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

Thank you very much for selecting my picture and for the interview. It is a great honor. My name is Ayman Naguib, and I am 57 years old. I live in Cupertino, California. I have been working in the wireless communications field for the past 27 years. I currently lead a small research team in one of the large technology companies in the Bay Area. I am married and have four children.

My number one passion is photography in general. My father was a professional photographer, and I got my love for photography from him. Before getting into Astrophotography, I loved doing landscape and underwater photography. I love hiking, backpacking, and scuba diving.

Ayman_1 Ayman2

Q2: Why do you love astronomy? What does it mean to you?

Perhaps the best way to describe why I love astronomy and astrophotography is that they are humbling. Looking at the stars is where I feel closest to God. Ralph Emerson said in his Nature book “If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and adore”. This is exactly how I feel.

PICTURE 2 - Guitar_Lake_MilkyWay

Milky Way above Guitar Lake. Sony A7RII, SONY FE 24-70 @ 24mm F2.8, 25sec exposure @ 1600ISO. No Tracking.

PICTURE 3 -Natural_Bridges_MilkyWay

Milky Way and Natural Bridges, Santa Cruz. Nikon D810, Nikon 14-24 @ 14mm f/2.8, 60sec, 1600ISO. Tracked with a SkyWatcher Star Adventurer.

Q3: When did you start astrophotography?

I started astrophotography about 4 years ago. It started while I was on a backpacking trip to the Emigrant Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I was in awe looking at the night sky with no light pollution. So, my first attempt at astrophotography was a timelapse for the Milky Way which came out nice. I was so thrilled with the result such that I started focusing on making the night sky part of the landscape pictures that I was capturing during my backpacking trips. I also started driving to nearby dark sites that would allow me to take pictures for the night sky with my DSLR camera and tripod.  I then got the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer and tried taking pictures with a DSLR mounted on it and got decent results with it. Then in the summer of 2018, I had an 8 day long backpacking trip to hike Mount Whitney. During that trip I spent 7 nights under the stars with no light pollution whatsoever. It was an unbelievable experience. I spent a couple of months after the trip talking to my family about it. By end of summer, my wife got me a telescope (it was a Maknewt reflector) and a mount as a birthday gift. I started first doing visual astronomy looking at the moon and planets. A couple of months later I took my first picture through a telescope with my DSLR which was a picture for the moon.  I then decided to buy a small refractor

which was the SkyWatcher Esprit 80 by January 2019. That is when I took my first DSO image which was for the M42. It has been a deep dive since then.

PICTURE 1 - Gem_Lake_MilkyWay

Milky Way above Gem Lake. Sony A7RII, SONY FE 24-70 @ 24mm F2.8, 25sec exposure @ 1600ISO. No Tracking.

PICTURE 25 - M42_Orion_Nebula

M42 Orion Nebula
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 100 + APEX-L 0.65x reducer, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 114x180sec, 30x120sec, 191x10sec
Mar 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q4: What gear do you use for astrophotography? Any pictures of them?

(In this question, please include the photo of the gear you used for your winning picture.)

Here are some of my gear/equipment:

Mounts:

SkyWatcher EQ8-R pro and EQ6-R pro which I use from my backyard (see pictures)

SkyWatcher AZ-EQ5 and AZ-GTi which are my portable setups that I use at remote sites

Telescopes and Lenses:

SkyWatcher Esprit 80, Esprit 100, Esprit 120, and Esprit 150

Samyang 135mm, Askar 200 lens

I also just received my new C11HD but did not have a chance to use yet

Cameras: ASI183MC Pro, ASI294MC Pro, ASI294MM Pro, ASI2600MC Pro, ASI2600MM Pro, ASI2400MC Pro, and ASI6200MC Pro

Guide Scope: ZWO 30mm guide scope, SkyWatcher Evoguide 50

Guiding Camera: ASI290MM Mini and ASI120MM Mini

ZWO Gear: ASIAIR PRO, ASIAIR Plus, EAF, 7-position EFW, ZWO OAG, ZWO 1.25″ Helical Focuser

GEAR 1

GEAR 1: AZ-EQ5, Askar 200 F/4 astro lens, ASI6200MC Pro, WO 30 mm guide scope, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO

GEAR 2

GEAR 2: EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 100, ASI183MC Pro, SW Evoguide 50 mm guide scope, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO

GEAR 3

GEAR 3: EQ8-R Pro, SW Esprit 150, SW 0.7xx reducer, ASI2600MC Pro, SW Evoguide 50 mm guide scope, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR Plus

GEAR 4

GEAR 4: EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 100, APEX-L 0.65x reducer, ASI2600MC Pro, SW Evoguide 50 mm guide scope, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO

Q5: We see that you have taken photos of both Deep sky and Planets. How do you like them?

