Thursday, October 28, 2010

Comet Hartley - The Movie!

I took the individual images that I shot of Comet 103P/Hartley and compiled them into a movie.  It shows the progress of the comet over about a 70 minute period.  The file is in MP4 format, and is located here:

Look for the satellite that passes through the Double Cluster!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A New Pleiades

While waiting for the Witch Head Nebula to rise, I pointed the ST80 at The Pleiades.  I was curious to see how an image of it might turn out.  This image was composed from 18 3-minute subs at ISO-1600:

Messier 45, The Pleiades

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Spooky Sky Sights!

Fall is my favorite time of year. We finally get some relief from the high temperatures of late summer, and the humidity drops. In addition, some very interesting things begin to appear in our skies. Halloween is almost here, and with the prospect of the local candy supply increasing significantly, I thought it might be appropriate to ring it in with some spooky sights.

Just off the star Rigel, in the constellation of Eridanus, lies a faint reflection nebula cataloged as IC 2118. The popular moniker for this object is the Witch Head Nebula. You need very dark skies and a fairly large telescope to see this nebula visually--8" aperture to see the brighter portions, 16" for a chance to see any detail--but I was able to get an image using 3-minute exposures with my little ST80.

The "head" is a profile view, with a long, pointy nose, an open mouth, and a pointy chin. Rigel is located out of frame to the right.

IC 2118, the Witch Head Nebula
No self-respecting witch would go without transportation. This one left her broom parked in the Cygnus constellation:

NGC 6960, the Witch's Broom.  Also known as the Western Veil Nebula.
NGC 6960, which is sometimes called the Witch's Broom, is part of a vast supernova remnant called the Cygnus Loop. The Loop is about 3 degrees across, which is about six times the width of the full moon. The star that created it exploded about 15,000 years ago.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Comet 103P/Hartley

Comet 103P/Hartley is promising to be the brightest comet of 2010. It won't be a fill-the-sky-feast-for-the-eyes comet, though. Not every comet can be a Hale-Bopp or a McNaught. In fact, it will be barely visible to the naked eye under dark skies. Right now, it can best be viewed in telescopes, and even so it is just a fuzzy green dot. But when it comes to comets, we take what we can get!

Comet 103P/Hartley is a periodic comet that orbits the Sun once about every 6.5 years. It was discovered in 1986 by astronomer Malcolm Hartley. Its closest approach to Earth, at about 11 million miles, will occur on October 20, 2010. It should reach magnitude 5, which is pretty dim, but not impossible to see in dark skies.

On October 8 and 9, 103P/Hartley passed near the Double Cluster in the constellation Perseus. I compiled this image from several individual images taken on October 8. The comet is the green patch in the upper-right. The nucleus of the comet is the bright green streak. The streak indicates how far the comet traveled during a 24-minute period.

Comet 103P/Hartley passing in front of the Double Cluster in Perseus.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Vixen SP

OK, remember a few posts back when I said that I was borrowing a Vixen Great Polaris mount to use until I could make it back out to the observatory? Well, the guy who lent me the mount found a great deal on a Vixen Super Polaris mount. I bought it, and had my first imaging session with it this past Friday.

The Super Polaris is the predecessor to the Great Polaris. The main difference that I can see between the two is that the SP does not have a dovetail mounting plate built into it. That's OK, as I can probably get one for it later. Other than that it looks almost identical to and seems to have all of the same features as the GP.

So, here is the first image that I have finished processing from Friday night:

Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31), Messier 32 (left of center) and Messier 110 (below and right of center)
This is, by far, my best image of the Andromeda Galaxy. I'm very pleased with this little mount! In addition to being a good astroimaging platform, it is small and very easy to transport. I'm hoping to take it with me on trips when I go to places that have really dark skies.

2010-10-06:  I modified the image to reduce star bloat and improve the color and brightness.