M31 Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy is the closest large galaxy, 2.5 million light  years distant  from the Milky Way.  Both galaxies are part of the local group of approximately 25 galaxies, that include M32, M110, M33, and many dwarf galaxies.  M31 is visible naked eye in a dark sky, and spans the width of 6 full moons.  The entire span of the galaxy is only visible in long exposure photography.

The data for this image was supplied by the staff at Deepsky West observatories (deepskywest.com).  Deepsky West is a remote observatory site in Rowe, New Mexico that offers remote hosting services for astro-imagers, as well as subscription plans for image data.  The data I used for M31 was supplied free by DSW, as a sample of the quality data available from this site.  Creating a beautiful image is  dependent on the skills of the person processing the image , but the sky conditions of seeing, transparency, and light pollution play a very important role as well, in determining the quality of the final image. 

The data for this image consisted of more that 12.5 hours of LRGB data.  I used Maximdl to combine the RGB subs and did the post processing using Photoshop CS5.

NGC 6992 (Eastern Veil)

NGC 6992, 2 panel mosaic

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Wild Acres Star Party in Little Switzerland, NC.  This star party is sponsored by the Charlotte Amateur Astronomers and is an extension of the Southern Star Astronomy Conference held in the spring.  We had two nights of exceptional conditions.

I was lucky to have the opportunity to do some asteroid hunting with Roger Harvey (4278), a well-known visual asteroid observer.  Roger has over 6000 asteroid observations to his credit. We hunted down two asteroids.  The first was a really faint asteroid, Apollo type, 2017 PR25.  It was very faint at magnitude 16+ and was not seen in my 15” Newtonian, even though we positively identified the field it was passing through. 

The second asteroid was a bit brighter as it made a flyby of Earth.  That was (3122) Florence, an Amor type asteroid named in honor of Florence Nightingale. We were able to watch it pass through the field at magnitude 13.5.  It was a great experience working with Roger and learning some of his techniques.

Those same nights we observed many targets including the Veil Nebula.  We were astonished by the amount of detail we were able to see through the 15”.  It was as if we were looking at a picture, only in black and white.  The detail in the nebulosity was incredible.  We all agreed, it was the best we had ever seen it. The entire Veil , including Pickering’s Triangle, NGC 6974, and 6979 including all of the faint nebulosity below them were clear and well defined.

The view inspired me so much, I decided to attempt my first mosaic image, putting together 2 frames with overlapping fields to capture a larger field than my ccd can normally capture.  The image above is of the Eastern veil, (I call it the hook), which includes NGC 6992, NGC6995, and IC1340.

This was my first mosaic image and took some time to get everything working correctly to stitch the images together with Microsoft ICE, and get the background equalized. The images were captured on 10/4, and 10/11/17.

Data:

Object: NGC 6992 (Eastern Veil)
Constellation: Cygnus
Telescope: ES127mm F7.5 APO Refractor
Mount: Paramount MX+
Camera: ATIK One 6.0
Filters: Orion 7nm Ha
Guide Scope: OAG
Guide Camera: SBIG STi
Total Integration: 2 hrs. 20 min. [(14) x 600 seconds, each panel]
Image Capture: SkyX camera addon
Guiding: SkyX
Stacking/calibration: Maxdl/SkyX
Mosaic stitching: Microsoft ICE
Post Processing:Photoshop CS5- Carboni’s Astronomy Tools

 

NGC 7331 and the Deerlick Group

The NGC 7331  galaxy group, better known as the Deerlick group, consists of NGC 7331 (10.2),the main galaxy at 40 million light years distant, and NGC 7335 (14.5), 7336 (15.6), 7337 (14.5)  and NGC 7340 (15.4). These smaller galaxies are known as the fleas and  are more than 300 million light years away.  There are many fainter galaxies in the field.  Some of them aren’t shown on the chart (below).  The group was imaged at Transit Dreams Observatory on October 20, 2017.  Capture data is below.

