8/22/2020 Abell 2634

The Abell galaxy cluster 2634, located in the northern portion of the “Great Square” that forms the most distinctive part of Pegasus. There’s a lot of uncertainty as to the distance to this cluster, but it is believed to be several hundred light years away from Earth.

If you closely you can see over a hundred galaxies in this image. The red-shifted galaxies are some of the oldest light in the night sky.

Nothing found in this image would be visible to the naked eye – even under the best of conditions. The central galaxy, NGC 7720, is magnitude 13.7. The brightest of the stars in this image are no brighter than magnitude 10.5. (See this article to learn more about how visual magnitude works).

Hidden in this image is irregular galaxy LEDA 85553 (highlighted in red). There’s one more blue galaxy in this image, known as LEDA 85609.

I find these small oddball stellar formations to be really interesting. And they do sometimes get overlooked even by the pros. The Cygnus soap bubble wasn’t discovered until amateur astronomer Dave Jurasevich photographed it in 2008. Before that, the major observatories had thought it to be some sort of telescope or sensor defect! 

Images taken from Seattle. 15 minute subs for each R,G,B,L filter. 88 images total for a total exposure time of 22 hours.


5/15/2020 M51

After having some trouble with internal reflections when using the Hutech IDAS light pollution filter in combination with LRGB filters last year, I have started imaging galaxies without it. This capture of M51 was my first project of the season, captured with only LRGB filters in place.

M51 is an interacting spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici.

The above was imaged with approximately 30 subs for each L,R,G,B filter. The exposures were limited to 5 minutes each due to concerns that the sensor would saturate on light pollution. Now that I see that this is not a problem I plan to use 10 minute exposures for my next galaxy project.


11/30/2019 NGC 7331 comparison with 2009 version

It turns out that I had captured NGC 7331 once before in 2009. At that time I was using a Celestron C11 with a modified Digital SLR camera.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the details of the two images to look for changes over time. Here is the result of that comparison:

What do you think? Do you see any stellar changes between the 2009 version and the 2019 version?


11/30/2019 NGC 7331 and Stephan’s Quintet

This is an image that I had always wanted to do, but was never really certain if it would be possible with our imaging setup. Here we can see spiral galaxy NGC 7331 in one corner, and Stephan’s quintet in the other. (Note that Stephan’s quintet is a “visual group” of galaxies – they’re not actually close together in space.)

NGC 7331 and Stephan’s Quintet
Capture dates: August 27, 2019 – September 4, 2019
LRGB image using Astrodon Luminance, Red, Green and Blue filters.
Hutech IDAS light pollution filter was also used
10 minute subs for each L, R, G, B filter
At least 20 subs were used per filter
Imaging scope: Astro-Tech AT10RC Ritchey Chrétien at f/6.7 (native f/8)
Focal reducer: Astro Physics CCDT67 focal reducer
Imaging camera: QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera: Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Mount: Astro-Physics 900 GTO
Capture in Sequence Generator Pro
Calibration and stacking in AstroPixel Processor
Final process in Photoshop


11/30/2019 Telescope-mounted computer update

I thought I would post an update on the telescope-mounted computer project. The project was a great success and this configuration was used for imaging throughout the summer. Here’s how it ended up looking fully installed:


6/2/2019 Telescope-mounted computer

It’s been quite awhile since my last post, and I thought I would share what I have been working on lately. Here are a few photos of what will be a telescope-mounted computer system. The idea is by locating the computer on the telescope itself, we reduce the number of wires that need to run from the OTA and thus eliminate wire drag issues with tracking.

This first image is the original whiteboard image plan for the project:

You can see that we are planning on mounting this system to the top of the telescope, and that it will consist of the Power Distribution Unit (PDU), computer, focus controller and a wifi dongle.

For this project I have selected an Israeli-made Compulab Fitlet2 with an Intel J3455, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB M.2 SSD. This unit has also been fitted with a “facet” card that provides four additional USB ports bringing the total to eight ports.

As part of this project I realized that I needed a better approach to power, and thus I came up with this simple PDU design based on a panel-mount automotive blade-fuse holder. I decided to use an XT-60 connector for the supply and 5.5×2.1mm barrel connectors to supply individual components:

The whole system is mounted together on an aluminum plate, which was fitted with two holes to allow it to be screwed to the top Losmandy plat of the AT10RC OTA:

I ran an initial power-on test yesterday, and the above system was pulling about 0.95 amps at 12.9 volts. I expect the system power requirements will be higher once the QSI 583wsg camera is added with its TEC consuming a fair amount of amps for cooling.

