My attempts at astro imaging


M42 (December 2016)

It’s just too good a target not to image each year – the great Orion Nebula, Messier Object No.42….. This year it really was just a test that everything was working, I have cleaned the mirror (scary!), drift aligned(was off by a small amount which was affecting my guiding), collimated the scope and finally cleaned my CCD (scarier that cleaning the mirror!).  Thankfully everything went as planned, the previous week the powerpack on my laptop blew, then the PSU for the USB hub managed to come loose) and I got 1.5hrs in 15min subs on Orion before moving to another target but shortly after it clouded over….

Pretty pleased with the image, guiding looks good, collimation as well, so all I need is more clear skies!




M51 – the Whirlpool galaxy

I managed to get around 4hrs on the Whirlpool (M51) the other week…..

M51 (NGC 5194) The Whirlpool Galaxy is a grand design spiral galaxy located in the constellation of Canes Venatici, “the Hunting Dogs”. It’s one of the most famous galaxies in the sky, appearing face-on when viewed from Earth. At magnitude +8.4, it’s relatively bright and visible in binoculars especially from a dark site. M51 has a much smaller dwarf companion NGC 5195 and together they are well-known as the finest and most studied example of an interacting galaxy pair. They are best seen from the Northern Hemisphere during the months of March, April or May. From latitudes greater than 42N the galaxies are circumpolar and therefore never set.

M51 was one of Charles Messier original discoveries on October 13, 1773 while his friend Pierre Méchain discovered NGC 5195 on March 20, 1781. Messier described M51 as a faint nebula without stars that was difficult to see. In his catalogue of 1781, Messier describes both M51 and NGC 5195 in the same note and hence there is some confusion over the exact designation of M51. Is he referring to M51 as just the larger galaxy or does he actually mean the pair? If it’s the pair then NGC 5194 is sometimes referred to as “M51A”, with NGC 5195 separately known as “M51B”.

Canes Venatici is a small northern constellation of faint stars that was created by Johannes Hevelius in the 17th century. Apart from its brightest star Cor Caroli (α CVn – mag. +2.9), the constellation contains no stars brighter than 4th magnitude. However, locating M51 isn’t difficult as it positioned towards the northeast border of Canes Venatici and only a few degrees from the handle of the seven stars that form the famous “Plough” or “Big Dipper” asterism of Ursa Major.



M76 – The little dumbbell

The second of this seasons images at 2m with my 8″ SCT.  This really needs longer exposure time and lots more subs but an image is an image! M76 is noted as being one of the faintest of all the Messier objects – I have seen it in my 12″ Dob and can confirm, it’s very faint.

M76 is a Planetary Nebula in the Perseus constellation discovered in 1780 by Pierre Mechain.  The distance is round 3,400 Light Years from Earth but I cant find a date for the actual superenova that left this remnant behind!



First of the new season – NGC891

This is the first image from the winter 2016 season – I swapped over to my SCT, so am now imaging at 2000mm focal length (For comparison, 3x zoom on a digital camera is around 55mm), which is a lot more challenging!

NGC891 is a edge on spiral galaxy around 30 million light years away, in the constellation of Andromeda (The Andromeda galaxy, the furthest object you can see with the naked eye, from a dark site, is only 2m LY away)



Added another 11 x 10min subs from last night, this time I used the Off Axis Guider rather than the separate 70mm frac as a guidescope. Not sure now what image is best!


Sorry about the lack of updates….

Hi Folks…..

I’m still here! Not posted for ages as it’s been summertime here and not too bad it was either!  It’s now getting dark again so I have been out and swapped scopes over ready for winter.  This year I’m determined to make a go with the 8″ SCT, sitting at it’s native 2m/F10 so expect some planetary and possibly galaxy shots.

I also got me a visual scope – a lovely 12″ Goto dob! Fantastic bit of kit, really looking forward to some nice views from this when winter really sets in.  Here is my boy having a wee peek through it tonight.


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.