Apr 042020
 

We’ve had far too many rainy days followed by isolation and the closure of astronomy parks and related facilities. Even if it cleared, we have nowhere to go. So here’s a quick reminder of the winter nebula that are leaving now not to be seen until next year. I wish I had time to do a mosaic and capture the whole nebula but I didn’t. It truly is a LARGE nebula. This image is 2.4 degrees across and could hold more than 18 full moons. (The moon varies between about 29′20″ – 34′6″ in size)

NGC 1499
AP130GTX, Apogee U16M, 14x20min HA
Clinton, TN
Dec 012019
 

IC 1805 / Sharpless 190, more commonly known as the Heart Nebula, lies approximately 7,500 light years from Earth. This data set was comprised of 43x20min Ha, 23x20min O[III], and 24x20min S[II] for a total exposure time of 30 hours over several nights in November 2019.

Melotte 15 – The open star cluster that lies at the center of IC 1805 and provides the radiation that gives the nebula it’s soft glow.
NGC 896 – The brightest part of the Heart Nebula; it was cataloged separately because it was the first part of the Heart Nebula to be discovered.
The Heart Nebula – This image spans almost 2.6 degrees x 2.6 degrees. For scale, it would take 27 full moons to fill this field of view.
Oct 272019
 
Road to the Observing Ridge at Dawn Thursday Morning

After missing the BFSP at Cherry Springs State Park, PA last new moon we were anxious to get out for one last hurah for the year. Weather looked great initially from midweek into the weekend but rapidly went downhill as we got closer to the weekend. We did however have an amazingly clear Weds night and clear until 3:00am or so on Thursday.

Observers on the Ridge on Thursday Morning

Friday morning arrived with clouds and slightly warmer temps (no frost) than Thursday morning. The sunrise was spectacular.

I am not a galaxy imager. I’m at home with short refractors imaging large nebula in our own galaxy. Spring and Fall are more or less galaxy season though if you want to be able to image the same object the majority of these longer nights. So I picked out a decent size bright galaxy and dusted off the long f/ratio 5″ refractor and gave it a try. It’s not without it’s problems but nice to see a 28 year old refractor still collecting photons!

Crop of Galaxy NGC 891
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NGC 891 – Full Frame (minor crop)
5.3 hours of Lum, 5.5 hours RGB
AP130EDT f/8 with SX-46 CCD on AP900GTO
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Annotated NGC 891
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Sep 302019
 

We had some great weather for the annual star party at Pickett State Park, TN last new moon. This star party is still young and looking to grow. The park rangers are doing a great job, it’s a great venue for presentations and a great field for observing / photography. I’m not sure why it still remains a hidden gem of sorts.

Overall sky quality, other than some early clouds, was excellent. With SQM measurements around 21.77 mag/arcsec^2 this was the darkest I’ve seen Pickett. I would note too that of the other dark sky sites I routinely visit, this quality of night is nothing to complain about.

Presentation Space
Setup on the field
Dusk; waiting for the thin stuff to clear
Last few clouds clearing with the MW shinning through!
The rig is facing N,NE towards the Constellation Cepheus imaging Sharpless Object SH2-154
SH2-154: AP900GTO, FSQ-106ED with SX-46 CCD. Image scale of 2.33 arcsec/pixel. Exposure time ~13.5 hours. Also plainly visible on the right edge of the frame is SH2-155 The Cave Nebula. Sometimes the faint objects like 154 don’t get a lot of love because they’re not much to look at. At least it’s got a nice tight open cluster NGC 7419 nearby to draw some attention.
Annotated

Jul 282019
 

We had a great clear spell 7/23 through 7/27 with only moderate lunar interference in the early hours of the morning. This is 14 hours of exposure divided equally across Hydrogen-alpha, Oxygen [III], and Sulfur[II] emission lines. Scope was an AP130GTX with Apogee U16 CCD on an AP1200GTO mount. Located outside Clinton, TN. The following are crops from the main image.

Finally, here is the nearly full frame image encompassing the whole area.

Jul 072019
 

With weather looking wet and wild for the 2019 Cherry Springs Star Party and things looking slightly less soggy at Calhoun we decided to cancel on Cherry Springs and gamble on Calhoun. Good thing we were setup on the top of a ridge so we never had to deal with muddy conditions considering all the rain we didn’t know was coming.

The first couple days were all clouded out.
Night time conditions were very soupy
Couple nights later things were improving but still very humid and hazy. The Milky Way was at least starting to pull out of the haze.
Cloudy rainy days
Equipment setup and hoping for clearing
Frank and the Astro Tent
Finally some stars poking through the clouds. Look at that new bright light in the East / NE; it’s really projecting up!
M101 – LRGB with FSQ-106ED and SX-46 CCD on AP900GTO Mount. 6 hours total exposure in hazy conditions. Best SQM 21.8 mag/arcsec^2.
M101 Annotated – Check out all those background galaxies!
Widefield of Scutum, Serpens, Sagittarius, and Ophiucus. Canon 6D with Rokinon 85mm f/4 tracking on an Atlas EQ-G. 14x3min shots stacked, no calibration.
Widefield of Scutum, Serpens, Sagittarius, and Ophiucus annotated. You can see this very busy area is really a crossroads of constellations.
Some VERY ominous clouds started moving in…
Hail Storm
M17 LRGB – FSQ-106ED with SX-46 CCD on AP900GTO Mount. Total Exposure almost 2 hours of hazy low to the horizon 5 minute subs.
From Jupiter to the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. Canon 6D with Rokinon 85mm @f4. 6x3min frames stacked, no calibration.

May 072019
 

Due to a moisture breach of my camera causing frosting issues which caused me to throw out all but 4.5 hours of data out of 18 I figured I might as well post this as it’s not going to get much better. Image scale was 1.31 arcsec/pixel which seems to give fairly decent sampling for the average seeing here in East Tennessee. Imaging location just outside Clinton, TN with average SQM measurements ranging from 20.1 to 20.4 mag/arcsec^2.

M106 – 4.5 hours AP130GTX, Apogee U8300, AP1200GTO

Oct 142018
 

I attended the annual Calhoun County Park Star Party (Oct 5-7) for the first time this year.  The sky wasn’t the best it could be.  Friday and Sat night both had humidity and dew off the charts with variable fog that seemed to slide up and down the hill but never got so high that it killed observing.  I can’t help but think that it impaired the images a little but it may have just been the choice of a faint target during a hazy time of year.  Sky quality measurements topped and held pretty steady around 21.6 mag/arcsec^2.  I’m sure on a crisp night it would be a little darker.  While there were some small light domes on the horizon they weren’t hardly worth mentioning in my opinion.  The park was wonderful and the staff was so friendly they even prepared a great meal for us on Sat night.  In total about 16 people showed for the party from TN, WV, PA, OH, and KY.  Special thanks to Larry McHenry for posting info about the star party and turning us onto this event and Calhoun as an observing site.  He typically posts updates on Cloudynights star party forum for upcoming Calhoun events.

Foggy Morning

Visual Rig

Imaigng Rig

Hot Afternoon

(Backside) From the Pond

 

Since Calhoun is pretty dark I decided to go after a fainter full spectrum object than I could ever do from home.  VdB objects (reflection nebulae compiled by Sidney van den Bergh) are great targets when looking for something off the beaten path but aren’t always what I would call showcase objects.  VdB 14 and 15 make for a nice parring here in a rich park of the sky in Camelopardalis.

vdb 14 & vdb 15:  12 hours of LRGB exposure with Tak FSQ-106ED Scope, SX-46 CCD, AP900GTO Mount.