Tuesday, October 29, 2019

2019 DSSG, Day 2

After the frustrations of the first night of the DSSG I was ready for a good night on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019.   I had figured out the causes of my issues, they were mostly of my own making, and was ready to go as the sun set.   After aligning the Rigel finder scope with an eyepiece,  I installed the camera.  For some unknown reason on Tuesday night the camera focus was at 12 mm versus the typical 17 mm.  On this night the focus point was back near 17 mm.  Perhaps last night I didn't have the camera fully seated into the focuser.  I spent some time tweaking the focus as it looked a bit soft,  but finally I stopped on the best I could achieve.

After aligning the mount with the polar scope, I fired up SharpCap and started capturing images to refine the polar alignment of the mount.   For some reason SharpCap couldn't solve the images.  I haven't had this happen previously.  After several tries, I gave up and just relied on the polar scope alignment.  Building the pointing model went smoothly as all the gotos were very close.

I started off the evening with an old friend, The Owl Cluster, also known as the E.T. cluster in Cassiopeia.   
(NGC 457) 4 x 60 sec frames, no darks or flats  Gain = 300


I then continued my project to image both Herschel 400 observing lists.   Most of these are very small (< 2 arcmin in diameter) so I'll not include all the images here, but I captured; H 79-1 (NGC 3147), H 288-1 (NGC 2655), H 78-1 (NGC 2985), H2 578-3 (NGC 1207), H2 607-2 (NGC 1175),  H2 43-8 (NGC 1750),  H2 8-2 (NGC 1587), & H2 34-5 (NGC 1990).  

H2 578-3 (NGC 1207)  6 x 3 min exposures @ gain = 300, no darks or flats

H2 43-8 (NGC 1750)  8 x 60 sec exposures @ gain = 300, no darks or flats

H 288-1 (NGC 2655)  8 x 3 min exposures @ gain = 300, no darks or flats

H2 8-2 (NGC 1587)  9  x 3 min exposures @ gain = 300, no darks or flats

At 1217 am I measured the sky brightness as 21.12 = 6.18 NELM.   A nice clear humid night.  The dew while bad, was not as bad as last night.  

With Orion rising in the east, I decided to try and capture the Flame and Horsehead Nebulas.  The focus is a little off and the guiding wasn't great, but a nice image of a beautiful portion of the night sky.

The Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) and The Horsehead Nebula (B 33)
27 x 120 second exposures @ gain = 300, no darks or flats

With the forecast for rain late Thursday through Saturday, I got up Thursday morning, packed up my gear and headed home.   As always, I had a great time at this star gaze.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

2019 DSSG

The 2019 Deep South Star Gaze is held at the White Horse Christian Camp in Sandy Hook, Mississippi.  Tuesday, Oct. 22, was a beautiful day for setting up although a bit windy.  There were about 20 scopes setup for Tuesday night.


Westward look at the observing field

My setup - Explore Scientific ED127CF riding on a Losmandy G8-11.


As darkness fell the temperature fell into the 50s and the sky was nice and clear however the humidity was a high.  By midnight the temperature dipped to  46 and everything was wet with dew.  

Having not viewed for many months, I was quite rusty and fought focus, guiding, and dew problems most of the night.  I was cold and tired but I managed to get a half-way decent image of the great Orion Nebula (M-42), its companion nebula (M-43) and also the running man nebula (NGC-1977).   The stars are a bit elongated owing to the poor guiding, but AstroToaster stacked the images well.

19 x 30 seconds exposure ED 127 mm triplet at F 7.5.  

Hopefully the weather will be good again tonight and I can remedy my issues and get some imaging done.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: Year in review


As I sit here to write this on New Year's Eve, it is cloudy and rainy again as it has been much of the fall and winter. There have been a few clear nights during the year that I chose to pursue other activities, but there weren't many prime observing opportunities in the second half of the year. Still I achieved a few astronomical accomplishments in 2018.

  1. First light for my upgraded ASI071MC-Pro camera was Jan. 3, 2018.  I found that the upgraded version is less susceptible to frosting.
  2. Received my new Explore Scientific 127 mm CF apochromatic refractor with FCD100 glass and a Losmandy G811 mount with Gemini II. This will be my travel imaging rig so I don't have to disassemble the observatory when traveling to a star party.
  3. Determined that a Tripp-Lite model U330-10M superspeed active extension cable works to connect the ASI071MC- Pro camera to the laptop. This long cable doesn't drop frames at a frame rates of > ½ second and the supplemental power supply is not required.
  4. In April I attended the Deep South Spring Scrimmage at Feleciana Retreat. First use of my ES 127 CF apo and G811 mount. Got in 2 nights of viewing before heading home due to the forecast for severe weather.
  5. Learned to improve my images through the use of flat frames taken with an Electroluminesient panel. This works very well to remove dust and other artifacts from the images.
  6. In August I attended the DSSG trial run at White Horse Christian Retreat.
  7. In October I went to Fort Davis, Texas with Dave & Scott.  We had a great time observing from really dark skies and visiting the McDonald Observatory.  Photos in my Flickr account.
  8. Got the Rigel nStep focuser motor working on the observatory scope.  The USB cable for it requires an auxiliary power supply for consistent operation.  I purchased an nStep focus motor and for the travel scope.
  9. I recorded 104 astronomical observations during 26 observing sessions in 2018.
  10. Completed the underground cable piping in the observatory and ran the USB & Ethernet cables from the mount to the office.  All works fine and no more trip hazard!

