Thursday, 14 May 2015

M12 More than pleasing to the eye.

The globular clusters in the Milky Way are all estimated to be at least 10 billion years old and therefore contain some of the oldest stars in the galaxy. They contain an abundance of low-mass red stars and intermediate-mass yellow stars, but none greater than 0.8 solar masses. There are about 150 known globular clusters in the Milky Way. It is thought that globular clusters formed very early in the vast halo surrounding the nascent galaxy before it flattened to form the spiral disc. Star formation would have stopped in these clusters maybe 13 billion years ago, so only old stars are expected to be found there.

Described by Charles Messier as a nebula without stars, it's discovery almost 251 years ago this May 30th. M12 is fine example of a globular cluster, appearing to me visually in my 110mm as a compact dense core with a fainter outer shell. I have the luxury of shielding myself from extraneous light inside the observatory but I still like to cover my head with a dark towel and allow just the faint photons of light to touch the retinas. Somewhat smaller than M13 my eyes are drawn to the triangular shaped 3 stars to it's lower left resolving them to starlight points easily. I wanted to highlight that with this image taken Tuesday night with what was one of the best clear nights of the year. Just over 20 degrees above the horizon and tainted with the light from the nearby town of Watton. I limited exposures to 10 minutes and this was just about the limit as a gradient was becoming a problem. 2 Hours in total calibrated and stacked in Maxim and processed in Photoshop using several layers in an attempt to keep the core stellar like. My focus was a fraction off as 12th+ magnitude stars show a little blooming, noticable when stretched so I have sacrificed some of the background stars. Having never image M12 before I am pleased with the result.

Monday, 4 May 2015

3 pixels

I know there is still plenty of time to capture the spring galaxies. Well not for the next week at least with the full / waning moon spoiling the Eastern skies. However I started a Galaxy project The objective was another deep field to image as many of the Coma cluster of galaxies. First estimate was approx 1200 -1500. I will be happy with that.

 I  started with the accumulation of 3 hours in 20 minute subs with flats using the William Optics GT81 and starlight express camera. Resolution was 3.37"/pixel with a field of view at 2.83° x 1.88°. I also captured another 5 hours 40 minutes from the FLT110 TMB with darks and flats. Resolution would provide 2.09"/pixel. in a 1.75° x 1.17° field. Unfortunatly I did not manage to keep the angle of camera rotation the same so the final fov would be somewhat smaller. Calibration worked  reasonably well in Maxim, a few hot pixels remaining not 100% happy with the flats from the 81mm either. The 81mm frames scaled to the 110mm's ok though. Processed with just levels and curves in photoshop. Definately a gradient there. I will have a go at that later.

Platesolved in Maxim DL and compared against Carte du ceil. I have several faint galaxy catalogues added and immediately CDC filled with little round circles. I am certainly not going to label all of these???. With probably only a few dozen of our own galaxies stars in the field, everything else is a galaxy mostly from the Coma cluster. This is where the fun begins. CDC labels the PGC galaxies to magnitude 20 anything deeper just leaves a blank. One particular example was labelled PGC 4628378. Listed as 0.0 x 0.0 ' in size and no magnitude it states it's listed under the HyperLeda Database for physics of galaxies. A complex search of 13,000 databases made the task somewhat tougher than I expected as there have only 6 bibliographic references have been made since 1950 on this object. The Hyperleda database splits into many sub categories and redesignated our fuzzy as GMP3397. This was confirmed by the use of Aladin and images gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey SDSS. (pictured). I also cross referenced the data with the Keck/LRIS spectroscopic confirmation of Coma cluster dwarf galaxy membership assignments 2010.

This was starting to gather pace like finding a great great great uncle on

Using the VizieR Online Data Catalog: GMP catalogue: galaxies in the Coma cluster (Godwin+ 1983). Classification confirms it is a galaxy within the cluster one of 6724 with a magnitude >21 in a 26.3 degree square area centered on the Coma cluster.

