Imaging Report 9/27/14

After another streak of rain and clouds I finally peaked outside as the sun was going down to find partly cloudy skies. Good enough I thought. I was hesitant but half the sky (the half I WASN”T interested in) was clear. I decided I’d do some exploring. As I set up the clouds started clearing up. Initially my plan was to stay to the north and maybe hit the double cluster, or take a shot an M31. As clouds were still hanging around my area of interest I found the double cluster, and tried to gussy up the alignment. With this old NexStar 8, it’s rare I get anything in the eyepiece, even a 40mm eyepiece. It’s almost 15 years old!
After looking around the northern sky I noticed the south had cleared and Sagittarius was becoming visible. I wanted M20. It has alluded me time and time again. Truthfully I am getting really mad! I found it visually a couple of months ago, and once while imaging, but I keep missing it. I poked around and still couldn’t find it. However, M8 was clearly visible in the general area so I decided I would experiment with that again. I found it in the eyepiece, hooked up my DSLR, spent several minutes focusing to get the stars on the live view. Finally I was able to see stars, moved the scope around a bit to center M8 and began exposing. If I recall these were 13 second exposures at 3200 ISO. After several frames I took a few dark frames. Everytime I use dark frames in Nebulosity the image comes out way too dark and all the data is lost, or at least buried deeper than I know how to pull it out. I took some shots of M13 again too. This time because of the nature of M13, you know 300,000 pin point stars, I decided to do shorter exposures to prevent any star distortion. Again I took the darks. After taking the darks it was getting to be a little late and the dew was getting out of hand. I packed up and went inside.
The next day I started up my trial version of Nebulosity and began stacking and stretching the images. I got similar results as before, not surprising seeing as I did pretty much the same thing with only a slightly different exposure and ISO. However, the wife OK’ed the $80 license for Nebulosity and I upgraded. This time around I decided to get as much data as I could.
I took both sets of M8 light frames I took. Different exposure and ISO lengths and no darks. I stacked nearly 60 frames of 10-15 second exposures. This time there was a little more data and no annoying lines! I did the same with M13, slightly improved images. I wanted to do the same with M20 but I haven’t had a second chance to image it yet. Then I remembered I took two sets the other night. One as it was kind of out of center, then another set while it was more centered. I’d have to cut off a ton of data once stacked, but the outer bit of the image is just random stars, the nebula is the interesting part. So I gave it a shot. Overall I am pretty pleased with the images. This is done with a 15 year old, mid range goto alt az telescope/mount, a mid range DSLR and only a few months of astronomy knowledge. I have began selling old toys of mine, mostly drum gear I no longer use, to fund a mid level GOTO GEM. Hopefully that combined with the later addition of autoguiding will allow me to up my capturing abilities, and further experiments will allow me to understand and improve my processing abilities, including learning how to use dark and bias frames. Below are M8, M13 and M20.






These were all taken with an original NexStar 8, Canon T3i w/ Celestron f6.3 focal reducer processed with Nebulosity and GIMP 2.8 from my redzone backyard in Chesapeake, VA after being told over and over by other APs that my set up wouldn’t work and I wouldn’t be able to get anything worthwhile. It ain’t Hubble, but it’s pretty good considering.


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