Monday, December 29, 2014

M31 again

The weather has been pretty much solid cloud since my last post in November. On 12/26, it cleared, I set up the scope under gloriously clear skies and managed to make a couple of captures of M31 before the clouds rolled in out of nowhere. The image is a stack of 10, 12-second integrations captured with a Mallincam Jr Pro and Miloslick capture software. The scope was the Orion ED 80 apochromat.

Processing with Photoshop did not bring out the structure of the "halo" beyond the nucleus, indicating that I probably need to take longer exposures.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

M 31

This is a capture of M 31 taken on November 10. Detail is hard to see, because the galaxy is a little large to image in the 14 inch, even with a focal reducer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Uranus and Neptune

Here are a couple of quick captures of Uranus and Neptune taken yesterday. These are simply record shots and have not been processed. The planets are currently quite close together in the Southern part of the sky at mid-evening. The distinctive colors of the planets are unfortunately
not seen in these images.



The Ring again

Here's another image of the Ring Nebula captured during yesterday's marathon imaging session!

Dumbbell (M 27: NGC 6853)

Yesterday was probably my most productive imaging day ever! This image of M27 was captured with the 14 inch scope, Mallincam, and 05x focal reducer. The image captures some of the subtle features of this planetary nebula rather well. This is probably the best image I have been able to capture of the Dumbbell.

NGC 7814; Caldwell 43

This is an image of the "Little Sombrero" galaxy captured on 11/10/2014 with the 14 inch scope, Mallincam Jr Pro and a .5x focal reducer. NGC 7814 is 40 million light years from earth and is seen edge on. The core is very bright and the dust lane of the galactic disk is clearly visible. This is a stack of 8 images of 20 seconds' duration. The magnitude of the galaxy is 11.6. The image scale is rather small, so this is a signifcantly cropped image.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Skyshed Pod arrives!

Today was a big day. The 5-bay Skyshed POD arrived! These are certainly the biggest boxes I have ever received. Below are a couple of pix of them in my garage. I hope to begin construction at the site next week, although that will depend very much on the weather.

A budding, future astronomer inspects the dome package

The three boxes fill the car space in my garage! The 14 inch is crowded off to the side

Monday, October 27, 2014

B&W Ring

Showing a little more detail than my earlier B&W image. Captured 10.26.2014


LRGB of Ring Nebula 10.26.2104

Last night was truly as perfect a night as anyone could wish for: good transparency and good seeing--a rare combination here in Indiana! As I was setting up the scope, I noticed a bright light crossing a little south of the zenith. At first, I thought it was an Iridium Flare, but, as it showed no signs of fading, I quickly realized it was the International Space Station. I have never really looked for the ISS before, so it was a real treat to see it pass over Indiana. 

Last night was my first attempt to do LRGB imaging. I had done one or two RGB images of Mars earlier in the year, but I had never tried to image deep sky objects and to add the luminance channel.

Here is my first attempt at an LRGB image. This image was taken with the ASI120MM and combines RGB and luminance filters. My combination is not the best as I am not a Photoshop expert, but it's not too bad for a first attempt at "multichannel" imaging.

AR2192--Flaring Captured 10.26.2014?

AR2192 continues to flare as it moves toward the edge of the sun's disk.  When I looked at the sun yesterday (10.26), this spot had some very bright areas visually, sometimes a sign of a building or subsiding flare. I imaged for some time yesterday and I think the images may have captured some flaring.

Here's the initial image captured at 17:40 UT:

At 19:45 UT, AR2192 had brightened appreciably:

I reduced the exposure significantly, so that the bright areas were a little more controlled. The flaring seemed to be confined to 3 bright areas:

I'll finish out the gallery with some of the other images I took:

Friday, October 24, 2014

AR2192 Continues to Evolve

AR2192 continues to grow and evolve as it moves across the center of the sun's disk. An X-Class flare from this spot would likely bring significant auroral activity. This image was taken through a haze of cloud, so the contrast is fairly washed out in terms of fine surface detail.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Dumbbell Nebula 10.22.2014

Like the Ring Nebula, the Dumbbell nebula is a planetary nebula marking the end of a star's life as it puffs off its outer layers into space.  The central star of the nebula is the largest known white dwarf. The shape of the nebula is an oblate spheroid and we are looking at the plane of its equator. The rate of expansion is around 17 km per second. This image is a stack of 20 15-second exposures with the ASI 120MM camera.

