M103 and M1, the addiction renewed

M1, the Crab Nebula.  M103, the Christmas Tree Cluster.  Two of my favorite objects.  I’ve imaged the M103 cluster several times before but it remains one of my favorites.  The obvious grouping of this open cluster gives it a triangular shape and the varied color remind many Westerners of a Christmas Tree.   Given that it reaches its highest point in the winter months that naming is fairly obvious.


The Crab Nebula is an object that has eluded me for many years.  The star exploded about 7,500 years ago but we only saw the light in 1054 AD as recorded by Chinese astronomers.  Capturing the excited Hydrogen ribbons running through the gas cloud has always been difficult for me but I finally got it with 5 hours of data on a nearly perfect night in the middle of the work week.  Thank goodness for automagically guiding telescopes and mounts that don’t need constant tinkering!


M103 taken October 10, 2015.  32 frames of 5 minutes.

M1 taken October 13, 2015.  150 frames of 2 minutes.

Both with a Celestron EdgeHD 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain, Celestron 0.7x focal reducer, Orion StarShoot Pro v2 CCD camera, Hutech IDAS-LPS light pollution filter.




LED Light Pollution begins its slow Intrusion

Cities are the bane of the amateur astronomer.  Light pollution continues to grow at an astonishing rate as our cities increase in size and population.  That doesn’t mean astronomy is impossible, just more challenging.  The use of filters designed specifically to quench low pressure sodium and mercury vapor lights has gone a long way.  Enjoy the days of these ionized lamp because they are coming to an end.   I’ve begun to see the impact of LED lighting in my own back yard.  These next few years will likely be the last I’ll be able to capture nebulae from inside the city so I better enjoy it while I can.



A Dumbbell at last

Finally got some good data on M27 after years of missed attempts.  I collected this data from the back yard in Allen, TX.  Camera was a Canon T2i with the IR cut filter removed and a custom white balance on a Celestron EdgeHD 8″ guided with a Meade DSI Pro in an Orion MiniGuider.  86 Subexposures of 90 seconds each.



First of several

While I was setting up last night I pointed at the moon to see what it looked like through the EdgeHD 8 on the T2i.  Backyard EOS has a planetary mode so I cranked that up and did a couple of quick series.  Aligned and stacked with Registax this afternoon and this is the result of a two panel mosaic.  I *WILL* be doing this again!



First solar image from home made white light filter.

Two panel mosaic of Lunar sufrace on 2014-01-11 Celestron Edge HD 8 Celestron Advanced VX Canon T2i Two sets of 400 frames stacked in Registax and combined in Photoshop. Easy, breesey, lemon squeezey!

Two panel mosaic of Lunar sufrace on 2014-01-11
Celestron Edge HD 8
Celestron Advanced VX
Canon T2i
Two sets of 400 frames stacked in Registax and combined in Photoshop. Easy, breesey, lemon squeezey!


M42/M43 – Its that time of year again

Its the end of the calendar year and Orion is high in the sky at a reasonably early hour for urban astronomy.  It clears the house around 9:00 so with sunset at 6:30 or so, you can have your high accuracy drift alignment completed by the time Orion is visible over the houses.  I took advantage of a very calm, very clear night and collected some 1,300 year old photons for your viewing pleasure.  In the end there will be a total of approximately 180 frames in five different lengths.  Five seconds, ten, 25, 45, and 60 seconds.  Exposures longer than 60 seconds were completely washed out with wide, flat histograms which suggests large areas that are over exposed.  It looks like each iteration of stacking will take about fourty-five minutes to an hour on my six-core computer so processing time will be a bit long on this one.  Cursory inspection of the first few raw frames showed some significant dust motes so I won’t pretend to get Hubble quality images out of this but I’ll do the best I can.

Messier 2, 2013-07-05

Messier 2 taken on 5 July 2013 from Copper Breaks State Park outside of Vernon, Texas.  Shot with a Celestron Edge HD 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain mounted on a Celestron Advanced VX.
60 subframes of 60 seconds unguided

M2 2013-07-05 Copper Breaks State Park, Texas

Messier 2 from Copper Breaks State Park outside of Vernon, TX.


First Light!

Celestron Advanced VX, Edge HD 8.  Canon 20D guided by a Meade DSI Pro in an Orion 50mm mini guidescope.  No flats, no LPR filter (dang it!).  Basically no processing.


M27 First Light of the EdgeHD 8

Through the Soup: Messier 27 on a humid night over a brightly lit city


M27 on 2013-06-18

M27 on 2013-06-18

Messier 27, the Dumbbell Nebula, taken from suburban Dallas on a night with 80% – 90% humidity with the object in the light dome of a massive shopping complex just a mile away.  Yes, you can practice astrophotography in the city!  This image was built from 41 minutes worth of 60 second sub-exposures stacked one on top of the other with some other frames to subtract various forms of noise.

At an average estimated distance of 1,250 light years this planetary nebula is relatively close.  Several thousand years ago the parent start ejected its coronal mass and collapsed into the white dwarf in the center of the nebula.  This is the same fate our star will have some 6 billion years from now.  M27 has a visual brightness of magnitude 7.4 which makes it visible as a grey hourglass shape in small (80mm refractors, 114mm reflectors) telescopes at moderate magnifications.  The central star itself does not emit very much visible light so what we’re seeing is gasses that are excited by infrared or x-ray radiation.  Hydrogen Alpha glows red and doubly ionized Oxygen (O-III) glows green.  These colors aren’t detectable by the human eye but through the magic of technology we can pull that color out.