OK this was an unplanned capture last night, but I am so glad I spent that extra half hour on the 600LB gorilla in the night sky! Of course at this time of year it is not in the best position, but with the New Moon and being as it was around 2:30 in the night Andromeda was ready for a look. This is imaged at full scale with the 600mm focal length scope and the crop sensor DSLR. I got on target and the framing looked great so I went for it. At this scale four moons fit easily across the field.

From Wikipedia:
      The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years from Earth, and the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way. It contains approximately one trillion stars, more than twice the number of the Milky Way’s estimated 200-400 billion stars. The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are expected to collide in ~4.5 billion years, merging to form a giant elliptical galaxy or a large disc galaxy.



     From the 9th.  I took a while looking for a target and settled on this one low to the North East. We had some breeze and the air was a bit unstable. Along with the warm summer air the stacked image was dissapointing with hardly any visible nebula and significant noise. So after a lot of noise reduction this is what I could pull out. At my imaging scale it did not all fit in the frame, but enough to give the namesake appearance!

From Wikipedia:

The Heart Nebula is located in the constellation Cassiopeia. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1787 This is an emission nebula showing glowing ionized hydrogen gas and darker dust lanes.

The nebula’s intense red output and its configuration are driven by the radiation emanating from a small group of stars near the nebula’s center. This open cluster of stars known as Melotte 15 contains a few bright stars nearly 50 times the mass of our Sun, and many more dim stars that are only a fraction of our Sun’s mass.

Heart Nebula

     Low in the southern sky, this is my first run at imaging the popular Trifid Nebula. Almost two hours of 400 second subs brought this image to life. The seeing so low in the sky is generally not so good, but last night the sky was rather clear. This has been cropped by about half of my full imaging scale. 

From http://www.messier-objects.com/messier-20-trifid-nebula/   :

The name Trifid refers to its three-lobed appearance. Messier 20 consists of several different objects: an emission nebula, a reflection nebula, a dark nebula and an open star cluster.

The dark nebula, catalogued as Barnard 85, consists of dust clouds that absorb and block light from the bright objects behind them. It is responsible for the apparent gaps in the larger emission nebula that give M20 its trifurcated look.

The other two types of nebulae – emission and reflection – make M20 glow in different colours in images.

Emission nebulae are energised by the ultraviolet light of nearby stars and usually appear red in photographs. These nebulae are clouds of extremely hot hydrogen gas and usually regions where new stars are being formed. The light of the stars illuminates the surrounding clouds, ionizing photons in large portions of the clouds.

Messier 20 is a popular target for amateur astronomers as it is quite bright, even when seen through a small telescope. It has an apparent magnitude of 6.3 and lies at an approximate distance of 5,200 light years, or 1,600 parsecs, from Earth. M20 has a linear diameter of over 40 light years and is only 300,000 years old.

Trifid Nebula

      I was able to capture well over two hours of 5 minute subs to compile this region. Using an unmodified DSLR, I do not pick up much of the hydrogen alpha emissions found in this type of nebula, but it is a dramatic and beautiful target. The processing was complicated for me by the profusion of small stars which are brought up in brightness along with the faint nebulosity. I am starting to look forward to the day I can afford better software to process data like this. Also I would like to try incorporating narrow band data even if it is captured with my stock DSLR. Most serious imagers would scoff at this technique, but us shoestring astronomers have to be willing to be non conformists. The data can be captured in large part, just not efficiently.

From Wikipedia:

The Veil Nebula is a cloud of heated and ionized gas and dust in the constellation Cygnus, a large but relatively faint supernova remnant. The source supernova exploded circa 3,000 BC to 6,000 BC, and the remnants have since expanded to cover an area roughly 3 degrees in diameter (about 6 times the diameter, or 36 times the area, of the full Moon). The distance to the nebula is  about 1,470 light-years. This is also one of the largest, brightest features in the x-ray sky.

Western Veil Nebula

       Last night the sky was perfect around midnight and I was imaging very well. I thought I could go for a long time, but by 1:30 the moon was up and before long my subs were starting to get washed out. I could have kept going but the magic dark hour was gone so I called it a night. My second sub and several others had satellites crossing the five minute exposures, but the stacking program nixed that data I hope. After tossing a few low scoring frames I put together one hour twenty minutes integrated time for this result. For my setup and Photoshop skill level I am happy with the final cropped result.

      This is known as the Cocoon Nebula, which combines a star cluster, an emission nebula, a reflection nebula, and the vertical “tail” of a dark nebula. Surprising how short the dark time was last night before the moonrise started to dilute the imaging. One hour twenty minutes total image time.

Cocoon Nebula

     I have not been out a lot due to cloudy weather, and on this night (the 14th) I thought it had cleared to a wonderful dark clear evening only to have the clouds come in all too soon. in all this left me with just four sub frames of 300 seconds each for only 20 minutes of data. Still, I processed what I had and here are the results! This region will give me more to do for sure as soon as the weather cooperates. 

The East Veil Nebula is a hot plasma emission nebula producing beautiful colors from ionized hydrogen, sulfur and oxygen. The remnants of a supernova though to have occurred five to eight thousand years ago. The image here is just a fraction of the whole system which lies some 1,500 light years away, yet spans a portion of the sky 6 times the diameter of the moon! 


Veil Nebula

    The Pelican Nebula is seen near the top of this image from last night along with more of the American Nebula it is a part of. I managed 1 hour 33 minutes of integration time with 200 second subs. As usual I am not so sure of the post processing but I pushed it to make it interesting. The vertical band through a minor star in the Pelican was obvious in the subs as I was imaging but I think this is an artifact. I actually processed out vertical banding to minimize this. There is often something which puzzles the shot that can be more trouble than it is worth to track down. It does not seem to be real, as I don’t see this in other peoples images on the web. I have had some vertical anomalies before, so I think it is my camera doing something crazy! After all it is just a normal DSLR so it is not exactly designed for Astrophotography.


Pelican in Cygnus

    I was just looking for a target in the dark area of my sky for the short time between dusk and moon rise. I cam across this region searching in Stellarium, and was surprised it had no common designation. Captured around 1.5 hr of data to produce this image from the depths of the milky way, A myriad of colorful stars stand out from the thousands in this image. Astrometry found 4686 stars to work with identifying the center position as:

RA 19hr 59m 48sec
Dec +35deg 24m 46sec

    The brightest star is the crook of the neck of Cygnus designated “n” or the abreviated “n Cyg”. It can also be described as the southern star of the “northern cross” which makes the body of the Swan. At the northern end of the cross is the better known star, Deneb. The Crescent Nebula lies just north of this region.

Bright star is “n Cygnus”


Up at a decent height in the northeast sky by 1:00 AM last night one of my favorite subjects, FIREWORKS!  Well the galaxy at least! 9 subs of 360 seconds each at ISO 1600 for this dim object brings out a crowded field of stars along with the much closer open cluster know as NGC 6939

From Wikipedia:

(Fireworks Galaxy) “Discovered by William Herschel on 9 September 1798, this well-studied galaxy has a diameter of approximately 40,000 light-years, about one-third of the Milky Way’s size, and it contains roughly half the number of stars as the Milky Way. The galaxy is heavily obscured by intersteller matter as it lies quite close to the galactic plane of the Milky Way.” 

“NGC 6939 is located near the border of the constellations Cepheus and Cygnus, at the southwest corner of Cepheus. The open cluster is located  2/3° northwest from the spiral galaxy NGC 6946 (The Fireworks Galaxy), which has visual magnitude 8.8. They appear as two patches of haze with 10×50 binoculars. NGC 6939 can be glimsed with 7×35 binocoluars where as 25×200 binocoluras are required to start resolve the cluster. The cluster can be glimsed with a 4 inch telescope and is resolved at x72 magnification.”
Fireworks Galaxy with neighboring open cluster


 Located approximately 52 million light years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major, this galaxy was nearly straight overhead toward midnight last night. No moon helped and guiding was very good in this mount orientation. It was warm though for my un-cooled DSLR camera so noise levels were up. 19 subs at 240 seconds each or around 1 hour 15 minutes combined for this image.

Some information on this region from “http://www.astronomersdoitinthedark.com”  :

“NGC 3718 is classified as a peculiar barred spiral galaxy. The galaxy’s spiral arms are quite warped due to the gravitational interaction with its close neighbor on the left of this image, NGC 3729. NGC 3718 features a prominent, dark spiral dust lane wrapping around its nucleus. The core of the galaxy probably contains a supermassive black hole.”

 If you look at the full screen image you can see another galaxy group.

“The group of 5 galaxies (To the left and up a bit) is Hickson 56. The Hickson 56 group is a background group of galaxies that is 400 million light years from us – 8 times farther than the foreground group”


NGC 3718 and neighbors