Size appears to be 6 x 4 arc seconds. So resolving at 2.09"/pixel that would equate to around 3 pixels on the camera sensor at magnitude 21.84. Bottom left is a 800x zoom and inverted image of the location, CDC photographic plate is on the right. Finally on the left show 3 pixels that are a few shades lighter than the background. This confirms the deepest I have ever imaged.

The 2nd line confirms RA and Dec and a magnitude of 21.84

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The sky at Night.

I can finally tick off appearing on The sky at night tv programme from my bucket list. I was lucky enough to have my image of the Horsehead nebula appear with myself and Pete Lawrence on the programme. The interview involved 2 pieces to camera with a number of questions asked. Final edit and broadcast was reduced to about 30 seconds. As mentioned before this is the second time the team has visited Breckland AS. An open invite was given to return if we can offer anymore future programmes.

Star trails

Star trails from Saham Hills observatory

The last time I imaged star trails was with my old Olympus OM1 film camera back in Somerset.
I have seen a few really nice compositions on various Facebook pages using a free programme .A very simple programme to use. Take the images load into programme and select the trail type and go. In a short while you have a fantastic pic like this.
 The sequence is 150 x 40 second images from the Canon 40D and 18-85 IS USM lens @18mm Iso 400.
Capture started at 21.22 hence the deep blue sky. The bright star at bottom right is Vega rising. I am sure I will be posting many more of these before the year is out.

New Life in an old focuser

I tested a replacement focuser for the 110mm unfortunately it doesn't fit due to the 4" fitting on the 110. Having removed the existing I decided to have one more bash at trying to get the darn thing moving. I have the technical diagram for the focuser and decided to adjust the bolts that state should only be adjusted by an engineer. What the heck it's busted so what's the worst I can do. Fix it!!!!!

So 20 minutes later I have a reasonably smooth movement going, readjusted the tension to take the weight of the field flattener and camera. On it went and bingo it worked in both directions. I don't think I want to remove the camera ever again.......

A rebalance of the scopes was required to bring back the Starlight camera back into operation. 
A lovely flat field test has resulted in sharp round stars at the edges of the frame too. I took 40 sky flats and created a decent master. Dark frames also captured for a full calibration. I like to use a median setting in Maxim DL as this gives best removal of hot pixels. 5,10 & 20 minute guided exposures have given me a very smooth finish. Processed in Photoshop. The best image of M13 I have taken has resolved stars to the core. The somewhat forgotten Ngc6207 is showing structure and threre are a few more little galaxies easily visible. A PGC galaxy 3515221 can also just be seen at mag 19.64. This side by side inverted image and CDC chart confirms its location.

An inverted image of the core

Saturday, 4 April 2015


Some recent captures under less than average seeing. Using my ZWO ASI120MC camera and the clubs Celestron C9.25 with a 2x Barlow lens. Captured at 11 frames per second approx 90 seconds of recoding to avoid image rotation. The best 50% of frames captured was the result. My best capture of the Great red spot I like the small white disturbance into the south equatorial belt, that defines the red spot nicely. I can also see  some lovely striation detail to the North Belt. I am pleased with it despite the seeing, but not as happy as I would like when seeing some of the other jupiter images posted on Facebook groups. I will of course endeavour to get a little more each capture and produce an image worthy of publicaion.

I am very happy with this image capture of Jupiter and Ganymede. A steadier atmosphere gave a small improvement to the overall image quality. Captured to the right is Ganymede. It looked like a horrible blur at first. An RGB realign later has given a pleasing result to it's disk. I also gave a small increase in colour vibrance and some contrast adjustment. Some distinct patterns in the north & south temperate belts can also be seen. I have a few more Avi's to process and I will add to this post if anything new comes from them..


Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Sky at Night Update.

Last night was an amazing night for me and the society For the second time now we played host to the sky at Night crew to take part in Aprils show that pays homage to the Hubble space telescope and it's 25 years of service. The focus of the show will be the iconic images produced by hubble. The club members had selected thier own favourite & best images for targets that hubble has imaged and the crew selected a few for the show. Richard's, Bob's and my own images were selected. We each done a piece to camera answering questions from Pete Lawrence. Living in hope they don't end up on the cutting room floor. The show will be broadcast on April 12th on BBC4

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Sky At Night

Our society will once again play host to the Sky at night team. Hopefully the weather will hold for some observing. I hope to show the team some of my deep images showing the mag 20+ galaxies & quasars I have captured. The topic is Hubble's "Deep field" to coinside with it's 25th anniversary. I hope they will be interested. Watch this space for an update.

