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Sunday, August 3rd, 2008
Trout Lake Star Party 2008

So the Trout Lake Star Party was this weekend. Over all it was an excellent star party with lots of good views and good folks.

Friday was lightly raining on and off while people were setting up. I kept having to cover and un-cover my gear while I set up my various scopes and imaging gear. The rain clouds stopped coming after about 7 or so and the partly cloudy conditions remained until about midnight when it cleared up quite nicely. For a solid 3 hours we had perfectly clear skies and rather good seeing.

On the imaging front, I had a list - most of which objects resided in Sagittarius and Scorpius but nearly everything on it was irrelevant because anything below about 30 degrees in the south was blocked by trees. Bummers.

Before midnight I popped of 36 minutes of M51 before the clouds covered Ursa Major. I turned my target to NGC 7000 - the North American Nebula - and even though I am very pleased with the image I got of it the other week, I thought I'd try it at a much darker sky spot to compare the detail. Both the shot I took from my front yard and the shot I took here are identical as far as all of the settings, duration and seeing conditions with the exception of the darkness of the sky.

I had M31 on the list of objects to image and it was at a good part of the sky by 2am, so I shot it for 48 minutes before the clouds started to roll in. I held off doing anything for about 15 more minutes and once I realized the sky was completely gone and not coming back, I shot 2 hours of dark frames.

VISUAL OBSERVATIONS
On the visual front, I wanted to peruse a region of the sky I've never really spent any time in, and that's the lane of galaxies between Triangulum and Andromeda. From just above M33 to NGC 891 there are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of galaxies that are visible in my scope. They range from 12th mag down to 15th mag and many are in tight groups where you can see between 5 and 15 in the field of view.

I also pulled up some favorites that I can only see from a dark sky location such as M74 and NGC 6781 a large, faint diffused planetary nebula in Aquila.

A particularly interesting view of the evening was the 8.5 mag comet Boattini C/2007 W1. The comet itself was not a spectacular sight though it's always cool to see a comet. But there was an added bonus of an 11.9 mag asteroid "Pomona" that was visible through the coma of the comet. Of course, it just looked like a faint star, but knowing it's an asteroid enhanced the observation experience.

FOCUS FIASCO
Saturday night was strange. It was totally clear but the seeing was some of the worst I've ever experienced. I first noticed as I was focusing the camera. While I focus, I watch the computer which is analyzing the quality of the stars. I'm looking for a sharpness of 65k. But my starting point is usually between 50k and 60k because I know where the focus is close. Normally once I get it dialed in, the fluctuation in seeing can swing between 58k and 65k. Saturday night I couldn't get it over 40k and the average was closer to 20k. Terribly out of focus. I bailed out after spending *way* too much time trying to focus. I moved to the Dob only to find that I couldn't focus that either. After a couple of hours I walked around to other folks only to find that many of them had packed up since the seeing was so bad.

After about 1 am the seeing improved, but not by much. I took 2 pictures on Saturday night but both were obviously negatively affected by the poor seeing.

DARK SKY IMAGES
This is the first time I've had my new setup in a dark sky. The opposite of first light I suppose... it was first dark.

M31 - Andromeda Galaxy
There are several shots in the last few weeks of M31 in my journal. But I wanted to shoot it in dark sky. I think it paid off. This shot has more signal and less noise then any of my previous shots. I had it slated for an hour, but I only got 50 minutes before the clouds came in. 2 minutes were 2x30 sec and 4x15 sec to try and get the core better. The 3 minute shots were saturating the core.

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: 50 minutes - 10 @ 180 seconds, 2 @ 30 seconds, 4 @ 15 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


M51 - Whirlpool Galaxy
I have more pictures of M51 then any other galaxy. However, each time I shoot it I get a better shot then the last one. This one is no exception. Though the focus could have been better, for only 36 minutes it has better signal and less noise then any previous shot.

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: 36 minutes - 12 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


NGC 7000 - North American Nebula
Again, though I've shot this recently I wanted a dark sky shot of it. I'm very pleased with it. The darks did not quite match, but I think they worked pretty good. I'm also uploading a 100% crop of the Cygnus Wall region to see some of the pretty decent detail in it.

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: 60 minutes - 20 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


IC 1396
Though it's the first in this entry, it was the last of the evening. I only got 30 minutes before twilight came. I will definitely take a 2 hour shot of this one. Tons of color, nebulosity, dark lanes and colorful stars in this frame. In the upper right there is just the tip of the Elephant Trunk. I wasn't aware that it was in the field of view at all and also I didn't think I could get this nebulosity or the Elephant Trunk without a modified camera. This image is over stretched to pull out the nebulosity since there was such weak signal.

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: 30 minutes - 10 @ 180 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


NGC 6992 - Veil Nebula
So this was a bit of a shot in the dark (no pun intended). Saturday was so bad I thought for the heck of it I'll try for 2 hours of the Veil while I'm waiting for the seeing to improve. It did improve as the night went on, but never got crisp at all. I was shocked at the signal here. Granted it's 2 hours (2 hours 24 minutes actually), but I didn't really think I could pick it up this well without a modified camera. Of course, there are phenomenal shots of the Veil out there, but for my first shot I'm very excited to shoot this again on a night when seeing is really good.

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: 2 hours 24 minutes - 48 @ 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
FRI M31 50m FRI M51 36m
FRI NAN 1h FRI NAN Wall 1h
SAT IC1396 30m SAT Veil Nebula 2h 23m
   

FRI-M31-50m.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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Comments:
On 08/05/08 at 09:15pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Hey thanks guys. The new gear makes a huge difference. And this particular set is from a pretty dark sky and that makes even more difference!

-Neil

On 08/05/08 at 08:35pm Tom Lowe wrote:
Veil Nebula shot is very beautiful. Bravo.

M31 is gorgeous.

On 08/05/08 at 08:16pm Luke wrote:
Your images are becoming simply outstanding!! Very nice stuff... keep up the great work!

Clear Skies,
Luke

On 08/04/08 at 04:37pm Barry wrote:
Now, that's how M31 should look!! Splendid photo! M51 looks great too......lots of very delicate detail! Very nice images, all!



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