Author Archives: Rob Leonard

Another go at Sadr

Finally got a finished version of last Saturdays subs- I’d left the camera running on Sadr before setting off to meet Neil. I managed to collect 16 ten minute Ha subs (it was a bright moon), along with another 10 of the shed wall whilst the rig was running unsupervised (not included here!). I used them for the B&W image below, then combined them into the red channel of an RGB image from 9th October on the same target (see here for previous effort: ). My framing was a bit different this time (framing is a bit random at the minute for me- I’ve definitely not got on top of this yet…), so the colour image below is the intersection between the 2.

Observing Report- 17/11/18

Sam and I met up with Neil Wyatt on Saturday night for an excellent night’s observing and imaging at Brankley Pastures near Barton under Needwood.

Neil was already setting up his imaging rig when we arrived at 8pm, and Sam and I got our 8 inch dob out to get started quickly. Unfortunately we quickly found that it was a night of absent mindedness: I’d forgotten the trusses for the larger dob, Sam had left behind 5 of the 6 pages of his lunar observing plan and Neil didn’t have the memory card for his camera. I can see that if I’m going to do more of these trips a checklist is going to be essential…

The moon was high in the sky so we started off with doing planetary and lunar with Sam doing the finding:
– Mars- polar cap just about vsible but couldn’t see other surface features.
– Lunar- Copernicus, Tycho, Altai Scarp, Theophilus, Cyrillus, Catharina, and Clavius (just around the same time Roger was imaging it).

Unfortunately this was as far as the first page of the Lunar 100 log gave us. So next we tried for a few deep sky objects- looking at Vega, the Double double and the Pleiades. Neil also brought up the Pleiades in his ED66 and it definitely looked better it the little frac with wonderful contrast and sharpness. I then ran Sam home, which was a good opportunity to pick up some Hot Chocolate and Dob trusses!

On my return the sky was darkening with the setting moon and we switched to the 14inch for some more deep space stuff with views of M1 (faint), The Auriga Open Clusters M36 & M37, the Ring, Andromeda, M81/82 pair and the highlight of the night: M42. We switched between the dob and the ED66 and used various magnifications, eyepieces and filters. At 205x, without filters in the Dob we both managed to spot the 5th brightest star in the Trapezium. There is a serious risk of my getting stuck on this target all winter…

A really enjoyable evening, and a pleasure to observe in good company!

A note on the site: Brankley Pastures is a Staffs Wildlife Trust site near Barton- so quite convenient for many RAG members and where- at least in winter- it’s possible to observe with minimal risk of being disturbed. It’s not a completely dark site- there’s a significant patch of light pollution to the North (presumably from Tutbury), and another to the North East from Burton. But overhead the skies are much darker than home and there is a great southern horizon. It was brilliant, as the moon set, to see the sky come alive- with Auriga turning from an empty circle to one rich with naked eye detail. Just next time I need to remember all the key parts of my kit!

Observing Report 11/11/18

The forecast was a bit ambiguous, but it was a lovely night out under the stars last night. Set the camera running on M33, got the 14 inch dob out and away we go:

– Double double: I’ve taken to starting on this to check conditions and collimation. It was an easy split at 205x which promised well for the evening.
– Mars: Although it’s diminishing rapidly following the summer, the height in the sky and the lack of a dust storm are providing a much better view- especially with an LP filter to reduce the glare. I was able to see the polar cap reasonably well and some appearance of surface features.
– M15 – Bright core, with individual stars resolvable almost all the way in. At 205x it covered an area almost half the diameter of the FOV.
– Blue Snowball – a first for me- it really is blue! Really pleasing fuzzy blue disk. I wanted to try different filters and found it stood out best with the UHC filter.
– Mirach’s ghost – another first for me. Mirach was very bright, but once you edged it out of the FOV this Galaxy was quite an easy spot.
– NGC7814- I was beginning to feel a bit cocky so I went for a random Mag 10 galaxy in Sky Safari. It was actually quite an easy hop from the bottom left star of Pegasus (it’s in the same view in the finder) so wasn’t too hard, but was really pleased nonetheless.
– Delta Cephei – lovely sharp double, with a blue tinge to the companion. I put it on the list because of its historical importance- but it’s a nice visual target as well.
– Garnet Star – This is such a beautiful vivid red.
– Elephant’s Trunk – Hard to see at first, but the UHC filter really helped and with this and a bit of concentration and letting the eye get in I was able to follow it for most of its length. The section at the top was the most visible.

