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11/30/-1
    
Sunday, August 15th, 2010
Oregon Star Party
Another fantastic event. Great folks, great speakers, EXCELLENT skies.

The Enjoyment
The skies were pristine all night every night. Dark, transparent and great seeing. With the moon getting brighter, the last night was a bit washed out compared to the nights closer to the new moon.

A new friend from my church, Rebecca LaPorte and her dad (can't recall his name), came along almost last minute, stayed all 4 nights, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

I had a new addition to my visual gear which is a 13mm Nagler purchased used from SWS member Steve Stanton - to offset the cost of a 13mm Ethos if I remember right! Thanks Steve.

I had deep rich views through the 16" LightBridge. Better then ever. The combination of the Swayze refigure of the mirror and the sharp contrasty Nagler made this the best viewing from my own gear I've ever had.

The Frustration
On the imaging front I was rather unproductive. Waaaaa. I had an imaging list of 12 images to acquire via 2 imaging systems over 4 nights... but with gross tracking errors due to some glitch in the setup I had 3 nights of trouble and one night of not caring anymore. Rats.

My productivity was compromised, the imaging list went out the window and a (very) short list of new targets at much wider fields was put together.

The Observing Sessions
Oh my. Wednesday and Thursday was the best sky I've been in for quite some time.

It seems that so often the sky is soft and non-dark that both sharpness and detail is lost and faint objects that should be seen in my 16" scope are invisible. This was not the case for Wednesday and Thursday. They were nothing short of stunning. The most consistently crisp views and rich dark sky I've seen in years.

Epsilon Lyrae was 4 distinct dots at 400x. I pulled up a few globular clusters to enjoy the sharpness of the night.

M13... WOW! I was floored with the view. The sheer number of stars and crispness of the overall view - including the surrounding framed stars not part of the globular - was mesmerizing. After just staring for quite some time I had to drink in another one.

M15... Oh man... I've looked at M15 many times and I don't think I've ever seen it so good. The core was so tight yet clearly defined and the outer stars were numerous faint tiny dots.

I enjoyed view after view like that although I was distracted by the problematic imaging gear every half hour or so.

I opted to do the advanced observing list but was a day late and a dollar short. Most of these objects were very faint and difficult (duh!) but the problem was that I waited until Saturday night to do it and the sky was brightening with the moon and perhaps moisture as well obscuring the faint targets again. It would have been smarter to hit those targets with the other faint fuzzies I was bagging on Wednesday and Thursday. Oh well... maybe next year!

The Imaging Sessions
Honestly... I don't want to talk about it. It was frustrating. Suffice it to say that something was wrong and I still don't know what it was. But I had problems each night until I stopped caring. Then I tore the entire system down and put it back together again and it worked perfectly. But it was too late because I made the assumption is was going to fail again and so I paid little to no attention to it and didn't really get a good shot due to my lack.

I'm including 2 screen shots. 1 of what I was experiencing that was wrecking all of my images and one of how things sorted out on the last night... when I stopped caring! Doh!

The shots I did get (and I'm still working on salvaging what I can) were decent, but 2 for sure were the creme of the crop and personal bests. I'm happy with them in the sense that they are quite a bit better then multiple previous attempts at the targets, but they are not as good as they could have been if things were working right. Details below.

The Hercules Cluster - M13
This was the first shot of the first night when I was having nasty tracking errors. When I take the 10 megapixel image and shrink it down so far though it makes it almost seem like the stars are pretty good... LOL... nice! Had I known that I may have kept going for my planned 2.5 hours. Instead I bailed after 40 minutes (4 frames). The core is totally blown out with such long sub exposures so, that's something I'll have to watch out for next time.

It's kind of nice seeing it at this wide field perspective though. There are loads of tiny faint fuzzy galaxies.

Scope: Vixen ED103S with WO Flat 2 0.8x FR/FF
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 (Stock Unmodded)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 40 minutes (4 x 600s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Calibration, Stacking and DDP in Images Plus, Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 6 darks
See Gallery Below For Image

The Iris Nebula - NGC 7023
I shot 6 hours of this target and I got 4 salvageable hours. It's better then my previous attempts, so in that sense I'm pleased with the shot (and it's also one of the best in my gallery overall). I'm still disappointed that it's not what it could have been as seeing was 9 of 10 and darkness was 10 of 10. Maybe next year...

Scope: Vixen ED103S with WO Flat 2 0.8x FR/FF
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 (Stock Unmodded)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 4 hours (24 x 600s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Calibration, Stacking and DDP in Images Plus, Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, 12 darks
See Gallery Below For Image


The Triangulum Galaxy - M33
I shot 5.5 hours of this target and I got 4 salvageable hours. It's also better then my previous attempts (at least a dozen), so in that sense I'm also very pleased with this shot (and it's also one of the best in my gallery overall). I have the same sense of disappointment due to what I believe it could have been but again, I'm really happy with this shot.

One of the amazing things to me is how much detail there is in the galaxy itself. Clusters, and even detail in some of the objects. I'm including a 300% zoom of NGC 604 where you can clearly make out structure. I've only ever had this be a purple blob in the past.

