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Super Moon Eclipse

Super Moon Eclipse
This was awesome to watch.

The Lunar eclipse on Sep 27, 2015 happened when the Moon was at perigee, the point in its orbit which is closest to Earth.  Not only does the moon appear just a bit bigger then, but, when it coincides with a Lunar eclipse the Moon can get deeper into Earths shadow, making for a particularly dark eclipse.

I shot this with a 952 mm focal length (f/7.5) APO refractor.  This is a combination of 40 shots, a mix of 2 seconds at ISO 400, 1 second at ISO 800 and 0.5 seconds at ISO 1600.

NCG 4274

Galaxy NGC 4274.
Galaxy NGC 4274.

Another low res image, a 1289 x 906 crop from a full frame.  This one uses all 12 exposures of 300 seconds at ISO 1600 that I shot on the f/7.5, 127 mm Apo.  There were other galaxies in the frame, but the full size image detracted from this pretty galaxy, which was the main target.

Box of Galaxies

From top left, going clockwise, NGC 4173. NGC 4169, NGC 4174 and NGC 4175.
From top left, going clockwise, NGC 4173. NGC 4169, NGC 4174 and NGC 4175.

This is pretty low resolution, a 1220 x 907 crop from the middle of an 18 megapixel frame.  It is also lacking in detail because I could only use the best 7 of 12 images at 300 seconds each At ISO 1600 on the f/7.5, 127 mm diameter apochromatic refractor.  Shot without an LP filter.

M97 and M108

M97, the Owl Nebula, and M108, an edge view of a galaxy.  The Owl Nebula is a "planetary" nebula, so called, because it looks a bit like a planet through a small telescope, since it does not twinkle like a star does.  It is what will eventually happen to our own Sun.
M97, the Owl Nebula, and M108, an edge view of a galaxy. The Owl Nebula is a “planetary” nebula, so called, because it looks a bit like a planet through a small telescope, since it does not twinkle like a star does. It is what will eventually happen to our own Sun.

Well, I spent a lot of time processing this image, but I spent most of it discovering that I could not torture it as hard as I normally do.  The more I picked at it, the worse it got, and at last I would throw it away and start over.  (Often, I will save, start over and eventually combine the previous try with the one I am working on.)

This is combined from the best 20 of 27 exposures of 360 seconds each at ISO 1600 on the 127 mm apochromatic refractor.  Shot without an LP filter.

Virgo Galaxy Cluster

Towards the left side of the frame, the galaxy with a lot of obvious faint areas around it is NGC 4438, which, along with nearby NGC 4435 is also called "The Eyes".  I see how they get that, but more the right M86 and M84 seem to be the eyes of an ET smiley face, with NGC4387 (nose), NGC 4388 (mouth) and NGC 4402 is the eyebrow over M86.  Overall, I count around 20 galaxies in this shot, all part of Markarian's Chain in the Virgo cluster of galaxies.  Click the pic to see a larger version.
Towards the left side of the frame, the galaxy with a lot of obvious faint areas around it is NGC 4438, which, along with nearby NGC 4435 is also called “The Eyes”. I see how they get that, but more the right M86 and M84 seem to be the eyes of an ET smiley face, with NGC4387 (nose), NGC 4388 (mouth) and NGC 4402 is the eyebrow over M86. Overall, I count around 20 galaxies in this shot, all part of Markarian’s Chain in the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Click the pic to see a larger version.

Revisited a portion of this target with the 127 mm f/7.5 tube.  As expected, with nearly 5 times the focal length, I got a lot more detail.  That I used 8 exposures of 1200 seconds each did not hurt either.  Shot April 17, 2015.

Virgo Galaxy Cluster
This is just a small portion of the Virgo Galaxy cluster. Click the picture for a larger view.

This picture involved a lot of experimentation.  I ended up using around 50 exposures of 300 seconds, at f/2.8, f/3.2, and f/4 And ISO of 1600, 3200 and 6400.  Shot with the 200mm lens on March 27, 2014. There are a couple dozen galaxies in this picture, including elliptical galaxies M84 and M86 (the two brightest galaxies in the shot) and spiral galaxy M99 up at the top left.

