m51, the Whirlpool Galaxy

m51, the Whirlpool Galaxy

The Whirlpool Galaxy lurks near the handle of the Big Dipper.  Thanks to its larger mass, it is slowly stripping stars and dust from its small companion galaxy (the yellowish NGC5195 at left), connected together by a tidal bridge.


Telescope = Celestron 9.25 Edge HD (at f/10, prime focus)
Camera = QSI 583 wsg
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Software = capture, stacking and deconvolution in MaximDL, processing in Photoshop CS5
Exposure (L:R:G:B, minutes) = 100:120:120:120 ... Luminance unbinned, colour channels binned 2x2
Date = May 20 and 21, 2012
Beverage = Te Bhaig scotch whiskey

veil nebula complex

veil nebula complex

Here's the Veil nebula complex (aka the Network nebula), found approx 2000 light years away in the constellation Cygnus.  The Veil is the remnant of a supernova which exploded 5000 to 8000 years ago, and is made up of hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur gases.  The expanding outer shell of the giant star that exploded appears across a massive swath of sky -- roughly 6 full moons in diameter.

Details and processing:

This image is a composite of Hydrogen-alpha, Oxygen III, and RGB data (RGB used for star colours only).  I built the composite using a variety of layering and blending steps using the Luminance, Lighten and Colour combine modes in Photoshop.  

Total exposure time:
H-alpha = 200 minutes
OIII = 200 minutes
RGB = 35, 35, 30 minutes respectively

Camera = STL11000
Telescope = Takahashi FSQ 85-EDX
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Location: downtown Toronto, Canada - urban, heavily light polluted skies
Software = capture and alignment in Maxim DL, post-processing in PS CS2

IC63, Gamma Cassiopeia region

IC63, Gamma Cassiopeia region

I love this uber-dense skyscape.  It surrounds the bright star (Gamma Cassiopeia) that forms the center apex of the famous "W"-shaped constellation Cassiopeia.  

While it's not the sexiest of targets -- there's nothing really arresting here but a bit of wispy hydrogen -- I'm floored by the sheer density of stars in this stretch of our Milky Way.

Details:

LHaRGB = 40:20:30:30:30 minutes
Telescope = Takahashi FSQ-85EDX
Beverage = Te Bhaig scotch whiskey, no ice
Camera = STL-11000M
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Software = capture, stacking and alignment in MaximDL; mosaicking, levels and cropping in Photoshop
Location = LRGB from dark skies in eastern Ontario in July, and Ha from light-polluted Toronto in August 2011. 

m31 andromeda galaxy

m31 andromeda galaxy

Woot! Now featured on Wikipedia

You all know this one ... Andromeda is the nearest large galaxy to the Milky Way (approx 2.5 million ly away), and similar to ours in size and structure.   It's huge -- even at that distance it appears about 6 full moons across.  M31 is so bright that it can be seen with the naked eye from dark skies, and I regularly catch it through binoculars even from downtown Toronto.

She also has a couple of companion galaxies -- M32 is the small one above it, and M110 is the elliptical one below it.

All of the (non-galaxy) stars in this field are part of our Milky Way, and relatively nearby -- positioned between us and the distant galaxies.  Think of it as if you're looking through snowflakes at a distant object.

Details for astronerds:

L:Ha:R:G:B (minutes) = 80:120:25:25:35
Camera = STL11000
Telescope = Takahashi FSQ 85-EDX
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Location: LRGB from Eastern Ontario, Canada (dark skies) and H-alpha from Toronto, Canada (light-polluted skies)
Software = capture and alignment in Maxim DL, post-processing in PS CS2

M8 and M20, the Trifid and Lagoon nebulae

M8 and M20, the Trifid and Lagoon nebulae

If you tried to peer right into the center of our Milky Way galaxy -- about 25000 light years away in the general direction of the constellation Sagittarius -- how deep could you see?  

Not very far!  

Your telescope's view would blocked by some lovely dusty and gassy stuff only 5000 light years distant.  Two sexy objects in that area are M8 (the Lagoon nebula, at lower right) and M20 (the Triffid nebula at upper left).

