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 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

IC 348 – Open Cluster and Nebula

A small star forming region in the constellation Perseus about 1030 light-years, or 315 parsecs, from the Sun. This small looking cluster contains around 400 stars in a diameter of 20” at an age of 2 million years old. The nebula around this cluster is a reflection nebula. Also nearby is a dark nebula in the same region.

X Marks the spot of IC 348

With my eye up to the eyepiece I was not able to make out any nebulosity, and I could only make out a couple of stars within the cluster itself.

IC 348 – 11-11-12 and 11-13-12

10 images stacked at 1 minute and ISO 800, and another 15 images at 1 minute and 1600 ISO. Images taken on two separate nights, 11-11-12, and 11-13-12. I was curious as to why my upper right section contained very few stars, and upon more research I found out about a dark nebulous region in that area.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Canon 350D
T-ring
T-ring adapter
Intervalometer
DIY Reticle eyepiece for drift alignment

M34 – Open Cluster

First discovered by Giovanni Batista Hodierna before 1654 and then included in Charles Messier’s catalog of comet-like objects. Between the star Algol in Perseus, and Almaak in Andromeda lies a loosely packed open cluster, M34, which is about the size of the full moon on the sky at a distance of 1,800 light-years away. M34 spans 15 light-years and are relatively young stars at an age of around 200 million years. The stars within this cluster, like many other open clusters, were formed from the same cloud of dust and gases. The majority of stars within this cluster are white dwarf stars

‘X’ marks the spot of M34

I was definitely able to make out all the main stars that make up this cluster through my telescope with the 25mm eyepiece, and I was even able to see it through my finder scope although I couldn’t resolve the stars. I was however unable to make out many, if any, of the dimmer stars outside of the cluster, and could see hints of orange in a few of the stars.

M34 – 11-11-12

This image is 12 1 minute exposures at ISO 800, with 10 dark frames stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and post processed in Photoshop.

I also made a quick video on how I edited this photo after stacking in Deep Sky Stacker, there is no audio, but I did include notes within the video. Hopefully this will help you out if you’re trying to figure out how to edit an astronomy photo. These steps easily transfer over to Gimp if that is your preferred editor of choice.

Be sure to full screen this and turn the quality up to HD if you can for the best view of what I’m doing in the video. Near the end it started lagging a bit, so if you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments below. I will try to get back to you as soon as I can with any answers that I can.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Canon 350D
T-ring
T-ring adapter
Intervalometer
DIY Reticle eyepiece for drift alignment

M76 – The Little Dumbbell Nebula

M76 is a planetary nebula in the constellation Perseus, and is very similar to another Messier object, M27 the Dumbbell Nebula. Discovered by Pierre Mechain on September 5, 1780, and then handed over to Charles Messier who then catalogued it as object number 76 in his list on October 21, 1780. Later on in 1787, Sir William Herschel examined the target and noticed it had a dual form of two nebula close together. Still unsure if this is a single nebula, or like Herschel thinks, two distinct nebula. M76 shines at a total of 10.1 magnitude with the central star at 15 magnitude making both the nebula and the central star very dim.

‘X’ Marks the spot of M76.

I have tried for this object in my telescope a few times with no luck. I finally was able to get this small dim nebula in my view after hunting for it. With my lowest magnification I couldn’t make out much detail in this nebula.

M76 – The Little Dumbbell Nebula. 10-12-12

This image is 26 images stacked at 1 minute exposures and ISO 1600, with 10 dark frames. I was going to crop this image down, but the star field really adds to the image. The majority of this nebula came out a turquoise color, while the two ends have a red coloring to them.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Canon 350D
T-ring
T-ring adapter
Intervalometer
DIY Reticle eyepiece for drift alignment