I actually did not do a lot of planets yet. I have taken one picture for Jupiter and one for Saturn (and many for the Moon of course) which turned out to be OK. I am hoping with the addition of the EDGE HD11 to my gear, I will be able to get better pictures of the planets. However, I have been mainly focusing on DSO imaging. I feel that the quality of my images has been improving, especially since I started using narrowband filters. My first narrowband image was for M16 which was taken with ASI183MC and Esprit 120. I have always admired that iconic Hubble image for M16, and I was thrilled to capture my own. I am still shooting using OSC and Light pollution and duo-narrowband filters (Optolong L-Pro and L-eXtreme). However, I recently got a couple of monochrome cameras (ASI2600MM Pro and the ASI294MM Pro) and a ZWO EFW. My focus for 2022 will be on monochrome imaging.

PICTURE 29 - M16_Eagle_Nebula

M16 Eagle Nebula
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 120, ASI183MC, ZWO Duo narrowband, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 104x180sec
August 2020, Home Backyard, Bortle 6
PICTURE 20 - M78
M78
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 80, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 223x180sec,
Dec 2020, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q6: Your ASIWEEK image “The Lunar Eclipse and The Pleiades” was outstanding! How did you capture it?

In general, I like to take widefield astrophotos. This year we were lucky because there were two Lunar eclipses that happened in very interesting parts of the sky, and I was able to capture both. The first lunar eclipse that happened in May was a good training exercise for the second one. I used the same technique in capturing both. First step was to capture the background starfield that will be behind the moon during the eclipse two weeks before the eclipse i.e., when the moon is just born. For this part, I used the Askar 200mm lens paired with the ASI6200MC Pro and the Optolong L-pro filter. The data for the Pleiades and the surrounding dust cloud was captured over three nights from a camp site 20 miles outside of Zion National Park. For the lunar eclipse, I imaged it from my backyard using the Esprit 100 paired with the ASI183MC and the Optolong L-Pro filter. I made sure that both cameras have the same rotation angle. I processed both the foreground lunar image and the background starfield image separately. The next step was to scale down the foreground lunar image so that it had the same image scale as the background starfield image to produce the final composite.

PICTURE 10- M45+Partial_Lunar_Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse and M45
M45 Starfield: AZ-EQ5, Askar 200 @f2, ASI6200MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, WO 30mm, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 260x180sec
Moon Photo: SW Esprit 100, ASI183MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, 200 x1sec, 50% stacked
Nov 2021, M45 data acquired from Zion Nation Park, Bortle 2.5
Moon data acquired from home backyard, Bortle 6.

PICTURE 9 - Lunar_Eclipse and Rho_Ophiuchi_Cloud

Lunar Eclipse and Rho_Ophiuchi_Cloud
Rho Ophiuchi Cloud: AZ-EQ5, Samyang 135mm @f2, ASI6200MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, WO 30 E, ASI120MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 182x90sec
Moon Photo: SW Esprit 100, ASI183MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, 200 x1sec, 50% stacked
April 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q7: What do you think is the most difficult part of taking DSO images? How do you deal with it?

I think that for me, given that I take most of my pictures from my backyard in the heart of the Bay Area (Bortle 6 skies), the most difficult part is the ability to properly deal with the light pollution and gradients. I don’t get the chance to drive to remote sites quite often, so I had to learn (still learning) how to deal with light pollution. Using duo-narrow band filters has been extremely helpful. I must also be very picky when I capture broadband targets in order to minimize the impact of light pollution. From my backyard, there is a lot of light pollution looking east/northeast in the direction of San Francisco. However, there is much less light pollution when looking southwest/west in the direction of the Santa Cruz mountains. So, I plan my shooting sessions accordingly.

PICTURE 34 - SH2_190_HeartNebula

SH2-190 Heart Nebula
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 80, ASI2600MC Pro, STC Duo-narrowband, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 387x180sec,
Oct 2020, Home Backyard, Bortle 6
PICTURE 18 - M101-Pinwheel_Galaxy_HaRGB
M101 Pinwheel Galaxy in HaRGB
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 120, ASI183MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, Optolong L-eXtreme, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 279x180sec, 141x300sec with L-Pro,107x300sec with L-eXtreme
April 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q8: How long do you normally spend on processing after date acquisition? What do you think is the most difficult part of processing for you?

