Equipment Woes and a Crescent Moon

moon_20080210.jpgSo the weekend just gone has had fabulous weather here in the UK – sunny, warm (for February!) days, and cold clear nights – and so I thought I’d try to setup my imaging kit to have a go at some astronomy for the first time since April 2007, and also as a bit of a dry run before the Kelling Heath star party in April. I even managed an image of the moon – 30 images using the ST2000XM on the FLT110, processed in Registax – click the image above to view it!

Of course, nothing goes smoothly:
Continue reading Equipment Woes and a Crescent Moon

M65, M66, NGC3628 – The Leo Triplet

RA: 11h 19m, Dec: 13°15′ (approx. centre)m65_m66_ngc3628_20061221.jpg
The famous Leo Triplet is a small group of three spiral galaxies (namely, M65 (NGC3623 – bottom-left), M66 (NGC3627 – top-left) and NGC3628 (right)) that is located about 35 million light years away between Theta and Iota Leonis. All three galaxies are readily visible in a small telescope, though NGC3628 tends to be the hardest of the three to spot. Additionally, the smaller galaxy NGC 3593 (not shown) may also be a member of this group.

This image was taken from the dark skies of Mid-Wales on December 21st, 2006 as a “quickie” before sunrise after a run on imaging the Cone Nebula (to follow in a later post) – it’s only about an hour of total exposure. A much longer imaging run would allow the faint surrounds of M66 and the “tidal tail” of NGC3628 to be brought out, but unfortunately, as is so often the case with imaging in the UK, the clouds came in for the next 5 nights leaving the telescope ready to go, but unable to actually take an image…

M81 & M82 – Bode’s Nebula and The Cigar Galaxy

Image centred at:  RA: 09h 55m 34.7s, Dec: +69°19′ 52″
Up is 89 degrees E of N
(Plate solve from

M81 and M82 in Ursa majorM81 and M82 in Ursa Major are two of the brightest members of the M81 group of galaxies. M81 (often called Bode’s Nebula after being discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1774) is a large bright spiral approximately 12 million light-years distant, whilst M82 (the “Cigar Galaxy”) is an irregular starburst galaxy, highly disturbed by gravitational interaction with other members of the group.

This was taken from Kelling Heath at the 2007 Spring Star Party on an excellent night after we had been fogged out for the previous two nights! I’m hoping to go again this year to do some more imaging…

m81_m82_mandel_wilson_3-20070415.jpgIn the region of M81 and M82 (and across large parts of the northern sky), there is a large faint nebular complex associated with dust and gas expelled from the plane of the galaxy. The region here is part of MW3 (Mandel-Wilson Catalog of Unexplored Nebulae) and the faint dusty areas show up faintly in a strongly stretched image of the region. This has been refered to as an “Integrated Flux Nebula” since it reflects the galaxy’s light rather than that of a single star. Also visible is Holmberg IX (below M81) which is a small, faint blue irregular galaxy also in the M81 Group.

M31 (NGC 224) – The Andromeda Galaxy

RA: 00h 42m 44.3s, Dec: +41°16′ 9″m31_20060921.jpg
The Andromeda Galaxy is a naked eye object from a dark site, appearing as a small smudge in the sky. Long exposures reveal it’s true extent (over three degrees in size!) as well as two smaller elliptical companion galaxies (M32 – top, and M110 – bottom edge partially off frame). It is a member of the Local Group of galaxies, and is actually moving towards us at a rate of about 300km/s. Taken from Abingdon, UK on the evening of September 21st, 2006.

This picture was chosen as Anacortes Telescope & Wild Bird picture of the day on 6th Nov 2006.

Additionally, it was chosen as Sky at Night Magazine Hotshots Picture of the Month, Feb 2007 and subsequently it was chosen as Sky at Night Magazine Hotshot of the Year, 2007. (Sky at Night Magazine). As part of the Sky at Night Hotshots competition, I won a 5x Astro Engineering barlow lens for the photo of the month, and a DMK41AF02.AS camera from The Imaging Source.

I’m very happy with this one – if anything, it needs a bit more data – especially in the colour channels – I’m tempted to have another go at this, maybe as a mosaic at a later date 🙂

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