Deep Sky (SBIG ST10XME), 2009


The cloudy high pressure experienced over Christmas 2008 continued through into the New Year, but eventually relented, typically just before Full Moon! I targeted the interesting emission nebula SH2-142 in Cepheus which contains the open cluster NGC 7380. Data obtained over three nights using narrow band filters, the Luminance eventually only from 13th January.

Meade 127 refractor, SBIG ST10XME with Astronomik filters and AO-8. Luminance 8 x 10 minutes, RGB each 5 x 10 minutes. This image using Hydrogen alpha for Red, Oxygen III for Green, Sulphur II for Blue.

This image was published in the April 2009 edition of Astronomy Now

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This version using the 'Hubble Palette', SII, Ha, OIII.

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Messier 78 is a rather neglected area of nebulosity north of the Orion nebula which gets the bulk of attention. But it's an interesting area in its own right.

The North East of England was cursed with persistent cloud for most of the end of January New Moon time. Some lovely sunny days, but in rolled the cloud in the early evenings.

So it took me three nights to get enough half reasonable data, but I've never imaged this before, so was determined to get something. Eventually, with the final data collected on 24th January, Luminance 8 x 10 minutes, RGB each 5 x 2 1/2 minutes binned 2x2. ST10XME with AO-8 and Astrodon filters on Meade Series 5000 127 refractor. Still a bit noisy, smoothed out so lacking a bit in crispness. Really needs a lot more data with colour unbinned to improve the star edges, but with more lousy weather on the way, the Orion targets are going to be marginal - the days are getting longer.

Messier 78 is also designated as NGC 2068, and there are three other NGC objects in this image, 2064, 2067 and 2071. 'Mouse over' the medium size image for identification. McNeil's Nebula is also clearly visible. 

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This image appeared on the BBC Sky at Night TV programme in February 2011

After imaging comet Lulin on 28th February the sky remained clear for a while although still somewhat hazy, so I took the opportunity to add M94 (Canes Venatici) to my incomplete Messier object collection. Poor seeing as well as haze, but at least a capture. Lack of fine detail due to the conditions, so only the medium size image is presented (click on the thumbnail as usual).

SBIG ST-10XME, Meade 12" LX200 ACF OTA, AO-8, Astrodon filters. Luminance 15 x 5 minutes, RGB each 5 x 2 minutes binned 2x2.

Postscript. I MUST revisit this on a good clear night (if such a thing ever happens again in the UK!) Looking at the above image in a semi dark room I can just see what appears to be an extended cloud of stars around the galaxy. Stretching the image shows it, BUT is it maybe just vignetting???

Well not if you look at this version,

So... I need a really good clear night with good seeing, preferably around the next New Moon, then numerous 10 minute (at least!) subs. Dream on!!

AT LAST!! On 20th March, a clear night after weeks of waiting.

So what to do? I was out earlier in the evening, so when I got home only had time for one target, and after a bit of pratting about decided to revisit M94 in the hope of getting a better image.

And I think I succeeded, even though the seeing was still mediocre.

13 x 10 minutes Luminance, RGB each 5 x 4 minutes binned 2x2. ST-10XME and AO-8 on 12" LX200ACF at f10. Full size

The background is much less patchy when stretched to show the outer halo - phew!


Another couple of partially clear nights (but with poor seeing) followed the 20th March, and on 22nd and 24th I was able to obtain luminance and colour data respectively for the nice spiral galaxy Messier 88 in Coma Berenices to add to my Messier collection.

Luminance 16 x 5 minutes, RGB each 5 x 5 minutes. All binned 2x2. ST10XME, AO-8, Astrodon filters. 12" LX200ACF at f10. North to top left corner.

The weekend of 28th March 2009 was the climax of the annual Spring Kielder Sky Camp. I and some friends stayed in a log cabin for most of the preceding week, but our heart went out to those camping - Thursday and Friday were cold and wet in the extreme! Even the earlier part of the week afforded only glimpses of the night sky.

But Saturday night was crisp and clear, and I decided to image the 'Whale' (NGC 4631) and 'Hockey Stick' (NGC 4656) galaxies in Canes Venatici, which were nicely framed. Apart from a couple of interludes when some cloud passed over, the sky remained pristine most of the night. I stayed with the one target, getting the following data.

Luminance 18 x 10 minutes, RGB each 5 x 5 minutes binned 2x2. ST10XME, AO-8, Astrodon filters, Meade Series 5000 127 mm refractor.

Numerous tiny background galaxies visible in the Full size image.