Solar eclipse or not........

Diary entry for March 21st 2015 just reads "Bugger"

Alas the weather as usual blotted out ANY view at all of the solar eclipse. Right on cue at 11.30 the skies cleared to reveal what the remainder of a lovely spring day. I am of course disappointed that I didn't get to see anything. However I get get some pics of the Jan 4th 2011.

 So at least this post is totally wasted.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A trio in Leo.

Unfortunately I have been ill and off work these past few months and my astronomy has taken a back seat. along with my cycling and my passion for just about everything that means the world to me.  I have been outside just 3 times since. I am now thankfully on the road to recovery with the support of my wonderful partner & family plus some great close friends. Mentioning no names Des & Phil oops, and once again my love for astronomy and everything else is returning. Also a big thanks also to all my colleagues that have asked after me at work. most of which have a gander as to what this astro geek gets up to at night. I enjoy talking to you guys & gals about my amazing hobby.

Looking back over some old images. I found the ever popular Leo triplet of galaxies. Taken with the Canon 40D. I knew I could improve on it so that was the nights target. Taken through the Williams Optics GT81 and using 20 minute guided sub exposures. Calibrated with Dark frames in Maxim DL5. Processed in photoshop. This final cropped image is 3 hours of data. A very pleasing result Perfect focus and some lovely lane structure in all 3 galaxies.

Me being me I wasn't just satisfied with that. So I loaded Carte Du Ceil and had a closer look. I downloaded the PGC Principle Galaxies Catalogue and brought up my field of view.  The field lit up with large number of very little red dots. I loaded side by side Photoshop with my image. It soon became very clear that I had a deep image. The 15th- 18th magnitude galaxies were easily visible. After finding a few dozen I thought I should mark them and see how many I could find. There was a few places I must have missed as I seem to be adding more each time I    look. So far the total is 153 and counting.

The fainter galaxies were somewhat more of a challenge.

The image has been plate solved and I needed this to locate and verify the position of the objects that were barely visible even at 400 x  zoom in Photoshop. But I did find that an inverse of the frame gives greater contrast as some of the faintest smudges are just a couple of shades brighter than the background.

Incredibly small movements in the mouse movement moved the RA and DEC by arc seconds across the frame and CDC confirms the location of PGC 3542189. As I mentioned earlier the subtle difference in colour in the centre of the square with a contrast boost and inverted. reveals the presence of this Magnitude 20.31 Galaxy. Position confirmed as RA:11:18:17 and 
DEC :13:03:11. Unfortunately I am unable to find any information on the galaxy type or distance / redshift other than it has been catalogued.


 I just picked up on my emails to learn  that our society will again host the presenters of the Sky at night programme for a piece based on the HST. and it's deep field images. I think I will point the scopes next clear night and put in a contribution of my own deep field. They may be interested in what I have just done as well as a previous post on M97 & M108 with some very distant quasars. We will wait and see.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy animation

They say an image speaks a thousand words.
So for me an animation speakes a whole volume.
This will be the 3rd animation I have done that shows the movement
of a comet. This one is of course Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy.

26 Frames of 2 minute exposures. Animation created in Maxim DL after a DDP stretch, & Crop in Imagesplus.
I hope we get a few more clear nights to have another go. Rapidly moving North also it has  moved over 10 degrees in 3 days since imaging on Saturday night.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy

Discovered on the 17th August by the renound Terry Lovejoy with a very modest set up 8 " Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope. C2014 Q2  was discovered at apparent magnitude 15 in the southern constellation of Puppis, from his observatory in Brisbane, Australia. This long period comet has arrived at an inclination of 80 degrees so we can be sure it originated from the Oort cloud. Orbital calculations show that this passage of the comet was 11,000 years. But our solar system have had a dramatic effect pulling on the comet and reduced it's next pass to 8,000 years.


