Gamma Cygni and NGC 6914

Gamma Cygni and NGC 6914

Gamma Cygni and NGC 6914

4 panel mosaic of the Sadr (Gamma Cygni) region including reflection nebula 6914 (to the right)

Nebulosity around the constellation Cygnus is commonly imaged with narrowband filters which is especially good for isolating the hydrogen emission nebula. This image, however, is taken as broad “white light” unfiltered with a color camera. So these colors are very “real” in the sense that the this camera resembles the color response of the human eye. The big difference is the longer exposure which is reveals more color and nebulosity than we could otherwise see in real time.  This requires a very dark sky which is what we had at the 2014 Texas Star Party where this was captured.

Celestron RASA 11 f/2.2
Celestron CGEM DX Mount
QHY11 Color
30 x 120 seconds for each panel

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IC5146 Cocoon Nebula Reprocess

IC5146 Cocoon Nebula

IC5146 Cocoon Nebula

Reprocessed some data from 2008. This image of the Cocoon was taken through a telescope and CCD camera that I helped develop, and it was one of those nights were everything was cooperating and the seeing was good.  I really like the unique color of this one.  It often has a magenta look.  Most of the red is hydrogen emission so it ought to look more red – but there’s also a lot of reflection and dark nebula which is scattering and obstructing some of the light.

Orion 190mm F/5.3 Maksutov-Newtonian
AP900GTO
Orion StarShoot Pro 6.3MP CCD
23 x 480 second images

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Billions and Billions

Galaxies in Coma Berenices

Galaxies in Coma Berenices

 

I revisited my image of the Coma Berenices galaxy cluster to see how far some of the background galaxies are. It’s been a fun datamining activity during the “processing season”. It’s amazing how far a medium-sized refractor can go when equipped with a CCD camera! Some of the galaxies here are easily fainter than 20th apparent magnitude..
Using the redshift data in TheSkyX for these objects (my image has several galaxies which are uncharted in TheSkyX!), I applied Hubble’s Constant as recently observed by the SDSS-III Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (~68km/sec per Mpc). So digging around the image, I found a galaxy that is over 4 billion light years away!! That’s looking back a THIRD into the universe’s entire timeline, from what is essentially a backyard telescope!! Obviously these distance estimates are rough. Even “nearby” NGC 4921 in the Coma Cluster, a “foreground” galaxy is said by multiple sources to be 300-320 Mly away, but if I pull from the same redshift data and newest Hubble’s constant, I get closer to 260 Mly. Here’s a cropped view with a sampling of galaxies I selected. I don’t have much more of a point to this other than it was a fun little astronomy exercise!

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Mt. Shasta Lenticular Clouds at Night

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Captured August 30th from Little Mount Hoffman.  The night of August 29th-30th eventually clouded over.  But before it did, we were treated to some of Mount Shasta’s localized weather and lenticular clouds. Sony α7s ii and 35mm f/1.8 Zeiss. 10 seconds at ISO1000.

The site is actually very dark, but we’re seeing a fair amount of light pollution coming from the town of Mount Shasta, which is reflecting some light off the clouds in this image.  The Sony’s amazing light sensitivity also easily picks up any light.  The glaciers seen in this image are illuminated by starlight!

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NGC 1579 and Surrounding Dust Lanes

NGC 1579 and Surrounding Dust Lanes

NGC 1579 and Surrounding Dust Lanes

Here’s the first of my processed astrophotos from my Little Mount Hoffman imaging trip this year.  NGC 1579 is a faint, somewhat low contrast target, perfect for the excellent Bortle scale 2 darkness skies sitting over 7,300′ in elevation.

NGC 1579 is referred to as the “Trifid of the North”, since it resembles the popular Trifid Nebula (M20). NGC 1579, however, is much fainter and contains more subtle color. I particularly like the peach color in contrast with the blue reflection nebula.

With 15 minute sub-exposures with -20ºC CCD temperature, I gave the new QHY16200A a thorough workout. The camera has been a great match for the AP130GT.  And this is the first imaging session with the dedicated AP field flattener for the 2.7″ focuser on my 130 Gran Turismo.  I had previously used an Astro-Tech field flattener which worked well, but the larger 16200 CCD was better suited to a fully matched field flattener.