This image appeared in the September 2009 issue of Sky at Night magazine, and featured in The Sky at Night BBC TV programme, August 2012

While at the Kielder Star Camp in March I succumbed to temptation and bought the baby sister of my Meade 127 refractor - the Series 5000 80mm. I had hoped it would have as flat a field as its sibling, but unfortunately that was not to be. Nevertheless with the William Optics 0.8 reducer already in my possession all was well, and on the night of 12th April I targeted Messier 44, Praesepe the Beehive cluster in Cancer. Previously imaged some years ago with my Starlight xpress MX716, and in need of a re visit.

SBIG ST-10XME on Meade Series 5000 80 mm, WO 0.8 MkII reducer, (focal length approx. 410 mm, f 5.13) Luminance 20 x 30 seconds, RGB each 10 x 30 seconds, Astrodon filters.

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When the above data was complete, the waning gibbous Moon had not yet risen, so for a bit of interest I moved to the area of Messier 81 and 82 in Ursa Major for a wide field image. North is to the left in this image. Also M82 to the left. The smaller galaxy at the bottom of the frame is NGC 3077 and the faint one to the far right is PGC 28563.

Same optical arrangement as M44, Luminance 9 x 5 minutes, RGB each 4 x 5 minutes.

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After a week of appalling cloud and mist shrouding North East England while much of the rest of Britain was basking in sunshine, the weather finally relented and I was able to fire up the camera again on 19th April. NGC 5033 in Canes Venatici was the chosen target. Imaged a couple of years ago, but without colour. The seeing was good and I was able to capture reasonable detail of this interesting galaxy with its widely scattered spiral arms and strange structure right of centre, although thin haze reduced contrast. The small smudge to the left is faint galaxy PGC 166160.

SBIG ST-10XME, AO-8, Astrodon filters, 12" LX200ACF at f7. Luminance 15 x 10 minutes, RGB each 5 x 5 minutes binned 2x2

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20th April was again decently clear and although slightly hazy, with good seeing, so I tackled NGC 4236 in Draco. This quite faint galaxy is relatively close to us, and is a whopping 22 arc-minutes long - almost as big as M81. Mag 10.1, surface brightness 15. Compare with similarly distanced M81 mag 7 and surface brightness 13.2, and you see why it isn't better known. But some nice little tiddlers in attendance.

SBIG ST-10XME, AO-8, Astrodon filters, 12" LX200ACF at f7. Luminance 12 x 10 minutes, RGB each 5 x 5 minutes. Would have had a bit more data, but the focus slipped a couple of times with the 'scope pointing almost straight up - the camera/filter wheel/AO-8 combination is *heavy*! Full size



The 21st of April was again clear! So I decided to add Messier 91 to my collection. This relatively small (5 arc-minutes) Coma Berenices galaxy is quite low contrast, and coupled with mediocre seeing and slight haze it wasn't worth trying full resolution, so binned 2x2, SBIG ST-10XME, AO-8, Astrodon filters, 12" LX200 ACF at f10 on Gemini G41 mount. Luminance 19 x 5 minutes, RGB each 6 x 5 minutes.

North is roughly to the left. A few 'minnows', the biggest is 15th mag PGC 41978.

NGC 4559 is an infrequently imaged galaxy in Coma Berenices, yet reasonably bright at mag 9.6 But it took me three nights to get satisfactory data - although 24th and 25th April started out clear, they soon clouded over, and the nearness of the weather fronts gave lousy seeing. But 26th was a beautifully clear night, although the seeing was still a bit 'twinkly' and eventually I prevailed ;) Even so, with the now short dark hours, relatively poor seeing and faint (mag 11.3) guide star allowing the AO-8 to work at only around 1 correction per second I binned everything 2x2.

ST-10XME, AO-8, 12" LX200ACF OTA at f10, Luminance 15 x 5 minutes, RGB each 5 x 5 minutes. Right is North.

There's a very nice AOP of this galaxy here. But I wonder why so many of their images are mirrored? - Galaxy Zoo would not be happy !

Although the earlier nights were disappointing, the very first frame on 25th April shows an unusual streak. Looks like a tiny meteor (remember the fov is only 16 arc-minutes, so the trail is approximately 4 arc-minutes. Maybe a cosmic ray passing through the chip almost parallel to the surface??

A bit of time left on 26th, so a quick look at the large but very faint NGC 4395 in Canes Venatici, of particular interest because of the puzzlingly small black hole at its core. See here . A nice bright guide star this time. Hoping for more data, but only a few nights left before the bright Summer nights at my latitude wash this one out altogether.

ST-10XME, AO-8, LX200 ACF at f10, 5 x 10 minutes binned 2x2. Left is North.

