How is it done?
This is a short article and video on how I take these images of deep space and create the artworks - such as this backlit piece of The Rosette you see below
I use a telescope, a specialist camera and set of filters to capture the light from these distance objects. The camera is mounted on the end of the telescope where you would normally position a magnifying eye-piece. A telescope does not magnify the images it is simply a light-bucket, capturing photons from afar. (The bigger it is the more you can capture!) It is those eye pieces that do the magnification so my images are not magnified.
Here it is:
The telescope is what is known as a refractor - it uses only lenses - no mirrors. The aperture is 6" diameter which is large for a refractor. The key aspect of this particular scope is the amazing optics which contributes to the crisp beautiful images. This is why it was so expensive!
You will also see the scope is mounted on what is called...a mount...and this is a crucial part of the configuration. The software that runs the mount knows the night-sky and is able to point the telescope at any object I select. The object moves across the night-sky as the Earth rotates and the mount accurately tracks so as to avoid sausage shaped stars! There are other mechanisms which further help this accuracy too.
Out of shot there is a computer which is controlling everything and storing the data.
The Observatory at ASTROCAMP and Remote Imaging
I live just north of London in the UK and for many years observed and imaged from my back garden. But as I learnt more I demanded more and sadly my location didn't offer me what I needed. Too many clouds, too many trees and too many street lights! - I simply couldn't capture enough data.
In 2012 I moved my equipment to a site on top of a mountain in Spain.
This is what is known as 'Hosted Site'. Astronomers from around the world place their equipment in one of these sheds or domes and pay a rental fee. This rental covers the infra-structure and maintenance. An engineer lives in the village below and there are other support staff regularly visiting the site.
This site is near a village called Nerpio in the Albacete region and within a huge national park. Here it is dark, has many clear nights and the sky is crystal clear. The observatory is at 5,5000 feet above sea level.
I operate the equipment remotely from my laptop wherever I am in the world. I try and visit Nerpio once a year just for fun or to upgrade the equipment but strictly speaking I never need to visit.
Prior to an imaging run I check the weather at the site. A range of parameters are measured as the circumstances must be right before the observatory roofs can open at night. For example, if it is below freezing then the roofs will not open as the mechanisms could freeze, preventing closure and therefor potentially exposing the equipment to the elements.
The Weather at the Observatory at midday Saturday 16th January 2021 along with the forecast.
Here is the on line weather station for the Observatory:
One project usually lasts a few weeks. I am currently imaging the Crab Nebula. Clearly to image an object you need it to be above the horizon each night for a decent length of time. Last night (15th-16th January 2021) I imaged The Crab from 19:45 until 03:30.
For this particular image I am taking 25 minute exposures through different filters and building up this data over many nights. I throw away about 30% of the data if it is not perfect for some reason. (eg. seeing conditions, an aircraft or satellite spoils something).
I have about 36 hours of The Crab but after culling I think it will be about 25 hours, which is enough.
Once I have the data I begin the huge task of processing- this story is for another day!
Turning it into Art
My career was largely spent in the printing industry. So when it came to wanting to produce art I already knew some of the best Fine Art printers in the World. Before launching Galaxy On Glass I spent a great deal of time researching and working with a couple of these printers to find something unique, something that would look fantastic on a wall and would benefit these images of deep space. I now work with two companies.
I have established a close relationship with these printers and now each time a customer orders they make the piece for that customer and then ship all over the world as required.
Before launching a new image into my collection I work with the printer to optimize how it will look.
I hope you this gives you a sense of what I do and how my art is made.
In 2017 I took a small professional film crew over to Spain to make a short video of how it is done. Below will give you more of a sense of how it is done and also of course, how beautiful it is at the top of that mountain!
My Story- Galaxy on Glass
If you would like to see some of the images available just click here: