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

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

M52 and NGC 7635 – Open Cluster and Bubble Nebula

Open Cluster, M52, discovered by Charles Messier in 1774, can be found in a rich field of the Milky Way. M52 has been dubbed the name “salt and pepper” cluster. The distance to the cluster is not very well known, but estimates anywhere from 3,000 light years to 7,000 light years, but the Sky Catalogue 2000.0 gives it a distance of 5,200 light years. Estimates are complicated due to higher interstellar absorption the light suffered during its travels toward Earth. Using 5,000 light years as an average the clusters diameter is estimated to be around 13 arc minutes corresponding to a diameter of 19 light years.

The Bubble Nebula, NGC 7635, discovered by William Herschel in 1787, lies in close proximity to the open cluster, M52. The bubble formed from stellar winds from the massively hot central star (SAO 20575 or BD+60°2522) at an 8th magnitude. The nebula itself has an estimated distance of 11,000 light years away with an apparent magnitude of ~10, and a diameter of 15 x 8 arc minutes.

Location of M52 and NGC 7635.

Location of M52 and NGC 7635.

Through the eyepiece from a nice dark location it is easy to make out M52 just fine and count many of the main stars within the cluster without the use of averted vision. The bubble nebula is a little more of a challenge. When I imaged the picture below there was an 88% moon which made it impossible for me to find NGC 7635.

M52 and NGC 7635 – Open Cluster and Bubble Nebula. 08-17-13

This image is 65 x 120 sec light frames, 33 dark frames, 33 flat frames, and 43 bias frames. Taken on the night of August 17, 2013 with an 88% moon washing out a lot of the sky. Image stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and post processing in Photoshop. There were some major editing I had to do in order to clear out noise created from thin clouds on occasion, and the light of the moon making my illumination a bit uneven.

All my Messier Object information from: The Messier Catalog. 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

M16 – The Eagle Nebula

M16, also known as the Eagle Nebula, which contains the popular pillars of creation that you may have seen images from around the internet. M16 is an active star forming region in the constellation, Serpens, which has already created a significant amount of young stars. Discovered by Philippe Loys de Cheseaux who described it as only a star cluster in 1745-1746. Charles Messier independently discovered it on June 3, 1764 and described the stars “enmeshed in a faint glow.” M16 is roughly 7000 light years away, placed close to the border of Scutum and Sagittarius, situated in the next inner spiral arm of the Milky Way (the Sagittarius or Sagittarius-Carina Arm). The star cluster you see within the nebulous region was created by this gaseous and dusty cloud. The stars within light up this emission nebula, and the nebula itself is still in the process of forming new stars. Star forming activity is noted along the dark “trunk” or “pillars of creation” within the nebula which can be seen in the image below.

The stars within are only about 5.5 million years old, relatively young astronomically speaking. The brightest star within M16 is a visual magnitude of 8.24. The entire nebula has a diamter of over 30 arc minutes corresponding to a linear size of 70×55 light years.

M16 is located within the box. Serpens starts to the right of Ophiuchus and continues to the left.

M16 is located within the box. Serpens starts to the right of Ophiuchus and continues to the left.

Best seen at low powers you can see the glow of the nebula created by the stars shining on the gas and dust. Increasing magnification allows you to see the stars a bit better, but it takes away most of the detail of the nebula. It isn’t until you setup to do long exposures that much of the detail of the nebula becomes apparent. Larger aperture telescopes along with an O-III filter may increase some of the detail visually, and the dark pillars can be seen from dark skies and with larger telescopes 10 inches or more.

M16 – The Eagle Nebula 07-06-13

This is 67 images at 1 minute a piece, ISO 800, 36 dark frames, and 33 flat frames. Stacked in deep sky stacker and post processing done in Photoshop.

All my Messier Object information from: The Messier Catalog. 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