Deep Sky (MX716) , 2004


After a long spell of rain, wind and cloud, the weather finally relented and the night of 11th February was still. A bit hazy, and a last quarter Moon well up when I decided to try out my MX716 at my new home. M 51 is always a worthwhile subject, and was very high. Affected a bit by the mist and moonlight, but a promise of better to come! 10 x 1 minute frames 'fast hi-res', LX90 at f6.3, no filters.

This image appeared in the July-September 2007 issue of the SPA magazine

Again the weather has been unfavourable to say the least, but on 17th. February the skies cleared, and with no wind I was able to revisit a number of objects. All images MX716 with LX90 at f6.3, unguided 1 minute frames stacked. Firstly NGC 3190 in Leo - a very nice galaxy group, and a much better image than my previous attempt.

Then a go at Hoag's object, previously imaged with the 20 inch telescope at COAA. With the smaller telescope and lower altitude I was pleased to be able to detect this 16th magnitude galaxy, even though I did not resolve the ring. But I'll keep trying!

M81 was high overhead, so much so that I had to install a diagonal to prevent mount clashes with the camera. The increased spacing from the focal reducer also increased the field of view slightly, allowing me to encompass almost all the galaxy.

Another spell of bad weather (and a holiday away) but the wind dropped a little and the skies cleared briefly on the evening of 17th. March. Not calm enough for the LX90, but the shorter focal length and steady EQ3 mount with the Stellarvue AT1010 allowed marginal imaging.

The pretty open cluster M67 was first on the list. MX716, IR filter, fast hi-res. 480 mm fl, f6. 13 frames x 20 seconds.

Then I tried for the galaxy group including M105. The wind had risen, and with 1 minute frames required, only 9 frames were usable. But not too bad considering!

Finally with the weather deteriorating, the centre section of M44 - the Beehive. 12 frames x 20 seconds.

During a lull in the 2004 Messier Marathon proceedings I set up my MX716 with my 135 mm camera lens, and took several 3 minute frames of Markarian's Chain in Virgo. Unfortunately there was still quite a bit of sky glow, so the fainter portions of the galaxies have been lost. Nevertheless the beautiful arc of galaxies has emerged from the fuzz, so here it is (complete with a small amount of declination drift!) Next New Moon I'll be at Kielder, hopefully with my new Gemini G41 mount, so from the very dark conditions there.....

On Saturday 17th. April 2004 my eagerly awaited Gemini G41 mount arrived. And earlier in the week my TMB 105 f6.2 apo refractor was returned from Bray Imaging where it had been undergoing modifications to improve the alignment of the tube assembly. As it happened a group of us had booked a few days at Kielder in darkest Northumberland.....

With various delays and fitting of tube to mount, I was late arriving on the cloudy Monday 19th evening and didn't set up although later the skies cleared to superb clarity. But Thursday night was a different story - slightly misty but clear and still, and I was ready for it! Only one image resulted before clouds moved in during the early hours of Friday, but I'm well pleased!! M65 and M66. MX716 on the TMB refractor at 650 mm fl. LRGB, 9 x 5 minute L, 1 each x 5 minute RGB. All frames unguided! The mount is excellent!

This image was published in the July 2004 issue of Astronomy Now as Picture of the Month.

On 15th. May 2004, Comet 2001Q4 NEAT passed across M44. Although this comet did not quite live up to expectations regarding brightness, nevertheless it was an easy 'fuzzy blob' binocular object, and sported a tail visible in long exposure images. The actual passage of the tail across M44 took place in mid afternoon at my Longitude, but in the late evening I was able to capture this image. MX716 with 135 mm camera lens, stack of 5 x 1 minute images.

Taken at Hexham just before midnight (1100 UST) in Astronomical twilight and slight mist. Piggybacked on my LX90 (unfortunately the drive system on my G41 had developed a fault which prevented long exposure imaging, and the replacement had not arrived in time.)

Although at my 55 deg N Latitude the darkest it gets in mid May is Astronomical Twilight, a NW wind brought clear skies on the evening of 19th. May, so I decided to do some imaging near the zenith. M51 and M101 were the targets, with my TMB refractor on the G41 mount. MX716 camera, both stacks of 6 x 5 minute unguided frames for Luminance, colour 3 minute frames each RGB. In the M51 image, note the faint background galaxies, and the cloud of displaced stars to the North of NGC 5195 (the upper of the main galaxy pair).

