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11/30/-1
    
Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
Tonight was great. Perhaps it could have been better in the grand scheme of things, but it was the first dark, clear, fog-free night we've had in months here. It was just wonderful.

The Visual Session
We had a "house church" meeting tonight and after it was over some folks stuck around to look at the sky through the 16" Light Bridge. We looked at some star clusters including M44 and M45 and of course, the Great Orion Nebula. There were "Oohs" and "Ahhs" at the eyepiece from adults and children alike. Most people had never even looked in a telescope before so viewing through a 16" scope from a Bortle 5 sky was a pretty nice introduction.
 
After they left I continued to visually observe. Of course, I noticed things like the collimation being out and the somewhat soft seeing that the other folks wouldn't possibly know about, but both of those issues bothered me a bit. Even still, I had the best visual session since last August.
 
One of my favorite objects tonight was NGC 2420. A small open cluster in Gemini. Although there aren't many bright or spectacular stars, the contrast between bright and dim stars is really neat. A handful of brighter stars presented on a backdrop of dimmer stars making it almost look like it has inner nebulosity (which it doesn't). I'm surprised Messier didn't flag it as a comet.

My good friend and fellow journal user Barry Brence came over for a bit. He also enjoyed the views and we took in another handful of objects while he was here. He was having fun pointing the scope around at The Flame Nebula, M1 and M81/82/NGC 3077 as well as the Leo Trio in which NGC 3628 was nearly invisible.
 
The Imaging Session
I thought about calling it a night after Barr left, but even though it was cold (20 some degrees), I was motivated to set up and shoot M42. So I did.

I didn't want to stay out to late as I was tired, and I knew I needed all new calibration frames for this session, so I took 40 minutes of M42 and then spent the next 90 minutes shooting an hour of darks, flats and bias frames to calibrate my shot from tonight. So, between setup and calibration frame shooting, it took me 2 and a half hours to get a 40 minute shot! Even still, I'm happy with it and my testing (of the new beta version of Nebulosity and some of it's new features) was successful.

Great Orion Nebula - M42/43
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 (Modified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800 RGB
Exposure: 41 minutes total (8 x 300s), 1 minute (20 x 5s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Calibration, Stacking Deep Sky Stacker, Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, 12 darks
See Gallery Below For Image



Image Gallery For This Session
M42 41min
   

M42-41min.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
Brightness:
|
  



Comments:
On 02/04/11 at 04:10pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Hylton, thank you. And yes, the spikes are post processed in. I have an 8" f/4 newtonian (Vixen R200SS) which is a fantastic scope, but I don't like the diffraction spikes it produces. It makes the stars squarish (or diamonds since I rotate my spikes orientation) and imposes diffraction spikes whether I want them or not.

It's not that I'm opposed to the spikes as they are sometimes aesthetically pleasing, but I wanted to control them. So I bought Noel Carboni's StarSpikes Pro ($60) which is far superior to the cheesy star spikes in his Astronomy Tools set.

The way that I used it was to pull up a picture taken with a Ritchie Chrétien and I adjusted the many parameters until the spikes looked similar. That way they are natural looking and mimicked a real obstructed telescope.

I suppose I could have ran fishing line in a cross across my scope. That's a fairly common technique. I like the software solution better.

-Neil

On 02/04/11 at 09:34am Hylton wrote:
Great shot Neil. Did you add the diffraction spikes in photoshop?

On 02/04/11 at 12:41am Kathy Walling wrote:
Spectacular Neil!

On 02/03/11 at 03:30pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Thanks Jim. I'd love to get a really good shot of it one of these days but I can't be here (at my house) to do it. It goes right through Portland for me and the really faint stuff just gets lost in the sky glow. The cool thing is that as I'm improving in both acquisition and processing skills, this shot is the best M42 I've taken to date even though I've taken longer exposures in the past.

On 02/03/11 at 08:09am Jim McPherson wrote:
Neil,

Fantastic shot! The detail is phenomenal.

Jim

On 02/03/11 at 02:46am Neil Heacock wrote:
Yer right! Flipped and rotated.. looks better... of course, its sideways now... North is to the left. 8^)

-Neil

On 02/03/11 at 02:42am Barry wrote:
Great picture!!! but it's upside down. LOL I would flip and mirror it. Will look better.



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