The coolest astrophotography evening in months

Besides it actually being very chilly (it was freezing), the evening of January the 21st got most of its coolness from the awesome astrophotos it allowed me to take. Starting with the first time I saw Venus. Venus is always closely to the Sun in our sky so it’s only visible on clear evenings or very early mornings, depending on the season. The photo I took of Venus turned out really cool as it also shows a beautiful moon and Mars just in the top left.

Moon, Venus and Mars, low in the evening sky

Moon, Venus and Mars, low in the evening sky

A little later, around 7.30, I used my camera to take another wide field photo of comet Lovejoy near the Pleiades.

Wide field image of comet Lovejoy

Wide field image of comet Lovejoy

As clouds were coming close quickly, I decided to save time by using only a telescope and camera with build-in display. Despite a very fast mount alignment, the tracking system worked really well and I could take exposures of ~25 seconds without trailing. A close-up of comet Lovejoy with a telescope shows a more pronounced tail. This image is a stack of 4 25 second frames at ISO6400.

Telescopic image of comet Lovejoy

Telescopic image of comet Lovejoy

After taking the comet Lovejoy images, I aimed my telescope towards Andromeda and took a bunch of 25 second shots at ISO6400. Not knowing what to expect, I was really surprised by the result. A stack of 8 25 second images resulted in the following image:

M31: The Andromeda galaxy

M31: The Andromeda galaxy

Now that I know that I can capture quite some detail of Andromeda with moderate seeing conditions, I am really curious to see what I can achieve with good skies and more time to setup the telescope and take dark, flat and bias frames.

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M27, M31, M57 and Saturn

Sometimes astrophoto processing can be quite time consuming. The last couple of days I spend quite some time behind my laptop to get the best results out of my raw astrophotos. First of all a Saturn photo from Tuesday the 1st of July.

I still haven’t figured out how to remotely make video recordings with my dslr attached to a telescope. Instead I shot about 120 photos, which is not a lot of frames, but I got bored of clicking the shutter button soon. The image below is the result of a 65 image stack. Whenever I find out how to make videos with the DSLR attached to a telescope, I will be able to push the enhancement sliders a lot more and hopefully to resolve some more detail. Until then, I’m very happy with my best Saturn so far:

Saturn through a 90mm reflector with fairly good seeing

Saturn through a 90mm reflector with fairly good seeing

The evening of the 2nd I got my full gear out again and went searching for some cool deep sky objects. One of the easiest to find is the Ring Nebula (Messier 57). Just like the Dumbbell Nebula from earlier, this is a planetary nebula. It is an illuminated bright shell of gas enclosing the center star. Why it appears as a ring instead of a ball hopefully becomes clear from the image below:

Why spherical planetary nebula appears as a ring

The upper line contains much more light from the nebula compared to the lower line, which only crosses through a thin layer of gas.

That said, I present to you, my first image of the Ring Nebula:

The Ring Nebula (M57) through a 130mm telescope with light pollution filter

The Ring Nebula (M57) through a 130mm telescope with light pollution filter

On the upper right the double star Sheliak shows some cool diffraction spikes. A double star? Yes. The two are simply too close to be distinguishable. I will try to show you a cool double star soon.

Up next: the Andromeda galaxy (Messier 31). I promised to try and capture a good shot of the Andromeda galaxy through my telescope. Well, it turned out to be a difficult target. Someday when it is a little higher above the horizon, I will make a ton of photos and stack them to be able to resolve some detail. A stack of 32 frames just doesn’t have enough information and this is the best I could get out of it:

[I really didn’t like this picture so I tried some more. I stacked the result of the 800ms and 1300ms images together and stretched levels in nebulosity and processed further in Adobe Camera Raw. Still not perfect, but I like it a lot more (Note that this is just the core, the outer dust lanes of the galaxy are too faint to be captured in such a short exposure time) :

Bright core of the Andromeda Galaxy

Bright core of the Andromeda Galaxy

I hope you don’t mind that I deleted the previous image 🙂 ]

And last but not least: Another Dumbbell Nebula. This time shot through a light pollution filter. I used a very questionable adapter built from paper and duct tape to attach the light pollution filter while still being able to focus at infinity. Questionable or not, this way I avoid spending 200 euros on a dedicated filter.

The Dumbbell Nebula (M27) through a 130mm telescope with light pollution filter

The Dumbbell Nebula (M27) through a 130mm telescope with light pollution filter

The image below is a combination of the frames from the previous session and the frames from the image above.

Best 41 frames of all the photos I got of M57 stacked together.

Best 41 frames of all the photos I got of M57 stacked together.

Also, another terrestrial photo post is coming up somewhere this week. Not as large as last time, but I definately got some cool images, so stay tuned!