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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New Hydrogen-Alpha Solar Telescope

Lunt LS50T Double Stack

Lunt LS50T Double Stack

I am excited to have purchased a new Lunt LS50T Hydrogen-Alpha Solar Telescope at NEAF from Woodland Hills Camera and Telescope. I went for the double-stack option to narrow the bandpass to just 0.5 Angstroms.  It’s amazing how much detail this little 50mm H-Alpha scope delivers.  And since I can actually image the Sun from an otherwise non-astronomy friendly area, I can get my astro-fix in broad daylight.  Also, it seems the small aperture holds up well in poor seeing, another plus for the area near work which has horrendous seeing (5” is not uncommon).

Some of the first images I took last week were of sunspot AR2529 which was distinctly heart-shaped. I’ve added them to the Solar System Gallery.

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Releasing More Images

There are still many astroimages that I haven’t processed, or have processed but didn’t bother posting.  In an effort to revamp my own imaging effort, I will be releasing more images.  Some will be revisited, reprocessed, or simply posted for the first time.  Here’s a simple 2 panel mosaic from a one-shot color Parsec 8300M of the North America and Pelican Nebula taken in August 2011, for example.  It’s now in the Nebulae gallery.

North America and Pelican Nebula

North America and Pelican Nebula

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M81, M82 and NGC 3077

M81, M82 & NGC 3077

M81, M82 & NGC 3077

The shortest of the 3 images taken on the weekend of February 6th.  This is ordinarily a galaxy duo, but this particular frame also captures the more obscure NGC 3077 galaxy seen on the far bottom right.

Just 10 x 8 minute exposures
Sky-Watcher Esprit 100mm f/5.5
Canon 60Da
AP900GTO
Captured in Pinion Pines, above Frazier Park, CA February 6, 2016

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M101 Wide Field

M101 Wide Field

M101 Wide Field

This M101 Wide Field image also captures a few interesting background galaxies including NGC5422 (left) and NGC 5474 (right).
This was a welcome return to astrophotography after a 3 month hiatus, which had already been a sparse year since July 2015. With just one night to work with, the one-shot-color Canon 60Da was the camera of choice, and it allowed me to capture 3 objects that night. I’ll post those soon, but I will only add this one to the galaxy gallery since it’s been about 10 years since I’ve captured a wide field version of M101.

20 x 8 minute exposures
Sky-Watcher Esprit 100mm f/5.5
Canon 60Da
AP900GTO
Captured in Pinion Pines, above Frazier Park, CA

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