August 31, 2009

A Pleasant, Moonlit Night

Tonight the sky cleared off around 9:30. Finally, the cold front arrived. The moon was waxing, 89% full. I set up the 6" achromat on the modified DS-10 mount. Jupiter was stunning at 240x: belts, festoons, and spots. I am not a big planetary guy, but Io and Europa were together tonight, very close when I caught them around 9:50. They were slowly moving apart after that. From there, I moved to Cassiopeia, which was just coming up over the trees. From Beta Cass, I moved out to NGC7789, always a fascinating sight. From my backyard, I always see the cluster on the edge of my vision. Especially tonight, with the moon partly full, it was initially hard to spot at 34x, but there it was, eventually, little sparks shimmering in the purple. I ended up with Eta Cass, a lovely, wide double star, and a few other doubles in Cass. Double stars are very nice in the 6". The brighter component sometimes sports a diffraction ring, and the dimmer star often presents a nice color contrast. I always like to see what happens with the magnification turned up!

August 23, 2009

M27 Again---First Light with the ED80

OK, I know I've got to move on to another subject, but I bought a new (used) Orion ED80 and wanted to put the AT66ED on top as a guider and try out this combination. The AT66 worked beautifully, of course. I wish it were not so heavy. The ED80 has very fine optics. When combined with the WO 0.8 II focal reducer, stars were flat over the middle 70% of the Canon XTi frame. The distortions around the 15% edges were quite minor. It would be possible to use the entire frame for some objects, I think. Anyway, this is not a great shot. I was tired about 11:30 when I began the 2 hour set (60x2') and accidentally changed a camera setting so that the entire imaging session was saved in jpeg instead of RAW. That removed some of what I would have been able to develop later. Also, the sky was covered with haze. I was almost shooting through a cloud, something I wish I could actually do. I would have taken the setup apart and gone to sleep had I not wanted to see first light with the new scope. So I have this nice color in a shallow image, and a deep image from last month in monochrome. Perhaps it's time to add color to the Atik 16 images.

August 16, 2009

NGC 7331 & Companions

I woke up to check the final images on the Crescent Nebula set and found the sky temporarily clouded over. When the sky cleared five minutes later, the Crescent was slipping into the trees. The constellation Pegasus, however, was just overhead! I had observed NGC 7331 before with an 8" dobsonion, but I have always wanted an image of it. "Well, the sky is still dark! Why not tonight?" NGC 7331 is 50 million light years away. The galaxies surrounding it (which I had never seen before) are probably ten times further, or 500 million light years away. See other very nice, color images of all of them here and here.

This set of images, 45x2', began at 4:10 a.m. It was processed in Nebulosity 1 and Photoshop Elements 7. It could use more processing, but I do not own the software for more, yet.

NGC 6888, the Crescent Nebula

The Crescent Nebula is a wonderful phenomenon. The bright star near the center of this image is so large and active that it is pushing away its outer layers. The latest ejection has collided with surrounding gas (perhaps from an earlier ejection). The collision generates light. The light in this image is emitted by ionized hydrogen. This image was taken with an H-alpha filter, which blocks nearly all light except that emitted by ionized hydrogen. For a beautiful image that combines both the light from ionized hydrogen and ionized oxygen, see here.

This image is 36x5' through the Vixen R135S with the Atik 16 and an Astronomic 13nm Ha filter, autoguided on the Takahashi EM-10. It's a vast improvement over my last Crescent, here. It's amazing what a good mount, an excellent camera, and nearly two years of experience can do. Slight flexure between the current guidescope and imaging scope currently prevent exposures longer than five minutes, and even that time is pushing it. Processed in Nebulosity 1 and Photoshop Elements 7.

August 8, 2009

Andromeda Galaxy & Companions

As I finished the Squaw Peak run, I took one 60-second image of the Andromeda Galaxy. I fully intended to come back the next night and take more exposures of it, but the next night was full of family activities. The night after, someone was parked in my campground, at first. I drove on to Rock Canyon Campground, but it is pretty primitive, and I had no reservation. Plus, there are all kinds of bear warning signs. I had some food with me this time, and I figured I was much better bait than the first night. So I drove back to Provo Canyon road and up the canyon to the Alpine Loop. This road loops past Sundance ski resort, the Aspen Grove conference facility, a Mt. Timpanogos trailhead, and Mt. Timpanogos itself to the town of Alpine. I stopped in the parking lot of the trailhead and set up. Unfortunately, I did not know my GP mount well enough yet, and when the gears started slipping, I did not know what to do. I was pretty tired, and not thinking clearly. I discovered that I did not have the right tools to open the drive cover and see what was going on. So when the gears slipped there was not much I could do. The result is that this M31 is the combination of a mere seven minutes of 60-second exposures, one from Squaw Peak and six from the east side of Timpanogos. I think it's pretty good for a mere seven minutes, but I look forward to taking a better, deeper image soon! This image was taken with the Canon Xti through the AT66ED, unguided on the Vixen GP. It was processed with Nebulosity 1 and Photoshop Elements 7.

August 7, 2009

Red Moon & Jupiter (August 6, 2009)

Wildfires burned today in Utah, and a strong west wind blew. The air smelled of smoke, and after running in it, I smelled of smoke, too. When the moon rose over the Wasatch front, it glowed red. Jupiter is already a bit red, and that was enhanced by the smoke and dust. This second image is a mosaic of three frames taken at 1600 ISO with the XTi through the AT66ED, balanced on a mailbox.