And now for a sampling of my images from 2018;

H2 742-2, NGC 4248 and friends
Luling Skies Observatory
March 14, 2018
stack of 18 x 90 seconds

H 197-1, NGC 4485 & NGC 4490, Arp 269
Luling Skies Observatory
April 16, 2018
stack of 11 x 180 seconds, cropped


Messier 101
Luling Skies Observatory
April 26, 2018
stack of 20 x 180 seconds, cropped, lightened


Messier 57, The Ring Nebula
Luling Skies Observatory
June 8, 2018
stack of 25 x 180 seconds


Iris Nebula NGC 7023 and Caldwell 4
Casa Mano Prieto, Fort Davis, Tx
Oct. 13, 2018
stack of 20 x 180 seconds, cropped, processed in GIMP



NGC 5985, NGC 5981, NGC 5982
 Casa Mano Prieto, Fort Davis, Tx
Oct. 13, 2018
stack of 15 x 240 seconds, cropped


NGC 7635, The Bubble Nebula
Luling Skies Observatory
Nov. 15, 2018
stack of 20 x 240 seconds

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Observatory Update

At long last I'm updating my blog.  I've been active in astronomy but have neglected to update this blog for over a year now.   At a later date I'll post some of my recent adventures (pre-DSSG trip to White Horse Christian Camp and a trip to Casa Mano Prieto).  For today a simple post to show the completion of a project, long overdue - Completing the underground cable piping from the pier to the office.  When I built the observatory I installed the piping at the pier and ran it underground to just outside the office wall.  And there it sat for 2 years while I draped cables across the floor.  Finally today I got out the shovels and routed the pipe up through the office floor.  It was not nearly as hard a job as I anticipated.




Next I fished the 2 USB cables (camera & focuser) and ethernet (mount) through the pipe and into the office.

Here you can see the pipe extends about 1' above the office floor and beneath the desk.


So now my cables are conveniently laying on my desk top waiting to be plugged into my laptop for an observing session.  

Since no astronomy blog post would be complete without at least one astro image, here is my image of NGC 1514, The Crystal Ball Nebula in Taurus.  I took this with my Explore Scientific 127 CF at prime focus with my ZWO ASI071MC-Pro camera.  The image is 11 x 5 minutes with no darks or flat frames and no post processing.  The image was taken at Casa Mano Prieto in Fort Davis, Texas on Oct. 14, 2018.


Till next time.

Friday, December 29, 2017

July Observing Report

July 1, 2017
I had been wondering about the odd Herschel designations for objects in Deep-Sky Planner. Most places just reference the NGC #. I found informative web page on Herschel that provided the following explanation. <http://www.messier.seds.org/xtra/similar/herschel.html>.

He invented the following classification scheme for nebulae and star clusters, based on the appearance of these objects as he perceived them, rather than physical properties:
  1. Bright Nebulae
  2. Faint Nebulae
  3. Very faint Nebulae
  4. Planetary Nebulae
  5. Very large Nebulae
  6. Very compressed and rich star clusters
  7. Compressed clusters of small and large (i.e., faint and bright) stars
  8. Coarsely scattered clusters of stars
William Herschel compiled his lists with running numbers for each object type. Because of the missing physical meaning of this classification, it is of historical importance only.

So H 53-4 (NGC 1501, the Oyster Nebula, a planetary nebula) was the 53rd planetary nebula that he cataloged. The Astronomical League's web page also contains good information on Herschel and his nomenclature. <https://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/herschel/h400lstc.html>

Another hot, muggy night in SE Louisiana, at least there are no clouds. I built a new dark library PhD2 from 3 to 6 seconds, 10 exposures each. I'm going to take a different approach to cooling the ASI071MC-COOL by setting to 0, but no lower. I've slowly cooled from ambient to 10, 5, and 0. Hopefully this will avoid fogging of the windows with the window heater and aux heater on. To start I took 5 darks of 3 min, Gain 400, temp 0 C with the color balance as it was last night (Gamma 100, brightness 8, R bal 60, B bal 99).

Note that I have yet to drop a single frame on this computer. Makes observing more enjoyable. With the darks done I'll continue with the Herschel 400 objects in Ophiuchus. At 2137 it is 78 F with 88% humidity.

H 12-6, NGC 6293
A circular GC in a dense star field. Interestingly there are numerous stars in the GC or between the GC & Earth that are much larger than the majority of the stars in the GC. The core of the cluster is unfortunately blown out.
I tried to use just SharpCap to stack & adjust but I find the interface a bit clumsy and in switching from the stack screen to the histogram, the program froze & I had to kill it. I collected 6 x 3 min exposures with gain=400 and stacked in AstroToaster. I'm at 50% on the histogram so more signal than I typically collect. No stars are blown out but the core is blown out. I should have reduced the exposure and/or gain to get a better image.

6 x 180 sec, gain= 400, Temp =0C , dark frame subtraction

H 147-1, NGC 6304
A bright, tight GC in a very dense star field. The core is not circular but almost rectangular. I've blown out the core badly with a stack of 5 x 3 min at gain=400. The star field is so dense it is hard to tell where the GC ends. The FOV is littered with larger, brighter stars. The star field is densest to the SE of the GC.

