Skip navigation


Bok Globules are fascinating objects. They are pockets of dark cosmic dust and gas, usually containing new born protostars, on their way to becoming fully fledged main sequence stars. They are named after Dutch astronomer Bart Bok who first observed them in the 1940’s.

The Bok Globules here are being created by the interstellar wind and radiation being blasted by the open cluster NGC2244 at the centre of the nebula. This group of young stars are so powerful, they are heating the gas surrounding it to 6 million degrees Celsius, causing it to emit light in the visible spectrum as well as a large amount of X-Rays.

Camera: FLI-PL6303E (-15°C)
Scope: Planewave 20″ (0.51m) CDK F4.5
Mount: Planewave Ascension 200HR
Guiding: None
Capture Software: ACP, Maxim DL
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, PixInsight
Exposures: 8 x 5 mins (1×1 Lum), 6 x 2.5 mins (2×2 RGB). 1 Hour 25 mins total
Calibration: Automated

RosetteLRGB2

Advertisements

I’ve been working on this on and off for a few months now. The data was captured over a few weeks in the summer while this was sitting high at SSO. Across all the frames and colours it’s almost 6 hours worth of data and about 1.7GB of files to crunch. I’ve never attempted a mosaic before, but it is the only way to properly capture this amazing area of the sky. Even with the wide field of view on T12, it only just fits in a 2×2. The hardest part about imaging this is the amount of colour in the area, it’s hard to distinguish gradients from nebulosity.

The Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex is a huge star forming area in the constellation of Ophiuchus. It’s the closest star forming region to the Solar System at around 460 light years away. The bright yellow star towards the bottom is Antares, which is one of the brightest stars in the sky. There are also 3 fairly big globular clusters in there too, can you spot them?

Camera: SBIG STL-11000M with Baader RGB (-15°C)
Scope: Takahashi FSQ-106 F5
Mount: Paramount PME
Guiding: SBIG Internal
Capture Software: ACP, Maxim DL
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, PixInsight
Exposures: 74 x 2.5 mins (2×2 RGB), 31 x 5 mins (1×1 Lum). 5 Hours 40 mins total
Calibration: Automated

Rho Ophiuchi

Full Mosaic Lum Template


Updated version of this in LRGB this time. You can really start to see the brown dust start to appear underneath, this is the hardest part to pull out, it often appears as black compared to the wave of hydrogen behind. It could maybe do with longer subs and more time to pull it out further. I have over an hour of narrowband images from this same area, but I’m struggling to make it work. It seems like there is just no OIII in this nebula. It’s quite rich in Hα and SII, so might have to experiment with some bi-colour images.

Camera: FLI-PL6303E (-15°C)
Scope: Planewave 20″ (0.51m) CDK F4.5
Mount: Planewave Ascension 200HR
Guiding: None
Capture Software: ACP, Maxim DL
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, PixInsight
Exposures: 8 x 5 mins (1×1 Lum), 8 x 2.5 mins (2×2 RGB). 1 Hour 40 mins total
Calibration: Automated

horsehead_nebula_final


I’ve taken wide images of this area in the past as it’s part of a vast cloud complex in Cygnus covering a huge area of the sky. It sits side by side with the North America Nebula. The good thing about having access to big scopes is the ability to get in close and explore some really interesting objects. The highlight of the Pelican Nebula is the Herbig-Haro Jets shooting out from the end of one of the pillars.

These jets are being ejected from a hidden protostar forming from the compressing gas within the top of the pillar. They are polar jets that form from interactions between the stars magnetic field and the accretion disc of material being pulled in to form the star, very similar to the same effect seen with supermassive black holes.

