A frozen Lake Champlain

I should start an Astronomy on Ice star party. 

Last week I broke down and bought PixInsight

Since my 45 day free trial ran out before I ever got around to really using it I decided to buy it for good reasons. One, it is a beast for astrophotography! Two, it runs natively in Linux which is a major plus for me since I mainly run Linux. I maintain Windows on my laptop for now only because I'm working out some kinks on getting autoguiding to work on Linux on my laptop.

This is my first attempt at PixInsight, and I can say I'm quite please, and proud of the final results. The comparison of these two images is quite a difference. I still have a ways to go to get better in PixInsight, but for a first attempt I couldn't be happier with the results.

These two images were created from the same exact data. I had a bit of an issue getting rid of the red blemish in the upper left corner of the PixInsight image. I think a bit of light bled through when I was shooting my dark frames which may have caused this since I forgot to cover the camera with a shirt like I usually do, which allowed light from my back porch to bleed through on the dark frames.

I'd also like to thank +Stuart Forman for helping me get started in PixInsight.

#astronomy   #astrophotography   #linux   #PixInsight   #space  

In album 2015-01-24

M45 – The Pleiades, Seven Sisters, Subaru…

M45, also known as the Pleiades throughout the USA, or the Seven Sisters in Greek mythology, or Subaru in Japan, Persian name Soraya, is an open cluster of new – astronomically speaking – stars. This group of stars can be seen with the unaided eye, which is one of the reasons it is so popular among many people, and has been referenced long ago, and also mentioned by Homer around 750 B.C., by biblical Amos around 750 B.C. and by Hesio around 700 B.C. At least 6 of the stars can be seen with the unaided eye, with the number increasing to 9 or so under clear dark skies. On March 4, 1769, Charles Messier added the Pleiades to his list of clusters and nebula published in 1771. It wasn’t until long exposure photography that we realized that the stars of the Pleiades are imbedded in a nebulous material, which are a blue color, which indicates it is a reflection nebula. The brightest of the nebula around Meope was discovered on October 19, 1859 by Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht (Wilhelm) Tempel in Venice. It wasn’t until the later 1880s that the nebulae around Alcyone, Electra, Celaeno and Taygeta were found in photographs.

The nebulae found in the cluster are most likely part of a molecular cloud that is unrelated to the Pleiades star cluster. Many people have believed that the dust in the images is leftover from the formation of the stars, but it does not appear to be associated with the stars due to having different radial velocities. It is calculated that the stars of the Pleiades age is around 100 million years old, with a future lifetime expectancy of another 250 million years. By which time the stars will have spread out onto their own orbital paths. The ESA have determined the distance to the cluster using direct parallax measurements estimating a distance of 380 light-years. Using the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mount Palomar and Mount Wilson Observatories the distance is more accurately estimated to be 440 +/- 6 light-years.

Information from the Messier Catalog

M45 Location
M45 Location

My observations were short that night as it was a bit cold. I didn’t spend more time than I had to outside at the telescope. I did take a couple minutes to soak in the view of the Pleiades. There are no signs of nebula without photography, so even in my telescope it was just bright blue stars arranged in an almost Ursa Minor formation. As a kid I always thought the Pleiades was the little dipper, as it has a shape sort of similar; I believe that may just be due to the way the stars Maia, Electra, Merope, Alcyone, and Atlas form a bowl and handle shape like the dippers.