 

Object: NGC 7331 (Deerlick Group)
Constellation: Pegasus
Telescope: ES127mm F7.5 APO Refractor
Mount: Paramount MX+
Camera: ATIK One 6.0
Filters: Astronomik Luminance
Guide Scope: OAG
Guide Camera: SBIG STi
Total Integration: 2 hrs. 10 min.
Image Capture: SkyX camera addon
Guiding: SkyX
Stacking/calibration: Maxdl/SkyX
Post Processing:Photoshop CS5

Comet C/2017 O1 (ASASSN1)- motion video

 

Here is a video created with the (40) 90 second images stacked into the image shown in the previous post.  The comet was moving at 2.8 arc sec/min as it passes its closest point to Earth.

C/2017 O1 (ASASSN1)

Comet C/2017 O1 (ASASSN1)  reached perihelion on October 14th, and be closest to Earth on October 18th (today), at a distance of about 75 million miles.  The image above was captured and measured on October 17th, and consists of (40) 90 second exposures stacked on the comet in Astrometrica.  The details are below.

Object:C/2017 O1 (ASASSN1)
Constellation: Camelopardalis
Telescope: ES127mm F7.5 APO Refractor
Mount: Paramount MX+
Camera: ATIK One 6.0
Filters: Astromiincs Luminance
Guide Scope: None
Guide Camera: None
Total Integration: 60 min.
Image Capture: SkyX camera addon
Guiding: None
Stacking/calibration: Astrometrica
Post Processing:None

NGC 7635 (Bubble Nebula)

 

The Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635) is an emission nebula in Cassiopeia. It is about 10 light years across and lie about 8000 light years distant. It was formed from a Wolf-Rayet star who’s stellar wind created the bubble shape.

 

The image above was captured using a 7nm Hydrogen-Alpha filter. The red is false color created from Carboni’s tools in Photoshop. The image details are below.

Object: NGC 7635 (Bubble Nebula)
Constellation: Cassiopeia
Telescope: ES127mm F7.5 APO Refractor
Mount: Paramount MX+
Camera: ATIK One 6.0
Filters: Orion 7nm Ha
Guide Scope: OAG
Guide Camera: SBIG STi
Total Integration: 3.5 hrs.
Image Capture: SkyX camera addon
Guiding: SkyX
Stacking/calibration: DSS/SkyX
Post Processing:Photoshop CS5

LDN 1369

I haven’t had much time for pretty pictures, with the inhospitable summer weather, and my focus on the asteroids. I wanted to share something I started working on at the beginning of this year, but haven’t had the time to collect more data.

This is one of Lynd’s Dark Nebula from his catalog. I was scanning my SkyX software looking for appropriate targets for my setup when I came across this beauty. Later on I discovered it’s actually the central core of the Heart Nebula in Cepheus (IC1805).

This is a very noisy image because I’ve only collected about 1 hours data on it, but I don’t know when/if I’ll have the opportunity to collect any more, and I wanted to share it with you. It was captured using my ccd camera on the 127mm refractor, using a 7nm Ha filter from Orion. The red colorization was added in the post processing using Photoshop.

I hope to one day add more Ha data, and add some RGB to bring out the star colors. I hope you enjoy it.

Total Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017

HDR Image of the eclipsed Sun.  Regulus is to the left of the Sun.

This image of the “Diamond Ring” was affected by the high cirrus clouds

This image shows the solar prominences that were visible naked eye.

The eclipse I witnessed on March 7, 1970 was an exciting event, with the moon covering 99% of the Sun.  It was one of my life experiences that cemented my love for Astronomy. As a 12 year old, I constructed my first astronomical instrument, a pin hole box, to watch the moons shadow cross in front of the Sun.

Since that day, long ago, I hoped, one day, to be under the shadow of totality. On August 21st that hope became a reality.  The Total Solar Eclipse on August 21st was an awe inspiring event.  In anticipation of the eclipse I watched several youtube videos to experience the reactions of others who had viewed totality.  I couldn’t help but tear up watching the videos as the excitement grew in me.  I was not disappointed.

