Sunday, July 14, 2019

Iris Nebula (2019)

Here lies my latest version of the Iris Nebula (NGC 7023 or Caldwell 4).  It is a bright reflection nebula approximately 1300 light-years away in the constellation of Cepheus and is 6 light-years across (bright blue portion).  NGC 7023 is actually the cluster within the nebula (a.k.a. LBN 487).  The nebula is lit by the young central star named V380 Cep (mag. +7.1), which is believed to have burst into life just 5,500 years ago in a region containing huge amounts of dust. The bright blueish portion is due to the reflected light in the visible portion of the spectrum.  Harder to pickup is the faint reddish brown outer colors resulting from dust absorbing ultraviolet light from the star and releasing it as dim reddish light.  Also, researchers using infrared light detectors found that this nebula contains complex carbon molecules known as Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs).   

This is one of my favorite reflection nebulae and is much better than my image from three years ago. I spent a lot of time trying to enhance the dark portions with blowing out the rest of the image and a special thanks goes to Astrobin user Will Czaja for recommending "dark structures enhancement in PI". The reddish dust portion was where I spent most of the time and probably 'chickened out' by not going further or more dramatic with enhancements than some of the other images I have seen.

Several dark nebula appear in this image among them is LDN 1174 just left of the center, LDN 1172  upper central, LDN 1170 near the top, and LDN 1173 just right of the center.  Of course the bright yellow star T-Cep on the lower right corner has the geometric pattern from my camera but the other bright stars seem unaffected.  Imaging was tough due to the unstable weather but I managed to get more by holding of an waiting for more clear nights. 

Lastly, this was the second image made using the ZWO EAF focuser and the first image made using the ScopeBuggy.  I have two locations in my yard to image from, one is the astronomy shed and the second is from my front lawn.  The weather can changes here at the blink of an eye I got tired of the back and forth.  There was some concern that it would not be stable enough for imaging but I made some modifications to it.  YouTube: https://youtu.be/6VsdEA4CL3U.


NGC 7023 - Iris NebulaLocation: Home Monroe, CT
Date: 6-27-19, 6-28-19, 6-30-19, 7-3-19, 7-4-19
Camera: ZWO ASI1600MM-Pro
Telescope: Astro-Tech AT115EDT 115mm Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 805mm
f/7
Focal Reducer: Astro-Tech 0.8x Focal Reducer/Field Flattener for Refractor Telescopes
Mount: Orion Sirius
Filter Wheel: ZWO EFW 8x 1.25"
Filter: ZWO L, R, G, B
Focuser: ZWO EAF
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: L 248 x 90s, R 60 x 90s, G 57 x 90s, B 59 x 90s
Gain: 139
Offset 21
Temp: 8 C
Post Processing: PixInsight, Photoshop, Lightroom
https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/
http://astroquest1.blogspot.com/

Friday, July 5, 2019

Upgrades to Scopebuggy for Imaging


So if you want to move your easily transport your scope around on your lawn, you really have two only choices other than making you own.

1) ScopeBuggy   




All things being equal, I would have purchased the JMI Wheeley Bar, however, the JMI is more expensive.

The ScopeBuggy is a little over $400 after shipping and tax (I paid $420 from Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions, CCTS).  The JMI Wheeley Bar is close to $700 after shipping and tax to get the equivalent system.  The medium size JMI Wheeley Bar is $389 but cost another $259 for the 10" pneumatic tire system upgrade.

I chose the ScopeBuggy mainly because of the price and am happy with the purchase but I did have to upgrade the system for imaging purposes.  I like to tinker with things so I was OK with modifying the ScopeBuggy and platform, however, if you are uncomfortable with doing modifying things then the JMI Wheeley Bar system may be more appropriate.


Modifications on the ScopeBuggy:
1) Add 5/8" washers to the three wheel axles to act as spacers so it fits more snug.

2) Add 5/8" washers to the top axle on the 'Gooseneck' where the handle connects so it fits more snug.

3) Replace the 3/8" Stabilizer Bolts with longer hex-bolts and wingnut for more support.

4) Secure the each tripod leg to the ScopeBuggy.
I used two methods: 1) A metal band connected to an angle bracket attached to the Stabilizer Bolt on one end and a U-bolt on the other end.  2) A rubber strap or Bungy cord attached to a U-bolt.  I like method one the best and will do all of the sides using that method soon. 

