Monday, November 16, 2015

Stacked Pinwheel Galaxy

Here is a stacked version of M33 taken under decent seeing conditions, but some wind. The camera was my trusty DSm fed by the ST-80. This is a stack of 5 1-minute exposures. The stars are slightly elongated due to the wind blowing on the scope. In this image, the dust lanes are definitely more prominent than on the unstacked images I posted earlier on this blog.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NGC 7023 (Caldwell 4) The Iris Nebula

The Iris Nebula is a bright emission nebula in the constellation Cepheus. It has a distinctive blue color. In the telescope field, it is a tiny, bright, blueish dot. The nebula is only 18 arcseconds by 18 arcseconds in angular diameter (as compared to 230 x 230 arcminutes for the ring nebula). These images were captured with the 14 inch, using a focal reducer, so the nebula looked like a bright star in the field. These images are heavily cropped and enlarged, showing some of the bright and dark structures in the nebula. The red and blue fringes are caused by aberrations in the optical system.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Pleiades

The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters, or the Netted Stars, have a large presence in myth a folklore. They are also a good test of eyesight in dark skies. With good vision, you should be able to see seven stars in the cluster.

In reality, there are hundreds of stars in the cluster. On a good night, I can see nine with my naked eye. Imaging shows hot blue stars surrounded by nebulousity.

This image as taken with the Orion ED 80 piggyback on the 14 inch ACF.  The imager was the Mallincam DSm.  Even with the 80nT f/5, the cluster is so large that only a few stars show. Note the nebulousity, especially around the star at the bottom of the image (Merope).

The Pinwheel Galaxy

 The Pinwheel Galaxy (M33) is, like M74, a very low surface brightness galaxy. It is fiendishly difficult to image in any but the darkest of skies. The Mallicam DSm can pull out more detail than any color imager under these conditions. This image was taken with the DSm, Orion Skyglow filter, and Orion ED 80 scope.

M74--A Ghostly Spiral

M74 is not only a difficult object to see through a telescope, it is challenging to image in light-polluted skies. This image was taken with the 14 inch ACF at F/6.3 with the Xtreme. Gain was 4 with a 90 second exposure. I had to do some histogram adjustment to pull the galaxy out of the background skyglow (there are too many car dealerships on the other side of town--Lafayette has a huge light pollution footprint for such a small town), so the image is rather noisy. I also cropped the image to cut out amp glow and some vignetting.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Phantom for Halloween!

Well--not really. This image of M74--a face-on spiral galaxy--was taken on November 1. The galaxy is called The Phantom because of its low surface brightness; it is one of the most difficult Messier objects to see.

This image is a single, 60-second integration taken with my 14 inch ACF, Mallicam MFR-5 II focal reducer, Baader UHC/Nebula filter and the Mallincam Xtreme. The spiral structure of the galaxy is clearly visible, despite the sky glow.

As a bonus, on the way in, I saw a very bright (+2 or so) Taurid meteor.

AR 2443--Minor Flaring

The sun is moving below the tree line from my observing site, so I'm entering a time when solar observations will become even less frequent. However, yesterday (Nov. 1), I did a quick setup of the PST-DS and captured some flaring from AR 2443 through the trees with my Mallicam DSm.  The images were all taken separated by only a few minutes, but the change in AR 2443 is very noticeable as the flaring subsides.

First Image
Second Image

Third Image--Flaring Over

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Three for the price of one! M31 M32 and M110 in the same image field

This is an image of M31 with the small, gravitationally-bound elliptical galaxy M110 in the bottom right corner and M32 at the 9 o'clock position.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Four out of five naked-eye planets--Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury 10.19.15

This morning, 4 of the 5 naked eye planets are visible in the pre-dawn sky. Here are the pix that show Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury. Mars is very faint, so click on the pic to enlarge it and zoom in--it is right below (7pm position) Jupiter.  The second pic shows a zoomed in image of Venus, Jupiter and Mars.

Veuus, Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury
Again--click for full size image and zoom!

Venus, Jupiter, and Mars

Friday, October 16, 2015

Deep in the POD

Here's a pic of the Indiana POD Observatory in action. The right hand screen is a Surface Pro 3 managing camera control and imaging through a USB hub (this is an actual, live image of the Eagle Nebula on the screen). Next to it is an Asus netbook running PhD software which is autoguiding the main scope from the ED-80 mounted piggyback.

Here's a pic of the POD and scope from the outside. The Orion autoguider is in the piggybacked Orion scope and the Mallincam Xtreme is mounted on the main scope.

It's quite astonishing how much room there is in the POD, even with the 14 inch sitting on a space-gobbling tripod. You would not want a school field trip in there, but for one or two observers, it's perfect!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Messier 110

Although the Messier catalog ended at number 103 at the time of Charles Messier's death, objects 104-110 were attributed to him as there is evidence he observed them. Working with a 4 inch telescope mostly from within the city of Paris, the Messier catalog is an outstanding achievement.

