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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

NGC 2264 The Snow and the Cone

Had a few hours last night to image. Captured five frames 20 minutes each of Ha of the Cone Nebula NGC 2264. Used my QHY9M CCD camera & Orion ED102T CF refractor
The weather forecast is for snow,sleet and rain for the next week. I decided to combine my newly aquired frames with an older DSLR image of NGC 2264. Taken with a Canon T3i and Orion ST-80T refractor

I used fifteen 10 minute frames from this image to combine with the 5 Ha subs. Combined them in Photoshop

I'm really happy with the results considering what the image from last year looked like. I had to tone the bloated stars from the original image using StarTools. Once they were "shrunk" I used that image to "color" the b&w CCD image. I created about 6 layers and adjusted each. After flattening the image,  I added the diffraction spikes with StarTools

Tried a reprocess with more sharpening:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Weeks of Cloudy Skies... the Blog

Since Thanksgiving I've had 13 nights which were at least partly clear. That's roughly 1 clear night a week. Factor in a full moon & nagging equipment failures (user error) the imaging nights have been slim. I managed to put together my Orion Mosaic, this is the latest version:

24 frame mosaic consisting of 3-20 minute frames and 3-10 minute frames(bin 2x2) of Hydrogen- Alpha(Ha) per frame for a total of 19 hours Ha. Images were taken over the course of 7 nights Jan 7,8,18,19,20 & Feb 10,12 2013

 27 hours 33 minutes of images
Along with the mosaic, I started imaging M65,M66 & NGC 3623 the Leo Triplet & Thor's Helmet.  Cloudy nights cause these 3 images to remain incomplete.

I've taken the 24 frame mosaic and blended it with some older DSLR widefield images, to see what would result:

The DSLR background is from a modified Canon T3 with and without a hydrogen-alpha clip-in filter, for 80 minutes of exposures. I just purchased a lens adapter for my QHY9M and can't wait to try some widefield CCD images.
I revisited my older website which contains DSLR images and created a few new pages. One of which is a new Messier album page. I managed to image all 110 Messiers for a contest on Astronomy Some of these I plan to redo, they were done in haste. The shortcut can been seen under my banner at the top of the page "Messier Album" or by clicking HERE  I'm still importing all the images, but this is a good cloudy night project.
I created a before & after post, demonstrating what can be accomplished with a years worth of experience. I hope to add new versions so I titled this post part#1
I switched my image aquisition software from Nebulosity back to APT, now that it supports the QHY CCD. APT will allow control of RA & Dec & the Starlight Express filterwheel from the same software. I was previously running seperate software for imaging,mount & filterwheel control. In addition I can create an imaging "plan" with various exposures and automatic switching of the filterwheel. I had to re-calbrate the gain and offset of the QHY9M and shoot a new dark library to match. Hopefully the next clear night it all works ok.
I also reprocessed my Leo Triplet image. I cropped it to feature NGC 3623. I used StarTools to help shrink the large stars due to the crop. Once that was done and noise was reduced, I tweeked the image in Photoshop.
I hope I can add some hydrogen-alpha and some longer luminance subs for the entire Leo Triplet.  The weather forecast doesn't look good for that to happen anytime soon. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Before & After Astrophotography #1

This post contains images taken roughly 1 year apart. My hope here is to show anyone new to astrophotography(AP) what can be accomplished in roughly a years time. AP can be frustrating at times but don't give up and you will see improvement! (Granted I did upgrade my camera & telescope, but this would not do any good without better acquisition, pre & post processing.)
 The originals on the left were taken with a Canon T3i or modified Canon T3 through an Orion ST-80T refractor.
 The newer images on the right were with a QHY9M mono CCD camera through an Orion ED102T CF refractor.
All images old and new were acquired,pre-processed(darks applied), aligned and stacked in Nebulosity 2.
The older images were "post-processed" with Gimp2, the newer with Photoshop CS6
M45 The Pleiades in Taurus
Original Photo taken 11/18/2011  details on Flickr
New Photo taken 1/4/2013 details on Flickr
NGC 281 The Pacman Nebula
 Original Photo taken 1/19/2012 details on Flickr
New Photo taken 12/21/2012 details on Flickr

