February 6, 2012

Another New Year!!

As you can see by the lack of posts in 2011 it wasn’t necessarily a great year for me for getting out into the Observatory, this year however started off very differently, I have managed three sessions already this year, the first two sessions were focused on setting up, making sure everything was working as it should, especially the guiding!!
I really struggled last year with guiding, for some reason I couldn’t get the C11/QHY8 rig at f10 guiding at more than 5 minutes before I got elongated stars and since I was imagining at f10 I really needed to get more towards 15 minutes.
Friday 3rd February looked as though it was going to be a perfectly clear evening, so I went down to the Observatory at about 5 o’clock to set up, I had bought a new dew band for the QHY8 camera which I attached to the nosepiece to stop it dewing up, I then rolled of the roof switched everything on and went back up to the house to enjoy a glass of wine.
Once it was dark enough I went back down to the observatory to set up for the imaging run, I had decided I wanted to image a Galaxy due to the field of view of the C11 and QHY8 really lends itself to galaxy hunting. The chosen galaxy was M82, this was the same galaxy I had used on the previous evenings while I had been testing that the guiding was working correctly.
One of the joys of a permanent setup is how quickly you can setup and begin imagining, alignment, focus, guiding took approx 15 mins  and by 6.30pm I was watching the camera download 20 minutes subs of M82. Although the PHD graph was a little up and down guiding seem to be working really well and the stars were looking nice and round.
I had set the system up to capture 3 hours worth of data so there was nothing to do but sit back and watch Starship Troopers on BBC iplayer and watch the images as they rolled in every 20 minutes.
Although it was a very clear night and perfect for imagining it was also very cold the temperature got down to -7.5° it was so cold that my diet Coke actually froze once I’ve completed my nine subs I went on and collected hundred and one bias and hundred and one flatfield frames, as I placed the ELsheet on the scope I noticed that all of the equipment in the Observatory was covered with a thin film of ice luckily though everything in the warm room was still nice and dry. I eventually closed at the Observatory at 1 o’clock in the morning pleased that I’ve captured some good data.
The image was processed using photoshop CS2, Noels actions and Noise Ninja, I seem to be still struggling with the colour in M82, everything seems to have a slightly green tinge to it, I’m wondering whether it’s got something to do with not using any filters in my current imaging setup, say that this is probably the best image I have ever gone out of the C11 and to be honest and one of the best images I think I’ve ever taken, it just goes to show that longer subs means more data and data is king when it comes to producing some good images.

Messier 82 (also known as NGC 3034, Cigar Galaxy or M82) is the prototype nearby starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The starburst galaxy is five times as bright as the whole Milky Way and one hundred times as bright as our galaxy’s center (Wikipedia)

Mount: EQ6 via EQMOD
OTA: C11 Edge HD @ f/10.0
Guiding: OAG + Meade DSI + PHD
Imaging: QHY8 9 x 1200s,

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