I think the reddish tint is a fog forming on the camera window or chip. When I up the gain on the AstroToaster image you can see it. I'll try raising the camera temperature to 5 C.

5 x 180 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 0C, dark frame subtraction

H 149-1, NGC 6342
The reddish cast is largely gone in these frames but the image looks washed out and foggy. The histogram max lies at 35 and the colors are nicely correlated.
An interesting GC as it has 2 linear extensions to the S. The core is rather diffuse with discernible stars around the core. The extension on the SW side is the most prominent with 2 bright lobes and an intermediate semi-bright lobe. The extension to the SE has only 1 semi-bright lobe nearest the GC and then 3 fainter lobes. The star field is dense to the E and especially the SE. There is a single large bright star near the NW corner of the FOV. 

5 x 180 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 0C, dark frame subtraction

Note that these images are captured in SharpCap and stacked, adjusted, and saved from AstroToaster.  No post processing was performed unless explicitly stated.

H 11-4, NGC 6369
This is a faint, 11.4 mag, planetary nebula and it is only 37.8''. This will be a bit of a challenge for a 3 min image.  First frames look quite nice, like the ring nebula only smaller and the central star is more obvious. The width of the ring halo is about double the size of the central hole. Unlike the M 57 ring nebula, I see no color in this nebula. No structure is discernible in the halo. In the HST picture there is nebulosity on opposing sides of the nebula about the width of the halo away from the halo. I can see hints of this in the N & S of the nebula but it is not clear in the pictures. There are 2 bright stars in the FOV. One is near the NW edge and the other is NE of the nebula by around 10 minutes.

11 x 180 sec, gain=400, Temp = 0C, and dark frame subtracted

H 46-1, NGC 6355 & H 44-1, NGC 6401
These objects are low in the SE and I appear to be getting a reflection off the top of the observatory wall. (I need to paint the top rail flat black to help avoid this.) I can see the clusters but can not make out any detail due to the bright reflection. Will try these again when they are higher.

H 199-2, NGC 6517
This object is higher up in the sky so I hopefully will avoid the reflections that plagued the observation of the previous 2 objects.
Easily spotted GC in a star field void of any large, bright stars. The GC has a small bright core and a star cluster that looks more triangular than circular. This is evident in some of the pics on the internet of this object. “Spokes” of the GC point E, NNW, and SSW. To the NNE there are 2 arcs of stars bending off to the SE. 

6 x 180 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 0C, dark frame subtraction applied

At 0034 it is 72 F and 98% humidity. Sky meter reading is 18.43 with a half moon low in the SW.

I got all but 2 of the Herschel 400 objects in Ophiuchus. Will try to nab the last 2 tomorrow night.
Shut down at 0048.
==

July 2, 2017
Set up around 2050 on a hot, humid night with clear skies to the E but a few clouds in the W. I don't plan on viewing to the W so we should be OK. My primary goal is to knock out the two remaining Herschel 400 objects in Ophiuchus but I'll need to wait until around 2300 for them to be high enough.
Built model from Vega, Ras Alhague, Kornoeouphus, Antares, & Mizar. I then added Altair and a goto Ras Alhague failed to put it in the FOV. I removed Altair from the alignment and went to Vega, it is NW of Center just outside the second circle of the ShapCap reticle, which is probably around 5 arcmin. Not great but I'll go with it. I have the dew shield on the scope tonight to minimize dew and reflections. I left the camera temperature at 5 C to avoid freezing and/or dewing on the chip window.

H 46-1, NGC 6355
A GC in a densely populated star field except for the Eastern edge of the FOV. The cluster is easily spotted and has a bright core with discernible stars. It is circular in shape with a line of stars on the N edge running W-E made up of around 10 stars. There is a large bright star, perhaps a double, about 25 arc min to the W of the GC.
6 x 180 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 0C, dark frame subtracted

At 2300 it is 79 F and 92% humidity. Sky meter reading is 18.38 with the half moon in the SW.

H 44-1, NGC 6401
Got one frame and then clouds started rolling in and PhD lost its star. I may just have to be satisfied with the couple of frames I got.
This GC doesn't appear to be round but is flat on the NNW side. There is a large bright star on the SSE at the edge of the GC. The GC has no discernible core. The stars are uniform and faint except for 3 bright stars on the NW edge running E-W. The star field is fairly dense especially to the S. There is a large dark area (dark nebula?) to the SE and more smaller dark regions to the NE & NW. These dark regions are seen in pics on the internet and thus not an artifact of my image.
 9 x 180 sec, gain = 400,Temp = 0C, dark frame subtracted.

I only got 2 objects done, but at least I finished off the Herschel 400 objects in Ophiuchus. I've now bagged 162 of the 400 objects or 40.5%. Shutdown at 2333.
==

July 3, 2017
Another hot, muggy night in SE LA, but at least it is reasonably clear. There are periodic fireworks going off around the area and a big display by the parish to the NW, so I won't look in that direction.
Setup is the same as the past couple of nights; 10” RC at F8, no focal reducer, ASI071MC-Cool imaging camera at prime focus. Lumicon Deep Sky filter. Orion 80 mm F5 guide scope with StarShoot autoguider camera. Pier mounted Losmandy G11 with Gemini 2 controller. I synced the model on Antares and off I go, although at 2107 it isn't yet quite dark.