Other Modifications:
1) Level ground somewhat and set concrete blocks under where the tripod legs would normally sit when it is leveled.

2) Roll the telescope out and place bricks under the each tripod leg shoe of the ScopeBuggy. It should be very close to being level. Adjust the tripod leg to level if needed.  Put roofing shingles between the brick and ScopeBuggy to absorb additional vibrations.  More than one shingle can be used per side for final leveling if needed. 

I ended up not using the Stabilizer Bolts as my system was light enough for me to lift up and set the bricks under each side.  





Sunday, June 30, 2019

M57 - Ring Nebula (2019)

The Ring Nebula (M57) is a planetary nebula formed when a sun-like star ejected the outer layers of ionized gas. This nebula is approximately 2000 light-years away in the constellation Lyra. Like all planetary nebula, M57 is also a type of emission nebula. In this image blue color in the center portion represents helium, the light blue color of the inner ring is hydrogen and oxygen, and the reddish and magenta color of the outer ring is from nitrogen and sulfur. Also, the blue dot in the center of the nebula is the core of the star - now a white dwarf.

The last time I imaged this was three years ago and have waited until I felt I could do better. The nebula and star field are much superior in this image than in my previous image due in part to better equipment and improved processing skills.

This was the first image since getting the electronic automatic focuser, ZWO EAF, and I love it. I have been able focus with this better and quicker than I ever was able to by hand. It was easy to install and works with APT really well. Although there is an automatic focus aid with APT, I find I get better focus with the Bahtinov mask. I will have to update my equipment profile soon as I have added a few behind the scenes tools.

Processing this was a bit tricky as the Ring seemed overexposed so I had to tone it down in Photoshop in order bring out the fine detail.  I normally don't crop my images this much but the Ring is very small and also I wanted to highlight the small barred spiral galaxy IC 1296 just left of M57. I did not even know about this until I processed the image but it turned out to be a nice surprise.

Cropped

Wide Field

M57 - The Ring Nebula
Location: Home Monroe, CT
Date: 6-21-19, 6-22-19, 6-23-19
Camera: ZWO ASI1600MM-Pro
Telescope: Astro-Tech AT115EDT 115mm Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 805mm
f/7
Focal Reducer: Astro-Tech 0.8x Focal Reducer/Field Flattener for Refractor Telescopes
Mount: Orion Sirius
Filter Wheel: ZWO EFW 8x 1.25"
Filter: ZWO L, R, G, B
Focuser: ZWO EAF
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: L 38 x 90s, R 39 x 90s, G 28 x 60s, B 32 x 60s
Gain: 139
Offset 21
Temp: 8 C
Post Processing: PixInsight, Photoshop, Lightroom
https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/
http://astroquest1.blogspot.com/

Friday, June 28, 2019

Imaging with the SkyGuider Pro and a 200mm Lens

I have had a chance to use the iOptron SkyGuider Pro with a Canon T3i/600D modified camera and 200mm lens on few occasions now and feel comfortable with the setup now.  One of the reasons I wanted a portable setup like this is for traveling and another reason is for imaging objects larger than my telescope field of view (FOV).  I am happy to say this works really well and satisfies both reasons for getting this setup.


There are several really good videos by people more knowledgeable on using the SkyGuider Pro than I am and have included links to a few of them:

Peter Zelinka:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jssf2ffHYbc

AstroBackyard:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFnTm30bzBw&t=159s

Universal Observations:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NM377PW7fV8

However, I wanted focus in on the use of a 200mm lens.  What makes using the 200mm difficult it is right on the fence of the weight limit iOptron recommends for the mount without using the counterweight.  iOptron recommends 1.5 kg or 3.3 lbs for the weight limit and that is what the camera and lens together weigh.  If the ball head is added the weight becomes 1.8 kg or 4.0 lbs.  

After contacting Peter Zelinka with regard to this who suggested the counterweight may not be needed, I imaged the Seagull Nebula taking one minute exposures without the counterweight.

Seagull Nebula (IC 2177) and Thor's Helmet (NGC 2359)
Location: Home Monroe, CT
Date: 4-1-19
Camera: Canon T3i/600D modified
Lens: Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM
Focal Length: 200mm
f/3.5
Mount: iOptron SkyGuider Pro on a Manfrotto Tripod
Filter: Astronomik UHF Clip-in
Autoguiding: none
Exposure: 25 x 60s
ISO: 1600
Processing: DSS, PixInsight, Photoshop, Lightroom

The image came out fine, however, some stars appear oblong close up. 