My home in South Carolina is only 5 minutes outside the path of totality, but the inconsistent summer weather here made me rethink my plans.  When the Astronomical League decide to have their annual conference the weekend before the event, in Casper Wyoming, a place almost guaranteed to have clear weather, the choice was clear.  I signed up for the conference and secured my room reservation more than two years before the eclipse.

It would be unfair to leave my non-astronomy wife home while I took my first cross country trip, so we incorporated our eclipse plans into a month long cross country trip.  It would be our first, and we planned to visit friends, family, places of interest for my wife, as well as the eclipse, conference, and visits to some of the National Parks that would be of interest to us both.

I made plans to attempt to image the eclipse, practiced them, and modified them right up to the day before we left on vacation.  My wife, an expert at vacation planning, took care of our day to day travel and visiting plans before and after the eclipse.

I wanted to image the eclipse without having to get so involved with the equipment that I would miss out on the visual experience. I decided I would use one of my computerized imaging programs, Backyard EOS, to run my DSLR, so my only involvement would be to remove the filter, push the button to start the imaging, and remember to replace the filter after totality.  The BYEOS program would take about 4 seconds to download each image, limiting the number of images I could capture.  But to me, the imaging was a secondary goal.

Along with the DSLR and BYEOS, I used my Ioptron  ZEQ25gt mount, with my Stellarvue 60mm APO doublet to capture the images.  The program was setup to capture frames from 1/2000 of a second to one second, and back up during the 2 minutes and 27 seconds of totality.  I made several practice runs to time out the sequence with the length of totality.

On the day before the eclipse, in the hotel parking lot, I practiced my customized method of daytime alignment to make sure everything was good to go.  My method included a wooden dovetail, compass, and info on the magnetic deviation for Casper Wyoming.  Because the metal mount would cause havoc with the compass, the wooden dovetail extended about a foot behind the mount, where I could get an accurate reading.  Along with my gps app, I was able to get very close to the pole.  I did a solar system alignment on the Sun with the ZEQ25, and the Sun’s image was in the finder.  I then adjusted the mount manually to center the Sun and finish the alignment.  This worked perfectly, as the mount tracked for over two hours with the Sun only moving half its diameter on the cmos chip of the DSLR.

The viewing location for the eclipse was setup by the Astro League for all the attendees in agreement with Casper College, which was about 5 miles south of town, and very close to the center line.  Because of the huge number of people that came to Casper for the conference and the eclipse, we started to head out early, in case we got caught in traffic.  We left the hotel at 5:30 a.m. to beat traffic and there wasn’t a soul on the road.  We found a great place on the grass between the parking lot and the road, and setup the equipment.

Then, Murphy’s law took over.  I went through my process to align, but when I went to do a solar system alignment, the Sun wouldn’t appear in the list.  I checked everything, including the time zone, DST, etc., but couldn’t get the Sun to appear in the routine.  I ended up just doing a goto to the Sun and then adjusted the mount manually to center the Sun.  I didn’t know if this would work, but it worked well enough that I only had to re-center the Sun on the chip every 15-20 minutes.  The only explanation I could figure out for the problem was the proximity of the high tension wires overhead.  Perhaps electrical interference played havoc with the built in GPS on the mount. 

Whatever it was, I was able to overcome it, and got some decent images in the end.  The only other imaging issue was the high cirrus clouds that moved in as totality approached.  You can see in the images some of the haze and gradient issues I had while trying to process them.  This was my first attempt at processing solar eclipse images, so I’m content with the results I was able to achieve.

Visually viewing the eclipse was one of the most inspiring astronomical events in my lifetime!  After starting the imaging program, I looked up to see the brilliant diamond ring as the moon swallowed up the last of the sunlight.  I described it as a 1000 watt light bulb shining on a diamond.  This was followed by the amazing clarity and detail in the corona, with brilliant extended streamers on both sides.  The corona, shaped by the Sun’s magnetic field stretched for multiple radii.  It was exactly the shape predicted by NASA and depicted in one of the talks By Fred Espenak at the conference. I noticed Venus to the west of the Sun and picked up the binoculars to look for Regulus, which I found just to the east of the Sun.  After putting down the binoculars I returned my gaze to the Sun and picked up the bright pink bumps of prominences at 12, 2, and 3 O’clock on the Sun’s limb.  These were surprisingly easy to see.

