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Heart Near Cassi

Made better use of selective color adjustment after ACR lens correction.
Made better use of selective color adjustment after ACR lens correction.
The heart nebula, and a lot of stars associated with Cassiopeia, but none of the constellation stars.
The heart nebula, and a lot of stars associated with Cassiopeia, but none of the constellation stars.

Tried to get the Heart and Soul nebulae and Cassiopeia , ended up with the Heart and a bunch of Cassiopeia stars, but none of the constellation stars. Shot with modified Canon 6D and Canon 85mm f/2.8 lens. Shot from the floor of Death Valley. Used all 50 exposures of 120 seconds.

Star Trails, Car Trails, and IFOs

Alice and I froze our buns off for these shots. 288 total frames in sub freezing weather with gusts pushing 40 mph. The brutal conditions and my rusty skills combined for soft focus that adds a ghostly touch to an already eerie scene. Shot a modified Canon 6D with a Samyang 14mm lens. at f/2.8

Star trails and ground and air traffic trails, over and through Furnace Creek, shot from Dabte's View in Death Valley Nat'l Park.
Star trails and ground and air traffic trails, over and through Furnace Creek, shot from Dabte’s View in Death Valley Nat’l Park.

Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae

Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae
The Lagoon Nebula, M8 and the Trifid Nebula

I wish this was first light on the new tube, but my first night out did nothing but knock some of the rust off of my observatory skills.  Still, the new Stellar Vue SVQ 100 APO lived up to its reputation.

The Trifid Nebula at upper left is a fascinating combination or emission nebula (the red), reflection nebula (the blue) and dark nebulae (the dark dust lanes that divide the emission nebula).

The Lagoon Nebula dominates the center of the image and the globular star cluster NGC 6544 peeks in at the bottom, just right of center.

Focus on this image is a bit soft, but, but if you click the image to view it full screen, and then click it again to see it full size, you will see that the stars in the corners are every bit as sharp and round as the ones at the center of the image.  I am very impressed with the optics on this telescope!

This image is a combination of 18 sub-frames of 4 minutes each at ISO 800.  The telescope has a focal length of 580 mm at f/5.8.

M97 and M108

M97 and M108
M97 and M108 near the big dipper.

I shot this in March, but I couldn’t bring myself to post it until I had something to post from my replacement tube.  I shot this with a Celestron RASA, an 11″ diameter scope with a blazing fast f/2.2 focal ratio.  Sadly, it is also WAY too heavy for my Orion Atlas mount.  I was lucky to get this picture the way the mount was straining under the weight of the equipment.

Anyway, M97, the Owl Nebula, on the left, is a planetary nebula, an expanding ball of gas which has been expelled from the outer layers of a star which is running out of fuel.  Then that ball of gas is ionized by what remains of the star.  M97 is a couple thousand light years away.

At the top right is M108, a galaxy around 42 million light years away.  Our view of it is nearly edge on.

This picture was combined from the best (not sure how many) of around 44 exposures of 4 minutes each.


Inverse Afterthought

Fat Crescent Moon
The waxing crescent Moon, 35% illuminated.

I’d call this an afterthought, but it was the first thing I shot last night.  It is also the nicest shot I did all week…although the Moon is a decidedly easier target than the wispy deep sky objects I love so much.

Anyway, I was about to shoot M78 knowing I was going to fight the light pollution from this puppy the whole time, so I thought I might as well shoot it quickly before I started to fight it.

This is a stack of 9 images, shot at 1/500 of a second at ISO 200 on a 127 mm APO tube with focal length of 660 MM and f/5.2.


Face-on spiral galaxy M101 is a tough target to image well. I am almost happy with this, as it is the best I’ve ever done. Maybe next time I will nail it to my satisfaction.

[By the way, the dashed line going from top left to bottom right is called a satellite flare, most often an Iridium flare.  It happens because the satellite tumbles as it orbits, so it reflects more or less light towards any observer, depending on its position.]

