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11/30/-1
    
Friday, March 27th, 2009
It's so nice to have a few nights that may not be perfect, but better then what we've been seeing for months here.

I got out again for a few hours. Tonight I had an absolutely wonderful evening. Clean and easy imaging with no issues and great observing with the 16". Whilst the camera was flawlessly shooting away I was brushing up on object locations and star patterns.

The Observing Session:
Gemini
Starting in the east with Gemini, I pulled up NGC 2392 - the Eskimo/Clown Nebula. I could make out a fair amount of structure at 225 power. It also proved that the evening was decent as far as seeing goes because the stars were nice and sharp and focus was easy.

Cancer
Working my way westward M44 doens't quite fit in the field of view of my 35mm Panoptic with this 1829 focal length scope. The FOV of that eyepiece is just a hair over one degree. My widest field in this scope. M67 however is nicely framed in the 21mm Stratus looking like gems in the sky.

Leo
Moving to Leo, M95 and company are visible, but the fainter 12+ mag NGC's in the area are nowhere to be found. The Leo Trio M65, M66 and NGC 3628 though semi dim were nice with great dust lanes and structure. Since Saturn is in the vicinity I took a 225 power look. Even with the rings nearly edge on Saturn is always an amazing object to observe. 4 of the 5 moons I normally see were strutting their stuff. I had trouble spotting Enceladus though.

Coma Bernices
Unfortunately, Virgo is behind a tree where I'm setup tonight, but the galaxy groups in Coma Bernices were in a great part of the sky. High and above the glow of Portland. Nestled in the Coma Cluster I looked at NGC 4565 - always a fantastic sight. Staying in Coma Bernices I pulled up M64 with it's distinguishable half-dark core and M53 a nice globular cluster.

Bo÷tes
Still heading westward I looked at M3 in Bo÷tes. There is another globular cluster close by - NGC 5466, but I couldn't remember where it was and I wasn't using any charts tonight.

Hercules
Next along the path is Hercules. Oh my. Is there a more spectacular (non dark sky) object then M13? Perhaps Saturn. I pulled up M92 and hunted for NGC 6210 (a teeny tiny planetary nebula), and 6229 a small globular cluster. I couldn't find either one because I couldn't remember their exact locations. After looking them up the next day in Starry Night, I was close, but not close enough!

Serpens
A brief stop eastward into Serpens Caput since it was between the trees at the moment. M5 was the target and my goodness, it had nearly the majesty of M13. What stunning objects.

Lyra
Amazingly enough Lyra was just clearing the trees (is it that time of year already?!) so I pulled up M57 but failed to try and split Epsilon Lyrae or pull up HIP91774 the very deep red carbon star. Perhaps the next session!

Ursa Major
The night needed to draw to a close so I turned the scope to Ursa Major and pulled up the classics. M81 (and NGC 3077 while I was there), M82, M97, M101, M108, M109. It's too bad that M51, M63 and M94 were so high at zenith. I couldn't really maneuver the scope at that angle. So I'll save them for another night.

All in all, it was the best observing session I've had since September. Maybe next time I'll use my charts so I can find the things I was having trouble with tonight.

The Imaging Session:
Tonight while I was observing I shot one hour of M64 and an hour of the Draco Trio (NGC 5985, 5982, 5981). It was very pleasing to be able to setup with no issues whatsoever. It couldn't have been smoother.

Shooting galaxies is tough work. Boy, signal is weak from my location compared to going out to a nice dark sky (I've been spoiled with 4 nights at Indian Trail Spring), but still, the shots aren't bad. In the end, the nice big bright colorful nebulae are easy to shoot and process in comparison to these galaxies. I'll just need to continue to dial in my setup so I can take longer exposures and get used to 4 hours per galaxy as a minimum!

Also, though the color balance is correct in the histogram, it's definitely a little greenish. I'll have to look into that.

Tracking was most excellent as you can see from the guiding chart. However, the stars are always somewhat sloppy in this Vixen scope. I doubt it's the scope itself. Though the collimation seems dialed in, there's just something that causes the blotchy shaped starts. Hmmm... I'm still considering going back to an apo refractor.

M64 Image
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Baader MPCC
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 60 minutes - (20 x 180s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

Draco Trio (NGC 5985, 5982, 5981) Image
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Baader MPCC
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 60 minutes - (20 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
1 M64 1h 2 DracoTrio 1h
3 Screenshot
   

1-M64-1h.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
Brightness:
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Comments:
On 03/27/09 at 06:24pm Jeff W. wrote:
Awesome journal entry Neil. I really like the observing run down. I often get so caught up in trying to image that I forget to actually look at what im imaging and enjoy the view. I havent setup in a while cause im waiting for my guiding equipment to arrive. Its currently somewhere in route to Reno. At least its shipped, should get here by mid week next week.

Clear Skies.
Jeff.



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