As the Sun’s light returned, I stated out loudly, like many before me, “When is the next one!”

Clearing Skies and Fast Asteroids

It’s been a good week for Transit Dream’s Asteroid astrometry program. A few days of reasonable weather has allowed me to dive back into imaging some of these solar system wanderers. My goal is to capture NEA’s that pass close to Earth with the future potential of impact. By refining the orbits of these asteroids, research scientists can extrapolate their orbits into the future, with greater and greater accuracy.

Many of these asteroids are small and dim. They only become visible, to even the large survey telescopes, when their orbits bring them in close to Earth. So followup obsevrations by amateurs are critical to obtain enough measurements to extrapolate the path of these asteroids, as their orbits take them photographically out of reach.

Right now, the work I can do is limited by the small aperture of my scope. I cannot always get reliable measurements of those dim asteroids due to their rate of motion, and the short exposures required to freeze that motion for accurate measurements. So, my focus right now is to image asteroids that are brighter, and whose orbits could use some refinement. I’m also getting involved with the “Target Asteroid” program, which is surveying some of the more interesting asteroids as potential future mission targets, like the Osiris-Rex program that has a spacecraft heading toward the asteroid Bennu now.

(Asteroid 138925: (20) x 30 seconds stacked on the asteroid.  The fuzzy oval is NGC 6926)

I was finally able to capture one of the fast moving asteroids that had eluded me for a while. Asteroid (138925), a main belt asteroid, is the fastest asteroid captured by Transit Dreams Observatory, to date. It’s currently crossing the sky at nearly 14 arc seconds per minute. I caught it last week, but my exposures were too long, creating a streak on the stacked images, instead of pinpoints. Those streaks created large residuals in the measurements of its position, making them unsuitable for submission to the MPC.

This past week I was able to finally get accurate measurements by shortening the exposures and increasing the number of exposures stacked. Listed below with the packed designation of D8925, are the measurements. The exposures were shortened to 30 seconds and 3 groups of 20 stacked images were combined, using the “Track and Stack” technique in Astrometrica. I was also aided by its increased brightness to magnitude 13.2. 

In all 18 asteroids, and 8 comets were imaged and measured this past week.

 

COD W33
CON Transit Dreams Observatory
OBS D. Wilde
MEA D. Wilde
TEL 127mm F7.5 APO Refractor + CCD
ACK MPCReport file
NET UCAC-4
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.36131 02 44 18.00 -08 12 57.4 14.4 N W33
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.37129 02 44 18.91 -08 12 44.6 14.5 N W33
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.37880 02 44 19.70 -08 12 35.8 14.5 N W33
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.38783 02 44 20.53 -08 12 24.6 14.4 N W33
CK17O010 C2017 07 26.35808 02 44 17.70 -08 13 01.0 14.6 N W33
CK17O010 C2017 07 26.38664 02 44 20.43 -08 12 26.3 14.9 N W33