We have had to wait until late December to get our first glimpse in the northern hemisphere. My first visual and 2nd "Lovejoy" comet was Tuesday 6th at the Ellingham observatory using the 20". The nucleus virtually filled the eyepice and was also a very pleasing sight in the binoculars. The recent high winds have slowed and the forecast for last night was to be clear. Dome open as early as possible allowing scopes to reach ambient temperture. CCD cooled to minus 27 degrees (outside temp 3degrees), scope pointed and centered on the trees across the road from me, awaiting it's rise above the treeline. First image captured at 18.29. A series of 23 x 2 minute exposures. Cropped and overprocessed to show the tail structure.

I have cropped further for the second image and produced an inverse or negative. To me this is more impressive as it clearly shows the tidal ribbons of dust. Images in late December showed some tail disconnection, powerful solar winds cause these disconnections and came sometimes rip a stream from the tail completely. Nothing visible here although the larger central portion appears to be snaking back nicely with the solar wind.
These images are the same series as above but processed a little differntly to focus on just the comet nucleus. Virtually no tail structure can be seen here but for me a more realistic and cleaner image of it's icy core. Iam also amazed at the colours. "The colour is likely due to the presence of two gases cyanogen (CN)2 and diatomic carbon (C2) which glow green when their molecules are ionised or excited.



"Ionisation causes electrons within the molecules to gain energy and when the electrons drop back down to their normal state, they give off light of a certain wavelength. For these molecules, they emit green light and since they are very strong emitters, their green colour dominates the comet."

Still wanting a little more, I gave the image an extreme crop on the nucleus and removed colour. What I cant tell is have I captured the nucleus shape or is this just pixel drift?. Tell me what you think. Your comment always welcomed.




Monday, 29 December 2014

First post for a long while, Last one of the year.

Due to illness this has been my first post for a few months now. It was great to go out to my observatory and dust off the cobwebs and roll back the roof. I am lucky in that once I have powered & set up approx 10 minutes I can then control all my imaging from the comfort of inside the house. No more endless hours in the cold. Through the 35 years or so I have been an astronomer I feel i have earned & done my time in the cold. I was surprised that everything was working well. I decided an easy target to get me back into the swing. Due to the moon's presence I limited the exposures to 5 minutes. A total of 2 hours 20 minutes has given me this result. I also took a number of 10 second exposures, so the final result was not to over expose the core. Taken through the William Optics GT81. No calibration frames used. Just processed in Photoshop. I hope to return with longer exposures to capture the outer shell of gas. Looking forward to posting pics of Comet Lovejoy too soon.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Pac Man Nebula NGC281

I was at the club observatory last week with Dan Self using the 20" to observe a few faint fuzzies. A target that I have been wanting to image was the Pac Man nebula Ngc 281 so the opportunity to capture it visually too was one to good to pass up. Through the eyepiece, Time to dark adapt is essential as the nebula was large but very diffuse. Concentrating the eyes on IC1590 the open cluster the surrounding nebulosity started to permeate on the retina and come to view.

My capture here is 5 x 20 minute guided exposures through the GT81 refractor. Processed in Maxim DL and Photoshop. Levels & curves, saturation, high pass filter, unsharp mask, layer mask blending & a few selectice star spikes has produced a nicely balanced & saturated Image.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS)

Most of my viewers on the blog know that I post on facebook aswell under my own page and that of our society Breckland AS!/groups/176906152365752/. Please visit our page and join in with the many topics of discussion as well as viewing our wonderful collection of images, Taken by club members and their scopes.
I hope you enjoy what we have to offer.
Well it appears that I had stored some data for processing another day. I had done this in April and had taken a few images of Comet C/2012 K1 PanSTARRS. Take when the comet was approx 3 degrees from Alkaid. Just 8 x 5 minute exposures taken. No calibration frames used. Processed in Deep sky stacker using comet stack. processed twice to align background stars and once again on the comet. I have combined them in Photshop. Currently searching the disc drive for any other unused data.....

