Shaun's Carina

Have a look at this shot of the Carina Nebula. It was taken by our mate Shaun.

Shaun has been a photographer for ages, and has a pretty large collection of equipment to prove it. He's mostly been into wildlife and air show photos, but a long-time fascination with things astronomical led him to start his journey into astrophotography last year.

Like me, Shaun uses an NEQ6 equatorial mount. Unlike me though, this was his first-ever mount. Clearly Shaun is not one of the faint-hearted. For a telescope, he started with a Sky-Watcher Star Travel 120 doublet refractor (which is the same as a saxon 1206) coupled with a DSLR.

It wasn't long before he realised that he wanted to dive into the deep end with narrowband images. He tells me that these can show the wonders that exist in the universe - well beyond what our eyes can see.

For the technically minded, the image was taken using a saxon 80mm FCD100 triplet refractor, coupled with a ZWO ASI1600GT. This is a relatively new camera from ZWO, a chilled monochrome sensor with a built-in filter wheel. The image is "Hubble palette" where the stack of images from the Sulphur filter is mapped to the red channel, the Hydrogen filter goes to green, and the Oxygen filter goes to blue. Each filter provided 12 images of 180 seconds.

He also used a green reduction process called HLVG ("hasta la vista green") in Photoshop. This is necessary because ionised Hydrogen is overwhelming in the nebula, and if you simply map it all to green, it dominates the whole photo.

Shaun says he's working on getting better focus, as well as improving the autoguide system to make its tracking performance better.

Shaun has two kids at primary school, and like a lot of people at the moment, he's concerned about our current situation. However, he tells me that the problems we face on this small blue dot seem less significant when we look out into the universe.

While I feel the universe can be intimidating, there is comfort in what we see out there too.