First try at the Horsehead Nebula

shot of horsehead nebula - horsehead-red-a
The Horsehead Nebula in Orion, just Northwest of the Orion Nebula, at the lower end of the belt.  Stack of 22 15-sec exposures at ISO 3200

The Horsehead Nebula is a difficult object for purely visual observation, and I have never managed to actually see it.  But amateur astronomy has advanced tremendously over the 30 years since my first telescope, especially astrophotography.  This photo only shows the faintest blurry image of the Horsehead, but, as you can verify from the screenshot below, it’s the real deal!

Below is a view from Stellarium (free planetarium software) of the same area.  I’ve rotated and scaled the image to match the photo.

Interestingly, an inch or so to the left of the star Alnitak below is another fairly bright orange star.  It is much dimmer in the photograph above than in the graphic below.  It is, in fact, the variable star V1197 Ori.  Apparently I caught it on a lower brightness phase.

screenshot of stellarium view of horsehead - horse-stell-1-a

Another shot of the Orion Nebula

Original color image — 15 second exposure at ISO 3200, 61mm Radian Raptor telescope, motorized mount, and an Olympus 4/3 camera:

Orion Nebula - kc-em100164a-
2021-02-06
Photo of the Orion Nebula - kc-em100164b-
2021-02-06 — same image cropped a bit more, and converted to B&W — shows the detail a bit better, I think.

The typical weather pattern lately has been very clear days with clouds rolling in at night.  I was going to take a bunch of 15 second exposures and try stacking them, but I only got 4 before the view was obliterated.  I may try stacking them later, just to see if there is any improvement, but no matter — this is pretty good for a 15 second exposure with a very small telescope.

The Great Conjunction of 2020

I have a little telescope:

Celestron 5 inch telescope

As astronomical telescopes go, it’s pretty small: a Celestron NexStar 5 SE.  If the seeing is extremely good, I can see the rings of Saturn with it.  Unfortunately, where I live the seeing is almost never very good.  I tried my best to get pictures of Jupiter and Saturn as they danced close to each other.

Jupiter and Saturn on Dec 18 - kc-pc186049a
December 18
kc-pc196328a - Jupiter and Saturn on Dec 19
December 19
pc206338a December 20
December 20 was the night with the best seeing; through the eyepiece I could see the rings clearly, but I couldn’t capture it on camera.
pc206337a Jupiter and Saturn Dec 20
December 20.  If I try hard, I can imagine that there is a hint of banding in the disk of Jupiter…

December 21 was the night of closest approach.  Unfortunately the air wasn’t very clear; drifting clouds sometimes blocked the view entirely.

em130198a A regular camera with a telephoto lens.
Dec 21 — a photo taken with my regular camera and a telephoto lens.
pc210005b - Dec 21
Dec 21 Through the telescope, again.

On December 22 I tried again:

pc220027a Dec 22, now drifting apart
Final image — they are drifting apart.

In passing I sometimes tried to get pictures of the Andromeda Galaxy, but I had difficulty with the targeting:

Off-center photo of the Andromeda Galaxy - pc186052a
Andromeda Galaxy in the upper left. The telescope really isn’t set up for long exposure deep sky images…

A discernible shape?

mars
This is the much enlarged image of Mars

In my previous post I said that Mars actually appeared as a tiny sphere.  Here is a much enlarged portion of that image — it’s not much to look at, but I’m tickled that it doesn’t appear to just be a diffraction pattern from a point source of light…

Moon and Mars

In the original, if you zoom in so that pixels are individual squares, Mars actually is a discernible sphere.

kc-em130121a-
Lower left, needing no introduction, is the Moon. Upper right, in the far far distance, is Mars

Farewell dear comet

kc-em130087a-.jpg
Retreating into the far reaches

Olympus EM I Mark III, 150mm lens, f/2.8, 20s, ISO1600.  Slight greenish tint, as has been noted by others.

Yesterday was the first time it was visible, after three days of bright clear days followed by early evening overcast.

There are many thousands of photos of this comet, most of them better than this.  It’s a personal momento.

NEOWISE

kc-em130034a-.jpg
Comet NEOWISE

Olympus EM 1-3; 40mm F2.8 for 2 seconds.  ISO 3200.  I was sitting down, with the camera on my lap.  If weather permits I will try again tonight with a bigger lens and a tripod…

The final frontier?

Orion

If we establish a permanent human presence off the shoulder of Orion we will necessarily take an ecosystem with us.  It won’t be humanity colonizing space, it will be Earth’s biosphere colonizing space. Life, in general, has an intrinsic property of opportunistic expansion, and we are life.