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Another Once in a lifetime Comet. C/2014 E2 Jacques

We have been treated to a few bright comets over the last year and once again treated to another dance across the heavens. A possible collision event somewhere deep in the Oort cloud has sent another cosmic interloper to grace our skies. Comet C/2014 E2 Jacques is a long period comet of approx 30,000 years, so last seen 1200 generations ago when the Neanderthals and modern man were developing stone tools and art whilst enduring what was earths last last ice age.....
I too have endurred a few recent problems with the DDG focusser on the FLT110 scope and will need to be replaced for sure. So I have for the purpose of this comet removed the Starlight express and replaced it with the Canon 40D. Better for short exposures on what was the guide scope William optics GT81. Offering a nice 2.6 x 1.7 degree fov. The GT 81 boast a flat field lens which performed well on it's first test with the Canon. No coma issues at all.

So my aim was to:
Capture enough frames to put together an animation showing its motion.
Use Deep sky stacker software to Comet stack, Star stack and merge the two together.
The final result is noisy for two reasons capture was @Iso 1600 and there were no calibration frames used. (no time to acquire them) It is also a shame that 4 minute exposures was never going to be long enough to capture the Heart & soul nebula that it lies between in my image.

So first up the animation. 14 frames of 4 minute exposures separated by 1 minute intervals.
Next the comet stack from Deep sky stacker. Sigma clipped to remove most of the stars.
Final processed image of star field & comet.

I think I will also try the same process in maxim as the stars are not right. But for now it is another comet bagged & tagged.
That reminds me I will have to dig out some of my comet Hale Bopp photos and scan them in and post. Them were the days when comets had 2 tails you could see naked eye. We need another Hale Bopp.

Monday, 11 August 2014


I am trying to refain from using the term "Supermoon", as it seems to inspire some strange questions from those whom think my interest in Selenology is being a member of the Celine Dion fan club.
No it won't start earthquakes.
No it wont cause a Tsunami.
No the world will not end..............

Therefore you can see my reluctance in using the phrase. The term "Supermoon" was first coined by an astrologer Richard Nolle way back in 1979 He claimed that this proximity of the Moon and the Earth has the tendency to trigger a series of natural disasters on the planet. In order to support his claim, he put forth a list of natural disasters in the past which he alleges happened as a result of this phenomenon. I say "WHAT A LOAD OF TOSH" So as you can see it is what you would expect from an astrologer. (pretend science) sniggering as I type.

Science fact.

Everybody knows that the Moon orbits around the Earth, but only a few people are aware of the fact that its orbit is not round, but is elliptical in shape. As a result of this shape, the distance between the Earth and moon varies from time to time. When the Moon is at its farthest point from the Earth, it is referred to as 'lunar apogee', and when it is at its closest it is referred to as 'lunar perigee'. In other words, the distance between the Earth and the Moon fluctuates between 221,000 to 252,000 miles - and lunar perigee occurs when this distance is somewhere around 221,000 miles.

My Image was taken last night between 21.39 & 21.42 at a mean distance of 222,483 miles.

Using my William Optics GT81 and my trusty Canon 40D I captured segments of the moon in series of AVI files. Processed in Registax 6 with a wavelet sharpening. Stitched together in Photoshop with a small contrast enhancement.
The opinions expressed about Astrology in this post are entirely my own.

Sunday, 27 July 2014


After capturing some swan nebula data. I refocussed and aimed high to the ever enigmatic Dumbell nebula.
5 x 20 sub frames, calibrated in axim DL and photoshop processed has produced a nice image with good colour. Unfortunatly I do not have full dome automation and closed the shutter and went to bed at 2.30 am. I am sure a revisit for some more data to add wouldn't go amiss.

M17 The swan Nebula

It has been a very long time since we have had a decent run of good weather here. Plus I have just started 2 weeks holiday with some clear skies so things are really looking up for us astronomers literally !!

