Finally, the weather cleared after several weeks of clouds. This is typical for December down here in Cajun Country. With the clear conditions, I got a chance to try out a new UHC-S filter I purchased from Baader Planetarium. It replaces the cheap generic UHC filter I got from Amazon. Still shooting from the big city these days in Bortle 8 Red zone is a good test of these filters to see how much LP gets in and how well galaxies and nebulae show up.
I found out the L-eNhance filter doesn’t do much for galaxies unless they have lots of H-alpha regions. An hour worth of subs I took at the beginning of the month of the Leo Trio barely had anything worth keeping, so I only blended about 25% of it in to this image. The 450×30 sec Live Stack with dithering turned on I acquired in SharpCap 3.2 and the UHC-S filter was good enough to stand on its own.
Minimal post processing was done for this one, which is always nice after staying up all night imaging. lol 🙂
Before I shot the Leo Trio, I did a “blue test” on the Pleiades. I have 16 minutes worth of data and it shows how well this filter does with broad band and non-h-alpha objects. Check it out:
Six images bagged in one night, although a few need at least another nights worth of additional time. Big city light pollution was circumvented with an Optolong L-eNhance filter.
30 second sub-images for the DSO’s. The moon was 5 frames stacked in SharpCap 3.2. The Cone Nebula has 130 subs from last night and 63 from a previous session. I also shot M51, but it was only a few frames before twilight and was not really enough for a display image.
An early morning imaging session. I setup after 1:00 am and imaged until sunrise on Tuesday, Dec 3, 2019. I managed to get decent amounts of data on the Horse Head and Owl nebulae, but I only got a little bit of the Cone before it went behind trees.
I will definitely want to shoot the Cone again with 2 more sets of data – one with the Optolong L-eNhance filter and one with a UHC filter. It is a beautiful area with broadband filters, but too much LP from my current site to do it justice with one of those. I think the two filters together shooting separate sets might do it justice from this place, though.
Two sessions combined to produce this shot. One was taken with the UHC filter and the other was taken with the Optolong L-eNhance filter. Total combined time is nearly 3.5 hrs. Not too bad considering the location where they were taken – a Bortle 8 Red Zone.
Well, my luck with the weather allowed me to keep my promise and try out the new L-eNhance filter on a galaxy, in this case, M33. It came out surprisingly well considering this filter is not really made for galaxies. M33 has enough H2 and OIII regions to make things interesting, however.
I used Unity gain (11) with 4 minute subs, captured and LiveStacked in Sharp Cap 3.2. I also kept all the individual frames and tried stacking them in IRIS, but the LiveStack was better in overall quality, so I did not go beyond stacking them and viewing the results and just discarding it.
Below is the combined data from the above with 10×120 sec sub-images taken with a UHC filter:
So far, the L-eNhance does well for any H alpha objects and has a much more uniform background than my cheapo UHC. The UHC filter has a red to green diagonal color gradient always present and is exaggerated by the degree of LP in the shot, with long exposure stacks suffering the strongest. Not fun to deal with, but I’ve managed. Probably a quality control issue with coating uniformity for the cheap filter, I guess.
Since there is no uniformity-caused gradients with the L-eNhance, it lets me see the scope’s vignetting with this camera setup. Looks like I’ll need to start using flats in SharpCap to compensate, since vignetting is now noticeable.
Here is an interesting experiment I did in shooting short, 10-sub x 30 sec “subs-stacks” with LiveStacking in SmartCap 3.2 and stacking the stub-stacks in IRIS. I used Fitsworks first to orient the 5 min stacks taken after the meridian flip with the first batch. Final post-processing was done in PS.
I squeezed in two other shots this night – one of the moon and a test for guiding I did on Mirach. The test involved changing the PHD2 camera selection to the Ascom Toupcam driver instead of the regular version I used that gave trouble in the last session. That solved a problem with the camera dropping and losing connection.
Similar to NGC 981 above, I did twelve 10-sub stacks of Mirach for 5 minutes each for a grand total of 60 minutes of exposure:
The moon was out and after shooting NGC 891, I captured it in a .SER movie with 100 frames. I used 20 to make a still with the AutoStakkert software. Here’s the result:
Very clear conditions this night, but seeing was mediocre, with strong LP and moonlight interference. Cold for Cajun country, too… it got down to mid-to-upper 30’s. Brrr…
I was testing a used i7 laptop for use with SharpCap 3.2 under a bright moon on Saturday night, Nov 9, 2019 and the session yielded two images so far from the data. I was also testing a different guide camera. I switched from the Orion StarShoot mono cam to my Rising Tech IMX224 color eyepiece cam.
I had mixed results in testing. It was promising at first, but after several hours, some instabilities with SharpCap and the guider cam means I still have work to do to debug some possible driver and compatibility issues. Oh, well. At least the new laptop seems to be able to stream the camera data better than the old Panasonic ToughBook I was using.
As far as the two images, the top one was the first object I imaged since I used it to do alignment and focusing . I really wanted to see the “ghost” since I missed out getting it on Halloween. It is a crop centered around the star and galaxy at 100% resolution.
The second one was in the muck and between the bright moonlight, the LP and the terrible seeing, I thought it would be hopeless, but I managed to pull out some data that at least shows some of the spiral structure of M81. It is the full field of the camera. The linked image is at 50% reduction from the full size, 20MP final image.
Pretty clear night but the seeing sucked bad. The moon, which I did not shoot this night, was at 89%. Normally, I would not shoot on a night like this, but I had some testing to do, which was a good enough reason to get out.
After a few all-nighters during the recent good weather we’ve been having down here in Cajun Country, I must say I’m worn out. LoL. But, I had lots of fun shooting very dim objects through Bortle Red Zone skies that I would have never thought would let me capture what I did. Modern progress with astro-filters and more sensitive cameras save the day! Plus, none of the stuff I bought broke the bank.
Since I shot the Eastern Veil with the new setup, I had to try the western part, aka the Witch’s Broom. It was easy with the QHY183c and a cheap UHC filter. I got 45 minutes worth of 30 second sub-images and they stacked automatically in SmartCap 3.2. Star colors could be better, but this is about normal for a UHC filter shot. The red channel was not quite in focus, however. I fixed it after acquiring the data for the above image.
I shot 3 other objects on this night, Gamma Cas, M33 (again) and the Horse Head Nebula, with 2 of them completed. I got clouded out during the last session with the Horse Head. Below are the results:
What a night! My new QHY183c astro camera worked really well once I had it hooked to a computer that could handle the 20MP downloads and live stacking requirements of SharpCap 3.2. I used my older Panasonic ToughBook for controlling the scope and the guiding while another laptop, a Toshiba i7-based unit, was used for image acquisition and live-stacking. I was able to bag six objects with this setup before I had to turn in and get some sleep.
(BTW, EAA is Electronically Assisted Astronomy. It is a way to “observe” from a light-polluted metro area with real-time captures and strong LP filters on a computer using highly sensitive astro cameras.)
SharpCap 3.2 works really well on the faster machine but not on the ToughBook. The USB 3 port and it’s 2.5Ghz processor are just not powerful enough, I guess. I will have to tuneup the Toshiba to do all the stuff the ToughBook was doing and live-stack with SharpCap, all at the same time. Hopefully, I’ll take care of that soon.
One of my favorite galaxies. I like all edge-on galaxies and this one has a uniqueness to it that makes it special. The original had a splotchy background and the color was muted and dull. I increased saturation and shifted the color balance to be more bluish. I used the add noise PS filters to get the background to look smoother.
Images of Comets, Nebulae, Galaxies and Star Clusters