Seeing, although far from perfect, was better on 29th, so despite a waxing Moon and thin cloud later I managed to get a further hour of data on NGC 4395. Maybe focus was better as well, so more detail is shown, despite this being only four frames (10 minutes binned 2x2). Alas by next New Moon full darkness has fled until August. So this target will now have to wait until next year before I can do more with it. But I WILL return!!


A long time since I imaged this and not happy with my effort from 2005. So on 30th May 2009 I decided to revisit the great globular cluster Messier 13 in Hercules. Lots of luminance, then went for colour. Strangely the colour only composite was crisper than the luminance result, although the latter had much more data! Don't know whether it was focus drift or moonlight in the earlier luminance (it had set by the time I went for colour).

RGB, each 5 x 3 minutes. ST-10XME, AO-8, LX200ACF 12" at f7.

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The following night was again clear and I tried for the quite faint emission nebula, Sharpless 112 near Deneb in Cygnus. And narrow band filters defeated the moonlight ;) The dark lanes are interesting - they don't look like dust. Perhaps the Hydrogen has been dispersed by starlight?

ST-10XME on 12" LX200ACF OTA at f7, guided with AO-8. Luminance 16 x 5 minutes, RGB using Ha (some of the luminance frames), OIII and SII each 6 x 5 minutes. All binned 2x2

This is still a work in progress, but for the moment here is a monochrome Hydrogen-alpha image of the 'Propeller' nebula in Cygnus, taken in the early hours of 16th July 2009 in a mixture of Nautical and Astronomical twilight. Variously catalogued as DWB-111, Simeis 57 and MRSL 479 . SBIG ST-10XME on Meade series 5000 127 (950 mm fl). 14 x 5 minute sub frames, binned 2x2.

Postscript: 24th July 2009 was a cracker - Milky Way and Cygnus rift clearly visible even from my 55 degree twilit latitude. Pretty good seeing as well, so I was able to get a lot of fresh data to add to my earlier cloud interrupted bits, including colour.

So here's the final result. Luminance 24 x 5 minutes H-alpha, RGB each 5 x 5 minutes Ha, O3, S2. There was negligible O3 in the image, so the colour is predominantly red. All with the SBIG ST-10 binned 2x2 on Meade series 5000 127 refractor, prime focus. North is to the right.

Although the night of 25th July 2009 started off cloudy, for a while the Milky Way smiled on me, so having completed the Propeller the night before I quickly changed scopes and got some data before the clouds returned. I tried 5 minute subs binned 3x3 at first, but a bit on the noisy side, so back to 2x2 binning. The target is an extremely faint bubble of gas in Cygnus, only discovered in 2008. Classified PN G75.5+1.7, popular name the Soap Bubble Nebula. See here.

5 x 10 minute subs binned 2x2, ST-10 on 12" LX200 ACF at f7, H-alpha filter. Heavily stretched so still noisy - need lots more data, but it's a start!

A month later on 24th August the predominantly poor weather relented long enough for me to obtain more data, with this result. Heavily processed so still rather noisy despite over 3 hours of data. Maybe later in the year... Anyway, 2 hours of Ha and 40 minutes each of O3 and S2 gave me this 'Hubble Palette' (SHO) image. All subs binned 2x2, ST-10 on 12" LX200 ACF at f7

This image was published in the February 2010 Sky at Night magazine, and featured in The Sky at Night BBC TV programme, August 2012


This image is really 'work in progress' - limited data over three slightly hazy nights in mid September 2009, each time interrupted by clouds, and different alignments. But it's really a high Summer object, and not feasible from my twilit latitude at that time. And I may not get any more data this year.

So for what its worth... the mag 14.6 'Tadpole' galaxy, UGC 10214 (Arp 188) in Draco. SBIG ST10 on 12" LX200R at f10. 16 x 10 minute subs binned 2x2. Colour RGB each 4 x 10 minutes binned 2x2

The small elliptical galaxy lower left is mag 15.5 PGC 57108 and edge on lower right is mag 17.2 PGC2502068 . North is right.

I chose some pretty faint targets for the visit to Les Granges in September, expecting the clear dark skies of Les Granges to help with the imaging. But some of them were even more difficult than I anticipated, and this and LBN777 below probably need a full week each! This faint nebula is LBN442 in Lacerta. My SBIG ST-10XME on Olly's Takahashi FSQ85. Luminance 17 x 10 minutes H-alpha, Colour Ha with 3 each x 10 minutes O3 and S2. The night of 21st. September.

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I chose the brighter NGC7822 in Cepheus for its interesting dark lanes and intrusions. Optics as above, Luminance 17 x 10 minutes H-alpha, Colour Ha with 11 x 10 minutes each O3 and S2. Captured over two nights 22nd and 23rd.

