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This week’s object is not deep-sky, it’s our closest star – the Sun.  And look at the beauty of our nearest star as captured by Selsey astronomer Pete Lawrence.  What a truly remarkable image – I would have that blown up to A0 and it would be framed on the wall over the fireplace, I would never grow tired of looking at it.  Marvellous image Pete, and the details for capturing this superb image are provided by Pete below:

“This image of Sol was taken through a Solarscope SF70 double-stacked h-alpha filter set fitted to a Vixen FL-102S refractor. The camera used was a Lumenera SKYnyx 2-0M high frame-rate planetary camera. This is a 9-pane mosaic, each pane being distilled out of a collection of around 500 still images, processed in Registax. The 9 processed panes were then manually stitched together to produce as smooth a full disk image as possible and flattened. The main disk was selected and copied as a separate layer allowing me to process the surface and prominence regions separately. False colours were applied to the original monochrome captures using a levels adjustment. Then following a few contrast and levels tweaks, both layers were merged together to produce the end result.”

All that hard after-acquisition processing sure paid off with this one Pete – a truly lovely, and awe-inspiring image 🙂

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The image for this week comes from fellow PAIG forumite Harry Page – with yet another superb deep-sky offering – this time it’s the beautiful Iris nebula with its surrounding brown dusty clouds.  This region of Cepheus is another one of my happy hunting grounds and I clearly remember grabbing some early Iris images with the original Hyperstar and the little H9C camera – they were nowhere near as good as this image of course 🙂

Harry provided the following data for his image.

1 Luminance 610 minutes

2 RGB 80 minutes each

3) IDAS light-pollution filter

4) 14″ Newtonian at F#3.75 with an Orion Optics corrector

5) Processed in Pixinsight and captured in AA5

6) All subs 10 minutes unguided ( new TDM on scope )

7) Camera Starlight Xpress H35

The Pixinsight processing included  DBE to remove gradients , histogram stretch , hdr wavelets ,  some noise reduction and finally a bit of a saturation boost.

You can see a higher resolution version of Harry’s Iris nebula image at the address below, I strongly recommend you take a look, the higher resolution makes a huge difference!

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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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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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Steve Cannistra needs no introduction as one of the very best amateur deep-sky imagers on the planet – and he holds down a responsible day job too 🙂  When I first started imaging it was Steve’s name and web site that I first chanced upon, I discovered Rob Gendler quite a while later.  Steve’s work has always highly impressed me (especially as he did a lot of great stuff with the little Sky 90 refractor) – but this fantastic image of the supernova remnant CTB1 in Cassiopeia really does it for me – especially as this is my Nemesis object.  My light pollution makes this faint one right at the limits of what I can capture with the IDAS filter and RGB one-shot colour camera, and I have a bunch of very unimpressive faint red smoke rings to prove it.  However – I have far from given up on this object and I will return to it with the mini-WASP array and some narrowband H-alpha filtering – that’ll get the little blighter!

However, as you can see, Steve managed to get a great image of the little blighter quite a while back, and it is one of the best images of this object that I have seen.  It’s an interesting story how I came across CTB1 in the first place.  There was an article in the “Practical Astronomer” magazine called “Six little clusters all in a row” which described a bunch of open clusters in Cassiopeia lying close together that could be seen in the field of view of a low-powered scope.  But what was much more interesting than the clusters that were being discussed was the “half a smoke ring” right at the top of the black and white image that was CTB1.  It just struck a chord – I thought this was one of the best deep-space objects I’d ever seen – and I wanted to get a great image of it.  That’s probably why it has fought back at me so long and hard 🙂

Well Steve beat it, and here are the details to go with his image:
Date:  Ha- September 19, 2008;  RGB- September 23, 2008
Scope:  Takahashi FSQ106 at f5 on the Takahashi NJP Mount
Autoguider:  SBIG ST-402 with 60mm guidescope, focal length 227mm
Camera:  STL11K -20C
Filters:  Baader RGB filter set; Baader 7nm Ha filter, all 50.8mm unmounted
Exposures:  Ha 360′; R 60′; G 60′; B 90′.  Total exposure 9.5 hours
Post-processing:  Calibrated, aligned, and Sigma Clip combined in Maxim, followed by DDP in ImagesPlus (IP).  Further processing in Photoshop CS (16 bit)

You can see a higher resolution image on Steve’s site here.

Thank you for sharing a great deep-sky image with us Steve!

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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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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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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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The second New Forest Observatory “Deep-Sky Image of the Week” has been created by astrophotographer  Annie Morris – another PAIG imaging lady (come on guys, where are your images?  You’re being totally creamed by the girls!!!).  I had absolutely no problem or hesitation in choosing this remarkable narrowband panorama of the North America nebula/Pelican nebula region from Annie as the “Deep-Sky Image of the Week” for this week 🙂  Here are the imaging details provided by Annie:

This image has a total integration time of 72 hours and took 3 months to complete using an Orion EON80ED and Atik 314L+.

I have mapped this in a modified Hubble Palette and used my 58 hr Ha layer as Luminance. I have only been doing astrophotography for two years and this was my astro-anniversary project.
Here are all the details:
Image date: May 21, 2011-August 21, 2011
Image type: Full narrowband (SII, Ha, OIII) mosaic
Camera: Atik 314L+
Guide camera: Starlight XPress Lodestar
Scope: Orion EON 80ED
Filters: Astronomik Ha, SII, & OIII
Total Integration Time: 72 hours
Integration time/channel: Ha-58 hrs 40 min, OIII-6 hrs 20 min, SII-7 hrs
Mapping: Modified HST (SII, Ha, OIII), Luminance (Ha)

I think you have pipped me on total imaging time with this one Annie – my maximum is somewhere between 60 and 70 hours (pretty sure not more than 70) for M31 and for the whole of the Veil nebula which was a 2-framer taken in RGB, H-alpha and OIII.  So I can fully appreciate the mammoth effort that you have put into creating this amazing skyscape 🙂  You have also given me a huge incentive to get the mini-WASP array focus trained for H-alpha, H-beta, OIII and SII filters so that I can start adding a bit of narrowband to the one-shot colour data as well.

Please submit your image (less than 5Mb JPEG please) and some image/processing details to if you would like your image to be considered for the New Forest Observatory “Deep-Sky Image of the Week”.

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