9/7/2011 IC1795

Hello Everyone,

Here is Seattle we usually have few opportunities in winter to do deep sky astrophotography.  Fortunately I still have some sets of unprocessed data which I saved from the summer months.  This weekend I finally got around to processing one of the sets.

The image you see here is that of IC 1795.  It is a star forming region near the much larger Heart Nebula, also known as IC 1805.  This is a false-color composite of narrowband (HA, OIII, SII) images taken between 8/31/2011 and 9/8/2011.  This particular arrangement of colors was originally used for Hubble space telescope photos and is therefore known as the Hubble Palette.

From the December 10th, 2009 APOD writeup on Don Goldman’s version of this image:  “This colorful cosmic portrait features glowing gas and obscuring dust clouds in IC 1795, a star forming region in the northern constellation Cassiopeia. The nebula’s colors were created by adopting the Hubble false-color palette for mapping narrow emission from oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur atoms to blue, green and red colors, and further blending the data with images of the region recorded through broadband filters. Not far on the sky from the famous Double Star Cluster in Perseus, IC 1795 is itself located next to IC 1805, the Heart Nebula, as part of a complex of star forming regions that lie at the edge of a large molecular cloud. Located just over 6,000 light-years away, the larger star forming complex sprawls along the Perseus spiral arm of our Milky Way Galaxy. At that distance, this picture would span about 70 light-years across IC 1795.”

As mentioned above, frames from this exposure were taken over multiple nights from 8/31/2011 to 9/8/2011.  Each frame in the image consists of a 20 minute exposure, and there are 63 frames for a total of 21 hours of exposure time.  Here are the details on the image capture:

All images were taken between 8/31 – 9/8

19 exposures of HA taken between 8/31 – 9/1, with 20 minute subs each
30 exposures of OIII taken between 9/2 – 9/3 and 9/7 – 9/8 , with 20 minute subs each
14 exposures of SII, taken between 9/5 – 9/7, with 20 minute subs each

The final image consists of over 21 hours of exposures


9/24/2011 IC 1805 The center of the Heart Nebula

Hello Everyone!

After several weeks I was finally able to finish image processing for some narrowband captures I did in early September. This image is the center region of the Heart Nebula.  The center region (the bright part in the image) is known as NGC 896, and the Heart Nebula is known as IC 1805.

From the Wikipedia article:

“The Heart Nebula, IC 1805, Sh2-190, lies some 7500 light years away from Earth and is located in the Perseus Arm of the Galaxy in the constellation Cassiopeia. This is an emission nebula showing glowing gas and darker dust lanes. The nebula is formed by plasma of ionized hydrogen and free electrons.

The very brightest part of this nebula (the knot at the right) is separately classified as NGC 896, because it was the first part of this nebula to be discovered.

The nebula’s intense red output and its configuration are driven by the radiation emanating from a small group of stars near the nebula’s center. This open cluster of stars known as Melotte 15 contains a few bright stars nearly 50 times the mass of our Sun, and many more dim stars that are only a fraction of our Sun’s mass. The cluster used to contain a microquasar that was expelled millions of years ago.”

Frames for this image were taken from Seattle Washington over the course of seven nights, between September 9th and September 24th.

As I did not like the color set with the Hubble Palette for this image (it had a nasty green shade to it) I have opted for the popular gold/teal motif.

IC 1805 – The center region of the Heart Nebula
LRGB image using Ha for Luminance, SII for Red, OIII for Blue and Ha for Green
Hubble palette converted to Gold/Teal motif using this technique.
Baader filters
19 exposures of OIII, with 20 minute subs each
11 exposures of SII, with 20 minute subs each
15 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

This final image contains over 15 hours of exposures.


8/28/2011 NGC 6888 The Crescent Nebula

This is my rendition of NGC 6888, also known as The Crescent Nebula.  It is an emission nebula in the constellation Cygnus. 

While it looks like a supernova remnant, it is actually a planetary nebula.  (from wikipedia) It is formed by the fast stellar wind from the Wolf-Rayet star WR 136 (HD 192163) colliding with and energizing the slower moving wind ejected by the star when it became a red giant around 400,000 years ago. The result of the collision is a shell and two shock waves, one moving outward and one moving inward. The inward moving shock wave heats the stellar wind to X-ray-emitting temperatures.

