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Skies started to clear as I was finishing work on Friday and checking the Met Office Cloud Cover forecast things looked happier than on Clear Outside for my part of the world, so I took my go -bag out into the garden to cool & crossed my fingers for later.
When the rest of the house went to bed I sneaked out through silent streets close to midnight, the crescent moon with its full disc illuminated by Earthlight was dipping in the West near Aldebaran & the Pleiades and there were fine, high skeins of mist with tantalising clear patches between. Seeing was quite steady and transparency good outside of those streaks of high mist which meant about 60% of the sky looked in good shape. I'd made a list of spring galaxies to go for starting with M94 after reading @Pixies report on here, I figured I'd start with that and see how it went, working my way to fainter targets as conditions allowed.
I've relaxed into my observing spot in the park and decided I would invest a bit more time setting up & bring both the Mak 127 on an AZGTi and the ST 80 on a photo tripod. I will be doing that again...
I was using a Baader Hyperion 24mm 68 degree in the Mak which gives its maximum TFOV of just over a degree and put a Baader 8-24mm Zoom in the ST80.
I aligned the Mak on the top 2 stars suggested by Synscan and noted the gradual turning of the season- it was midnight and it had me point at Vega & Arcturus, spring really is well on the way! Focussed in an out on Vega and enjoyed some lovely round patterns either side of focus.
On to Cor Caroli which made a lovely clean white pair at 63x, stayed there for a while.
Hit GoTo for M94 and after some searching settled on a nice fuzzy patch with a brighter centre and some definite surrounding nebulosity, soaked it in for a bit and made a sketch (ahem, VERY rough).
Everything was a bit uncomfortably close to the Zenith - haven't really solved the whole observing position thing yet, not sure I can carry one of those big wooden chairs about but mean to experiment with the cheapo camping chairs in the cupboard and see if it helps, until then a degree of neck-ache remains inevitable (or better target selection!) .
Meantime I'd sought out the Double Cluster with the ST80 and was really pleased to get a lovely view with neat round points and some colour apparent in one or two of the orangey members. May just be a novelty but having a break from peering at faint fuzzy things to take in a wide field view of a favourite object really added to the enjoyment for me.
With the Mak I went on to search for M51 & M63 but couldn't find anything having hunted around for a bit but was having no joy. Later with Stellarium and the atlas I've become almost certain I'd landed on M63 by mistake - be interested in any opinions based on my sketch (gives the RACI view from the Mak 127 i.e. reversed LR)
In the end I gave up and put both 'scopes on M13 and enjoyed my best views of the Great Hercules Cluster yet. I switched the Zoom into the Mak and played with all magnifications from 63x - 188x, much above 120x wasn't adding much but at that power stars were resolving in and out across the cluster - literally breathtaking. The contrasting wide-field view in the ST80 gave scale and context - really enjoyable way to appreciate a real gem.
Seeing, heavy dew and numbing toes conspired around the same time to send me home to warm and mull over whether I'd identified M94 or not.
Messier 57 is is just coming into a position for a decent look around 11 30 pm. IT is a colourful object and I thought it would give me a good target with which to practice my colour developing in PS/Lightroom. I have read so much about how to produce a LRGB image from the four stacked/calibrated luminance, red, blue and green images, a lot seems contradicatory and some, when followed, gave me colour yes, but not as we know it. I am sure a fair chunk must be put down to me. Anyway, I now have a work flow which gives me colour, sometimes resembling what other people have obtained. Progess of sorts.
This images is based on 114s subs at gain 139, offset 21.
L 39, R 20, G 20, B 19
Calibrated and stacked in DSS (flats, dark flats and darks)
Messier 57 Ring Nebula in Lyra
NASA: M57, or the Ring Nebula, is a planetary nebula, the glowing remains of a sun-like star. The tiny white dot in the centre of the nebula is the star’s hot core, called a white dwarf. M57 is about 2,000 light-years away in the constellation Lyra, and is best observed during August. Discovered by the French astronomer Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in 1779, the Ring Nebula has an apparent magnitude of 8.8 and can be spotted with moderately sized telescopes.
Equipment: Celestron 9.25 XLT at F10, Skywatcher EQ6 Pro GEM, ZWO 1600MM Pro, ZWO EFW with ZWO LRGB filters, QHY5IIC guide camera on Skywatcher 9 x 50 finderscope, Celestron Focus Motor
Software: Ascom 6, Eqmod, Cartes du Ciel, AstroPhotography Tool, PHD2
My first attempt at M57. I attempted to capture the extended halo by gathering some OIII and Ha data and then blending these into Blue and Red channels, respectively of an LRGB image. The image below represents about 21 hours and was taken with my Esprit 150.
LIGHTS: L:13, R:13,G:8. B: 10 x 600s; Ha:13, OIII:14 x 1800s. DARKS:30, BIAS:100, FLATS:40 all at -20C.
M13 - Great Globular Cluster in Hercules from 06/09/2018 22,180 light years away, 145 light years wide Quite a close crop on this due to its scale in my scope, but happy nonetheless. Looks like better flats are definately helping me out now when it comes to processing. The only thing I couldn't work out is the faint fuzzy at around 2 o'clock. With a bit more research it looks like it is the spiral galaxy NGC6207 (distance 30 million light years) - and VERY faintly you can just make out IC4617 (489 million light years away) TS65Q / Modded 1200D / EQ6 Guided - 83x30s