September 30, 2010

The Flame Nebula (9-27&28-2010) - Prelim

This image is 22x7' in Ha and 19x7' in SII, using Astronomik filters, taken with the Atik 16 through the Orion 120mm refractor at f/4 (with the WO 0.8x II fr/fr). Ha was used as luminance and mapped to red and green; SII was mapped to blue. Processing was done in Neb 2, Maxim DL 5, and PS CS3.

September 28, 2010

First Light with the Orion 120mm f/5 w/ 0.8 Reducer Achromat Astrograph: A Pelican Preliminary

A few weeks ago I saw advertised on Cloudy Nights an adapter that would allow me to attach my Feathertouch focuser to an Orion 120mm f/5 achromatic refractor. I didn't own one at the time, but it occurred to me that perhaps the WO 0.8x II reducer/flattener that I do own would work with this scope, which has a focal length of 600mm. An f/5 x 0.8 would yield an f/4, and a 120mm f/4 refractor sounds like a honey of an astrograph. It could only be used for narrowband imaging, but that's all I can do when the moon is full, and it's fascinating work, anyway. I made an offer to buy the adapter, then went looking for a used scope. I found one a few days later. With adapter and scope put together, I waited for a clear night. Here we are.

This image is 18x420" through the Orion 120mm f/4 achromat astrograph, with WO 0.8x II reducer/flattener and an Astronomik 12nm Ha filter. The camera was the Atik 16. The image needs a bit more time. I hope to get that tonight, but this is a promising result for a used scope that, with adapter, cost less than $300.

September 16, 2010

Albireo (9-15-10)

On some nights of imaging, nothing works. I took the AT8RC out to see what I could do with it. I couldn't do much. I did not have the optics aligned correctly, and I was getting flexure between the guide camera and imager. So it turned out none of my stars were round. I was tired, too, but I wanted to try. Clear nights don't come around often. This was the only shot all night that worked, and this only halfway. Only by shrinking it down could I hide the slightly out of shape stars. I did get one frame of M45, too, but just a single sub---not enough to post.

Albireo is the beak of Cygnus, the Swan. It is a beautiful pair of stars, one that many look for each time they go out in the summer to observe. Albireo is about 380 light years away. The two components may or may not revolve around each other. The brighter star is itself a double star, so if the two components seen here revolve around each other, then Albireo is a triple star system.

September 7, 2010

NGC 6960: A Veil Unveiled (9-4-10)

This was my primary target at the SHSU Observatory site. This image is 29 x 360" or 300" (the first five or so subs were only 5 minutes each), processed in Neb 2, Maxim, and PS3. Obviously, having a dark sky is a real plus on such a faint object. I was delighted to see the scope and camera perform so well. This was taken through the Orion 6" I-Newt with Baader MPCC and IDAS LPS2 filter, guided with a DSI Pro through a Borg 50mm guidescope on the Takahashi NJP.

Rory Glasgow saved my night. I left my laser collimator at home on the desk. After fiddling around with the primary mirror for a bit, I realized the strange star shapes I was seeing were a result of my secondary aiming somewhere other than at the center of the primary. Lucky for me, Rory had an accurate laser collimator. Ten minutes later, my stars were perfect circles, I was focused again and ready to go, still with 2.5 hours of the Veil near the zenith. Thanks, Rory.

Jim Wood also saved my night. I have been using T-shirt flats for some time now, but I couldn't stay at the observatory site until morning. Lucky for me, Jim brought a Flip-Flat that fit over the end of the 6" I-Newt. We were parked next to each other, and Jim loaned me the unit for a few minutes. I owe the flatness of the image to Jim. Thanks, Jim.

Here is a monochrome version:

M33 & A Night in the Dark (9-4-10)

This image of M33 is just 5 x 420" with the SXVF-H9C through the Orion 6" I-Newt, processed in Neb 2, Maxim, and PS3. It was late, and I wanted just one more target. Really, the galaxy needs another couple of hours of data, but this process is not just about pretty pictures. Here is an observation of the galaxy, reported in living color.