I also imaged the Sadr Region taking one minute exposures using the counterweight using the counterweight this time.


Sadr Region (IC 1318) and Other Friends
Location: Home Monroe, CT
Date: 6-11-19, 6-14-19, 6-22-19
Camera: Canon T3i/600D modified
Lens: Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM
Focal Length: 200mm
Ha f/2.8, RGB f/3.2
Mount: iOptron SkyGuider Pro on a Manfrotto Tripod
Filter: Astronomik Ha 12nm Clip-in
Autoguiding: none
Exposure: Ha 130 x 60s, RGB 171 x 30s
ISO: 1600
Processing: DSS, PixInsight, Photoshop, Lightroom

Results
The stars are more rounded in this image for the most part but the image without the counterweight is acceptable.

The results suggest the decent images can be taken using the 200mm lens without the counterweight but the counterweight does produce slightly better results.  The counterweight also has the advantage of doing a polar alignment with the camera already attached and checking on it periodically during imaging.

For my own purposes, I will use the counterweight when I am home or traveling by car.  If I am traveling where space and weight are a factor, I may leave the counterweight behind.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Sadr Region with 200mm Lens - HaRGB

I was able to finish sooner than expected as we had some clear weather and was able to add RGB data without the moon. 

See link for Ha image: 

The region around Sadr (γ Cygni), center star in the cross Cygnus, is filled with gas and dust making it a prime location for emission nebulae and camera lenses. Sadr is the bright star in the lower left central portion of the image. The Sadr Region (a.k.a. the Butterfly Nebula or the Gamma Cygni Nebula, or IC 1318) is the diffuse emission nebula surrounding Sadr and is approximately 4900 light-years away. From what I gather it includes the Butterfly but also the surrounding area above Sadr. Other objects in this image include the Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888) - bright nebula off to the right, M29 (NGC 6913 a.k.a. Cooling Tower) - open cluster on the lower central portion of the image, IC 1311 - open cluster with lots of nebulosity in the upper central portion, NGC 6910 - open cluster just left of Sadr. NGC 4996 - an open star cluster below the Crescent Nebula, and NGC 6914 - an Ha region on the left portion of the image. Numerous other Lynds Dark Nebula (LDN) and Bright Nebula (LBN) are scattered throughout this region.

The RGB was obtained on one night while I was also capturing M57 with the main imaging rig.
Focusing was a bit easier since I was not using any filters and was able us live view for focusing.  I still had to take 5-second exposures in order match up the framing and got it close enough to the Ha image. 

I used DSS for stacking since I did not take any flats and I haven't figured out how to have PI stack without flats yet - I read somewhere you have to make synthetic ones.  I did bring it into PI to do the normal processing and align the Ha and RGB images.  Also, the preliminary combining was done in PI.  The color image was separated into individual RGB channels and then used to make the HaRGB image,

The final HaRGB image was made with the following recipe:
Enhanced Red = Ha 70% + R 30% (PixelMath)
New RGB = Enhanced Red + G + B (PixelMath)
HaRGB = Ha 50% Luminosity + RGB (Photoshop)

The was one odd problem that occurred when making the New RGB image.  I was doing a series of of trials to determine the optimal combination and joining them with the RGB Combination tool, it worked for one iteration but then when using it again it never recognized the Enhanced Red.  Fortunately PixelMath recognized it so I used it.  I tried to use the LRGB combination for the final image but this time the Ha image was not recognized so I did the final joining in PS.  It is probably some button I pressed that caused this but I worked around it. 

I sometimes find these HaRGB combinations difficult trying get the right mix of detail and color.  I spent a lot of time adjusting the color/hue similar to the original RGB image yet not over-saturating it.