We all know how low the constellation of Sagittarius is from the UK, I can see part of the teapot asterism for a short period coming from behind some poplar trees crossing our lane the disappearing as quick as it arrived behind the front wall of my house. I recently saw a post of M17 with some lovely detail and colour. I wanted to see what I could capture in a very short space of time. I have captured here 4 x 600 second exposures calibrated in Maxim DL. Processed in photoshop.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Friends far & wide

I was just checking on the blog stats to see where people are looking at my blog from.
I dont know if you are frequent visitors to my antics or just passing through. Please feel free to say hi and let me know where you are from. Make comments on what you like & don't like. If you have a link to your own webpage I would be happy to share a link back to you too. It would be nice to post a page with all your own pages, blogs, facebook links to your pics. Lets just hope we all get a few more clear night skies very soon.
Malc. AKA astrogeek.


A test of the set up was required. So I rebalanced and ran PHD of a target much lower in declination than M106. I wanted something bright and easy so M13 was an easy choice to make rising nicely in the North east. I ran the guide programme for 5 minutes with no issues. Fingers were crossed and I ran 5 x 20 minute exposures as a test run really. Calibrated in Maxim DL and processed in photoshop. All I done to process was levels and curves. No unsharp masks or colour correction. Very pleased the core of the structure was not overcooked. A close inspection of the image had shown a faint galaxy between M13 and NGC6207. Carte Du Ceil shows it to be a PGC (principle galaxy catalogue) designation PGC2085277 a mag16.15 galaxy some 2500 times further away than the galactic cluster M13. Delving deeper I found 31 in total as deep as 19.22. Some showing as a marginal brigtening of a pixel or 2 but still there. call up a 2 degree FOV in Carte du Ceil and see how many you can capture too. You may have to download a few extra catalogues though.

The dogs go hunting.

As mentioned in the previous post this was the first time in a month the kit had been powered up. A fellow Breckland AS member has emailed an alert stating a new type II supernova has been discovered near the core of the barred spiral galaxy M106 in Canes Venatici (the hunting dogs). A quick set up and focus gave me the scope pointing near verticle. PHD had it's guide star and ran its set up. A few minutes later everything was ready to go. I programmed my usual 20 minute exposures and left it to it. I returned after the first image to find everything had gone haywire. PHD had lost its star nearly 15 minutes earlier. I spent the next hour running tests and shorter subs not to capture anything worth keeping. All I could manage was 3 x 3 minute exposures. Even these show elongated stars. Very annoyed.

 It appears that a star 23.5 million light years away a rare red supergiant star ended it's life in the most violent way. Nuclear fusion burns in it's core creating heavier elements. Fusion stops at the production of iron from Silicon. With no more energy being created to continue cooking the elements, Gravity takes over, collapsing the star and the resulting shockwave tears the star apart. Barely visible here the nova is situated just to the left of the bright core.

The only that redeems itself is the capture of a few NGC's. NGC 4248 just below M106. below him the pair NGC 4231 & NGC 4232 Bottom left is NGC 4217 & lower right NGC 4220.


Apologies for the lack of posts. Me, like the rest of the UK has suffered for a month now with the dreaded cloudouts. However excitement and tension across the astronomical world had reached a pinnacle last night with a new meteor shower called the Camelopardalids. We knew the peak would hit about 3:00am BST. I had the kit set up and ready. My ageing Canon 40D with an 18mm lens at Iso1600 is a proven success for me in the past. I set the alarm for 2:50 and got up to see once again full cloud and rain. To be expected I suppose. As I gently lay my head on the pillow and began to dream again, the flashes of a thousand meteors lit up my eyelids and I slept again till dawn. Upon checking websites this morning it appears the shower inside my dream was the best we could had hoped for...

Friday, 18 April 2014


This must have been the 4th Tuesday in a row for me to get over to the Observatory at Great Ellingham. A great opportunity was taken with good seeing I set about to image Mars. I was not happy with the images taken the previous week, Seeing was very poor and @f20 offered no image stability. So gave it up as a bad job. This Tuesday gone was however a surprising and welcome change. Still low on the horizon at the point of capture. Details teased and flashed with clarity on the screen. Registax processing and some work in Photoshop has revealed a pleasing result. Syrtis Major the largest dark feature demonstrates perfectly the dichotomy of the region as the vast expanse of Arabia Terra extends all the way to the Northern polar cap. Terra Meridiani sweeps across the bottom of the image and out of shot, as Hellas basin also appears bright . Overall I am happy with this image. Visually you can see why astronomers like Giovanni Schiaparelli back in 1877 thought there were canals on the surface. Optical illusions  and the seasonal changes gave this impression of a changing living surface. It was only the Mariner probes in the 60's and 70's that finally dispelled the myths and legends of little green men from Mars.

