clear sky chart

Job 9:9

Job 9:9-10
9 He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
10 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Polar Alignment & M-101

On 3/26, I had the scope out on what appeared to be a pretty transparent sky.  I have been having trouble polar aligning in the past, and on a whim, I did a google search on polar aligning the CG5.  The manual says there is a polar align function in the utilities menu, but there is none in my menu.  I did find a short mention on it in a forum online.

I went out, did a 2-star alignment, added 2 calibration stars, then when I was finished, I hit the align function.  There it was, a polar align routine that calculated the polar alignment on the last star I was at.  The scope skewed to where the scope calculated that the star should be, I adjusted the azimuth and elevation to center the star.

Let me say that the alignment was absolutely perfect.  I snapped off an image of M51.  A single 3-minute frame and it looked like this...

This is a lightly processed, 3 minute exposure- single frame, and is better than anything I've taken of this galaxy to date.  I didnt do anything any different except the alignment.  The focus might be better than before but I really cant explain why this 3 minute exposure turned out better than 1 hour exposures I've done in the past.  This is a cropped 3 minute iso 800 exposure thru the C6.

After seeing that, I thought I'd photograph another object... but what should I photograph?

Well, I have never photographed M101 before, so that was the target.  I skewed to M101, and without taking the camera off of the scope, I snapped an image.  M101 was centered perfectly in the frame, so I shot 15 or so frames.  In the past, I was going to shoot M101, but it was so dim, that I turned to another object.  This night, M101 was plainly visible in a 3 minute sub.  I did not try any 5 minute subs during this session, as I was not autoguiding.  I actually didnt think that the 3 min subs would be that good with no autoguiding, but... the 15 stack image came out fantastic.  Here it is:

This is an image where I used no calibration frames whatsoever...  no darks, no flats.  I did crop the image because there was a pretty nasty gradient.

Remembering that there is a supernova in this galaxy, I did an online lookup, looking for the SN and I did find it in my image in this picture....

I did not try to calculate the magnitude, but if I recall, its dimmer than mag 17, and I cant approximate lower than 17.

Notice how round the stars are.  None of these images are guided - this is just the bare mount, and so far have been my best images, guided or not.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Update on SN2012aw

I reprocessed the image, rotated it to match the orientation as seen in Stellarium.  I downloaded all of the star catalogs available for Stellarium, which goes to mag 16.35.  I'm guessing, but I believe there are magnitude 17 stars in this image.  It appears that the supernova is indeed about magnitude 13, comparing the apparent brightness with similar magnitude 13 stars.  This image was taken 6 days after the discovery, and the star exploded within 24 hours of the discovery.  Of course I cant determine the exact magnitude, but I will be able to monitor the supernova as it dims out over time.

The streaks in the image are due to the proximity of Mars in this image, which is about a million times brighter than the supernova.

I will be using this image as a starting point to monitor the brightness of this supernova in the weeks to come.

This video explains exactly the significance of this study better than I can...

Video courtesy of DeepSkyVideos on Youtube.

Friday, March 23, 2012

SN-2012AW Supernova in M95

A supernova occurred on 3/16 in M95.  I was going to image M95 a few days ago, but decided against it.  However, after learning about the supernova, I thought I'd give it a shot.  This galaxy is 38 million light years away, so this is the farthest object that I've attempted so far.  It is little, so I used a 3X drizzle.  The noise in the image is coming from Mars, which is about 1 degree away from the galaxy.  The processing job was quick.  I will put another post up with an unprocessed frame, provided the star is visible in the frame.  According to what I've read, the supernova is at magnitude 13 or thereabouts.

Here is the image.  First the raw picture.

Now here is the same image with the supernova labeled.

I will be photographing this object on occasion to keep track of the brightness of this supernova.

Not only is this the farthest, but it is also the first barred spiral that I have photographed.

15 frames, 3X drizzle.  iso 400, 4 min subs.  6" f/5 newtonian.  Canon T3.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Leo Trio

Last night, I went out and did a few hours of imaging.  The first image I took was of M81 & M82 again.  I had the scope well aligned and the stars didnt streak, until I went over to Leo for the trio of galaxies.  I had to shorten the frames to 1 minute.  Even so, the image came out pretty good actually.  This image has only 20 minutes of exposure.

West is up in this image. M65 & M66 are on the right, NGC3628 (The Hamburger Galaxy) is on the left.

The 2nd attempt getting M81 & 82 is here.  This image has over an hour of exposure time, 23 frames each 3 minutes at iso 800.