M110 is a small, elliptical galaxy that is gravitationally bound to M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy. It is amazing that Messier could even see this small, faint object; it's a tribute to his eyesight and to the excellent sky conditions that must have existed at the end of the 18th century, even in a major city.

This image shows M110 as a faint, elliptical haze close to the center of the image. To the upper left are the huge core and dust lanes of M31.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Spectacular Eagle

I've posted pix of the Eagle Nebula before and last Friday, I decided to take one last look at the Eagle before it moves below my local horizon. I took 4 images on the 14 inch with the Xtreme and stacked them in AstroToaster. The result speaks for itself. There is a little red mis-registration (which, for some reason, was in a couple of the original images), but I'm very pleased with the detail in this pic.

The Eagle is a star nursery. In the so-called "Pillars of Creation," new, hot, young stars are blowing away the nebula and emerging. The light of these stars can be seen illuminating the interior of the nebula and silhouetting other parts.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Messier 33--10.8.15

Here's an image of M33 taken in our light-polluted skies. The 'M' designation is taken from the Messier Catalog, a list of 110 objects (this list contained 103 at the time of Messier's death) that could be mistaken for comets by comet hunters. As a comet hunter himself, these objects were a frustration to Messier, so in 1771, he published a listing of these objects to avoid. He observed them from a hotel in Paris using a small 4 inch telescope.
M33 is a spiral galaxy, sometimes called the Triangulum Galaxy or Pinwheel Galaxy. It seems to be a part of our local group of galaxies, which includes the mighty M31, Andromeda Galaxy. You can just make out the spiral arms of this galaxy in this image.
I'm always amazed when I think of the achievement of Charles Messier, working in Paris with a his inch refractor, M33 was completely invisible in the scope against the skyglow; Messier must have had wonderful dark sky conditions, even in a city like Paris.

Moon-Venus Conjunction this Morning (10.8.15)

The conjunction of Venus and the Moon was a lovely sight this morning against the pink clouds of dawn. I snapped this zoomed in image with my phone this morning as I was gassing up my car.
The word "conjunction" refers to the apparent close proximity of two or more astronomical objects when seen from earth. The Moon and Venus are, of course separated by millions of miles, so this conjunction is just a line-of-sight effect.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Harvest Blood Super Moon! 9.27.2015

Tonight's "Blood Moon" was front and center in many news sources today. A Blood Moon occurs when there is a lunar eclipse (i.e., the Earth comes between the Moon and the Sun) while the Moon is close to its closest point to earth on its orbit (a so-called "Supermoon"). Because the Moon's angular diameter as seen from Earth is a little bigge at this timer, and because the Earth's atmosphere bends light like a lens or prism (with red light being bent the most), the Moon appears a coppery-red color. The event began at around 9:07 pm, with the total phase starting about an hour later. The event is relatively rare, with the last one occurring 33 years ago. The next will not be until 2033. These pix were captured with my ST-80 and Canon Xti.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Lagoon Nebula

Like the Eagle and Trifid Nebulas in previous posts, the Lagoon Nebula is a spectacular star-spawning region. Peppered with Bok Globules--clouds of collapsing interstellar gas that hide protostars--the Lagoon is an emission nebula and HII region. The largest of these clouds are Barnard 88, 89, and 296,

The Lagoon Nebula
In the center of the Nebula is a region named the "Hourglass Nebula" by John Herschel.

A Stacked Version of the Lagoon image. Note enhanced S/N ratio

The Lagoon Nebula processed to enhance nebulousity

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Pillars of Creation

One of the most iconic images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope is of the pillars of cloud and dust in the Eagle Nebula (M16), ubbed "The Pillars of Creation.."  A diffuse, emission nebula, the Eagle is a fine sight in even small scopes. This image, taken with the Xtreme and the 14 inch scope, captures the complexity of this star-forming region in our own galaxy. The dark pillars consist of hydrogen gas and dust. Inside them are "knots" of denser gas in which stars are being formed. The Eagle was very low on the horizon when I inaged it, but this pic captures its essence pretty well.

The Eagle as captured

The Eagle, Processed to show more nebulousity

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Trifid in Color

Last weekend was a good one for imaging and I was able put the 14 inch with the new Baader UHC nebula filter through its paces with the Mallincam Xtreme.

The Trifid is an interesting object, with emission, reflection, and dark nebulas. The dark nebula is Barnard 95 and it divides the Trifid into 3 parts--hence its name. The nebula is a nursery for young stars and starbirth is continuing to occur in its clouds.

This image is single, 30-second exposure.

The Trifid

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Going Deep!

The Cocoon and the Wizard Nebulas are very difficult imaging targets. These images were taken last week with the ST-80 and the Mallincam DSm. The Wizard is hard to see--just a grey wisp at the right side of the image. The Cocoon is a little more defined, but color would definitely have helped in this image.The Cocoon image shows the 10th magnitude stars that are part of the nebula, but also note the dark lanes around it: Barnard 168.

Wide view of the Cocoon with the ST-80. Note the dark nebula B168 surrounding it

Zoomed in Cocoon
The Wizard Nebula is an open cluster with nebulosity. It is very hard to observe and usually an OIII filter is needed. I tried to image with an OIII in this session, but all I could see was bloated stars.  The faint wisp of nebulosity on the right hand side of this image is the Wizard.