Original image taken 1/14/2012 details on Flickr
New image taken 12/13/2012 details on Flickr
The original on the left was actually taken through my Meade 8" SCT LX-50

I'm hoping that in another years time I can show more improvement! There are lots of things I need to improve on.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Leo Triplet and Orion Mosaic projects...(and an eagle)

M65 M66 & NGC 3623
Finally a clear night, added 6 more frames(3h 40min) to the Orion mosaic project and started a new project, the Leo Triplet. No equipment issues!!! Everything worked great except me, went to bed at 4:30am. Last night I collected 3 hours of RGB (6x10 minutes/each) and 40 minutes Luminance(4x10 minutes). I plan to add, so this is a work in progress, and I haven't applied the final tweeks to post processing.
Taken with a QHY9M CCD & Orion ED102T CF refractor.
Compared to my previous image with my Canon DSLR's & 8" SCT  taken January 2012
(2hrs, 24min)

Canon T3i 7x120 4x300 400
Modified Canon T3 w/CLS clip-in filter  6x600 w/ Ha clip-in filter 5x600

What a difference the CCD & triplet refractor makes in clarity!
Finally collected enough frames to add M78 to the mosaic:
Barnard's Loop can be seen creeping in on the top right near M78.
24 frame mosaic consisting of 3-20 minute frames and 3-10 minute frames(bin 2x2) of Hydrogen- Alpha(Ha) per frame for a total of 19 hours Ha. Images were taken over the course of 7 nights Jan 7,8,18,19,20 & Feb 10,12 2013
With the addition of M78 and the 6 new frames there are 27 hours 33 minutes of images
I had to throw this picture in. I took this yesterday on my way to a jobsite. He was flying down the road and perched for a couple of pictures. Immature bald eagle. Taken with my former astro-imaging Canon T3i. It really doesn't belong on an astrophotography blog, but I guess it demonstrates the versatility of a DSLR  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Orion Mosaic....4 more panels

Finally a clear night. Added 4 panels to the mosaic and redid 2. Due to recent guiding issues decided to bin all subs(2x2) at 10 minutes each. Total project 23 hours 33 minutes

Uncropped with full panels: 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Astrophotography Nightmares

Sometimes nothing ever goes as planned. Last night was again one of those nights. The first clear night in the forecast for over 2 weeks. About 7:30 I could see the clouds were moving out, so I took the equipment to the back deck. After the typical 1 hour setup, I started imaging more frames for my ongoing Orion Mosaic project.
 I only got one 20 minute frame. The R.A. guiding started jumping around like seismograph in an earthquake. Check the cables and connections, all were ok. Came back in from the cold and started again. 15 minutes into the 20 minute frame, again R.A. guiding all over the place. Went back out, this time I found a small thumbscrew on the R.A. axis somehow tightened itself to the point I needed plyers to release it. This has happened before, so I thought it was fixed. Again 15 minutes in to 20 minute frame, the R.A. gremlins attacked. I thought it had something to do with the scope's balance so I got disgusted and moved to another target, Thor's Helmet. About 10 minute in...R.A. bouncing around like there was someone jumping rope on my deck. Again went back out. This time I found my R.A. lock was loose, retightened and started again. It's now past 11:00 pm. The mount guided flawlessly for the next 80 minutes. I got four 20 minute frames of Ha of Thor's Helmet until it went behind a tree.

I moved on to M65 & M66 in Leo. Decided to collect some luminance. I managed 10 minutes from one frame and clouds moved in. It's 1:00 am.
So in total I have 1 1/2 hours of captures from a 5 1/2 hour night. Oh yeah I had to process these pictures too, went to bed at 2:00.....why do I do this stuff!!!!

Added the one 20 minute panel to the Orion Mosaic