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.

The Rosette Nebula — NGC 2237

Rosette_Nebula
The Rosette Nebula, which is actually made up of NGC 2237, NGC 2238, NGC 2239, NGC 2244 and NGC 2246. Click on the image for a larger view.

I’m sitting on a pile of problem data that I may never process to suit me, and this one is only an exception in that I got a version I kind of liked the first night.

I’m pretty sure the Rosette Nebula is problem data to start with, because if you look it up in Google Images you will see that no two astrophotographers seem to end up with the same colors on this target.

This is a stack of the best 56 of 71 exposures of 300 seconds each taken at ISO 800 and f/5.6 on the 400mm lens without the light pollution filter.  I’m still deciding if the LP filter causes more problems than it solves.

Orion, Flame and Horsehead Nebulae

NGC 2024, IC 434 and M42.
NGC 2024, the Flame Nebula; IC 434, the bright nebula which frames the Horse Head Nebula; M42, the Orion Nebula; and the three stars of Orion’s belt at the left.

Coming so soon on the heels of my post of the Flame and the Horsehead, one might get the impression that the constellation Orion is my favorite, but, I can explain.  It is, and has been since long before I took up astronomy.

The three brightest stars at the left end of this shot are the stars that make up Orion’s belt.  The Orion Nebula (M42) and the string of stars it is impaled on are Orion’s sword, so, yes, the picture is sideways from the way it would appear in the sky…if you could see 6 hours worth of light all at once.

Most of this image is built from 48 exposures of 450 seconds each at f/5.6 and ISO 1600, shot with the 200mm lens.  The core of M42, however, is so bright that it burns out badly at those settings, so I alternated those exposures with 31 second exposures at f/5.6 and ISO 800.

The different exposures were calibrated separately, aligned and cropped together in one batch (to keep them easy to align with each other), then stacked and processed separately before being combined in the final image.

 

M78

M 78
Messier 78 and a little chunk of Barnard’s Loop. Click the picture to see a larger version

Wow, did I learn a lot this weekend.  This shot was not going to get on this site because it wasn’t good enough.  Turns out my processing techniques were the failure, not the data.

The red cloud at the left is part of Barnard’s loop, a huge “C” shaped hydrogen cloud that wraps around the lower 2/3 of the constellation Orion.  M 78 is the blue object towards the right.  Between it and Barnard’s Loop is NGC 2071, which, like M78 is a reflection nebula.  As I understand it, they are made of the same material as the dark clouds that surround them, but are lit up by nearby stars.

The picture is a stack of 46 images of 450 seconds each, taken at f/5.6 and ISO 1600 with the 400mm lens.

Photons Rock!