M51, Whirlpool Galaxy 04-15-17

This object is not a new one to me, or to any visitors to this site. If you have a telescope then you have probably looked at this galaxy colliding with another creating a spectacular view in images. This galaxy and it’s dance partner are roughly 23.16 million light years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. The larger galaxy is Messier 51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy, while the smaller galaxy it is colliding with is cataloged as NGC 5195. Discovered on October 13, 1773 by Charles Messier.

I recently purchased a used Celestron 8″ Schmitt-Cassegrain Telescope (SCT). This is a whole new beast to me in the world of astronomy since I’ve only ever used Newtonian Reflectors as my viewing and imaging source in the past. This, however, was my very first time imaging with this telescope although I’ve had it for over a month at this point.

This telescope has a focal length of 2300mm (Newtonian was 750mm), so I get a more magnified view of objects. The downside of this telescope is that it’s a bit “slower” than the Newtonian. The Newtonian had an aperture of F/5, meaning it allowed more light making objects appear brighter in a shorter amount of exposure time. The Celestron SCT I purchased has an aperture of F/10, so images need a much longer exposure to collect photons from deep space images. This telescope is typically used for planetary and lunar imaging as the magnification allows a much better view of these objects for visual and imaging purposes.

Considering all that, and the fact that I am using a low magnification guidescope, and that I attempted 5 minute images with a magnification of 86x compared to the 28x magnification I was getting with the DSLR and the Newtonian. I would have to say I am quite pleased with the final results of my first imaging session with the new-to-me telescope. Maybe a bit more tweaking needed for the polar alignment and I will have rounder stars, as you can see with the 5 minute exposures they are a little oblong.

M51, Whirlpool Galaxy in Ursa Major

M51, Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (Schmitt-Cassegrain) April 2017

For a comparison, here is the image taken a few years back with the same camera, but connected to the faster, less magnified, Newtonian.

M51, Whirlpool Galaxy in Ursa Major (Newtonian)

M51, Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (Newtonian) March 2014

Quite the reduction in field of view with the SCT, but the object being imaged is much larger. Both images were taken with a full spectrum modified Canon 350D, both were a combination of 5 minute images. The SCT was a combination of 10 images at 5 minutes a piece, and the Newtonian was 21 images at 5 minutes a piece. Both shot at ISO 800. Both images contained a set of dark images, but the Newtonian also made use of flat frames, which I did not do for the SCT image.

All in all, I’m extremely happy with the results of this new-to-me telescope, and I really look forward to more clear nights for imaging some of those small objects I never really attempted with my Newtonian telescope. I did purchase a focal reducer for the SCT which would essential turn my F/10 SCT into an F/6.3, but with that aperture reduction comes a reduction in magnification. If I remember correctly, adding the focal reducer would essential drop the 2300mm focal length to somewhere around 1200mm, which is still more magnification than I was getting with the Newtonian, and roughly the same aperture.

Celestron Celestar 8″ Schmitt-Cassegrain Telescope
CG-5 Mount
Canon 350D Full Spectrum Modification
Lin_Guider on Linux Ubuntu for autoguiding
Deep Sky Stacker for image stacking
Photoshop for post processing the stacked image

Andromeda – M31 September 04, 2015

This image is of the Andromeda galaxy taken on September 04, 2015. This image contains 6 images at 5 minutes a piece, along with 20 flat frames, 20 bias frames, and 20 dark frames. Processing, and post processing were all done in PixInsight.

Andromeda 09-04-15

This is only the second image I have ever processed completely in PixInsight so this is still a learning experience for me. I followed a tutorial on Light Vortex page on the steps to get a fully processed image using masks, and HDR tools.

I know I have been slacking on updating and posting here to my blog and I hope to get out more in the near future to continue imaging and editing the cosmos for you all to enjoy.

Omni XLT 150
CG-5 Advanced Series Go-To
Lin_Guider in Linux for 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.

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.

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

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.