J0166 C2017 07 27.14753 19 38 34.22 +11 24 18.3 13.9 R W33
J0166 C2017 07 27.17950 19 38 42.08 +11 23 38.7 14.0 R W33

CK17O010 C2017 07 31.31898 02 52 19.19 -06 27 12.2 13.9 N W33
CK17O010 C2017 07 31.32752 02 52 20.05 -06 27 01.4 13.7 N W33
CK17O010 C2017 07 31.33671 02 52 20.92 -06 26 49.1 13.5 N W33
00169 KC2017 07 31.23045 21 49 04.28 -20 23 14.1 11.4 R W33
00169 KC2017 07 31.24269 21 49 03.63 -20 23 15.8 11.4 R W33
00169 KC2017 07 31.25535 21 49 02.92 -20 23 17.5 11.2 R W33
00447 KC2017 07 31.23045 21 49 38.47 -20 08 42.7 12.7 R W33
00447 KC2017 07 31.24269 21 49 37.93 -20 08 46.5 12.7 R W33
00447 KC2017 07 31.25535 21 49 37.36 -20 08 50.2 12.6 R W33
06053 KC2017 07 31.23432 23 24 11.87 -01 36 17.1 14.1 R W33
06053 KC2017 07 31.24684 23 24 12.32 -01 35 31.2 14.0 R W33
06053 KC2017 07 31.25969 23 24 12.76 -01 34 44.3 14.0 R W33
90075 KC2017 07 31.23840 23 54 03.17 +43 08 12.6 15.1 R W33
90075 KC2017 07 31.25105 23 54 01.54 +43 07 47.4 15.1 R W33
90075 KC2017 07 31.26368 23 53 59.90 +43 07 21.9 15.0 R W33
D8925 KC2017 07 31.27889 20 33 30.96 -01 51 58.9 13.2 R W33
D8925 KC2017 07 31.29482 20 33 23.78 -01 56 59.3 13.2 R W33
D8925 KC2017 07 31.31065 20 33 16.68 -02 01 58.2 13.2 R W33

CK15O010 KC2017 08 01.14356 16 41 52.72 +23 30 03.6 14.3 N W33
CK15O010 KC2017 08 01.15556 16 41 51.74 +23 30 02.9 14.2 N W33
CK15O010 KC2017 08 01.16757 16 41 50.84 +23 30 00.9 14.2 N W33
CK15V62L KC2017 08 01.18372 22 46 07.04 +11 46 42.4 14.4 N W33
CK15V62L KC2017 08 01.19579 22 46 04.62 +11 46 31.6 14.3 N W33
CK15V62L KC2017 08 01.20785 22 46 02.26 +11 46 20.4 14.3 N W33
CK16M010 KC2017 08 01.15159 17 21 09.96 +47 18 15.8 15.8 N W33
CK16M010 KC2017 08 01.16357 17 21 09.24 +47 18 04.6 15.3 N W33
CK16M010 KC2017 08 01.17560 17 21 08.61 +47 17 54.6 15.3 N W33
CK16N040 KC2017 08 01.18772 00 35 06.79 +54 58 42.6 15.7 N W33
CK16N040 KC2017 08 01.19985 00 35 06.17 +54 59 01.6 15.5 N W33
CK16N040 KC2017 08 01.21188 00 35 05.58 +54 59 20.4 15.6 N W33
CK16N060 KC2017 08 01.14758 15 19 39.70 +58 37 03.5 15.7 N W33
CK16N060 KC2017 08 01.15953 15 19 38.75 +58 36 57.0 15.8 N W33
CK16N060 KC2017 08 01.17157 15 19 37.74 +58 36 50.8 15.7 N W33
00024 C2017 08 01.22061 01 57 09.84 +11 38 41.4 12.6 R W33
00024 C2017 08 01.22853 01 57 10.03 +11 38 42.4 12.4 R W33
00024 C2017 08 01.24027 01 57 10.41 +11 38 44.4 12.5 R W33
00081 C2017 08 01.09547 15 50 12.82 -29 19 50.4 13.8 R W33
00081 C2017 08 01.11226 15 50 12.97 -29 19 48.3 13.9 R W33
00094 C2017 08 01.09547 15 49 07.90 -29 19 52.6 12.8 R W33
00094 C2017 08 01.11226 15 49 08.10 -29 19 51.0 12.8 R W33
0029P KC2017 08 01.17977 21 27 47.94 -13 47 35.1 14.7 N W33
0029P KC2017 08 01.19178 21 27 47.59 -13 47 36.1 14.7 N W33
0029P KC2017 08 01.20387 21 27 47.24 -13 47 36.9 14.7 N W33
00972 KC2017 08 01.21606 02 35 47.37 +24 31 48.4 13.8 R W33
00972 KC2017 08 01.22524 02 35 48.10 +24 31 52.8 13.7 R W33
00972 KC2017 08 01.23443 02 35 48.85 +24 31 57.3 13.7 R W33
02329 C2017 08 01.09093 13 18 01.28 +25 44 55.2 15.8 R W33
02329 C2017 08 01.10706 13 18 03.06 +25 44 43.6 15.7 R W33
11398 KC2017 08 01.12514 17 43 31.02 -00 35 01.4 16.1 R W33
11398 KC2017 08 01.13878 17 43 32.43 -00 35 41.4 16.3 R W33
81061 KC2017 08 01.17977 21 27 01.94 -14 00 11.7 17.5 R W33
81061 KC2017 08 01.20387 21 27 00.71 -14 00 17.9 17.6 R W33
D4702 KC2017 08 01.17977 21 28 34.08 -13 35 52.8 17.7 R W33
D4702 KC2017 08 01.19178 21 28 33.45 -13 35 53.4 18.6 R W33
D4702 KC2017 08 01.20387 21 28 32.68 -13 35 54.2 17.5 R W33
D8846 KC2017 08 01.12060 17 34 24.59 -09 49 17.0 17.0 R W33
D8846 KC2017 08 01.13416 17 34 25.20 -09 49 11.5 17.5 R W33
00558 C2017 08 01.32352 02 43 30.77 +08 05 54.1 13.9 R W33
00558 C2017 08 01.34782 02 43 32.02 +08 05 55.4 14.0 R W33
00558 C2017 08 01.37228 02 43 33.32 +08 05 56.6 13.9 R W33
04163 C2017 08 01.33293 02 43 47.74 +04 12 46.7 17.7 R W33
04163 C2017 08 01.35738 02 43 48.90 +04 12 46.3 16.8 R W33
04163 C2017 08 01.38178 02 43 49.99 +04 12 45.8 17.4 R W33
26852 C2017 08 01.31878 02 45 09.68 +09 56 41.7 17.7 R W33
26852 C2017 08 01.36748 02 45 13.45 +09 57 12.3 17.5 R W33
—– end —–

