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11/30/-1
    
Wednesday, August 27th, 2008
Oregon Star Party

4 fun filled nights of dark sky observing and imaging. Indian Trail Springs is the best spot I've been to yet. Decent elevation at 5000 ft and 360 degree horizons. The treeline to treeline Milky Way is simply spectacular and you know the sky is dark when Jupiter is the primary cause of light pollution!

Night 1 - Most excellent. Wind died down just as twilight hit. The sky stayed clear all night. Some of the best viewing I've ever had. I saw 5 stars in the Trapezium and couldn't take my eyes away from many views. I looked at the least number of objects I think I've ever looked at at a star party, but it was because I was drinking in the amazing view for long durations on each object. Took couple of pictures while I observed.

Night 2 - Unbelievably, it was better then the previous night. I saw 6 stars in the Trapezium. I've never seen that before. Using the binoviewers I couldn't believe how simply incredible the bright clusters looked. M103, M22, M52, double cluster, etc. So 3D you could practically see which stars were closer to us. I think it was actually an optical illusion since all of the brightest stars always looked closer, but man was it amazing. M42 - the Orion Nebula - was one of the most stunning views I've ever seen. Particularly in the binoviewer the cloud was rich and deep and the longer I looked the more I was sucked into the view. I couldn't even pull away long enough to put a nebula filter in the eyepiece. Took a couple more pictures while I observed.

Night 3 - It started a bit windy and focus was much harder to dial in. Though the sky was clear and dark, the seeing was not as good as the previous nights. Even still, the views were once again spectacular and the pictures I took while I observed turned out very good in spite of it. the strange thing is that no jacket was required. It was warm and a bit balmy. My camera was running at 65 degrees all night long.

Night 4 - Wow, what a change. From 60 or so degrees last night to FREEZING tonight! Temps dropped to 29 degrees and the breeze was enough to send a harsh chill through your bones. Most people packed it in. By midnight I noticed that the bulk of folks had their scopes put away for the night. I was one viewing among hundreds sleeping and socializing. A few people came by to see what I was doing. Well, I was cold, and my scope had ice on it and my batteries were dying like crazy in the frigid temperature, but I was still observing til sunrise.

I considered staying over Sunday night but my batteries were all dead and it was supposed to freeze again. My son was really struggling with the cold even though we were bundled up pretty good so after 5 days and 4 nights we decided to call it good.
 
The Gallery from OSP

M31 - Andromeda Galaxy

I took this again because the last one, as good as it was, had stars distorted in the corners and  since I learned that this new camera doesn't really do that I thought I'd take a new one that is close to the same, but with better corner stars. It was successful in that respect and will replace the one hanging on my wall.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 60 minutes - 20 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

NGC 7023 - Iris Nebula
I took this again because I was hoping to improve on the last one by taking more time from a dark sky (the lat one was taken from my front yard). I struggled because the camera battery died and I only got 27 minutes but I had it scheduled for 2 hours. I need to learn to babysit the setup a little more while I'm observing. I have a new battery situation in the works so that doesn't happen again. Even still, for only 27 minutes the shot is pretty good and rivals the 2 hour shot from my front home location.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 27 minutes - 9 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

Rho Ophiuchi Region
I've wanted to shoot this region with a wide field of view to capture the entire thing, but alas my wide field set up was not ready for this dark sky outing so I shot a narrow field that really doesn't do it justice. Even still the amazing colors of this region are evident along with the thick dust lane that separates the gases. This time of year it's a bit too low as well. It was so low a car antenna was diffracting the brighter stars. The diffraction spikes were removed in the stacking process. Rho Ophiuchi itself is the triple star in the lower right.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 42 minutes - 14 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

M45 - The Pleiades
I've wanted to get a good shot of this for a couple of years. I tried last year and got a decent shot, but the stars are so blown out due to the chromatic aberration of the achromat it was pretty sloppy looking. This one on the other hand is crisp and clean. I'm very pleased with this shot. Included in the frame is the 17.9 mag UGC 2838 edge on galaxy.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 60 minutes - 20 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

M8 (Lagoon Nebula) and M20 (Trifid Nebula)
This is a little late in the year to shoot these, but I wanted to try before they were completely gone.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 60 minutes - 20 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

IC1396 - Hershel's Garnet and The Elephant Trunk
I shot this for only 30 minutes at the Trout Lake Star Party based on someone saying, "Hey, you should try IC1396" and I said "Okay". Popped off 30 minutes and after seeing the results I thought holy smokes, I need to shoot some deeper acquisition time on that! So this time I have 2 hours. The longest exposure of the week for me. You can make out some detail in the dust, great detail in the Elephant Trunk as well as the tiny blue reflection nebula just below the Erakis (the bright yellow star in the upper right).

