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Your Astrophoto Skills

This section of the AstroBackyard website is here for you to hone your astrophotography image processing skills. It is very interesting to see different takes on the same data set, using a variety of software to get the job done. 

Astrophotography images require careful image processing techniques to reveal the faint and beautiful details that lie within the image data. By observing how others approach the same data, we can get a well-rounded point of reference for the subject.

Your Astrophoto Skills

In my opinion, there is no singular “right way” to process your astrophotos, nor is their a superior software choice above others. I am not the best at astrophotography image processing, but I have made steady progress over the years, and it’s been really satisfying. The best way to get better, is to practice your craft.

The best part about having multiple people process the same data, is that you can compare your image processing techniques with others, without the countless variables involved with personal image acquisition techniques.

How it Works

The idea is, you download the data (a high resolution .TIF file) from this page (the big blue links below), and process the data using your image processing software of choice. When you are done, share your version of the image as a comment on the original AstroBackyard Facebook or Twitter post. 

You can also post the image on social media (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) with the hashtag #yourastrophotoskills – and I will find it. Please do not email me the images!

How you choose to process this image is up to you. 

The only rules are that you do not indicate that the images were captured by yourself, and that you please link to my website (if possible) when shared. Also, if you incorporate some of your own data into the image, please make sure to specify this. 

If you share the image on social media, please understand that I may include your take on the image (your processed image) on this website (with full credit, of course).

Most of the data shared in this section was captured by me, in a light polluted city backyard. The current files available are in .TIF format, and they have been registered, stacked, and calibrated in DeepSkyStacker. They are quite large, so be prepared to wait for the download to finish before processing. 

astrophotography image processing

Let’s See Your Astrophoto Skills: Available Files

Right now, there are 3 image files available to download. Each of these images include a nebula, and this type of deep sky object presents unique challenges and a worthwhile reward. All of the images were captured using a DSLR camera attached to a telescope. 

Download: The Cocoon Nebula (Canon 60Da)

You can download the individual exposures and calibration frames here.

Total Exposure: 1 Hour, 20 Minutes

About the file:

This image was captured from my Bortle Scale Class 6 backyard using a Canon EOS 60Da DSLR camera. A SkyTech CLS-CCD filter was used to help isolate this nebula from a light polluted sky. The image was captured through a William Optics Zenithstar 73 APO refractor in June, 2019.

Zenithstar 73

Download: The Lagoon Nebula in RGB

Total Exposure: 1 Hour, 15 Minutes

About the file:

This image was captured from a Bortle Scale Class 4 site about 45 minutes from my home using a stock DSLR camera (Canon EOS Rebel Xsi). An IDAS LPS clip-in filter was used to help isolate this glowing emission nebulae in Sagittarius from rural sky. The image was captured through an Explore Scientific ED80 refractor on a warm June night in 2013. 

Lagoon Nebula

Download: The Soul Nebula in RGB

Total Exposure: 5 Hours

About the file:

This image was captured from my Bortle Scale Class 8 backyard using a modified DSLR camera (Canon EOS Rebel T3i). A SkyTech CLS-CCD filter was used to help isolate this emission nebulae from a washed out city sky. The image was captured through a Meade 70mm Quadruplet APO refractor over the course of a single, clear night in November 2017.

Download: The Andromeda Galaxy in RGB

Total Exposure: 2 Hours, 14 Minutes

About the file:

This image was captured from a dark sky site in Southern Ontario (Bortle Scale Class 4/5) using a Canon EOS 60Da DSLR camera, and a 74mm refractor telescope. The images were shot using only a UV/IR cut filter in front of the camera sensor, something I can not do from my light polluted backyard in the city.

Andromeda Galaxy download

Astro Image Processing Software

I personally use DeepSkyStacker for the pre-processing stages of my image, and Adobe Photoshop CC for post processing. There are many options to choose from when it comes to processing long exposure, deep sky astrophotography images. 

Some popular image processing software choices include:

I will notify others when new data is available to process on the AstroBackyard Facebook Page, or Twitter Feed. I will post my favorite images on this page for others to appreciate and learn from.

Wall of Fame

This is where I will share my favorite variations of the images processed using the data shared on this page. For now, it only includes the Soul Nebula from the #astrobackyardchallenge back in 2017. I’d love to fill this section with many more subjects in the future.

The Soul Nebula by Andrew Klinger

I thought Andrew did an incredible job with this data on the Soul Nebula. The resulting image has “punch”, yet it is not overdone, and the star size was kept under control. It is very interesting to see how PixInsight differs from Photoshop in terms of the end result. Great work, Andrew! You can follow him on Instagram, under the username @ak_astro.

Andrew’s Processing Comments:

Here’s my go in PixInsight!  DBE, BN, CC, TGV and MMT noise reduction, ArcsinhStretch, HistogramTransformation for a bit more stretch, Exponential Transformation with a mask to push nebulosity, CurvesTransformation to increase saturation, LHE, MT on stars, final CurvesTransformation.

The Lagoon Nebula by Philipp Hayer

This image of the Lagoon Nebula was processed by Philipp Hayer. He noted that he followed one of my Photoshop processing tutorials throughout the edit. My workflow leaves a lot of room for creativity, and Philip used these moments to create an impressive portrait of M8.

Lagoon Nebula by Philipp Hayer

Tutorials

If you are new to processing astrophotography images, you are not alone. If you would like a video reference to follow along with, have a look at the follow image processing tutorial in Adobe Photoshop:

For more astrophotography tutorials from image acquisition to image processing, have a look at the tutorials section of this website. I appreciate those that take the time to process my data, and are brave enough to share their results with the world!