Comet Encke on Feb 19, 2017, 01:02 UT

Comet Encke, Feb 19, 2017, 01:02 UT (Feb 18, 2017, 7:02 PM CST.)

I did it.  I drove out of the city to a new spot I found on a Light Pollution Map.   It was only 30 to 40 minutes away and very dark by today’s standards.  It is a dead-end Parish road with no houses for a few miles, which means I didn’t have to trespass on someone’s property.  I just stopped at the end of the asphalt and setup shop.  🙂

I was able to shoot with ISO 3200 even with Comet Encke close to the horizon.   It was dark enough to notice a little zodiacal light there, too.   With these kinds of conditions, I was able to pick up Encke’s tail.

The data was shot in three sets.  Two sets of 15×30 sec @ ISO 400 and 7×30 sec @ ISO 3200 while it was still twilight and finally a set of 37×60 sec @ ISO 3200 started just before twilight officially began.  About 48 minutes total integration.

The main image has been cropped, but the enhanced negative insert is more of the full field.  You can see that the tail actually goes out of the field of view.  Amazing!

Alternate version without the labels or negative insert. Dynamic stretch instead of Color stretch.


Two enhancements that show tail length.

Unfortunately, Comet Encke is all I got this evening.  While I was doing a better polar alignment and setting up to shoot the Horse Head, a huge fog bank rolled in quicker than I even noticed and it was thick.   Oh, well…   I took that as my cue and shot my calibration frames and left.

I also did a star freeze rendition and it came out ok.  It just doesn’t show the tail as well as any of the above images:

Comet Encke, Feb 19, 2017 – Star Freeze Version.

Markarian’s Galaxy Chain Area with Ultra-Mini Finder

Markarians Galaxy Chain Area – 30×15 sec, Ultra-Mini finder with AR0130 Toupcam color guider/camera.

Here is another one of those experiments I do.  LoL.  This time it was with a software program called SharpCap.  It can capture images from planetary/guider cameras like the Touptek, ASI or ZWO cameras.   Sharpcap’s claim to fame is the ability to stack the images you take on the fly so that you can almost get a “live-view” like experience.  I thought it was neat and easy to use.

This is only 7.5 minutes worth of exposure, so it is not really that deep.   But, it is interesting to be able to get this much with an under $200 camera and a small finder scope.

I also captured 7 x 15 sec exposures of M13 in a live stack.   Not quite enough data in the stack for good star colors with just 1.75 minutes of exposure , unfortunately.    But, it shows the globular well enough.    Check it out:

M13 Globular. 7×15 sec, Toupcam AR0130 guider/camera, Ultra-mini finder.

NGC 2903 – Very Wide Field

NGC 2903 on Feb 15, 2017. 38×180 @ ISO 200, TV-85 at F/5.6, Canon T3, Atlas EQ-G w/EQMOD.

I needed to test guiding with exposures of 3 minutes or longer, so I used NGC 2903 since it was in a convenient location.  This size object needs more image scale to show it better, of course.   But, I kind of like the wide view that shows the galaxy and star field in context.

Btw, in this image, north is to the left.  Also, if you noticed, another small galaxy, NGC 2916, is also visible in this image.   It is below and slightly left of NGC 2903 in this view.

Comet Encke and Ome Pisces

Comet Encke and Ome Pisces on Feb 16, 2017 00:54 UT. 16×30 sec @ ISO 200, TV-85 at F/5.6, Canon T3, Atlas EQ-G w/EQMOD.

Not much to look at here.  Comet Encke was next to one of the brighter stars in Pisces and deep in the muck and haze of LP and poor transparency skies.   I was lucky to get even this much.

Here’s just the comet centered in a close crop that excludes the bright star:

Comet Encke. 16×30 sec @ ISO 200 plus 4×30 sec @ ISO 100, Televue TV-85 at F/5.6, Canon T3, Atlas EQ-G w/EQMOD.

Comet 45p on Feb 10, 2017

Comet 45P, Feb 10, 2017, 09:54 UT. 52×60 sec @ ISO 800, TV-85 at F/5.6, Canon T3, Atlas EQ-G w/EQMOD. StarFreeze version.

Taken in bright moonlight and bad LP in the hours before dawn on Feb 10, 2017.   45P is so dim that it barely showed up in the sub-images.  I almost thought I was not in the right place.    Luckily, I kept the scope pointed at that spot and kept shooting images until daylight.

BTW, the image above appears in Wikipedia for the entry on comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdušáková.

Comet 45P, Feb 10, 2017, 09:54 UT. 52×60 sec @ ISO 800, TV-85 at F/5.6, Canon T3, Atlas EQ-G w/EQMOD. Star-streaks version.


Comet Johnson Quick Peek

Comet Johnson on Feb 10, 2017, 08:46 UT. 14×60 sec @ ISO 400, TV-85 at F/5.6, Canon T3, Atlas EQ-G w/EQMOD.

I had time for just a quick peek at Comet Johnson before moving on to my main target, Comet 45P.   It was not at an optimum spot and ISO 400 maxed out at 60 sec exposures with all the LP and moonlight.   So, it was not very deep and has noise and low color.  But, at least I can see that not much has changed since the last time I shot it.   This is supposed to be the next photogenic comet, coming this summer to a sky right above you.   🙂

The Full Moon of Feb 9, 2017

The Full Moon Feb 9, 2017,  (Feb 10, 2017, 01:23 UT.)   6 frames @ 1/800th sec stacked. TV-85 at F/5.6, Canon T3, Atlas EQ-G w/EQMOD.

This is six frames taken at 1/800 sec @ ISO 100 using the TV-85/Canon T3 combo.  I did an offset removal on each frame in IRIS and then median stacked them.   One round of sharpening and wavelets in IRIS, too, but that was it.  Contrast adjustment in PS and then posted here.

M44, the Beehive – Open Cluster in Cancer

The Beehive Cluster – M44 in Cancer. 59×5 sec, Orion Ultra-Mini 30mm F/4.3 guidescope, Toupcam AR130 Color guide camera.

Here’s something I’ve been wanting to try.  I used my new guidescope and color guide camera combo to take images of the Beehive in Cancer.   It looked great on the screen with 5 second exposures.

I used the ToupSky capture software, which shoots continuous frames and saves each frame in an AVI movie file.    Then, I imported the AVI file into IRIS and treated the data like I was processing a planetary image.   It worked great and it was fast to process, too.

Color balance could be better, but I think I can fix that before I start recording by tweaking the settings in the ToupSky software.  Now that I know it can be done, I’ll probably try this again the next time the weather is clear.

For fun, I combined the above image with one taken with my TV-85 back in 2015.  Check it out:

TV-85 data combined with the Ultra-Mini Guidescope/Toupcam combo.