Category Messier Objects

M94: First Light with the Celestron C9.25

M94 Spiral Galaxy in LRGB

I just bought a new (to me) Celestron C9.25 SCT and finally got all of the parts to get the sucker image ready. This is my first venture into imaging with a larger focal length and a different type of telescope. My only issue at the moment is that this OTA with all of the goodies attached to it maxes out the weight capacity of my CG-5 mount. The telescope was out of balance too and I did not have an extra counterweight. So, on the way home from work, I thought of a good use for my wife’s 2.5 lb ankle weights…I bet you probably know where this is going. I went to the garage, grabbed some bungee cord and wrapped the ankle weights around the counterweight bar and balanced my telescope. I wanted to see how bad (or good) the guiding could be when the CG-5 mount was maxed out. To my surprise, it wasn’t terrible (not good either) so I ran 3 minute subs on M94 to see what the result looked like. The stars are not perfectly round and the focus could have been better but it was a fun test and maiden voyage of the C9.25. I also forgot to enter the new details of the OTA in the Astrotortilla program so I could not center the object either but that did not stop me. Here are the details:

C9.25 @ 1481mm f/6.3
ST-10XME w/ Astrodon Gen 2 LRGB
Guided with the SSAG

L: 10 x 3 mins
R: 6 x 3 mins
G: 6 x 3 mins
B: 6 x 3 mins

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Imaging the Supernova in M82

M82 Supernova SN2014J

Back on January 21st, 2014, a group of amateur astronomy students discovered a Supernova in the M82 Galaxy.  The weather up here as not been great in the last couple weeks so when I get a break in the weather, I like to take advantage of it.  I was trying out new autoguiding software and a guide scope during this time so I was only able to grab a single, 5 minute exposure in Luminance back on January 31st.

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Imaging Processing Fun with M51 Whirlpool Galaxy

M51

What happens when you spend 3 hours imaging an object only to find that you have only a handful of salvageable images from the session?  That happened to me back on May 3rd when I imaged the Whirlpool Galaxy.  During the night, at some point, I lost guiding and did not catch it so when I went to process the photos I was surprised to see that 2/3 of them were unusable.  Having only 13 images to work with, I processed the images 4 times over to see if I could get a decent image to come out.  Along the way, I learned a ton (as usual).  Here are some of the things I tried and the outcome of each method:

1.  RGB Misaligned – MaximDL RGB Color Combine (Average Method) + LRGB Combining in Photoshop CS6

M51 RGB Misaligned

M51 RGB Misaligned

The image above is a result of the RGB images being misaligned when processing.  Sometimes I get a little impatient and don’t take my time getting everything perfect during the post processing aspect of Astrophotography and this can result in very sloppy images.  When the RGB channels don’t line up, you get a mess of colors scattered throughout the image.  The RGB and the L images were first combined (using the Average method) in MaximDL and then combined in Photoshop CS6.  As you can see, even Photoshop can’t save this image.

2.  LRGB Combination in Photoshop CS6

M51 LRGB Combination in Photoshop CS6

M51 LRGB Combination in Photoshop CS6

The photo above represents an image that was combine using Photoshop CS6...

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The Orion Nebula (M42) Redux

Since my first session imaging the Orion Nebula back on January 28th was out of focus, I decided to learn more about how to focus my CCD camera.  I wrote about my experience learning how to focus in an article entitled, The Importance of Focusing When Imaging Deep Sky Objects.

As I read up on the topic and got more helpful hints from my mentor, Michael Caligiuri, I gave imaging M42 another shot tonight.  Again, I set out to capture 24, 5 minute exposures of the magnificent Orion Nebula but my guidescope came out of alignment and I ended up with 8 salvageable images, which I then processed into the image you see below.  I am much happier with this latest image of M42 as it seems to be in focus, which reveals much more detail than the image I took a couple days ago.

