M51 – Whirlpool Galaxy

I have posted about M51 in the past, but not like I have it now. I have previously posted about some new astronomy gear. I got a CG-5 Advanced Series mount, it is computerized and I’m able to — after properly aligning — type in an object and the mount points directly to it. It also does a pretty good job of framing it in just about the same position over multiple nights. This mount really makes it easy to find the faint targets that you can’t see from dark skies, and definitely not in the light polluted skies I’m shooting from.

Not only did I get the CG-5 mount, but I also got an autoguider setup, the Orion Starshoot Autoguider and the Orion 50mm guidescope. This allows me to lock onto a star and track it to make up for some correction in alignment to keep the object in view allowing for longer exposures. I was previously limited to about 2 minute exposures per image. With the autoguider and the CG-5 mount I’m am shooting at 5 minutes. I haven’t pushed it further yet due to the light pollution from my yard, but once it gets warmer I’ll be experimenting a bit with exposure times.

This is my first round of imaging with the new setup. I got M51 because who doesn’t like two galaxies colliding? On February 28, 2014 I got out for the first clear night in what feels like forever. This was in the least light polluted direction and in a great spot for me to image it.

M51 – The Whirlpool Galaxy 02-28-14

This image is 21 light frames at 5 minutes with ISO800. Also included was 25 dark frames, and 25 flat frames. Image stacked in deep sky stacker and post processing done in Photoshop.

I have to say the combination of the mount and the autoguider is going to be a major improvement on what I can image. I have another image in store that I am currently working on processing which will hopefully be up with the week.

That Show with Billy Wilson on Google Plus

Last night I got to show off some of my photos on That Show with Billy Wilson over on Google Plus. Not only did I get to show of some of my astro photo’s, but I had the brilliantly awesome, Pamela Gay there to help explain what it was I imaged. I answered a few questions from Jordan Oram, and got to enjoy some great bluesy music by Paul Platt. Was a great show, and I had an awesome time. If anyone watching has any questions now please feel free to post the questions in the comments below and I’ll get back to them as soon as possible.

Billy Wilson does a weekly live show on Google+, which can be found on his G+ page, he also has a series of inspirational videos about mental disabilities, and he is also a photographer.

Pamela Gay is an astronomer, writer, and podcaster. She’s also the project director over at Cosmoquest. She is one of the main people that has helped amplify my love for astronomy, and I enjoy her podcasts, writing, and marking craters at Cosmoquest for science. If you haven’t checked out any of the many things she is a part of I highly recommend that you take a few moments to check her out.

Jordan Oram is a traveler and photographer who helps empower people to discover their passions and their strengths. Find out more about him, and what he’s doing via his website. Jordan is also a photography editor and outdoor adventures editor at Wandering Educators.

Paul Platt is an independent musician, singer, songwriter. His youtube channel has many great songs he has preformed via Google+ hangouts.

And, without further ado, here is a recording of the Live Hangout we did on Google+, and be sure to add me, Michael Rector, to your G+ circles if you have an account.

Celestron CG-5 Mount

Recently bit the bullet and ordered a Celestron CG-5 mount. It’s computerized which will allow me to include things like an autoguider for longer exposure images with less chance of star trails.

The mount came in on Monday, February 10. I got it all setup and was able to get out the day after for some practice with star alignment. Looking forward to some more clear skies to give it a full test. Now just waiting for my Orion Starshoot Autoguider to come in along with the guide scope. With this combination I will, hopefully, no longer be limited to my 120 second exposures.

The Celestron CG-5 box

 

All the pieces from the box, mount, tripod, weights, hand controller, eyepiece tray, hand controller mount, CG-5 dovetail bar.

Mount put together with my Celestron Omni XLT 150 reflector.

 

IC 59 and IC 63 – Ghost of Cassiopeia

Found in the constellation Cassiopeia near the bright variable star, Gamma Cassiopeia, also known as Navi. The orbital period of this binary star is about 204 days with the companion star being estimated to have a mass similar to our sun.

These two nebulae are only 3 to 4 light years away from the bright star within the image. IC 59 is the fainter of the two with IC 63 being the brighter almost cone shaped nebula. IC 63 is dominated by H-Alpha light and IC 59 has significantly less H-alpha emissions with a more blue tint reflected from star light. Both nebula are emission and reflection nebulas.

IC 59 and IC 63 location in Cassiopeia

IC 59 and IC 63 location in Cassiopeia

Through my telescope I couldn’t make out the nebula, but with it’s close proximity to Gamma Cassiopeia I was able to frame both nebula without too much of an issue. I couldn’t make out the binary star of Gamma Cass through my telescope.

IC 59 and IC 63 near Gamma Cassiopeia in the constellation Cassiopeia 11-29-13

This image is 74 images at 2 minutes a piece with ISO 800, 62 dark frames, and 36 flat frames. Images stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and post processing in Photoshop.

I will have to go back to this nebula and try again with either longer exposures or a higher ISO to see if I can get more detail in IC 59, and maybe more of IC 63. I had to stretch this image quite a bit to get both nebula to show in the image.

Screen shot of object location taken in Stellarium http://www.stellarium.org. Image stacking in Deep Sky Stacker http://deepskystacker.free.fr/english/index.html.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Modded Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Intervalometer
Polar Scope for alignment

NGC 869 and NGC 884 – The Double Cluster

NGC 869, and NGC 884 in Perseus are two open clusters of stars meaning they are relatively young stars estimated at 12.8 million years old. Both clusters lie at a distance of 7500 light years from Earth. NGC 869 has a higher mass than NGC 884 with 869 being around 3700 solar masses and 884 being 2800 solar masses. Recent research has found that both clusters are surrounded with a halo of stars making the total mass for the complex at lease 20000 solar masses. This object was noted as early as 130 B.C by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus who claims it to be a patch of light in Perseus. In the early 19th century, William Herschel was the first to recognize it as two separate open clusters. Although the pair are bright, and can be seen with the unaided eye, it was not included in Messier’s catalog (most likely because it didn’t look “comet like” to Charles Messier), but it is included in the Caldwell catalog.

Location of NGC 869 and NGC 884

Location of NGC 869 and NGC 884

Through the eyepiece this double cluster is visually stunning, with the orange bright stars shining bright with dimmer white/blue stars gathered together in two separate formations. One of my favorite fall/winter clusters which never disappoint to an astronomy pro or newcomer.

NGC 869 and NGC 884 – The Double Cluster 10-12-13

This image is 45 light frames at 2 minutes and ISO 800, 48 dark frames, 35 flat frames, and 52 bias frames. Images stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, and post processing done in Photoshop.

Information on the double cluster was from the Wikipedia page on NGC 869 and NGC 884, Double Cluster. Screen shot of object location taken in Stellarium. Image stacking in Deep Sky Stacker.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Modded Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Intervalometer
Polar Scope for alignment