Presentation

Welcome to my amateur Astrophotography and Nature site

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I’m Gérard Finet, 60 years old, and a physician, cardiologist MD PhD, head of a dpt of Cardiology in the Cardiovascular Hospital in Lyon, France.
I live in the inner suburbs of the city of Lyon, in France. The atmospheric and light pollution there is intense: no more than about 50 stars are visible to the naked eye.
I have had a passion for astronomy since my teens. In 1972, when I was in high-school, I got a 60 mm lens Perl telescope with 820 mm focal. This was only for direct visual observation: the moon, the planets, and just a very few deep-sky objects.
Time passed. Study and then work took up my days – and my nights, with night duty in the hospital.
The advent of CCD image sensors revolutionized the practice of amateur astronomy.
A few years ago, I was visiting what I consider to be one of the best amateur CCD astronomy sites, Christian Buil’s (http://www.astrosurf.org/buil/), and there I discovered what a digital camera could do. Christian Buil pioneered the development of amateur CCD imaging.
This was my rediscovery of astronomy. Atmospheric and light pollution are a real hindrance to image acquisition in big cities like Lyon. So I set of for the Lozère region, just 2 hours out of Lyon. This magnificent area, full of charm and natural beauty, is a very special place, as the quality of the sky and the freedom from atmospheric pollution make it one of the few locations in France where night-sky observation conditions are more or less perfect.
I got off to a rather shaky start in 1992, using an LX100 Meade kit with no declination motor and no GoTo and which there was no way of improving since Meade do no long-term product follow-up. Then I went for a high-quality portable kit: the Takahashi EM200, which I bought from Rémi Petitdemange of Optique Unterlinden in Colmar, France (http://www.optique-unterlinden.com/). This gave me the perfect basic kit to build on. Next, I got myself a wonderful little telescope with an excellent optical quality – a 60mm Takahashi FS60C, equipped with the indispensable 6.2 f/D field flattener: the best way to begin digital image acquisition.
Starting with a digital camera enables you to learn all of the basic steps in astronomic image acquisition: focusing, acquisition, flat, dark and bias correction, and then image processing using Christian Buil’s IRIS.
It is then possible to move on to CCD cameras specially made for astronomy. These provide high sensitivity and excellent quantum efficiency. They are also cooled to -25° to -30°C, to minimize thermal noise. Several filters can be fitted, so as to obtain natural (RGB) or false-color images using narrow-band filters (Ha, SII et OIII). These are the filters the Hubble telescope uses to select the relevant components of nebulae (hydrogen alpha, and ionized oxygen and sulfur), and they also filter out light pollution from sodium street-lighting. It is essential to have such filters if you are photographing in town. 
Finally, in April 2007, I got the new Takahashi FSQ-106ED.
It takes a lot of patience to learn astrophotography, step by step: setting up the kit, manual then automated focusing, autoguidance, image acquisition modalities, automating the procedures, and finally all of the digital image processing techniques.

There are several exemplary sites run by amateur astronomers that can help you (see links). With their help and a little sharing, we can little by little make progress. 
Many thanks to all of you who are involved in these exchanges.

And good night sky to you all!

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Site and all contents copyright©2011 Gérard Finet