December 24, 2015

NGC 1342 (Fall 2015)

Higher resolution image here.

NGC 1342 is an open cluster in Perseus.  It's quite large, visually, and I've looked at it a few times, but now I see I've missed the main event.  The cluster is interesting because it is dimmed and reddened by interstellar dust that obscures it.  It makes a very nice image.  The cluster is a couple of thousand light years away.

The bright blue star in the upper left--the left end of the three bright stars--brightens the dust.  One can see just below that star that the blue from the star colors the dust just a bit.  I hypothesize a physical relationship between the two.  The dust, called collectively LDN 1434, has been estimated at around 1100 light years, and that star, V496 Per (type B8), has been estimated at 100 light years in front of that, but some of that dust must lie near the star if light from the star reflects that strongly.  The blue star to the right of V496, called HD 21943 (type B9), is only about 550 light years away and so is merely a foreground object.  The bright, whiter star to the right of that, HD 21809, is only 192 light years distant.

Some background galaxies were picked up in the image thousands of times farther into the distance.

This image is LRGB 36;17;17;17 x 900" from DSW's FSQ.

December 12, 2015

NGC 281 or IC 1590 (Fall 2015)

Higher resolution image here.

This lovely nebula is lit up by, once again, a type O multiple star at its center.  In this case, it is HD 5005, a trapezium system of O-type stars on which nearly every ionization front in the nebula seems to center.  Source.  This source names many cluster members as type B, also.

Especially of interest here is the massive cloud of dust in front of the cluster, just to its right.  HD 5005 is eroding this cloud with strong UV radiation, too, but because the cloud is in front of the cluster, it appears as a dark streak with streamers moving away from the cluster of stars.

This image is 20;16;16 x 1800s of SHO from Deep Sky West's FSQ.  I've imaged this object before, several times, and I am proud of higher resolution images here (Ha only) and here (Ha and OIII).

Think this object is cool?  Check out this Hubble shot of the Nebula's center.

December 6, 2015

VdB 142, the Elephant Trunk Nebula (Fall 2015)

High resolution image here.

This wonderfully large and dramatic scene is caused by the bright multiple star---actually a small cluster of stars unresolvable with this camera setup---at the top left, named HD 206267. One of the cluster stars, HC 206267A, is a multiple star with a combined type O! At least three of the stars in the multiple are type O. Many of the other stars in the cluster are also large and bright. Source. The system puts out fantastic amounts of energy, including X-rays. Our source provides that the cluster is about 3 million years old---very young for a group of stars.

This scene is part of a larger nebula called collectively IC 1396, lit up mostly by HD206267.  It appears in the constellation Cepheus.  This narrowband data is 18;16;16 x1800" of SHO from DSW's FSQ.

December 1, 2015

The Cederblad 214, Sharpless 2-171 Region (Fall 2015)

 Click here for a larger size.

This amazing space-scape of stars, gas, and dust lies in the constellation Cepheus.  What's going on here?  Just to the left of center a cluster of very young stars has formed out of the dust and gas of the cloud (catalogued Berkeley 59).  The stars are so bright and energetic that they have excited the hydrogen, forcing it to emit red light.  Other elements are glowing, too (oxygen in blue-green, for example), but the hydrogen overwhelms.

In particular, the cluster contains type O stars---rare, very hot stars that burn hotter and bluer than others.  These O-type stars burn hot enough that they emit the UV radiation necessary to ionize the hydrogen, which results in the glow that is captured here.  There are several clues as to which star is causing most of the glow.  First, the brighter nebula is roughly round-ish, and the round shape has a radius.  Second, the nebula contains several "elephant trunks"---dust pillars that are being slowly washed away by the ultraviolet light; at the edges of each pillar is an ionization front where we are looking across a plane of ionized gas.  All the dust pillars share a common "radiant," a point where the UV appears to originate.  Third, at that radiant sits an O-type star that is capable of causing the glow and the washing away.  Spectral studies suggest that this one star is the hottest star within 3,000 light years of us.  It is called BD +66 1673.  I've pointed it out in a close-up below.  This may well be the star that powers the nebula.  Another study reports nine O7- to B3-type stars in the cluster.  Surely they help some, too.  Oh, why aren't the hot O and B stars blue?  Too much dust in the way reddens their color along our line of sight.  Here is the connection between BD +66 1673 and the dust pillars.