I had a really hard time processing this one, and I’m still not completely satisfied with the result.  I’m using 8nm Baader filters and I’m imaging from near downtown Seattle, with all the associated light pollution. Not sure if tighter bandpass Astrodon filters might help improve SNR on this subject.

Over 15 hours of exposure time went into creating this image.  That’s actually just counting the images that went into the final product.  Many more hours of images were not used due to various defects.

Here are the details:

NGC 6888 – The Crescent Nebula
LRGB image using OIII + 30% Ha for Luminance, HA for Red, OIII for Blue and OIII + 30% Ha for Green
Baader filters
13 exposures of Ha, with 20 minute subs each
32 exposures of OIII, 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


8/21/2011 IC 5070 The Pelican Nebula in Hubble palette

Hello Everyone,

Some nice clear August skies have made it possible to do some great narrowband imaging, and today I have finished processing what took four nights of imaging to record.  With over 11 hours of total exposure time, it is my most extensive attempt at narrowband imaging to date.  In fact, I’m pretty certain it is the longest amount of total exposure time I’ve ever put into a single target.

The image below is that of the ionization wavefront region of the Pelican Nebula.  Also known as IC 5070 it is an active star forming region that has been extensively studied (click here for wikipedia page).

You may recall that I previously imaged this region in 2008 from the dark skies of the Table Mountain star party using a modified digital SLR camera.  You can see that earlier image here.  When compared to the detail and color of today’s image the benefits of the narrowband technique becomes clear.  Imaging that was once only possible at remote locations can now be surpassed from light-polluted downtown Seattle.

In addition to the using new hardware, I have also spent many hours studying online tutorials on the topic of image processing.  Tutorials that I have found useful include those by Astrodon Imaging, Misti Mountain Observatory and a few others.  These techniques have enabled me to maximize the already great narrowband dataset.

IC 5070 – The Pelican Nebula
LRGB image using Ha for Luminance, SII for Red, OIII for Blue and Ha for Green
7 exposures of SII, with 20 minute subs each
13 exposures of OIII, with 20 minute subs each
13 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
Capture and stacking in Maxim DL
All other processing in Photoshop

 

 


7/29/2011 Stephan’s Quintet from Table Mountain

With the addition of our new CCD imaging camera, I have been quite curious to find out how far I can push our imaging setup in terms of being able to record those really dim “faint fuzzies” out there.

The image below is that of Stephan’s Quintet.  It was taken from the (mostly) dark sky of the Table Mountain Star party near Ellensburg, Washington.  The wikipedia entry on Stephan’s Quintet reads: 

“Stephan’s Quintet in the constellation Pegasus is a visual grouping of five galaxies of which four form the first compact galaxy group ever discovered. The group was discovered by Édouard Stephan in 1877 at Marseilles Observatory. The group is the most studied of all the compact galaxy groups. The brightest member of the visual grouping is NGC 7320 that is shown to have extensive H II regions, identified as red blobs, where active star formation is occurring.”

There was quite a wind during the evening I took this image and I had a telescope balace issue as well (who would have guessed my finderscope was throwing the balance off so much!) so these images are not as sharp as I would have liked.

That said, this is a new “personal best” for me. The brightest of the galaxies in this image (NGC7318b – the bottommost of the pair of little spiral guys in the center) is magnitude 13.9.

Stephan’s Quintet
6 exposures of Luminance, with 20 minute subs each
2 exposures of Red, with 20 minute subs each
2 exposures of Green, with 20 minute subs each
2 exposures of Blue, with 20 minute subs each

Imaging scope:  Astro-Tech AT10RC  Ritchey Chrétien f/8 at 2000mm
Imaging camera:  QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera:  Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Capture and processing in Maxim DL
Final processing in Photoshop

Enjoy!

 


7/6/2011 NGC 7380 in Narrowband

After quite some time I am happy to post my first narrowband image rendered in the Hubble palette.  It seems that I am having to learn imaging processing all over again, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.  In this image the colors indicate the chemical composition of that region of space.  This particular scheme is known as the “Hubble Palette” as it is the same scheme used to colorize many of the Hubble Space Telescope photos.   Here is what the colors mean:

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

And here are the technical details about this image capture:

NGC 7380 – The Wizard Nebula
2 exposures of HA, with 20 minute subs each
2 exposures of O III, with 20 minute subs each
4 exposures of S II, with 20 minute subs each
Imaging scope:  Astro-Tech AT10RC  Ritchey Chrétien
Imaging camera:  QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera:  Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Capture and processing in Maxim DL
Background gradient removal in Fitswork
Final processing in Photoshop

Enjoy!


