M101 Supernova SN2023ixf

In May of 2023 a new supernova was reported in galaxy M101. M101 is easy to image from my house and is big enough in the sky that a lot of detail can be resolved. Supernovas often appear brighter than the the galaxy they reside in and this one was reported to be very bright indeed.

I quickly got my gear in place and over 3 nights (26th-28th of May) grabbed enough sub-frames to make a decent image. Unfortunately there was a lot of misty high cloud and light pollution so contrast wasn’t the best, but I am happy with the detail I pulled out.

The above image shows the stack of all luminance frames before any stretching. I have circled the “new star” (click it to see the big picture and the supernova).

Above is the same luminance only image with just basic stretching to reveal many stars and the galaxy. Below is my final image combining L, R,G,B and Ha:

And zooming in:

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Society and “truth”, Peter and Pete – a sad reflection

A screen shot of comments made by Peter & Pete on Youtube showing that they don’t care what is true, they only care about their own world view.

It is sad that some in society are now unable to distinguish between scientific truth and opinion. In my opinion this shows the inadequacy of our education systems to arm them with critical thinking skills.

Perhaps its only fair to state what I think a scientific “truth” is. In my opinion it is a statement that fits the observed facts it is describing and it can be tested in multiple ways to the limits of societies ability and knowledge. There is a wider definition and discussion summarised nicely here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth

When things can only be partially tested then those ideas are not truths they are still in the realms of theory but they are still miles ahead of an “opinion”. Scientific truths are essentially things that fit the facts as best we know. Theories are models of reality that fit the facts we are able to check at the time but may not survive without modification when we learn more in the future. A lot of theories have become accepted as fact in this way.

The trouble with “truths” is that there are so many that no one person can test them all so we are asked to trust people who are supposed to know more on the subject than we do. We choose thought leaders to listen to, some are imposed (e.g. teachers). There have always been people who abuse this trust to spin falsehoods, using personality and power to convince people less able/knowledgeable of lies.

Trump is a horrifying example of this, antivaxxers are another. Trump visibly succeeding in what he does is has impact wider than just politics, its breeds greater distrust in the nature of truth in all aspects of life. With his use of “alternative facts” he says lies are ok and you can even get away with it. In my view, by lieing so easily and with such conviction he has singularly accelerated societies distrust in all our institutions whether it be politics, medicine or science. This growing fear/distrust leads to sad outcomes such as Peter & Pete.

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The Whale and the Hockey Stick

This is NGC 4631 and NGC 4656-7 better known as the Whale and Hockey stick galaxies. Imaged over several nights 21-25th April 2022, I managed only a few hours total due to bad weather.

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The Sadr region – first light for my Samyang 135mm F2 lens and home brew mount.

This is a “first light” image taken with my new wide-field setup.

Sadr region in Cygnus
Wide filed shot using the Samyang 135mm F2 lens and ASI1600mm Pro

Here we have the star Sadr in the constellation of Cygnus. Using narrowband Ha (56mins) and Oiii (30mins) filters I’ve captured the glowing dust in the region surrounding the star. Not bad for a first image. This widefield shot shows Sadr in the middle surrounded by nebula (IC 1318) but also included is the so-called propeller (top-left), many dark regions, NGC 6914 a blue reflection nebula (very faint, middle left region) and the Crescent nebula (NGC 6888, top right).

This lens is fantastic for grabbing photons quickly from a very wide field of view. I plan many more sessions with it and will probably revisit this area when we have astronomical dark back in August.

I’ve owned the 135mm for over 2 yrs but just didn’t have the time to put together a rig for it. I’ll make a separate blog entry on the construction of the mount.

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Messier 51 in 2022

I’ve taken a shot at Messier 51 again. Compared to Messier 51 and first light for my Orion Optics 250mm rebuild from last year it is more successful:

Messier 51

Conditions were much better and my guiding is considerably better with <> 0.6 total rms. With careful processing I am able to extract detail at the limit of the scope and camera performance when seeing is good, as it was last night.

It’s a bad time of year to image as astronomical dark is very short (around 3.5 hrs now), but you can’t turn down the opportunity for a moonless clear night! With 1hr per RGB filter and 30min of Ha squeezed in the result is a detailed but noisy image.

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NGC 4725 and NGC4747 have collided

This is NGC 4725 and cohorts. It looks NGC 4725 had a tangle with 4747 and neither came off well.

