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11/30/-1
    
Sunday, February 21st, 2010
Finally some clearing... although much of it was a tease!

We had the clearest nights since Christmas this past week. Unfortunately, they were fairly weak. High moisture or something was causing the sky to have more of a glow then normal and thus screw up our otherwise very transparent skies.

I'm including a 2 shots of M51 that are single 5 minute frames where you can see how the detail simply got lost.

Even still, I'm happy to have gotten out and it sure was nice to see the stars again.

Not all of my imaging efforts panned out because of the conditions, but most of them were okay. I was out from 8pm to 4am most of the nights (and I sure am tired for it!) with little to show. For the first time in a long time I was tossing the bulk of my frames because the bright sky was hindering the overall image.

I'll post a few of the more successful images in the gallery below. The others I didn't even both processing.

The Observing Session - Time With Friends
With night after night of clear sky and poor conditions things started to clear up nicely. We had at least 2 nights of excellent viewing potential but I have no visual gear because my mirror is in the shop at Swayze Optical being refigured. So my friend Scott Legg and I went up to Butte Hill in Woodland and met Glen up there. We had a great time observing in Scott's wonderful 18 inch ATM Dob. A real work of fine craftsmanship that scope is and the views were worth every chilly shiver and late night yawn.

Starting in Ursa Major we worked our way through the constellations, Canes Venatici, Bootes, Coma Bernices, Virgo, Corvus, Leo, Cancer, and Gemini. I don't know how many objects we took in, but it was a lot and absolutely fantastic for only being 30 minutes from Vancouver.

Overall we had a great time of enjoying the sky, enjoying the gear and enjoying one another's company.

The Imaging Sessions
The imaging sessions were not nearly as successful and I wasn't as productive as I would have liked to have been. Even still, I got a handful of good images that I'm happy to have and it's all certainly better then the terrible weather we've been having.

I noticed on the first night that my bright stars were completely oblong and it wasn't from tracking errors. Simple 5 second exposures of Polaris and my alignment star showed the elongation instantly. The second night I checked my imaging scope's collimation and it was off by quite a bit. A collimation correction and the oval stars are gone.

M42 - The Great Orion Nebula Image
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 2 hours (24 x 300s) and (20 x 20s for the core)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (Kappa-Sigma Clipping for all frames), Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools, Gradient XTerminator and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, one dark used as a bad pixel map
See Gallery below for image

M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy Image
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 3 hours (36 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (Kappa-Sigma Clipping for all frames), Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools, Gradient XTerminator and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, one dark used as a bad pixel map
See Gallery below for image

M65, M66, NGC3628 - The Leo Trio Image
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 1 hour 30 minutes (30 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (Kappa-Sigma Clipping for all frames), Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools, Gradient XTerminator and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, one dark used as a bad pixel map
See Gallery below for image

M97 (The Owl Nebula) and M108 Image
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 1 hour 40 minutes (32 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (Kappa-Sigma Clipping for all frames), Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools, Gradient XTerminator and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, one dark used as a bad pixel map
See Gallery below for image

NGC4565 Image
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 20 minutes (4 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (Kappa-Sigma Clipping for all frames), Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools, Gradient XTerminator and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, one dark used as a bad pixel map
See Gallery below for image

Abell 1656 Image
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 1 hour (12 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (Kappa-Sigma Clipping for all frames), Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools, Gradient XTerminator and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, one dark used as a bad pixel map
See Gallery below for image

M1 - The Crab Nebula Image
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 2 hours (24 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (Kappa-Sigma Clipping for all frames), Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools, Gradient XTerminator and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, one dark used as a bad pixel map
See Gallery below for image

The Sun - Solar Flares Image
Scope: Coronado PST
Mount: Orion Paragon Tripod (no tracking)
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified) using 5x Zoom Live View
Special Settings: None
ISO: 400
Exposure: 1/250 of a second or so
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
Support Files: None
See Gallery below for image

The Sun - Sun Spots Image
Scope: Orion 90mm f/10 Achromat with Baader White Light Solar Filter
Mount: Orion Paragon Tripod (no tracking)
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 400
Exposure: 1/250 of a second or so
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
Support Files: None
See Gallery below for image




Image Gallery For This Session
00 M51a 00 M51b
01 M42 2h 02 M51 3h
03 M65 M66 1h 30m 04 M97 M108 1h 40m
05 NGC4565 20m 06 Abell1656 1h
07 M1 2h 08 Sun Flare1
09 Sun Flare2 10 Sun Spots
   

00-M51a.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
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Comments:
On 02/26/10 at 02:02pm Miquel wrote:
Neil, these are fantastic pictures! You are a maestro!

On 02/23/10 at 01:01pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Hello Dave, For the two screenshots of M51 the checkerboard pattern in my case is because these are the bayered screen-capture view. They are simply screenshots to show what the seeing conditions. If you got them after stacking, I'd check to make sure your images were being debayered.

It sure is nice to have gotten out again! Been waiting a long time to use the gear.

-Neil

On 02/23/10 at 10:28am Scott wrote:
If you could just get rid of those pesky bright stars.....
I'm waiting for an Indian trail springs 5 hour version! We did see a couple of them in my scope; that was nice!

On 02/23/10 at 06:10am Dave wrote:
whats up with the checkerboard pattern...?
I recently got that trying to stack 2 sets of subs from different nites...(M97 0n Flickr)...




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