Into the breach once more . . .

Leo Triplet - 2011-02-12 - Tim Schuh

Leo Triplet from Allen, TX 2011-02-12

After several long months of fighting colds/flu and cruddy weather, lack of motivation from having to collimate my scope once more finally got the better of me.  A quick and dirty process of some quick and dirty data on a night with a half moon high in the sky.  Shot from the Dallas-area suburb of Allen under clear, cold and less than 50% humid skies. Envisage kept crapping out on me so I fired up PHD Guiding which of course worked perfectly.  Once more hats off to Craig Stark for volunteering his time and effort to make our lives easier in providing an excellent autoguiding package free of charge.  Check his software out and support him if you haven’t already.


  • Meade LXD75 – SN6
  • Canon 300D (unmodified)
  • StarBlast 4.5″ Newt + Meade DSI on guide duty

What a difference a (few) years make

I was digging through some old data and thought I might reprocess my M13 data from three years ago.  Man, what a difference!  Some of it is software, some of it is technique, some of it is experience.

The old M13 on the left, the reprocessed data on the right:

The Manger

M44, a long time coming but worth the wait.

Messier 44, The Beehive Cluster, Praesepe.  This is one really large object.  It is 95 arc minutes (a bit more than 1.5 degrees) in angular size.  It’s big enough that it won’t fit in a single frame on my Canon 300D with my f/5 Schmidt-Newtonian scope.  That officially makes M44’s dimensions Big by Large!  Located about 545 light years from home, M44 is a relatively close open cluster of stars and one of the closest stellar objects.  It is large enough and bright enough that in a relatively dark sky it is easily discernible with the naked eye and is spectacular through binoculars.

M44 through a Celestron Powerseeker 4.5 with eyepiece projection on a Meade 4000 series 26mm Plossl

My first image of a DSO from May 2006

Personally I have a warm fuzzy spot for M44.  Many years ago when I first started picking up astronomy magazines I looked through the charts, read the articles and saw that Saturn was traversing M44 which made it very easy to find in suburban skies.  It was the first deep sky object I looked at through my department store telescope and I was instantly hooked.  It was also the first image I took of a DSO with my point-and-shoot digital camera clamped to my eyepiece in the same department store telescope.   Now, years later, I finally snapped another image of an old favorite.

Betelguese, Betelguese, Betelguese!

Single exposure shot in jpeg. Unguided 60 second exposure with Meade LXD75 SN6.  Canon Digital Rebel (300D) ISO 1600.  Diffraction spikes made with gaffers tape across the front of the scope.  I shot this as a focus test shot at the local dark sky site at the LBJ Grasslands near Decatur, TX last night.  Some fool forgot his Bathinov masks and had to use gaffers tape to make diffraction spikes for focusing.  I thought this might help some others and for this kind of target I think diff spikes can look pretty cool.

First image of 2010

M42/43 from 2008-12-30 and 2010-1-11 data sets

M42/43 and NGC 1977

I took this image of M42/M42/NGC1977 on January 12th after re-remembering how to accurately align a mount that isn’t permanently installed.  I took about an hour and a half of subs with several having to be rejected for one reason or another.  I still am having a problem with my serial shutter cable which I may repair and I may just replace with a commercial offering.  I’m still undecided.  Regardless this image represents just under an hour of exposure, 115-ish exposures of 30 seconds each.  It was stacked with DeepSkyStacker and edited with The Gimp.  I probably should pull this into PixInsight and preserve as much data as I can but I’ll reprocess the data at a later date.  I was pleased as punch just to be out under the stars and collecting ancient photons again.

M42 from last year

M42 taken December 2008 from Dallas, TX.  While the local skies aren’t the worst I’ve seen in a city they’re still far from perfect.  The large population of high pressure sodium and mercury lamps from city streets and local shops floods out most of the stars.  M42 is only visible with the naked eye on the best of nights, about twice a year.