So what is all this stuff?  The dark dust lanes that criss-cross the scene's thick backdrop of stars are the result of cold interstellar dust and debris left over from dying stars.  The glowing pink and red emission nebulae are created by starlight energizing hydrogen gas, while the blueish hue in the Triffid is caused by hot young stars reflecting light off gases.  

Details for astro-nerds:

Details:
FSQ-85 & STL11000M
LRGB (minutes) = 45:50:50:60
Captured in late May from Port Hope, ON, Canada
Stacked in Maxim DL, levels curves etc in PS CS2

ic1396 region, the Elephant's Trunk nebula

ic1396 region, the Elephant's Trunk nebula

I'm always awestruck by emission nebulae -- huge glowing clouds of gas and dust.  This one, the IC1396 region in Cassiopeia, makes me think of a deep reddish hole in space, just waiting for someone to fall into.  The Elephant's Trunk nebula can be seen at right.

Exposure (Ha:R:G:B) = 240:25:25:25
Camera = STL11000M
Telescope = FSQ-85 EDX
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Location = Eastern Ontario, Canada
Software = capture and alignment in Maxim DL, post-processing in PS CS2

the rosette nebula

the rosette nebula

Happy valentine's day!  

Measuring roughly 120 light years across, the Rosette nebula is a region of superheated dust and hydrogen gas about 5000 light years away from us.

The hot young stars at its core -- formed from the nebula's matter -- are burning so hot (~6 million degrees) that their radiation is energizing the nebula, causing it to emit the light and colours we see here.

Details:

TMB 130SS f/7, TS Optics 2.5" field flattener
STL-11000M @ -30C
self-guided on Skywatcher EQ6
Ha:R:G:B it's 180:45:45:45, RGB binned 2x2
Baader 7nm h-alpha filter
darks, flats, bias
capture and calibration in MaximDL
image processing in Photoshop
captured January 2010 from downtown Toronto, Canada

 

Cygnus constellation, high-resolution mosaic

Cygnus constellation, high-resolution mosaic

In an attempt to capture a large swath of sky at high resolution, I spent the summer  of 2012 capturing 28 panels (7 across, 4 down) of the constellation Cygnus the Swan (aka the Northern Cross).

Shot through a narrowband hydrogen-alpha filter, this field shows off an entertaining area of our Milky Way galaxy, full of glowing hydrogen gas and dark dust lanes ... in fact the gas and dust almost dwarf the stars themselves.

The area includes several interesting nebulae, including the North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula at upper left, the Butterfly Nebula, at center right, and the small but fascinating Crescent Nebula at far lower right. Running down the center of the scene is a dark swath called the Northern Coal Sack, a virtual river of dust and gas that obscures many of the stars behind it.

This region covers approximately 12x12 degrees of the sky ... for reference, this is a little bit larger than the size of your palm held at arm's length. North is up.

Details:

This was a significant effort ... averaging 2.5 hours of exposure per panel, this image represents over 70 hours of exposure time (selected from over 100 hours of data, as some images were rejected for poor quality).

Captured at 328mm focal length (f3.9), with a small pixel size (5.4u), it has a sampling rate of 3.39 arc-seconds/pixel. I believe this a relatively high resolution image, at least relative to most large amateur astro-mosaics.


Telescope = Takahashi FSQ 85 EDX with .73 reducer (f/3.39)
Camera = QSI 583 wsg
Mount = SkyWatcher EQ6 Pro
Software = capture and stacking in MaximDL, alignment and mosaic in Autopano Pro, processing in PS CS5
Exposure (minutes) = average 160m / panel, 28 panels, over 70h total
Date = June-August 2012

 

In the clouds of Rho Ophiuchi

In the clouds of Rho Ophiuchi

The many spectacular colours of the Rho Ophiuchi (oh'-fee-yu-kee) clouds highlight the many processes that occur there. The blue regions shine primarily by reflected light. Blue light from the star Rho Ophiuchi and nearby stars reflects more efficiently off this portion of the nebula than red light. The Earth's daytime sky appears blue for the same reason. The red and yellow regions shine primarily because of emission from the nebula's atomic and molecular gas. Light from nearby blue stars - more energetic than the bright star Antares - knocks electrons away from the gas, which then shines when the electrons recombine with the gas. The dark regions are caused by dust grains - born in young stellar atmospheres - which effectively block light emitted behind them.  [description borrowed from apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap070903.html]

Details for the astronerds:

I've always struggled with LRGB imaging -- the light pollution gradients are painful.  And of course from my latitude (44deg), the gorgeous Ophiuchus clouds are very low in the soup of the horizon.  But I ventured to darker skies one weekend, used a LP filter for Luminance, and hammered away at the gradients with Gradient Xterminator (a PS plugin that's worth every penny). 

