Category Archives: Star Clusters

The Pleiades – Combined Data, 2011-2017

The Pleiades – Combined data from 2011 to 2017. TV-85 at F/5.6.

I took the very good Feb 2017 version of M45 and combined it with 3 other good images taken with the same scope as far back as 2011.   I still have more that I can add to it, but for now this will do.

Not satisfied with the first version above, I worked up a darker version with more contrast and noise reduction.

The Pleiades – Combined data from 2011 to 2017. TV-85 at F/5.6. Darker version.

Orion Nebula Up Close with a Toupcam

The Orion Nebula. 226 x 8 sec, Gain 350, Toupcam Aptina AR0130 Color Cam, Televue TV-85 at F/7.

It was Friday, March 3, 2017 and the weather was iffy for imaging at my dark sky location.  So, I decided to stay in town and try some short-exposure imaging with the Toupcam color planetary/guider cam I have.

I also wanted to try out an adapter I purchased for the Orion Star Shoot so that it can work with the Orion Ultra-Mini, 130mm, F/4.3 guider scope I’ve been using.   This worked better with PHD2 than I thought it would.  It seemed more accurate than the Toupcam with less dropped frames.   In fact, I’ll probably leave this as the permanent guider setup.

For the Toupcam, I used a two inch extension on the TV-85 at F/7, but I still had to let the cam and extension hang halfway out the focuser to even reach focus.   But, it was stable enough to try some simple targets like the Orion Nebula.

I used a software program called SharpCap for acquisition, dark subtraction and  stacking.   It worked well enough for M42,  but it had trouble with stacking dimmer objects like M46, an open cluster with plenty of stars in it.   I used IRIS to stack the individual frames manually for that one.

M46 Open Cluster, 60 x 8 sec, 350 gain, Toupcam AR0130 Color, TV-85 at F/7.

The last two images were tests of a relatively dim galaxies, like NGC 4565 and M64.  I only got 16 frames for NGC 4565, so it is not too special.   But, it shows the galaxy well enough to recognize what it is.   Like the previous image, it was also stacked manually in IRIS.

NGC 4565, 16 x 8 sec, 350 gain, Toupcam AR0130 Color Cam, TV-85 at F/7.

For my M64 dim galaxy test, I accumulated 38 frames @ 8 sec each.  It was also a test of using a video file format called .SER that was designed for astronomical imaging.   It is like a video file.  After I downloaded a SER viewer/player, which also let me export the frames out as TIF format, I was able to bring the data into IRIS and stack.

M64 Black Eyed galaxy. 38×8 sec, 350 gain, AR0130 Color Cam, TV-85 at F/7.

The Pleiades, Feb 25, 2017

The Pleiades, Feb 25, 2017. 31×300 sec @ ISO 1600, TV-85 at F/5.6, Canon T3, Atlas EQ-G w/EQMOD.

It was a beautiful evening and I just had to shoot the Pleiades (M45) from my new dark sky site.  They just looked too good from there.

I wanted see how much I could pick up with the unmodified Canon T3.  It is definitely a camera that is sensitive to blues and cyan.  It does comets and galaxies well enough.  It is not as good as a modified camera on nebulae, unless its a reflection nebula like M45.

This is about 2.58 hours of integration – about the minimum needed to bring out that faint background nebulousity I’ve always tried to get.  It is difficult to decern the true background if there are any gradients, unfortunately.  There were a some here and I tried my best to minimize them.   Towards the end of the set, M45 moved into the muck and a little LP from a small neighborhood to my northwest.  Plus, the zodiacal light was contributing a gradient, too.   It was interesting to see that, though.  🙂

Below is the normal orientation for M45 with some noise reduction thrown in.  I didn’t do any to the first image.  That was pretty much how it came out after stacking.

The Pleiades, Feb 25, 2017. 31×300 sec @ ISO 1600, TV-85 at F/5.6, Canon T3, Atlas EQ-G w/EQMOD. Normal orientation.


And finally, the gaudy, maxed out version:

The Pleiades, Feb 25, 2017. 31×300 sec @ ISO 1600, TV-85 at F/5.6, Canon T3, Atlas EQ-G w/EQMOD. Gaudy maxed out version.


Globular Cluster M79 in Lepus

Globular Cluster M79 in Lepus, Feb 23, 2017, 02:10 UT. 18×120 sec @ ISO 1600, TV-85 at F/5.6, Canon T3, Atlas EQ-G w/EQMOD.

M79 is one of those globulars that sometimes gets glossed over for all the goodies in Orion, which is right above Lepus.  I can’t remember shooting it in the past, but I may have something on it that I just don’t quite know where or when.

I found it.  10 years ago in Januarly of 2007 I shot it with an 8 inch,  F/4 Schmidt-Newtonian.   Here’s the combined data from that with this shot:

Combined data from 2007 and the 8″ F/4 Meade SN8 (22×60 sec @ ISO 1600) with the TV-85 shot.

This is a 100% crop of the central area of the frame.   It lies in a field that is full of faint fuzzies, including NGC 1886, which is like a miniature version of famous edge-on galaxies NGC 4565 or NGC 891.   It got cropped out in this view, unfortunately.