Scope: Vixen ED103S with WO Flat 2 0.8x FR/FF
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 (Stock Unmodded)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 4 hours (24 x 600s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Calibration, Stacking and DDP in Images Plus, Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, 12 darks
See Gallery Below For Image

Sadr - IC1318
This was the shot I took on the last night when everything started working. Unfortunately I wasn't paying attention because I had lost interest and my focus was off causing the outer starts to be really bloaty and the outer edge stars in particular to be pretty bad (and I mostly cropped them out) and the stars were oversaturating a bit which I think I cleaned up mostly in Photoshop. I'm going to add my H-alpha data I shot last month to this shot and see how that turns out.

Overall I'm pretty pleased with it as the color is nice, the stars are round and the nebulosity is rich.

Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD with WO Flat 2 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope:  Vixen ED103S
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 5 hours 15 minutes (63 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Calibration, Stacking and DDP in Images Plus, Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, 12 darks
See Gallery Below For Image

Soul Nebula - IC1848
After I realized I wasn't going to fix my tracking problems I switched scopes and shot the soul for 5 hours. Like a genius, I started off with my stock camera which was picking up almost nothing. I shot like that for an hour. Doh! Then I switched to my modded camera and got 4 more hours. This process is only of the 4 hours with the modded camera. At some point I plan using that data as a comparison example of 1 hour shot with an unmodded compared to a 1 hour shot with the modded.

Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD with WO Flat 2 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope:  Vixen ED103S
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 4 hours (24 x 600s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Calibration, Stacking and DDP in Images Plus, Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, 12 darks
See Gallery Below For Image

Lagoon Nebula and Trifid Nebula Wide Field - M8, M20 and Friends
I was well pleased to see how this turned out. It's funny to me how I've been enjoying these 180mm shots. I love the golden rich stars in the Sagittarius region. I shot this last month, but I used my stock camera. This time I used the modified camera specifically because I wanted the red IC4865 nebula and the blue reflection nebulae IC1274/1275. They are faint (Lower Center), but I got them. I really wish I realized this one was turning out better and shot it for 3 or 4 hours like the rest. Oh well...

Scope:  Canon 70-300mm USM IS Zoom @ 180mm and f/5
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, Calibration, Stacking and DDP in Images Plus, Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 12 darks
See Gallery Below For Image

More to come as I get around to processing them. I took 9 shots in all. We'll see if I get all of them...


Image Gallery For This Session
M13 40m M33 4h
M8M20 1h NGC604@300 percent
NGC7023 4h Sadr 5h 15m
Soul 4h z Screenshot TrackingIssues
z Screenshot TrackingIssuesFixed
   

M13-40m.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 08/31/10 at 08:10pm Alison (as in Alison & Bill) wrote:
You're an inspiration, Neil, and your photos are simply amazing. You shared them with us at the Star Party and they still knock my socks off. Thank you for helping Bill and answering our questions at the event - you're so generous with sharing your expertise and helpful hints. I think Bill's ultimate goal is to get shots half as good as yours someday. WWND? :) Hope to see you again at another event. - Alison




On 08/28/10 at 03:19pm SKYGZR wrote:
Thanks for your comments on my humble attempts. Perhaps someday i'll have your kind of success in the "deep sky" realm.

On 08/27/10 at 03:37am Kathy Walling wrote:
Soul Nebula - IC1848, I call that WOW! and you weren't' even paying attention?...golly! ;]

On 08/27/10 at 02:37am Neil Heacock wrote:
@Charlie: I'm glad you take delight in my pain... LOL... kidding! It's not true for everyone, but it seems that most of the time we only put out best foot forward when it comes to what we post. I think it's helpful to mention the good the bad and the crazy. Thanks for the encouraging words.

@Jeff: I really like your latest M33. Sure it suffers from things like light pollution and no color yet, but I think the quality that's shaping up there is really great. When you get your gear to a dark sky... oh man! It makes ALL the difference. And yeah, that's reflection nebula in the heart of it. An INCREDIBLE target. One of my top 5... probably even favorite #2.

@Kathy: The stars make some cool shapes when there are so many in the field. 8^)

Thanks again guys. I appreciate the comments.

-Neil

On 08/25/10 at 05:35pm Kathy Walling wrote:
I noticed a little star at the center bottom of the Iris photo that looks like a little yellow Saturn.

On 08/24/10 at 06:49pm Jeff W. wrote:
Sorry, but I just had to comment again, that iris is really really good, so much dark nebula along with the great reflection (i think its reflection, not emission) of the center.

On 08/24/10 at 06:42pm Jeff W. wrote:
Sounds like a great outing, ive been trying 3 years to image from the really dark skies when I visit my folks in Va. I finally got a brief session this trip, my m33 is nowhere near as good as yours. I hope to get better at this ccd imaging vs the one shot color of a dslr. Great images though Neil.

Jeff W.

On 08/24/10 at 02:15pm Charlie wrote:
I really enjoy reading the frustrations one has in doing what you do,,I've been playing at this for fifteen or so years and could write a books worth of what was went through just to get one good photo,,enjoyed your story very much and have learned a thing or two on staying with it,,it's nice to see a great photo,,but even better to have a story behind it,,it doesn't even have to be a great photo,,it's the story of what was went through that's most interesting and good reading,,thanks
Chas

On 08/24/10 at 03:53am Kathy Walling wrote:
Gosh,they are both gorgeous! The Iris is hypnotic.

On 08/23/10 at 10:34pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Thanks Scott. I hope I don't sound too negative in my entry post. Although it was very frustrating and I intended on coming home with 12 pictures and I only have a few instead, I really am happy with the ones I have.

On 08/23/10 at 10:20pm Scott Kindt wrote:
Dude! That Iris shot is awesome!



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