Orion Nebula (M42)

Orion Nebula (M42)

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Imaging the Orion Nebula (M42)

The Orion is a constellation that can be seen between November and February and is one of the most recognizable groups of stars that can be viewed in the Winter sky.  Since the beginning of Winter, I have watched the constellation rise as the sun sets and last night, I finally got to take my first image of the Great Orion Nebula.  Known as M42, the Orion Nebula is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth and is about 24 light years across and is a stellar nursery, where new stars are being born.

Takahashi Sky90 II, Orion 80mm Guide Scope, Celestron CG-5 Mount and MaximDL 5 (on the computer)

Takahashi Sky90 II, Orion 80mm Guide Scope, Celestron CG-5 Mount and MaximDL 5 (on the computer)

I went out in my backyard around 6:30pm, which is earlier than I usually go out.  The night was clear so I calibrated my mount and set everything up for a 2 hour imaging session.  One of the first things I did before setting the image sequence was to set my mount guiding so the telescope and camera move with the rotation of the stars.  After that was set, I focused the camera.  Since the CCD camera is attached to the telescope, I need to take a series of continuous images in order to verify that the nebula was in focus.  Here is an example of what that image looks like:

Orion Nebula Focus output from Maxim DL

Orion Nebula Focus output from Maxim DL

Once I was happy with the focus, I then set the MaximDL program to take a series of 24, 5 minute exposures using the Hydrogen Alpha (Ha) filter.  I took this image with the Ha filter due to the presence of mostly hydrogen gas...

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Andromeda, Our Closest Spiral Neighbor Galaxy

On August 15th and 16th, I went out to test out a guidescope and reshoot some of the objects I have photographed in the last few weeks. I was out for a couple hours and was about to pack up my telescope and bring it inside when something told me to slew to M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, to see if it was visible from my backyard. After dialing in the coordinates, I patiently waited for the gears on the mount to come to a grinding halt. After pressing my remote shutter release for a 4 minute exposure on my DSLR, Andromeda revealed itself!

Andromeda Galaxy: August 16, 2012; 90 sec exposure; Nikon D7000; Tak Sky 90II

Andromeda Galaxy: August 16, 2012; 90 sec exposure; Nikon D7000; Tak Sky 90II

At a mind boggling distance of 2.3 million light-years, the Andromeda galaxy (also called M31) is the closest and brightest spiral galaxy to our Milky Way, but not the closest galaxy! The Milky Way is also a spiral galaxy which, spiral being the operative word, makes Andromeda the closest mirror of ourselves. The Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy, which is about 42,000 light years from the galactic center of our Milky Way, and a mere 25,000 light years from us (read more here: Universe Today), takes the award for being the closet galaxy!

As I was looking through my photos, I noticed an long white streak running through one of my images.  Upon further investigation, this appears to be a Satellite that just happened to cross the field of the view of the telescope.

Andromeda Galaxy: August 16, 2012; 90 sec exposure; Nikon D7000; Tak Sky 90II

Andromeda Galaxy: August 16, 2012; 90 sec exposure; Nikon D7000; Tak Sky 90II

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M13 The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules

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M13 is also known as the Great Globular Cluster within the Hercules constellation, which is 25,100 Light Years away.  To put this into perspective, this is what 25,100 Light Years looks like in miles: 147,553,496,866,908,580.  Another way to think about the vast distance is that we are viewing this cluster as it was over 25,000 years ago as it has taken the light that amount of time to reach Earth.   It is a mind-boggling concept and like most of the deep sky objects in the universe, the shear distances and the scales of measurement involved leave me speechless.

M13 was one of the first Deep Sky Objects (DOS) I viewed through my telescope.  I have a “Go To” mount for my telescope, meaning that I can plug in what I want to view and the mount automatically slews and rotates to the object I want to view.   After I plugged in M13, I patiently waited for the mount to stop and I peered into the 20mm eyepiece and I saw what looked to be a smudge of stars in my viewfinder.  I looked up at the sky and the tiny point of light I aimed my telescope at turned out to be a cluster of over 300,000 stars.  It was the most awe inspiring objects I had laid my eyes upon.  I then attached my DSLR to my telescope and captured the images you see above!

 

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