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Monday, July 19, 2021

Voices of Apollo 11


"The Ultimate Tribute To The Fallen Heroes Who Took Us To Moon"

"Metsavainio has created a ‘voices of Apollo 11’ artistic masterpiece to immortalize the mission and its target forever."

The Voices of Apollo 11
 are now part of the Moon forever

Click for the larger version of 2500 x 2500 pixels.

Image shows the full Moon made entirely out the text of the transcript of the onboard voice conversations of the Apollo 11 mission. There is nothing else in this photo-based image. Just letters. 

A close up of the top of the artwork shows just letters from the authentic voice transcription of Apollo 11 Command Module recorder data.

The Voices

I downloaded NASA's original full transcript of Apollo 11's onboard voice conversations. The idea was to turn this text into an image of the Moon. After a few weeks of intense work at a feverish pace my tribute was ready. Now the Moon is made up entirely of Apollo 11 voice transcription letters. 

This is also a tribute to the entire Apollo 11 team: Commander Neil A. Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot 
Edwin E. Aldrin Jr.


I was most gratified and deeply moved when Michael Collins —the Apollo 11 & Gemini 10 astronaut, author, explorer and artist— tweeted following kind words about my work on April 19th, 2021:  

The news of his passing, just nine days later, hit me all the harder — a very emotional moment for me. Out of the blue, I got inspired to create this artwork. I absolutely had to do it right away, which I did. 

Michael Collins was affectionately referred to as “the loneliest man in history” for being the command module pilot who flew solo in space behind the Moon and without radio contact with anyone while his colleagues, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, set foot on the Moon for the first time in history. Michael was also an artist. His iconic photos made from Moon orbit are true art and part of mankind's greatest cultural heritage treasure.

A similar solitude gripped me while I was creating this tribute image. For being an astronomical photographer and a visual artist often is a very lonely job. Especially this time as I was deeply emotional throughout my creative process for this artwork. Even though I never met him personally, the end of his Earthly mission meant more to me than I was prepared for. I needed to make this photo-based artwork to process the inner storm of my thoughts and feelings.

The Landing Site

The Apollo 11 landing site is marked by two red letters.


1-minute 4K video about the "Voices of Apollo 11" artwork. Please watch in full screen for the best viewing experience.
The music "Fly me to the Moon"

Frank Sinatra's 1964 recording of "Fly Me to the Moon" became closely associated with NASA's Apollo space program. A copy of the song was played on a Sony TC-50 portable cassette player on the Apollo 10 mission which orbited the Moon,[44] and also on Apollo 11 before the first landing on the Moon.[45] Source Wikipedia,

Material used for the artwork

Apollo 11 onboard voice transcription

Click to download the PDF-document, 5.5 MB

My photo of a Full Moon
Click for a larger image.

I used my twenty-year-old photo of the Full Moon to create this text based artwork.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Photo number 8, The Chinese Dragon

Chinese Dragon, 
This is the only image in the World showing the constellation Cygnus so deep and detailed

Image is reduced to size of 2600 x 4200 pixels from the original 25.000 x 15.000 pixels. Click for a large image, it's worth it! Mosaic image was shot between September 2010 and December 2020

Click for a large image, area of interest ids marked as white rectangle

The Dragon, 4K-MOVIE
Duration ~one minute

About this photo

This photo means a lot to me personally. Not only due to large amount of work and time I spent with this area of sky, it also has a deeper meaning for me.

When you spent a decade working with a one photo to get it ready, it's like a long marriage. The passionate love is slowly turning to a deeper connection and at the end you'll grow together and can't live without the others company. As in marriage, during the years I have had friction in the relationship, even hate. But after desperate times the love always wins.

I'm a perfectionist, when dealing with my photography. This feature is essential  for a great results but it also can cause problems in relationship. There have been times when I almost get a divorce and started looking for another, easier target since I couldn't get out all of the extreme dim and difficult details I wanted to see and show. I didn't even know, if they are there since there wasn't any references to compare. I didn't give up and finally after long nights and hundreds of exposure hours I get what I was after. Now we can grow old together and I know for sure, I will always find something new and existing from my love one, the Chinese Dragon..

Total exposure time is way over 600 hours, they are shot between 2010 and 2020. Some areas of this mosaic panorama required more exposure time than others. There are two very diffused supernova remnants in this mosaic. Both are large and extremely dim. I have used about 170 hours of exposures for them alone! There aren't any deep and large enough photos around showing them well. 

I have started this imaging project back at 2010. My aim was to make a high resolution mosaic covering the whole constellation Cygnus. Work like that takes time and patience, especially since I have worked so, that many of the individual sub mosaics or frames can be published as an individual artworks. Here is a poster format presentation about all of the longer focal length images used for this mosaic beside longer focal length panels.

