The Andromeda Galaxy M31

This is the result of 3hrs and 50 minutes of 5min subs @ ISO800 using my resurrected Canon 550d, Optolong L-pro, Altair 70mm EDT-F on my trusty HEQ5pro.

I’m pretty happy with picking up the star bridge between M31 and M110, I noticed that disturbance even carries on past M110 if I over-stretch it.

More integration time would smooth out the outer regions and perhaps even pick up some of the blue/pink cloudy zones but I may leave it there to focus on M33 which I have never imaged before.

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Now take my Soul, IC1848 the Soul nebula in SHO

Right next to the Heart ( IC1805 The Heart Nebula – SHO) you will find the Soul.

This was trickier for me to process than the Heart nebula. Although it was clear, conditions were not great and I had few gremlins to deal with. Overall, it meant fewer hours of data so far captured (7hrs total, 2hrs each for Ha and O3, three hours for S2). This shows in the noise and processing artifacts visible in the enlarged image as I attempt to get something close to the Heart image in detail and vibrancy.

Details: ASI1600mm pro, Altair Astro 70mm EDT-F on the HEQ5.

Here is another attempt at processing the data, this time I just used the subs from the second night as they were better framed, so this represents about 3.5hrs of S2, Ha, O3, processed as SHO in a pseudo-Hubble palette.

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IC1805 The Heart Nebula – SHO

This is my first imaging season using narrow band filters on a mono camera. I’m enjoying the freedom to image and not fight moonlight or light pollution from the city.

The Heart nebula (IC1805) is in the constellation of Cassiopeia. This is the result of 6hrs of 120s subs in S2, Ha and O3. Imaged using the ASI1600mm pro with a gain of 200. Processed in PixInsight with the Hubble palette SHO.

A nebula around a star or is it a galaxy?

Visible at the top of the heart image is what looks like a small blue galaxy or planetary nebula. At bit of research reveals this is WeBo 1 (PN G135.6+01.0) a planetary nebula. It has a good signal in Ha and Oii. Perhaps imaging with my 250mm Newt will reveal more of its structure.

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The NorthAmerican Nebula NGC7000 in SHO

This image is the result of 13 hrs of imaging. I still have much to learn about image processing but I am quite happy with this result. The S1, Ha and Oiii subs were 120s @gain 200 to avoid burning out too many stars.

NGC7000 in SHO – this is the same data but an improved processing technique

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SH2-101 The Tulip Nebula

The Tulip Nebula after some very bad processing in PixInsight.
It goes to show that all the tools in the world are no good if you don’t know how to use them!

I imaged this nebula over 2 nights, several weeks ago in August but I had a terrible time processing the data. I was convinced I had some issues with my flats and then my subs. Then I was sure I had some light pollution leaking into the camera. I was at a loss for a solution but then I happened to read a post over at Forum | Backyard Astro that suggested to me the problem was how I used the Weighted Batch Processing script. I had recently updated PixInsight and was just using WBPP script with its out of the box default values.

That was a stupid newbie error, correcting the configuration of WBPP for the flats and light processing completely resolved the problem. As a result, I went back through all my recent images and began a methodical reprocessing.

And here is the result of more care and attention in processing the image.
This is 6hrs total, 300s subs @ Gain 200. 2hrs each for Ha, S2 and O3. Imaged using my trusty Orion Optics 250mm Newtonian with the ASI1600mm Pro.

I don’t want to go through that pain again so I have written down the steps and will publish what has worked for me.

One thing you will notice if you pixel peep the image is that the stars are vertical short lines. Guiding was close to perfect for this target so I believe the problem is caused by the RA motor drive board of my CEM70G which is a 2020 vintage, later mounts have improved RA and DEC boards. At least I hope that is the root cause as I’ve ordered replacements from the iOptron factory and I dont really want to use an OAG. [The last I heard the factory airport was in lock down due to covid so I don’t know when to expect them.] Because of the star shape it is a little more difficult to use my star reduction technique that worked so well for my IC1396 image. I shall have to see how others do it.

One thing I have learnt as a result of writing my steps down is slavishly following a process does not work well for all images. Sometimes you have to deviate from the path and experiment too. But still, a written down process is a good place to start from.

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IC 1396 The Elephant’s Trunk Nebula

This is a narrow band S2, Ha, O3 image taken over 6 hours (2hrs each) in one night.

Imaged with my Altair Astro 70mm ED-Triplet and my ASI1600mm pro camera.

This image is a reprocess of the same data with slightly less green removal and a different crop.

