M27, The Dumbbell Nebula

This is M27, AKA the Dumbbell Nebula. It’s a planetary nebula. They are called planetary nebula because many of them in early telescopes looked like fuzzy little planets. It was once thought they were planets still forming.
They are actually made when a red giant star explodes and throws off a large part of its mass into the surrounding space. What makes these especially neat is they are only visible for a few ten thousand years or so. Relatively short in the scale of the universe.
This is one of the largest and brightest in the night sky.
This is a narrowband image made up of 2 channels. Red is the Hydrogen-alpha and the green/blue is Oxygen III. Looking closely at these two channels allows one to see the specific structures for each ionized gases.
This is made up of 25.8 total hours of exposure.
3nm OIII: 69×600″ (gain: 139.00) -15C bin 1×1
Ha 7nm: 86×600″ (gain: 139.00) -15C bin 1×1
Integration: 25.8 hours
RA center: 299.905 degrees
DEC center: 22.720 degrees
Pixel scale: 0.679 arcsec/pixel
Orientation: 269.108 degrees
Field radius: 0.537 degrees

I took several passes at processing this. The dynamic range is huge. The outer halo is very faint, while the inner parts of the core, by contrast, are fairly bright. This required layering various image and blending them together in addition to carefully blending the two primary channels to ensure the structural details were preserved and well represented.


The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules

This is one of the very first deep space objects I ever saw with my first telescope. It’s one of the biggest and brightest globular clusters in the sky and easily the brightest that can be seen at my latitude. Globular clusters are kind of neat, but kind of boring at the same time. At first glance, they all pretty much look alike. It’s a round glob of hundreds of thousands of stars. What makes these neat is because there are so many stars in a small space, astronomers can use these to study stellar evolution. While most of the stars in globulars are old, new stars forum there as well.

The fact these clusters are made up of mostly old stars brought up an interesting struggle while I was processing this photo. You’ll see other photos show mostly blue stars in a cluster. While the blue is very pretty, it isn’t very accurate. Stars are almost perfect black bodies when it comes to Kirchhoff’s law of thermal radiation, things that burn very hot emit in the blue spectrum. As the temperature goes down, the light shifts to the red side of the spectrum. This is how one can tell how hot a star is based on its color. There is also a correlation between the age of a star and hot or cool it burns.

This was taken from my very light polluted backyard with my ASI1600MM-Cool, 8in RC w/ CCDT67 reducer, Astrodon RGB filters (No Lum used), all riding on my AP Mach1GTO4.

IC 1871, looking deep into the Soul

This was actually the first image taken with my mount, an Astro-Physics Mach1GTO. The new mount and longer focal length telescope allow me to take images of smaller and/or more distant objects. For this I actually blended older data from my smaller telescope. Using that older lower resolution data for color and the new high resolution data (also blended to enhance the color data) used for the luminance I was able to shoot a specific area inside the Soul Nebula found near Cassiopeia.

The image was taken from my light polluted backyard using Hydrogen Alpha and Oxygen III narrowband filters. It’s a total of 14 hours and actually was chosen as the AAPOD2 (Amateur Astronomy Picture of the Day) on 18th of March 2018 which was a very pleasant surprise.

My M63 Story

I had decided to go to the Staunton River Star Party this year. I had been once before and really enjoyed the dark skies. I had planned out what targets I wanted to shoot and decided M63 would be my main target. I had hoped to get at least 8 hours of data on M63 and if the weather played nice I could get more.

I arrived Wednesday to heavy winds, snow flurries, and cold temps. I picked a spot, set up the mount and then the tent. The wind made things tough. More than a few people had their tents go flying across the field. The clouds started to go away right at nightfall and the skies were pretty and clear… for a few minutes. Then some high-level clouds rolled in. Guiding was terrible, the cold air was getting to me, and I was tired. I decided the clouds, seeing, and cold air had won and I went into my tent. I popped my head out after a little while and it had cleared up. I had left the rig tracking/guiding and started the sequence up again. The guiding was better but far from what I normally get. I enjoyed the stars for a bit and looked through a couple of scopes, but the cold air was just too much. I let the rig run and went into my tent. The wind had calmed down quite a bit but picked up in the morning. The tent was taking a beating and the seeing forecast got worse every time I checked. I decided the cold weather, winds, and lackluster seeing was enough. I decided to pack up and go home. I found the tent had several cracks in the poles from the wind.

I got home and didn’t have high hopes for the data. I was pretty critical of what made it into the stacks. I ended up with only 2.5 hours of data. I was surprised with the quality I was able to get with from 2.5 hours of dark sky data.

It’s not as good as I’d like. But with all the issues It’s not a terrible image.

Thanks for looking.

The Tadpoles IC 410

It’s been a little while. I have gotten a few images, but I think they all require more data before I consider them done.
Here is a new one that I captured with a new to me telescope. I found a great deal on a used 8 inch RC (Ritchey-Chretien) telescope. What is an RC? Well in short, it is a type of reflecting telescope that is mostly used for astrophotography. Many large observatories use this design, including the Hubble Space Telescope. I had been wanting to get a longer focal length telescope to get more resolution and capture smaller objects.

Here is an SHO mix (Hubble Palette) of IC 410 and the Tadpoles.

Red is made up of 30×600 second subs

Green is made up of 32×600 second subs

Blue is made up of 34×600 second subs

A total of 16 hours of data makes up this image. I was also using a CGE Pro in place of my normal CGEM DX. I have since replaced both mounts which I will write about later. All in all, this was a great first light with the scope. I was pleasantly surprised on the resolution I was able to get.

