It’s one thing to photograph the sun and get images. It is quite another thing to process the information the cameras yield to enhance the data. I think most people who have point and shoot digital cameras have changed terrestrial photos with tools such as crop, lighten or darken, etc. The more proficient one becomes with digital cameras nowadays, the more interesting the photos become.
Processing solar images taken with my Imaging Source DMK 41AU02 monochrome camera through my H-alpha Coronado PST telescope is no different, really, except the steps one has to go through are more complicated. Photoshop is the processing software most astrophotographers use, and those who think they know all the tricks of this marvelous software are kidding themselves. I doubt whether those who have developed this software in its several iterations even know what this software is capable of … or so says the author of “Photoshop for Dummies.”
I turn to YouTube for solutions to many questions. One of the best experts in processing solar images is a guy who goes by the name “Helium3Fusion.” He has an excellent tutorial on processing solar images using the same equipment I have. It’s 22 minutes in length, and I am still trying to digest all the information in it. You can view it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5Z3T6ILLvA.
However, I am a shortcut kind of guy when it comes to anything in astrophotography, so I culled some of the more important steps he takes in his tutorial and applied them to an image taken on 12-12-12. It was a particularly active day on the sun. Here’s an avi (movie clip) of 1,000 images taken pre-Photoshop processing, using an align, stack, and sort software called Registax 6.
Not too exciting. There are sunspots (light patches) and plasma trails (dark trails) and several dark spots which are really dust particles on the camera lens.
Now here is the same image processed with Photoshop. Notice the dust particles have been removed, the light patches are clearer, as are the plasma trails. The surface of the sun appears much more turbulent, which in reality it is. Finally, there is color.
This latter photo is far from perfect, but it comes much closer to the H-alpha image of the sun. Click on either image for a better view.
In the weeks to come, I am planning to piggyback a 6” telescope atop my C1400 in order to utilize the three CCD cameras I have. Thus, I will be able to do lunar, planetary, solar, and deep-sky astrophotography without having to change out this or that camera for whatever branch of imaging I choose. All of this has come at a price, but what is more challenging than funding all of this is learning how to use the software tools that are available to me.