FSQ-85 & STL-11000M
LRGB (minutes) = 65:50:50:60

ye olde heart nebula

ye olde heart nebula

For all the lovers out there, here's the Heart Nebula (IC1805) in HaRGB. 

Details:

FSQ-85 and STL-11000M
Exposure (minutes) H-alpha:R:G:B = 200:55:50:55
Captured on two nights in September 2010 from downtown Toronto, Canada

 

 

ngc1499, the california nebula

ngc1499, the california nebula

Here is a quick preview of the California nebula, NGC1499, in hydrogen-alpha.  (Check out the billowing clouds, dude.  Whoa.)  I will someday come back to captured colour data as well, but I also like greyscale images of nebulae.

Details:

Exposure (minutes) = 200
FSQ-85 and STL11000M
Taken from the lovely light-polluted skies of Toronto, Canada on September 14, 2010

Sh2-240 supernova remnant

Sh2-240 supernova remnant

What you're seeing here are the gas shockwaves of a stupidly large explosion.

Known as Sh2-240 (or Semeis 147) this nebula is the remnant of a huge, ancient Type II supernova. It is huge, spanning >3.5 degrees (approx 7 full moons) of the sky, and is one of the faintest targets out there.  Somewhere in the middle of this is a fast-spinning neutron star (spinning on its axis 7 times per second!), the inner core of the original star.

Located ~3900 light years away at the border of the constellations of Taurus and Auriga, it is believed to be over 30,000 years old.

I've been meaning to capture the other half of this thing for over a year now (caught the top half in November 2010).  It's just an enormous target, more than filling the FOV of my widest scope/camera combination, and so required a 2-panel mosaic to fit it all in.  

It's also frustratingly faint ... please forgive the noisiness, I cranked up the curves to better show the faint wisps of nebulosity.

Thanks for looking!

Details:

2 panels in Ha, 140 minutes and 200 minutes (@ 20 min exposures)

Telescope = Takahashi FSQ-85EDX
Camera = STL-11000M
Beverage = The Glenlivet 15 year old
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Software = capture, stacking and alignment in MaximDL; mosaicking, levels and cropping in Photoshop
Location = Captured from Toronto and Eastern Ontario, in Nov 2010 & Oct 2011. 

Cone, Christmas Tree, and Foxfur nebulae

Cone, Christmas Tree, and Foxfur nebulae

If you're looking for an entertaining stretch of sky, this is it! Located about 2600 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros, you're looking at several different phenomena: dark absorption nebula consisting of cold molecular hydrogen and dust; glowing red emission nebula containing ionized hydrogen; shimmering blue reflection nebulae that reflect the glow from nearby hot young stars; and vast swaths of interstellar dust.

The cone itself (at center-left) is a 7-lightyear-long tower of molecular hydrogen. Check out the Fox fur nebula at center (aptly named, I think), in ripples of glowing red hydrogen.  To see the overall Christmas Tree shape of the center region, complete with decorative blue and red stars, tilt your head to the left.

See the small wisp of white at far left?  That's Hubble's Variable Nebula, named for the famed astronomer Edwin Hubble, who studied it in 1949.  Unlike most objects in the sky, this cloud *visibly* changes its shape every few weeks!  This is believed to be caused by wind-like changes in its dense clouds of dust, which periodically block the illumination from the bright star at left of the nebula.

Details:

Telescope = Takahashi FSQ-85 with reducer @ f3.9
Camera = QSI 583wsg and Astrodon filters
Mount = HRQ5 Pro
Exposure = HaLRGB (min) : 100:80:40:35:35 at 0degC
Beverage = Appleton's rum, hot water, and lemon
Location 1 = LRGB shot from dark skies in Spanish Wells, Bahamas on Dec 26, 2011
Location 2 = Ha shot from suburban skies in Port Hope, Canada on Mar 28, 2011

NGC1333 region in Perseus

NGC1333 region in Perseus

Bring out the interstellar dustbuster.  This region in the constellation Perseus is rich with thick, cold dust and gas of a giant molecular cloud, and is likely the site of newly forming low-mass stars.  The blue regions show reflections of starlight off the dark molecular cloud.