(3300 x 5500 pixels)

A location for each photo is marked at the older version of the mosaic image of the constellation Cygnus at center.

As a result I have now a huge 95 panel mosaic panorama covering 28 x 18 degrees of sky.  I have collected photons way over 600 hours during past ten years for this photo. The full size mosaic image has a size of about 25.000 x 15.000 pixels.

Two + one supernova remnants, two Wolf Rayet stars and a black hole

There are two large supernova remnants visible in this photo, first the Cygnus Shell W63 , bluish ring at upper left quarter, secondly the large SNR G65.3+5.7 at utmost right.
Just outside of the field of view lays the famous Veil Nebula SNR 
at bottom middle.

Beside two supernova remnants there are two Wolf Rayet stars with outer shell formations. NGC 6888, the Crescent Nebula at center of the image and the WR 134, it can be seen as a blue arch just right from the Crescent Nebula, near the Tulip nebula.

Next to the Tulip Nebula lays a Black hole Cygnus X-1.

Constellation Cygnus is an endless source of celestial wonders, both scientifically and aesthetically. For me, as an visual artist, this area of night sky is very inspiring There are endless amount of  amazing shapes and structures, I can spend rest of my life just shooting images from this treasury.

Please, click the image for full resolution

Note. The third supernova remnant is marked at this image, it's just outside of the actual field of view. I left it out on purpose due to compositional reasons.

Technical details

Original resolution in pixels, 25.000 x 15.000

The NASA astronomer wrote about this image:

In brush strokes of interstellar dust and glowing gas, this beautiful skyscape is painted across the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy near the northern end of the Great Rift and the constellation Cygnus the Swan. Composed over a decade with 400 hours of image data, the broad mosaic spans an impressive 28x18 degrees across the sky. Alpha star of Cygnus, bright, hot, supergiant Deneb lies at the left. Crowded with stars and luminous gas clouds Cygnus is also home to the dark, obscuring Northern Coal Sack Nebula and the star forming emission regions NGC 7000, the North America Nebula and IC 5070, the Pelican Nebula, just left and a little below Deneb. Many other nebulae and star clusters are identifiable throughout the cosmic scene. Of course, Deneb itself is also known to northern hemisphere skygazers for its place in two asterisms, marking a vertex of the Summer Triangle, the top of the Northern Cross.

This is a large area of sky! (28 x 18 degrees) The mosaic photo is in mapped colours, from the emission of ionized elements, R=Sulphur, G=Hydrogen and B=Oxygen. Image has over five million stars visible in it. 

I have used several optical configurations for this mosaic image during the years. Up to 2014 I was using an old Meade LX200 GPS 12" scope, QHY9 astrocam, Canon EF 200mm f1.8 camera optics and baader narrowband filter set.
After 2014 I have had 10-micron 1000 equatorial mount, Apogee Alta U16 astro camera, Tokina AT-x 200mm f2.8 camera lens and the Astrodon 50mm square narrowband filter set. 
I have shot many details with a longer focal length, before 2014 by using Meade 12" scope with reducer and after 2014 Celestron EDGE 11" and reducer. Quider camera has been Lodestar and Lodestar II.

A  version of this photo was selected as an Astronomical Picture Of the Day by NASA

Mosaic panels in chronological order

Here is an image about individual panels shot for this large mosaic image.
There are 37 base panels with shorter focal length tools (200mm f2.8 Tokina and 200mm f1.8 Canon) There is also 59 sub-panels used, they are shot with my old 12" Meade and 11" Celestron Edge scopes.
Here is a poster format presentation and a list all of longer focal length images used for this mosaic beside the actual panels,

Evolution of the mosaic between 2010 and 2020
Click for a large image

More info

Friday, May 7, 2021

Milky Way, 12 years, 1250 hours of exposures and 125 x 22 degrees of sky THIS IS A PERMANENT POST, NEW POSTS ARE AFTER THIS POST

You can buy prints by using the contact form at right

It took nearly twelve years to collect enough data for this high resolution gigapixel class mosaic image of the Milky Way.  Total exposure time used is around 1250 hours between 2009 and 2021.

" I can hear music in this composition, from the high sounds of sparcs and bubbles at left  all the way to a deep and massive sounds at right."

The final photo is about 100 000 pixels wide, it has 234 individual mosaic panels stitched together and 1,7 gigapixels. (Click for a large image) All the frames used are marked in this image. Since many of sub-images and mosaics are independent artworks it leads to a very complex mosaic structure. 

