Beautiful sunset and different types of nebulosity

After I finished my exams, I grabbed the first opportunity to get my camera out and shoot some pretty pictures. The icy sky in combination with the low sun friday evening, provided beautiful views. I tried to photograph them as best as I could:

Sun dog due to icy skies

Sun dog due to icy skies

Sunset over Enschede

Sunset over Enschede

The Enschede sky, shortly after sunset

The Enschede sky, shortly after sunset

Later that evening, I took my telescope out, including new mount, motors and feedback-loop guiding system. I never had the chance to use it before and I couldn’t wait to give it a try. The skies were definately not clear (a thin layer of clouds was still blocking light from the lower magnitude stars), but nontheless my guidecamera (my DIY xbox camera) managed to pick up some stars after playing with the settings for a while.

Modded xbox cam from side

Modded xbox cam from side

The idea is, to have two telescope tubes aligned and both fitted with cameras. One camera functions as a guide camera and has the sole purpose of showing stars on the computer screen. The computer then sends signals to the motorized telescope to keep a selected star exactly at the same place on the computer screen. Since the two tubes are aligned, the second telescope – fitted with a proper imaging camera – has a perfectly steady image to photograph at long exposure times.

As a first star to try the system on, I chose Betelgeuse, a very bright, red supergiant. The system picked up the star and kept it in place for about 15 seconds. After that, it seemed to make one misstep and then lose the star. I will have a look at the settings and lower the step size to prevent overshooting while making corrections.

Luckily, I seemed to have aligned the telescope pretty well, so that the error was small enough for 10-15 second exposures without trailing. So without the feedback system, I could still make some reasonable photos. The first image is a single 10 second exposure of Betelgeuse and the stars around it.

First long exposure telescope image. The bright red supergiant Betelgeuse was my first target.

First long exposure telescope image. The bright red supergiant Betelgeuse was my first target.

After that, I spend some time trying to find the Orion Nebula. This was quite a hastle since I couldn’t really see it, or the surrounding stars and I had to guess its exact location. Yes it was that clouded. Eventually, I found it and took a large amount of 10 second photos which looked like this:

Jpeg of raw 10 second image

Jpeg of raw 10 second image

Using 16 of those frames and stacking them together with 8 dark frames (photos with the lens cap on, to measure the noise induced by the camera temperature), I got the following result, which I’m quite pleased with πŸ™‚

M42; Great Nebula in Orion. A stack of 16 10sec frames at iso 6400

M42; Great Nebula in Orion. A stack of 16 10sec frames at iso 6400

I sure have seen much better images, but considering that my guiding wasn’t working yet, the orion nebula being very low above the horizon and the layer of clouds present, this image is very acceptable. Because by then, it was already late and the skies weren’t that clear anyway, I decided to try one last target and call it a night. The target I chose was M45; the Pleiades open cluster with its blue glowing stars. The image below is a single 20 second frame which I processed a little. The glow if visible due the the gas that surrounds the stars and reflects the blue light. This type of ‘nebulosity’ is called a reflextion nebula. In contrast, the Orion nebula is an emission nebula, that gets its glow from very hot gas that actually emits light.

M45; Pleiades open cluster. A single 10 second frame at iso 6400

M45; Pleiades open cluster. A single 20 second frame at iso 6400

All in all, this was a rather large post. I do intend to post more frequently the upcoming months, but as always, it really depends on the weather πŸ™‚

Last week’s coolest

As I am quite busy with my study at the moment, I haven’t had the time to get out with my telescope. Apart from that, there also isn’t much new to show you this time of the year. You have seen what I can make of the brightest planetary nebula, star clusters and the andromeda galaxy:

There certainly is lots and lots of more interesting stuff up there, but nothing that’s bright enough for me to be able to photograph with the equipment I have right now. Once I get more time and saved me enough to buy a motorized mount, I will have so much more to show you. Until then, I will wait for Jupiter and the Orion constellation to be up at a reasonable time. I’m sure I can make some cool pictures of those with the setup I have right now.

Even though I haven’t been shooting cool pictures myself, I’ve certainly seen some taken by others that I would to share with you. Starting with this awesome image of the Dumbbell Nebula, M27 (click for supersized image):

Collective image of the Dumbbell Nebula shot by 13 different amateur astronomers: Claudio Bottari, Paolo Demaria, Giuseppe Donatiello, Marco Favuzzi, Andrew Genualdi, Federico Lavarino, Rolando Ligustri (CAST), Andrea Pistocchini, Craig Prost, Christian Riou, Bert Scheuneman, Tim Stone, Rubes Turchetti (CAST)

Collective image of the Dumbbell Nebula shot by 13 different amateur astronomers: Claudio Bottari, Paolo Demaria, Giuseppe Donatiello, Marco Favuzzi, Andrew Genualdi, Federico Lavarino, Rolando Ligustri (CAST), Andrea Pistocchini, Craig Prost, Christian Riou, Bert Scheuneman, Tim Stone, Rubes Turchetti (CAST)

This image is a result of 13 amateur astronomers that stacked their results (which are stacks of long exposures themselves) together into one image that contains data obtained during what must have been more than 24 hours total. You can actually see the inner star, radiating so intenste that it blows it’s outer shell away. This image is mostly green and red corresponding toΒ  Oxygen-III and H-alpha emission respectively.

On the 2nd of September, a group led by the University of Hawaii published how they discovered the structure of our supercluster. Our what? Well you know that the Earth orbits around the Sun right? And that the Sun, together with millions of other stars, orbits a supermassive black hole to form our galaxy, the Milky Way. Together with Andromeda and some 50 smaller (dwarf) galaxies we make up something called the ‘Local Group’: a small group of neigboring galaxies. This little group is in turn part of the Virgo cluster of small groups. Well, Virgo and 2 other galaxy clusters, make up our supercluster and she’s called: Laniakea, which means immeasurable heaven in Hawaiian. Her shape it shown in the image below where our Milky Way is marked with a blue dot.

Our home supercluster: Laniakea

Our home supercluster: Laniakea

Astronomers have indexed a huge amount of galaxies with their positions and velocities. Subtracting the velocity of the galaxies caused by the expansion of the universe, they were left with the velocities due to gravitational attraction. From their velocities (paths marked by white lines), the astronomers were able to deduce the point all galaxies in our supercluster are heading to, called ‘The Great Attractor’. Great name right?

The Northern lights have been all over the news this week and I have seen a lot of beautiful pictures coming from Canada, Alaska and Scandinavia. The best I’ve seen wasn’t photographed last week, but over a year ago. The photograph also shows a huge meteor crashing through the atmosphere and I just had to post it here.

Shannon Bileski caught this beautiful picture at March 29, 2013

Shannon Bileski caught this beautiful picture at March 29, 2013. You van find more of her photos at http://www.signatureexposures.com