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Saturday, August 22nd, 2009
The Oregon Star Party

What an amazing event this is. I absolutely love it. The food is good, the company is great and the skies are stunning.

As a seeing test, each night I looked at Epsilon Lyrae at 522x power and it separated into distinct dots each night signifying that 1) seeing was most excellent and 2) my collimation was most excellent.

This is the second year I've been able to image with one set up and observe with the other. Unlike last year, everything worked flawlessly. No trouble whatsoever with anything malfunctioning, batteries dying, alignment drifting, or anything else. It was a nearly perfect 4 nights of imaging and observing.

The Observing Session
Oh my. This is the darkest skies I've had my 16" Lightbridge to. It *really* performed well. I was able to see things clearly that were difficult in the 12". Over the 4 nights of observing from Dusk til Dawn (literally) I observed hundreds of objects. Most of the time when I come to a dark site like this I look for very faint objects. I'll note some significant highlights though:

Stephans Quintet and the Deer Lick Group. Even the faint objects of these galaxy groups were visible and I was very surprised to see detail in NGC 7331.

Triton. Neptune was cool to see, but I've not seen Triton before. At 13.8 magnitude it wasn't necessarily faint, but it was distinctly non stellar at high power.

G1 globular cluster in Andromeda. I looked at this once in my 12" and it was pretty much averted vision only. With the 16" the 15.1 mag glob was clear and non stellar at 380x. The tiny triangle that defines it's location was clear and no averted vision was necessary.

Various galaxy chains. My friend Scott met a gentleman named Miles Paul who along with Robert McGown compiled a book on chains of galaxies called "Observe Galaxy Groups and Clusters". I looked at 2, but would be interested in the book and looking up more. The two I saw were:
1) Pisces chain with NGC 383. A very cool lineup of mostly 13.x mag fuzzies which the faintest was 15.5 (which I didn't see).
2) Shakhbazian 166 with UGC 10638 in Ursa Minor. I think. LOL. This is just off of Epsilon UM which is the third handle star in the Little Dipper. Another cool lineup of faint fuzzies.

Solar Observing. During the day I would break out the Coroado PST and look at the sun. There were many spectacular prominences this week.


The Imaging Session
This week I decided to take longer exposures and just see what I get. Last year I took all 1 hour exposures except for IC1396 which was 2 hours. This year I took some 1 hour and 2 hour exposures and even some 3 hour shots (of the Cave and the Iris).

Wednesday night was so hot the camera's internal temp was from 75 to 80 degrees. All of the images that night suffered severe thermal issues and I ended up throwing them out. It may have been a loss for imaging that night, but it was no problem for visual observing.

Also, this was the first dark sky I used my simultaneous dual camera scope/widefield setup and it worked liked a champ.

Cassiopeia Wide Field
I didn't realize where the Heart and Soul nebula's were or I would have framed this differently.  The Heart nebula is nicely seen, but the Soul nebula is only partially in the field. The Pacman Nebula NGC281 and the Perseus Double Cluster are in the shot. I re-framed and shot it again for 3 hours the next night, but high clouds made the shot pretty sloppy and the faint nebulae were even fainter in the 3 hour shot (bummers). I'm still processing that one.

Scope:
Nikon f/1.8 50mm manual focus lens at f/4
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 350D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 60 minutes - (12 x 300 seconds)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (Kappa-Sigma Clipping for all frames),
Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools, Gradient XTerminator and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 24 flats, 24 bias, 24 darks
See Gallery below for image


Cassiopeia Wide Field 3 Hour
So with the high clouds that night this shot is much less sharp and the detail is all fuzzy. The entire picture looks a bit out of focus because of it. I thought I'd post it for comparison. If the night were more clear, perhaps this would have been a nicer picture. I see that the Double Cluster is smoother and the stars that make up the constellation are more noticeable due to the haze around them, so I guess the clouds (and/or longer duration) weren't all that bad!

Scope:
Nikon f/1.8 50mm manual focus lens at f/4
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 350D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 3 hours - (36 x 300 seconds)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (Kappa-Sigma Clipping for all frames),
Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools, Gradient XTerminator and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 24 flats, 24 bias, 24 darks
See Gallery below for image


Cygnus Wide Field
I only framed the portion of Cygnus from the North American Nebula to IC 1318 and the Veil Complex. Of course, there is lots of Milky Way detail going on here as well.

Scope:
Nikon f/1.8 50mm manual focus lens at f/4
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 350D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 60 minutes - (12 x 300 seconds)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (Kappa-Sigma Clipping for all frames),
Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools, Gradient XTerminator and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 24 flats, 24 bias, 24 darks
See Gallery below for image


California and Pleiades Wide Field
This shot is from the foot of Perseus where the California Nebula is to the top of Taurus where M45 is. To my surprise, there is lots of dark nebulosity in this shot. The two nebulas only turned out so well, but the dark detail between them is what I ended up really liking in this shot.

Scope:
Nikon f/1.8 50mm manual focus lens at f/4
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 350D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 60 minutes - (12 x 300 seconds)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity with high dithering, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (Kappa-Sigma Clipping for all frames),
Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools, Gradient XTerminator and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 24 flats, 24 bias, 24 darks
See Gallery below for image


Cave Nebula C9 Image
Also known as SH2-155 or Caldwell 9 (as I have come to know it) I've been trying to "see" this object for several years when I first started the Caldwell list. I've looked at it in my 12" scope and 16" scope with UHC, OIII and H-Beta filters and I've never seen even a hint of it. I've looked at it in large scopes with and without filters and still never saw it. So I thought I'd take a picture of it. It was nearly invisible in each 5 minute sub frame! I wonder how this object got on the Caldwell list and I'd be skeptical of anyone who says that they've seen it, unless they were using a *very* large telescope.

Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 3 hours - (36 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


Cocoon Nebula IC 5146 Image
I shot this 2 years ago at OSP in my 12" with taking 10 second subs (2007 image). The image isn't bad all things considered, but I wanted to get a deeper shot of it this year. I should have checked focus before (and during) shooting this, but even thought it's a tad soft, I like the shot.

Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 2 hours - (24 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


M13 Image
LOL... I guess I just can't get enough of this one! This is the first time I've shot it for a long time at a dark sky. Each subframe has detail in both NGC 6205 *and* the tiny PGC galaxy. The core is a little blown out though there are distinguishable stars in it but the color is good and I think it's the best shot of M13 I've taken to date.

Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 1 hours - (12 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


Iris Nebula NGC 7023 Image
I've shot this several times but I was still wanting to go deeper and specifically try and get some detail in the dark dust cloud nebulosity around the reflection nebula. I think I was able to do that satisfactorily this time and it may be the last time I shoot it (well, for a while at least!).

Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 3 hours - (36 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


Pelican Nebula IC 5070 Image
After taking the wide field shot of North American and Pelican with the ZS66 (here), I wanted to try and shoot the Pelican by itself in the R200SS and try to catch some of that cool dark detail in it. This object probably should have been one of the 3 hour shots, but even still its pretty cool. I can see myself wanting to shoot it again, but probably not without a modified camera.

Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 2 hours - (24 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


Triangulum Galaxy M33 Image
I have several very good shots of this, but one more won't hurt! My objective here was to try and get color detail in the various nebulae in the galaxy. My MegRez 90 with my stock camera got some, but I thought that I could get more with the R200SS. Sure enough that's the case. it may not rival a modified camera, but I'm very pleased with the color of the galaxy structure.

Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 1 hour - (12 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


Horsehead Nebula Barnard 33 and Friends Image
Since this is about the only time I can shoot this object, I thought I'd make the most of it. It rises just before the sun, so I was able to shoot a few frames a night and compile them into a single exposure. Things didn't line up perfectly from night to night, but it's a pretty good shot I think. Alnitak caused a large internal reflection just above the Horsehead. I might look into trying to baffle that somehow for the future.

Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 45 minutes - (9 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


Pacman Nebula NGC 281 Image
I was hoping to get some detail in the dust lane here, but the night was a little soft, and my focus wasn't very sharp so I think conditions weren't perfect for this object. Even still, it's a cool shot with lots of color and the nebula looks quite nice to me.

Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 2 hours - (24 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image



All in all, it was an incredible 4 nights of imaging and observing. I won't be at this spot again until sometime next year and I already can't wait!


Image Gallery For This Session
01 Cassiopeia WF 1h 01 Cassiopeia WF 3h
02 Cygnus WF 1h 03 M45 Cali WF 1h
04 CaveNebula 3h 05 Cocoon 2h
06 M13 1h 07 Iris Nebula 3h
08 Pelican 2h 09 M33 1h
10 Horsehead 45m 11 Pacman 2h
   

01-Cassiopeia-WF-1h.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
Brightness:
|
  



Comments:
On 08/27/09 at 08:36pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Thanks guys, it was way fun taking them.

And yeah Alan, I won a 90mm Orion refractor in the raffle drawing. I don't need it so I'm going to see if someone wants to buy it for $100.

-Neil

On 08/27/09 at 03:33pm Miquel wrote:
What a gorgeous pictures! Thanks for sharing them Neil!

On 08/27/09 at 11:32am Alan wrote:
Sweet pics Neil. So bummed I couldn't be there. Glad you had a good time and got some good shots.

Win anything in the drawings?

On 08/24/09 at 07:11pm Dennis Recla wrote:
Nice images.
Sure was a good OSP this year, a little warm during the day but the first 3 nights were comfortable with a light coat. Didn't see where you were at, since there were only about 600 people there..



On 08/24/09 at 05:28pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Thanks Greg. I'm very pleased with my progress. Email or call if you want to talk about noise reduction or whatever.

-Neil

On 08/24/09 at 04:40pm Greg Marshall wrote:
Awesome images, Neil. Man, you were up late to get the Horsehead! I did it last year in September, which was only a little earlier and much colder.

Haven't read your notes yet, but want to talk to you about noise reduction, etc.

Greg




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