The Ring Nebula 10.22.2014

Last night, I decided to do a quick imaging session with the ASI 120MM camera. It is amazingly sensitive. This image is a stack of 17 10-second exposures. I did not use the color wheel last night as the goal of the session was to see how the Orion focal reducer worked with the 14 inch.

The Ring Nebula is a planetary nebula, which is an emission nebula of ionized gas. This gas is a "shell" puffed off from the surface of an old, red giant star as it reaches the end of its life. The shell is a cylinder we are seeing from "end on," and it is expanding at around 30 km per second. The center of the nebula is expanding faster than the ring. The central star is a white dwarf about the size of earth and it glows at around Magnitude 14.7.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

AR2192--A Fire-Spitting Dragon! (October 22, 2014)

AR2192 has been flaring spectacularly. Here are some pix taken today of this dragon on the sun! The complex activity of this active area can be clearly seen in these images, as can the changes from the image of 10-19, when the spot was closer to the edge of the sun.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Sun on 10.19.2014

It was not a good day for imaging, with lots of hazy cloud that significantly reduced image contrast. The sun continues to be very active. The following images show AR2192, which has been torching off X-Class flares (the most powerful flares the sun emits), and also filaments around ARs 2193 and 2187.


Filaments near AR2187 & AR2193

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Imager and Pix

Yesterday, I received my new Mallincam Jr Pro. As whoever controls the weather seems to have been asleep, the weather was clear last night. I made some quick adjustments, added a .5x focal reducer and skyglow filter, and attached the camera to the scope.  Here is the first thing I saw:

This image is a pic captured with my iphone off the small (and rather low-quality) monitor mounted on the scope. It is a 3-second integration and yet the colors are clearly visible, as is the 14.7 magnitude central star! This is all the more impressive as there was a full moon last night and a hazy sky.

One issue I had with the camera is that I was unable to achieve long integrations. When I programmed for, say, a 30-second exposure, the remote controls did appear to be performing the exposure, but the camera continued to update every 3 seconds. With a longer exposure, even more vivid color and structure would be visible.

Here's a pic of the camera itself. It's a beautiful piece of work hand-built and signed by Rock Mallin himself. The only problem is that the supplier I bought it from (not the US supplier) sent the wrong camera. I had ordered one with the enhanced imaging ship but they shipped the standard model by mistake. I returned the above camera today and I'm hoping it won't be too long until the new one is shipped. As we have about a week of rain ahead, I'm not too disappointed!

Here are a couple more images I took last night:

M13 is always gorgeous and even a 3-second exposure shows lots of stars.

The Dumbell Nebula is one of my favorite objects and, like the Ring Nebula, is well-placed for observation at this time of year.  A 3-second exposure is much too short for this object, but the image above still shows significant color and detail (the image on the screen was significantly better than this capture).

All in all, I'm looking forward to using this little camera as an adjunct to my CCD imaging. I recommend it highly to anyone who does public outreach, or who just wants to see color images of DSOs in record time!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Solar Images for September 25, 2014

The sun is quite active at present and the disk has lots of interesting features in H-Alpha, from filaments to active areas that can produce powerful flares.

This first image shows AR 2172. This area has the potential to produce M-Class flares and has been flaring occasionally for several days. Notice the dark filaments that stretch for huge distances across the solar disk. The dark spots in AR 2172 are a little bigger than the diameter of the earth.

