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.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

M63 - Sunflower Galaxy

Messier 63 (a.k.a. M63, NGC 5055, or the Sunflower Galaxy) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici.  The galaxy contains a central disc surrounded by many short spiral arm segments. It is part of the M51 Group, a group of galaxies that also includes M51 (the 'Whirlpool Galaxy') which is next on my target list.  Also of note, in 1971, a supernova with a magnitude of 11.8 appeared in one of the arms of M63 (source: wikipedia).

This was last of the nine new Messier objects (eleven counting M81 and M82) I collected in March before the moon reappeared and made deep sky imaging less desirable. It also represents the 68th Messier objects I have captured, only 42 left.  Website: https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/

Crop

Wide Field

M63 - Sunflower Galaxy
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date: 4-2-17
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: 5 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom, Gradient Exterminator, Astronomy Tools, StarTools.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

M81 and M82 revisited!

This is my second go around with these objects.  The first time I shot these was almost two years ago when my processing skill were much more limited, not only that, I only collected 33 minutes of data. This time around I collected 102 minutes of data with the modified camera.  Of course I would have liked to get more time but M81 and M82 only are visible for 35 minute windows from my dedicated concrete pier at the Happy Frog so that 102 minutes is over the course of four nights.  I hate to take the scope off the pier since it perfectly set but until I get another mount I will have to for some objects.

Messier 81 (a.k.a. NGC 3031 or Bode's Galaxy) is a spiral galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.  It was discovered by Johann Elert Bode on December 31, 1774 and therefore, is sometimes referred to as "Bode's Galaxy".  Messier 82 (also known as NGC 3034, Cigar Galaxy or M82) is a galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.  M82 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.  In 2014, in studying M82, scientists discovered the brightest pulsar yet known (source: wikipedia).

Although this will not help my overall Messier count since I captured it already, I am much happier
with the results this time around.

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

The Pair

M81 - Bode's Galaxy

M82 - Cigar Galaxy

M81 and M82
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date: 3-20-17, 3-22-17, 3-23-17, 3-29-17
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: -1.0 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom, Gradient Exterminator, Astronomy Tools, StarTools.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Gradient Test With M94

Figure 1 - Processed With Gradient Exterminator

I decided to do a test of removing gradients in astrophotography images using Photoshop as described in a recent post by Trevor Jones of AstroBackyard.com.  In his post, Remove Gradients in Your Astrophotos with Photoshop, Trevor describes a fairly common method of removing gradients using Gradient Exterminator (which I use), but also another method which may give better results in certain cases (Figure 3).

The method involves: 1) Removing the DSO from your image, 2) Creating a synthetic flat frame, and 3) Subtracting the flat frame from your image (Figutre 4).  I am not going to go over the process, Trevor does an excellent job of that and he has a video to go a long with it.  Since I just got done processing M94 as I normally do with Gradient Exterminator and heavy additional processing, I gave the other method a try.  Since I don't use flats (yet), my unprocessed images typically have plenty gradients and not only that, the night I captured M94 the sky looked clear but there must have been some additional moisture or something because many of the subframes were redder than normal.

The results are as follows:

Figure 2 - Minimal Processing (Levels) - Lots of Gradients

Figure 3 - Crop Processed With Gradient Exterminator

Figure 4 - Crop Processed By Subtracting a Synthetic Frame

Conclusions:
As you can see from Figure 2, plenty of gradients and vignetting to start with. The results of processing were good either way at least to me.  The gradients were successfully eliminated in both images and it is arguable which image is better.  So which method involved less processing thus was easier?  I took a while doing the synthetic frame method but that was because I am not familiar with this method not because it is inherently time consuming.  In fact I think this method may ultimately be quicker.  I can see how this method works well for small objects and as Trevor pointed out, not be good for objects which fill up the field of view.

If you have never visited AstroBackyard.com before, I would highly recommend you do.  The site contains easy to follow tutorials and well thought explanations.

https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/

Thursday, April 6, 2017

M94 - The Starburst Galaxy

Messier 94 (a.k.a. as NGC 4736 or Starburst Galaxy) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici and lies approximately 14.5 million light-years from Earth.  Compared to the Milky Way, this galaxy is about half the size with a diameter of 50,000 light-years across.  It has a bright nucleus compared to other galaxies and really does have a brownish tint.  Looking at Hubble images you can see a lot of dust within the spiral arms. There is also an outer bluish ring, faint in my image with my little ED80 - larger scopes will do a better job with this, where young massive stars are forming. (source: wikipedia, APOD).

Crop

Wide Field

M94 (The Starburst Galaxy)
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date: 3-29-17
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: 56 x 90s
ISO: 1600
Temp: -1.0 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom, Gradient Exterminator, Astronomy Tools, StarTools.

Crystals

Neat Science! My students are making crystals in General Science class using salt (NaCl), Copper II Sulfate (CuSO4), or sugar (C12H22O11).  A couple of students mixed the CuSO4 solution which is blue with the NaCl solution which is clear and the result was not a lighter blue solution but rather a deep green solution.

Figure 1:  Blue Solution - CuSO4, Green Solution - CuSO4 + NaCl 

The answer to this mystery is with what happens to the copper ion (Cu2+).  The copper ion gives off a blue color when dissolved, however, when the sodium chloride was added chloride ions (Cl-) reacted with the Cu2+ to form a complex ion, Copper(II) tetrachloro complex (the copper ion surrounded by four chlorides), which is green.