As they are relatively small in cosmic terms, their movement can be measured over a short space of time. One of these jets was captured by Hubble in this stunning animation of Herbig-Haro object HH47

Camera: SBIG STL-6303 (-20°C)
Scope: Planewave 12.5″ CDK F7.9
Mount: Paramount PME
Guiding: ACP
Capture Software: ACP, Maxim DL
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, PixInsight
Exposures: 9 x 5 mins (Hα) 45 mins total
Calibration: Automated

pelican_nebula


This emission nebula contains the pillars of creation at it’s centre, made famous by Hubble in 1995. There are loads of fascinating star forming objects in this area, including the stellar spire

Just above the central pillar is the star cluster that illuminates the whole area, . It contains 460 stars, the biggest of which is 80 solar masses, with luminosity one million times that of the Sun

Imaging this is difficult from the south of the UK due it’s low position in the Summer, it’s virtually impossible to image in Scotland. At SSO in Australia it’s sitting nice and high above 45 degrees

Camera: FLI-PL6303E (-15°C)
Scope: Planewave 20″ (0.51m) CDK F4.5
Mount: Planewave Ascension 200HR
Guiding: None
Capture Software: ACP, Maxim DL
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, PixInsight
Exposures: 5 x 5 mins (Hα), 10 x 5 mins (O3), 5 x 5 mins (S2). 1 Hour 40 mins total
Calibration: Automated

eagle_neb_final

eagle_neb_ha_final


No nebula this time, it’s a globular cluster! I’ve never had a long enough focal length scope to catch one of these close up, so it’s a first for me. This is taken from the iTelescope site in New Mexico, and is also visible in the UK.

M13 is around 145 light years in diameter and 25,100 light years away from Earth. its made up of several hundred thousand stars. You can play a game of “spot the galaxy” in the background, the most obvious is NGC6207 to the top right.

T11 the same spec scope and mount as T30 at SSO, expect it has a higher res CCD camera, using the same Kodak sensor as the SBIG in T12. Unguided once again, the 200HR has incredible tracking.

Camera: FLI ProLine PL11002M (-35°C)
Scope: Planewave 20″ (0.51m) CDK F4.5
Mount: Planewave Ascension 200HR
Guiding: None
Capture Software: ACP, Maxim DL
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, PixInsight
Exposures: 4 x 2.5 mins (2×2 RGB) 3 x 5 mins (1×1 Lum). 45 mins total
Calibration: Automated

M13_LRGB_


Orion is still around in the early evening in Australia. It won’t be there for long, so time to try and catch an old favourite with a massive scope.

This is the first time I’ve used T30 at Siding Spring, it’s a 20″ CDK (Corrected Dall-Kirkham Astrograph) with an FLI camera at 0.81 arc-sec/pixel. It has a huge aperture and long focal length at 2.28m, while still being really fast at F4.5 due to having a 0.66x Focal Reducer fitted. It’s mounted on a Planewave Ascension 200HR which has such good tracking that the SSO crews have disabled active guiding.

This was only 33 degrees away from a 28% illuminated moon, so is quite noisy. I will need to wait for the moon to move along before trying O3 and S2.

Camera: FLI-PL6303E (-15°C)
Scope: Planewave 20″ (0.51m) CDK F4.5
Mount: Planewave Ascension 200HR
Guiding: None
Capture Software: ACP, Maxim DL
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, PixInsight
Exposures: 5 x 5 mins (1×1 Hα). 20 mins total
Calibration: Automated

horsehead_nebula


This is the first time I’ve ever used Luminance rather than just straight RGB. Having seen the light after researching it for a while, I followed a fantastic tutorial on the PixInsight website from Vicent Peris here.

I learned quite a lot of new tricks in PixInsight in this tutorial: Colour Calibration, Background Neutralisation, L+RGB Combination, improvements to my DBE process and using the Screen Transfer Function to apply automatic stretches. I might just have to revisit the past few versions of these and update them.

Deep Sky Stacker picked up an incredible 38,774 stars in each of the Luminance Frames. This is such a dense part of the Milky Way it made it hard to distinguish sky gradients from dark dust and changes in star density. Overall I’m pretty happy, I thought it came out very pink, but looking at other images it seems to be the natural colour of the nebula. I’m starting to see blooming sneaking into the brighter stars on the STL-11000M, so will need to work on bloom removal if I want to image something brighter or do longer subs.

Camera: SBIG STL-11000M with Baader RGB (-15°C)
Scope: Takahashi FSQ-106 F5
Mount: Paramount PME
Guiding: SBIG Internal
Capture Software: ACP, Maxim DL
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, PixInsight
Exposures: 4 x 5 mins (1×1 RGB), 5 x 5 mins (1×1 Lum). 1 Hour 25 mins total
Calibration: Automated

cn_lrgb


There has been some extreme weather the past week or two at Siding Spring Observatory. Mostly caused by the effect of Cyclone “Rusty”. Now things have settled down to the usual crisp clear skies, and with the moon just out of reach, I was able to grab the remaining narrowband parts for NGC3372, the Carina Nebula.

This is a great example of what just 1 hour and 10 mins gets you on a really good set-up in dark skies. There is a bit of noise reduction in this, but only as it helped with the purple halos caused by pushing the O3 and S2. Once I figure out how to get around this I can get it a bit sharper.

Camera: SBIG STL-11000M with Baader Hα/O3/S2 (-15°C)
Scope: Takahashi FSQ-106 F5
Mount: Paramount PME
Guiding: SBIG Internal
Capture Software: ACP, Maxim DL
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, PixInsight
Exposures: 5 x 5 mins (Hα), 5 x 5 mins (O3), 4 x 5 mins (S2). 1 Hour 10 mins total
Calibration: Automated

NGC3372_1


It’s been around three years and five months since I started this blog. Over that time its been clear that to make the most of the limited clear skies we have in the UK you really need to be into automation. You need to build a system that will maximise the time you have available. I’ve built up an imaging setup that can run automated without much need for me to go outside besides opening up and checking it. Sorted, right?

Even with this type of setup in place imaging in the UK is very difficult. First of all you have to battle the elements: the skies in the UK are renowned for driving Astronomers to despair, the estimated percentage for clear skies is around 15%. Next up is everyone’s pet peeve: light pollution. I live in an suburban location just outside Edinburgh, and enjoy some of the finest light pollution my country has to offer. I’ve done battle with my local council, which eventually got me a shade on a street light that overlooks my Observatory. This has made a big difference, but the worst of it is being stuck between a lit motorway to the south and this monster to the north:

20130318-102008.jpg
Even being a good mile away from the bridge and facing the opposite way, on a cloudy night you can see a beam of LP projected right across my field of view. Not the best. Next problem is this field of view. I have two options where I live, in front and behind my house. Being N-S orientated, the back gives a north view, the front gives a south view. The front became the only option as most of the targets are in the southern part of the sky. This southern view is further restricted by trees and the house itself, with the meridian splitting the view, if you have ever mixed LP & sky gradients with mid-session pier flips you will know what a nightmare this can be.

Added to all this, the biggest trap in Astroimaging is gear lust. To improve your images you have to be constantly working on your setup. Buying, selling, building, having various development projects on the go and using precious clear spells to test these out. This got to the point with me that I had my head in the technicalities so much that I really lost touch with what I was trying to do. So many times I would get a clear night and then realise I had spent no time planning and researching what targets to go for, or learning about the night sky.

So, what is the solution to this? I’ve toyed with the idea of my own fully remote observatory in the UK for a few years, it solves the LP and FOV issues, but unless you can afford to have it hosted at a pro site, you are locked into an incredibly difficult technical challenge, and still have to deal with the UK weather.

The nice folks over at iTelecope.net have provided a great solution to this. Imagine being able to use kit remotely not in your garden but in the best locations around the world. Add to this being able to choose from a huge variety of scopes with different fields of view. They currently have 3 sites in operation: Australia, New Mexico and Spain. At each of these sites is a variety of research grade scopes that you can book time on or use when free. It opens up fantastic opportunities to see objects you can’t from the UK, and have access to them all year round.

20130318-221423.jpg

This is all based around a monthly subscription plan, where you buy points to use on the scopes. Each of the scopes have their own points per hour rating depending on how powerful they are. This can be expensive, but considering how much you need to spend to get into Astroimaging and the quality of the kit you can use, works out as being reasonably good value.

It’s the type of thing that’s not for everyone, as you don’t get to use any of your own equipment. For me, it’s the ultimate experience. I’m in the process of selling all my equipment to concentrate fully on this. The final point that nailed it for me was being able to spend the afternoon imaging in the southern hemisphere, then go out to the pub that night. No more tacking the elements, technology and giving up precious spare time! I’ve had more fun in the past month than I have since I started getting into imaging. You can the results in the past few posts. That says it all.