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Return to NZ: Great Barred Spiral, Blue Straggler Cluster & Golden Eye

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I'm back in wonderful New Zealand.

With me I have my trusty Tak Baby Q (which was recommended to me by Olly Penrice and I've never regretted buying) and a second hand HEQ5 mount and tripod, the legs of which I trimmed by about 10cm so that it would fit in a suitcase. The HEQ5 and tripod in the suitcase with the handset and some wires etc. weighs in at just under 23kg. This is crucial since the China Southern Airlines baggage allowance is 2x23kg bags (most other airlines do not limit the number of bags but the total of their weights must be less than 30kg). The counterweights were too heavy to bring, I bought new ones in NZ.


[ Yes I would LOVE to have taken an Avalon M-Uno instead; lighter, no counterweights and no meridian flip. 


But £4,000 is more than I paid for my Mesu! ]

I said goodbye to the extraordinarily helpful John Drummond in Gisborne on the North Island and headed for the South Island. (John runs Possum Observatory, he is the president of the Gisborne Astronomical Society and he is a Vice President of the Royal New Zealand Astronomical Society. Best of all he runs GAS Juniors, an astronomy club for kids which made me an Honorary Member for giving them a little talk about my astro adventures in NZ. Best award I ever got  :grin:

This is my gear set up at the Pacific Allure Heights B&B in Kaikoura which is about a third of the way down the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. (Yes NZ really is beautiful !)



full res: http://www.astrobin.com/220508/

The proprietors are not astronomical at all but, like all the Kiwis I have met, they were kind and helpful; they let me use their private balcony, they turned off the outside lights illuminating their sign and they let me drape my power extension down to my apartment on the ground floor. The sky was very good despite an isolated pesky street lamp, SQM 21.85 . 

In 4 nights I got 3 targets. Why didn't I pick targets more appropriate to my short focal length e.g. Eta Carina, the Tarantua Nebula, 47 Tucana etc? I can do them later, for now I like being a child in a toy store grabbing what catches my eye. My only criterion was that the targets could not be imaged well or at all in the Northern Hemisphere.

My bible here is Chadwick and Cooper's Imaging the Southern Skies.


I only wish they would identify more stars in their illustration to help centre the more obscure and fainter targets.

I also recommend Pearls of the Southern Skies by Slotegraff and Willasch, a beautiful picture book which was too heavy to bring with me.


O'Meara's Deep Sky Companions: Southern Gems is interesting but because(?) it's for visual observers the illustrations are dire.

So here are my images. Despite my short focal length I am (perhaps naively) impressed at the resolution 85mm of (refractive) aperture can achieve. Harry Page's videos were a huge help in extracting detail, especially the ones on HDRMultiscale Transform and Local Histogram Equalization. It's magical the way cores of clusters and galaxies which seem impenetrable open up using these processes when you get the right combination of parameters. But, as Harry says, one needs a lot of trial and error with those parameters.

[iMO Harry's free videos are better than the expensive ones I bought. This is just my completely unsolicited opinion (I have never met Harry): I think it would be nice if people who find them helpful would sling Harry £10 or £20 to help pay for his bandwidth.]

The thumbnails below are extremely compressed due to SGL's file size limitations so see the full res versions.

Great Barred Spiral - NGC 1365 : I was very pleased when that little S shaped propeller in the centre emerged.


Full res: http://www.astrobin.com/218700/

Blue Straggler cluster - NGC6397 : I used the Tak reducer for this because I love the dense star field in which it is immersed. In fact I think I like star fields more than some famous objects! With those PI processes I was able to get right into the core.


Full res: http://www.astrobin.com/218702/

Golden Eye - NGC1291 = NGC1269 Is the colour off? Where are the blue stars? As I understand it PI can use either the average star colour or average galaxy color as a white reference. This is a neat trick but what if those averages are not white? There is a wonderful image of Golden Eye in Pearls of the Southern Sky but I don't have it with me to compare.


Full res: http://www.astrobin.com/218703/B/

As previously, all comments, suggestions and criticisms welcome.

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Great to see these wonderful southern objects but the jpeg compression has treated them very harshly. I suspect your images are much better than they are appearing on my screen.

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Lovely report. A great read and some lovely images. Enjoy the rest of your trip and thanks for posting.

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Great shots! Welcome to New Zealand. I hope you didn't blown around too much yesterday.

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W-h-a-t d-i-d y-o-u s-a-y??

Yes it's W-I-N-D-Y here in Tekapo where I am trying to filch some more Kiwi photons. I almost got blown off the top of Mt John, home of NZ's famous observatory


After days the wind has stopped but tonight it's cloudy :(

When the sky is good here it's very, very good; I measured SQM 21.95 on the first night I got here.

Thanks for the welcome. Incidentally I like your website which has great images but is more than just pretty pictures. I have noticed that the Kiwi astronomers I have met do serious astronomy, not just imaging....

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Yeah it blew 130km/h that day and snapped one of my trees in half!

Tekapo is a great spot, nice and clear, can get a bit bleak in a southerly. There's quite a strong astronomy outfit here. I hope the rest of trip goes well. :-)

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Nice write up. Reminds me of 11 years ago when i was that way. 8-).

Sent from my iPhone so excuse the typos!

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