Sergey Trudolyubov: the winner of ZWO ASIWEEK and #44/2019 and #21/2020.
Q1: At first, congratulation that your nice image won #ASIWEEK. Can you introduce yourself to us?
Hi, my name is Sergey Trudolyubov and I live in Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA. I am a 47-year-old former professional astrophysicist and an avid amateur astronomer and astrophotographer.
Q2: How did you become an astrophile? What does astronomy mean to you?
Wonders of the night sky always fascinated me. Since childhood I was curious how different astronomical objects worked. Later that led me to pursuing a scientific career in astrophysics. Astronomy became a life-long passion for me.
Q3: We all know that astrophotography has a very steep learning curve. How did you make your entrance into this hobby? How long did it take for you to successfully produce your first decent image?
Although I had been processing and analyzing multi-wavelength scientific astronomical data for years, I have been always excited about obtaining the data myself using amateur telescopes and imaging cameras. I got my first telescope when I was a kid and later started imaging using film and, after a long hiatus, digital cameras and astronomical CCD and CMOS cameras. After playing with digital cameras for years, I finally decided to plunge into CCD/CMOS imaging about four years ago. It took me quite some time (about three months) to collect and process data for my first CCD image. There were so many new things to learn in addition to what you need for visual observations and DSLR imaging.
Some images from my older DSLR and CCD setups:
Lunar photograph taken with Meade 8″ SCT at f/10 and Canon 7D camera.
M51, photographed with Meade 8″ SCT at f/6.3 and Sony A6000 camera.
M81, taken with 130mm Stellarvue SVA130T refractor and Atik 383L+ mono CCD camera.
Q4: What equipment do you use? Can you show us some images?
I use several different telescopes and camera lenses for imaging, including 130mm and 80mm triplet APO refractors, a 10” Newtonian and Ritchey-Chretien astrographs, an old 8” SCT and a set of medium/short focal length lenses. A heavy-duty Orion HDX-110 EQ-R mount provides an excellent imaging platform that can be still used in the field (it’s heavy, but still manageable). For shorter focal length setups, I use a more portable iOptron CEM-60EC mount. In the past few years I have been doing the bulk of my imaging with ZWO ASI183MM Pro and ASI1600MM Pro cameras. Recently I added ASI290MM and ASI290MC cameras for short-exposure lucky imaging of bright deep-sky objects and Solar System objects.
NGC7331/Deer Lick Group, taken with 250mm Lacerta PhotoNewton astrograph and ZWO ASI183MM Pro camera.
I have different setups optimized for different types of objects to image. The most frequently used DSO imaging setups are listed below:
Medium focal length setups (used to image galaxies and compact groups, Arp objects, globular clusters, smaller size supernova remnants):
#1: The 250 mm f4.0 Lacerta PhotoNewton astrograph and ASI183MM Pro or ASI1600MM Pro cameras and the Orion StarShoot or ASI290MM guider on the Orion HDX-110 EQ-G mount.
#2: The 130 mm f7.0 or f5.0 (with x0.72 focal reducer) Stellarvue SVA130T triplet APO and ASI183MM Pro camera and the Orion StarShoot or ASI290MM guider on the Orion HDX-110 EQ-G mount.
Short focal length setup (used to image larger open star clusters, emission/reflection nebulae, medium size supernova remnants, etc.):
The 80 mm f5.0 or f3.25 (with x0.65 focal reducer) Skywatcher Esprit 80ED triplet APO and ASI183MM Pro camera on the iOptron CEM-60EC mount (usually unguided) or riding on top of the medium focal length setup.
Wide-angle setup (used to image large galactic nebulae, including large angular diameter supernova remnants):
Rokinon 135 mm f2.0 ED UMC lens/Starizona LensSlider and ASI183MM Pro or ASI1600MM Pro cameras riding on the medium or short focal length setups or on the iOptron CEM-60EC mount (unguided).
NGC772 (Arp 78) and its interacting companion, NGC770, imaged with 250mm Lacerta PhotoNewton astrograph and ZWO ASI183MM Pro camera with Astrodon Gen2 E-Series LRGB filters.
Q5: What type of telescope do you prefer? Why?
The answer to this question depends on the target one is trying to image. For example, in the case of moderately wide field (less than 1-2 degrees in size) bright targets, a medium or short focal length triplet APO would be my first choice. For most galaxies and fainter nebulae, a fast 8”+ aperture, well-corrected Newtonian will help to collect enough photons in a shorter time and still provide a good image resolution. For small size targets, I would prefer a reasonably fast larger aperture (10”+) RC or Newtonian telescope.
A wide-field Ha/OIII/RGB image of Cygnus Loop Supernova remnant, captured with Rokinon 135mm lens and ZWO ASI183MM Pro camera.
Q6: Can you tell how did capture your winning image M106? Was the whole progress rather smooth?
The data for this image was accumulated over a three-month period (Feb. – Apr. 2020), due to unstable atmosphere and windy weather conditions. The final image is a combination of LRGB and H-alpha data taken with ASI183MM Pro camera and Astrodon Gen2 E-series LRGB and 5nm H-alpha filters. The luminance data was captured with camera gain 0, while the RGB and H-alpha exposures were taken at gain 53 and 200. I used 300s integration time for the individual LRGB exposures and 600 s integration time for narrowband.
