Winter Wonderland

After an astonishing run of warm weather, and an unheard of ( for February!) run of clear nights, I’ve been able to capture a few new images of some old favourites.

Firstly, I was able to get some more RGB photons for the image of Sharpless 223 presented in the last post. I’ve also updated the processing so that it isn’t quite so pastel-shaded. This is a faint nebula!

Sharpless SH2-223

Another H-alpha image was of the Seagull Nebula, IC2177, that lies in the southern skies on the border of Monoceros and Canis Major. Unfortunately, as it culminates it passes right through some of the light pollution murk I have on my southern horizon, so I didn’t bother trying to get any decent RGB frames to go with the H-alpha

IC2177,The Seagull Nebula

M44, aka Praesepe, aka the Beehive Cluster, is a large bright open cluster in Cancer, and is visible to the naked eye. This is comprised of 12 x 5min exposures through each of R, G and B filters.

M44, the Beehive Cluster

As the Moon rose later and later, I was able to use the one-shot colour Atik 460EX to garb some images too. NGC2903 in Leo is a bright spiral galaxy, often described as one of the galaxies that Messier missed… This is from 30 x 5min exposures:

The Leo Triplet of M65, M66 and NGC 3628 is, of course, instantly recognisable to most imagers. This image is from 19 x 5min frames:

The Leo Triplet

And finally, planetary nebula M97, the Owl Nebula and M108, a spiral galaxy in Ursa Major, make a great pairing. This image is composed from 49 x 5min exposures. One of the interesting things about this image is the number of faint galaxies that are distributed throughout it, some down to magnitude 19!

M97, the Owl Nebula, and M108

A Beehive and a Chain

Here’s couple of wide field images from last night. As my 190MN is away for repair following a mishap in last month’s storms, I used my 460EX with a Canon 200mm f/2.8L lens attached. M44 (aka Praesepe aka the Beehive Cluster) is 18 x 5min exposures, while Markarian’s Chain of galaxies straddling the border between Coma Berenices and Virgo was 16 x 5min. As well as three Messier galaxies I can see at least 19 NGC galaxies in this image, as well as one or two other fainter ones. And this is all with a nice bright moon in the sky along with a touch of light pollution  🙂

M44_final

galaxies

Lulin and the Beehive

I thought I’d have a go tonight at capturing Comet Lulin as it passed below the Beehive cluster (aka Praesepe or M44) in Cancer – this was despite a gibbous Moon being just 30 degrees or so away in neighbouring Gemini.

The picture below is a composite of 50 separate 30 second images taken at ISO400 using a Canon EOS 400D with a 200mm lens at f/2.8. The moon was so bright that I couldn’t do 30 seconds at ISO800 – the images was just completely washed out. It’s only a shame that I didn’t remember to take the frames in RAW mode – so I ended up with a load of jpgs 🙁

Flats and darks were applied, and subsequent processing performed using Images Plus. Images were stacked on the comet, producing the trails of the stars as the comet moved past.


Autoguiding’s working!

Well, at long last I think I’m finally getting the hang of this autoguiding lark! The picture below is of M44, the Beehive cluster. It’s a stack of 16 x 2min exposures taken with a Canon EOS400D at ISO800 through a 8″ Meade LX200R witha a Meade f/6.3 focal reducer; autoguiding was done using a Starlight Xpress Lodestar guider through an Equinox ED80 refractor. Image acquisition and processing was performed using Images Plus 3.0.
M44 isn’t a particularly interesting subject, but it’s big and it’s bright – good for practising on! While I type this, the same set up is imaging globular cluster M3 in Canes Venatici. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Well, while M3 was being captured, the optics on both scopes started to dew up. I ended up with 10 x 2min images which were processed to give this image. It’s not as sharp as I’d like – more work on focusing required – but at least the guiding worked 🙂