From Taurus to Cygnus
Click for a large image, it's really worth it! (7000 x 1300 pixels)

Image in mapped colors from the light emitted by an ionized elements, hydrogen = green, sulfur = red and oxygen = blue. NOTE, the apparent size of the Moon in a lower left corner. NOTE 2, there are two 1:1 scale enlargements from the full size original at both ends of the image

NEW, A HD-video from Germany shows my photo in full glory
(Video in Germany but images are the international language)

Close ups form the parts of the Grande Mosaic
Taurus side of the mosaic,

A closeup from large panorama to show the overall resolution
Click for a large image

The California Nebula, NGC 1499, can be seen at bottom left of the large mosaic image.
There are about 20 million individual stars visible in the whole mosaic image.

Orientation and details
Click for a large image

Imaging info

Image spans 125 x 22 degrees of  the Milky About 20 million individual stars are visible in my photo!

It took almost twelve years to finalize this mosaic image. The reason for a long time period is naturally the size of the mosaic and the fact, that image is very deep. Another reason is that I have soht most of the mosaic frames as an individual compositions and publish them as independent artworks. That leads to a kind of complex image set witch is partly overlapping with a lots of unimaged areas between and around frames. I have shot the missing data now and then during the years and last year I was able to publish many sub mosaic images as I got them ready first.

My processing workflow is very constant so very little tweaking was needed between the mosaic frames. Total exposure time is over 1250 hours. Some of the frames has more exposure time, than others. There are some extremely dim objects clearly visible in this composition, like a extremely dim supernova remnant W63, the Cygnus Shell. It lays about six degrees up from North America nebula and it can be seen as a pale blue ring. I spent about 100 hours for this SNR alone. An other large and faint supernova remnant in Cygnus can be seen at near right edge of the image. G65.5+5.7 is as large as more famous Veil nebula. There are over 60 exposure hours for this SNR alone.  (Veil SNR is just outside of the mosaic area for compositional reasons but can be seen in "Detail" image above.) 

The Mosaic Work, technical info

I have used several optical configurations for this mosaic image during the years. Up to 2014 I was using an old Meade LX200 GPS 12" scope, QHY9 astrocam, Canon EF 200mm f1.8 camera optics and baader narrowband filter set. After 2014 I have had 10-micron 1000 equatorial mount, Apogee Alta U16 astro camera, Tokina AT-x 200mm f2.8 camera lens and the Astrodon 50mm square narrowband filter set. I have shot many details with a longer focal length, before 2014 by using Meade 12" scope with reducer and after 2014 Celestron EDGE 11" and reducer. Quider camera has been Lodestar and Lodestar II.

I took my current toolset as a base tool since it has a relatively high resolution combined to a very large field of view. Also it collects photons very quickly since it's undersampled and I can have very dim background nebulosity visible in very short time (many times 30 min frame is enough)

I do all my mosaic work under the PhotoShop, Matching the separate panels by using stars as an indicator is kind of straight forward work. My processing has become so constant, that very little tweaking is needed between separate frames, just some minor levels, curves and color balance. 

I have used lots of longer focal length sub-frames in my mosaic to boost details. (See the mosaic map at top of the page) To match them with shorter focal length shots I developed a new method.

Firstly I upscale the short focal length frames about 25% to have more room for high resolution images.Then I match the high res photo to a mosaic by using the stars as an indicator. After that I remove all the tiny stars from the high res image. Next I separate stars from low res photo and merge the starless high res data to a starless low res frame. And finally I place the removed low res stars back at top of everything with zero data lost. Usually there are some optical distortions and it's seen especially in a star field. Now all my stars are coming from a same optical setup and I don't have any problems with distortions. (I'm using the same star removal technique as in my Tone Mapping Workflow)

Closeups from large panorama to show the overall resolution
Click for a large image

Image in mapped colors from the light emitted by an ionized elements, hydrogen = green, sulfur = red and oxygen = blue. 

A 1:3 resolution close up from the photo above
Click for a large image,

A closeup from the main image shows the Sharpless 124 at up and the Cocoon nebula with a dark gas stream at bottom.

From Bubble to Cave Nebula
Image info,

The tulip nebula area
The Tulip Nebula, Sh2-101, can be seen at center right, there is also a black hole Cygnus X-1
The blog post with technical details can be seen here,

The supernova remnant G65.3+5.7

My Observatory,

Not an igloo, this is reality of astro photographing in Finland

All my photos from the Spring season 2021

After each season and year, I have made a poster format presentation about all of my images taken at that period. Spring season 2021 was little different since I got ready the massive mosaic image of the Northern Milky Way. This is only photo in the World, showing the Northern Milky Way by this accuracy and depth. There are several extremely dim objects seen in full glory at the first time in the World in this mosaic panorama.

All my photos from the Spring season 2021
Click for a large image

I have a new logo now

That's me in the silhuet. The image can be seen some kind of planetary conjunction or even a stylished Moon. But it actually shows a very typical situation when I'm about to start an imaging session and I'm looking for the sky quality. The half circle like cutting at two o'clock is showing the rear end of my telescope.