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 120 minutes - 40 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

B33/IC 434 and NGC 2024 - Horsehead and Flame Nebula
Orion was just beginning to rise and I thought before the sun comes up I should get some time on M42. But as I slewed to M42 I decided to try and just see if I can get the Horsehead at all. I was able to get 7 three minute shots off before the sun came up and washed the sky out. I was socked at how well this shot turned out considering the sky conditions (morning twilight), how low the object was and the fact that I have a stock camera. I'm ecstatic with this shot.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 21 minutes - 7 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

IC 1318 - Butterfly Nebula and Sadr
This was another hmm... I should try that. Søren on the Deep Sky Stacker forum posted his version taken with an unmodified camera and it was surprisingly excellent. So I thought I'd take a crack at it.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 60 minutes - 20 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

M17 - Swan Nebula (or Omega Nebula or Horseshoe Nebula)
On the list to image this week and higher then M8 and M20. I shot an hour of it but got a later start then I wanted. While slewing to M17 something caught my guide camera's USB cable and it pulled the camera off of the mount. It hit the ground and hit the focuser on the way down. It took me over an hour to get it all back again. This is my third or fourth shot at M17 and this one is the best by far.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 60 minutes - 20 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

NGC 1499 - California Nebula
After the success of IC 434 and IC 1396 I thought I'd go ahead and go off of my list and try for the California Nebula. To my surprise I could faintly see it in the first test sub. So I shot for an hour. The problem is that once again I didn't babysit the system and PHD Guiding crashed after the first about 10 minutes or so and the rest of the hour was unguided. Amazingly enough the stars - though they clearly show trailing - they show far less then I'd expect for 50 minutes worth of unguided shooting.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 60 minutes - 20 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

M33 - Triangulum Galaxy
This is the first real dark sky shot of M33. I have a few other shots taken from my yard that turned out quite nice. I thought I'd shoot for it here in dark skies assuming the detail and signal would be better. Sure enough, another personal best.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 60 minutes - 20 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


Image Gallery For This Session
1 M31 1h 10 Iris 28m
11 Rho Ophiuchi 40m 2 M45 1h
3a M20 45m 3b M8 45m
4 IC1396 2h 5 Horsehead 21m
6 Sadr 1h 7 M17 1h
8 California Nebula 1h 9 M33 1h
   

1-M31-1h.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
Brightness:
|
  



Comments:
On 09/10/08 at 07:43pm Shanda wrote:
Show's the amazing intricacies and grandeur of our Creator! Beautiful!

On 09/04/08 at 01:03pm Anonymous wrote:
Very impressive! It is amazing what amateur astronomy is capable of these days. Those are photos that I would expect to see on the NASA website. Very clear and not hazy or blurry at all, great framing and subject choice. Well done!

On 09/03/08 at 09:14pm Wade wrote:
DUDE... these are incredible pictures, or else you are better at PS than I realized! Take it easy!

On 09/03/08 at 08:43pm DIANE from Seattle, mini cooper lady wrote:
I was so hoping to watch you in action this year, boy did you get some action. Your photos are amazingly sharp..
I'm am very much inspired to continue my quest to learn astrophotography.
Next year I'll make sure I get by your scope and "pick your brain"..;0)

On 09/02/08 at 06:58am Jeff wrote:
Wow Neil, those are great!

On 09/02/08 at 12:38am Neil Heacock wrote:
Thanks for the great comments guys. I'm shocked that I took these pictures. The new setup is fantastic and the results I'm getting are fabulous.

-Neil

On 09/01/08 at 10:35pm Alan wrote:
Nice job! A new set of pics for my screensaver! They are really good Neil. Of course, you know that- so just in case you're getting a swelled head from the great results of all these fine photos and all the positive feedback, just remember, "almost round ain't good enough". LOL

On 09/01/08 at 03:27pm Daniel Browning wrote:
Wow! I enjoyed chatting with you and watching as you worked your magic at OSP.

On 09/01/08 at 01:38pm Amazing photos wrote:
That's gorgeous Neil.. Thanks so much for showing my mom and I all the wonderful nebulas. It was so great !!


Faren

On 08/30/08 at 03:16pm Barry wrote:
Very nice, Neil! You have M31 down to a science. The horsehead is just AWESOME!!!! I don't know how you improve on that one.....great composition....wonderful photo. I would have that one printed for sure.....even if they have to jack up the intensity a bit to get all the fainter nebulosity. Great Job!



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