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 to  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

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!