Best viewed at full size.  After the picture loads click to zoom in and click again to zoom back out.  (Works in IE, not sure in other browsers.)

M13 Hercules Globular Star Cluster

Globular star cluster M13, and galaxies NGC6207 and IC4617.  Click the picture for a larger view.
Globular star cluster M13, and galaxies NGC6207 and IC4617. Click the picture for a larger view.

I treated this as a high dynamic range object, alternating 10 minute and 15 minute exposures, but started a little late in the evening, and had a couple of throw-away shots, so only got 5 at each duration.  Still, I not only got more definition than ever in NGC 6207, the galaxy towards the top right corner of the frame, but also a galaxy I didn’t even know about.  IC 4617 is just less than halfway from the top edge of M13 to NGC 6207.

Shot with the 127 mm Apochromatic Refractor (f/7.5, 952 mm Focal length) at ISO 1600.

M106 and Friends

M106 and at least 14 other nearby galaxies.  Click the picture to see a larger image.
M106 and at least 14 other nearby galaxies. Click the picture to see a larger image.

This was the third salvageable shot I took at Alamo lake on March 21.  Too bad about all the problems I had, because this could have been a really awesome shot.  If I view this full size (click the pic to see the larger image, then click that again when it finished loading so see it at full size of 5148 x 3420) I count 15 galaxies in this shot.  Made from 13 exposures of 240 seconds at f/2.8.

M81 and Friends

M81 and friends
M81 and friends at 200mm. Click the picture to see a larger image.
M81 and friends composite of old and new.  Click the picture to see a larger image.
M81 and friends composite of old and new. Click the picture to see a larger image.

This was another attempt March 21 at Alamo Lake.  I am using a new camera which is not yet modified to pass hydrogen spectrum, so I lost a lot of the red in M82, but I got way more detail in M81.  The top picture is the shot from Alamo Lake, and the second one is an attempt to combine that with the older, more colorful shot below.  The new one is 13 exposures of 240 seconds at f/2.8.

M81, M82 and NGC 3077
M81 Bode’s Galaxy, M82 the Cigar Galaxy, and NGC 3077. Click on the picture for a larger view.

This stack is composed of 23 shots of 300 seconds each at ISO 1600 through the 6″, f/4 reflector, selected from 50 shots taken starting around 10 pm on May 3, 2014.

Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2

Comet Lovejoy c/2014 Q2
Comet Lovejoy flying past the Pleiades.

This is the 5th Comet Lovejoy, currently en route to the Sun.  This is a very difficult object to shoot, so I’ll give myself a “not terrible for an amateur” grade for it.  I can’t touch the quality and detail you can find on APOD, but I did manage to catch 6 or 7 degrees of the tail of the comet.  This is the best 11 exposures of 180 seconds at f/1.8 and ISO 400 on the 85mm lens.  That is M45, the Pleiades in the upper right corner.

Bless Its Pointed Little Head

The Lambda Orionis Nebula, the head of the constellation Orion, the Hunter.
The Lambda Orionis Nebula, the head of the constellation Orion, the Hunter.

This is the head and shoulders of the constellation Orion, turned sideways.  Betelgeuse (lower right) and Bellatrix (upper right) are the shoulders, and the little line of five stars near the center (and enlarged in the inset at lower left) make up what appears to be the one faint star that is Orion’s head.  In fact, Orion’s head is so faint, that you need rather dark sky to see it with the naked eye.

When I first saw this through the eyepiece of a telescope, I immediately thought of the old Jefferson Airplane album title (also the title of this post.  Much to my surprise, it turns out that Orion’s head is really a huge ball of hydrogen gas, excited by the light of nearby stars.

I took this shot Thanksgiving weekend, and only got five exposures before my power went out, so this is pretty noisy, and not really a very good astrophoto, but it is the best I have so far.