M45/Pleiades/Seven Sisters/Subaru 12-19-14
M45/Pleiades/Seven Sisters/Subaru 12-19-14

This image is 25 light frames at 5 minutes a piece, 25 Flat Frames, 25 Flat Dark Frames, and 12 Dark Frames. Stacked in a new-to-me software, IRIS and following a tutorial by Jim Solomon’s IRIS Cookbook with some small minor touches in Photoshop.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150
CG-5 Advanced Series Go-To
PHD Autoguiding
Orion Starshoot Autoguider
Modified Canon 350D
Baader MPCC Mark III Coma Corrector

Abell 426 – Perseus Cluster

The Perseus Cluster is a cluster of galaxies located within the constellation of Perseus. This cluster contains thousands of galaxies immersed in a vast cloud of multimillion degree gass, and is considered one of the most massive objects within the universe. The Perseus cluster is the second nearest rich cluster of galaxies, with the nearest – A3627 – being almost hidden by the plane of our Milky Way galaxy. The Perseus Cluster is also near the plane so that many of the faint lights in images are stars from our own galaxy, but all the fain fuzzies you see are distant galaxies. The large eliptical galaxy within the cluster, NGC 1275, is a strong source of radio waves, and is also a powerful source of x-rays. This cluster is approximately 240 million light years.

To put into perspective the light reaching us now didn’t leave the galaxies in question until the end of the Paleozoic Era, or the beginning of the Mesozoic Era (estimated to end around 240 million years ago, and start 240 million years ago, respectively). During this time it is estimated that about 90% of all living creatures on earth died out. So, the light we are seeing left their galaxies around the beginning of the dinosaur age. Also, the amount of time it takes our solar system to orbit the Milky Way galaxy takes around 200-250 million years, so the light from the galaxies left and our solar system did approximately 1 orbit around the Milky Way. This is one of the many things that makes astronomy so awesome, and currently, our only form of “time travel” is to look back at distant objects in the universe.

Location of Abell 426 - The Perseus Cluster
Location of Abell 426 – The Perseus Cluster

From my light polluted yard the view of this cluster leaves a lot to be desired with my 150mm (6in.) telescope. Maybe from darker skies I could make out some of the dimmer galaxies, but given that they all range in the +12 and higher magnitudes, they are quite dim. The sky was very clear, so I can’t blame it on clouds rolling in while viewing. I definitely plan on revisiting this cluster to collect even more data to hopefully bring out the galaxies a bit better, but for a quick run this was a very satisfying final image.

Abell 426 – The Perseus Cluster consisting of galaxies: NGC 1294, IC 313, NGC 1282, NGC 1278, NGC 1275, NGC 1273, NGC 1272, NGC 1267, NGC 1265, IC 312, NGC 1260, IC 310, and more.

This is 12×300” (12×5 minutes) images and 15 dark images stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and post processing done in Photoshop. I’ve added a new item to my imaging, the Baader MPCC Mark III which has helped tremendously in removing the elongated stars along the edges of my images. You can see what I’m talking about by looking at any of my previously posted images. This has given me nearly pinpoint stars across the entire field of view, which is great since I don’t have to crop the edges.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150
CG-5 Advanced Series Go-to
PHD Autoguiding
Orion Starshoot Autoguider
Modified Canon 350D
Baader MPCC Mark III

NGC 147/DDO3/Caldwell 17

NGC 147 is a dwarf spheroidal galaxy in the constellation Cassiopeia at about 2.58 million light-years away. NGC 147 is part of our local group of galaxies, and is another satellite galaxy to M31 (like the two close galaxies M32, and M110 which can usually be seen in shots of Andromeda). This galaxy is close-by to NGC 185, a dwarf spheroidal galaxy. It was discovered by John Herschel in 1829 during the month of September, and he noticed that NGC 147 was fainter and slightly larger than its neighbor, NGC 185.

Location of NGC 147 in Cassiopeia
Location of NGC 147 in Cassiopeia

Through the eyepiece in my light polluted yard I was unable to see this 10.4 magnitude galaxy either due to its size, or brightness, or due to the light pollution washing out the dimmer deep space objects.

NGC 147/DDO3/Caldwell 17 taken September 26/27, 2014

NGC 147 taken on the night of September 26, 2014 into the morning of the 27th. This image consists of 18 images at 300 seconds each, 32 dark frames, and 32 flat frames.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150
CG-5 Advanced Series Go-to
PHD Autoguiding
Orion Starshoot Autoguider
Modified Canon 350D