day I upgrade to ASI2600MM Pro, I also have ZWO OAG and EFW 7x36mm

Q13: Would you mind sharing with us your upcoming shooting plans?

Maybe my next photo will be a mosaic again. And I’m thinking about the Sh2-240 Spaghetti Nebula and IC2118 Witch Head Nebula.

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