This image appeared in the April-June 2006 issue of the SPA magazine

The sky was brightening with slight haze during the M101 session, but the results still far outclass my earlier efforts at this galaxy.

This image was published in the September 2004 issue of Astronomy Now

Mixed weather in early June, but a clearance on the night of 12-13 gave a window of opportunity. This image of M16 was taken around 0045 UT (1.45 am BST) in Nautical Twilight with the MX716 on the TMB refractor. Single 20 minute (effectively 10 minute) frame guided with S.T.A.R. 2000

June 21st. 2004. The longest day. A clear night albeit with 'twinkly' stars, and at my 55 degree latitude only Nautical twilight. But the magic of CCD imaging and digital processing allowed me to capture this image of Messier 22 - low down (only 11 degrees altitude at its highest from this latitude) in Sagittarius. MX716 with UV filter on the TMB refractor, Luminance 9 x 2 minute unguided images stacked, colour RGB each 3 minutes.

This 5th. magnitude Globular Cluster, larger and nominally brighter than the better known M13, is rarely seen to advantage from the UK due to the low altitude, but the camera captures its true glory. The colour balancing was a bit tricky, with the Summer sky glow and low elevation causing problems, so for anyone who isn't happy with my offering, the monochrome image is here.

This image appeared in the July to September 2009 issue of the SPA magazine.

Still high Summer with light nights (Nautical twilight) on June 27th., but clear air gave me the opportunity to image Messier 8 - the Lagoon Nebula. Very low down in Sagittarius from my latitude - only 10 degrees altitude. Luminance 6 x 3 minute unguided images stacked, colour 1 each RGB x 3 minutes. MX716 with TMB 105.

Although the sky was brightening (0100 UST) I then decided to have a go at the nearby Trifid Nebula, Messier 20, with this result. No colour frames - too much sky glow by this time, but this monochrome stack of 5 x 3 minute frames will suffice until I have a better opportunity. MX716 with TMB 105.

The weather during late June and early July was very variable with a lot of cloud and rain - Wimbledon fortnight might have had something to do with it! But clear spells on 5/6th. July gave me an opportunity to image NGC 7635 - the Bubble Nebula in Cassiopeia. MX716 with TMB 105 refractor. Luminance 5 x 5 minutes (PEC), RGB each 5 minutes.

Still only Astronomical Twilight and a bright waning Moon. Come Autumn when I have full darkness and I can catch the target as near the zenith as it gets, I hope for better contrast to bring up the fainter sections of the bubble shape.

The final addition to my telescope line up is an STF Mirage Mak-Cass. And here is the first image with it. NGC 7635 - the Bubble Nebula in Cassiopeia. 16th. August 2004, L 7 x 3 mins unguided, RGB each 1 x 3 mins.The sky was darker than for the previous TMB image below, and with the longer focal length (1218 mm using an STF 0.6 focal reducer) the target fits nicely on the MX716 chip.

NGC7331 (Mag 9.5) in Pegasus is a beautiful spiral galaxy with added interest, accompanied as it is by smaller faint galaxies. MX716 and 0.6 reducer with the Mirage. L 7 x 5 minute unguided frames, RGB each 1 x 5 minutes, 25/26 August 2004.

After imaging 7331, although Astronomical twilight was fast approaching, the skies were still well clear, and I imaged the beautiful face on spiral galaxy NGC 6946 in Cygnus/Cepheus (it's bang on the border between the two constellations). MX716 and 0.6 reducer with the Mirage. L 6 x 5 minute unguided frames, RGB each 1 x 5 minutes, early 26 August 2004.

Here is a Hydrogen-alpha image of the Sun from 3rd. September. Taken using my monochrome MX716 camera with the Helios1 telescope, then processed to an acceptable colour in Photoshop. A fair number of smallish prominences, a sunspot region and a large filament are visible.

Before it was lost for the season, I wanted to image M57, the Ring Nebula in Lyra, with the Mirage and MX716 in colour. The night of September 7th/8th. gave me an opportunity, and here is the result. Note that the star field excluding M57 has been enhanced to bring up the faint stars and the 14th. magnitude galaxy IC1296 without 'burning out' M57 itself. The insert shows the area near to M57 unenhanced. Luminance 6 x 3 minute unguided frames, RGB each 1 x 3 minutes.

After obtaining the frames for M57, I tried for M27, which although lower in the sky proved worth the effort. Slight trailing, but will do for now!! MX 716 and Mirage at f10, 6 x 3 minute unguided frames, RGB each 3 minutes.

This image appeared in the July-September 2005 issue of the SPA magazine

On 8th. September, a clearing sky gave me an opportunity to revisit NGC6888, the Crescent Nebula in Cygnus. Only four frames were obtained before clouds appeared, but with colour obtained on the following evening this image resulted. MX716, AT1010 refractor. L 4 x 10 minute frames, RGB each 5 minutes.

On 10th. September good clear skies tempted me to try for vdb142 , an unusual bright nebula in Cygnus. Ideally it should be imaged with a Hydrogen alpha nebula flter, but I was able to get a reasonable image with my standard RGB filters. MX716 with AT1010 refractor. L 6 x 10 minute unguided frames, RGB each 1 x 10 minutes.

After imaging vdb142, before the usual clouds sent me to bed, I was able to obtain a single 10 minute frame of NGC 869 & 884, the beautiful Double Cluster in Perseus. MX716 and AT1010 refractor.

On July 31, 2004, Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki discovered a supernova (2004dj) in the outskirts of mag. 8.2 spiral galaxy NGC2403 (Caldwell 7) in Camelopardalis. At mag. 11.2 the supernova was unusually bright, the host galaxy being 'only' 14 million light-years away. This image clearly shows the supernova. MX716 with the AT1010 refractor, L several 10 minute unguided frames, RGB each 1 x 5 minutes. 14th. September 2004.

The Cocoon Nebula (IC5146) in Cygnus is a popular target for imaging although difficult visually, and high in the UK early Autumn skies. MX716 with the TMB Refractor. L several 10 minute unguided frames (a small amount of declination drift unfortunately - I'll try again!), RGB each 1 x 5 minutes. 15th. September 2004.

Unlike the Cocoon above, the Helix Nebula (NGC7293) in Aquarius never climbs high in the northern UK skies, and this image was taken with the object around 13 degrees altitude. But a moderately clear spell on 15th. September lasted long enough for the image to be obtained. MX716 with the TMB refractor. L several 5 minute unguided frames, RGB each 5 minutes. Horizon haze and turbulence from a moderate breeze have robbed the image of fine detail. But the opportunities to image this large and interesting planetary nebula - the closest to us - from northern latitudes are few, so I have to take my chances. Hopefully I'll have a better image before the 2004 window closes!

After a showery day the skies cleared beautifully on the evening of 23rd. September, and I was able to image NGC 253, the Sculptor galaxy, although it never rose above 10 degrees altitude. Still a little fuzziness due to the low elevation, but reasonably pleasing! 5 minute frames with the TMB refractor.

This image appeared in the July to September 2009 issue of the SPA magazine.

I then followed on with a visit to M45, The Pleiades. Also satisfactory, with nice nebulosity. This time with a 135 mm camera lens.

This image was published in the December 2004 issue of Astronomy Now

Just missed it!

On 26th. August I imaged galaxy NGC6946. On 27th. September a bright Supernova, SN2004et was discovered on the outskirts by Stefano Moretti in Italy. So I've re-imaged the galaxy, a slightly better image than the last one - darker skies. October 4th. 2004, MX716 with the STF Mirage at f6.3. L 8 x 5 minute frames, RGB each 1 x 5 minute. All unguided. The Supernova is arrowed, and the inset shows the area prior to the outburst from my August image - no sign of a star never mind a Supernova!

The beautiful edge on galaxy NGC891 in Andromeda is a popular target. I previously imaged it from Boldon, (see earlier in this page) but hoped for a better image from darker skies. My opportunity came on the night of 14th. October, when after some days of cloud and torrential rain on the day, the skies cleared for a few hours. Hexham, MX716 with Mirage at f6.3. L 7 x 5 minute frames, RGB each 5 mins.

Messier 76, the 'Little Dumbell' is a nice planetary nebula in Perseus, reckoned to be one of the most difficult Messier objects for visual observing. But it is nicely coloured, and almost at the zenith in November, so a good target. This image was obtained just after midnight on 10/11th. November. Luminance 15 unguided frames at 3 minutes, RGB each 5 minutes. All with the Mirage at f10.

After the usual several days of awful weather, at last I had an opportunity for more imaging in mid November....................

M1 of course - the Crab Nebula in Taurus. MX716, Mirage at f10. L 16 x 2 min frames , RGB each 3 mins. Early hours of 20th November 2004.

M74 in Pisces. MX716, Mirage at f6.3. L 8 x 5 min frames , RGB each 5 mins. 13th November 2004.

IC5067 - the emission wavefront in the Pelican Nebula in Cygnus. 24 x 5 min frames using an Astronomiks H-alpha filter. Colour added in Photoshop. 13th. November 2004.

The night of 7/8th. December was a cracker! Clear skies from dusk to dawn, and I worked right through! A bit of time spent refining my polar alignment, then I started imaging around 9 pm. The first target was a repeat visit to Stephan's Quintet in Pegasus, previously imaged from Boldon, but this time at a higher resolution with the MX716 and Mirage at f10. L 11 frames x 3 minutes, RGB each 5 minutes. The galaxy group is made up of NGCs 7317, 7318-1, 7318-2, 7319 and 7320. Nearby there is also fainter 7320C.

While looking in Skymap for likely targets I came across mag 10.6 NGC1055, near Messier 77 in Cetus. It looked to be an interesting object with a prominent dust lane. I wasn't disappointed! MX716 and Mirage at f6.3. L 8 x 5 minutes, RGB each 3 minutes fast hi-res.

Messier 77, (Cetus A) was right next door, so obviously the next to visit. This compact galaxy is mag 8.9, also with interesting dark lanes, but this time face on. MX716 and Mirage at f10. L 15 x 3 minutes, RGB each 4 minutes.

For the remaining three images of the night I fitted the MX716 to my 135 mm camera lens for some larger targets. First was NGC 2237 - the Rosette Nebula in Monoceros. This object is BIG - almost 3 times the size of the Moon, but faint and diffuse and a difficult target visually. But the MX716 captures it nicely! L 8 x 6 minutes, RGB each 6 minutes.

I first came across Kemble's Cascade in the Philip's Observers Handbook 'Astronomy from Towns and Suburbs'. The asterism was originally mentioned by Lucian J. Kemble in a letter to Walter Scott Houston in 1980. A magnificent cascade of stars splashing into the small open cluster NGC 1502 in Camelopardalis, and a fine binocular object. L 6 x 5 minutes, RGB each 5 minutes.

With morning approaching, I quickly visited Messier 44, Praesepe or the Beehive in Cancer. The MX716 with the 135 mm lens nicely encompasses this large naked eye cluster. L 5 x 5 minutes, RGB each 3 minutes fast hi-res.

As if 7/8th. December wasn't enough, the 9/10th again showed promise. I'd been out, and got home about 10.30 pm. Foggy in the valley, but as I climbed the last 100 feet or so to Plover Hill, I came up out of it to clear skies. The fog over Hexham, and indeed all the urban areas even as far as Newcastle 25 miles away, shut out almost all light pollution, and the skies remained beautifully dark all night. Still a bit hazy, so my first targets were affected by this. NGC772, is a nicely shaped spiral galaxy in Aries, magnitude 10.6 with nearby fainter galaxies. The two with queries aren't shown in Skymap. MX716 and Mirage at f6.3 L 6 x 5 minutes, RGB each 5 minutes.

Comet C/2004 Q2 Machholz was now rising, and at 5th magnitude and 15 degrees altitude was worth imaging. This comet will continue to rise and brighten over the next month, so I hope to obtain more images showing changes as it approaches the Sun. MX716, Mirage at f6.3. 5 x 1 minute frames.

Still low to the South, I then went for the small Globular cluster Messier 79 in Lepus. This was affected by horizon haze and turbulence, but at only 10 degrees altitude, I was thankful to get a halfway decent image. Mirage at f6.3, 10 x 1 minute frames.

Messier 50 in Monoceros next crossed the Meridian at 26 degrees altitude, and with the mist also clearing, I obtained a satisfactory image. The MX716 with Mirage at f6.3 nicely framed the cluster. L 10 x 1 minutes, RGB each 1 min.

I then spent some time trying out autoguiding using my webcam and AT1010. Mixed success - needs more work. But before packing in I decided to image Messier 82 which was high in the sky in Ursa Major. And I'm glad I did so. The exceptionally dark sky gave very good contrast, allowing processing to bring out as much detail as possible. The air was slightly turbulent, so a little fine detail lost, but I'm quite pleased with it! MX716, Mirage at f10. L 9 x 3 minutes, RGB each 3 minutes.