Sadr Region (IC 1318) and Other Friends
Location: Home Monroe, CT
Date: 6-11-19, 6-14-19, 6-22-19
Camera: Canon T3i/600D modified
Lens: Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM
Focal Length: 200mm
Ha f/2.8, RGB f/3.2
Mount: iOptron SkyGuider Pro on a Manfrotto Tripod
Filter: Astronomik Ha 12nm Clip-in
Autoguiding: none
Exposure: Ha 130 x 60s, RGB 171 x 30s
ISO: 1600
Processing: DSS, PixInsight, Photoshop, Lightroom
https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/
http://astroquest1.blogspot.com/

Thursday, June 20, 2019

M13 - Hercules Globular Cluster (2019)

This is my latest version of M13.  Like all globular clusters, M13 or the Hercules Globular Cluster (NGC 6205), does not reside in the galactic plane but rather outside surrounding the central bulge. The cluster contains several hundred thousand stars, a  diameter of 145 light-years and is 22,000 light years away. The cluster, like most clusters, contains very old stars on the order of 12 to 13 billion years old, however, this cluster is of particular interest because it produces young blue stragglers - large blue giant stars formed as result of colliding old stars.

I find globular clusters particularly difficult to process for some reason.  Possibly because the data is never as good as it could be because I am always imaging these under less than ideal circumstances like when the moon is out - this image is no exception.  Also, the green layer was fine this time around as opposed to having those magenta splotches plaguing my last image.  I was prepared to stack everything in DSS, however, PI worked fine this time (astro-gremlins?). 

I did manage to get more color than my previous images which was very happy with.  I rotated the image 90 degrees and cropped it in such a way to maximize the small ~12th magnitude spiral galaxy on the lower left of the image.  Despite being 46 million light-years away there is a small amount of structure. 


M13 - The Hercules Globular Cluster
Location: Home Monroe, CT
Date: 6-11-19, 6-14-19
Camera: ZWO ASI1600MM-Pro
Telescope: Astro-Tech AT115EDT 115mm Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 805mm
f/7
Focal Reducer: Astro-Tech 0.8x Focal Reducer/Field Flattener for Refractor Telescopes
Mount: Orion Sirius
Filter Wheel: ZWO EFW 8x 1.25"
Filter: ZWO R, G, B
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: R 60 x 60s, G 49 x 60s, B 57 x 60s
Gain: 139
Offset 21
Temp: 8 C
Post Processing: PixInsight, Photoshop, Lightroom
https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/
http://astroquest1.blogspot.com/

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sadr Region in Ha with 200mm Lens

The region around Sadr (γ Cygni), center star in the cross Cygnus, is filled with gas and dust making it a prime location for emission nebulae and camera lenses. Sadr is the bright star in the lower left central portion of the image.  The Sadr Region (a.k.a. the Butterfly Nebula or the Gamma Cygni Nebula, or IC 1318) is the diffuse emission nebula surrounding Sadr and is approximately 4900 light-years away.  From what I gather it includes the Butterfly but also the surrounding area above Sadr.  Other objects in this image include the Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888) - bright nebula off to the right, M29 (NGC 6913 a.k.a. Cooling Tower) - open cluster on the lower central portion of the image, IC 1311 - open cluster with lots of nebulosity in the upper central portion, NGC 6910 - open cluster just left of Sadr.  NGC 4996 - an ope star cluster below the Crescent Nebula, and NGC 6914 - an Ha region on the left portion of the image.  Numerous other Lynds Dark Nebula (LDN) and Bright Nebula (LBN) are scattered throughout this region.  I really like the lower portion in the Butterfly area where the gas and dust swirl around as well as the region near the crescent.

This image was taken over two evenings using the Canon T3i/600D and 200mm lens with the Astronomic Ha-Clip filter mounted on the iOptron SkyGuider Pro.  This is my travel set up so I can easily take it on an airplane or set it up while I am imaging something else with my telescope.  The next best thing to creating a mosaic with a telescope.  Shooting normal color images with thie set up is easy because you can use live view for find and focusing.  However, using the Ha filter was tough as you have to turn all the settings up and do a minimum of 5-second exposures to find anything and then focus.  I plan to add color if we get a clear night without the moon as this was taken when the moon was high up.



Sadr Region (IC 1318) and Other Friends
Location: Home Monroe, CT
Date: 6-11-19, 6-14-19
Camera: Canon T3i/600D modified
Lens: Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM
Focal Length: 200mm
f/2.8
Mount: iOptron SkyGuider Pro on a Manfrotto Tripod
Filter: Astronomik Ha 12nm Clip-in
Autoguiding: none
Exposure: 130 x 60s
ISO: 1600
Processing: DSS, PixInsight, Photoshop, Lightroom
https://kurtzeppetello.smugmug.com/
http://astroquest1.blogspot.com/