The nebula contains some fascinating areas.  I've highlighted some below.


Finally, the view is full of dust clouds that lie in front of everything and block the view of what is behind.
 This wonderful data came from DSW's FSQ and represents 31;21;21;16 x 900" of LRGB,over 22 hours of data.

November 24, 2015

LBN 777, the Baby Eagle Nebula (Fall 2015)

Larger version here.

This very dim nebula is part of the same Taurus clouds of dust and gas that are also lit up by the nearby Pleiades.  The gas and dust is probably about the same distance as the Pleiades themselves, around 440 light years.  Just what lights up the Baby Eagle Nebula is unclear, however.

I've always wanted an image of this part of the cloud, but obtaining the data is not possible from the city.  I once took a >10-minute sub and had to equalize the result to even see the eagle head shape; of course, that would not make a pretty image.  But the scope at DSW can bag these obscure photons without interference from city sky glow.  Even then, the DSW scope has to spend long hours on the sky.  Just the Lum here is 10.75 hours.  The time spent on this object is 43;32;34;34 (LRGB) x 900 seconds, for a grand total of 35.75 hours at f/5!  Below is a B&W version of the Baby Eagle (also called the Vulture Head Nebula) using just the Lum subs.

November 14, 2015

M31 (Fall 2015)

Higher resolution image here.

Here is M31, the nearest large galaxy, so large and so close that it overspills the view of the Kodak KAF-8300 chip through the FSQ.  M31 is near in size to our own galaxy but more mature, so it has more stars, a larger central black hole, and a more developed core.

But there is still much going on in M31.  Two satellite galaxies, M32 and M110 (above and below M31 in this image) orbit M31 and perhaps have passed through it.  A ring of relatively new star creation circles M31 and frames in blue its older, yellower core.  If you look very closely in the blue of the ring, you may see patches of red or magenta, which are clouds of hydrogen emission nebulae and the places of current star formation.  M31 is also ringed by clouds of dark dust; these represent star formation potential.

Two really fun things about this image:  1) M110 shows dust clouds near its center, one on each side of its core.  2) In the lower right, a very distant spiral galaxy shows through the arm of M31.  It is not obvious in the large picture, so here is a close-up.  I have no idea how far the galaxy is; pretty far, but I could not find a catalog designation in any of my maps,  Nor could I find it marked on any of my maps.  You can find it in this picture by its non-stellar shape and its dull color (which is similar to M31's core).


This image is RGB 24;28;16 x 900"; the data comes from DSW's FSQ.

November 3, 2015

HD8625 Area (LDN 1251 & 1247) (Fall 2015)

Link to as big as blogger will post here.

The bright star on the left is HD8625, and the dark clouds surrounding have various designations (LDN 1251, LDN 1247, LM 397, 395, & 393). They are clouds of dust floating around our galaxy, waiting to be disturbed to be made into stars. This area is in northern Cepheus, about 15° from the north pole.  For those of us well into northern hemisphere, this star never sets.  However, these clouds of dust are far too faint to see with the eyes alone, and larger telescopes would show the darker areas as an absence of stars, to the visual observer. Deep images such as this reveal the size of the cloud.

There are two small galaxies in the image, one just above center, a bit left, PGC 166755--magnitude 15.97, about 112 million light years away.  The other on the left, about half way up, just off the fish's nose, is PGC 069472, perhaps 72 million light years away.

This image is made from 16.25 hours of data from Deep Sky West's FSQ.

October 23, 2015

Pelican Nebula or IC 5070 (Fall 2015)

Full resolution file (for blogspot) here.

This data includes deeper H-Alpha, OIII, and SII from DSW.  This is a slightly modified Hubble palette.

The bright star just to the right and lower than center is 56 Cygni, a double star the brightest component of which is magnitude 5.07 and type A6V.  56 Cygni is about 134 light years away.  The bright star at upper right is 57 Cygni, 530 light years away and type B5V.  The nebula itself is far in the background at 1800 ±200 light years.  Of course, the nebula has several layers.  The darker parts superimposed on the brighter emission nebulae are closer.  I've always suspected that the rounded ridge on the right with the Loch Ness Monster rising out of it is most near after the dark parts.