Feb 14, 2016.  OK, it is almost a year later, and I have been trying to get this target all week, same tube the 127 mm APO, focal length 660 mm, but this time with a new camera, a fully modified Canon 6D.  Before this target last night, I shot M78, but I only had 2.5 hours of data, and I was fighting a 35% illuminated Moon, so it was pretty badly washed out.  As a result, I had low hopes for this one, but it came out pretty nice.  40 Sub-exposures of 6 minutes each gave me a full 4 hours of data, and the Moon was down before I started shooting.  Shot at 800 ISO.

M101, the pinwheel galaxy, captured at 952 mm.  Click the pic to see a larger image.
M101, the pinwheel galaxy, captured at 952 mm. Click the pic to see a larger image.

April 12, 2015.  Since this is an image I have wanted to do well for a long time, it was a natural choice for first light on a new 5 inch refractor with 952 mm focal length.  [Actually around 660 mm focal length with the focal reducer]

Reworked this and am much happier with the results.  It is 18 exposures of 10 minutes each at ISO 1600 and the tube’s f/7.5.

Click the picture to see a larger image.
Click the picture to see a larger image.

Had another go at this target at Alamo Lake State Park.  I had a ton of problems, but, considering that this was taken with a 200mm lens and the one below was with a 610 mm telescope, it actually came out pretty darned good.  Definitely did a better job on the companion galaxy near the right edge of the frame.  10 exposures of 300 seconds at f/2.8.

M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy
Spiral Galaxy M101 with a few of its neighbors around the edges. Click on the picture for a larger view.

This was shot with a 6″ reflector (aprox. f/4) which I have been struggling with.  It is made from 30 exposures of 300 seconds at ISO 1600.  Shot on April 21, 2014.  Located just off the handle of the Big Dipper, M101 is also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy.

Not So Close Encounter.

Comet Catalina cruising by Mizar and M101
Comet Catalina cruising by Mizar, Alcor and M101. Click to see a 3 frame animation of the comet moving through the area.

Comet Catalina was cruising past M101 in the sky last night, so I had to take a shot at it.  Of course, that proximity is an illusion.  Catalina was still closer to Earth than the sun is, right around 6 light minutes.  The bright pair of stars at the top right corner are Mizar and Alcor, which look like one star to the naked eye (unless you have really sharp vision), are 78.4 and 80.9 light years away, respectively.  Mizar is the second star in the handle of the big dipper.  M101, the face-on spiral galaxy near the top left, on the other hand, is almost 20.9 million light years away.

Click on the image to see an animation of the comet moving through the area.  The three frame animation covers less than two and a half hours.  The field of view is about 6.5 degrees wide, or 7 times the width of a full Moon.


Messier 78
Messier 78 is a challenging target in the constellation Orion. Click the picture for a larger view.

I knew when I first shot this that I wanted to do it again with more focal length, so here it is.  Used the 127mm apochromatic tube with a focal reducer for a focal length of 666.4 mm.  This images uses the best 117 of 152 exposures that I shot, 15 of them were 8 minutes at ISO 1600 and the other 102 were 4 minutes at ISO 3200, for a total of 8 hours 48 minutes of data.  Shot on 11/6/2015 and 11/13/2015.

I have processed this data more than a dozen times.  No other rendition even vaguely resembles this one, and it is the only one I like.


The constellation Casiopeia with many obvious deep space objects.

My main mount is still not up to speed for long exposure tracking, but I decided to break out the Vixen Polarie and shoot the 35mm lens just so I could shoot something.  I shot at wide open f/1.4, so there is some coma and blurring in the corners, but that stopped me from getting spikes on the stars and allowed 30 second exposures at ISO 400.  I shot a total of 625 exposures, but a lot of that had extreme light pollution from the east horizon at the beginning of the shoot and the west horizon at the end.  I got the best results by just stacking the best 240 from the middle of the night when Cassiopeia was almost directly overhead.  You can easily see the Heart and Soul Nebulae, the PacMan Nebula, and the Double Cluster, as well as other deep space objects.  Don’t just look at this one full screen, zoom it to full size or larger.  Located in the outer edge of the Milky Way, the number of tiny stars in this frame is amazing!