At this point I went in to put the kids to bed and have some family time. A bit later…

– M1 – Crab Nebula – Took a long time to get back in the groove. It took me ages to find this- I had to get my eyes to adjust back and then spent ages point at the wrong star and generally confusing myself. Even with the UHC filter, and having gotten past my own ineptitude, it was quite difficult to spot.
– M52 – Open Cluster in Cassiopeia – This was a bit easier- and visually more rewarding.
– M45 – Pleiades – Put in the 35mm at 47x. Just stunning.
– Uranus – a faint greenish tinge to a small disk.
– M74 – Spiral Galaxy in Pisces- Despite being quite dim (Mag 9.4) there was a hint of shape visible on this beyond the core (I couldn’t see the arms, more just a fuzz) – it might make an interesting imaging target at some point.
– M77 – Spiral Galaxy in Cetus – A brighter core than M74, but less hint of the outer structure.
– NGC 2024 – Flame Nebula – Now I really should have gone to bed by now, but Orion was sliding in over the rooftops and I have precisely no willpower. Not much doing without a filter, but with the Oiii in, the nebulosity was visible. I was also able to track some of the dark lanes.
– IC434 – Horsehead – Fail! Emboldened by the views of the Flame I spent ages looking for the Horsehead. The bank of nebulosity that it sits in was reasonably straightforward, but I couldn’t find the nag. One for a dark site…
– M42 & 43- Really time to pack up now, but as I sat back from the EP I saw that Orion’s sword was (just) above the rooftops. Re-pointed the scope, leaned forward and shouted ”Wow!”, which is a bit weird when you’re sat all alone in your back garden. I think the surprise was because of the almost solid feel of the area around the trapezium after the wispiness of the HH and Flame. At 205x it’s a fascinating structure- this bit was almost photographic. At 47x, and without filters, the whole area was more gauze like, but vast, and with the dark lanes between M42 & 43 obvious. I then dialled it up to 530x (probably well beyond what my scope can sensibly cope with), but was unable to split the trapezium beyond 4 stars. Being right over the rooftops probably didn’t help.

The night was just getting better, but it was approaching midnight, I’d been out since 6 and it was really time to pack it in. The way it was going I would have happily stayed up all night…  Now where are those M33 subs…

Pelican Nebula (Part 2)

Last week I posted an RGB image of the Pelican Nebula taken shortly after the full moon. The evening before (28/10) I’d had my first go at imaging with a Hydrogen Alpha filter, and a few murky evenings has given me the chance to process it and then learn how to feed it into the Red channel of the RGB image using Pixinsight. Updated image, along with the monochrome Halpha image, is below.

Really pleased with this output- because light pollution is suppressed by the filter I was able to expose for much longer (9 minutes per sub) and the red signal is correspondingly stronger. Once integrated into image you don’t have to “push” the software so hard to bring out the detail in the nebula.

Pelican Nebula 29/10/18 (Part 1?)

A nice week for astronomy so far- finally got my shed “operational” for doing astro pics which is exciting. Still some work to do as I’ve made the roof too heavy and I need to sort out the inside, but having proven it was weather-proof and with clear skies beckoning I couldn’t resist the temptation to move all the gear in and get it going. I haven’t quite got the Roger levels of convenience where I can do it in my pyjamas, but the setup time to take an image has dropped to 10-15 minutes.

I decided to image the Pelican (and then found out Ken was on the same target!). Sundays subs were in Ha and Mondays were colour. Sunday’s data looks promising, but with time scarce I’ve processed the colour data first. When I get some more time to teach myself how, I’ll try to enhance this picture with the Ha data, but for now here’s the colour version.

22×5 minute subs + darks, flats & bias.


SGL Star Party 2018

Ken and I, plus RAG junior members Ben and Sam decided to brave the wild weather of Storm Callum this weekend and attended the Stargazers Lounge star party at Lucksall in Herefordshire. The weather gods co-operated in the standard way for pre-organised astro events and laid on some gale force winds, torrential rain and almost complete cloud cover, but this didn’t stop the whole thing being a lot of fun.
A marquee was set up for the event and some excellent talks were provided, including a very interesting one on sub millimetre astronomy, the limits of our current knowledge and how we’re pushing against them.
In addition there were a few practical activities laid on including rocket making and virtual reality exploration of the ISS and Comet 67p, plus some unofficial events:
– Welsh whiskey sampling (It’s a thing, apparently, and very nice too!)
– Watching ever larger pieces of debris glide past on a very swollen River Wye. We thought the mature Oak tree would be the largest, but then a pontoon with several large canoes still attached went flowing past.
– Speculating on whether the campsite would actually flood- the water was only a foot or so beneath the top of the defences when we left this morning.

There was also around an hour last night where the weather gods were clearly distracted and the cover broke a little and we played a game of pointing the dob at the gaps in the cloud as some of the easier to spot objects made an appearance. Altogether we managed to share views of the double-double, Bodes & Cigar, Andromeda, the Ring, the Double Cluster (easily the best sight, given the conditions), Albireo and Mars- albeit on a now you see it, now you don’t basis. Despite this, it was a great craic doing it with like-minded folks.

Fingers crossed next year there won’t be the same clash with the IAS- it would be great if more of us could enjoy both events.


Imaging Sadr and Observing the Veil

Good night on Tuesday- managed to get a good imaging session in as well as some observing. The picture is of Sadr/Gamma Cygni from 20x 300 seconds plus bias, darks and flats.

Had the dobs out whilst this was going on, first star hopping with Sam to the Hercules cluster and the Double cluster then alone after his bedtime. From the observing log:

West and East Veil- superb. Sinuous strands, beautiful. Spent a long time sweeping back and forth.
N America nebula- found Mexico but rest was a struggle.
Andromeda group. M31 dark lanes were visible in the 35mm eyepiece, first time from home.
Pleiades- first sight this year.
M33 pinwheel- v v faint. 20 minutes to find. Not worth it!!!
Kemble’s cascade & ngc1502