Sunday night was one of those rare occasions when a clear night is accurately forecast in advance. Shame it was work the next day, but the forecast meant I able to set up both imaging rigs and the dob in the daylight and get going as soon as the sun set..
The observing was pretty good- I really wanted to make the most of the winter targets that are now drifting away and had good views of Venus, M42, the Running Man and the Flame. Conditions were good so I had a go at the Horsehead with a number of eyepieces and filters, but no joy. Having seen it once (at a darker site) it always seems to be teasingly on the edge of vision- the bank that it sits in is often just discernible and so logically you would expect a gap in that bank to be visible too…
To make life easier I spent a bit of time on the Pleiades. It may sound funny, but after 5 years of looking at it, including 2 with the telescope I’m using now, it seems I’m only just now learning how to look at this. When I first look, the magnification of the scope (it’s 1650mm fl) makes the stars relatively sparse. Some strong nebulosity does appear quite quickly, but it’s only after literally minutes of just gazing around the object, wobbling the scope and moving just off the object and back on again that the filmy nebula away from the brighter bits emerges. Really gorgeous. And maybe I’m a just a bit slow on the uptake.
I then moved onto Perseus (which is in the darkest bit of sky for me)- looking at Mirium (lovely yellow/white double), Theta Perseus, Melotte 20 (better in the finder), M34 (not my favourite), the Double Cluster (always lovely), and Iota Cass (I couldn’t see the colours very well this time, which was a bit disappointing).
I then moved up to Ursa Major for M51 (it was quite high, the 2 cores were bright, and the bridge was visible, the arms less so, but a nice view all the same) and NGC 2403 which I recently imaged, but which was hardly visible in these skies. Next up was M106, but the clouds beat me to it and it was time to pack up.
Whilst enjoying the relatively balmy night (it didn’t hit the dew point until the very end) I also had the imaging rig on M106 (which I’ve yet to process) and the camera doing an 18mm field along the Milky Way. I’ve done two of these before; running the galaxy from bottom right to top left, and I had vague notions of turning It into some sort of super mosaic of the galaxy across the year, but it’s so much lower in the sky this time of year that it was impossible to frame it like that. I was also shooting into the light pollution over Burton, which gave me some wicked gradients across that wide view- here’s the stacked image after a stretch on it.
When I look at images like this it seems a miracle we can see anything at all through that murk. Pixinsight’s DBE tool did battle with it- and I’m going to call it a score draw- the bottom left corner was pretty much a lost cause, but after I cropped it out the rest of the image came out OK, with just a bit of vestigial lp gunk remaining. It seems really marked how much more sparse the galaxy is looking away from the core like this:
And here’s an annotated version: