Finally a night that was almost decent even - and it wasn't Valentines day... and I wasn't too sick... and it wasn't below freezing (though it was only a few degrees above).
I even got to take a picture. Woohoo!
It wasn't long before the clouds rolled in, but I managed to pull of 45 minutes (well, 46 minutes 30 seconds to be exact) of M42. This is possibly the last time to shoot it this season. I went ahead and shot new darks, bias and flat frames while I was out there too. I was out from 6pm until 10pm and only had the shutter open on M42 for 45 minutes! The rest of the time was setup, teardown, tweaking, and shooting support frames (that is - darks, bias and flats).
The night was not fantastic as far as seeing goes. It was hazy, then cloudy, and M42 was right smack in the heart of the Portland glow. Ugh. I considered driving out to a darker sky tonight, but it wouldn't have been worth it I don't think. Even still, I was able to achieve decent focus even though the stars were bouncing a bit and making some strange shapes.
The resulting image is satisfying considering I've been waiting months to re-take M42. The last time I shot it was February of '08 - almost exactly a year ago. At that time, I was shooting through the Achromat and though the image was decent, the stars were severely fat and bloated. I also didn't have my long exposure cable (Shoestring DSUSB) so the longest exposures were 30 seconds. The overall signal of this new shot is better too. More subtle detail in the core in particular. The sky was clearer and darker last year (though it was during a full moon, but I shot M42 during the full eclipse), but the contrast of this shot is better I think.
Here is a link to last year's image.
I was hoping to get a 2 hour exposure with nice long subs for the faint outer detail, but it was lost in the mush unfortunately. Maybe next year.
Well, here is the specs on this image and it would be nice if I got another chance to get more data before it's completely gone this winter.
So I added a revised process where I lightened the overall image and subdued the intense stars a bit. The contrast is lowered across the image, but I think I may like it more. Please feel free to comment on image process A or B.
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Baader MPCC
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
Exposure: 46 minutes 30 seconds - (10 x 10s, 10 x 30s, 15 x 90s, 5 x 180s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image