Imaging report 11-18-14

I am way way late. I am going to write about this session though I don’t recall if I remember all of it. I had to go back infact and look up the date I posted the images to know when I took the pictures!
Anyways, it was a very cold and clear night. I drove out to my dark sky spot. I set up on the dead end street and set up my new Advanced VX mount and 6in newtonian telescope. I did my 2 star align, + 4 calibration stars, then my polar align. My main goal for tonight? The Great Orion Nebula. I was pretty intimidated as this and M31 are probably the most photographed deep sky objects. M42 wouldn’t be up for awhile so I had to find something to image while I waited. What to choose? M33 or M31 again? I feel like I just did those. A fellow amerature astronomer/astrophotographer in my group had recently done NGC 891. A pretty, but far away edge on galaxy. He uses an 8in RC and CGEM mount, he also recently made the jump from DSLR to CCD. I think I prefer DSLR. At least for now. Anyways, NGC 891 in my 6in was a little smaller than I had hoped. But I was excited to try and image something lesser known and so far away. So I slewed to it, took a few shots to get it near centered and shot away. 60×60 second exposures. It turned out fairly well. Again, the galaxy itself was a little small in the shot, but the large FOV showed a hand full of very distant faint galaxies. Including NGC 914. A face on galaxy with an apparent magnitude of 13. I was very thrilled to see a few of these very faint galaxies in my shot. This is the first one of the group that I found. In addition to NGC 914 I found the Abell 347 group. What was kind of a throw away object to kill time turned out to be a wonderful and exciting discovery. This of course wasn’t known to me while I was in the field. This discovery was the next morning while processing the data.
I was very excited to get to M42 to see what I was able to capture so I processed NGC 891 first and I am glad I did. Writing this in fact has reminded me not to focus on the big targets all the time. The last couple of nights I was trying to find big pretty objects, when there are plenty of exciting and challenging targets that fill the sky. Below is my NGC 891.
A higher res can be found here:

On to M42. After my hour of shooting NGC 891 came to a close I slewed over to M42. I used the LCD screen on the camera to frame and focus M42. As I started experimenting with exposure time and ISO I was thrilled with how much data I could get on a single frame. M42 is big and close and bright, so it’s a favorite for most imagers. I collected 60×60 second subs. I think I did 20-40 darks. I can’t remember at the moment. I think this was also my first session using flats. I need to keep better notes while I image so I can better track what works and what doesn’t. M42 filled every frame I took as I watched image after image pop up on my screen via Nebulosity. I was troubled that many of the frames had meteors streaking through. I had forgotten there was a meteor shower this night. I was starting to worry that all my data would be useless because of these flying rocks! My session wrapped up and I thought about trying to do another short session before going home, but I dropped the hand controller and it swung into the power cable briefly moving it enough to lose the connection to my power block. I tried to use the last alignment feature, it got me in the ballpark of M45, but I decided it was cold enough, my face, hands and feet were numb and I had gotten a fair amount of data. I took the camera off the telescope and put the caps on and started taking some darks as I packed up. I got a few of them done, and then raced home. I put my camera in the backyard and took more darks. The camera still felt ice cold to the touch so the temperature didn’t have a chance to rise much during the drive home.
The next morning I processed my images. As I stated before NGC 891 was first with the exciting discovery of the faint galaxies mentioned. Next I stacked all my M42 files. As I was picking my alignment stars I was growing more concerned that these streaks were going to ruin my image. After all was said and done, the unprocessed stack popped up and I was thrilled. I felt like that alone was enough to post. But I went through and did what I could to enhance the data. I was able to bring out a lot of the faint clouds and nebulosity. I got a lot done in the program Nebulosity, then I dropped it in to pixelmator. I was able to get some great contrast and detail. I pushed the image until it looked good to me, then I noticed, even before I was done in nebulosity that my histogram was clipped. This was frustrating because it looked soo good. I decided try one more time and ended up at nearly the same point. So I went with the “Over processed” image because it was the most aesthetically pleasing to me. Sadly once in pixelmator every time I applied a process it would crash. I was getting so mad. I found that if I exported the TIF. file to a JPEG it wouldn’t crash as much. I was annoyed that I couldn’t edit the lossless file. Come to find out according to their customer service the program is not made to work on files that big. I am in the process of trialing lightroom and photoshop. GIMP was my goto but they don’t even use 16 bit, and the program is very slow.
All in all this was a very successful session. M42 has some faint lines from the shower. Also the middle is over processed. But this just means I get to try again. I am anxious to do an HDR of this wonderful target. This one is by far my best image to date and has gotten a lot of praise among my friends and family. Sadly, many of them don’t see the beauty in some of the other fainter objects. But I suppose that is their loss. Below is my M42:
A higher res can be found here:

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