Archive for November, 2011

Having sat here for an hour or so not believing I could possibly have bleached all the colour out of Capella in the imaging I decided to reprocess the image from scratch and got this result.  O.K. so that’s a lot better now 🙂

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I imaged Capella at f10 a few nights back with the C11 (still not collimated the camera to the scope properly, but will work on it) and got a nice bright yellow star with a pretty boring background.  O.K. so use the Sky 90 to get a much bigger field of view with a nice bright yellow star in the middle.  Went out last night and took 28 subs at 3-minutes per sub.  Not good.  I bleached Capella out with 3-minute subs (I wasn’t actually expecting to do that) and now I have to retake the data with shorter subs, probably just a minute will be more than enough which seeing as that is close to my delay time between images as I use dither is getting a bit silly (I am effectively throwing away half my imaging time just to get rid of hot pixels).  Such is the life of a deep-sky imager – pure frustration!

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This week the New Forest Observatory is honoured to present the masterful work of the man who is in my opinion, currently the best amateur deep-sky imager on the planet – may I introduce you to Rogelio Bernal Andreo who hails from Sunnyvale, California, U.S.A.

Steve Cannistra beat me to imaging CTB1 the supernova remnant in Cassiopeia and Rogelio beat me to another project I have had on the whiteboard for years, namely an image of the whole of Cassiopeia at high resolution.  Rogelio has created a really outstanding deep-sky image here – look at the full extent of the Gamma Cass nebulosity he has captured – have you ever seen the Gamma Cassiopeia nebulosity looking like this before?  I certainly haven’t.  And all the open star clusters (which Cassiopeia is noted for) really make this a striking image that I can wander around for hours at a time.  But this is not just a one-off piece of  “lucky” imaging, this is but one of dozens of truly ground-breaking works of art captured and created by Rogelio.  Rogelio’s Cassiopeia image can be seen at much higher resolution here, please visit his web site and take a good look at this image.  Here’s what Rogelio has to say about his Cassiopeia image:

“When I was a kid, the first constellation that called my attention wasn’t Orion or the Big Dipper. It was Cassiopeia, the “W”, and I would immediately go look for it and recognize it. Cassiopeia wasn’t my early call into astronomy, but for a while it was the only reason for me to look up at the night sky from a light polluted city in southern Spain “Look, there’s Cassiopeia!”… Well, maybe it was some sort of an early call…

This past week, during four different outings at three different sites and around 550 more miles in my SUV, I managed to capture this beautiful “starscape”.

There’s no better way to (hopefully) enjoy this image but at the largest resolution possible. And while the large image linked above is over 5600 pixels wide, it is still 1/2 of its original resolution, but I felt I had to reduce its size to avoid producing a JPEG over 12mb even at 55% quality (which is already quite degraded). The large image linked above weights almost 6mb (that’s at 60% quality), so if you have a slow connection, be aware of that.

It’s not a picture of some gorgeous and prominent celestial structures such as nebulae, galaxies, etc. but it’s a very special image for me. I hope you enjoy it!

It may seem a simple image to capture and process, but processing was a bit challenging indeed. First, it’s a 3×2 mosaic, so all the challenges associated with mosaics apply here – resolved with more or less fortune. Also, getting the subtle – but real – changes in background illumination took some work. Except for the darker areas, that are more prominent in part because of the “lack” of stars, you’ll notice that areas with a brighter background don’t really have more or less stars than other areas with a slight darker background, and pulling these background illumination differences with a swarm of stars in front can be tricky.

I find it’s rather interesting to surf around the image looking for star clusters, and of course, there are plenty of them. Some people may feel that the Gamma Cas and Pacman nebulae could have been selectively processed to become more prominent, or perhaps more detailed, but although any field swarmed by stars can get in the way of other features and often times our goal is to give way to the dust or gas rather than the stars, I think it’s obvious that the stars and nothing else are indeed the protagonist of this image.. Why let anything else steal the show?”

Indeed Rogelio, that’s exactly how I feel about this image as well.

