May 22, 2010

Seeing Stars and Clouds

Tonight clouds were few but present, so I took the modified DS-10 mount out for a spin with the 4" achromat. To counteract the fluctuations in the house current, I hooked up an Accutrak drive controller in between the AC outlet and the mount. This seemed to keep the drive steady. Even at 120x I noticed no movement so long as the scope was properly balanced.
First, I found Vega, then Epsilon Lyrae, which was split nicely at 120x, with black in between the tight doubles when seeing would permit. Next I looked briefly at M13, then at Antares, then up to M10 and M12. These latter globular clusters are relatively nearby. M10 is but 14,300 light years distant, and M12 just 16,000. Both shine less brightly than M13, which is over 25,000 light years away, which shows just how large and bright M13 is. After M10 and M12, I moved down to M107, which is much dimmer still, and barely visible in the 4" near my light polluted horizon. M107 is 21,000 light years away.
Two more targets: Izar, in Bootes, which was split at 120x, with the second star appearing tangent to the first diffraction ring, and roughly north, of the brighter star. Izar is always something of a thrill to split in a smaller scope because it does not appear double till one is nearly in focus. Only at perfect focus is the star clearly there. I found the primary to be white orange and the dimmer star a gray green.
Finally, I took a brief look at Saturn before the clouds moved in more fully. I saw only two moons, but the shadow on the planet was crisp and dark.
Then the clouds moved in.

May 15, 2010

Re-do of M101 (4-8-10)

This is a re-process of M101 with the colors mostly figured out. This is a test to see how well it looks on several other monitors. Which is better, top or bottom?

May 9, 2010

M57 (5-4-10)

Here is my very own first color shot of M57. It was 4:40 am or so, about an hour before sunup. I was tired and wanted to go back to sleep, so I turned the scope to a target I could find quickly, M57, set PHD to re-calibrate, started the sub-exposure sequence, and then went back in to sleep. Of the thirty or so 120" frames, only 18 were worth keeping (after subtracting out the mount calibration frames and those too bright because of the rising sun), so this is just 36 minutes worth of data. Taken with the Orion 6" I-Newt and the SXVF-H9C. Processing was done in Nebulosity 2, Maxim DL 5, and Photoshop.

The Ring Nebula, as this is known, is one of those targets that everyone with a telescope looks for. Much of the nebula is very bright---the part shown in this image. The Ring Nebula was formed when the star in the center of it (see the image) puffed off its outer layers as it aged; the star's center was putting out too much energy for gravity to hold the outer layers on the star. The Ring Nebula is about 2,300 light years away in the constellation Lyra. The star in the center of the nebula is magnitude 15.3. The dimmest stars in the image visible in this rendition are around magnitude 18. The tiny galaxy just up and a little to the left of the Ring is IC 1296. It is about 200 million light years away.

May 6, 2010

NGC 6144 (M4's Little Sister) (5-4-10)

This globular cluster is visible in between and just to the north of Antares and the apparently much larger M4. It is often shown in photographs but usually as part of a wide field view. NGC 6144 is 27,000 light years from here and M4 on.y 7,000 light years away; hence, the apparent difference. Anyway, it's about time NGC 6144 got its due. Very nice cluster, partially hidden behind a cloud of dust that is all over this part of central Scorpius (as in this nice wide field photo). The bar of light across the bottom of the frame is a diffraction spike caused by the bright nearby star Antares and the four bars that hold the telescope's secondary mirror.

This is 44x150" through the Orion 6" Imaging Newt with the SXVF-H9C. Processing was done in Nebulosity 2, Maxim, Photoshop, and Photoshop Elements, with a couple of Carboni actions.

May 1, 2010

M57 Wide View - Single Frame

I considered shooting M57 on April 8. Clouds rolled after one six-minute frame with the SXVF-H9C through the ED80. Here is that one frame. This is about as bright as M57 looks in a small scope, but there are two differences: (1) this image has more color than a small scope would show, particularly in the nebula itself; and (2) there is a hint in the middle of the nebula of its central star. This is a pretty dim star. It shows up much better in this earlier black and white image taken with a larger scope and for a little bit longer total exposure time. It is over-exposed in this much deeper image.