Messier 51 – Whirlpool Galaxy

Shot through massive light pollution over staggeringly huge The Village At Fairview outdoor mall complex.

This started as an add-on session to my first attempt at narrowband imaging and turned out much better than I hoped for.  Of course this would be much more grand out in the country but that’s not what this site is really about.  It’s more focused on what I can accomplish from my back yard.


Messier 51 – The Whirlpool Galaxy

Depending on who did the study and when, estimates for distance vary widely from 15 million light years to 35 million light years.  These two galaxies are gravitationally interacting which is a highly science nerdy way of saying “crashing into each other)”.  Galactic collisions aren’t collisions at all, really.   There’s so much empty space between stars in the systems that it is highly unlikely that any of the stars in either galaxy will actually collide.  The law of averages says that some will but the percentage is beyond miniscule.

52 images of 5 minutes each.

Telescope: Celestron EdgeHD 8″ + 0.7x Focal Reducer
Camera: QHY 8L Cooled CCD @ -15C
Mount: iOptron CEM60

Getting on the Narrowband wagon – Horsehead Nebula

Barnard 33 – The Horsehead Nebula in Orion

If you find Orion’s belt, the eastern most star is Alnitak.  Just a bit South and West from that star is this region, cataloged by Edward Emerson Barnard in 1919 in his book of dark nebulae.  This cloud of dust is #33 on his list so we refer to it as Barnard 33.  Colloquially we know this as the Horsehead Nebula thanks to its shape reminding most people of the western world of our equine companions.

Light pollution being what it is and with LED lighting becoming more commonplace, I’m now beginning to feel that only narrowband imaging will be practical from the back yard.  Narrowband images look at very specific frequencies of light.  Not just Red, Green or Blue.  Narrowband typically focuses on frequencies emitted by Hydrogen, Oxygen and Sulphur.  The first ionization of Hydrogen (H-alpha), the third ionization of Oxygen (O-III), and the second ionization of Sulphur (S-II).  Why the change in nomenclature?  No idea, ask the smart guys that came up with the “standard” some time after the discovery of ionization states by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869.

This image was taken in worst possible case scenarios.  Not intentionally but I did know what I was getting into.   I’m filtering at least 99% of all light by looking at a very narrow band of frequencies around 656nm wavelength +/- 3.5nm.  My filter has a 7nm bandpass, thus the +/- 3.5nm metric.  This frequency of light is specific to Hydrogen-Alpha (H-a) and pretty much nothing else.  Exposure times for light that tightly filtered is ridiculously long.  Each of the 52 frames used to composite this image are 10 minutes long.  That’s 8.6 hours which had to be done over three nights.  I must wait for the sun to be well and fully down and not influencing the sky so I was trying to get started at 8:00pm.  That never happened, mechanical things being finicky always slows down the start up process.  Barnard 33 disappeared behind our roof at about 1:00am.  On the best nights I got started by 9:00pm so I could get no more than 3-4 hours per night if everything went to plan.  Plans being what they are, that was never followed.

Filter: Baader Planetarium 7nm Hydrogen-Alpha
Camera: QHY8L binned down 2×2
Telescope: Celestron EdgeHD 8″ + 0.7x Focal Reducer
Guide Scope: Orion Mini Guider Deluxe
Guide Camera: ZWO ASI120MM-S
Exposure: 52 x 10 minutes

Playing Catch-Up

A few weeks ago my neighbor was commenting that he hadn’t seen anything new on my site for a while.  Sadly, I’ve mostly been posting to astrophotography forums on Facebook and completely neglecting what I deem my primary personal repository for higher quality images.  So here goes.

Messier 103 November 23, 2016 from Allen, TX

Messier 103 November 23, 2016 from Allen, TX

Messier 45 - Pleiades Allen, TX Nov 19 and 20, 2016

Messier 45 – Pleiades
Allen, TX Nov 19 and 20, 2016

Messier 27 - Dumbell Nebula August 3, 2016

Messier 27 – Dumbell Nebula
August 3, 2016

Our nearest galactic neighbor

I never thought I’d be able to pull this out of the soup we call urban light pollution but I did manage it.   There was significant effort put into it and I know there is much more detail that could be gathered but this is what I’ve got.  A touch over 5 hours of data collected on two nights while M31 was near zenith and well before sunrise.  Taken with the aid of Sequence Generator Pro automation software, PHD2 autoguiding, DeepSkyStacker, Nebulosity 4, and a little GIMP thrown in for good measure.  This is probably a decent way to contribute to my addiction.


Taken on my Celestron Advanced VX + EdgeHD 8″.  Camera is a QHY 8L running at -15C.

105 subexposures of 180 seconds

Taken from my back yard in Allen, Texas.



M42/M43, then and now

A friend of mine, Kush, has recently discovered the addiction know as astrophotography.   He posted a picture of M42/M43 that made me think of my first images of that target and how I’ve progressed since then.   Here we go!


Circa 2004:

Meade SN6

Meade DSI Pro (Mono camera, LRGB filters)



Dec 30, 2008:
Meade SN6

Canon EOS Rebel (300D)



Jan 20, 2013

Meade SN6

Canon 20D (I think)

The Great Orion Nebula


Dec 16, 2016

Celestron EdgeHD8 (0.7x Focal Reducer)

Orion StarShoot Pro CCD (Color)


M13 – Hercules Cluster

Short and sweet while waiting for M27 to transit.



14 x 2min

EdgeHD 8″


0.7x Focal Reducer

Hutech IDAS-LPS light pollution filter (with diminishing returns now that wideband LED street lamps are becoming popular)

Messier 27 – some good data FINALLY!

FINALLY got some good data on the Dumbell Nebula (Messier 27). The last few days have been clear and calm-ish but at night it has still been pretty turbulent. I intended to just knock the cobwebs out since I haven’t been able to use the scope for a few months and the first few nights were exactly that. Setup was straight forward, do some ancient photon collection, take the glass and silicon inside in the morning. Wash, rinse, repeat. Last night I was going to take the whole thing down and get a good night’s sleep but it was close to calm all day so I held off until after sunset to check conditions. I’ve seen better but it has generally been much, much worse. Throwing caution to the wind I set the glass back out on the mount, wasted time until my target got where I wanted it and set the software in motion. I knew it could run all night so I turned in. I checked the data this morning and I was very excited about the quality I was seeing. This is the result of 4 hours of exposure time and several pieces of very clever software.




Celestron Advanced VX
Celestron EdgeHD 8″

QHY 8L cooled CCD @ -15C
Hutech IDAS-LPR light pollution filter

48 subframes of 5 minutes

M57 revisited

I tend to not enjoy going out in the summer thanks to the mass of biting insects, hot and sweaty conditions and a multitude of other things.  Unfortunately some of my favorite objects are out in the summer months.   M57 is one of them.   Easily seen in modest telescopes this small but bright nebula really sparkles in the northern summer sky.