It was a clear Sunday evening on Jan 28th, 2024 and I had to do some tweaking to the scope, so I took advantage of the good weather and did some imaging to test the results.
After the tweaks and adjustments for the scope, I went straight to Comet 144P/Kushida, which was well placed in the early evening sky. I took 45 minutes worth of subs and above are the two images I generated from this data.
I shot of few sub-images of M35 the last time I was out and wanted to return to it now that I tweaked the scope. I got two hours of data on it and it came out reasonably well.
By the time I finished M35, the moon had risen high enough to drown out any dim nebulae and whatnot, so I shot the moon itself. It was still rather low in the sky, but did not come out too bad:
I resized it 200% for this display image and did some sharpening with the AstraImage Maximum Entropy Deconvolution filter in PS. Yes, not too bad at all for a 60mm scope.
On this night, I was mainly going to try making adjustments to the new tilt plate gizmo for the AT60ED and see if I could get further improvements to its field. Even though it was clear at first, the forecast was clouds coming in for a few hours, so I was not looking to take any keeper images and I wanted to get this testing done instead.
I had just completed star aligning and noticed a comet near Aldebaran in Taurus on the charts, which I had just used to sync the scope’s alignment with. It wasn’t listed by SkyHound’s Comet Chasing website, so I took a few images to see what it looked like and how bright it was. Only 15 minutes of exposure, so it’s not much, but it is what started the night.
I was really after the Comet 62P in Leo, and this runt comet was interesting, but I wanted to do more testing of the tilt plate thingy. I was going to come back to it, but clouds invaded and stayed until 11:00 PM or so. By that time, I still had about 2 hours for the comet in Leo to get to a good spot, so I took images of M81 and M82 to kill time.
I lost/missed focus for this dataset and the guiding for it was terrible. Plus, it wasn’t quite as clear as it needed to be from lingering clouds and moisture. I salvaged what I could. I only include it here to remind me to focus before each object if I want a keeper image and remind me it takes 3 SharpCap polar alignments and not just 2 to get good tracking.
Finally, 62P Tsuchinshan is high enough to image, so I star taking images of it. I realized the first few subs were not in focus, so I stopped and redid it. But otherwise, I was able to let it take pictures on its own while I caught a few winks. All in all, 68 images of it were taken or 3.4 hours worth:
Transparency was only average to slightly above at times for this night, so it wasn’t as clear as predictions. But, I did notice what the focus was doing and I now have a better handle on it. Plus, now that I know about it, I might have to try for more sub-images on that first comet and see what shakes out.
In the second week of 2024, the weather gave me a break on a Tuesday evening. It was going to be one really clear and totally transparent night and I could not let it pass without imaging something.
I was setup and was taking flats by dusk. But, the object I really wanted to get data on was not going to be in position until about 2:00 AM the following morning. So, I needed to kill time and this area of the sky in the image above (Auriga) was in prime position. I managed to get 3.75 hours before the mount reached the meridian and it was time to flip it.
At this point, I had another 2 hours of waiting, so instead of flipping the mount, I went with imaging the Virgo Cluster with this very wide field rig. Not too bad for only two hours, but it needs about double what I had time for.
Finally, Leo and Comet 62/P, the object I was really after, was high enough to get data on, and I managed 45 sub-images of it. I have two versions. One is the cropped version above that I did first.
The full field version is below, which I restacked a couple of times to get a better background-stars-only image. One stack was done with SharpCap, and then I re-calibrated the subs in FitsWorks and stacked them again in IRIS, which was not as noisy as the Sharpcap stack. These two stacks were combined and then the comet-only images was composited in.
Not a very big comet, but it has a tail, at least. I don’t think it will get much better than this, unfortunately. It already passed perihelion in December and will make the closest approach to Earth before month’s end. It was forecast to slowly dim over the next few weeks.
I stopped imaging the comet shortly before dawn. I had to work that day, so I grabbed my scope and laptop and brought them in and tried to sleep for an hour or so. I had napped during the night, but still lacked enough sleep to function. It took a couple of days to recover enough to do the processing for these. lol
It is a Wednesday in the middle of the week, but the weather is clear and earlier that day I just received my new ZWO tilt-plate adapter. The goal of getting it being to fix my skewed field of view of the AT60ED with the QHY294C camera.
I stuck it on, hooked it to the scope and twisted just one screw up and down a couple of times to see what it would do, then just barely turned it, just a bit and locked it down with the screw beside it. This screw was in line with the landscape orientation of my camera and also the way the field seemed to be tilted.
I crossed my fingers and started shooting 3 minute exposures. It had looked good with 2 sec shots, but I was not convinced until I saw the first normal sub-image.
Amazingly, the field was almost perfectly flat with just a little elongation in one corner! It’s possible the extension tube I removed to put the adapter in place had sagging issues, but I think I just got lucky with the adjustment. Maybe both. lol 🙂
I wasn’t planning on staying out long, since this was supposed to be just a test of the adapter session. I thought I would be adjusting it all evening and not trying to shoot keeper images.
I picked the M78 area, since I had some data from the last session that got cut short by clouds. It needed more time and this was going to be it.
I bagged 47 sub-images and with the 36 from the last session added to it in PS, the image above is the result. The bad parts from the previous session with the worst star elongation were replaced with the new, which was mainly the top left corner.
Finally! Success! I was about to spend more money on a Petzval scope. Glad I waited and tried this first.
Images of Comets, Nebulae, Galaxies and Star Clusters