Astrophotography in Central Mass 

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Aldrich Rails Installation (frame by frame)

Published on 2015-11-15, by
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Flame Nebula and Horsehead

Published on 2015-11-09, by

After the Triangulum Galaxy headed into the trees, I slewed the ‘scope over to the Flame Nebula which was just coming out from behind a tall tree to the South.  This is the same small window of opportunity that afforded the recent attempts at Orion Nebula.  As much as I love trees, I’m looking forward to opening the view significantly allowing many hours of exposures on targets that fly low. When I processed the images I was excited to see, for the first time on my own equipment, the Horsehead Nebula adjacent the Flame Nebula.  I don’t have many exposures to work with but here’s a good start.  Feedback welcome through the contact page.

Flame Nebula & Horsehead

Flame Nebula & Horsehead

 
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Triangulum Galaxy Revisited

Published on 2015-11-09, by

This is my second or third attempt at imaging the Triangulum galaxy as an astrophotography target.  I was finally able to get some sharpness and detail thanks to better optical alignment.  It moves quickly out of reach beyond the trees so there weren’t many exposures to combine.  This is a mashup of 30s exposures @ ISO 25600, 30s exposures @ ISO 6400, and 60s exposures @ ISO 6400 taken with the Canon EOS 6D DSLR. The exposures were registered and stacked in Deep Sky Stacker then processed with Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop CS6. Within Photoshop the processing involved several fantastic plugins including Noise Ninja, Gradient Xterminator, and Hasta La Vista Green (HVLG).

Triangulum Galaxy

Triangulum Galaxy

 
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Pleiades in November

Published on 2015-11-06, by

This is my latest attempt at imaging the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) open star cluster in Taurus. The “seeing” hasn’t been great lately and the moon was a factor on the 3rd.  Given the sky conditions, I’m pleased with the results. Use the contact form to offer feedback.

I’ve been working on the mechanical alignment of my Newtonian telescope trying to achieve the best possible light cone for round tight stars. I’ve also recently started using a Baader Planetarium MPCC multi-purpose coma corrector (PDF).  The corrector is a lens assembly that corrects the light cone as it passes through allowing round stars almost to the edge of the full frame sensor.  I highly recommend this product to anyone imaging with a fast Newtonian telescope!

M45 - Pleiades Open Cluster in Taurus

M45 – Pleiades Open Cluster in Taurus

 

Maple Observatory Construction

Published on 2015-10-30, by
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ATWB Pic of the Day (Oct. 27, 2015)

Published on 2015-10-29, by

I posted a few days ago about my favorite online astronomy forum Astromart and about Anacortes Telescope & Wild Bird (ATWB)‘s customer gallery.  They’ve just launched a new site with enhanced gallery functionality that incorporates a social media integrated theme.  I love the idea that people can comment on photos I’ve taken and vice versa gaining feedback and building community. Here’s a screenshot from the Astromart forums with my latest Orion Nebula as pic of the day in their sidebar:

ATWB Pic of the Day (Oct. 27, 2015)

ATWB Pic of the Day (Oct. 27, 2015)

 
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Hunter’s Moon

Published on 2015-10-27, by

Last night the full moon dominated the sky from dusk until dawn. The temperature dropped below freezing and the grass and leaves were covered in frost. I used the night to fine tune the alignment of my optics.  I’m not entirely convinced the secondary mirror is at the ideal/correct placement and orientation.  The laser collimator was used to ensure the secondary is in correct relation to the primary, which I center-spotted.

For the previous many nights, I had noticed that stars on the left side of the camera frame had more coma or perhaps astigmatism (elongation).  I rotated the secondary mirror ever so slightly, readjusted the collimation of everything using the laser and stars, and now I perceive that the stars stretch towards the edges of the frame evenly on both sides now.  I’m still very new to all of this and so lots of experimentation is required.

After allowing the primary mirror to cool to equilibrium, which seemed to take a long time, I decided to snap a few shots of the moon.  Lunar astrophotography (can we call it that?) has the opposite challenge of deep space astrophotography.  The moon is incredibly bright and instead of long exposures, tracking the object as accurately as possible, I reverted to the shortest exposure my camera would allow without any tracking.  Any other targets were a loss with all of the light from the moon and the poor atmospheric conditions.  I found an interesting article this morning which describes last night’s moon as the last supermoon of the year and also a bit of history around this full moon’s moniker, The Hunter’s Moon.  You learn something new every day! ;-)

I sharpened this image every so slightly.  It’s possible to sharpen it up and increase the contrast so that all of the subtle craters pop out and yet I felt that the moon looked rather artificial when enhanced to that degree.

Hunter’s Moon 2015

 
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Full Moon Selfie

Published on 2015-10-25, by

 

 

When the moon is full, astrophotographers often have less than an enthusiastic response.  It tends to dominate the sky and wash out any hope of observing deep sky objects.  I used the beginnings of tonight to try out my new folding table–a  big step up from setting things on a Rubbermaid tub.  I figured another good use for the bright full moon was to illuminate myself and telescope for a selfie. I tried to hold pretty still for 3 minutes while the exposure unfolded.  The hope was to catch the star trails as they seem to revolve around Polaris (made more obvious with software enhanced diffraction spikes).

Full Moon Selfie

A man and his telescope

 
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Full Moon Negative

Published on 2015-10-25, by

The color negative of the full moon looks very similar to the moon during a total lunar eclipse.  This exposure (below) was taken with my 10″ f/4.5 Newtonian with a primary mirror figured and coated by Optic Wave Labs (OWL). I did very little in the way of processing the RAW file.  I ran the Noise Ninja plugin to cut down on the color noise inherent in DSLRs and to sharpen things up slightly.  Then I used Photoshop’s builtin color negative effect to invert everything.

LIGHT_Tv14000s_800iso_+79f_20151025-21h26m02s264ms_Negative

LIGHT_Tv14000s_800iso_+79f_20151025-21h26m02s264ms_Negative

 
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ATWB Pic of the Day (Oct. 25, 2015)

Published on 2015-10-25, by

My favorite online astronomy forum is Astromart, operated seemingly by Anacortes Telescope & Wild Bird (ATWB).  In the beginning, that is not long after getting a telescope in December, I spent countless hours scrolling through the images uploaded by members and finding inspiration in the “picture of the day.”  In February, I took a photo of the quarter moon and uploaded it on a whim.  Sure enough it became the pic of the day.  Ever since I’ve made it a habit to upload my favorite bird, wildlife, and astrophotography.  Today, I logged into the forums and was delighted to see my best yet Andromeda galaxy photo.  It’s fun for an amateur to get a little recognition… a boost to keep on learning and experimenting… Here’s a screenshot:
ATWB Picture of the Day (Oct. 25, 2015)

 
© 2015 Charles Kelley Stevenson