Young Imagers at Roper Mountain Astronomers

One of the best parts of the hobby of Astronomy is spending time with others who share your interests. In addition to imaging from Transit Dreams Observatory, when the weather permits, I am also a member of two local Astronomy clubs.  The Roper Mountain Astronomers, and the Astronomy club of Asheville.  On occasion we get the opportunity to observe the night sky from some nice dark areas, away from the light pollution.  I had one of those opportunities this past weekend with friends from the RMA.

Our vice-president Mike F. found a great spot in the Sumter National Forest in South Carolina.  With the permission of the rangers we set up at a nice spot on Lake Sedalia, overlooking the summer constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius.  Our normal observing spot has a light dome to the south, from a major city, so this was a real treat.  To celebrate, I brought out “Caroline”, my 15″ dob.  She hadn’t been out for a while, so I figured I could hunt down a bunch of globulars to finish up my  Globular Cluster program from the Astronomical League.

A couple of young imagers I’d been harassing, er. , I mean advising, were in attendance with their DSLR’s and tripods to image the wide breadth of the summer Milky Way.  I’d thought about bringing a camera myself, but I wanted to rekindle the fire of my first love, visual observing.

I was amazed at the spectacular images they captured that night and had to share a couple of them with you here.  My wife even commented “They’re better than yours” when I showed them to her.

So, without further ado………….

What is amazing to me about this image, captured by Fleet B., is the clarity of the reversed reflections of Scorpius and Sagittarius in the water.  The thin clouds give an eerie nebulous feel to the composition of the image.

 

The image below, captured by James C., is the classic Milky Way shot as it stands tall in the southern summer sky.  Again the stars of Scorpius and Sagittarius shine against the perfectly still waters of Lake Sedalia.  As I added this image to the post the visual effect of the Milky Way struck me!  “A giant rainbow trout poised to dive head first into the lake.”

These  images reveal the hard work, skill, and perseverance of these two budding astro-imagers.