Details:

Telescope = Takahashi FSQ-85 with reducer @ f3.9
Camera = QSI 583wsg and Astrodon filters
Mount = HEQ5 Pro
Beverage = Jamieson's irish whiskey
Exposure = LRGB (min) : 100:45:40:40 at 0degC
Location = shot from dark skies in Spanish Wells, Bahamas on Dec 23, 2011

looking into the center of the Milky Way

looking into the center of the Milky Way

To look toward the constellation Sagittarius is to look in the direction of the center of our galaxy. 

This region is among the sexiest in the night sky, especially in long exposure photography, with bright nebulae, dark dust and star clusters packed into a thick starfield.


Camera / optics = Canon 6D and 24-105mm f/4L at f/4 and 24mm
Mount = Vixen Polarie on carbon fiber tripod
Software = stacking in DeepSkyStacker, processing in Photoshop CS5
Exposure (minutes) = 10 X 2 minute exposures, ISO2000
Date / Location = April 16, 2013 / Spanish Wells, Bahamas
Beverage = Appleton Estate rum and lemon

 

draco trio of galaxies

draco trio of galaxies

This dense assembly of galaxies in the constellation Draco includes the face-on spiral galaxy (at upper left) NGC 5985, the elliptical galaxy NGC 5982 (center) and the edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 5981 (at center-right).  Lots of faint, fuzzy galaxies in the background too!

 

Details:

Telescope = Celestron 9.25 Edge HD (at f/10, prime focus)
Camera = QSI 583 wsg 
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Software = capture, stacking and deconvolution in MaximDL, processing in Photoshop CS5
Exposure (L:R:G:B, minutes) = 120:45:45:60 ... Luminance unbinned, colour channels binned 2x2
Date = May 21 and 22, 2012
Beverage = Te Bhaig scotch whiskey

 

M45, the Pleiades (aka the Seven Sisters)

M45, the Pleiades (aka the Seven Sisters)

Also called the "seven sisters", the Pleiades really should be known as the "1000+ sisters", given that there are roughly a thousand stars in this cluster.

This was an *early* morning target.  Took three nights to get all the data -- M45 didnt clear the trees until 3am, but the sun was coming up by 4.  Tried to stretch this one a bit to show the marvelous dust in this region.  Cropped about 30% from the full field.

Details for the astronerds:

Exposure = L:R:G:B 50:25:25:25 minutes (10 min exposures for Lum, 5 min for RGB)
Beverage = Bushmills
Telescope = Takahashi FSQ-85EDX
Camera = STL-11000M
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Software = capture, stacking and alignment in MaximDL; mosaicking, levels and cropping in Photoshop
Location = Captured from eastern Ontario, mag 6 moonless skies, on July 29-30-31 2011.  

vdb152 nebula region in Cepheus

vdb152 nebula region in Cepheus

I love dust!  Here is some of the ethereal wispy gas and dust found in Cepheus, with VDB152 lurking in the center of the field like a large snake.  There is also a small emission nebula at center left, and a light-blocking dark nebula at lower left.

Exposure (L:R:G:B) = 130:50:50:50
Camera = STL11000M
Telescope = FSQ-85 EDX
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Location = Eastern Ontario, Canada
Software = capture and alignment in Maxim DL, post-processing in PS CS2

ngc7023 region, the Iris nebula

ngc7023 region, the Iris nebula

1300 light-years away in a dusty corner of the constellation Cepheus, there is the Iris, a flower-like nebula.  Its dusty material surrounds a massive, hot, young star. The dominant color of the central nebula is blue, which is typical for dusty materials as they reflect starlight.  All around it, the dark, obscuring clouds of dust and cold molecular gas fill the scene.

