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Tuesday, January 15th, 2008
This was my first session out since November. There have been few clear skies lately and unfortunately on those clear nights there was tremendous ground fog that stopped me from observing.
 
The conditions were pretty poor making the stars a bit blotchy. 31 degrees, relatively poor seeing (though for me, any seeing is excellent at this point), and I was out there for 6 hours! I wanted to stay out longer, but my 5 foot long Dob froze right down the tube to the mirror and I was physically getting fatigued because I wasn't prepared for the freezing weather.
 
Even still, it was a pretty good evening. I had only one goal in mind and that was to get an image of M42 before its gone.
 
Gemini 
NGC 2392 - Clown Nebula - Planetary Nebula
As I set things up and waited for Orion to clear the trees I thought I should shoot something. I've had NGC 2392 on my list for a year but not observed or photographed it. Tonight I did both. From an observation standpoint it was much larger then most planetary nebulae I've looked at. Very easy to locate at relatively low power and 3 distinct areas. A large, outer fuzziness, an inner ring much brighter then the outer portion and an even brighter core. After imaging it, it appears that a dark sky location may also reveal detail in the outer and innermost areas.
 
Scope: Hardin 12" (300mm) Deep Space Hunter @ f/5
Mount: Round Table Platform 45 Equatorial Platform
Camera: Canon EOS 350 Digital Rebel XT (unmodified)
Special Settings: NoneISO: 1600
Exposure: 7 minutes 40 seconds - 46 @ 10 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image
 
  
Monoceros 
NGC 2264 - Christmas Tree Cluster - Open Cluster with Nebulosity
I wanted to try and see if I could capture any nebulosity (let alone the cone nebula) in NGC 2264 so I shot a few minutes of it. I figured if I got a taste of something then I'll go after it deeper on another night. After processing the image, I'm not sure if I will. There is an awful lot of red nebulosity in this object and my camera (an unmodified EOS 350D) doesn't pick that stuff up very well. Here is the resulting image of only a few minutes:
 
Scope: Hardin 12" (300mm) Deep Space Hunter @ f/5
Mount: Round Table Platform 45 Equatorial Platform
Camera: Canon EOS 350 Digital Rebel XT (unmodified)
Special Settings: NoneISO: 1600
Exposure: 15 minutes 12 seconds - 98 total frames (22 @ 4 sec, 58 @ 8 sec and 18 @ 20 seconds)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image
 

Orion
M42 - Orion Nebula - Emission and Reflection Nebula 
Once Orion clears the trees, I don't have much time to catch it. It only takes another 20 minutes before it's in more trees again! So I tried to act fast to get as many frames as possible. I didn't visually observe this object at all since the scope was set up for the camera and I didn't want to waste any photography time. In trying to get the best shot possible (for my gear and experience level) I took several different shutter speeds to try and get both outer detail and maintain the distinction of the core and particularly the Trapezium cluster. As usual there are much better shots out there, but for me personally, I'm tickled pink with the results and feel like the freezing was worth it.
 
Scope: Hardin 12" (300mm) Deep Space Hunter @ f/5
Mount: Round Table Platform 45 Equatorial Platform
Camera: Canon EOS 350 Digital Rebel XT (unmodified)
Special Settings: NoneISO: 1600
Exposure: 15 minutes 12 seconds - 98 total frames (22 @ 4 sec, 58 @ 8 sec and 18 @ 20 seconds)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image
 
 
Visual Observations
After Orion went behind the trees again and I essentially got the frames I was looking for, before I packed up I took down the photography gear and made two visual observations.
 
Leo
Saturn
This is the first peek I've had of Saturn this season. It sure looks different with the rings nearly edge on. I knew this was coming, and it will be something like 4 or 5 years until we can get any ring detail again. It was only moderately high - perhaps 25 degrees - and coming in and out of focus as the seeing continued to be poor. When it crisped up two or three times in a 5 minute period it sure looked cool. Saturn is simply spectacular.
 
 
Auriga
Mars
I've looked at Mars several times in the past, but the only time it was even relatively interesting was at Table Mountain Star Party 3 years ago. I always have exceedingly low expectations for observing Mars. In light of that, tonight was quite a treat. Very large (it must be close again) and as the seeing came and went there were clear areas of detail on the planet. Dark surface areas some patchy and some elongated. The planet looked more like a disc then a sphere, but so did Saturn tonight so there was no real 3 dimensional look to it. But it was exciting to see it looking so cool. I wish the seeing was better so I could have appreciated the view even more.
 
 
That's it for tonight. What a wonderfully refreshing evening in light of months of no observing at all.


Image Gallery For This Session
M42 15mn 12sec lg M42 7m 48s Ave lg
NGC2264 3mn 40s lg NGC2392 7mn40s lg
   

M42-15mn-12sec-lg.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
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