Telescope: Deep Sky West FSQ Setup
Camera and Exposure: QSI683wsg (SHO:20+17+16x1800")
Software: Nebulosity, SkySafari, Maxim DL, Photoshop CS3, Registar
Location: Deep Sky West Observatory

October 13, 2015

Iris (NGC 7023) to UGC 11678 (September 2015)

70% resolution image here

Here is the Iris Nebula again, this time with better data.  My last attempt at this, here, used data acquired in 2012 at the Comanche Springs astronomy campus in north Texas.  This new data comes from Deep Sky West, a remote observatory in north central New Mexico.  It's amazing data, and it comes nicely packaged in a form I can easily use.

This image is interesting for several reasons.  First, it shows much more of the cloud of dust in which the Iris shines.  The Iris Nebula and all the dust around it shine primarily by reflection.  The white-ish star at the center of the flower, called HD 200775, type BV3, shines light on the surrounding dust, and that light is reflected back in blue.  The dust around the flower reflects the light of other stars, too.  HD 200775 is also a double star, but the dimmer companion is too dim and too close to show up in a photo with this telescope and camera.

The Iris Nebula itself is not all blue, though blue reflection predominates.  The Hubble telescope reports red emission nebulosity here, too.  I could easily detect red glow in this data, but it was overwhelmed by the blue, and I did not try to show it.

Another neat thing about this data is that it stretches all the way from the Iris on the right to the galaxy UGC 11678 on the left.  On the basis of redshift (z= 0.008346), one can calculate that the galaxy is about 115 million light years away.  It would probably be much brighter if we could look at it without all the dust in the way!

Is imaging a different experience because I did not take the data myself?  A bit, but I'm at a point where my data does not depend on me; I take good data.  Data now depends primarily on my location.  Give me a dark sky, and I can take this data, too.  I don't have a dark sky; I live too near Houston.  So this remote observatory gives me the chance to observe digitally in the deep way I enjoy, and I get to learn something new, and I don't have to travel or stay up late.  Cool.

Telescope: Takahashi FSQEDXiii
Camera and Exposure: QSI683wsg (L: 37x900" + RGB 16±1x900")
Shrinkage: This image 70% of full.
Mount: SB MyT
Software: Nebulosity, SkySafari, Maxim DL, Photoshop CS3, Registar
Location: Deep Sky West Observatory

September 29, 2015

NGC 7331, Stephan's Quintet (Sept. 2015)

Full resolution image here.

NGC 7331 in its glory, and all the little galaxies.

NGC 7331 is about 48 million light years away (based on studies of its Cepheid variables).  The galaxies above and behind NGC 7331 are far in its background, but they are probably relatively near to each other.

The group of galaxies to the lower left is called Stephan's Quintet, after its discover.  It is also called Hickson 92, after a cataloger of odd galaxy groups.  And this one is odd.  The oval on the left (NGC 7320) is in front of the others.  In the Hubble image of this group, that oval galaxy is blue.  Its red-shift suggests that it is only 35 million light years away---somewhat near NGC 7331 and thus not a member of the group.  The other galaxies in the area, however, are closer to 270 million light years away, far in the background.  Those background galaxies are gravitationally connected to each other.

There is a small galaxy above Hickson 92, and one tidal tail from the 92 group reaches up toward it.  This galaxy, NGC 7320C, is also connected to the Hickson 92 group and probably moved through it millions of years ago, causing the tidal tail.

Telescope: Astro-Tech AT111EDT and William Optics AFR-IV (eff. f/5.6)
Camera and Exposure: SXVF-H9 (107x420"); Alnitak Flat-man flats
Filter(s): Astronomik CLS
Guiding: SX Lodestar and SX OAG
Mount: Takahashi NJP
Software: Nebulosity, PHD, SkySafari, Maxim DL, Photoshop CS3
Location: The Woodlands, TX

August 29, 2015

IC1318 Bi-Color (Summer 2015)

Full resolution image here.

The Ha [+NII] signal is overwelming in this area of the sky, but there is also prominent SII and some (less) OIII, so I mapped SII (and some OIII) to blue, Ha to red, and created a synthetic green channel to achieve this bi-color image.  The effect is to show Ha in red contrasted with the weaker SII signal.

Telescope: Astro-Tech AT111EDT and William Optics AFR-IV (eff. f/5.6)
Camera and Exposure: SXVF-H9 (Ha [+NII]: 20x1200"; OIII: 16x1200"; SII: 21x1200"); Alnitak Flat-man flats
Filter(s): Astronomik 6nm NB
Guiding: SX Lodestar and SX OAG
Mount: Takahashi NJP
Software: Nebulosity, PHD, SkySafari, Maxim DL, Registar, Photoshop CS3
Location: The Woodlands, TX

August 11, 2015

IC 5070, or the Eye of the Pelican (8-2015)

Full resolution image here.

