Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Queen, the Dragon, and the Flying Horse

Finally, a gorgeous and clear Saturday night, and my first chance to test out the new focal reducer. Long story short, it's awesome.

My life will never be the same.

It is simply fabulous to be able to fit M13 (Hercules Cluster) on the chip. It's like having skinny jeans for a telescope. Maybe that's a bad analogy. Anyhow, I took a few images of the bright globular, but honestly, they were sort of meh. I've gotten better results with the Canon Rebel DSLR attached with a T-mount. But still, happy dance because M13 fits!

Here's M13 w/ the focal reducer (it's not too bad):

M13 w/ Opticstar DS145C on 14-inch, 6 2-second exposures stacked

The scopes were well behaved (no alignment issues) and I therefore had lots of time to spend actually looking at objects. Here's the rundown of what I saw by constellation:

The Queen (Cassiopeia)

  • NGC 457 (a.k.a the Owl Cluster, the ET Cluster, or Caldwell 13) is an open star cluster about 7900 light years distant and approximately 21 million years old. Discovered by William Herschel in 1787.

    NGC 457 w/ Opticstar DS145C on 14-inch, 6 2-second exposures stacked
  • M103 (a.k.a. NGC 581) is an open cluster between 8000 to 9500 light years distant and about 25 million years old. Discovered in 1781 by Pierre M├ęchain.

    M103 w/ Opticstar DS145C on 14-inch, 6 2-second exposures stacked
  • M52 (a.k.a. NGC 7654) is an open cluster with an uncertain distance between 3000 and 7000 light years and an estimated ate of 35 million years. Discovered by Charles Messier in 1774.

    M52 w/ Opticstar DS145C on 14-inch, 6 2-second exposures stacked

The Dragon (Draco)

  • NGC 6543 (a.k.a. The Cat's Eye Nebula) is a planetary nebula. I was super excited to see it, but it didn't photograph well. It's small and faint. Basically it looks like a fuzzy little star and of course nothing at all like the Hubble images.

The Flying Horse (Pegasus)

  • M15 (a.k.a. NGC 7078) is a globular cluster estimated to be about 12 billion years old. (One of the oldest globulars!) It was discovered by Jean-Dominique Maraldi in 1746.

    M15 w/ Opticstar DS145C on 14-inch, 7 4-second exposures stacked

Overall, I think the astrophotography is getting a little easier, and a maybe just a little better with each attempt. The major lesson learned from these images is that I really need to take more, and perhaps longer exposures.

I need more photons.