Rob Leonard

The Crab

I made the most of a short clear spell last Wednesday. This is the Crab Nebula- the first object in Messier’s catalogue. I captured it with my ASI 1600mm and 8 inch Newtonian – its first use since last September- with 30 minutes of RGB on the stars and then half an hour each on Ha and Oiii. Not really enough, but there was intermittent cloud throughout the evening and I rejected more of the narrowband subs than I kept.

I’m really fond of this object for several reasons: I love its place in history, with clear records in China in 1054 observing the actual supernova, it’s a good observing challenge and really jumps out with an Oiii filter, and it’s one of only 2 natural phenomena (the other being a neutron star collision) that we know of that produces Gold. I always get a bit whimsical and hold my wedding ring when observing M1, as a direct physical link to a similar ancient astronomical event.

Doesn’t look much like a crab to me though!

A Tipsy Dither

At last AP group meeting Neil suggested sharing bloopers, and I was thinking afterwards that it was a good idea- so here’s my submission…

Sods law dictated that the only clear night in weeks should coincide with a pre-arranged zoom drinks and quiz night with some local dads. I thought that at least I could get some imaging done whilst it was on. Trouble is, to avoid walking noise, I have to manually dither the mount.

Three rounds in, before my turn to be question master, I suggested we have a ten minute break and quickly hared into the garden. Unfortunately it’s quite a delicate procedure, involving a tiny couple of degrees on the slo-mo knob. I completely botched it and had to do a hasty re-alignment. Just about got it done and ran back in thinking ‘Phew- got away with that’.

No, I didn’t.

See below: imaging restarted with completely different framing and polar alignment knocked out, leaving the mount slewing drunkenly off track. A bit like myself!

The Tadpoles Nebula

I caught this one on Christmas Eve. We had a lovely clear night, and although it was very much family time I did manage to sneak out and set the scope running. It was pretty clear nearly all night, so I was able to gather data for all the channels in one night- a rarity in UK narrowband imaging. Details are:

Capture details are:

RGB (for the stars) – 10 mins/channel – 20x 30 seconds, Ha – 90x 2mins, Oiii and Sii – 75x 2mins.

130pds on HEQ5 with ASI1600mm at Gain 250.

I’m normally indecisive about the best presentation, but in this instance the Hubble version was definitely the one to go with, as it really highlights the tadpoles. I’ve also included a Starnet version- it definitely adds some noise, but you can see the faint bits of the nebula much better.

I was curious about the Tadpoles- apparently they’re similar to the Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula- dust and gas left over from the formation of the nearby star cluster NGC1893, and the nursery for future star creation. They point away from the cluster because of stellar winds and radiation pressure from it.


7 Sisters of California

This is my second attempt at this composition and some time off over the holidays is giving me time to catch up with processing…

This is quite a large chunk of sky between the Pleiades running up to the California nebula. I had a go at this around 9 months ago, but it was low in the sky at the time and I clipped the background to sort out atmospheics and light pollution gradients. It’s been nice to have another go closer to the zenith. The acquisition was as follows:

2 pane mosaic, taken through Altair 183c Pro camera on a Star Adventurer with a Canon 15 year old “nifty fifty” f1.8 lens. I found focussing at f1.8 just about impossible, so it’s stopped down to f2.8. I wanted to get as much of the dust as possible, so I didn’t use a filter and this restricted me to 30 second exposures at gain 1000. Each pane has 120×30 seconds.

I then enhanced the California nebula by blending it with some data taken back in October with a 1970s 135mm Soviet lens and an Ha filter.

Mineral Moon from 29th December

Here’s a picture of last night’s full moon. I’ve spent a good part of the today learning some new processing techniques from the page below:

How To Photograph And Edit a Mineral Moon | Light Stalking

Unfortunately the steps are all in Photoshop, so I had to work out how to do them in GIMP, but it seems to have worked. I wanted to see if I could do this entirely in free software, but couldn’t get the noise reduction to work so there’s a bit of Pixinsight in here, but otherwise it’s all done with free stuff.

Capture details are: Canon DSLR on 130PDS – Disc is stack of 30 of 1/500s, halo is a single jpeg at 1/10 sec

Processing is: Converted to avi by Pipp, stacked in Autostakkert, Saturation and Layers in GIMP and Noise reduction in Pixinsight MLT.