Below are more images of this area:

The next image shows another active area on the disk, This area has a few, pore like spots in white light images, but is not named. It gives a good idea of the complex swirl and flow of plasma in the sun's magnetic field.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

14 inch back home

The 14 inch scope, pictured above, is back home (notice the nifty counterweight addition!). The Walnut Ridge Observatory site will continue to be used, but with other scopes. While the dark sky site was amazing, it was simply too much of a drive (10 miles) to get there and back on a weeknight. I was missing too many clear nights, so I made the difficult decision to move the scope back home. It's currently on wheelie bars and it is easy to roll it out onto the driveway. I park the scope after every use and I use marks on the drive way to position it at approximately the same point for every use. It seems to work well--I don't need to polar align every time I use it; a simple GOTO a named object and a SYNCH is all I need to do.

Since the move, I've been able to take advantage of the clear evenings and I've used the scope more in the last week than in the last 6 months; convenience is the name of the game!

As I said, Walnut Ridge will continue to be used as it is a superb site and there is nowhere quite like it for star parties!

Another big development is on the horizon. I hope to acquire a 5 bay Skyshed POD and to set it up on a site only a couple of miles from my home! This new observatory, while not at a dark sky site, offers excellent views of the southern horizon and will enable me to reach the scope in less than 5 minutes. Moreover, it will also make it possible for me to do educational outreach and enrichment activities for local students, which is something I very much enjoy. Stay tuned for more information!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ring Nebula

Here's a quick shot of the Ring Nebula taken with the 14 inch this evening:

The image is a quickly-processed stack of around 11 x 20 second exposures. The Ring is the expelled outer layers of a sun-like star; this is how our own star will die. The actual shape of the ring in 3D is football-like and we are looking down the long axis of the ball. The blue, ionized helium of the inner ring is not visible in this image. The cyan color is the glow of hydrogen and oxygen; the red of the outer ring is nitrogen and sulfur. The Ring is about a light year across and 2,000 light years away from us.

The Equinox Sun: September 22, 2014

The weather was typical Indiana early Fall: clear, cloudless skies of the deepest blue, but also very turbulent. Seeing was poor and it was hard to get good contrast on the images, so these pix are mostly for record purposes.

The first pic is an inverted image of the area around the AR 2172 complex; below is a more detailed closeup of part of AR2172 itself.

AR 2174, on the opposite side of the disk, is an area of bright faculae in white light; in H-Alpha, it looks fairly quiescent.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Sun September 17, 2014

Conditions were very poor today. There was a lot of water vapor in the air and I had a hard time focusing the scope. The iOptron mount behaved perfectly, however, and I was able to get some good images, despite the conditions.

It is interesting how quiet the sun looks in white light, but in H-alpha, it looks very active.

This image shows filaments associated with AR 2164.

This second image shows activity around AR 2166. It has often been the case that a seemingly quiet sun can erupt with very high energy flares, If you compare today's images with the white light image on, for example,, you can see why that is sometimes the case.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Sun, September 7, 2014

I managed some imaging between the clouds today. Here's a couple of pix of the results:

This first image shows long filaments (areas of cool gas caught in the sun's magnetic field) and ARs 2152, 2153 and 2160.

The second image captures the crackling power of ARs 2159 and 2157.

I was able to capture other images, but unfortunately, Registax refuses to open them, probably due to large size (900Mb).

Finally Back!

After a longish hiatus, I'm finally able to get back to the blog. It has been a very cloudy summer here in Indiana, with the coolest and wettest July on record. However, things seem to be getting back to a more normal pattern now.

Inspired by the many excellent images on the Yahoo PST group, I finally bought a driven mount for my PST, courtesy my Mom--thanks Mom!!!. It's an iOptron Smart EQ Pro and I am very impressed with its capabilities. Tracking seems to be "dead on" and my PST images from this point on will be captured from this mount.  I also deforked my ETX 125 and it will also be used on this mount as well. I'm surprised at how sturdy the tripod is--much better than I expected. iOptron support is  also first rate, so I'm currently happy with everything about this inexpensive little mount.

Here's a pic of the mount driving the PST DS on an imaging session this afternoon:

The pic shows the mount being powered by an external battery. The ASI 120MM and barlow are also clearly visible.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


This is an image of Mars taken last night with the 14 inch. The camera was an ASI 120MM. I took 2000 frames of Red, Green, and Blue channels. Seeing was horrible, but the polar cap is clearly visible at the 11 o'clock position as is atmospheric cloud.