Taken 8/30-8/31/2016
AP130GT
QHY16200A @ -20ºC
15 x 15 min L
5 x 15 min each for RGB

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Messier 31

Messier 31, The Andromeda Galaxy

Messier 31, The Andromeda Galaxy

First light image of Messier 31 from last weekend with the new QHY16200A CCD camera! This has a slightly zoomed-in perspective at this focal length. Captured with the AP130GT at f/6.3 (819mm focal length). The camera is awesome! So much chip real estate and sheer pixel count makes it a really nice paring with this refractor. Even in the FOV calculators I wasn’t expected it to frame well at this focal length but the whole disk of M31 was captured anyways. I’m still using an economic field flattener which works remarkably well for this sensor size, but I will likely need to get the dedicated AP field flattener.

5 x 180 and 1 x300 second shots for Luminance, 4 x 180 each for RGB.

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Messier 83, the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy

M83 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy

M83 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy

Quick process from TSP 2014. Just 5 x 120 second images, captured with the QHY11 and Celestron RASA 11″.

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Messier 101

Messier 101

Messier 101

Messier 101 luminance only, just a few 5 minute shots with the Parsec 8300M under mediocre seeing conditions. My filter wheel started acting up and it’s basically time to upgrade camera and filter wheel!  I’m looking forward to getting the QHY16200 once it’s in stock..

The Mak should get more imaging time soon.  It just needs good seeing and actual time.

12 x 300 seconds
Parsec 8300M, binned 2×2
10″ f/10 Intes-Micro Rumak Maksutov-Cassegrain

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Milky Way Over the Texas Star Party

This Milky Way Over the Texas Star Party time lapse spans 3.8 hours starting around midnight 5/4/2016 over the Prude Ranch’s upper star field at the Texas Star Party. Canon 60Da, 25 second shots, 10 second interval, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, ISO 2500.  There is a hint of green and magenta airglow radiating from the horizon which you can see in HD resolution. It was DARK out there!

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Mercury Transit May 9, 2016

Get Ready for the Mercury Transit May 9, 2016!

Solar Kick-Off: Telescope Tips 

If you’re into astronomy like me, you’re chomping at the bit to experience the solar eclipse coming up in August 2017.  This eclipse promises to be a truly once in a lifetime experience, with over two minutes of totality visible from a huge swath of North America. But what’s a solar astronomer to do for the next 15 months until showtime?

Fortunately, to get our fix, there’s a semi-rare opportunity to see the Solar System’s innermost planet transit the Sun on May 9, 2016. To get the best view of Mercury’s transit, a filtered telescope is essential (and by filtered, make no mistake, it MUST be a front aperture solar filter or specialized solar telescope for safe viewing!)  Filtered binoculars can pull it off, but the disk of Mercury will be a mere 12 arcseconds in diameter – it will look like a dot at best. However, you’ll easily resolve a disk with a telescope, and it will be rewarding to see that disk cross over the Solar System’s fusion powerhouse.

When magnification is involved (let’s say 60x or higher), it’s generally recommended to have a telescope that tracks. Keep in mind computerized go-tos like the NexStar SLT 127 can be aligned on the Sun during the day, which is a huge advantage for outreach events where quick tracking is essential.

Mercury transiting the Sun (sunspot on left, Mercury on right), captured November 8, 2016. © Stellarscapes.net by Bryan Cogdell

 Events like these give me a special appreciation for our Solar System’s incredibly changeable and active nature.  Here we are, able to watch our Sun slinging a planet around its mighty gravitational pull in broad daylight, in just under 7.5 hours. Setting up a telescope just before dawn and catching a glimpse of Mercury as the sun rises is a small effort for a great view, and a great way to start the work day. I hope you’ll join me.

Be sure to check back to see new images of the Mercury Transit!

Reference pages:
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/transit/catalog/MercuryCatalog.html
http://eclipsewise.com/oh/tm2016.html

Find equipment for the Mercury Transit here:
http://telescopes.net/store/solar.html

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