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02/24/04
    
Sunday, February 15th, 2009
Finally a night that was almost decent even - and it wasn't Valentines day... and I wasn't too sick... and it wasn't below freezing (though it was only a few degrees above). I even got to take a picture. Woohoo!

It wasn't long before the clouds rolled in, but I managed to pull of 45 minutes (well, 46 minutes 30 seconds to be exact) of M42. This is possibly the last time to shoot it this season. I went ahead and shot new darks, bias and flat frames while I was out there too. I was out from 6pm until 10pm and only had the shutter open on M42 for 45 minutes! The rest of the time was setup, teardown, tweaking, and shooting support frames (that is - darks, bias and flats).

The night was not fantastic as far as seeing goes. It was hazy, then cloudy, and M42 was right smack in the heart of the Portland glow. Ugh. I considered driving out to a darker sky tonight, but it wouldn't have been worth it I don't think. Even still, I was able to achieve decent focus even though the stars were bouncing a bit and making some strange shapes.

The resulting image is satisfying considering I've been waiting months to re-take M42. The last time I shot it was February of '08 - almost exactly a year ago. At that time, I was shooting through the Achromat and though the image was decent, the stars were severely fat and bloated. I also didn't have my long exposure cable (Shoestring DSUSB) so the longest exposures were 30 seconds. The overall signal of this new shot is better too. More subtle detail in the core in particular. The sky was clearer and darker last year (though it was during a full moon, but I shot M42 during the full eclipse), but the contrast of this shot is better I think.

Here is a link to last year's image.
M42 2/21/08

I was hoping to get a 2 hour exposure with nice long subs for the faint outer detail, but it was lost in the mush unfortunately. Maybe next year.

Well, here is the specs on this image and it would be nice if I got another chance to get more data before it's completely gone this winter.

UPDATE:
So I added a revised process where I lightened the overall image and subdued the intense stars a bit. The contrast is lowered across the image, but I think I may like it more. Please feel free to comment on image process A or B.

M42
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Baader MPCC
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: 46 minutes 30 seconds - (10 x 10s, 10 x 30s, 15 x 90s, 5 x 180s)
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
M42 46m30s C
   

M42-46m30s-C.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
Brightness:
|
  



Comments:
On 02/26/09 at 01:22pm Shanna wrote:
Nice shot Neil! Sometimes you just gotta brave the cold....

On 02/20/09 at 02:50am Neil Heacock wrote:
You remember the night well Glen. I was having trouble with my scope (a bad serial cable I think) so I ended up packing it all in and took some flats. Then a little while later the sky was clear again and I thought "Doh!... if it wasn't so cold and all my gear put away I'd go back out again." I too should have broke out the binoculars, but alas..

On 02/19/09 at 10:38pm Glen C wrote:
Thanks Neil for sharing this with us.
I was out too looking at it. The night wasn't bad until some clouds came in. I wanted to view Saturn, but packed up and quit.
Looked out later and it was clear, so I took the 8x42 binocs out and enjoyed a good view of Saturn.
Don't know why I bother with telescopes during the rainy season.
I just have to finish my observatory shed!
Glen


On 02/16/09 at 07:45pm Andy wrote:
Neil.. Fantastic shot , Im jealous !!!

On 02/16/09 at 04:43pm Jeff wrote:
Wow Neil those are great shots, My attempts at m42 have been not so good, its a hard object to do well.

On 02/16/09 at 04:02pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Thanks Scott. I know... the Trapezium which is clearly captured decently is nearly lost in the B version. I'll try a combination and see where that gets me.

On 02/16/09 at 02:13pm Scott wrote:
B has more obvious detail in the faint regions at the expense of burnout in the core. Maybe a merge of the 2. Nicely framed with the Running Man.

On 02/16/09 at 12:30pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Yeah... I was out from 6pm to 10pm (or so). This shot was the initial process. Even though there is no black clipping, the background is a tad dark for my liking, so I'm uploading a second process with the overall brightness increased without clipping the white point. Just for kicks I'll leave them both here and see what kind of comments I get.

On 02/16/09 at 12:03pm Barry wrote:
Nice shot, Neil.....love the subtle color. You must have been out early? It was clear at my house earlier in the evening, but by the time I got out (10:30pm) is was clouded over. I am still waiting to get a decent look at Saturn this year.



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