Rosette Nebula SHO


I had captured some Hydrogen alpha and combined it with my old DSLR data. It became one of my favorite images. I was able to capture the other two common narrowband filters, Oxygen-III and Sulfur-II. I really enjoy the SHO/Hubble Palette. Narrowband false color images from the HST started my love for astronomy.

Ha: 55×120″ (gain: 200.00) -20C
Ha: 45×90″ (gain: 200.00) -20C bin 1×1
OIII: 72×120″ (gain: 139.00) -20C bin 1×1
OIII: 80×90″ (gain: 139.00) -20C bin 1×1
SII: 159×120″ (gain: 139.00) -20C bin 1×1
SII: 18×90″ (gain: 139.00) -20C bin 1×1

Integration: 13.1 hours

Darks: ~41

Flats: ~25

Bias: ~383

Avg. Moon age: 17.41 days

Avg. Moon phase: 5.22%

Bortle Dark-Sky Scale: 9.00

RA center: 98.021 degrees

DEC center: 4.979 degrees

Pixel scale: 1.017 arcsec/pixel

Orientation: 34.472 degrees

Field radius: 1.539 degrees

The Jellyfish Nebula


The Jellyfish Nebula.
This ended up being more challenging than I thought. The oxygen III was less prominent than I had expected. I ended up needing over 9 hours of OIII! This is a bicolor image. I hope to add some SII and do a full Hubble Pallete.

Ha: 320×90″ (gain: 139.00) -20C bin 1×1
OIII: 58×120″ (gain: 139.00) -20C bin 1×1
OIII: 295×90″ (gain: 139.00) -20C bin 1×1

Integration: 17.3 hours

Darks: ~40

Flats: ~25

Flat darks: ~320

Bias: ~200

Avg. Moon age: 19.17 days

Avg. Moon phase: 33.95%

Bortle Dark-Sky Scale: 9.00

RA center: 94.837 degrees

DEC center: 22.705 degrees

Pixel scale: 2.032 arcsec/pixel

Orientation: -142.424 degrees

Field radius: 1.595 degrees

Heart and Soul Nebula Mosaic


Mosaics are cool, but they are tough!
This is a 4-panel mosaic. I had started with the Heart Nebula and decided to try to do a mosaic. I used Sequence Generator Pro’s Framing and Mosaic Wizard tool to plan the framing based on the initial Heart nebula data. I was pleasantly surprised how well the tool works but found out the hard way how difficult mosaics are to process. This was only two channels, known as bi-color. This image is made up of Hydrogen alpha and Oxygen III data. The blend is Red – Ha, Green – mix Ha+O3, Blue – O3. I wish I had gotten SII so that I could do the Hubble Palette but I knew how important getting enough O3 was and I was limited by available clear nights.

It is difficult to get all of the stars to line up among all the frames and all the panels for both the Ha and O3. I am fairly happy with how it turned out, though I wish I had more data.

Ha: 260×90″ (gain: 200.00) -20C bin 1×1
O3: 360×90″ (gain: 200.00) -20C bin 1×1

Integration: 15.5 hours

Darks: ~40

Flats: ~25

Bias: ~300

Avg. Moon age: 19.05 days

Avg. Moon phase: 31.20%

Bortle Dark-Sky Scale: 9.00

RA center: 40.602 degrees

DEC center: 61.214 degrees

Pixel scale: 2.027 arcsec/pixel

Orientation: -140.278 degrees

Field radius: 2.765 degrees

The Heart Nebula



The Heart Nebula, located near Cassiopeia. I love this target. For one, it looks a lot like the thing it’s named after. Second, it’s got a lot of interesting structure with all the various clouds. Just off the Heart Nebula is the Fish Head Nebula.

This is, of course, a false color image done in my favorite color scheme known as the Hubble Palette which as I have posted about before, is Red – SII, Green – Ha, Blue – OIII.

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Ha: 118×90″ (gain: 200.00) -20C bin 1×1
OIII: 23×90″ (gain: 200.00) -20C bin 1×1
SII: : 88×90″ (gain: 200.00) -20C bin 1×1

Integration: 5.7 hours

Bortle Dark-Sky Scale: 9.00

RA center: 37.972 degrees

DEC center: 61.299 degrees

Pixel scale: 1.881 arcsec/pixel

Orientation: -140.323 degrees

Field radius: 1.564 degrees

Horsehead Nebula to Orion Mosaic


I have decided to give mosaics a go. This turned out to be more difficult and complicated than I had thought. I hope to reshoot the RGB data as there was a difference in exposures between RGB filters by a factor of 100! Somehow the gain settings got mixed up is the best I can figure. Salvaging this data required a lot of work but I think all in all it looks pretty nice. I am sure there will be an updated version of this in the coming months, weather permitting.

Taken with the ASI1600MM-Cool and the Stellarvue 80mm ED APO at f4.8 384mm

Ha: 255×90″ (gain: 200.00) -20C
Blue: 104×90″ (gain: 200.00) -20C bin 1×1
Green: 104×90″ (gain: 200.00) -20C bin 1×1
Red: 104×90″ (gain: 200.00) -20C bin 1×1
Integration: 14.2 hours
RA center: 84.570 degrees
DEC center: -3.763 degrees
Pixel scale: 2.033 arcsec/pixel
Orientation: 127.913 degrees
Field radius: 2.766 degrees