At this point we are waiting for the telescope focuser to come back from repair with Starlight Instruments before more work can be done. After that we need to fix the collimation on the AT10RC, which was knocked out of alignment during recent mirror cleaning. Once that’s all done we should be in good shape to start imaging!


12/14/2015 NGC7635 The Bubble Nebula

After taking almost a year off from astrophotography I decided to revisit some of the image data I collected in 2014 but never processed.  The image presented here is NGC 7635 otherwise known as the Bubble Nebula (for obvious reasons).  You can read more about the Bubble Nebula in the wikipedia article.

NGC 7635 is presented here in Hubble palette (Red = S II, Green = HA, Blue = O III)

NGC7635 – The Bubble Nebula
Capture date: July 9, 2014 – August 5, 2014
LRGB image using Ha for Luminance, SII for Red, OIII for Blue and Ha for Green
Astrodon filters: 5nm HA, 5nm SII and 3nm OIII
22 exposures of OIII, with 20 minute subs each
23 exposures of SII, with 20 minute subs each
60 exposures of HA, with 20 minute subs each
Imaging scope: Astro-Tech AT10RC Ritchey Chrétien at f/6.7 (native f/8)
Focal reducer: Astro Physics CCDT67 focal reducer
Imaging camera: QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera: Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Mount: Celestron CGE hypertuned by Deep Space Products
Capture and stacking in Maxim DL
All other processing in Photoshop

Over 35 hours of starlight exposures went into this project.

NGC7635-LRGB3_flattened_crop_copyright


2/20/2014 M16 astrophoto to appear in Sky and Telescope’s May issue

Hello Everyone,

I recently learned that my astrophoto of M16 (aka The Eagle Nebula) will appear in Sky and Telescope magazine’s May issue!

I’m told that the image will appear in the gallery section and will be about  a half-page in size.

Getting an image published in Sky and Telescope is one of the top honors for an amateur astrophotographer, so I was pretty thrilled to hear the news.  Since they will be paying me $50 for the image perhaps I can now say that I’m a “pro astrophotographer”?

I think I need a bigger telescope.  🙂


10/13/2013 M16 The Eagle Nebula

Hello Everyone!

After several months away from the world of astrophotography and image processing we are back with our first major imaging project of the summer.  The image presented here is that of the Messier 16 (M16), also known as the Eagle Nebula.  It is located approximately 6500 light years from Earth in the constellation Serpens.  The center area of this region of space was the site of the famous Hubble Space Telescope photo, “Pillars of Creation.”  While I do think my colors are slightly better, the Hubble image does seem have the edge on image detail.  😉

To the left and down from the pillars is located a fantastic stellar spire.  As with the pillars, this area is also a likely star forming region.

M16 is presented here in Hubble palette:

Red = S II (ionized sulfur)
Green = HA (hydrogen alpha)
Blue = O III (doubly ionized oxygen, having two electrons removed)

Here are the technical details:

M16 – The Eagle Nebula
Capture date: July 8, 2013 – August 5, 2013
LRGB image using Ha for Luminance, SII for Red, OIII for Blue and Ha for Green
Astrodon filters: 5nm HA, 5nm SII and 3nm OIII
17 exposures of OIII, with 20 minute subs each
18 exposures of SII, with 20 minute subs each
26 exposures of HA, with 20 minute subs each
Imaging scope: Astro-Tech AT10RC Ritchey Chrétien at f/6.7 (native f/8)
Focal reducer: Astro Physics CCDT67 focal reducer
Imaging camera: QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera: Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Mount: Celestron CGE hypertuned by Deep Space Products
Capture and stacking in Maxim DL
All other processing in Photoshop

Over 20 hours of starlight exposures went into this project.

M16(en)


2/10/2013 NGC6888 Reprocessed

Hello Everyone,

I also spent some time today reprocessing a set of data from 2011.  Below you will find a completely new processing of NGC6888 (The Crescent Nebula), using LRD fat tail deconvolution for sharpening.

Enjoy!

LRGB2_flattened_final