From ten days ago the California Nebula.

Well at least part of it! Around 28 good frames at 300 seconds each and for the first time initial integration thru the program Siril. I first was following a youtube video on using the program but felt the non linear functions were too harsh so I ran it again with the linear functions and then went to photoshop for the processing I am familiar with. This set used dithering on the light frames and a new flat frame set along with a bias set allowing Siril to do its thing with the whole bunch. Produced an initial integrated stack in just two minutes so that was impressive use of my main desktop running an AMD Ryzen 5 2600X Six-Core Processor 3.60 GHz and 16gig memory. The result seems superior to DSS images from the past, though I am now more convinced my coma corrector is lacking. The star spikes have a double edge to them which I am finding in the forums a weakness of the Baader 2″ MPCC Mark III along with the arrows near the edges.


Western California Nebula  

Image from last night after a very long day that started by ordering a new solid state hard drive for the astroshed desktop computer. Yes the night before after attempting to do some updates and resolve a boot failure issue, the computer was toast. I tried to install windows but if failed to get it done twice, so I called it and decided the hard drive needed replacing.

We drove to Missoula and ran a couple of errands including picking up the new SSD I had ordered in the morning. After we got back home and I installed the drive and loaded windows. The system was running faster now but the afternoon was running short. I still had a ton of software to download and install before the setup was running again. 

I went out around nine o-clock and began configuring ASCOM, Sharpcap, EQMOD, Stellarium, PHD and ATP and had it all working around ten o-clock. Thought I would start with just a starfield and 300 second exposures. Still have plate solving data to download and tweeks to the guiding software but I more than met my goal of a completed astrophotography run the same night after installing a new hard drive!

Shoe Buckle Cluster, AKA M35, is the larger open target and to the right is NGC 2158. They are located near the northern toe of Gemini. While M35 spans the sky nearly as large as the full moon, NGC 2158 is around 9,000 light years further away and looks much smaller which it is at 8 ly diameter vs 12 ly for M35.

M35 and NGC2158



At about 9,800,000 light-years’ distance, the Maffei 1 Galaxy (named after Paolo Maffei) is part of the nearest group of galaxies just outside of our “Local Group”. It  is a massive elliptical galaxy (and may be the closest) in the constellation Cassiopeia but appears in our sky heavily obscured by the Milky Way’s stars and dust (known as the Zone of Avoidance because of the difficulty seeing what lies beyond). If it were not obscured, it would be one of the largest (about 3/4 the size of the full moon), brightest, and best-known galaxies in the sky.

To me it seems ghostly, glowing through the foreground stars which hints to an even more massive real size. Two hours and 48 minutes of good frames brought this dim galaxy to life on a calm warm September night with good visibility after the crescent moon set. The image presented here is near full frame for my current 600mm fl setup with a crop sensor stock DSLR.

Maffei 1

Processed a bit more:

Maffei 1 more processed

The sky is dark with just a sliver of a moon setting in the evening and our smokey skies fairly clear for a short time, so I set up to image and found the Dumbell Nebula a solid target for a little over 2 hours of 360 second frames. Each time revisiting  a target like this is a small step forward in my experience and of course some great time under the night sky. On this occasion I had a pair of new 10×50 binoculars to scout the heavens and our human creations streaming by. Reminders of the eternal and the transient reality.


Dumbell Nebula

The Lagoon Nebula is a giant interstellar cloud in the constellation Sagittarius is classified as an emission nebula. Discovered by Giovanni Hodierna before 1654 it is one of only two star-forming nebulae faintly visible to the eye from mid-northern latitudes. This is rather low in the southern sky for me and not the best part of the sky to collect images most nights. I took a chance at getting enough clean frames and I am so impressed at the result! 

One hour 25 minutes of 300 second frames at ISO800. Warm temperatures but near new moon and rather clear air for this time of year. Very little smoke or moisture interfering with the horizon.

Lagoon Nebula

From August 10th I captured 30 good frames at 240 seconds each to get this image of M92. With an apparent magnitude of 6.3 it is one of the brightest globular clusters visible from the Northern Hemisphere at a distance of 26,700 light years away.

“Messier 92 is a globular cluster of stars in the northern constellation of Hercules. It was discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1777”

“Characteristic of other globulars, Messier 92 has a very low abundance of elements other than hydrogen and helium; what astronomers term its metallicity. Relative to the Sun, the abundance of iron in the cluster is given by [Fe/H] = –2.32 dex, which equates to only 0.5% of the solar abundance. This puts the estimated age range for the cluster at 11 ± 1.5 billion years.”

M92 Full Scale

Next is a crop of the lower right edge where several galaxies but in.

M92 Crop


Last year around this time I first captured this area centered between the Deer Lick Group on the left and the Stephan’s Quintet on the right. I came back to this location on a warm evening waiting for the first quarter moon to set and was able to stack 2 hours and 42 minutes of 360 second subs. The dominate galaxy is 40 to 50 million light years distant while the lesser  ones are perhaps ten times as far away.

Cropped image:

Full image captured:

This was an attempt to get some detail from a region between the prominent East Veil and West Veil filaments. I did not get a lot of results despite compiling over two hours of 300 second frames. The star field was unexpectedly dense and bright making the post processing push heavy handed to get these results. Near new moon and very warm still night were in my favor though.

Veil Nebula

I did this run last month and was not happy with the stacked image. I could not see obvious nebulosity so I knew it would need to be pushed a lot. Kinda made me want a new camera as in one that could pick up the Ha and less noise. This is designated as NGC6823 and it CAN have some cool detail but this image is not much to talk about. Here for history is 21 frames at 300 seconds for 1 hour 45 minutes of dense stars and faint nebula.


Last night was a great night under the stars. Warm summer air is not the best temperature for my stock DSLR imaging, but the air was clear, dry and stable with no moonlight. The North America Nebula was well positioned for a good run and the dark sky would help with my unfiltered equipment. I ran 240 second exposures with good tracking for a total integrated time of 2 hours and 16 minutes using only dithering for noise management. I was also keeping an eye on comet Neowise which was not as bright as I had hoped for but nice views with binoculars and our Orion 130ST telescope.

North America Nebula