My attempts at astro imaging


Monkey Head Nebula & Makarians Chain

Had a nice clear night on the 10th Feb, so got out and did some imaging.  First up is the Monkey Head Nebula, this is in the constellation of Orion and it does from certain angles look like the head of a monkey!  It’s around 6000 light years distant this is a star forming area, Hydrogen gas is glowing, excited by the ultra violet light from hot new stars.

The image is 12x 20 minute subs, or 4hrs total exposure time, I also took some flat frames in the morning and these worked well (I find they can sometimes be a bit hit and miss, I have never really figured out why).  The image was stacked and processed in Pixinsight and I rather like it! I used the masked stretch process which maintains the star colours.



After I did the above, it was still clear and I went galaxy hunting…. Makarians Chain of galaxies in Virgo is a favorite of mine, although it’s difficult to bring out any real detail or colour out of galaxies that are as far away as this lot (these are around 60 million light years from us!).  This was also shot with 20 minute subs, I left the observatory open all night and managed to get  17 images or  5hrs 40mins in total.  As above, all processing etc was done in Pixinsight.


Season 2015/2016 Orion

I say it every year – but you have got to image M42 every season, it’s such an amazing object and really lens itself to imaging.  This is not my best attempt, the weather this season has bee terrible, this was imaged during a nearly full moon but it was so long since I had the scope out that I had to take mu chances!  It’s just under an hour in 5 min subs, back on the 8″ F4 Newt again (I love this instrument, just pulls the photons in!). Processed in Pixinsight – DBE, a little HDR Wavelets to bring out the core and the slightest of touches of LHE…..


5hrs on the North American Nebula

As the moon was around last week and the sky was clear I had to use a Hydrogen Alpha filter to stop the moonlight washing out everything.  I only have a colour CCD camera – sticking a Ha filter in front of it means only the red pixels pick up any data and since the Bayer matrix is RGGB I loose 3 quarters of the camera pixels!  The imaging scope was a 70mm F6 scope so I was running at around 4 arcsec/pixel – this combined with throwing away three quarters of my pixels means it not as good as it could have been…. At least with the filter the stars are greatly reduced and the narrow bandpass has got me some good contrast, I think it’s time to move back up to longer focal lengths…



Kielder Star Party

I along with a few fellow astronomers attended the Kielder Star Party from Thursday till Sunday.  We arrived around lunchtime Thursday and set up the tent then the scope and had a beer! After dinner at the fabulous Anglers Arms pub the sky appeared to be clearing (This is something of a rarity at a star party!) so it was on with the red light torches and back to the ‘scopes….

I managed to get aligned and get a few images of the Veil Nebula but cloud came in around midnight and cut things short.  Friday was a non event with cloud all day, so more beer and whisky was drunk and a film watched in the tent.

Saturday was cloudy till about 7pm, so after dinner, we prepared for another night under the stars – it was at this point that things went wrong, horribly wrong……  I went to power on the mount (HEQ5Pro) and instead of a nice BEEP, I got 3 in quick succession, not good news!  I powered it all down and tried again but got the same and an error message saying the handset could not connect to the mount. It was the end of the night for me – I put the cover back over the scope and left it.  Luckily my friend was having a bit more luck, so we did some visual observing for a while but my heart was not in it and I headed inside around 10:30 in a very bad mood!  I did get up early morning with another mate and we had a whisky and watched Orion rise over the treeline – it really was an amazingly clear night, the first at Kielder I have seen for a long time.

Anyway, enough of my woes – it was a great weekend away (Not withstanding Saturday night), great to catch up with friends and the stars on Saturday were stunning, the Milky Way was so bright.

Here is the image of the Veil Nebula that I captured on Thursday.



The Seven Sisters

This is 3hrs in 10 min subs on the Seven Sisters/Pleiades/Subaru/M45 Very gentle processing, bit of HDR wavelets and NR then a little saturation boost.  M45 is an open cluster, visible to the naked eye. The light from the hot blue stars is reflecting off the nearby dust giving the lovely delicate detail. This dust is not actually part of the cluster but merely in  the area of space the cluster is currently passing through.



Aurora from Scotland

Finally managed to see the Aurora from Scotland – got an alert through on Wednesday so woke my daughter up and headed out to the Lammermuir Hills to see if we could see anything. We arrived about half 11 and I think we caught the end.  We saw a nice faint shaft of light and an overall green glow, then the clouds rolled in, it cleared a bit later but there was no detail, just a strong green glow.

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Some recent sunsets

We have had some amazing sunsets recently, I thought I would add a new section to the blog so that I can share them……

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10hrs in Ha on the Cygnus veil supernova remnant

With the nearly full moon about I dont normally image but the weather was just so good, so I cracked out my 10nM bandpass Ha filter and went widefield with my new Altair 70mm to see how it performed.  I managed to get around 10hrs during the week, in 15 and 20 minute exposures.  I was/am intending to supplement with  RGB once another clear night comes round (Assuming thats in the next 6 weeks or so as this is a summer target and is fast dissapearing behind the house).

The veil nebula is one large object with a few separate parts, If you look at the blood moon/eclipse video this was the same setup so gives some idea of the size of object.  It is the remains of a star that exploded in a supernova between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago. Middle left you can see the ‘Witches broom’ – the star with the ‘broomstick’ tendrils(which is probablly the most widely imaged section). Centre/bottom is Pickerings Triangle and on the right is the least imaginatively titles Eastern Veil….


Lunar Eclipse – 28th September 2015

BloodMoonIt was pretty misty but I left the scope tracking and taking an image every 2 minutes for the duration of the Eclipse, this is the result…



6Hrs @ 2metres on the Dumbell Nebula

I tightened up the worm end float on my EQ6 Pro and this seems to have sorted the guiding, quite a few of the subs in this image are 30 min subs. I also sorted the collimation, last time it was slightly off, I made a final tweak visually to a de-focused star to center the ‘Airy disk’.  This is the longest integration time, longest individual sub time and longest focal length image I have taken!

The scope is my 8″ SCT running at it’s native 2m, so the image is a crop due to horrible stars in the corners! I’m intending to get some images of the smaller targets this year, things like the Snowball & Eskimo nebulas and maybe the Crab nebula as well.  The SCT is F10 the subs need to be long, there is a further outer shell to this image that is very, very faint and just shows in this image, a faster scope would probably have pulled a little more of this out but I don’t have the money for an 2m F4 scope!

Messier 27, also known as the Dumbell or Apple Core nebula is a supernova remnant in the constellation of Vulpecula at a distance of 1,360 light years. The central star (or whats left of it) went supernova around 14,600 years ago, all thats left now is a white dwarf star(you can see this star in the center of the nebula).

It is relatively bright and easily seen in binoculars although something like an 8″ telescope is really needed to get some detail out of the nebula.

I think this one is better – the one below was a 1st attempt and I think I overdid the sharpening around the stars, had some dark halos I did not like…