Hunting Barnards Loop

I’ve been fascinated by Barnards Loop ever since I first saw a photo of it- an emission nebula that covers a huge part of the sky. In case you’re not familiar, it’s a large loop of gas centred roughly on Messier 42 that encircles good chunk of the Orion constellation. It’s thought to be a remnant of a Supernova from a couple of million years ago at least 100 light years across. I had a go at imaging it last year, but wasn’t especially thrilled with the results, so definitely on the list for another go. Easier said than done when you’re fighting light pollution…

I started this on 16th initially with an IDAS light pollution filter and a Sigma 18-55 lens. Unfortunately the lens/filter combination produced some very strange effects, so I took the filter out and stacked 20 minutes worth of data from 40x 30 second shots. I’m to the North of Burton and so Orion goes right over the light dome from the town- not a pretty sight:

I attacked it in Pixinsight with DBE. It’s a good tool, but the mess left behind from this one had me needing to clip the background out to get something presentable. Still- I thought it’d make a good base to mix some Ha over:

Next clear night was Christmas Eve. I waited for Orion to get nice and high in the sky and then had a go with a 7nm Baader Ha filter, collecting an hour of data. This really underlines how much LP gets generated by an average urban area. Despite around 95% of the visible spectrum being cut out, there’s still a pretty nasty gradient:

Did my best to sort it out, but it was still a pretty noisy image. Final result is below. If I want to get a decent version of this I think I’m going to need to go somewhere darker, but if anyone has any bright ideas for improving this in the meantime, I’m listening!



Couple of presentations of ngc7822 between Cepheus and Cassiopeia. First one is HaRGB- 2.5 hours of Ha and half an hour of RGB. I then added an hour each of Oiii and Sii, but no Oiii appeared and I had to really work the data to get something out of the Sii. So it’s a bit rough, but hey ho. Might go for a brighter target next…

Cloud dodging my way to an old friend…

One of those nights where you know from the forecast it isn’t going to be great, but you’re also suffering withdrawal and go for it with the 14″ anyway…

Started off with Mars. I’ve recently discovered that the best view of it in the dob is with a variable polarising filter. It really cuts the glare down and doesn’t seem to lose as much resolution as the aperture mask. Lovely clear surface detail and the polar cap still just visible. Kicking myself that I didn’t discover this combination back in October!!!
Next over to the Pleiades and it’s a fabulous sight- lots nebulosity and texture between the stars. Love it.

Then it clouds over….

90 minutes later Sam suggests that if he gets his PJ’s on then maybe the sky will clear- and sure enough it did ten minutes later! I can hire him out at if anyone’s interested…

Transparency isn’t so good, but stars can be seen!!! M42 has cleared the house for my first proper view this season. A brilliant sight and we spend some time drinking it in. The main nebula is bright and clear at 55x and really pops with the uhc filter in. It’s like having an old friend back. Even the Running Man is quite prominent. Swap over to the 7mm for 236x and the core is like a whole new object, lots of texture in the bright area with the fainter stuff dropped out by the higher mag. The trapezium is bright and clear with E and F stars just about there floating in and out of visibility.

Pop the 30mm back in for a trip to Alnitak, but the sky is getting murkier by the minute. I can see hints of nebulosity, but not the dark lane that means I can chalk up the flame.

In view of the conditions I decide to look at some brighter stuff. Sigma Orionis is a good sight- 4 stars easy. It looks to me like the A star has a companion. Lots of checking and double checking and a bit of a read on the internet- it does have one and was discovered in a 12″ scope. In view of the conditions I find it very unlikely that I’ve seen it, but one to go back to. Has anyone else on here snagged this one? Really good view in any case.

Next I had a look at Betelgeuse. I know it’s just a big fat red star but I love the colour and so did my son.

Moved down to Rigel. I really like it-it’s a nice split and a good example of uneven stars without being anywhere near as difficult as Sirius.
One last view on the faint stuff- over to M31/2. A nice view, but too murky to pick up 110.

Thicker cloud now so scanning the sky to find gaps…

Iota Cass- easily found and split.
Achird a nice split with some hints of colour.

A nice session- shame it clouded over, but a bit of a fix to keep me going!!!!

The Bubble Nebula and M52

Had this data a while but not the chance to process. I got the RGB and Ha data on 22nd November and then the Sii and Oiii a couple of nights later. I left the Oiii and Sii running overnight, but had to drop a lot of frames due to cloud. The RGB and Ha was the data I used for the HaRGB demo to the RAG AP group on Friday, but I’ve only just had the chance to add the Oiii and Sii.

Kit was 130pds on HEQ5, with ZWO ASI1600mm to capture

Capture details are:
20x 30 sec each of RGB
90x 1min Ha
50x 2min Oiii
55x 2min Sii

Presentations are Ha, HaRGB and SHO with RGB Stars.