Luigi Morrone is the winner of ZWO 2020 ASIWEEK #11 and has brought us many extraordinary astronomy photos. To make our ZWOers know this excellent astrophotographer better, we make this interview. Let’s all take a look now.
Q1: Hello Morrone, congratulations again for winning the ASIWEEK #11/2020! We are very happy to have this chance to interview you! First, could you please make a self-introduction to our users that may not know you before?
Many thanks for your interview, my name is Luigi Morrone, I’m 40 years old and I live in Agerola-Italy (630m s.l) a small town located on the Amalfitan Coast (Italy). At the early age I have always been passionate about the science and in particular for astronomy. At the 10 years old I started to observe the sky with my first telescope, Antares a 60mm refractor. My first target was the Moon and for me was a wonderful view. Over the years I continued to observe the sky and at the same time I also bought astronomy magazines. I have always been very fascinated by the planets and deep-sky observation.
Q2: The details of your Mercury images are incredibly amazing! Can you tell how did you capture the picture?
About a few years ago, when I started to capture Mercury images I thought it was impossible to be able to capture some planet surface: I define this kind of planetary acquisition as ‘Extreme Imaging’. For the image above I have used a 14 inch Celestron Schmidt Cassegrain – C14 Edge HD -with the wonderful ASI178MM and an IR pass filter 807nm. During the acquisition, Mercury was found about only 18° from the Sun and It was helped in part by shielding the roof of the house opposite mine. Even if the atmospheric condition was steady I tried to avoid the telescope heating. During the acquisition my ASI178MM working at 180fps, a sampling of 0.11”/pixel and a gain about of 70%. I have acquired a lot of GB data and then I stacked about 15000 frames. AutoStakkert has been used for the stacking process. Ragistax and Iris have been used for the processing. A curve and level adjustment in Photoshop has been performed.
Q3: Except for the Mercury image, you also have brought us so many other great astro works. May I ask how long have you been into astrophotography?
I started doing astrophotography about 4-5 years ago with the ASI120MM and 10 “Newton F/4. During these years I have always experimented with new techniques (acquisition and processing), trying to optimize my setup to make the most of the atmospheric conditions.
Thanks to the development of the electronic, the PC hardware/software and with the new digital cameras, my work is focused mainly in the acquisition of high-resolution planetary images, deep sky images and making astronomy research about the Asteroidal Occultations and Comet images.
Cone Nebula – C14 Edge HD, Hyperstar f-1.9, HaOIIISII Baader Highspeed Filter, ASI1600MMPRO, bin2x, Unity gain Setting
Q4: Do you think astrophotography can be a lifelong pursuit?
I hope to continue to acquire hires planetary and the deep sky images for the next years. I think that with new digital sensors, the amateur astronomer can make an important contribution to the professional astronomers, for example, observing new phenomena atmosphere such as the sandstorm on Mars surface, monitoring the Venus atmosphere or observing Saturn and so on. I am very excited about this and I think it will be fun!
Uranus – Neptune & Triton – C14 Edge HD, Fornax52, ASI178mono R+IR>610nm
Q5: What equipment do you use? Can you show us some images?
I like to sweep in the different fields of astrophotography: from the planets, to the Sun, to the Moon, to the deep-sky images. During these years I try to optimize my setup for the different kind of work. From last year for Hires Planet imaging I used a Celestron C14 Edge HD on a Fornax 52 mount. Recently I have acquired an Hyperstar system for my C14 and I have very fast system f/1.9 and with ASI1600MM Pro, I use it for deep-sky imaging and for Asteroidal occultation.
I have also a TS152/900 with a Daystar Quark Cromosphere filter 0.5A that I use is for H-alpha solar imaging. I have also a newton 250mm f/4 for visual observation.
Q6: We know that planetary imaging is very limited by the altitude of the planets and seeing, so do you have good imaging conditions in your region?
My images are taken from the south of Italy at latitudes 40 degrees north of the equator. Unfortunately in the last and the next years for the planet such as Jupiter and Saturn will be very challenging. On the other hand, I am pretty lucky since my site astronomical observation is located above 670m s.l overlooking the sea. When the winds are coming the right directions, south or southwest, I found stable atmospheric conditions. I live in a rural area, with a moderate amount of light pollution (Bortle scale 5) and so I can also perform deep-sky imaging.
For hires planetary imaging you have to control the collimation, the cooling, the focusing but if the seeing conditions are not good you will never be able to obtain good planetary images.
Q7: How long would you spend on processing after you complete the data acquisition? What do you think is the most important part of processing?
From my personal experience I have been able to understand several things regarding planetary and deep-sky imaging. During a session performed for the planetary imaging if I found good seeing conditions in post-processing I try to optimize the signal to noise ratio. Whether the seeing is bad you can’t get anything being processed.
For deep-sky imaging, a lot of time is required. I always check the images immediately after they are downloaded to the computer and I check that the focus is right. I think that image processing is difficult since every picture is different from all others. I used several astronomical software in order to obtain the best result: PixInsight, Masixm DL, Registax, AutoStakkert, Photoshop. They are great tools for astronomical imaging.
Q8: What’s your favorite region in space? How do you normally photograph it?
I love to observe and study the sky, I don’t have a particular subject. I love galaxies, supernovae, nebulae, planet, sun, moon. I think the sky is a huge amusement park. It is exciting that with our equipment we can be active protagonists.
Prediscovery Extragalactic Novae AT2017axz in M81
Q9: Are you active in any astrophotography groups or clubs?
Periodically, I send my images to the UAI (Unione Astrofili Italiani), to the ALPO (Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers) American and Japan version, and dedicated Facebook groups for planetary and deep-sky imaging.
When I have the opportunity, I take Asteroidal Occultations and images of comets by sending them to the main national and international lists.
I am a member of the ‘Astronomical Observatory Salvatore di Giacomo’ in Agerola (Naples-Italy) with the AstroCampania association. It is a professional observatory with a 0.5m RC Telescope. Here, my friends and I organize several divulagtive events.
Overview of my Astronomical Observation Site
Q10: Do you travel to long-away places for astrophotography? Can you tell any unforgettable experiences?
Sometimes I go to Monte Paipo, about 750m s.l, located close to my town. It’s a good place with a good view of the Tyrrhenian sea. Most of the time I stay in the garden of my house. For me it’s more convenient since I can leave all the setup in the place and ready, whenever possible, for working.
As soon as possible I hope to some Northern Lights with my wife and my sons.
Q11: What advice you may give if you are asked to teach some lessons to newcomers?
I can recommend to start step by step, know the setup (Optical tube, Mount, Camera, etc). Another recommendation is to know the software’s for acquisition and for post-processing. Unfortunately doesn’t exist a single software to carry out everything and every tool works better for some operations respect, for example, to the other ones. Another important aspect to be considered is the characteristics of the camera and understand the best parameters to be used for the acquisition. Another important thing is to experiment on the place where you capture the images trying to optimize the atmospheric conditions with your setup. Be patient!
Q12: How did you know ZWO? Which ZWO product you like most?
I know the ZWO products by web and also by amateur astronomers. I have several ZWO cameras (ASI178,290,174, 1600MPRO) and I use them for planetary and deep-sky imaging. I have also an ADC 1.25”( Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector), in order to reduce the effect of atmospheric dispersion on lunar and planetary images.
Leo Triplet Galaxies
Q13: What parameters you care most when buying an astronomy camera?
Nowadays I think for the best acquisition of the astronomical images a key role is played by the latest astronomical cameras, in particular by the CMOS sensors. The main parameters that an Astroimager has taken into account for selecting a camera are essential: the higher QE as possible, the highest frame rate and the low read noise.
In the last year, I have acquired several ASI ZWO cameras: ASI178, ASI290, ASI174, ASI1600. I prefer to work with monochrome cameras since I can obtain much finer details and they have much more sensitive beyond the visible light respect, for example, to the color cameras. For several years I used ASI178MM for my planetary images. With its low readout noise(2.2e -1.4e) and the high sensitivity, result the one of the cameras on the markets. I also use ASI174MM for high-resolution solar imaging in white light and in the H-alpha band. I recently purchased the ASI290MM for Uranus and Neptune imaging and I found it more sensitive in the infrared band.
Since last year I am working with the ASI1600MM Pro for the deep-sky imaging with C14 Edge HD and Hyperstar System f/1.9. I use the camera in visible light and with narrowband filters (H-alpha, OIII, SII) whit good results.
Q14: Do you have any feedback or suggestions that want to speak to us?
From my point of view, in last years ZWO has become the reference point for amateur astrophotography with its CMOS cameras. The small chip, low noise, high QE, high full well, make the ZWO cameras the best for amateur astronomers. In addition, they are cheap and they are very compatible with several acquisition software.
Thanks a lot for your extraordinary work!!