The Wizard Nebula (right of center)

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Double Cluster (Caldwell 14)

A sure sign of Autumn is being able to see the Double Cluster over the treetops in the later part of the evening, The cluster is superb in even small scopes and I have spent many hours over the years looking at it and seeing new things every time. Situated in Perseus, the Double Cluster contains over 20,000 solar masses, including its outer halo.

This image was captured with my ST-80 on 9.9.15 and it shows the two "cores" of the cluster.

M31 -- The Great Galaxy in Andromeda

M31 is the most distant object that can be seen with the naked eye. It is a magnificent object to image and it graces the cover of many astronomy books and many web pages. This image was captured with a Mallincam DSm using my grab n' go ST-80 and EQ Pro. The imager was fitted with a UHC filter and sky conditions were moderate. The image consists of 11 x 30-second exposures. The dark lanes of gas and dust are clearly visible among the millions of unresolved stars that make to the glow of the galactic disk.

For reference, here is a single, processed image for comparison. Note the much higher noise level in this image.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Trifid Nebula with Mallincam DSm: 9/1/15

Last night was a pretty miserable one astronomy-wise here in north central Indiana. By 9:30, the temps were still in the 80s and the sky was very hazy, but I decided to go to the observatory anyway.  Unfortunately, I forgot my power source for the Xtreme, but I did have the DSm with me. I decided to play around a little and slewed to the Trifid Nebula--an object I had never imaged before. The nebula was low in the sky from my site and deep in the red haze scatter of the town. In my 80mm guide scope, it was invisible. I popped the MFR 5-MKII on the DSc and started imaging. The nebula popped up with a 15-second exposure (gain 4). The image was very washed out and showed significant vignetting (I should have just used the front part of the MFR, but I was imaging reasonably well and I did not want to mess with the camera). I adjusted the histogram and a pretty decent, somewhat grainy, image appeared on the screen. With some stacking and light processing, the image is much improved.

The Trifid Nebula (M20) consists of an open cluster of stars and emission, reflection, and dark nebulas. The nebula is a stellar nursery; the birthplace of new stars and a fascinating object to study and image!

Below is a slightly more processed version of the above image. This version has slightly boosted contrast.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dumbbell Stacked

Following some advice on the Mallincam Yahoo Group, I decided to try stacking some of my Xtreme images of the Dumbbell Nebula. The result is pretty pleasing!

The reddish, internal "knots" are quite visible in the image, as is the central star of the nebula. Considering this represents just a few seconds of exposure time, it shows the capabilities of near-real-time video imaging pretty well.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Some test images

I've been taking some test images with my Mallincam Sky Raider DSm and my Mallincam Xtreme using the 14 inch scope in the Indiana POD observatory (IPOD). Here are some results:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Good Night with the Mallincam DSm!

I had a good night last night with the DSm. I did not go to the observatory, but set up my ETX125 OTA on my EQ Pro mount in the driveway. I used an Orion .5x focal reducer and Skyglow filter. Thanks to everyone who dropped by my NSN broadcast—your thoughts and comments were helpful and appreciated.

I focused on just one object last night—the Ring Nebula—and gave the camera a “workout” on this object. The final and best images were captured with a gain of 5(!) and a 30-second integration time with dark field processing (just 2 darks captured during the session).  The results were very good—dark field processing really does remove any noise more or less completely. I discovered this when I was taking the darks themselves: the images taken showed some noise, but I accidentally left the scope covered for the first exposure after I enabled dark field correction. When the screen updated, the image went from a noisy field to a deep, velvety dark—impressive indeed. The subsequent images were all taken at high gain to minimize the unguided exposure time. While this would normally produce very grainy images, the dark field correction did a superb job.

Below are 2 images--the first is the "raw" image from the camera and the second has been tweaked (levels only) in Photoshop. Click each for a larger image.

The Ring Nebula image de-interlaced and with boosted levels. Note that the central white dwarf star is clearly visible

The original "raw" image as captured by the DSm

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Grab n' go imaging with JrPro

I decided to try my grab n'go with the Jr Pro this weekend (8/7). The ST-80 is F5, but I used a Barlow lens for the images of the Dumbbell and the Ring Nebula. Planetary nebulae have a small angular diameter and they are vanishingly small in the ST-80 FOV. I cropped the images and made some adjustments in Photoshop (it was a warm night and the Jr Pro is uncooled, so there was significant noise.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Meandering River of Fire on the Sun 8-01-2015

Imaging ARs 2391 and 2392, I found an interesting feature--what looks like a meandering river of white hot fire (just above and beginning right of center in the image below). Many times the size of earth, this feature is a flow of plasma following twisted magnetic fields on the sun. Imaged with PST-DS and ASI 120MM. Stacked in Registax 6 with unsharp mask, cropping and colorizing in Photoshop.

Below is a view of a larger portion of the sun's disk. The imaged area is close to the disk center.