An interview with Astrobiscuit
Published on June 16, 2021
Astrobiscuit is a YouTube channel created and maintained by Rory, an amateur astrophotographer from London. He often takes his viewers on a journey to test different budget telescopes and push them to their limits. From shooting Jupiter, Saturn and Mars for a £100 budget to putting a £600 astrophotography rig up against a £6000 rig, Rory does not cease to entertain us. His channel has often been dubbed the “Top Gear” show of astronomy. Today, He’s kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions about his astronomy and youtube journey.
How did you first get into stargazing?
“On my birthday six years ago I persuaded Mrs Biscuit to buy me a second hand Skywatcher Heritage 90p Virtuoso, which sounds super fancy but actually isn’t. My better half was convinced the scope was destined to gather dust in the cellar but Jupiter was high that year and WOW! Seeing that ball floating alone in the vastness of space was just amazing. Then I got an old B&W Sony CCD security camera and some coloured gels and filmed it. When I stacked the image. DOUBLE WOW. I was hooked.”
My first ever Astro shot taken with an old firewire sony security camera through a 90mm Muskatov.
In your opinion, what’s one of the hardest aspect of this hobby?
“This hobby -well astrophotography anyway – is just stupidly hard in so many ways. Loads of things go wrong. To begin with, I would spend an entire night out in the freezing cold struggling and failing to get my gear working. Now it’s every other night! And the weather in the UK this winter has been terrible. To do this hobby in the UK you have to be insane. Still, I guess if it was easy everybody would be doing it.“
What’s your favourite deep-sky target and why?
“I love the Horse’s Head. It’s so dramatic and you can get it fairly easily with a budget set up but mostly I want to image stuff that others don’t. So my favorite target is the one I haven’t found yet. The one waiting to be discovered.”
Have you ever considered trying for an APOD?
“I would love to get an APOD but I don’t think the judges are that interested in what you can get with a budget set up. I have sent in one narrowband image I did of the Elephant’s trunk which I was hoping might catch their attention being as it was shot from central London but alas it didn’t. I reckon though if we have clear skies towards the end of the summer when it starts getting properly dark again I’ll have the kit and the skills to be in with a shout especially if I can take my big old newt (big bertha) for a test drive under some dark skies.“
Elephants Trunk taken from my roof in North London a stone’s throw from the Arsenal Football Stadium
Did you ever expect your YouTube channel to become so popular?
“Err… difficult question to answer. I do sometimes have to pinch myself but at the same time if you consider the amount of time and effort put into these videos then I don’t think the channel is doing that well. Bear in mind it takes me as long to edit one of my big youtube videos as it does to edit a science show for Discovery (which is/was my day job). I’m currently 17k in debt and always on the cusp of having to stop. I do have some very loyal and lovely supporters and their encouragement has kept me and Riktenstein who does the sound and music going. Despite money being tight, the numbers are surprising.
We’ve over ½ a million views on 3 of our astrophotography videos. I suspect we’ve gotten thousands of folks into astrophotography and I think the astrophotography industry in the UK must have benefitted from this.“
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start stargazing as a hobby?
“Don’t get into astrophotography unless you’re insane. If you can’t help yourself then take all the advice from the old school astrophotographers with a pinch of salt. The old guard did some amazing stuff especially with webcams but the times are changing, technology is changing and techniques need to change too. I think the next generation of amateur astrophotographers is going to hits heights never dreamed of ten years ago.“
What’s next for Astrobiscuit?
“We’ve just created The Big Amateur Telescope (the BAT). It a project where many amateurs shoot the same target using hi-resolution deep space lucky imaging techniques. We then pool our data and I’m hoping that we will get results that will give giant professional scopes a run for their money. It’s very exciting. The idea came when my £700 rig took on the giant 4m Mayall Telescope on Kitt Peak in the “£700 vs 7,000,00 Astrophotography Shoot Out Video”
Lucky imaging with my little rig produced spectacular results but I needed more data to compete with Kitt Peak so I created the BAT project on the astrobiscuit discord server. We’ve got about 200 amateurs signed up at the moment. If your readers want to join the Big Amateur Telescope or find out more about deep space lucky imaging then I’ve written some stuff about it here:” https://www.astrobiscuit.com/deepspaceluckyimaging
The little 6 inch newt I use in my £700 rig produced spectacular detail in the core of galaxy M106 using deep space lucky imaging techniques…