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LBN777 in Taurus is also known as the Vulture's Head nebula. A late target for September, so again imaged over two nights at Les Granges, the early hours of 23rd and 24th. Luminance 17 x 10 minutes, RGB each 6 x 5 minutes binned 2x2 due to shortage of time. A very faint low contrast target which really deserves a lot more data. Optics as for LBN442 and NGC7822. The dark 'head' area is also classified as Barnard 207.

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I fitted a 0.63 reducer to Olly Penrice's 10" LX200 OTA and attempted to image the large (5 arc-minutes) but faint (mag 12.7) planetary nebula, Jones 1 in Pegasus. But unfortunately the sky misted over and cut short the imaging run. So this monochrome image consists of 6 x 10 minute subs, binned 2x2 with the ST10.


Stephan's Quintet in Pegasus is a remarkable demonstration of colliding galaxies. I imaged it previously in 2007 with my ST8, but now I have the AO-8 unit, was able to obtain a better guided image on the night of September 20th 2009 - the night before going to Les Granges. For individual identifications 'mouse over' the medium sized image (click on the thumbnail). 18 x 10 minute Luminance subs and 5 x 5 minutes each RGB binned 2x2. ST10 on 12" LX200R at f10 with AO8.

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I attempted to capture the faint outer halo of M27 when in La Palma in 2008, but sky conditions defeated me. However a decently clear night in Hexham on 17th October 2009 gave me an opportunity before the target sank too low in the West. I started with 10 minute sub frames but soon realised more was needed, and moved up to 20 minute for the luminance images.

Even then it needs deeper exposures, so next attempt I will try 30 minute subs! But now the year is advancing, and poor weather means it's unlikely I'll get another opportunity until next year. When I will use a shorter focal length - with the halo it's larger than expected.

Two renderings, one Ha, O3, S2 for RGB, and one S2, Ha, O3 (Hubble palette). Luminance 6 x 20 minute Ha, colour each using Ha from the L, and 4x10 minutes each S2 and O3. SBIG ST-10XME binned 2x2 on 12" LX200R OTA at f7


A group of us stayed at Kielder the weekend of 24th October 2009. Unfortunately the weather was atrocious, and out of four nights only one imaging opportunity was available on the night of 25th. But the sky was pristine for about 3 hours, ample time to collect data on the Double Cluster, NGC 869 and 884 in Perseus. ST10 with AO-8 on Meade 127 refractor. Luminance 20 x 1 minute subs, RGB each 10 x 90 second subs.

The initial processing as can be seen produced substantial halos round the brighter stars. But prompted by the UKAI Group (!) I processed further, with this final result.

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Although I ended up with the halos pretty well all gone, I think this intermediate result is perhaps the more natural and maybe prettiest of them all. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it's over to you, gentle reader! This image featured in the March-April 2013 Popular Astronomy magazine

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Sunday 8th November 2009 was for me the first clear night for two weeks, other than (as always!) a few hours around Full Moon. For once the UK was a clear filling in a cloud sandwich instead of the other way around.

But Sod's law proclaimed that I had to be away from home from 5 pm to 11.30 pm by which time the last quarter Moon was well up. So narrowband had to be the order of the night. I already had a satisfactory image of Messier 76, the Little Dumbbell in Perseus, but decided to see what it looked like in narrowband, and here is the result (cropped from full frame). Using the 'Hubble Palette' SHO, with Ha for luminance. All filters evenly combined in the colour stack, so it's obvious that OIII is the predominant emission - definitely the filter to use for visual!

SBIG ST10 with Astronomik filters and AO8 on 12" LX200R at f10. Nice bright (mag 6) guide star, so correcting at 4 Hz despite the narrowband filters. But poor seeing around 5 to 6 FWHM even in narrowband. H-alpha 8 x 10 minutes, OIII and SII each 6 x 10 minutes. Flats made for each filter using my new DIY 'Light Board'

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NGC 2146 in Camelopardalis is a right mess, and consequently an interesting target. I imaged it a year ago in very poor conditions but when the sky cleared on 10th December 2009 after weeks of terrible weather conditions were superb. Mist in the valley over Hexham blocking most of the light pollution (see pic) meant that my overhead sky was very dark, and seeing was also good. So time for a return visit.

Unfortunately I was out in the evening (rehearsing for a Christmas concert - it was that time of year!) so didn't get cracking until midnight. And by 4 am the Moon (and mist) had risen. Other problems from focus shift (lost 5 subs), dewing inside my LX - the wet windy weather of the last few weeks prevented me using my dehumidifier and humidity levels in the Observatory were almost 90%! But despite all these, I'm happy with the pic. Luminance 9 x 10 minutes, RGB each 5 x 5 minutes binned 2x2. ST-10 on 12" LX200R at f10 with AO-8.

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