H 196-2, NGC 5694
Trying this object although it is rather low (33 degrees) in the SW.  A small (1.2')circular GC with a small bright core. Several stars are discernible around the periphery of the GC but the center is blown out. To the SW there is a linear extension of a few stars. There are 2 large bright stars to the NE of the GC about 1 – 1.5' away.
10 x 60 sec exposure, gain = 400, Temp = 5 C, no dark frames were subtracted.

H 402-2, NGC 6118
This is a faint (11.7 mag) object that is within 30 degrees of the > ½ moon. May not have enough contrast to pull it out of the sky glow. I can see the shape of the galaxy's halo but not discern any detail of the arms. There is a bright core and an elliptical halo that is roughly twice the size in the NE & SW directions as in the NW & SE. There is a line of 4 stars, probably foreground stars, across the NE end of the galaxy running NW to SE. The star field is moderately populated with uniform density, size, & brightness except for 1 brighter star NNE of the GC roughly 20 arcmin away.
10 x 180 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 5C, no dark frames were subtracted.


At 2246 it is 78 F & 88% humidity. Sky meter reading is 18.49 with a > ½ moon in the SW.

H 10-6, NGC 6144
A large (in my FOV) GC with no detectable core and many discernible stars. In stack of first 4 frames I had egg shaped stars. The mount is leaning pretty far over and part of the scope is blocked by the observatory wall. The stars are egg shaped in single 2 min images so I don't think I'm going to get a decent image. I'm not going to record this observation in Deep-Sky Planner as I need to observe the object again to catch a better look.
4 x 120 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 5C, no dark frames were subtracted


H 47-1, NGC 6712
Wow, hard to believe this object wasn't a Messier or Caldwell as it is big (~ 3 x 4') and bright in a very dense star field. It is hard to discern where the GC ends in this dense star field. The GC isn't circular, at least from the image. It is flat on its NE edge. This is also shown in pics on the internet. There is no bright core to this GC but there are a dozen or so bright stars around the object, but they could be foreground stars. There is a bright star, much more so than the other stars in the FOV, about 5 arcmin to the SSW.
7 x 120 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 5C, no dark frames were subtracted

H 18-7, NGC 6823
Last object of the night, an open cluster in Vulpecula and there appears to be a dark nebula in the DSS picture. Will see what I can pull out.

A very nice bright cluster in a sea of red nebulousity with dark nebulas running through. The cluster has 3 close bright stars at its center with other bright stars in the region and many more smaller stars. The cluster is surrounded by a red nebula with dark lanes and regions (dark nebula?). One prominent dark lane is 5 arcmin SW of the cluster. The surrounding star field is densely populated.
8 x 120 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 5C, no dark frame subtraction

I was afraid I would have star streaks in the above images as I kept loosing the guide star due to clouds rolling in. The sky is now covered and I shut down at 0012.
==

July 5, 2017
Targets for tonight are the remaining objects in the constellations Vulpecula. If time allows the objects in Scutum and Sagittarius will be next. Same setup as on July 3. It is 84 F with 72% humidity at 2055. The skies are clear but the moon is 4 days from full and is thus shinning bright and high in the SE. Did a goto on Alberio and it was very close to center of FOV so I did not do a sync. Onto the first object of the night.

H 14-6, NGC 6802
A stack of 5 x 90 sec images show the cluster nicely in a dense star field, but many of the stars are quite faint so I increased the exposure to 2 min. Interestingly the cluster is not circular but rectangular running SW to NE. It is roughly 5 x 2 arcmin. The cluster consists of 2 brighter stars along the S edge of the cluster. The other stars in the region are quite uniform.
The star field is densely populated with 2 larger stars about 5' to the NW of the cluster. About 10' to the E is a broad (15') curved structure consisting of a dozen stars. There are also collections of brighter stars about 15' to the SE
9 x 120 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 5C, no dark frame subtraction

H 9-7, NGC 6830
A sparse cluster approximately 27 stars arranged in a pattern resembling the numeral 3 with several fainter stars. The star field is densely populated. There are 2 brighter stars around 5 arcmin to the SSE.
8 x 120 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 5C, no dark frame subtraction


H 22-8, NGC 6882
A large loose cluster that is marked by a large bright star near the S border, although the borders of the cluster are hard to discern. There is a circle of stars about 3 arcmin in diameter to the NW of the bright star by about 5 arcmin. Around this bright star are 11 stars of intermediate brightness and many more fainter stars. 20 arcmin to the W of the central star of the cluster is a much larger brighter star that I believe is 20 Vulpecula.
6 x 120 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 5C, no dark frame subtraction

Astrometry.net found this image to be 40.5 x 26.9 arc min with 0.492 arcsec/pixel. It said that the object in the center of the FOV is NGC 6885 with 20 Vul being the central star. It says that NGC 6882 is around the very bright star to the WSW, what I thought was 20 Vulpecula, but astrometry.net calls it 19 Vul. The Sky Atlas 2000.0 also shows NGC 6882 around 19 Vul and 6885 around 20 Vul.
Crap, clouds are starting to roll in all around. Hopefully I can finish the objects in Vulpecula.