Finally worked out that Automatic Background Extraction was causing my vignetting in processed images and not poor flats or something else in the data. I’ve had another go and produced an almost full-frame image (minus the few pixels for dithering) with better colour control and handling of the stars:

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Caldwell 33, The Eastern Veil

This is the result of 4 hrs each of S2, Ha and O3 subs taken over three nights, I was lucky to have excellent conditions. I have been able to pull out the gas from the background with very little processing. So more (good) data = easier processing. I need to play with the colour balance it takes some getting used to.

This is the first processing of the data as a simple Red = S2, Green = Ha, Blue = O3 combination. I am still exploring the process and have quickly learnt I need to do some colour balancing or in general the Ha signal will appear too strong and dominate the image. But still here you can see the Ha wisps surrounding the main
This is with Red = S2 * 0.2 + Ha * 0.8, Green = O3, Blue = O3 * 0.85 + Ha*0.15
I believe this is with Red = S2 * 0.15 + Ha * 0.85, Green = O3, Blue = O3 * 0.85 + Ha*0.15
I believe this is with Red = S2 * 0.15 + Ha * 0.85, Green = O3*0.8+Ha*0.2, Blue = O3 * 0.85 + Ha*0.15
This is the original SHO combination with heavily neutralised green.

Imaged using my Altair Astro 70mm triplet, ASI160mm Pro and filters on my HEQ5. Each sub was 5mins @ gain 200.

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Caldwell 34 – The Witch’s Broom and Pickering’s Triangle in HOO

Rare are nights of clear skies and then two in a row allowed me to capture over 7 hours of data of the Western Veil or Filamentary nebula – it has many names.

The imaging was done on my “portable” rig powered by my Baudens 240WHr power tank. It’s the first time I have used it seriously for an imaging.

Guiding with the ASI120mm and 30mm guide scope was fantastic, the ASIAIR reported sub 1 arc-second all night with periods of sub-0.6. The HEQ5 really works well with a short focal-length refractor.

This was the first time I levelled the tripod before levelling the mount. If that is the trick, I’m sticking to it. The ASIAIR PA routine is very quick and simple too.

Image Details: 300sec subs @ gain 200, 40x Ha, 45x  Oiii, ASI1600mm Pro and filter set, Altair Astro 70mm ED-T + 0.8 FFFR, on my ageing but trusty HEQ5 managed by an ASIAIR Pro.

Processed in Pixinsight.

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Messier 51 and first light for my Orion Optics 250mm rebuild

M51 May 2021
M51 May 2021, ASi1600mm Pro, Orion Optics 250mm, CEM70g

This LRGB image is the result of 3 hrs of imaging with many lost subs due to cloud and some RA imbalance issues. Probably only 1.5hrs with most of those softened by clouds. This results in a noisy and more washed-out image than I would have liked. Still, compared to my first attempts, 14 yrs ago, it’s not bad.

Imaged with the ASI1600MM-Pro, ZWO filters, Lacerta Komakorr Coma Corrector. modified Orion Optics 250mm Next on the CEM70G.This was first-light for my refurbished scope. I had the mirrors re-silvered in 2020, I flocked the tube and replaced the focuser for a Skywatcher low-profile Crayford. I’ve just finished making a brace for the rings – to stop ring wobble – which it does very well. The Lacerta Komakorr Coma Corrector is a big improvement over Skywatcher 0.9 CC. Sharpness has improved across the image, its very noticeable.

I should try and revisit this target again and give it the time it deserves now that my equipment can capture more detail.

Some of my earlier attempts:

M51 May 2017
M51 21x300s @ISO800 260517. HEq5, OO 250mm, 550d.

A guided session using an HEQ5. Manual focusing is a bit dodgy so lots of detail lost.

M51 April 2012 Canon 350d
M51 April 2012 Canon 350d

An early guided session using my HEQ5.

M51 April 2009
M51 April 2009

Taken with a Canon 350d, OO 250mm on an EQ5 unguided.

M51 May 2007
M51 May 2007

Taken with a modified webcam using my OO 250mm on an EQ5.

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Messier 63 – LRGB

I had a few things to crack like the differential flexure and misting up of the camera that trashed a lot of the subs I took in a 3hr session. As a result, at first when I processed the image I lost all the colour but revisiting the data and being more careful I have been able to bring out a lot more detail and colour. All things considered this is not a bad image – noisier than I would have liked but we can’t have everything.

If you pixel-peep the image you can see the smaller stars are elliptical left to right. This is the result of a high frequency oscillation in the RA axis of the CEM70 that I have fixed by a board swap out.

(First posted May 27th, 2021)

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