NGC 4725 and friends
This is NGC 4725, to the top left is NGC 4747 which has been disrupted by NGC4725.

Imaged from the 22nd to 25th March, total integration time was 9 hours and 15 minutes, (2h20 Blue, 2hr53 Green, 2hr05 Red, 1h56 Ha). Imaged with my ASI1600mm pro, ZWO filters and trusty Orion Optics UK 250mm Newt on my CEM70G.  Captured with N.I.N.A, processed in PixInsight and tweaked in Paint Shop pro.

NGC 4725 and friends Annotated
There are more galaxies here than you first realise.

That was a remarkable few days of good weather with DEC guiding often running as low as 0.23 rms and even RA sub 0.4 for much of the time. I’d like to think much of that performance was down to my re-jigging the balance and fine tuning the meshing of the worm gears – I had had trouble getting below 1 arc-seconds rms for the last 2 years. I know others also reported good guiding in many parts of the UK on the same days so its probably just freaky weather. Time will tell.

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The Tadpole Nebula in Auriga – IC410

IC410 is a dusty star forming region about 12,000 light years away.

I’ve finally grabbed enough O3 to attempt an HOO combination. This time of year, the nebula stays above the neighbours’ trees for about 2 hrs after dark. I doubt I’ll be collecting more on this one until next year.

This image is the result of 9hrs Ha, 7hrs O3 and 45 mins RGB for the stars. By far the best stars were the Ha ones – that data was collected earlier in the year when the target was higher. I used Ha stars as a mask which tightened them a lot.

The initial HOO mix was Ha, O3, O3*.85+Ha*.15. I had to apply TGV noise reduction on chrominance because the O3 was still pretty noisy. I’m quite happy with the overall results for the amount of data. 

the Tadpole Nebula IC410 in HOO and RGB stars
The Tadpole Nebula IC410 in HOO with RGB stars

The mono-colour Ha image reveals a lot of structure too and is overall a bit sharper.

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Messier 106 and the faint fuzzies

On one of three clear nights in February, I managed to capture this amazing image:

Messier 106 27/02/22

Just three hours of RGB data has captured a host of bright and many faint galaxies. Some of the faintest detected are very red indicating a huge distance away from us. PGC2299122 and PGC2299019 are estimated to be 3.8 Billion light years away!

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Messier 81 and Messier 82 – a classic pairing

Making the most of my improved guiding I have been using the big 250mm Newt to image some classic galaxies:

Messier 81
Messier 81 – Bode’s Galaxy 23/1/22

This is a combination of several partial sessions that I had to stop for one reason or another. 10hrs split as 4hrs of Red, 2 hrs of Green and Ha, and only 1hr of Blue! I’ve no idea how many frames were rejected – I left that to the WBB scripts. 

I’d like to make the Holmberg IX dwarf galaxy a bit more prominent if I can (I have some Ha there but it’s very faint).

RBG 30s sub @ 0 Gain

Messier 82 – The Cigar Galaxy 25/2/22

For once my guiding was sub 0.5 arc-sec and conditions were great all night (even with gusts of wind) so I was able to capture all the data in one session🥳. This is 3hrs or RGB and 4hrs of Ha. On this occasion I used unity gain for RGB and 200 for Ha, I’ve decided that with so few good nights it makes sense and the noise isn’t excessive. I combined the Red channel as 80%Ha+20% Red to emphasize the disruption. This is probably my best galaxy to date. Only my processing skills limit what my kit can produce.

In comparison here is a wide field image I took last year using my 150mm newt. There’s a lot wrong with the image but it shows the progress I am making.

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NGC 891, an edge on galaxy in Andromeda

Broadband imaging is already tricky in the suburbs but I perhaps didn’t help myself by trying to image this lovely galaxy with an almost full moon chasing it across the sky and haze. But still, for 4 hrs of data this RGBHa image is okay. The star field is aggressively clipped to remove the psychedelic rainbow mottling which I think is just pure moonlight.

For the rest of January, I had two more nights where I attempted to capture this target, luckily no moon glow just LP. So here is take 2, this time about 1 hr each of RGB and only 40mins of Ha. But you can easily see the improvement from by the better seeing and lack of moon – more fine details in the galaxy and lots of smaller galaxies sprinkled throughout the image.

27,29/01/2022 NGC 891 RGB+Ha – Take 2

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