I believe this one came out better than my last attempt.  It should, being we had a moonless night.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

M81 & M82

On 3/10/12 we had probably the best night for deep sky work this year.  Transparency was clear, and the moon didnt rise till around 11pm.  I had a couple targets in mind, the first was NGC 2403.

I could not get the autoguider tracking very well on this object.  The problem with this region of sky is that there are no bright stars near the object.  Because I'm using an unmodified webcam to guide, I had to offset the guider quite a bit, and the stars were streaking badly.  I took only 5 frames, but I did get this rather poor image, which would suggest that if I can fix my guiding problem, I should get a reasonable image if I was able to take more frames.

Since this object didnt work, I decided to attempt the M81 & M82 pair.  This one came out much better, but would have been even better if I were at a darker site.  Also, in these images, it appears I was not focused perfectly, which will also affect quality.  I was able to clean up much of the capturing problems in post processing, but with quite a bit of difficulty.  This is what I ended up with:

As you can see, this image is much more respectable than the last.  I used 25 frames, each 3 minutes in duration at iso 800.  Telescope is a Celestron C6-NGT at f/5.

Here is an image of M81 alone:

This image came out real nice, because it was cropped out of the above image before processing, and did not have to deal with extreme gradients in the larger image.

These images I used a new beta version of Deep Sky Stacker, which handles short, noisy exposures better than the current stable version.  It also works with my camera raw files directly without having to convert them to Tiff's.  I believe this alone is a  substantial improvement.

The beta version can be downloaded from the yahoo group,

Of course, you have to join this group to download the file, but its well worth it, you can keep abreast of the latest  in DSS, as well as use the group to ask questions as well as report bugs.  In return for testing the software, you get to use a newer version.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Home Made Autoguider

Last night was first light for my new home made webcam based autoguider.  I originally had plans to photograph the moon, but I had just been able to get the autoguider to lock in on a bright star and track.  I just couldnt resist, but I wanted to photograph something that I could try out the guider.  Trouble is, the moon was in the way.

I attempted M51.  I set the guider to track Alkaid in Ursa Major.  I was only able to shoot 2 min exposures at iso 800 before the moonlight ruined the frames.  The image is not eye popping, but you will see, the guider worked perfect.   The stars are tiny pinpoints and theyre round!

Now for a little bit about the autoguider.
I used my Quickcam Pro 4000, unmodified.  The guidescope was made from a binocular objective mounted in a PVC pipe.  The focuser also was made from plumbing parts, the "nut" that tightens around a drain pipe you would get for a kitchen sink.  Ideal size, as it grips a 1 1/4" barrel perfectly.
The FOV is reasonably wide, but narrow enough to allow the guide star to move enough to calibrate.   Guiding software - PHD guiding.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Well, we had a break in the clouds, but I knew it wouldnt last long.  I've been wanting to try the new scope out on a planetary object.  Lemme see, I had a choice of Mars, Jupiter or the moon.  Being I only photographed Mars once before, and it didnt really come out too good, I thought I'd go ahead and try to get Mars thru the new scope.

I ran across a problem in Registax.  I took 2 AVI's, one was about 3000 frames, the other 2000 frames.  The 3000 frame one would not load, no matter what I did.  I ran it through VirtualDub, and I even tried opening it in Registax 5, but no joy.  Therefore, the only image I'll post is of the 2000 frame stack.

This is the full frame.  I believe northeast is up.  North polar cap is there.  Some dark markings, but I'm no mars expert.  This is the first time I have even SEEN mars thru a telescope that I can remember.

I used the C6-NGT to take this image, 750mm with a 3X barlow into the Quickcam Pro 4000 webcam.  Seeing wasn't too good, it appeared to be bouncing around a fair amount on the screen.  Transparency wasn't too bad while the frame was shot.

Here is a resized image using the same AVI

I was actually somewhat surprised that I was able to get this much detail on this object, considering it is only in the neighborhood of 14 arc seconds across.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

M42 Reprocessed

I have been working on my M42 picture that I took on Sunday night.  I couldnt seem to get the colors right... until now.  I had a setting in the stacker that seemed to make a huge difference.

I have also been able to squeeze more detail out of the image.  I am so happy with this image I thought it would be a nice idea to compare it to one taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

First, Hubble's image:
Hubble's image
Now here is my image, as I just reprocessed it.
My  image, taken 2/26/2012

Not too bad for the first photo on the new telescope!