Jan 282018

I recently replaced the dome control electronics after the Foster Systems controller bit the dust and I replaced with a MaxDome II controller for rotation and shutter operation.  It’s working flawlessly so far and I couldn’t be happier.  I threw the 5″ refractor back in the observatory with the 16803 chipped camera for a widefield rig at 2.2 arcsec/pixel resolution.  Drizzle processing yields better star shapes/sampling than the low resolution would suggest.  Both images are cropped from the same image with 20.5 hours of total exposure time in the traditional Hubble Pallet.


Jul 302017

I was the first one to arrive for the star party on Saturday night at Look Rock South.  It’s a beautiful view to the south looking into the Smokies.


We definitely had some clouds for the beginning of the night with some sucker holes now and then.  I was never able to get off a 20 minute shot without the clouds rushing in within 10 minutes…

But things finally started to clear up and the Milky Way really started to pop out.

Emission Nebula NGC 6820 or Sharpless SH 2-86. AP130GTX with Field Flattener Custom 4″ OAG Apogee U16 CCD w/Baader Ha 7nm filter AP900GTO Mount 9x20min Exposures Image Scale 2.16 arcsec/pixel; reduced to 4.32 arcsec/pixel

Once it was cleared up I was off to take some test shots and validate the portable rig was ready for more serious projects.  NGC 6820 AKA Sharpless SH 2-86 and all the surrounding emission and dark nebula has always been a favorite of mine.  It’s located in Vulpecula not that far from M27, the Dumbbell Nebula.  It reminds me of a less popular M16 with it’s gas and dust pillars and dark globules.  Open cluster NGC 6823 resides in the midst of the nebula and is about 6,000 light years away.


May 312015

Last year (2014) I was conducting some mosaic tests for future projects.  I attempted a widefield 9 panel mosaic in Cygnus and processed the hydrogen alpha data but never got around to completing the tri-color Hubble Pallet image until now due to some difficult to process issues in the O[III] and S[II] channels.  Those difficulties, combined with the fact that I only gathered about one frame of each channel per panel in the mosaic (very thin data!), meant that I wasn’t exactly thrilled to process this one to completion.  Time away from the hobby due to the out of state relocation though has made me a little anxious to get back to imaging so I decided to revisit some of this forgotten data.

Cygnus Mosaic Cropped & Reduced to 50% Size. 9 Panels, 1x20min per Ha, O[III], S[II] Channel per panel. Total Time 9 hours. Taken with an Apogee U16M and Tak FSQ-106ED.

Cygnus Mosaic Cropped & Reduced to 50% Size. 9 Panels, 1x20min per Ha, O[III], S[II] Channel per panel. Total Time 9 hours. Taken with an Apogee U16M and Tak FSQ-106ED.

Oct 262014

I began work on a tri-color Hubble Pallet image during the summer of 2014 but due to weather and other obligations did not capture much in the way of Oxygen [O III] and Sulfur [S II] emission data for the mosaic project so am leaving it as a monochrome image using only the Hydrogen Alpha emission line data.

Cygnus Mosaic in Hydrogen Alpha Emission Line FSQ-106ED Apogee U16 CCD Baader 7nm Ha Filter AP900GTO Mount 6x20min Exposure Campmeeting Observatory, Sewickley, PA

Cygnus Mosaic in Hydrogen Alpha Emission Line
Apogee U16 CCD
Baader 7nm Ha Filter
AP900GTO Mount
6x20min Exposure
Campmeeting Observatory, Sewickley, PA

Cygnus Mosaic – Annotated

Jul 072014

It’s that time of year when Cygnus rises high over head and displays a multitude of nebulous treasure.  This mosaic is only a portion of the Cygnus constellation but represents a large patch of sky almost 9 x 9 degrees.  This is only a test framing as I create a game plan for a summer long imaging project.  For a sense of scale, I have included a gibbous moon which was not part of the original image as well as a full scale crop of the Crescent Nebula, bottom right, to show the full size scale of the original 83 megapixel image.


Cygnus Mosaic in Hydrogen Alpha FSQ-106ED Apogee U16 AP900GTO Baader Ha Narrowband Filter 9x20min total exposure



Nov 262013

Apogee U16
AP900GTO Mount
MMOAG w/ ST-402
9.5 Hours Total Exposure
Baader Ha, O[III], S[II] filters

The Elephant’s Trunk nebula is a concentration of interstellar gas and dust within the much larger ionized gas region IC 1396 located in the constellation Cepheus about 2,400 light years away from Earth.[1] The piece of the nebula shown here is the dark, dense globule IC 1396A; it is commonly called the Elephant’s Trunk nebula because of its appearance at visible light wavelengths, where there is a dark patch with a bright, sinuous rim. The bright rim is the surface of the dense cloud that is being illuminated and ionized by a very bright, massive star that is just to the west of IC 1396A. (In the Figure above, the massive star is just to the left of the edge of the image.) The entire IC 1396 region is ionized by the massive star, except for dense globules that can protect themselves from the star’s harsh ultraviolet rays.

The Elephant’s Trunk nebula is now thought to be a site of star formation, containing several very young (less than 100,000 yr) stars that were discovered in infrared images in 2003. Two older (but still young, a couple of million years, by the standards of stars, which live for billions of years) stars are present in a small, circular cavity in the head of the globule. Winds from these young stars may have emptied the cavity.

The combined action of the light from the massive star ionizing and compressing the rim of the cloud, and the wind from the young stars shifting gas from the center outward lead to very high compression in the Elephant’s Trunk nebula. This pressure has triggered the current generation of protostars.[2]


Description courtesy of Wikipedia

Nov 112013

The Heart Nebula, IC 1805, Sh2-190, lies some 7500 light years away from Earth and is located in the Perseus Arm of the Galaxy in the constellation Cassiopeia. This is an emission nebula showing glowing gas and darker dust lanes. The nebula is formed by plasma of ionized hydrogen and free electrons.

The very brightest part of this nebula (the knot at the right) is separately classified as NGC 896, because it was the first part of this nebula to be discovered.

The nebula’s intense red output and its configuration are driven by the radiation emanating from a small group of stars near the nebula’s center. This open cluster of stars known as Melotte 15 contains a few bright stars nearly 50 times the mass of our Sun, and many more dim stars that are only a fraction of our Sun’s mass. The cluster used to contain a microquasar that was expelled millions of years ago.

Description courtesy of Wikipedia


Soul Nebula (Sharpless 2-199, LBN 667) is emission nebulae in Cassiopeia. Several small open clusters are embedded in the nebula: CR 34, 632, and 634[citation needed] (in the head) and IC1848 (in the body). The object is more commonly called by the cluster designation IC1848.

Small emission nebula IC 1871 is present just left of the top of the head, and small emission nebulae 670 and 669 are just below the lower back area.

This complex is the eastern neighbor of IC1805 (Heart Nebula) and the two are often mentioned together as the “Heart and Soul”.

Description courtesy of Wikipedia