Rogelio’s work leaves me in a bit of a quandry regarding what to show for future Deep-Sky Images of the Week as I could easily turn this section into “Rogelio’s Deep-Sky Image of the Week”.  However, I will certainly be showing other great amateur images over the coming weeks, but don’t be too surprised when I put up the next Rogelio masterpiece 🙂

Thank you Rogelio for sharing this most inspiring image with us all.


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Here is a wide-field composite image of M78 and its relation to Barnard’s Loop taken using both Sky90 and Hyperstar I data.

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Steve Collingwood (Telescope House, Lingfield, Sussex) kindly spent a not inconsiderable amount of time collimating my 2 Sky 90 refractors.   Steve showed me the process as he worked away on his custom-built rig.  All very impressive and now I just need to fit the scopes back in the mini-WASP frame and see if they held onto their collimation on the trip home.

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Here’s Aldebaran in the correct orientation (North is now up) and a touch of extra processing.

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Clear night last night and no obtrusive Moon – only one Sky 90 operational at the moment (I’m taking 2 x Sky 90s to Steve Collingwood tomorrow to see if he can collimate them for me).  Anyway – managed to get 21 x 5-minute subs on one of my favourite stars – Aldebaran – the eye of the Bull.  Winter is here, well at least the Winter constellations are now high in the sky.

Image needs to be rotated 180 degrees for North up 🙂

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This week’s jaw-droppingly beautiful Image of the Week is from an accomplished imager based Down-Under, Alex Cherney.

I met Alex at the Starmus Festival held last June in Tenerife where I was a judge of the deep-space image submissions.  Alex’s hauntingly beautiful night-time time-lapse video taken on the south Australian coast was the highly-deserved overall competition winner.  Part of Alex’s prize for winning the competition was an hour’s imaging time on the biggest telescope on the planet – the Gran Canaria telescope on La Palma – and as I almost continually told poor Alex during the week on Tenerife, I wasn’t the slightest bit jealous or envious 🙂 🙂

Here are the image details as provided by Alex:

Date:  27/06/2011
Camera:  Nikon D700
Lens:  Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 @14mm
Exposure:  7x30sec, ISO 3200, f/2.8
Mount: Stationary Tripod
Post-processing:  Stacking  and de-rotation in DeepSkyStacker, further processing in Adobe Photoshop CS5
Link to blog article:

This image taken by the Gran Canaria telescope on La Palma shows the Zodiacal Light in what is probably the best representation of this phenomenon that I have ever seen.  Many thanks for sharing this magic moment with us all Alex.

Can I suggest you take a moment to look at the amazing time-lapse work on Alex’s web-site, it it truly inspirational.

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This week’s Deep-Sky Image is provided by fellow PAIG forumite Peter Shah who kindly sent in this beautiful capture – The Ghost nebula, vdb141, in the constellation Cepheus.

Peter tell us that:

Van den Berg 141, the Ghost nebula is a challenging object for imagers.  It is a faint reflection nebula in Cepheus close to the much brighter NGC7023, The Iris nebula.  It is an area that requires hours of exposure time to pull out the delicate faint dusty regions.  A dark site, long sub-exposures and good quality flats are crucial for pulling out the low signal emissions in this object.  Equipment used was an f#3.8 AG12 Astrograph Newtonian and a Starlight Xpress SXVF-H35 full frame mono camera.  Imaged in the U.K. grabbing a few frames at a time over several weeks between rain showers, conditions were variable with haze and poor seeing at times.  Exposure times were 13 x 900 seconds of luminance, 9 x 530 seconds of blue, 7 x 600 seconds of red and finally 6 x 420 seconds of green.

Many thanks Peter for sharing this excellent image of vdb141 with us 🙂

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Although it is the beginning of the long darks nights this month, and if only the weather played ball you could be imaging from about 5:30 p.m. on – November is a completely frustrating month as you never seem to get a clear night’s sky.  This does seem to be a yearly occurence, so I checked my imaging log book which goes back to winter 2007 – and sure enough November has been a write-off imaging wise every year since 2007!!  So November is just as bad as June (when it doesn’t get properly dark) as far as I’m concerned.  It’s also not too good for most of May (light evenings) and for most of July too (light evenings again).  So that’s 4 months written off not counting intrusive Moon and bad weather at other times of the year.  Hmm – beginning to think this is not the best hobby to have in the U.K. 🙂

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