This is the northernmost part (north is to the right) of the Pelican Nebula.  I can spot six Herbig-Haro objects.  Compare my image with this one from NOAO.  How many can you find?

This is also first light with PHD2.  I like the new guiding program.  It measures guide star seeing in arcseconds, and it is easier to control.  It also remembers my setup.  Kudos.

Telescope: Astro-Tech AT111EDT and William Optics AFR-IV (eff. f/5.6)
Camera and Exposure: SXVF-H9 (Ha 17x1500"; 21x1200"); Alnitak Flat-man flats
Filter(s): Astronomik 6nm Ha
Guiding: SX Lodestar and SX OAG
Mount: Takahashi NJP
Software: Nebulosity, PHD2, SkySafari, Photoshop CS3
Location: The Woodlands, TX

August 6, 2015

B343 Fine, Summer 2015

Eighty-five percent resolution image here.

B343 is an interesting patch of dust set against a background of glowing hydrogen in the constellation Cygnus.  Below the dark nebula and to the right lie ionization fronts formed in the hydrogen gas.  I think it's a pretty interesting area.

To the H-alpha set, which is used here as Luminance, I have added a night's worth of color with the SXVF-H9C.  The image looked better to me at 85% of original size, so no full resolution is posted.

Telescope: Astro-Tech AT111EDT and William Optics AFR-IV (eff. f/5.6)
Camera and Exposure: SXVF-H9 (Ha 11x1500", 11x1200") and SXVF-H9C (55x420"); Alnitak Flat-man flats
Filter(s): Astronomik 6nm Ha & CLS
Guiding: SX Lodestar and SX OAG
Mount: Takahashi NJP
Software: Nebulosity, PHD, Maxim DL, Registar, Photoshop CS3
Location: The Woodlands, TX

August 4, 2015

B343 (Final Ha) August 2015

Full resolution image here.

I found a night in July for more time on B343.  Here is a complete H-alpha, full resolution image.

Telescope: Astro-Tech AT111EDT and William Optics AFR-IV (eff. f/5.6)
Camera and Exposure: SXVF-H9 (Ha 11x1500"; 11x1200"); Alnitak Flat-man flats
Filter(s): Astronomik 6nm Ha
Guiding: SX Lodestar and SX OAG
Mount: Takahashi NJP
Software: Nebulosity, PHD, Maxim DL, Photoshop CS3
Location: The Woodlands, TX

July 25, 2015

IC1318a (the most interesting part), July 24, 2015

Full resolution image here.

We are blessed with clear-ish skies on a weekend with a quarter moon, which works for narrowband.  IC1318a is near the star Sadr in Cygnus, a prominent summer constellation.  I've shot this object before, but I've a goal to shoot OIII and SII this time, also, and make a color frame of it.  The star at the center of the frame is HD194789, a type B star about 1,050 light years away.

Telescope: Astro-Tech AT111EDT and William Optics AFR-IV (eff. f/5.6)
Camera and Exposure: SXVF-H9 (Ha 20x1200"); Alnitak Flat-man flats
Filter(s): Astronomik 6nm Ha
Guiding: SX Lodestar and SX OAG
Mount: Takahashi NJP
Software: Nebulosity, PHD, Maxim DL, Photoshop CS3
Location: The Woodlands, TX

June 30, 2015

Jupiter & Venus Alignment - June 30, 2015


Jupiter was very close to Venus tonight.  This is the view through the SV110ED with the Canon T3i and AT2FF.  It rained this evening where I live, so I drove about thirty miles north to find a hole in the clouds.  Anyway, the best view is one you don't see here.  It was at 77x through a 10mm eyepiece.  In that view, Jupiter's cloudbands shone, and all four moons were points of light.  Venus was an amazing crescent on the other side.  So I could actually observe six solar system bodies in a single view.  Pretty amazing!


June 25, 2015

Observations with the SV110ED (6-24-15)

The sky was clear until around 11:30 tonight.  I mounted the SV110ED on the Tak EM-10 and took a ride through the eastern sky.  Objects observed included

1) Globular clusters: M92, M13, NGC 6229, M56.

