Archive for October, 2011

This jaw-droppingly beautiful image of the M42 and “Running Man” region in Orion has been sent in from sunny Florida U.S.A. courtesy of Alan Chen.  I have known Alan for many years and have always admired his work, much of which has been acquired at the well-known “Chieflands” site in Florida.  The specs for this fantastic image are as follows:

10″ Homebuilt Newtonian.  Starlight Express SXV-H36 monochrome and SXV-M25 one-shot ccd camera.  Ha: 39×10 minutes (390 total) at f/4.6 Paracorr.  RGB: 34×4 minutes + 11×1 minutes (core) (135 total) at f/3 Keller Corrector.  Stacked and flattened in Maxim and processed/combined in PS.  Guided with SX OAG and SX guide head.  3.8.08 and 11.18.09.  Chiefland and Orlando, FL.  Alan as you can see from the above specs is also a Starlight Xpress man 🙂

A high resolution version of this image can be seen here.

M42, M43 and the Running Man all lie just below the Belt of Orion at a distance of 1,500 light-years.  M42 can be seen as a glowing patch of light with the naked eye and it blazes away at a massive magnitude 3.7 (which is pretty enormous for a nebula!).  This is an annual imaging target for most imagers each winter simply because it is so bright.  However rather than get a monotonous string of M42 images all looking alike, this object is pretty much unique in that I don’t think I’ve seen two images (taken by different people at different times) that look indistinguishable.  It is in the processing that the real beauty of M42 is revealed and as you can see Alan has done a remarkable job on his data, and it is in the processing that the uniqueness of each and every M42 image is created.  So, don’t worry about not getting your M42 published because “we’ve already had that one shown before” – so long as it is a breathtaking image – like this one – you stand a very good chance of it appearing on the “Deep-Sky Image of the Week”.

And – PLEASE – don’t think if it’s not colour I’m not interested.  I actually prefer negative black and white images with that beautiful “battleship grey” background for many faint objects that simply don’t do well in colour.  Not only do they look more “scientific” I think they simpler look better to the eye.

Until next weeks ground-breaking Deep-Sky Image – keep imaging!!

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Well – I am very pleased to say that I have finally finished the Steve Jobs biography so now I can resume my work.  I am also very sad to have finished the book as it is one of the best pieces of writing I have come across.  I don’t know if Steve Jobs was a genius, but he was enough of a genius to know who the best person on the planet was to write his biography.  RIP Steve Jobs – your unique way of viewing and interacting with the World will be sorely missed 🙁

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Now exactly half way through this book which I started two days ago.  Can’t put it down – it is completely disrupting my work.  Will give a fuller report when I finish it, but I can say that it is very educational and if you are thinking about starting your own company you really should read it along with Alan Sugar’s Autobiography “What you see is what you get”.

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The white Aluminium box with 4 x HDD bays is my new “Icy Dock” attached storage unit for the mini-WASP data.  Each evening’s imaging (if we ever see a clear sky again) will generate a lot of data from the 2 x M26C one-shot colour cameras, and I will store all this data on the Icy Dock.  Behind the 8Tb Icy Dock unit there are 2 x 2-bay Icy Box units holding a total of 4Tb (4 x 1Tb HDDs), and just to the right of the computer is a USB3 caddy with a 500Gb HDD attached.  With 2 x 500Gb in the actual computer itself this means something like 13.5Tb of storage on the Windows 7 64-bit machine – should do me for a while before I need to start burning data to Blu-Ray 🙂

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This week’s image is a superb ultra-deep offering of the Cocoon nebula from fellow PAIG member Harry Page – VERY nice Cocoon Harry!

The Cocoon nebula (IC5146, Caldwell 19) is a small emission nebula in the constellation Cygnus.  Why I particularly like this region is the Milky Way background and the long dark trailing nebulosity of Barnard 168.  Lying at a distance of 3,300 light years this small nebula only covers 10 x 10 arc minutes, so Harry is working at a longish focal length to get this frame.  Details from Harry are:


1) Lum 10 hrs SXVR H35

2) RGB 5Hrs SXVR H35

3) 14″ newt with orion optics corrector

4) Processed in Pixinsight

Thank you for a superb Image of the Week Harry 🙂

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Another image using the original Hyperstar and the little H9C one-shot colour camera.  Pretty deep for just 2.5 hours total exposure time – shows the speed of the Hyperstar lens 🙂

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Having spent an academic career in advanced optics I am more than a little sceptical about the recent faster than light neutrino claims as you will know from posts below.  As astronomers we should also be aware of the 1987A supernova explosion where the arrival times of the photons and the neutrinos (yes I know they weren’t the same type of neutrinos or of the same energy as the earth-bound experiment) were as expected for non-superluminal propagation.  Tom How forwarded me this very interesting paper on the subject.  What I find poetic justice here is relativity bailing out relativity – nice 🙂

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O.K. so once you get past the first 150 pages (roughly the length of the first book) the great chunks of text transposed from the first book thin out.  So my recommendation is if you buy both books don’t bother starting the second one until about half way through.  “I am Spock” was alright, it added a few snippets not in “I am not Spock” but didn’t add much more insight into Nimoy himself.  If you want Nimoy’s Autobiography then buy either book, but don’t bother buying both.

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This week’s spectacular image of M51 (the Whirlpool Galaxy) comes from Bud Guinn who hails from the U.S.A. and frequents the American astronomy forum “Our Dark Skies”.  Unbelievably this is the “first light image” taken using Bud’s new remote facility he recently commissioned with a couple of friends.  Details are as follows:

Telescope: A&M 360mm R/C F/8, ParamountME
Camera FLI IMG-6303 w/CFW7
Custom Scientific HaLRGB Filters
Exposure Times (Clear) 15x10m, 3x20m (R)16x10m (G) 9x10m (B) 18x10m Bin 1×1 (HA) 8x20min Bin 1×1

The remote facility is now in “monsoon season” so this first spectacular image is the only one produced so far.  We eagerly await the follow-up images Bud 🙂

M51 (the Whirlpool galaxy, NGC5194) lies only 15 million light years away (in galactic terms that’s close) in the constellation Canes Venatici (that’s the same constellation that contains La Superba).  It is clear that there is a gravitational interaction with the galaxy NGC5195 and a thin bridge of gas can be seen connecting M51 to neighbouring NGC5195.  M51 as you can see is one of the most impressive examples of a face-on spiral galaxy.  Thank you for sending in this truly superb image Bud 🙂

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I just came across a load of very old imaging files taken using the original Hyperstar (no collimation screws) and a tiny little H9C one-shot colour CCD (1.4 Megapixels from memory).  Did a pretty good job all told, and this image was a huge pile (probably in excess of 100) short exposure subs (a minute or less per sub).  I wanted to catch the “thuderstorm region” between M43 and NGC1977.  I will post up more memory joggers as and when I find them.

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