H 20-8, NGC 6885
The image captured is nearly identical to the one for NGC 6882 so the Gemini system has the same coordinates for these two objects.
6 x 120 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 5C, no dark frame subtraction

Found this info on www.freestarcharts.com
NGC 6882/6885- open clusters NGC 6882 and NGC 6885 may or may not be the same item. William Herschel discovered them on successive nights and gave almost identical descriptions. General consensus is they are the same object. To complicate the story further, Per Collinder included a small scattering of stars to the northwest edge of NGC 6882/6885 as number (Cr) 416 in his catalogue of open clusters.
NGC 6882/6885 is grouped around mag. +5.9 star 20 Vulpeculae and consists of up to 40 stars. The rough diameter of the cluster is about 20 arc minutes with the more compact cluster Cr 416 located at the northwest corner (diameter 8 arc minutes). NGC 6882/6885 shines at mag. +5.5, with Cr 416 fainter at mag. +8.1. All in all, the whole area contains a nice grouping of stars centred on bright stand out star, 20 Vulpeculae. Binoculars show the main stars and give a feeling for the area, medium and large size telescopes reveal much more. To some, the region appears as just one large group of stars.
In his book Deep Sky Companions: The Caldwell Objects, author Steve O'Meara, in chapter 37 discusses the NGC 6885 / 6882 confusion in detail but provide no resolution: 2 objects or 1.


H 8-7, NGC 6940
A large star cluster centered on a bright reddish star in dense star field. Difficult to discern where the cluster boundaries are. I can discern no patterns or asterisms in this cluster. It appears to be oriented NE to SW and covers almost the entire FOV. It is cited to be 25 arcmin and my FOV is 40.5 x 26.9 arc min, so that makes sense. Interesting that Astrometry.net doesn't label the central star.
6 x 120 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 5C, no dark frame subtraction


At 2349 the sky meter reading is 18.41 and it is 77 F and 92% humidity. Shutting down for the night having achieved my goal of viewing the Herschel 400 objects in Vulpecula.
==

July 30, 2017
A front blew through yesterday and we had beautiful blue skies and tonight they are nice and clear. There is a half moon high in the S, but the skies are free of clouds. At 2148 it is 83 F and 58% humidity. First time out in a long time. Setup the ASI071MC-COOL at prime focus again with the Lumicon DS filter. Aligned on Arcturus and then setup to work on the Herschel 400, starting in Scorpius and Sagittarius

H 10-6, NGC 6144
The target was just off screen to the SW. I was able to center the object for observation, but I'm going to need to adjust the model before I move to other objects. This object is 29,000 ly from the sun, magnitude 9.0 v, and is 7.4 arcmin in size.  It is a densely populated GC in a moderately populated star field. The field is void of any significantly larger / brighter stars. The GC core reveals many discrete stars. There is a pattern resembling a Fleur de lis with the orientation N.
10 x 60 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 0C, no dark frame subtraction

I did an alignment on Kaus Austraslis and tweaked the focus with the Bahtinov mask and the SharpCap focus assist routine.


H 13-6, NGC 6451
A cluster of over 2 dozen stars, most similarly sized & brightness. The shape is ill defined but I see a V pointing E with an appendage off the N circling to the E, terminating in a 3 star line with a fourth star to the NE over the center star in the line. The star field is very densely populated with a faint red nebulosity in the background to the W through the NNE.
11 x 60 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 0C, no dark frame subtraction

Had to exclude image # 2 as a satellite flew through.


H 150-1, NGC 6440
A small (4') GC in a dense star field, but with some dark lanes to the NE (dark nebula?). The GC stars look red orange compared to the white surrounding stars. The GC has a large bright star to the SE about 10' from the center of the GC. There is another larger bright star to the WNE about 15' from the GC center.  Even at 30 sec the inner core in a line running NNE by SSW is blown out so I'll just stick with my 60 sec exposures as to capture more fainter stars.
13 x 60 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 0C, no dark frame subtraction

Here is a crop of the above image.



H 586-2, NGC 6445
This object is only about 20' from NGC 6440 and I got them both in frame. The small (~ 1') nebula is surprisingly a rectangular shape rather than round. There is some reddish color around the edges but it is mostly white. It is hollow in the center. The star field is densely populated with one star that is much larger and brighter than the others about 15' to the SE.
9 x 180 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 0C, no dark frame subtraction


At midnight the sky meter reading was 18.81 and the temp is 73 F with 82% humidity. There are some high thin clouds to the East. It was supposed to be clear tonight!


H 31-7, NGC 6583
A small cluster in a very dense star field. The cluster is rectangular in shape running NE to SW. To the W are 3 larger / brighter stars in a line oriented NW to the S about 3' from the cluster center. Within the cluster there is an line of 6 stars arcing to the NE and then E. In the FOV to the NE is a brighter star( the brightest in the FOV) and about 12' from the cluster's center. The star is bounded by 4 bright stars; 2 to the S and 2 to the E. There is a 5' line of 4 stars running NE from the bright star with the last 2 being within 1' of each other.
10 x 60 sec, gain = 400, Temp = 0C, no dark frame subtraction

Shutdown at 0035.

Monday, November 6, 2017

June Observing Report

June 16, 2017
The clearest night in weeks but still hazy and the mosquitoes are thick. At 2107 the temp is 82 F with 75% humidity with no breeze. Two changes since last session; a new HP Omen laptop and an auxiliary dew heater for the ASI071MC-COOL from ZWO.