Monday, 14 April 2014

A bay of rainbows

Without a doubt my favourite area on the lunar surface. Every capture of the bay of rainbows I try to tease out a little more detail. Not the most favourable of seeing as I ran 3000 frames. Processed in registax with my favoured wavelets setting. I think this is the most detail I have managed. My William Optics GT81mm 5 element Apo was the scope of choice with a 2 x barlow and the ZWO ASI120MC camera. Capturing around 40 frames per second for a huge 10.3 Giga bite AVI.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Deep, Deep,Very Deep

My previous post of M97 & M108 required further inspection as I could see numerous faint fuzzies about 20 in all. I have highlighted the brightest in boxes and spent a great deal of time finding a desiganation for them. trawling through known to me and some obscure catalogues like MCG Morphological catalogue of galaxies, Holmber galaxies and the VV catalogue Vorontsov Velyanimov of interacting galaxies.

I was amazed to find a remote galaxy a bright one at that mag 14.6 named
MCG+09-19-018 A galaxy with active galactic nucleus, With a redshift of z=0.03475
we are Looking back time: 467 million light years a new record in distance capture for me.
Position confirmed again by Cartes du Ceil.
My image framed nicely with the glorius M108 shows this rather bright galaxy.
Just when I thought it could not get any better.
 SDSSCGB 24289.1 breaks my distance record with a whopping 2.02 Billion light years. I can safely say that is the first time I have broken the billion light year barrier.
I have framed this small fuzzy against the Owl nebula. Position confirmed again by CDC

The best was yet to come.
 but my greatest surprise was a 20th mag capture of a distant, sorry I mean VERY VERY VERY distant quasar [VV2006] J111005.6+553532 confirmed in position by Carte du Ceil. This is certainly a record for me that will last a while capturing a z=3.54642 Redshift Quasar an incredible 11.9 Billion yes you read it correctly 11.9 Billion light years away. That equates without a great deal of maths, the light from the earliest universe when it was just 1.7 billion years old. To say I am stunned is an understatement. Framed again against M108 who seems to just get bigger. Is the faintest couple of pixels I have ever captured. No enhancement of this image exept levels & curves in Photoshop.

I am just wondering what I can do next to top this.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

M97 & M108

 First of all this will be my 200th post and I just want to thank all those who are new and regular visitors to my blog.

               Despite being circumpolar for us in the UK and visually through the scope an easily detectable pair I have never imaged The very photogenic pair of M108 & M97.
We will start with M108 (Ngc3556). It seems At 46 million light years away, There is a lot going on with this Barred spiral galaxy.  Viewed nearly edge on from our perspective. Close examintion shows expanding shells of hydrogen gas giving rise to many star forming regions. Chandra X ray observatory also detects a number of X ray sources hinting of an intermediate sized black hole in the galaxies heart.
Moving now 10,000 times closer we move within our own galaxy to the aptly named OWL nebula on M97 (Ngc3587) Discovered in 1781 early drawings were likened to an owl and known as that since then. A wonderful example of a planetary nebula, An expanding shell of material thrown off from a dying star around 8000 years ago. The progenitor star is around 14th magnitude and easily visible in my 2 hour capture.
Unfortunatly there seems to be a little interference from the nearby star Merak producing some definatly unwated light rays across the image. Other than that I quite like it .......Twit Twooo........

Saturday, 29 March 2014


Between 50 to 60 million light years away lies M88 a member of the virgo cluster of galaxies. An Sbc galaxy inclined by 64 degrees to our line of sight. My 3 hour 20 minute image shows some nice structure in some tightly wound spiral arms.

