20/9/19 Part 2 – Imaging

Here are my images from Friday night. First up is my effort on Roger’s Hickson Challenge using an 8 inch scope and cooled 550d. In this frame are the 2 clusters from Pegasus- the Deer Lick group and Stephan’s Quintet. Guiding was really ropey whilst I was doing this (it was a bit breezy) and I had to abandon about a third of the subs- so this is 90 minutes worth of 4 minute subs:

This is a crop with the Deer Lick group:

And here’s Stephan’s Quintet. I’ve had a bit of an obsession with this object. I’ve tried and failed to observe it at least half a dozen times- it just seems to be right on the edge of what the 14inch can grasp. Looking at these photos I can see why- the camera really hasn’t been able to put much shape or definition on them:

This shot took until 11:45pm- when the mount was coming up to the Meridian.

Rather than continue to gather data I moved across onto the Eastern Veil. I really love observing this object- but this is the first time I’ve tried to image any of it- this is 32 4 minute subs. Quite pleased with the outcome:

Finally, I’ve been ebay-ing again and have picked up another vintage Russian lens- 300mm this time. See picture below- it’s not lightweight!!! I’ve found that using this one is much more like using a telescope: it’s harder to aim, it needs a counterweight and was too heavy for a ball mount, so I had to fix it onto the SA and therefore can’t rotate the camera at all (unless I start trying to engineer something myself). I have to say, though, for anyone wanting to experiment with wider fields of view- these old prime lenses are pretty good- and compared with other astro gear quite cheap. I think this is the longest focal length I’d try- I was initially doing 2 minute subs but was getting some trailing so dropped to 1 min 20. I could (and may) add guiding- but at the moment I want to keep it simple. This is 17x 2 min subs and 80x 1 min 20 subs (I just left it running whilst I was observing) on the North American and Pelican nebulae.





20/9/19 – Part 1 Observing Report

Having been away with work and other commitment through several clear nights this week I was itching to get out last night and had the kit set up before it was properly dark. I set the cameras going for some imaging then concentrated on the visual with the 14” Dob and Baader Zoom. I didn’t really have a plan, but instead spent the time wandering through Sky Safari and just going for stuff that might be interesting.


Double-double: This is a regular starting point for me- I align the Rigel and Finderscope on Vega then check out the double double to see what the seeing is like. It wasn’t the best and the sky was clearly a bit milky too, but even without the aperture mask there was clear separation on both pairs which augured well.

M13: Just a short hop down and I almost go there out of habit. A nice view with good resolution into the core; couldn’t see the propeller though. Never quite sure whether it’s the conditions or me- but I can only see it about half the time.

NGC7331 and Stephan’s Quintet: This was my first imaging target for the night and I wanted to see what I could get visually as well. NGC7331 is a nice target- quite easy to see the core, and then with a bit of time and some averted vision more of the shape becomes clear. I’ve had quite a few goes at this and always feel it’s right on the edge of my vision. I spent a long time on it last night- moving the scope, looking around the object, just relaxing and trying to let it float into view. There was definitely something there- a faint mottling of the sky. But not distinct. I have dark sky 2 trips coming up where, with a bit of luck with the weather, I’ll have more of a chance. It’ll be great to finally tick this one off.

M15: It’s a couple of years since I put this one in the eyepiece and I’d forgotten what a wonderful target it is. To me the core seemed to appear slightly below centre (so I guess above centre as I’m using a Newt)- but I’m guessing that’s an effect of local atmosphere as it certainly doesn’t appear on any photos that I’ve checked online this morning. I also tried the Binoviewers; I’m a huge fan of globs in Binoviewers- they both seem to add an extra dimension and support seeing more detail in the object; but on this occasion it didn’t really seem to add anything. No worse, just no better either.

M2: This was a nice view, but being a bit lower in the sky than M15 it was a bit murkier and harder to resolve, so suffered a bit by comparison. I probably did them in the wrong order!

NGC891: In Sky Safari this looks reminiscent of the Needle Galaxy so I was keen to have a look, but I really couldn’t see anything at all. I spent a long time on this- trying averted vision, and then dropping the magnification right down with a 30mm eyepiece- but nothing at all. Then, as I had the 30mm in…

M31/32/110: This I COULD see! Lovely to sit back on the chair and just drink it in. I find that it reveals itself in the same sequence each time. The core of M31 leaps out at you and then M32 is right there as well. Gradually some of the dark lanes appear and I then have to work a bit to get to M110. On really good nights I can see the edges spilling over the field of view, but the sky was too milky last night for that. It really is an awesome thing to contemplate: the light of a trillion stars travelling for millions of years and landing in my back garden. I hope it wasn’t too disappointed in the state of my lawn.

