Q1: At first, congratulations that your nice image won #ASIWEEK! Can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Michael Tzukran, and I am an astrophotographer at the Satellite and Deep Space Research Observatory at Tel Aviv University, Israel.
Q2: Can you tell us why do you love astronomy and when did you start astrophotography?
I Love astronomy because it gives me a lot of peace of mind and heart and invokes my curiosity. I’ve been in the field of astrophotography for more than 15 years. I usually travel to the south of Israel to take pictures in the Israeli desert, where the night sky is clear, and I can enjoy the serenity of the desert.
Q3: Where do you think astrophotography’s charm lies in compared to other types of photography?
I love and appreciate photography of other subjects and the talented people who have an “eye” for it, but what fascinates me about astrophotography is the tremendous accuracy required and the technological challenges you have to overcome to get a clear window to the universe.
Q4: What equipment do you use?
I use various equipment, large diameter refractors and Schmidt Cassegrain’s on a Titan G11, 10Micron mount, and a variety of ZWO equipment.
Q5: How did you capture your winning picture the ISS? Was the whole process rather smooth to you?
It was a very planned operation. The equipment had to be fully calibrated, and I knew when and where the ISS was scheduled to pass. When trying to photograph a moving object like a satellite, it requires very high accuracy. It never goes smoothly. Since there’s a lot of different equipment and technology that needs to work together, a lot can go wrong along the way. When the satellite passes, everything needs to be perfect.
Q6: Do you think your skills have been improved a lot since the first time you tried taking an astrophoto?
Definitely! I think part of my enjoyment is advancing technologically all the time as much as I can and inventing upgrades to the system. Beautiful pictures are only part of the interest after quite a few years in the field.
Q7: Do you often travel to dark places to do astrophotography? With your friends or being alone?
Yes, during the month, I photograph satellites from Tel Aviv university’s observatory, and once a month, I go to the desert with a friend for a couple of nights. 10 years ago, we were 5-7 “crazies,” and these days, you can find almost 50 people photographing in the desert if the weather is right.
Q8: Do you have any unforgettable experiences that can be shared with us during those travels?
Oh wow, I have tons of them. I remember that I was at home reading about the new comet Neowise that was making headlines around the world. It was the middle of the work-week, but I just decided to take the car and gear and drive 3.5 hours to the desert all alone to photograph it. Just before the comet was rising, a pair of glowing eyes looked at me in the dark, and it was a fox – I think he was after my pea soup (it’s the best in the desert). So it was hard to target the comet while trying to watch out for a fox stealing your food. In the end, the comet was a great astrophoto on my monitor, and the fox and I enjoyed a belly full of pea soup. Sharing is caring 😊
Q9: How many ASI cameras do you have? What is your first ASI camera and why did you choose it?
I have the ASI290MM, ASI290MC, ASI174MM, ASI120MM, and ASI017MC Pro. My first camera was the ASI120MM – it was very sensitive to light at the time.
Q10: Do you have any suggestions for the people who want to buy their first ASI cameras?
For beginners, I think it’s important to try to understand the camera’s technology and see if it is a good match for your current setup. There is a lot of calculators for that online.
Q11: Apart from taking astrophotos, do you participate in other astronomy-related events?
Yes, I give lectures on astrophotography, design models of satellites for assembly for schools, and provide private observation sessions.
Q12: What contribution do you think you have made for astronomy community?
A few years ago, I founded a group called “Guided Light” in Israel, which included a number of engineers whose goal was to reduce light pollution in Israel. Most cities now already have full-cut light fixtures that emit the light downwards instead of up. We invested several years talking to municipalities and explaining how both their towns and the environment can gain a lot from reducing light pollution.
Q13: Are you working on a project right now? If not, can you tell us what is the next project in your plan?
Today, I take part in Satellite Research and Deep Space Observatory at Tel Aviv University, Israel. I always try to have a project lined up. My next project is to create a useful tool for my STC collimation.
Q14: One last question: What feedback or suggestions do you have for ZWO?
Ever since ZWO started selling equipment at affordable prices, the world has filled up with many astrophotographers documenting the sky every night, and it is incredible. I think ZWO needs to continue providing affordable solutions, so the night sky will be open to everybody and keep finding creative ways to push the technology forwards.