In trials the new laptop collected > 70 frames without a drop so I'm hoping to avoid loosing frames as I have in past sessions. Also as the new laptop has HDMI output, I'm using a 4' VIZIO premium high speed HDMI cable to drive the HP w2338h monitor. I've ported most of my software over to the new laptop including, SharpCap, PhD2, AstroToaster, Deep Sky Planner, and Open Office with my observing diary. So off I go.

H 95-1 NGC 4214
The galaxy is elliptical with multiple bright regions or stars between it and earth. The galaxy is oriented NNW to SSE. In the NNW end there is a bright region (possibly 3 stars) that are to the W of the main galaxy axis. There are within the galaxy 4 bright regions along the axis. The galactic halo is roughly 6' x 4'. To the NNW about 9' and just to the W of the galactic axis lies a bright double star. To the SE there is a short line of 3 stars about 5' from the galaxy. The furthermost star in this line appears to be a double.

8 x 4 min., gain 400, chip temperature = -10C, dark frame corrected in AstroToaster

There was a dark triangular patch across the upper left of the image that faded with time. By image 6 it was greatly diminished and by frame 9 it was nearly gone. Not sure what this is as there were no clouds I could see. Unlike anything I've experienced before. That the object is in the west also hurts my contrast.

To compound the issues with this image, I neglected to engage the autoguider and that has lead to significant image shift in images 10 up. What frames I have will suffice for a good observation of the object but I won't win any photo contests with this one. On a positive note I had no dewing of the camera with the new auxiliary dew heater on.

While capturing the images for this object I noted that the camera counts only 1 sec beyond the exposure setting and then begins the next capture. With the old laptop the camera would go 10-20 seconds beyond the exposure setting. Clearly the new laptop's speed is paying off.

At 2301 it is 77 F with 87% humidity. Skymeter reads 18.97, better than I expected based on the cloudiness of late afternoon.

June 23, 2017
My Gemini software & firmware haven't been updated since I bought the mount in 2014 and there have been several updates published. The first step was to establish connectivity between my laptop and the Gemini system.  I set up the HP Omen laptop to talk to the Gemini system via ethernet cable through a Pluggable USB 2.0 Ethernet Adapter. No cross-over adapter was used. I had to assign a static IP address to the Ethernet adapter using the excellent instuctions on Tom Hilton's webpage; http://gemini-2.com/crossovernetwork.php#Win7 . Following the instructions for the “direct method” I was able to log onto the Gemini web interface. The ethernet connection shows up in the Network Sharing Center as “Ethernet 3”. To access the web interface, I used Chrome and in the address bar entered the address http://192.168.0.111. The web interface operates the mount and accesses the functions in the hand controller. There is no indication given on the hand controller that a computer is accessing the Gemini system.


I ran the GFU per the instructions at http://www.gemini-2.com/gfu.php . The download failed at 20% and so I hit start again and the download seemingly froze at 71% for over 10 min. After some experimentation I determined that my internet speed was extremely slow. After relocating my WiFi bridge to get a stronger signal, I retried the GFU and it worked! As the instructions advised, the GFU did error out after the SRAM Reset. I cycled the power on the Gemini and it started flashing the hand controller. It worked !! Now my Gemini's firmware is updated - WooHoo !!



I closed and restarted the GFU to update the catalogs . The download does take a long time (> 15 min) for the Gemini to upload the catalogs to the hand controller. Now my catalogs are up to date also. It took a long time to resolve the internet connectivity issues, but I achieved the desired result. Now I just need a clear night so I can observe.

June 30, 2017
Came out a little after 9 pm on a warm, muggy night. The sky is reasonably clear for the first time in weeks. Will be my first time using the newly upgraded Gemini system. Installed the ASI071MC-COOL at prime focus with the Lumicon Deep Sky filter.

Slowly cooled down the camera to -10C but I got some distortions on the right side of the image and a small black crystalline shape near bottom center. There also appeared to be some darkening in the center of the FOV. I raised the temp to 10 C and it looks a bit better. The dewing/freezing issues with this camera are very frustrating.

H 584-2, NGC 6235
A smallish (~ 5 ') globular cluster (GC), roughly circular in shape, in a dense star field. The core is very compact with only a few discrete stars discernible. On the E side there is a long line of stars running from the SW to the NE. On the W side there is a semi-circle of 5 stars, one of which appears to be a double.
stack of 4 x 180 seconds, gain = 400, chip temperature = - 10 C, no dark frame subtraction

H 11-6, NGC 6284
A compact GC in a dense star field. The GC is roughly circular brighter stars in the S half. Stars in the center are not discrete but merged. Apparent size is ~ 4 '.
stack of 4 x 180 seconds, gain = 400, chip temperature = 10 C, no dark frame subtraction

H 48-1, NGC 6356
A circular GC with a bright core that is unfortunately blown out in my 120 second images. The GC sits in a dense star field of fairly uniform distribution. There are 2 larger stars in the FOV to the ENE of the GC about 10 & 20 ' distant.
Stack of 4 x 120 seconds, gain = 400, chip temperature = 10 C, no dark frame subtraction

At 2325 it is 78 F and 95% humidity. Sky meter reading is 18.38. Not a bad night given the heat, humidity, half moon in the W, and occasional clouds. Clouds became more prevalent after 2300 and I shut down at 2350.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

May 2017 Observing Report

May 1, 2017
Came out around 2130 on a clear warm night. Setup the scope again at prime focus using 4” of focuser rings and both the Lumicon Deep Sky and the Badder UV/IR filters. Used the SharpCap Bhatinov mask focusing aid to bring in the focus @ 35 mm and then synced the model on Arcturus. I cleaned both filters so hopefully I got rid of that dark circle in my images last night. Earlier today I down loaded the newest Sharpcap 3.0.3855.0 . Will see how it works tonight. At first look, it is virtually identical other than a few new options like flat creation and subtraction. Not thrilled that in order to do dark field subtraction I have to buy the license. At 10 British pounds / year it isn't that much money, but a trial period would have been nice.