7/5/2011 New gear and M27

Hello Everyone,

It’s been awhile since our last posting, and we have some great changes to announce here at the Heller Observatory.  We have recently upgraded our equipment, which should allow us to take even better photos than before.  New equipment now includes an Astro-Tech AT10RC 10″ Ritchey Chrétien telescope and a Quantum Scientific Imaging 583wsg CCD camera with narrowband filters.

The use of narrowband filters will allow us to image nebulas even from light-polluted downtown Seattle.

In addition to the new equipment, we have had our Celestron CGE mount hypertuned by Deep Space Products and I have also installed a Gary Bennett-style CGE cable mod.

Enough about the gear – lets see the pictures!

The first image I have finished processing is M27.  This was taken from downtown Seattle using 8nm HA and OIII narrowband filters from Baader.  Unfortunately I did not get the mount leveled this evening, so the stars in the image aren’t quite round due to tracking errors.  Oh well.  Here are the details:

M27 – The Dumbbell Nebula
4 exposures of HA, with 20 minute subs each
3 exposures of OIII, with 20 minute subs each
Imaging scope:  Astro-Tech AT10RC  Ritchey Chrétien
Imaging camera:  QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera:  Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Capture and processing in Maxim DL
Final processing in Photoshop.

 

If you want to do a comparison, check out the M27 image taken on 6/7/10 using the modified Digital SLR camera and the C11 telescope.  That one was actually taken from a dark sky site!

 

 


5/20/2011 Sprial Galaxy NGC 4565

This is an edge-on Spiral Galaxy.  This image represents about an hour worth of exposures on the Canon 1000d at ISO 1600.

More details to come soon!


The Horsehead and the Flame Nebulas 2/1/11

We were fortunate enough to have another couple of nights of clearing, and I decided to try out an alternative imaging platform I have been working on.  This setup is based on the Vixen ED80SF 80mm Apochromatic scope that I used to use for guiding!  What makes imaging with this scope possible is the new Orion ED80 focal reducer / field flattener that just happens to be a perfect fit for this scope and the DSLR camera I typically use for imaging. 

This image contains both the Horsehead (IC 434) and the Flame Nebulas (NGC 2024).  This is possible because the Vixen ED80SF with focal reducer attached has a much shorter focal length than the Celestron C11 I normally use, giving it a much wider field of view.  (Using the C11, I would only be able to get part of the horsehead nebula in a single frame and not both)

Here are the details:

The Horsehead (IC434) and the Flame Nebulas (NGC 2024)
4 exposures, with 5-minute subs at ISO 1600 taken on January 31, 2011
15 exposures, with 5-minute subs at ISO 1600 taken on February 1, 2010
17 exposures, with 8-minute subs at ISO 1600 taken on February 1, 2010
Imaging scope:  Vixen ED80SF on CGE Mount
Reducers:  Orion ED80 Focal Reducer / Field Flattener
Filters:  Astronomik CLS
Imaging camera:  Canon XS/1000d with heatmirror replace with Baader filter glass
Guide scope:  Modified Celestron 9×50 finder scope
Guide camera:  Orion Starshoot Autoguider
Captured with Nebulosity
Guided with PHD
Stacked in DSS


M33 1/2/11 Remix

During the brief period of clear nights in early January, I took the opportunity to get additional exposures of M33 to improve the image detail.  The following image is the combination of data from 11/04/10, 12/31/10 and 1/3/11.  This represents an amazing total of five hours and 50 minutes of exposure time!  The result is one of the most detailed amateur photos of M33 I have seen.

M33 – Galaxy
27 exposures, with 5-minute subs at ISO 1600 taken on November 4, 2010
30 exposures, with 5-minute subs at ISO 1600 taken on December 31, 2010
29 exposures, with 5-minute subs at ISO 1600 taken on December 2, 2010
Imaging scope:  Celestron C11 on CGE Mount
Reducers:  Celestron f/6.3 focal reducer
Filters:  Astronomik CLS
Imaging camera:  Canon XS/1000d with heatmirror replace with Baader filter glass
Guide scope:  Modified Celestron 9×50 finder scope
Guide camera:  Orion Starshoot Autoguider
Captured with Nebulosity
Guided with PHD
Stacked in DSS

M33 remix