Details for astro-nerds:

RGB combine (minutes exposure) = 80:80:80
Camera = STL11000M
Telescope = FSQ-85 EDX
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Location = Eastern Ontario, Canada
Software = capture and alignment in Maxim DL, post-processing in PS CS2 

M33, the Triangulum galaxy

M33, the Triangulum galaxy

For Alison, who loves M33.  This large galaxy is about 3 million light-years away from us, and along with the Andromeda Galaxy and our own Milky Way, is a part of our "local group" of galaxies (think of it as the neighbourhood).  Under extremely dark skies, you can even see this one with the naked eye (as a smudge).  M33 is considered the object furthest from Earth that can be seen with the naked eye.

Details for astro-nerds:

This is cropped about 40%, the full field is just huge with the FSQ85 and STL11K.  Caught some hydrogen-alpha too, just 30 minutes but it was enough to tease out some pink nebulaction!

LHaRGB = 110:30:30:30:35 minutes

Telescope = Takahashi FSQ-85EDX
Camera = STL-11000M
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Software = capture, stacking and alignment in MaximDL; mosaicking, levels and cropping in Photoshop
Location = Captured from eastern Ontario, mag 6 moonless skies, on July 25-27 2011


ic5146 region, the Cocoon nebula

ic5146 region, the Cocoon nebula

The glowing Cocoon Nebula (IC 5146) lies at left of this rich star field in the constellation Cygnus. The dark nebula lanes crossing the scene (including B168) are made of cold molecular gas and dark dust, obscuring the starlight behind them.  This is a gorgeous view through binoculars!

Details:

RGB combine (minutes exposure) = 30:30:30
Camera = STL11000M
Telescope = FSQ-85 EDX
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Location = Eastern Ontario, Canada
Software = capture and alignment in Maxim DL, post-processing in PS CS2

Luna in hydrogen light

Luna in hydrogen light

One night in December of 2009 ... the moon was full, the skies were hazy with high cloud, and I was out in the observatory tweaking a few things.  Wasn't planning on doing any photography, but I needed a target to test some new camera settings.  Turns out that the full moon looks lovely through thin cloud and a 7nm hydrogen-alpha filter!

Details:
QHY9 CCD @ -24C
TMB 130SS
11 frames of 0.015seconds
Ha 7nm filter
Processed in Registax and PSCS2

Sun, July 12 2012

Sun, July 12 2012

Solar mosaic in hydrogen-alpha.  It was hot that day!  (Over 30C in Toronto)

Telescope = Lunt LS60HaDS50/B1200
Camera = DMK21AU618
Mount = EQ6 Pro
Software = capture in ICCapture, stacking in AutoStakkert 2, mosaic in Photoshop CS5
Main disc mosaic = 5 images (4 corners and one for the center overlap region)
Inset images = shot with a 2.5X Televue Powermate
Date = 12/07/2012
Beverage = Steam Whistle pilsener with lime wedge

Saturn and Moons, Feb 16 2013

Saturn and Moons, Feb 16 2013

Aw, you gotta love Saturn.  Rings, moons ... and in this shot you can see the differently-coloured cloud belts on the planet's surface itself.  Note the dark coloured spot on top.  This is a hexagonal-shaped vortex on the planet's north pole, basically a permanent storm that (for reasons not yet understood) has a hexagonal shape (rare in nature in such macro scales).

Also caught 4 of Saturn's 7 larger moons (it has at least 62 but most are tiny).

The planet was captured at low altitude on a night of poor seeing (atmospheric turbulence), so I'm hoping to improve on this result toward the spring season.

Details for astro-nerds:

Captured using a 9.25" EdgeHD SCT, ASI120MM mono camera at approx 40 fps (RGB, this is an RRGB blend), and 2.5X Powermate for approx 5875mm of focal length.  The image is a composite -- the moons were captured by over-exposing Saturn and shooting at f/10; the balanced Saturn was then superimposed on the over-exposed one.

Total Lunar Eclipse, December 21 2010

Total Lunar Eclipse, December 21 2010

Now featured on Wikipedia!

Here's a little montage of the December 21, 2010 eclipse from totality onward -- that is, starting at about 3:15 EST and going until it was out of the earth's shadow circa 5:10am.

I froze my arse off in my driveway taking this, lying in the snow in minus 20C temperatures.  Astrophotographers are a dedicated bunch.

Thanks for looking!

Details:
FSQ-85 @ Canon XS (unmodified)
varying exposures and ISOs
captured from my driveway in downtown Toronto, Canada