H28.1-4 NGC 4038 & 4039 – Antennae galaxy (ARP 244) 
A wonderful enigmatic object.  Two interacting galaxies (NGC 4038 & 4039) in what looks like a larva with a circular head.  There are 4 bright regions in the tail section and 6 or more in the circular head.   There is only a hint of one of the wispy curving extensions that are shown in more detailed photos.  The FOV contains 2 bright stars and > 2 dozen fainter ones.  
Took a set of 4 min images. The light curve maxima is still only around 15%, so not a lot of signal even at 240 seconds.
Stack of 8 x 240 seconds, AGC = 400, camera at -10 C, dark frame subtracted

crop of above image


At 0049 it is 57 F with 98% humidity. Sky meter reading is 19.11.

H 587-2, NGC 6426
A smallish (~ 2 ') GC  in the constellation Ophiuchus approximately 67,500 light years from earth.  The GC is roughly circular shape.  There are only around 8 discernible bright stars in the GC core and many fainter ones.  The FOV is well populated.

stack of 5 x 180 seconds, gain = 400, chip temp = -10, dark frame corrected


crop of above image


This target would have benefited from longer exposures and more frames but even with targets that are 37 deg high and 110 in azimuth I am experiencing guiding performance in both axis!

I'm now getting a dark circle in the middle of the image that is obscuring the target !! ARGH !!! Turned cooler set point to 0 and then 10 to thaw it out. This is really frustrating. I know it is damp out but with the descant tabs the chip should stay dry enough to not fog over. I have the dew shield on the scope so the scope should not be fogging over.

H 72-8, NGC 6633
A nice bright OC in the constellation Ophiuchus consisting of about a dozen brighter stars and many fainter ones.  The central area is an oval in the SW to NE orientation. To the SW are 2 curving lines of stars; one curves to the WSW and onto the SE.  On the NE end of the oval is an a 5 dice pattern with a double star at the lower right position.  To the N of the cluster is a semicircle of 6 stars, concave to the cluster.  The star field is densely populated.

stack of 7 x 120 seconds, gain = 400, chip temperature = 0 C, dark frame corrected

I noted the guiding was much better on this target but still not great.

H 41-1, NGC 6514, Messier 20, The Trifid Nebula
A beautiful red nebula with dark lanes running through it.  Some faint blueish nebulosity (a reflection nebula) is visible W of the main red emission nebula where a bright star resides.    The star field is densely populated.  The main nebula is roughly circular and quite large.  I've seen this object before and imaged it with my Mallincam, but I've never seen it in this detail.  Luckily the guiding held the stars quite round for a stack of 11 x 3 min. The best looking image I've taken with this ASI071MC-Cool camera.  I didn't have a dark frame for 0 C, so there is some lightening along the bottom of the frame due to amp glow.
stack of 11 x 180 seconds, gain = 400, chip temperature = 0 C, no dark frame correction

This object is quite bright (apparent magnitude of 6.3) such that even a single 180 second exposure yields a reasonable image.
single 180 second image, gain = 400, chip temperature = 0 C, no dark frame correction


I shut down at 0243.

May 6, 2017
Came out at 2030 on a nice clear night. Hope to catch Jupiter and the GRS before it gets too close to the moon. Will be my first attempt at planetary with the ASI071MC-COOL camera. Set up at prime focus again with the Lumicon DS & Badder UV/IR filters on.  This setup yields a Field of View (FOV) of 40.4 ' x 26.8'.

I took several hundred images of Jupiter and stacked them in Registax, but the stacked images were no better than the singles.  The seeing just wasn't good enough for detailed planetary imaging.  I'll have to try again on a better night.



Resumed my Herschel 400 project. Camera still at prime focus with both filters in place.

H 19-6, NGC 5897
A GC with many discernible stars in the core.  Most stars in the core are of similar size but a few are larger.   The GC is roughly circular.   It resides in a densely populated star field with 1 bright star to the W of the GC.  To the SE of the cluster is a convex semi-circle of stars. 
Note the histogram on SharpCap couldn't be balanced so it is a bit greenish and lacking in red.  I haven't had this issue before.  Possibly influence from the near full moon.

stack of 7 x 3 min, gain = 400, chip temp = -10 C, dark frame subtraction

At 2327 readings are 57 F, 88% humidity, no wind. Sky Meter reading = 17.72 with a > 50% moon just past zenith.

H 280-1, NGC 6217
A small (approximately 3') galaxy in the FOV.  It appears to have a strong bar running NW to SE with a bright star just SE of the core.  No detail is discernible in the halo A well populated star field .  There is an asterism to the WSW of the galaxy that resembles the triangular shape of a pine tree.
stack of 10 x 3 min, gain = 400, chip temp = -10C, dark frame subtraction

Due to the size of this object, it would be better to use a barlow, but I doubt my seeing would have supported such magnification.  Stacking and cropping and then inverting the image, the shape of the galaxy is better viewed..
stack of 10 x 3 min, gain = 400, chip temp = -10C, dark frame subtraction, cropped & inverted

With NGC 6217 I'm still having a green hue to the images in SharpCap. I'm able to adjust in AstroToaster but I'm curious why this is happening.

