Nebulae, galaxies, open clusters, a supernova remnant and a planet…

The fact that I didn’t post something for a while has nothing to do with me giving up my astrophotography hobby. Better yet, it causes me to have a boatload of astrophotos to show you. February appears to have been quite the productive month for me, more on that later.

First of all, I got a pretty decent shot of the galaxy couple M81 and M82. It shows some red detail in M82 (top left) and 2 distinct dust lanes around M81. They do not just appear close in this image, they are actually quite close to each other. Close enough in fact, for the galactic gravitational fields to enhance star formation in the other galaxy.

The M81 and M82 galaxies

The M81 and M82 galaxies

Now, most of the images I post here are stacks that represent total exposure times of 10 minutes or more. But of my favourite target, the Great Nebula in Orion, I got only some 10 decent frames of 30 seconds each. When I realised this, shooting a pile of good M42 photos became my top telescope-priority. The image below is the result of stacking 40 30-second photos and shows some really cool detail in the dust clouds. Also, a faint blue bow is noticably which marks the top of the entire nebula. In the dark region between the bright nebula and the upper blue bow is filled with red, even fainter gas clouds. Longer exposure times will probably reveal more of this.

My best M42 so far. If your screen is bright, or you look at it from an angle, you can even make out the top bow.

My best M42 so far. If your screen is bright, or you look at it from an angle, you can even make out the top bow.

In my previous post, I showed you my first photo of the Flame and Horsehead nebula. I figured that if I used my f10 telescope, I would get a more detailed view of the small horsehead feature. Sadly, I didn’t manage to get a good image of the Horsehead Nebula, but I did get a cool Jupiter. Since I haven’t had my camera attached to my f10 with Jupiter high in the night skies, I decided to give it a go and actually captured Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (bottom right of the planet, in the red belt).

Jupiter captures with dslr on evening with pretty poor seeing (about 60 frames)

Jupiter captures with dslr on evening with pretty poor seeing (about 60 frames)

I also tried to capture M35, which also didn’t turn out very great, like the Horsehead Nebula. I think my light pollution filter doesn’t work very well with the optics in the f10. But as this image is already way better than what I got from the Horsehead Nebula and it shows a lot of brilliant stars, why not post it here right?

M35; an open cluster

M35; an open cluster

After 2 weeks of constant cloud cover, a few days ago I got the opportunity to take some shots between pathes of fast floating clouds. The allmost full moon gave my photos a small gradient, which became a big gradient after stretching the intensity levels. Nevertheless I got a quite cool image of M1; the Crab Nebula. I especially like how star-littered the image is and that the nebula itself is a remnant of a supernova explosion in the year 1054.

M1; the Crab Nebula. A supernova remnant from an explosion in 1054.

M1; the Crab Nebula. A supernova remnant from an explosion in 1054.

Another image I took was one of the Pleiades. More 30 second images and the use of a light pollution filter gave me better results than before. More surrounding dust clouds are apparent and I also like how the optics cause bright circles around the stars that translate with the position in the image.

M45; the Pleiades star cluster traveling through clouds of dust

M45; the Pleiades star cluster traveling through clouds of dust

If you recall that I also captured M51 and the Flame and Horsehead Nebulae earlier this month, you probably figure that all the photos together would make a great poster. At least, that’s what I did… So here it is: The first JCdeBoer.com-poster-of-the-month!

Poster of all the astrophotos I shot this February

Poster of all the astrophotos I shot this February

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My New and Improved Ring Nebula, Dumbbell Nebula and Pleiades Open Cluster

As you may remember, I had my telescope out at the time of writing last post. At that time I already noticed that I was too late to get an awesome image of the Ring Nebula, I took better photos of the Dumbbell Nebula at different settings and tried to capture some Pleiades nebulosity. While working on last post, I was waiting for clouds to pass over, but eventually, they didn’t.

I think I’d better postpone my efforts to capture a glimpse of the Horsehead and Flame Nebula untill the Orion constellation is higher, somewhere in December, Januari… Apparently I live in an area where amateur astronomers are being terrorized every evening by foggy skies. By the time deep sky objects in Orion are high enough to be imaged, fog has already kicked in.

Nevertheless, as I mentioned, I also shot some decend images of other objects. I started with the Ring Nebula. But after my first test image, the photos became too faint because the roof was partially obstructing the view. The single frame I did get turned out quite nice by the way:

A single frame of the Ring Nebula.

A single frame of the Ring Nebula.

When I manage to get more and longer exposures of the ring nebula, it should display more yellow and red features.

As quickly as I found the Ring Nebula, it took me over 10 minutes to get the Dumbbell Nebula (M27) in view. I took 12 good 15 seconds frames at ISO 6400 and 7 good 30 second frames at ISO 1600. The ISO 1600 frames showed less noise and stacked nicer so I used those to get the image below. I really like the amount of stars visible in the image. M27 is located in the constellation Cygnus which lies exactly over the star littered arm of the Milky Way.

Long exposure stack of the Dumbbell Nebula (m27)

Long exposure stack of the Dumbbell Nebula (M27)

My 5 stacked 30 second exposures of the Pleiades open cluster (M45) do finally show some faint blue nebulosity around the stars. Especially the lowest of the 6 brightest stars shows a glow with a well defined edge. The lines at the bottom right are the remains of an airplane saying ‘Hi’ while I was imaging.

Really faint, some blue nebulosity is visible in this image of m45. Especially the strokes that are caused by stellar winds.

Really faint, some blue nebulosity is visible in this image of m45. Especially the strokes that are caused by stellar winds.