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.