Monday, October 20, 2008

Second Glance

First Light with my new telescope was great, but not ideal because of haze and humidity in the air, along with light from a Hunters Moon. I had a chance to go out again the night of October 19th. I took additional pictures of M31/M110, M32, M33, and the Double Cluster (NGC869 & NGC884). They turned out much better without all the light pollution. Here are the pictures.

This picture of M31 (galaxy at left), M110 (appears as a star in M31's star cloud) and M32 (smaller galaxy to the right of M31) is untouched and unmodified. I should get better shots as I learn to track better, because I will be able to take longer exposures.

M33, The Pinwheel Galaxy actually showed up in the frame, which even surprized me. There is a lot of light pollution in my neighborhood, so it is almost impossible to see faint objects when viewing from my front yard. I eneded up shooting this picture in the dark, and was surprised when M33 appeared in the frame.

This 1.5 minute exposure of NGC869 (half of the Double Cluster) reveals many more stars than my original picture taken 10/11/08. (See my previous posting)

This 1.5 minute exposure of NGC884 (other half of the Double Cluster) reveals many more stars than my original picture taken 10/11/08. (See my previous posting)

All in all it was a successful evening under the stars. I will post more as time permits. I hope to catch Jupiter and Venus later in the week.

Enjoying Clear Skies!


P.S. - I have to pick a new name, because my wife said StarPilot sounds corny. Actually, she said it sounded 'gay'. I am taking suggestions.

Jim a.k.a. (soon to be formerly) StarPilot


Sunday, October 12, 2008

First Light with the Orion (Celestron) 9.25" SCT

First Light with the Orion 9.25" Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope (made by Celestron) actually occured a week ago at the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club - Star Gaze 2008.

That night, I did not take any astro pictures, but instead enjoyed looking at deep space and solar system objects with my new telescope tube.

The views were beyond my expectations, and better than anything I have owned before.

First Light was on Jupiter as twilight gave way to night. The atmospheric bands were clearly visible, but alaas the Great Red Spot was on the other side of the planet. Other objects that I viewed were M8&M20, M16, M17, M31, M32, NGC869&NGC884 (Double Cluster), M11 and of course, the Moon.

The most spectacular sight was M11 (The Wild Duck Cluster). I had a Baader Hyperion 17mm eyepiece attached at the time, and many attendees could not believe the clarity of the stars, and even saw deep into the clusters center. They felt like they were walking in space.

On Saturday, Octover 11th I finally had a chance to test the Orion 9.25" SCT's astrophotography abilities. I was dealing with a near-full Moon and haze in the sky, along with some dew on the corrector lens, so the pictures aren't the greatest. Also, I only took 30-second shots, which do not bring out faint deep-space objects.

Below, are a few shots that I took. (Click on the pictures for a larger image)

This has to be the most crisp Moon picture I have ever taken.

NGC869 is one of two star clusters visible in what is called the Double Cluster. This was a 30-second shot. An exposure of 1 - 2 minutes would reveal several more faint stars.

NGC884 is the other star cluster visible in the Double Cluster.

The last picture is of one of my favorite space objects: The Andromeda Galaxy. This galaxy is our closest neighbor and is made up of three galaxies. The bright main galaxy, M31 is at-left, M110, a small galaxy is a faint object 1inch to the left of M31. M32 is a small galaxy on the right-side of the picture. A longer exposure on a moonless night will reveal much more detail on all three galaxies. The hazy granular texture on M31 is caused by dew forming on the corrector lens.

As time permits, I will take additional pictures with my old and new telescope and add them to this Blog.

Clear Skies!