Caroline’s Rose: Next, and with the low power still in, I wandered up to Cassiopeia. I could see the dark lanes in this open cluster; I sort of get it as a rose but it doesn’t quite leap out and grab me.

M52: I much prefer this open cluster- not really sure why. The odd brighter star (not sure if it’s foreground) reminds me a bit of the Wild Duck Cluster- a pleasure to look at. I went back to the Baader zoom and quickly dropped back down to 8mm for the best view.

Blue Snowball Nebula – I love the colour of this, it’s great to have something that’s not grey. I can never make out any details on this, but I always enjoy the blinky thing that PNs do. This inspired me to jump across to…

Blinking Planetary Nebula- which always sounds like an exclamation to me. Strangely it didn’t blink as much for me as the Blue Snowball.

M57 – The Ring nebula. Always a favourite; I decided to try some filters and also the BV’s on this. In the end reached the conclusion that it’s bright enough that none of these approaches really added anything. In the Baader, at 8mm/206x it’s a lovely view with a darker section (although the central star was beyond me last night) in the middle and variations in shading around the ring. Always good to experiment, but in this case the simple view is the best for me.

M27- The Dumbell. In this case it really was worth experimenting. In the zoom it’s only a faint wispy thing at any magnification, and only really the apple core shape is visible. Dropping to the 30mm and it appears much more strongly, standing out a little against the star field. Popping the Baader back in with the UHC filter on it made it stand out a little further against the background, although at the expense of a little detail. Putting the Oiii filter on turbo charged this effect: in monochrome green the full extent of the object was visible against the pitch background, there was a lot of shape as well, although it was quite blurry and you could only really focus by sidestepping to a nearby star.

M71 – Nice, but quite faint and small compared with the other globs in the session.

The Moon was up now and bed was calling, but like a kid left alone with the biscuit tin I was unable to resist a few more targets. The moon itself was in a really wobbly bit of the sky so I didn’t spend too much time on that, and switched back up to Cepheus.

The Garnet Star- always a beauty, nice and sharp with the aperture mask on it.

Delta Cepheus – A nice easy split; and almost Albireo like with the contrasting colours.

Kemble’s Cascade – Too bright to find in the moonlight; no stars to hop from.

Double Cluster – A wonderful place to finish!

Right, where are those subs…

Pegasus Dwarf Galaxy

Hi All.

This is the first attempt at the Pegasus Dwarf Galaxy. Believe me it is there! It’s very faint just to the right of the ring file re-enforcement ring in the middle.

I couldn’t work out where the dust bunnies had come from as I had cleaned the filters and the the camera.

I then took the filter wheel apart and cleaned it all over again, plus the filter and the camera.


The second image is 2 hours of luminance in 5 minute subs.

There are 2 other galaxies in the image, one at 16.5 mag, the other at 16.7 mag. Can you spot them?


The Wizard and the Crescent in Ha

These are two images from last night, both 5-minute subs using my cooled 450D with the 130P-DS and a 7nmn Ha filter. They have been stretched in FITS Liberator and very lightly adjusted in photoshop, and some very gentle denoising in Astra Image. This is because they subs were very dark so I wanted to make full use of FITS Liberator’s ability to stretch 32-bit data.

The wizard is 30 frames, the Crescent is 22. There’s quite visible ‘posterisation’ if you zoom right in with the faintest areas, so if it’s clear again tonight I will repeat the exact sequence with the hope of doubling my subs and doubling the range of pixel values. Very pleased with the lack of noise. Now to dig out my RGB ones and try making LRGB versions.

The Crescent Nebula in Ha
The Crescent Nebula in Ha


The Wizard Nebula in Ha
The Wizard Nebula in Ha

Hunter’s Moon?

Being unable to sleep last night, I was greeted in the early hours by seeing the Moon lurking in the Hyades, hiding behind Taurus’s head, presumably to protect itself by being clobbered by Orion the Hunter.

Here it is, taken with my Sony DSC-HX60 compact camera with a bit of GIMP magic to combine images of different exposures to avoid the Moon’s glare washing out the stars:

And here is the Moon’s hiding place in the Hyades: