Deep Sky (SBIG ST10XME), 2008

Almost all of June was cursed with cloudy nights, but fortunately a couple of clear nights came along just before my trip to La Palma and I was able to do some tests and imaging. This image of M39 was taken in the small hours of 21st June - the longest day! Despite nautical twilight and an almost full Moon the clear air gave a satisfactory result. ST-10 with William Optics ZS66 and WO 0.8 reducer. Luminance 5 x 2 minute exposures, RGB each also 5 x 2 minutes with Astrodon filters.

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For those who like 'spikes' on their stars, here is a full size version with them added using Noel Carboni's Actions.

Following my trip to Les Granges in August 2008, the UK weather was cloudy almost continually throughout the rest of August, culminating in severe flooding in early September. But the sky cleared for a few hours the night of 4/5 September. Frustratingly I had equipment problems, to be expected in a way when things hadn't been used for a while. Anyway, I'd been intrigued by the image of Cassiopeia A recently posted on the UKAI group, and managed to get 6 x 10 minute subs at f7 with the ST-10 and AO-8 on the 12" LX200 ACF before the 'fun' started. So work in progress, but looking promising.

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Then after an hour or more fighting with recalcitrant gear I had a quick peek at the area around NGC 680 - an interesting grouping of galaxies in Aries. Again 10 minute subs, only 4, this time at f10. Sods law struck in the first sub with a bright satellite trail, but I've left it in for now to reduce the noise a bit. Again work in progress.

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On 20th September 2008 , once the Full Moon had departed, although there was still a last quarter, the sky was pretty clear and I was able to get more luminance and colour data for Cassiopeia A . But although this image will have to suffice for now, I hope to revisit under a pristine sky if one comes along!

LX200ACF OTA at F7, ST-10XME with AO-8, Luminance 12 x 10 minutes, RGB each 6 x 4 minutes binned 2x2

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After capturing the new data for Cass A I visited vdB 141 (SH2-136) in Cepheus. This bright nebula with associated dust cloud is popularly known as The Ghost Nebula for obvious reasons - when shown with North down as here, there they are, waving spookily! I only captured Luminance data on this occasion, but revisited it on 28th September and obtained colour data. Unfortunately again I was plagued with haze and thin cloud, so the image is rather noisy and blotchy. Hopefully I will get another chance under good conditions.

Post Script. More data acquired on a decent night on 5th October, so this is the final result.

LX200ACF OTA at f7, SBIG ST10-XME with Astrodon filters and AO-8. Luminance 29 x 10 minutes, RGB each 12 x 4 minutes binned 2x2.

This image appeared in the November and December 2008 'Practical Astronomer'

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On 23rd September I took a break from Cassiopeia A and visited the Cocoon nebula - IC 5146 in Cygnus, this time with narrowband filters. I obtained the Luminance data that night, then returned on 26th for colour data.

12" LX200ACF OTA at f7, ST10 XME with AO-8. Luminance Astronomik Ha filter, 1 x 10 minute and 15 x 15 minute subs. Red H-alpha, Green O3, Blue S2, each 6 x 15 minute subs.

This image featured in The Sky at Night BBC TV programme, August 2012

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In order to locate a bright enough guide star to image with the narrowband filters I had to rotate the camera out of N-S orientation. So here is a framed crop with North up.

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NGC 7814 is an edge on spiral galaxy in Pegasus. I first imaged it in 2003 with marginal success, although reprocessing with my current knowledge improved it considerably. But the night of 8th October 2008 was clear and I resolved to try and do better, particularly after admiring Adam Block's APOD image - worth a look for information as well as admiration!

Unfortunately I experienced very poor seeing, so the image lacks crispness, nevertheless there is still a hint of many of the background galaxies and faint stars.

This image featured in The Sky at Night BBC TV programme, August 2012

12" LX200AFC at f10. SBIG ST10XME, Astrodon filters and AO-8. Luminance 12 x 10 minutes, RGB each 7 x 4 minutes binned 2x2

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Poor conditions through most of October 2008, but a reasonable night on 24th found me imaging the beautiful barred spiral galaxy NGC 7479 in Pegasus. Previously imaged in 2003 and 2005, but still needing a revisit. Seeing was poor, but a further sequence of 8 luminance frames obtained on 28th October improved matters considerably.

SBIG ST10XME with AO-8, Astrodon filters, 12" LX200ACF OTA at f10, Luminance 8 + 8 x 10 minute subs, RGB each 8 x 3 minutes binned 2x2

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NGC 891. Previously imaged satisfactorily in 2006, this beautiful edge on galaxy in Andromeda with its prominent dust lane again captured my interest in October 2008. A few clear nights at the end of the month gave me the opportunity to capture plenty of sub frames, albeit with mixed seeing. But the final result was most satisfactory!

Luminance 38 x 10 minutes, RGB each 8 x 3 minutes, binned 2x2. ST10XME and AO-8 on 12" LX200ACF OTA at f10, Astrodon filters

This image was published as Picture of the Month in the April 2009 edition of Sky at Night magazine, and also featured in the October 2011 and August 2012 BBC Sky at Night television programmes.

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After what seemed like an age following my purchase of a Meade Series 5000 127 mm refractor at the Autumn Kielder Star Camp, the skies finally cleared, albeit with occasional passing clouds, and I was able to get a satisfactory 'first light' on 24th November 2008. The first target was Messier 39 open cluster in Cygnus. Hurried because I had to go out for a couple of hours, but even so enough data for a decent image. Luminance 5 x 3 mins, RGB each 3 x 1 minute binned 2x2. Full Size

On returning home I then went for another nice open cluster, Messier 34 in Perseus. A bit more data for this one, but a slightly less star rich part of the Milky Way. Luminance 9 x 3 minutes, RGB each 5 x 1 minute binned 2x2. Meade 127, AO-8, SBIG ST10XME, Astronomik RGB filters for this and M39.

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Then a visit to B33 - The famous Horsehead Nebula in Orion. In this case I used a Hydrogen Alpha filter. The framing was such that the first magnitude star Alnitak was available for guiding, so notwithstanding the Ha filter, the AO-8 was able to correct at 10 cycles per second! But even narrow band filters cannot see through the clouds which rolled in , so colour will have to wait. 8 x 10 minute frames, Meade 127, AO-8, SBIG ST10XME, Astronomik Ha filter. Full size

As I say, clouds arrived before I was able to capture colour data. But in the meantime, a bit of whimsy and some fun with Photoshop produced the attached. Imagine yourself in an aeroplane at night flying over a stormy cloudscape lit by the Full Moon!

The Moon image was taken on 9th January 2001, just after the Lunar Eclipse, using an Olympus 2100 UZ digital camera, afocal with a 40 mm eyepiece on a Celestron C8 8" SCT. 1/800th sec. ISO 100, f3.2 (camera)

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A short session fairly early in the evening of 26th November produced this image of the globular cluster Messier 15 in Pegasus. ST-10XME with AO8 and Meade 127 refractor. The bright stars bloomed very quickly, so only short exposures were taken. Luminance 10 x 2 minutes, RGB each 3 x 2 minutes.
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The night of 27th November started out problematic, but eventually the passing clouds passed away and I was able to obtain more data for the Horsehead.

Meade series 5000 127 mm refractor, SBIG ST10XME camera with AO-8. Astronomik narrowband filters. Luminance 17 x 10 minutes Ha, RGB Ha, OIII, SII each 5 x 10 minutes (I used 5 of the already captured Ha)

The Meade 127 has settled down nicely! Full size

Then with a couple of hours of dark left I briefly visited M81. Same setup as for the Horsehead, but with Astrodon RGB filters.

Luminance 10 x 5 minutes, RGB each 4 x 5 minutes.

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On 29th November 2008 I imaged for the first time the pretty planetary nebula NGC 1514 in Taurus.

Meade 12" LX200R OTA at f10, SBIG ST10XME, Astrodon filters, AO-8. Luminance 15 x 5 minutes, RGB each 5 x 5 minutes. I would have liked more data, but didn't get started 'til after midnight when the sky cleared.

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In Taurus near Alnath, the large but very faint supernova remnant Simeis 147, also known as Sharpless 240, really needs high altitude contrasty sky and professional standard instruments to get fine detail, for example this APOD

I got a partial image of this a couple of years ago, but with a succession of clear nights had another go. Same 135 mm lens as last time, but the larger chip of the ST10 re the Art 285 captured the whole thing. The small nebulosity near the left edge is SH 242.

Narrowband helps! All luminance taken on 1st. December. Yes, the sky cleared beautifully a few hours AFTER the occultation of Venus which was clouded out - Sod's law in spades!!

Luminance 10 x 15 minutes ( I had another 10 from an earlier night, but they were taken in very poor seeing, and combining them with the later 10 bloated the stars a bit - pity to waste all that data but....) RGB each 6 x 5 mins Ha, OIII, SII. Full Size (905KB!)


NGC 2237, the Rosette Nebula in Monoceros responds well to narrowband filters, and I revisited it on 6th and 7th December.

Here are a couple of variations to choose from - the first using Ha, O3, S2 as RGB, the second is the Hubble Palette, S2, Ha, O3, with the Ha (green) held back to prevent excessive greenness!

Luminance 15 x 10 minutes H-alpha, colour each 7 x 10 minutes, OIII, SII, Ha from luminance frames. SBIG ST10XME, TMB 105 with .8 WO reducer, AO-8

HOS Full Size

Hubble Palette Full Size

Although the data for this image of Messier 1 - the Crab nebula in Taurus - was collected on the nights of 29th November and 18th December, I overlooked it and didn't process until 16th November 2009! But it belongs here. ST-10XME on 12" LX200R with AO8. Luminance 20 x 5 minutes, RGB each 6 x 2.5 minutes binned 2x2.

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This image was published in the February 2010 Astronomy Now magazine


NGC 2146 is an interesting disturbed Galaxy in Camelopardalis. The night of 23rd December 2008 was clear-ish (thin haze) but with extremely poor seeing, the stars twinkling like mad.

But with the first even half way decent sky for several nights, I just had to have a close up peek, although with such poor seeing I suppose I should have gone wide field for an easier target. The lousy seeing has bloated the stars and destroyed the fine detail, but I managed to tease a bit out. Definitely worth a return visit in better conditions.

Luminance 14 x 5 minutes, RGB each 5 x 5 minutes, Astrodon filters. ST10XME, AO-8, 12 LX200ACF (OTA) at f10. No full size file - not good enough!.

High pressure dominated over the Christmas 2008 period, but unfortunately brought predominantly cloudy weather. But Boxing Day evening was beautifully calm, Venus brilliant, and clear sky right down to the Southern horizon. So I targeted NGC 246 - the interesting and quite large 'Skull' planetary nebula in Cetus. I had to catch it early, because it culminated at 6.30 pm, at only 23 degrees altitude.

For a while all was well, until the last blue colour sub when the clouds rolled in again. But at least I'd got the data I wanted....

12"LX200ACF OTA at f7, SBIG ST10XME with Astrodon filters and AO-8. Luminance 12 x 5 minutes, RGB 5 (blue 4) x 5 minutes. Cropped out of the full frame - the (AP) reducer introduces some vignetting and I didn't have a matching flat. The central star is a double - the box in the top right corner is a less stretched crop showing the duplicity.

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After the clouds appeared, occasional breaks allowed the capture of some frames of the interesting Camelopardalis galaxy NGC 1530, but eventually the cloud cover became solid. I gave up, did some processing and had a hot bath to warm up. Then, typically the sky was clear again, (around 3.30 am!) Undaunted I dressed and carried on where I had left off. Eventually out of the mishmash I had 20 usable luminance subs and a handful of colour.

The galaxy is faint and I was experimenting with sampling levels so all was binned 2x2. But interesting detail has emerged, so I will definitely try again at full resolution. The colour frames were minimal, but a fair bit of work with Photoshop extracted most of what was required!

SBIG ST10XME, 12" LX200ACF at f10 with AO-8 and Astrodon filters. Luminance 20 x 5 minutes, Red 3 x 5 mins, G & B each 2 x 5 mins.