I normally spend 6 hours per photo on average for post-processing after acquiring the data. This includes the stacking process which I normally do using Astropixelprocessor and the post-processing which I do using Pixinsight and Adobe Photoshop. I feel there is still a bit to learn in both Astropixelprocessor and Pixinsight to take advantage of all they offer. I do spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos on how to use both these two software packages. Gradient removal and color calibration are still a bit of a challenge for me.

PICTURE 26 - M33_Tringulum_Galaxy_HaRGB

M33 Tringulum Galaxy
EQ8-R Pro, SW Esprit 150, SW 0.77x reducer, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, Optolong L-eXtreme, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 435x180sec with L-Pro,272x300sec with L-eXtreme
Sep2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6
PICTURE 16 - Mars and M45
Mars and M45
AZ-EQ5, Radian Raptor. ASI6200MC Pro, Optolong-L Pro, WO 30, ASI120MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO
This is a composite for shooting over 6 nights from Feb 28,2021 to March 6, 2021. 90x120sec for each night
Feb28-March 6, 2021. Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q9: It seems like you use ASIAIR PRO and ASIAIR Plus every time you take astrophotos. Which feature of ASIAIR do you like most? And where do you think it can be continuously improved?

The ASIAIR has been a game changer for me astrophotography-wise. It makes setting up very easy. But perhaps the biggest two features that I benefited from the most are the AF using the EAF and the Autorun/Plan features. Both features allow me to set up and start the imaging sessions very quickly and go back home and be with the family or continue working. I consider them a marriage saver 😃.

I think it was a good move for ZWO to add the external antenna in the plus version. However, there are several features on my wish list that I hope ZWO would consider adding them to the ASIAIR software or future version of the ASIAIR. The top ones are: In-app mosaic planning without being connected to the device, multi-camera support, and equipment profiles. Also, I feel the AF accuracy and speed can be improved.

PICTURE 5 - Eastern_Veil_Bat_Nebula

Eastern Veil Nebula
EQ8-R Pro, SW Esprit 150, SW 0.77x reducer, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-eXtreme, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 160x300sec
August 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6
PICTURE 6 - The_Western_Veil_and_Pickering_Triangle
Western Veil Nebula
EQ8-R Pro, SW Esprit 150, SW 0.77x reducer, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-eXtreme, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 160x300sec
August 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q10: How do you balance your work and hobby?

This has been the toughest part about astrophotography until I started using ASIAIR. My day job is too demanding and initially I limited my astrophotography to weekends or whenever I had time off. However, using ASIAIR as part of my setup made the data acquisition part of astrophotography much less demanding on my time. Processing still presents a challenge, and I must plan the time for it. As a result, there is always something on my hard drive waiting to be processed.
PICTURE 17- Markarian_Chain

Markarian Chain
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 80, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 480x180sec,
Feb 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6
PICTURE 24 - M45_The_Pleiades
M24 The Pleiades
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 80, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 72x180sec, 208x120sec, 120x60s
Oct 2020, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q11: What do you think the future of astrophotography if take the increasingly heavy light pollution and the rapidly developed technology into consideration?

I feel there is still room for new innovations to improve astrophotography and how we deal with light pollution. For example, on sensor pre-processing to learn and reduce the light pollution as suggested by recent several image processing publications.

 PICTURE 4 - Cygnus_Loop_Mosiac

Cygnus Loop Mosiac
EQ8-R Pro, SW Esprit 150, SW 0.77x reducer, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-eXtreme, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 4 panels mosaic, each panel is 160x300sec,
August 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6
PICTURE 33 - Sadr_Mosiac
Sadr Region Mosiac
AZ-EQ5, Samyang 13mm @f2, ASI6200MC Pro, Optolong L-eXtreme, WO 30, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 4 panels each panel is 120x120sec
July 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q12: Does your family like to join you when you are taking astrophotos?

Actually, yes and a lot. First, it was my wife who got my first telescope and mount. Also, a few times I had to drive to a remote site to take astrophotos, and my wife and my children came with me to give me company. In fact, I do give my wife a lot of credit for the picture of “Lunar Eclipse and The Pleiades”. I was planning to shoot that image from my backyard in California. However, my wife and daughter wanted to go to Zion National Park, but she wanted to drive there. It is a 700-mile-drive from where we live in California. She insisted that I go with them (I did not want to do the 700-mile drive). That allowed me to take my mount and full gear and shoot The Pleaides and surrounding star field from a very dark site outside of Zion National Park (Bortle 3 skies).

