Friday, July 13, 2012

Touring Sagittarius

Tuesday, June 10 was an exceptionally clear night.  Unfortunately, we had only 1.5 hours of true darkness before the last quarter moon crashed the party at around 12:30am.  We did a bit of visual observing since Randy adjusted the Meade RCX400's focus from "oooh, that's cool"  to "Holy Crap!" sharp.

Then we strapped my D90 with the business end of the William Optics Gran Turismo 81mm f9 telescope attached to the top of the RCX and got to work.  These images could have used quite a few more frames to stack but with the moonrise in 1 hour, time was of the essence.  I'd like to try again closer to the new moon.

Touring around the busy galactic center.  First we hit the Omega or Swan Nebula (M17) which, as you can see, is a nifty shaped star forming H II region located in the densely populated constellation Sagittarius.  I flipped this image 180 degrees to better show the "swan" shape

8, 1min frames stacked with DeepSkyStacker

The nearby Lagoon Nebula (M8),  also found in Sagittarius is a gorgeous emission nebula churning out stars like a champ.
6, 1min frames stacked with DeepSkyStacker

Just above Sagittarius in the constellation Serpens lies the Eagle Nebula.  The Pillars of Creation create that tiny silhouette of an eagle soaring upward clutching a fish.  An interesting fact (I just learned) is that the pillars have likely been destroyed by a supernova that could have been seen from Earth 1000-2000 years ago.  The light is just now reaching us from approx 6000 light years (35,271,752,239,101,650 miles!!!) away.
The mind-boggling size and distance of cosmic objects means that most of the things we see are drastically changed or completely gone at the same moment we are viewing them.

4, 1min frames stacked with DeepSkyStacker

This is the epic Sagittarius Star Cloud, a massive star field of many different kinds of stars giving it the many different colors.  This cloud is home to some of the oldest stars known.
1 min single exp

Monday, July 2, 2012

Milky WOW

Friday, June 29:

With a 10 day old moon setting at 2AM, I decided to head to the observatory, if only to visit with friends and relax a bit.  The sky was mostly overcast, even showing us a 22 deg Moon ring at one point.  As the Moon made it's final plummet around 1:30am the clouds parted and revealed a beautiful sky that was sooo worth staying up for.  We waited patiently for the clear sky to darken after Moonset and opened the roof.  We hopped around Cygnus, Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Lyra, and (of course) Sagittarius.  Notable views of Wild Duck (M11), Dumbell Nebula (M27), Ring Nebula (M57), Double Cluster, and the the gorgeous Andromeda Galaxy.  Unfortunately, it was too late and bright to do any astrophotography with the scope.

The stars started to dance in the eyepieces after about an hour of viewing as we were pushing 3:30am so we called it a night.  Before I packed up the gear I took a 180 degree Panorama of the milkyway from horizon to horizon.

10 frames @ 18mm 30sec f3.5 ISO1600

Here's a single frame I took of the Milky Way flowing through the Summer Triangle, which is made up of the stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair.  There's lots of great stuff in there but look hard in this frame to find Brocchi's cluster, aka: the "Coathanger Cluster.

18mm 30sec f3.5 ISO2000