H 215-1, NGC 5866, Messier 102
My observation matches the NGC 5866 pics and description in Wikipedia and other online sources but differ from what is in Deep Sky Planner and the DSS pic.  An edge on galaxy with a bright core region on both sides of the dust lane.  The galaxy is surrounded by 2 bright stars, one to the E and one to the W of the NW edge of the  galaxy.  The galaxy is in the constellation Draco and lies 50 mly from earth.

stack of 10 x 3 min, gain = 400, chip temp = -10 C, no dark frame subtraction
crop of the above image


H 195-2, NGC 6287, Melotte 163
A tight GC with a bright core.  Many individual stars are discernible around the core.   While the GC is circular, there are more stars to the NE & SW with fewer on the NW & SE sides.  The GC is in a very dense star field so its boundaries are had to determine.  It lies at a distance of 30,300 ly from earth.
stack of 7 x 3 min, gain = 400, chip temperature = -10 C, no dark frame subtraction



Shut down at 0211. The equipment worked well except for the greenish color hues apparently due to the full moon.

May 25, 2017
Tonight is clear and low (for SE LA) humidity and the new moon, so I had to come out for awhile.  Set up the ASI071MC-Cool at prime focus again with the Lumicon DS & Badder UV/IR filters on. This setup yields a FOV of 40.4 x 26.8 arc min.

My laptop is a Dell Inspiron 1764, CPU I3 M330, 2.13 GHz, RAM 4 GB, HD 454 GB, OS Windows 7 64 bit Home .  The USB ports are all USB 2 while the camera is USB 3.   I'm still having trouble with dropped frames and partially loaded images.  This is very frustrating, especially late at night.  I had the Turbo USB speed in SharpCap set at 40 but after some experimentation I increased it to 100.  With the Turbo USB at 100 I didn't suffer any dropped frames although I did have several that only partially loaded into SharpCap. Not sure if that is a camera or SharpCap issue.

H 165-1, NGC 4151
A small (~ 5') circular galaxy with a large bright core.  The halo extends 2-3 core diameters in all directions. There is no structure evident in the halo.  The galaxy is bounded to the E & SW by 2 stars of similar brightness & size.  There is a large reddish star to the S.  There is a smaller elliptical galaxy to the NE of NGC 4151.  It has a bright core and the halo extends 2 core diameters to the E & W and 3 core diameters to the N & S.  No structure is evident in the halo.  Unfortunately the images only partially loaded into the computer - ARGH !@#%&*#$  Will have to image this object again.


H 176-1/ H 177-1, NGC 4656/4657, The "Hockey Stick" galaxy
An intriguing galaxy that is long and slender running NNE to SW.  It is broader and fainter on the SW end and on the NNE end  the galaxy is bent NNW, hence the name "hockey stick galaxy".  The deformation is due to interaction with neighboring galaxy NGC 4631.  The Hockey Stick is slightly brighter near the middle but there is no discernible core. There is what appears to be a star near the middle SE side.  In the NE half there is a bright nodule at the point that the galaxy's "arm" bends N.  The star field is relatively spars in the immediate vicinity of the galaxy but there are stars surrounding it.
stack of 8 x 3 min, gain = 400, chip temp = 0 C, no dark frame subtraction, cropped


I didn't guide on NGC 4151 and yet the images looked fine. I did guide on NGC 4656 and the guiding was good, no spurious peaks.  At 2301 the sky meter reading was 18.96. It is 66 F and 83% humidity. A nice night considering it is nearly June. Shut down at 2310.

May 26, 2017
Came out a little before 2100 on a clear dark night with unseasonably dry conditions. I cleaned both filters well before this session to hopefully avoid the distortions observed last night. NOTE: this did work as the textile pattern was not observed even when greatly stretching the data.

I had to rebuild the mount model as I accidentally hit cold start on the Gemini hand controller– argh ! Amazing the download speed with the TURBO USB set to 100%. Rarely does an image go beyond a second or two past the exposure time.

Returned to NGC 4656 to capture a better image the first 3 min image was dropped - @@*&#%! Second image came up with a large black spot in the middle of the FOV ! Cooler is at -10, so I backed off the cooling to 0 and then 5 C. I had cooled the sensor down very slowly, irritating the difficulties I'm having with this.

I couldn't get to NGC 4656 without the camera coming too close to the pier, so I changed to M 57. The black spot has gone as I had warmed the camera to 5 C. I tried cooling it back to -5 and the spot returned so I went back to 5 C. I captured 2 light frames and then lost the next 5! Very frustrating! I don't know what to do about this other than get a laptop with a USB 3 input and hope that resolves the issue. I collected 10 light frames and 5 dark frames.

stack of 10 x 3 min, gain = 400, chip temp = 5 C, dark frame subtracted in AstroToaster


At Turbo USB = 100 I still see some redish lightening at the bottom of the frame, but not as bad as it was with Turbo USB = 40.

At midnight the sky meter reading was 18.82. It is 72 F & 99% humidity. Much more humid than last night. Clouds are gathering in the west.  Shut down for the night.