PICTURE 23 - M51_Whirpool_Galaxy_HaRGB

M51 Whirlpool Galaxy in HaRGB
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 120, ASI183MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, Optolong L-eXtreme, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 300x180sec with L-Pro,147x300sec with L-eXtreme
April 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6
PICTURE 19 - M81_M82_Bode_Cigar_Galaxies_HaRGB
M81 and M82 – Cigar and Bode Galaxies in HaRGB
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 120, ASI183MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, Optolong L-eXtreme, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO,
For M81 442x180sec with L-Pro,286x300sec with L-eXtreme
For M82 400x180sec with L-Pro,253x300sec with L-eXtreme
March 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q13: How many ASI cameras do you have? Which one is your favorite ASI camera and could you please tell us the reason?

Sometimes I may have three setups running in my backyard, so I have quite a few ASI cameras. I have two ASI2600MC Pro, ASI2600MM Pro, ASI294MC Pro, ASI294MM Pro, ASI183MC Pro, ASI6200MC Pro, and ASI2400MC Pro. My work horse has been the ASI2600MM Pro. The sensor size plus the pixel resolution makes a perfect fit for many of the targets. I use the other cameras for specific applications/targets.

PICTURE 30 - M13-Hercules Cluster

M13 Hercules Cluster
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 120, ASI183MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 500x180sec with L-Pro
June 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6
PICTURE 31 - M8+M20
M8 and M20 Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 100, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-eXtreme, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 307x180sec
July 2020, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q14: Is there anything you want to tell beginners?

Take your time learning/experimenting before you take the deep dive into astrophotography. And if you are not the patient type, learn how to be patient. But perhaps the one key advice that was told to me by a close friend is that image acquisition is half the battle in astrophotography. Processing the data is the other and most important half. You can own the most expensive astrophotography gear ever invented by mankind. If you don’t know how to process the data, that expensive gear is useless.

PICTURE 28 - M24_Sagittarius_Star_Cloud

M24 Sagittarius Star Cloud
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 100, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 126x180sec with L-Pro
August 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6
PICTURE 11---Orion_Mosiac
Orion Mosiac
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 80, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 15 panels mosaic, each panel is 180x120sec,
Dec 2020 – Feb 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q15: What achievement have you made on astrophotography during the whole year? What goal do you have for the next year?

I think that for 2021, one of my main goals was to capture both Lunar Eclipses in a way that reflected the way they happened in the sky and I was lucky to achieve that. Also, this year, I was able to capture several galaxies, nebulae, and globular clusters. I am more than halfway in capturing the targets in Messier catalog. My goal for 2022 is to perhaps finish capturing all the Messier objects. Also, an important goal for me in 2022 is to do monochrome imaging.

PICTURE 7 - IC434_Flame_Nebula

HorseHead and Flame Nebula
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 120, APLEX-L 0.65x reducer, ASI183MC Pro, Optolong L-eXtreme, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 150x180sec
March 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6
PICTURE 12 - NGC7293_Helix_Nebula
Helix Nebula – NGC7293
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 120, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-Extreme, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 416x300sec,
Sep 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

Q16: What’s your impression of ZWO? Is there anywhere you think we can do better?

Needless to say, many people who do astrophotography enjoy the cooled cameras from ZWO. But I think the one thing that sets ZWO apart from other technology providers in astrophotography is their eco-system view of the whole thing centered around the ASIAIR. This has been a game changer for me.

I hope that ZWO will consider introducing an electronic field rotator and an EAF with more precision. Most importantly, it will be great if ZWO can establish other service/repair facilities outside of China to reduce the turnaround time when items need to be sent for repair.

PICTURE 22 - M63_Sunflower_Galaxy

M63 Sunflower Galaxy
EQ8-R Pro, SW Esprit 150, ASI294MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 295x180sec
June 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6
PICTURE 8 - Leo_Triplet
Leo_Triplet
EQ6-R Pro, SW Esprit 100, ASI2600MC Pro, Optolong L-Pro, SW Evoguide 50, ASI290MM Mini, ASIAIR PRO, 140x180sec
April 2021, Home Backyard, Bortle 6

 

Thank you very much for the interview opportunity.

One Response to Astrophotographer’s Story: Ayman Naguib
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    Wonderful interview and incredible photos! :-)




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