New Delhi: Prathamesh Jaju, a 16-year-old amateur astronomer and astrophotographer from Pune, Maharashtra, has managed to capture one of the clearest and most detailed images of the Moon.
The image, which has been shared widely on the internet, is a composite of 55,000 images which add up to over 186 gigabytes in size.
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Speaking to ThePrint, Jaju, who started exploring astronomy photography in 2018, said: “I did not expect my image of the moon to go this viral, but yes, it is my best shot so far.”
The cancellation of his Class X exams amid the pandemic-induced lockdowns has further motivated Jaju into learning more about astrophotography.
“Our tenth standard exams got cancelled, and since I had a telescope with me at home, I started engaging more with it,” said the student of Vidya Bhavan High School in Pune.
Space-mad child prodigy
Since he was a child, Jaju had a passion for space and astronomy, and was a fan of the science fiction movie/TV franchises Star Trek and Star Wars.
At the age of 13, he finally got to learn more about space when he joined one of India’s oldest amateur astronomy clubs, Jyotirvidya Parisanstha (JVP) in Pune. JVP is an NGO that organises courses in astronomy and astrophotography, as well as star-gazing sessions.
“Since childhood, I have loved watching series and movies like Star Trek and Star Wars. I have always wanted to learn more about anything related to space and astronomy. I finally got to do this when I joined the JVP astronomy club as a volunteer when I was 13,” the 16-year-old said.
Since then, Jaju’s images of the moon and planets like Mars and Jupiter on Instagram have been featured on various photography accounts related to the science of astronomy, such as youresa, celestronuniverse, intospace0, and astrophotography.india.
How the Moon was captured
It took four hours for Jaju to capture the image of the Moon, and three days to complete processing and editing.
Uploading the composite on Instagram, Jaju wrote: “This image is an HDR Composite of two different images made to give it a 3 dimensional effect. This is my most detailed and clearest shot of the third quarter Mineral Moon… I captured around 50,000+ images over 186 GigaBytes of Data which almost killed my laptop with the processing.”
Jaju said he used a Celestron 5 Cassegrain OTA telescope; high speed astronomy imaging camera ZWO ASI120MC-S; SkyWatcher EQ3-2 GO-TO, a widely used mount for visual astronomy; and the telescope lens GSO 2X BARLOW at 3 metres of focal length to produce the image.
Explaining the process further, he said: “I first captured them (images) by capturing multiple videos on different small areas of the Moon. Each video contains around 2000 frames; first, we stabilise them, then we merge and stack each video into one image. So I took around 38 videos. Now we have 38 images.
“We sharpen each one of them manually and then stitch them together in Photoshop like a big mosaic. Once the mosaic is done, some more adjustments are made and some final touch-ups and boom!”
Jaju said he used software like PIPP, Autostakkert, IMPPG, Registax 6, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom for some final touches.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)
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