Discovery Astrophotography with ZWO ASTRO

Astrophotographer’s Story: Manuel Alejandro Chavarria Silva

Hello Manuel, thanks for accepting our interview invitation. Congratulations on winning the ASIWEEK competition in week #14/2024!

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

Thank you very much, I’m so happy that my Dolphin nebula won ASIWEEK #14/2024. 

My name is Manuel Alejandro. I’m a 28 years old phycisits that really enjoy watching the nightsky and do astrophotography, I’m from Cuautla, a medium size town not far away from Mexico’s City.

Q2: How did you get started in the hobby of astrophotography?

Back in 2020 on the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn some of my friends asked me if I could take out the telescope to see the event, it was a very cheap newtonian with an equatorial mount, and after spending the noon watching the conjunction I really wanted to take a photograph and that was the first time that I tried to take a photo through my telescope. After researching I realize that I needed better equipment to do astrophotography and that’s where I dive into the rabbit hole of astrophotography.

Q3: Can you tell us about the winning photo

The SH2-308 commonly known as the Dolphin Nebula, is an HII region located near the center of the constellation Canis Major, composed of ionised hydrogen. It is about 8 degrees south of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. The nebula is bubble-like and surrounds a Wolf–Rayet star named EZ Canis Majoris.

Wolf–Rayet stars, often abbreviated as WR stars, are a rare heterogeneous set of stars with unusual spectra showing prominent broad emission lines of ionised helium and highly ionised nitrogen or carbon.

Q4: What gear do you use? Any picture of them?

The equipment I currently use is a Skywatcher Quattro 200p, ZWO ASI2600MM Pro with an AM5 mount. Also: EAF, EFW, Antlia LRGB and HSO filters. ZWO ASI120MM Mini for guiding, ZWO OAG and the ASIAIR.

Q5: How do you normally do post-processing? Would you like to share with us your workflow?

For this Nebula my objective was to make a HOO palette so after stacking my two channels I did the following:

  • Crop the image
  • Remove the gradient
  • Deconvolution
  • Combine channels (HOO)
  • Color calibration and background Neutralization
  • Noise Reduction
  • Star Removal
  • Stretch image
  • Color adjustments and contrast
  • Stretch stars and give them saturation
  • Combine stars and nebula images

Q6: This doesn’t seem to be the first time you’ve shot this target, what adjustments were made during the imaging process?

       The first time I shot this target with the ASI294MC pro I realized that the target was rich in OIII and needed larger sub-exposures to extract the faint details on the target. Now with the ASI2600MM I shot with 600 sec and a very narrow filter. I thought that 5 hours was enough for the H-alpha channel but for my surprise it was so fain it was barely visible so I had to do more hours. At the end I spent 30 hours in this target over the span of 6 nights.

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

       Generally, it’s good but these years wasn’t great, many cloudy nights. I shot from a Bortle 7 region on the rooftop of my house and still get some street lamps light shining on my scope. My dream is to travel to darker skies and shoot very faint nebula.

Q8: Do you still remember your first astrophotography experience? What feelings did you have when you saw your first astrophoto?

My very first astrophoto was the great orion nebula taken with a 150/750 newtonian telescope and a dslr, no guiding and with an intervalometer. It wasn’t what I had in mind but I was happy to achieve a photo from the deep space.

My first astrophotography ever

Q9: Would you like to share with us some of the beautiful images you’ve captured?

Here are some of my Astroimages taken with ASI cameras.

Tadpoles Nebula (Quattro200p/ASI2600MM Pro)
Horsehead Nebula (Quattro200p/ASI2600MM Pro)
M33 Triangulum Galaxy (Quattro200p/ASI2600MM Pro)
Soul Nebula (Quattro200p/ASI2600MM Pro)

Q10: What do you think astrophotography has brought to your life? Does it change you in any sort?

The astrophotography hobby has taught me about patience and how to troubleshoot problems as they come because there are many things that could go wrong. Also that everyone is a novice and look up for advices is a good thing for you to learn new things and improve your photos.

Q11: Is there any memorable story you can share with us from your astrophotography days?

One night while I was polar aligning my gear I thought someone was behind me with a lamp but when I look up at the sky I saw a really bright shooting star.

Q12: How many ASI cameras do you have? What is your first ASI camera and why did you choose it?

Currently I have two ASI cameras ASI294MC Pro and ASI2600MM Pro. My first ASI camera was the ASI294MC pro, it fitted my budget at the time and it coupled well with my equipment. It is a great camera once you know how to acquire your data and process it. But I really wanted to go for a monochrome camera, so after two years I finally could buy my ASI2600MM and I’m in love with this wonderful camera.

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

I’m planning on shooting Cat’s paw Nebula and Dragon’s Egg Nebula. Later in the year I wish I can take a photo of the difficult squid nebula. Hopefully I will win another ASIWEEK later this year. Thanks

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