Sunday, May 21, 2017

M58-M59-M60

Very happy to capture some more Messier objects from Virgo last week when we finally had a bit of good weather.  The following image contains Messier 58 (a.k.a. M58 and NGC 4579) is an intermediate barred spiral galaxy approximately 68 million light-years away from Earth (far right). Messier 59 (a.k.a. M59 or NGC 4621) is an elliptical galaxy approximately 60 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo with a supermassive black-hole in its center (left middle).
Messier 60 (a.k.a. NGC 4649) is an elliptical galaxy approximately 55 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo. It is part of a pair of galaxies known as Arp 116 with NGC 4647.  M60 is the third-brightest giant elliptical galaxy of the Virgo cluster of galaxies (far left).

With the addition of these galaxies, I know only have 31 Messier Objects left...
https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/

Wide Field

M58 Crop

M59 Crop

M60 Crop

M58-M59-M60
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date: 5-15-17
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i(a), Backyard EOS
Telescope: Orion ED80 80mm
f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 600mm
f/7.5
Focal Reducer: Orion 0.8x Focal Reducer for Refractor Telescopes
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo Telescope Mount
Filter: Astrodon UV/IR
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: 57 x 90s
ISO: 1600
Temp: 18 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom, Gradient Exterminator, Astronomy Tools, StarTools.

Friday, May 12, 2017

M104 - The Sombrero Galaxy

Well the Sombrero Galaxy (M104 or NGC 4594) was the last image to be processed from images I took over two weeks ago.  Clouds and the moon have temporally put my deep sky imaging on hold.

Sombrero Galaxy is an spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo located 31 million light-years from Earth.  Smaller than the Milky Way, M104 has a diameter of approximately 50,000 light-years and has a bright nucleus. A prominent dark dust lane and a central bulge give this galaxy the appearance of a sombrero.

I am really liking the Synthetic Flat-Layer gradient removal method described by Trevor Jones from AstroBackyard to cleanup the gradients.  Since I do not use flats yet, my stacked image is loaded with vignetting and gradients.  I used to spend an enormous amount of time trying to make a decent image, however, this new method described by Trevor has cut my time in half and produces better results.  Of course using flats will make a world of difference as well but I have not been able to do it properly yet.  I need to see a video of somebody actually doing it in the field.

This represents number 76 on my catalog of Messier objects, only 34 remain.

Crop


Wide Field

M104 - The Sombrero Galaxy
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date: 4-29-17
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i(a), Backyard EOS
Telescope: Orion ED80 80mm
f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 600mm
f/7.5
Focal Reducer: Orion 0.8x Focal Reducer for Refractor Telescopes
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo Telescope Mount
Filter: Astrodon UV/IR
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: 54 x 90s
ISO: 1600
Temp: 17 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom, Gradient Exterminator, Astronomy Tools, StarTools.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Markarian's Chain

Markarian's Chain is a beautiful string of galaxies that is part of the Virgo Cluster.  It was named after the Armenian astrophysicist, B. E. Markarian, who did extensive research on these galaxies in the early 1960s.  Member galaxies include M84 (NGC 4374), M86 (NGC 4406), NGC 4477, NGC 4473, NGC 4461, NGC 4458, NGC 4438 and NGC 4435

I took full advantage of the one clear night we had last weekend and imaged this object as well as M104, the Sombrero Galaxy.  One of the most interesting members of the chain are the galaxies NGC 4435 and NGC 4438. Together they make up what is known as The Eyes.  At 52 million light years away, the two interacting galaxies resemble eyes intently staring at something or someone.

In just imaging Markarian's Chain, I have manged to capture three more Messier objects for my catalog.

https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/Messier-Objects/

Markarian's Chain

Wide Field, with M87

M84 & M86 Crop

M87 Crop

The Eyes Crop

Markarian's Chain
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date: 4-29-17
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i(a), Backyard EOS
Telescope: Orion ED80 80mm
f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 600mm
f/7.5
Focal Reducer: Orion 0.8x Focal Reducer for Refractor Telescopes
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo Telescope Mount
Filter: Astrodon UV/IR
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: 68 x 90s
ISO: 1600
Temp: 18 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom, Gradient Exterminator, Astronomy Tools, StarTools.
https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/Messier-Objects/


Captured a Satellite While Imaging Markarian's Chain.  


Captured a Russian Satellite While Imaging Markarian's Chain.
Most people are not aware of how many satellites there are orbiting Earth. I checked Stellarium and it appears that the satellite photobombing my image was Molniya 3-41. It was originally part of a Russian military communications network but since 1967 the Molniya satellites are used for Russian TV.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

M98-M99

Messier 98 (a.k.a. NGC 4192) is an intermediate spiral galaxy located about 44.4 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices and about 6° to the east of the bright star Denebola making it easy to locate.  Most galaxies are redshifted meaning they are receding from us, however, M98 has a blue shift and is approaching us at about 140 km/s (source: wikipedia).

Messier 99 (a.k.a. NGC 4254) is an unbarred spiral galaxy approximately 50 million light-years away next to M98 in the constellation Coma Berenices. The galaxy has a normal looking arm and an extended arm that is less tightly wound (source: wikipedia).

This was the first object I was able to get any exposures of in over two weeks due to cloudy weather. The night started with clouds but eventually cleared up.  Unfortunately it was not completely clear. I took over two hours of exposure, however, a very faint high cloud layer moved in during the evening.  When it was all said and done I wound up 45 minute of exposure.  The nice thing about astrophotography of deep sky objects is you can go back to them at a latter date and add more exposure.

Numbers 71 and 72 on my Messier catalog.
https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/

Wide Field

M98 Crop

M99 Crop

M98-M99
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date: 4-28-17
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i(a), Backyard EOS
Telescope: Orion ED80 80mm
f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 600mm
f/7.5
Focal Reducer: Orion 0.8x Focal Reducer for Refractor Telescopes
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo Telescope Mount
Filter: Astrodon UV/IR
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: 31 x 90s
ISO: 1600
Temp: 18 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom, Gradient Exterminator, Astronomy Tools, StarTools.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

10 Messier Objects Around The Big Dipper


There are 10 Messier objects associated with the Big Dipper.  The Big Dipper is an asterism (group of stars that form a recognizable pattern) made up of the seven brightest stars of constellation Ursa Major.  It is one of the most popular asterisms in the Northern hemisphere and has many astronomical features in its realm that most people are unaware of including me until recently.

Late winter to spring is an excellent time to image or observe the Big Dipper and nearby objects as it is high overhead around midnight.  Eight of the ten Messier objects associated with the Big Dipper are galaxies, one is a planetary nebula, and one is a double star.

The photos below were captured with my modest equipment which consists of an 80mm refractor (Orion ED80) and a DSLR camera (Canon Rebel T3i - modified).

10 Messier Objects Around The Big Dipper


1. Winnecke 4


Designation: M40
Magitude: 9.65
Constellation: Ursa Major


What was Messier thinking? M40 or Winnecke 4 is one of the most bazaar objects that Messier included in his famous catalog of what not to confused with a comet. in actuality it's an optical double star located in Ursa Major.  This was a rather easy object to capture as it involved only 10 frames of 90 seconds.

2. The Whirlpool Galaxy

Designation: M51, NGC 5195
Magitude: 8.4
Constellation: Canes Venatici


This is a stunning galaxy which I have always been fascinated with.  It is classified as an interacting along with its companion galaxy (NGC 5195).  I have only observed it once so far under not so dark skies through using Elliot Severn's 12" Dobsonian telescope.
The image above is almost 2 hours of exposure when it was directly overhead. This time of year seems to have many galaxies but not much in the way of nebulae.

3. Sunflower Galaxy

Designation: M63
Magitude: 9.3
Constellation: Canes Venatici


The Sunflower Galaxy contains a central disc surrounded by many short spiral arm segments and part of the M51 Group, a group of galaxies that also includes M51.  Also of note, in 1971, a supernova with a magnitude of 11.8 appeared in one of the arms of M63.  The image above is almost 1.5 hours of exposure.

4. Bode's Galaxy

Designation: M81
Magitude: 6.94
Constellation: Ursa Major


Bode's Galaxy is a very impressive spiral galaxy with a supermassive black hole in the center. Because of this it has been extensively studied by professional astronomers. It is also a great target for amateurs because of its brightness.  Bode's Galaxy along with the Cigar Galaxy (M82) make a great pair when framed together.  In fact I chose to use the framed pair in the combined image which is why there are only photos.  This was the hardest to image because I had to collect data over four nights in order to get 1.7 hrs of exposure do to my limited field of view.

5. Cigar Galaxy

Designation: M82
Magitude: 8.41
Constellation: Ursa Major


The Cigar Galaxy is about five times more luminous than the whole Milky Way and has a center one hundred times more luminous than our galaxy's center.  Also interesting, in 2014 scientists discovered the brightest pulsar yet known.

As stated above in the Bode's Galaxy description M81 and M82 make a great pair when framed together.  The 1.7 hrs of exposure collected so far is not enough and I hope continue to add to it.

6. The Starburst Galaxy

Designation: M94
Magitude: 8.99
Constellation: Canes Venatici


The Starburst Galaxy has an extraordinarily bright nucleus compared to other galaxies.  There is also a bright ring surrounding the core which is host to new star formation.  Luckily I was able to get 1.4 hrs of exposure time on this galaxy before the clouds moved in.  


7. The Owl Nebula

Designation: M97
Magitude: 9.9
Constellation: Ursa Major


She's a beauty! The Owl Nebula is the other non-galaxy Messier object associated with the Big dipper. Estimated to be 8,000 yrs old the nebula was formed when a star similar to our sun releases gas and dust as it runs out of nuclear fuel. Larger telescopes reveal the owl-like eyes but even in this 1-hour total exposure image the two "shadowy eyes" are visible.

8. The Pinwheel Galaxy

Designation: M101
Magitude: 7.86
Constellation: Ursa Major



This gorgeous face-on spiral galaxy is a mere 21 million light years from us. The spiral arms are clearly visible in this rather large galaxy. The sky conditions were less than ideal so I wasn't expecting much with this image, however, I spent 1.5 hrs capturing photons and was lucky it came out as well as it did.


9. M106

Designation: M106
Magitude: 9.1
Constellation: Canes Venatici



Messier 106 has no nickname but that doesn't mean it isn't impressive in its own right. Unusual spectra lines and X-rays suggest this galaxy may falling into a supermassive black hole in the center. A possible companion galaxy, NGC 4217, is located on the lower left side of this image. This 49 minute image was taken on a very cold March evening.


10. Surfboard Galaxy

Designation: M108
Magitude: 10.7
Constellation: Ursa Major



Well I guess this edge on galaxy does resemble a surfboard. M108 was captured in the same image as M97, the Owl Nebula, as the appear near each other from our vantage point. However, M108 is roughly 44 million light years from the Owl Nebula and Earth.

Well that's all Folks! I hope you enjoyed this post.

I would like to take credit for coming up with the idea for doing a post like this, however, it came from Trevor Jones at AstroBackyard where he did a similar post labeled: 8 Deep Sky Targets for Galaxy Season. If you are interested in astrophotography I would highly recommend visiting his site.

New Website:

Thursday, April 20, 2017

M101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy

Messier 101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy (a.k.a. NGC 5457) is a face-on spiral galaxy distanced 21 million light-years away from earth in the constellation Ursa Major.  M101 is a large galaxy comparable in size to the Milky Way with a diameter of 170,000 light-years.  The galaxy is asymmetrical due to the tidal forces from interactions with its companion galaxies. These gravitational interactions compress interstellar hydrogen gas, which then triggers strong star formation activity in M101's spiral arms that can be detected in ultraviolet images.  On August 24, 2011, a Type Ia supernova, SN 2011fe, was discovered in M101. The supernova was visual magnitude 17.2 at discovery and reached magnitude 9.9 at its peak. (source: wikipedia).

I was lucky lucky to get this last Saturday when the sky unexpectedly cleared up enough to get 1.5 hrs of decent exposures.  I think I can do better with this object with more exposures, however, that will have to wait as I have too many other thing to capture on limited clear nights in the Northeast.  The weather has been awful since Saturday and it does not seem to be getting any better anytime soon.  I used the Synthetic Flat-Layer removal method described by Trevor Jones from AstroBackyard to cleanup the gradients this time as it produced the best results.

BTW this object number 70 on my Messier catalog.  Enjoy.

Crop

Wide Field

M101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date: 4-15-17
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i(a), Backyard EOS
Telescope: Orion ED80 80mm
f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 600mm
f/7.5
Focal Reducer: Orion 0.8x Focal Reducer for Refractor Telescopes
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo Telescope Mount
Filter: Astrodon UV/IR
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: 59 x 90s
ISO: 1600
Temp: 7 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom, Gradient Exterminator, Astronomy Tools, StarTools.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy

Messier 51 (a.k.a. M51, or The Whirlpool Galaxy M51, or NGC 5194), is an interacting spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. It was the first galaxy to be classified as a spiral galaxy.  M51 is approximately 23 million light-years from the from Earth but estimates range between 15 and 35 million light-years. Under very dark skies M51 and its companion galaxy, NGC 5195, can be seen with small aperture telescopes and may even be seen with binoculars. I actually saw it at Boothe Park in Stratford, CT with Elliot Severn's 12" dobsonian (lots of light pollution - 7 on the Bortle Scale). I have always been fascinated with images of this object but never dreamed I would actually be able to image it myself (source: wikipedia).

I managed to get almost 2 hours of exposure when it was directly overhead.  This time of year seems to have many galaxies but not much in the way of nebulae.  That's fine with me.  I have been taking 90 second exposures at ISO 1600 for the galaxies and that has been giving me good results.   

This represents the 69th Messier Object I have imaged using a Canon 600D connected to an Orion ED80 f/7.5. I captured this object on Friday evening and since it cleared up the following evening I got a bonus and was able to capture M101.

Website: https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/

Wide Field

Crop

M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date: 4-14-17
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i(a), Backyard EOS
Telescope: Orion ED80 80mm
f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 600mm
f/7.5
Focal Reducer: Orion 0.8x Focal Reducer for Refractor Telescopes
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo Telescope Mount
Filter: Astrodon UV/IR
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: 77 x 90s
ISO: 1600
Temp: 5 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom, Gradient Exterminator, Astronomy Tools, StarTools.