In the post processing, I was following a well-established approach to creating images of spiral galaxies with an active star formation. The calibrated L, R, G, B and H-alpha channel images were created from individual exposures using Deep Sky Stacker. The rest of the image processing was done in PixInsight and a final touch-up done in Photoshop. H-alpha data was added to the red channel to highlight the star-forming regions and central outflows (anomalous arms). The detail and color contrast in the central regions of the galaxy and its spiral arms were enhanced by applying deconvolution and Multiscale Linear Transform. The noise reduction was performed separately for the background regions and galactic disk.
Despite the less than ideal weather and atmospheric conditions, the high sensitivity of the imaging setup (thanks to the high sensitivity and low noise of ASI183MM Pro camera and fast telescope optics) and advanced capabilities of the image processing software allowed to create this deep, high-resolution image of M106.
Q7: How did you practice your skills of post-processing?
At first, there were so many new things to take care of while setting up the system in the field (correct camera spacing, cable and power management, guiding etc.) Despite having prior experience in advanced image processing, learning PixInsight and other software tricks proved to be a nontrivial task. After a few years of using various astrophotography tools, it is still never ending quest for new ways to improve my image processing skills. To me, PixInsight forum and posts on the CloudyNights and other astrophotography sites proved to be an invaluable source of wisdom and new ideas on creating imaging setups and image processing techniques. There are quite a few experienced astrophotographers, who are always ready to share their knowledge with other members of the community.
A wide-field view of the Supernova remnant Simeis147 (Sh2-240). Ha/OIII/RGB image taken with Rokinon 135mm lens and ZWO ASI1600MM Pro camera.
Q8: When it comes to post-processing, which style do you prefer your images to be?
Personally, I prefer a more naturally looking images, even when narrowband data is used. I try to calibrate the color based on the physical properties of the object and spectral class of the stars seen within the image frame. Concerning noise reduction and over-processing, the less the better. I always try to collect sufficient amount of data to support non-destructive image sharpening and enhancement (deconvolution, wavelet-based multiscale transforms etc.) and judicious noise reduction, when needed. To me, the ultimate goal is producing an image that looks natural and not over-processed even when displayed at full resolution.
NGC4725 and NGC4712, taken with 250mm Lacerta PhotoNewton and ZWO ASI183MM Pro camera.
Q9: Have you ever had the experiences of traveling long distances to darker places for astrophotography?
90 percent of my DSO imaging is done by going to a dark location 50 miles (80 km) away. When the Moon is bright, I drive to the other side of town, where I have unobstructed views of the sky. Once in a while I venture to some truly dark sky locations, like remote parts of Utah, hundreds miles away. Living in New Mexico, we are pretty lucky, with several dark sky places not too far away, but you can see how it changes to the worse with light pollution becoming a bigger problem over years.
Trifid Nebula (M20), taken with 130mm Stellarvue SVA130T @ f/7 and ZWO ASI183MM Pro camera and Baader LRGB filters.
Q10: What project are you working on now? And what plans do you have for this year?
Since last year, I’ve been working on the imaging interacting and peculiar galaxies with my medium focal length Newtonian setup. These targets present a unique challenge, since most of them have a small angular size and require high resolution to image. Until recently, imaging these galaxies was done primarily with professional telescopes and advanced amateur systems. The advent of high resolution CMOS cameras with high sensitivity finally made it possible to make fairly detailed images of these targets using a more modest equipment, but the atmospheric turbulence and long-exposure tracking still pose significant challenges.
NGC3718 (Arp 214) and NGC3729, taken with 250mm f4.0 Lacerta PhotoNewton and ZWO ASI183MM Pro camera.
Another long-term project that I am continuing working on this year is the imaging survey of Galactic supernova remnants. Many of these SNR have large angular sizes and require wide-field setups to image, others are pretty small and require higher resolution. One of the smaller, fainter objects, Cassiopeia A is shown in the image below:
A SII/OIII/RGB image of the young supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A), taken with 250 mm f4.0 Lacerta PhotoNewton and ASI183MM Pro camera.
Apart from these two long-term projects, there are always some spectacular challenging targets to image, regardless of the season!
Q11: What ASI products do you have? How did you know ZWO?
Currently, I’m using four ASI cameras: ASI183MM Pro, ASI1600MM Pro, ASI290MM and ASI290MC. In addition, I have multiple camera accessories by ZWO: the EFW, OAG, ADC, lens adapters and tilt adjustment rings, etc. Recently, I added ASIAir Pro to my mobile setup. I started using ZWO products about three years ago after reading good reviews and seeing high-quality images produced with your cameras and accessories.
Sombrero Galaxy (M104), imaged with 250mm Lacerta PhotoNewton and ZWO ASI183MM Pro camera.
Q12: Which ASI camera has a special place in your heart and why?
ASI183MM Pro is my favorite go-to camera. A combination of high sensitivity and fine pixel size makes it very versatile.
The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) in LHaRGB. 130mm Stellarvue SVA130T refractor and ZWO ASI183MM Pro camera with Astrodon Gen2 E-Series LRGB and 5nm H-alpha filters.
Q13: Do you have any feedback or suggestions that want to tell us?
Your company has been doing an excellent job at bringing advanced imaging technology to a broad amateur astronomy community by offering good performance high quality products at a reasonable price. ZWO’s continuous development and introduction of the cameras utilizing the newest imaging sensors have been always appreciated by astrophotographers. I think that a medium chip size (APS-C and 4/3) 16-bit deep photon well mono cameras would be a nice addition to the already impressive ZWO DSO astronomy camera line.
Galactic Supernova remnant IC443 in Ha/RGB, Skywatcher Esprit 80ED APO and ASI183MM Pro camera.
More images can be found at AstroBin site: