Sunday, 8 December 2019

Reaping the Observatory Rewards

The first images are in...

Some weeks after the arrival of the new observatory, I've eventually got some quality imaging time in and some results to show.  As well as first light in the observatory, I have also had first light with a new filter.  I purchased the Altair Quadband OSC filter back in September, and the recent flurry of clear evenings has given me the ideal chance to try it out.
Already, the benefits of having the observatory are amazing.  I am now up and imaging from the comfort of my own living room within 15 minutes.  I can't complain about that at all.  I'm also looking forward to seeing how the new quadband filter performs.  According to the product description, it should allow me to image targets during period of bright moonlight, opening up the number of opportunities for me to roll of the roof.

The geeky details.

For those of you with such an interest, this is the kit list used for these images.
  • Altair Hypercam 183c v1 OSC
  • Altair Quadband Filter
  • Sharpcap 3.2
  • Starwave 80ED-R scope
  • SkyWatcher EQ6-R mount
  • PixInsight 1.8
  • GIMP 2.10.6

First Light and M33

It had been quite a while since my last imaging session.  I think it might have been back in February.  So I wanted to pick a target that was familiar, and that I had imaged before.  I went with M33 which is sitting lovely and high in the night sky at the moment.  I'm quite pleased with this result given it has been so long since I had done any imaging or processing.  Very rusty, but not too bad!

58 stacked 3 minute exposures, plus dark and flat calibration frames give this 2 hour 54 minute exposure of M33.

Second Light and Melotte 15

I have always wanted a go at imaging The Heart Nebula.  This is often imaged using widefield techniques and equipment with it's near neighbour, The Sole Nebula.  The problem I have is that with my current imaging scope (the 80 ED-R), I just don't have a large enough field of view to capture either nebula in their entirety in a single frame.  I would need to create a mosaic of different images which would take quite a number of evenings to complete.  It wasn't until I started reading more about it, that I began to appreciate that the whole nebula is actually made up of several individually catalogued objects.  The Heart Nebula as a whole is catalogued as IC 1805.  To the edge of the nebula, an area known as The Fish Head Nebula is catalogued as IC 1795.  IC 1795 is a possible future target for me.  In the centre of the heart is an open cluster of stars which are thought to be the origin of the nebula.  It is catalogued as Melotte 15 and was my chosen target.

58 stacked 3 minute exposures, plus dark and flat calibration frames give this 2 hour 54 minute exposure of Melotte 15

Third Light and M32 - Andromeda

This third and final image was taken in a spur of the moment, short window of clear sky one evening after work.  It demonstrated yet again, the benefit of being able to just have all my rig set up and ready for us at a moments notice.  Andromeda is perhaps one of the most imaged targets in the northern hemisphere.  In my opinion, it is also really hard to get right.  It is so big, and so bright with so much detail to pick out that I have rarely seen an image of the galaxy that stands out against all the others.  I have always struggled to get any sorted of decent detail from it.  It this most recent attempt, I didn't really have time to research a new target, so decided to spend a couple of hours on it, complete with the new quadband filter.  After some quick processing, the result is OK, but again it reminded me how tricky it is to get this target right.  I definitely have much to learn with this particular target.

38 stacked 3 minute exposures, plus dark and flat calibration frames give this image of M31.
3 Imaging sessions down in my new abode and I can't wait for the next run of clear nights.  As I round off this post, the forecast is pretty rubbish for the foreseeable week so it's unlikely that I will have chance to roll the roof open again for a little while.  That's not to say I have nothing to do!  I've got some projects coming up which I will write about in the coming weeks.  
I have just ordered a number of steel pieces, so I can get to work on building my own pier.  As well as that, want to explore some new RGB processing techniques in PixInsight to help me get the best out of the new quadband filter.
Finally, with my recent reading up on The Heart Nebula, I would like to attempt imaging the Fish Head nebula as my next target.  All I need is the clear sky to do it.

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