M81-M82-NGC3077 2021-04-11
Three Galaxies…

This is M82 (the “Cigar Galaxy”), M81, and, in the upper right, NGC3077…

The Beehive Cluster

The Behive Cluster
The Behive Cluster

Something completely different — just stars.

I have a new GEM — German Equatorial Mount — and I have to learn about it.   It replaces a Sky Watcher camera mount that was overwhelmed by the additional weight of a small refractor telescope, and couldn’t track properly.  This new mount is much steadier; the small background stars above are very crisp, though I’m not happy with the image processing — if you pixel-peep, you will see what I mean.

Washed out image of the Whirlpool Galaxy

Washed out image of whirlpool galaxy
Whirlpool Galaxy

This is a stack of over 70-some 30 second exposures of the Whirlpool galaxy. While there is significant detail, the dynamic range is pathetic.  I think this is because 1) the individual exposures are short, and 2) there was a nearly full moon.

However, I’ve seen beautiful photos from stacks of hundreds of 3 second exposures, and the cumulative time from my frames is larger.  So undoubtedly my processing technique is faulty.  OTOH, I’m not sure of the magnitude of the effect from the moon.  Further investigation is required…

Whirlpool Galaxy

small image of whirlpool galaxy M51
M51 Whirlpool Galaxy

A chestnut.  Taken with a small (61mm) low-power telescope from my light-polluted back yard.  Heavily cropped, otherwise it would be too small to identify.  I’m running into the limits of my equipment — this is about 200 individual one minute exposures stacked together, taken over two nights.

Practice makes better.

The Orion Nebula - 2021-03-16
Orion Nebula below, “Running Man” Nebula at top..

 

Actually there’s another nebula, making three all together.  The Orion Nebula proper, also known as M42, is the large spread wings brightness in the lower center.  Separated from M42 by a narrow dark lane is the tear drop shape in the slightly left upper dead center, M43, apparently also known as “Mairan’s Nebula”.  And finally in the upper third is the  dimmer”Running Man” Nebula, in the top.

I’m getting better at this, but it is an incremental process.

A rank beginner image of the Rosette Nebula

The standard image of the Rosette Nebula is a glorious swirl of red gas sprinkled with a multitude of glittering stars.  This, on the other hand, is a dim, noisy, dirty smudge covered with a multitude of oddly distorted spots.  Still, it represents progress.  My first attempts yielded nothing.

r_pp_r_rosette_stacked- rosette nebula 2021-03-06
The Rosette Nebula

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…