If you're like me, you're in awe of the images that Damian Peach has produced. Many of his images have appeared as APODs, but he is able to take even the seemingly simplest targets and produce stunning detail.
1. When did you start imaging?
I first started imaging back in 1997-98, but have actually been observing since the age of 10. I first became interested in astronomy when I started reading books on the subject in primary school.
2. What equipment did you start off with?
My very first optical instrument was a pair of 8x30 binoculars I got at around the age of 10 or 11. I vividly remember watching the nightly motions of the Jovian moons with them. Soon after I got my first telescope –- a small 50mm refractor. I still have this telescope today.
3. What was your first target?
I’d always been fascinated by the planets. My first target for my first ever telescope was Venus. I clearly remember this first view: it was high up in the evening sky at exactly half phase. I remember being really amazed at this small white globe serenely hanging there in the eyepiece that looked like a miniature moon. Jupiter was also a firm favourite.
4. Can you tell us about your processing technique?
For all of the images taken using iTelescope I use Maxim DL, Photoshop, and Pixinsight. These three packages do just about everything you could want when it comes to image processing. I have all manner of different routines for various objects. A lot of my work with iTelescope involves comets, especially producing high quality colour images of them.
5. What are your successes?
With iTelescope I think my biggest success has been my image of Comet ISON from November 15, 2013. This image has been published all over the world and has probably been my most published and successful image ever. I’ve also had numerous APOD’s using the iTelescope systems, mostly related to comets, but also some deep sky work.
In my career as a planetary observer I've had many high points and successes that are too numerous to list, but I think the one stand-out is becoming good friends with my astronomical hero Sir Patrick Moore during the last decade of his life and appearing on his Sky at Night show with him numerous times. The parties and gatherings at his home over the years I shall remember for the rest of my days.
6. What object was the most challenging?
Colour comet imaging can be very challenging and quite often a lot of thought and planning is required. I often plan these runs in advance using Guide 9. The processing can also be complex and lengthy, as with fast-moving comets you must create and merge two images –- one processed to keep the star field still, the other to keep the comet still, and then merge them together.
7. What’s your favourite object that you’ve imaged?
That’s a tough one. I think it has to be Comet Lovejoy in recent times. That has been a really wonderful object and I've managed to capture many high-quality images of it. It’s been a great “consolation prize” with ISON having disintegrated.
8. Why did you join iTelescope?
I’ve always had a keen interest in comets and deep-sky work, but where I live the light pollution and near- permanent high humidity is not at all conducive to producing high-quality images of these kinds of objects. Spending money on a home set-up would be a waste of time, really. A good friend had often used iTelescope (and GRAS before that) for imaging, and that’s what really tempted me to try it out. It has really helped re-ignite my interest in other areas of astronomy, and my now extensive gallery of comet images is a testament to this!
9. What words of advice do you have for those beginning to image?
Take your time with it. Don’t expect top quality results straight away. It takes a lot of practice and experimenting to learn and develop routines that work well. Don’t be afraid to ask others for advice -– there are many people out there ready to offer help. The iTelescope Facebook Member's group is a good place to ask for advice from those just starting out.
10. If you could have an observatory anywhere, where would it be?
I think it would have to be on the mountain side at Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Sub arc-second seeing conditions and extremely dark skies are common place here, not to mention some wonderful natural scenery as you are far above the clouds. The neighbouring island of La Palma is much the same, and both islands are already home to professional telescopes.