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Friday, June 27th, 2008
Oooh.. I had tons of fun tonight. Best night of the year by far. The moon didn't rise until after 2am so I got some excellent viewing and took 2 pictures. With the MegRez 90 on the Sirius I put the 102mm back on the Dob (where it belongs). All is well in my viewing world again.
 
The Observing Session
From the viewing front I decided to give the binoviewers another chance. Last time I was simply too disappointed in the way they performed with the two 21mm Stratus eyepieces and the required 2x Barlow (to achieve focus in the Dob). I think the problem though was that I was looking at the wrong objects. Tonight I looked at brighter star clusters and globular clusters M3, M5, M13, M15, M52, M92 and M103 and was simply stunned at the views. Probably the best I've seen from my yard. Without really moving on too quickly I drank in the two-eyed view on each object.

I also tried NGC7331 which isn't exactly dim at 9.5 mag, but I was surprised at how well it resolved in he binoviewers. I think I may be hooked. That means I'll have to double up on my favorite barlow-able low power eyepieces.

With the refractor back on the Dob I pulled up a few wide field shots. M39, M31/32/110 and a few others.

All in all it was a spectacular viewing session. I'm looking forward to more of them before the winer hits.

The Imaging Session
While I was observing with the Dob and the 102mm the shutter on the DSLR was clicking away on the MegRez. I love this setup.

I got my camera sensor cleaned which made a huge difference. Not a single spec of dust on any of the frames and the flats this time were strictly for cleaning up the vignetting. It worked perfectly.

I also tried maxing out the subs based on the histogram which is supposed to increase the signal to noise ratio. This also worked well.

I only took 2 pictures tonight. Partly because the nights are so short this time of year and partly because I got a bit of a late start not getting out 'til Midnight.

M106
I took an hour and 20 minutes of this one with 5 minute sub frames trying to improve on my last M106 shot which was 40 minutes and 2 minute subs. I know that in the city there is a limit to where the faint signal matches the skyglow and additional time doesn't improve the image. I may be hitting that with M106 because although it is a minor improvement, it's definitely not twice as good for twice as much time.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 350 Digital Rebel XT (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 1 hour 20 minutes - 16 @ 300 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

M31
Although I just took a shot of M31 the other night it was the best Andromeda Galaxy shot I've ever taken. Tonight I wanted to improve on that image as well. The last one was only 18 minutes. This one was 42 minutes. I took additional dark frames to try and improve on minimizing the noise and that was successful as well. This is not only the best shot of M31 I've taken to date, but this is also the best shot I've ever taken from my house on several fronts.

1) It has a very flat sky
2) It has very little noise
3) It has a good amount of signal
4) The tracking was the best dialed in as I've ever achieved (mostly polar alignment, but I also tweaked the tracking settings)
5) The focus is as perfect as I've ever achieved

These things combined make the shot a milestone in advancement for me. I just sent the shot off to get a 12x18 print of it. We'll see how that turns out.

Scope: William Optics MegRez 90mm @ f/5.5 w/WO-FLAT-III 0.8x Focal Reducer
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 350 Digital Rebel XT (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 42 minutes - 14 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


Image Gallery For This Session
M106 1h 20m M31 42m
   

M106-1h-20m.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
Brightness:
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Comments:
On 07/03/08 at 11:08pm Barry wrote:
Neil,
Sorry to hear your print did not match your screen image. I think screen images are somewhat like the old slides. They always looked much better projected, than they ever did when printed. The illumination made all the difference.

I have had the same experience....even when printed as small as 4" x 6". About all you can do is spend a fortune for custom printing, or process one image for viewing on screen, and another for printing.....jacking up the histogram to the limit.

Really wonderful images, regardless.



On 06/30/08 at 10:41am Alan wrote:
Nice work. Wish I coulda been there wicha.



On 06/28/08 at 08:28pm Barry wrote:
Wonderful images, Neil! You have me green with envy! I may try for M31 again tonight myself.....luckily it's a late night/early morning object at the moment.....won't get out of Sean's until midnight. I got an extension tube for my 80mm refractor that should allow me to use the focal reducer with my camera. At my best, it won't approach you images, but maybe....just maybe I can produce a PB (personal best) for me. We shall see....if I am not dead on my feet by the time I get home.



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