2) Planetaries: M57, NGC 6210 (in Hercules; small and trapezoid shaped, faint around the edges and irregular), NGC 6543 (Cat's Eye Nebula, in Draco, shaped like a cat's eye, and some faint nebulosity around it).

3) Numerous double stars, but the most fun was Al Fawaris, aka Delta Cygni.  The separation is 2.7" but at magnitudes 2.91 and 6.27.  I pumped the magnification to 388x before I could clearly see the dimmer star, and then only when seeing did not wash it out.  Cool.  Also, 17 Herculis was great, as was Sarin and many others.  Could drive a truck through the Double Double at 194x, but it was cleanly split at 77x.

The scope was on one tonight: textbook images, and seeing was not bad.

Four Solar System Objects, June 19, 2015


One-third resolution image here.

Here is, in descending order, Jupiter, Venus, Luna, and Earth.  OK, there is not much Earth showing, but, I assure you, the trees were attached.  Canon T3i from the shores of Lake Murvaul, Texas.

June 9, 2015

B343 in Cygnus (June 6, 2015)

70% resolution available here.

This dark nebula in Cygnus is here framed by the light of ionized hydrogen.  On the right are two brighter ionization fronts; obviously the cloud is moving somewhere.  Nearby small dark nebulae spot the area.

Usually, I present images full-frame, but parts of this area are dim enough that I was unable to get a clean image in 4.5 hours.  This image is shrunk to about 70% of full frame.

Telescope: Astro-Tech AT111EDT and William Optics AFR-IV (eff. f/5.6)
Camera and Exposure: SXVF-H9 (Ha 11x1500"); Alnitak Flat-man flats
Filter(s): Astronomik 6nm Ha
Guiding: SX Lodestar and SX OAG
Mount: Takahashi NJP
Software: Nebulosity, PHD, Maxim DL, Photoshop CS3
Location: The Woodlands, TX

May 27, 2015

Short Break in the Clouds (late May, 2015)

Our skies have been cloudy nearly every night for weeks.  Finally, the sky cleared for an evening, and I took the SV110ED out for a spin on the EM-10.  Such an easy setup with which to observe.

First up was Saturn.  I spotted Titan, Rhea, Dione, and Tethys.  The rings are tipped wildly right now.  I could see the inner ring against the planet's face.  It was a great view even though Saturn was not very high in the sky.  Best view at 154x.

The other highlight of the night was globular cluster NGC 6229 in Hercules.  I looked at M92, then slewed over to 6229.  It was not immediately apparent at 22x, but at 154x, it was obvious.  The view is sweet.  The glob sits at the center of an arc of two magnitude 8 and one magnitude 12 stars.  I could not resolve any stars in the cluster, but my scope is not big enough for that.  Studies show the cluster is about 100,000 light years from us, pretty far out from what we normally think of as "the galaxy."  The cluster is an interesting object.

About midnight, the clouds rolled in.  The next night we received 3.5 inches of rain.

April 11, 2015

M82 (Spring 2015)

Full resolution available here.

Galaxy M82 is amazing because it appears to be exploding.

I considered a version of the image with the background darker, but in fact the background contains several very distant galaxies and perhaps a distant galaxy cluster.  I enjoy the presence of these faint fuzzies enough to put up with a bit of photographic noise.

Telescope: Astro-Tech AT111EDT and William Optics AFR-IV (eff. f/5.6)
Camera and Exposure: SXVF-H9 (Lum 65x300") (Ha 19x1200"); SXVF-H9C (34x300"); Alnitak Flat-man flats
Filter(s): Astronomik CLS, 6nm Ha
Guiding: SX Lodestar and SX OAG
Mount: Takahashi NJP
Software: Nebulosity, PHD, Maxim DL, Registar, Photoshop CS3
Location: The Woodlands, TX

February 17, 2015

M42, the Great Nebula (Dec. 15, 2014)

Full resolution image here.

Ah, the dark art of imaging M42.  What can one say?

Telescope: Astro-Tech AT111EDT (f/7) and Astro-Tech AT2FF
Camera and Exposure: SXVF-H9C, 20x30", 20x60", and 29x300"; Alnitak Flat-man flats
Filter(s): Astronomik CLS
Guiding: SX Lodestar and SX OAG
Mount: Takahashi NJP
Software: Nebulosity, PHD, Maxim DL, Registar, Photoshop CS3
Location: The Woodlands, TX