A dozen plus more Ngc & Ic galaxies have been captured here down to 16th mag.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

More Mosaic fun

Taken 8th March with my home set up using the FLT-110 and the ASI 120MC.
This was the first test and I had set the gain to 0. It has made the capture lack detail and contrast and also underexposed. So a little experimentation will be required to increase the level of details captured during exposure.

This is a 2 pane mosaic of the Norhtern Appennine mountains.
Not my best effort but a capture of a very nice area.

M101 Galaxy

The Pinwheel Galaxy, M101, NGC 4547 was discovered in 1781. The observation was subsequently passed onto Messier who confirmed it's position and was one of his final additions to the catalogue. Estimated to be approx 70% larger than our own galaxy at a distance of 21 Million light years. I am happy with this capture of 3 hours 20 minutes in 20 minute sub exposures. calibrated in Maxim DL and processed in photoshop. Ha regions can be seen and I am very pleased with the detail all the way to the core of this beautiful showpiece galaxy.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Celestron C9.25

Tuesday night was a good night with reasonable seeing. We that is Myself and fellow BAS Member Richard Harmon had a second opportunity to have an imaging session with his Celestron C9.25. Using the societies new Ioptrom IEQ45 mount (same as my own)We tested and were happy with the balance / polar alignment & collimation. Having made more sense of the instruction manual for the ZWO camera we connected and started up firecapture. A recommended programme that comes with the driver software for image acquisition. It seems to be well respected with a great deal of control. I tested the camera for the first time last week (Pic right) using no gain at all. Initial results of Jupiter last week were under saturated. However the software recommend a setting of 50%, with an active histogram scale showing saturation, a new set of captures were initiated. Dew quickly covered the optics and required de misting every 10 minutes. Inbetween that some nice captures were collected.
First up was Jupiter. Working at f20 images were much brighter. This will be a learning curve I am sure because the quality is not as good as some I have seen posted, Anyway here is the first effort. The shadow of Callisto can be seen quite clearly. At about half past nine on the disc's edge you can just see the great red spot. Image capture was at 640 x 560 at 35 frames per second approx 4000 frames with the best 65% processed with wavelets in Registax. An unsharp mask and despeckle and colour boost was used in photoshop.  This was the best jupiter we got So I turned my attention to the lunar disc whilst hot drinks were being made inside.
My first lunar target was Clavius after another de-misting.  A run of just 38 seconds a @ 16 frames per second size of 1280 x 960 is the largest size, this does slow up the frames per second though. Like I said a learning curve and a lot of practice needed to get things right!!!
Watching the capture on the screen was amazing. Moments of perfect seeing were staggering as craters came into perfect focus. Only 600 frames capture and the best 80% stacked gave me this one.  
Not a great deal of processing needed. An unsharp mask and contrast boost. The focus appears to bring the image toan almost 3D perspective. This was just luck as I was concentrating on the central craters. No electronic focus on the 9.25 so there was a bit of scope movement with the micro adjustments made. Still very pleased with this one.

Not sure what happened to Copernicus. It appears the capture was just 7 seconds and about 100 frames. I did not take another shot must have been drinking the coffee at that point? A lovely image though with the walls well defined and central peaks have contrast down the slopes. The view from the top must be amazing.
The Vallis Alpes or the Alpine valley is a valley feature that bisects the Montes Alpes range. Running for 166km and at it's widest is 10km. Not the best illumination here as there is no shadow or contrast to show the escarpment.

A bit of wandering around landed me on top of Crater Archmedes. Same resolution as before for this 83km crater. No central peaks like Copernicus suggest that the crated floor filled with lava to conceal any peaks. No ejecta ray system either that is usaually associated with the younger craters, telling us of it's early formation. Not so happy with this image, again only a few hundred frames.
By now it was getting late and everyone wanted to pack up & go. My last quick capture was of course Plato. My favourite crater on the lunar surface, since my first view through a scope. I just remember thinking wow which one is that. It just stood out above all others. The smooth surface just caught my interest.

I have caught some of the craterlets on the lava fllor so that also takes care of number 83 of the lunar 100.....