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NGC 2683 (Spiral Galaxy)

Image Details:

Camera: Canon Digital Rebel (300D)
Mount: Celestron AS-GT
Scope: Celestron C8-N (8" f/5 Newtonian)
Configuration: Prime Focus
Additional Optics: Celestron/Baader Multi Purpose Coma Corrector (MPCC)
Filter: None
Effective Focal Length: 1000mm
Effective Focal Ratio: f/5
Exposure: 30 x 4min @ ISO 1600
Total Exposure: 2hrs, 0min
Date: 4/10/2005 9:50:00 PM PDT (start)
Location: Saratoga, CA, USA
Acquisition: DSLRfocus
Focus: DSLRFocus
Dithering: Manual
Guiding: GuideDog via Philips ToUcam Pro II (840k) through Orion ST80 w/ Celestron 2x "Kit" Barlow

Processing:

  • IRIS: Dark subtraction, flat field, registration, gradient removal
  • JimP: Kappa-Sigma Stacking, White balance, ASINH stretching
  • Photoshop: Levels, cropping, JPG conversion
  • Neat Image: Noise attenuation

Image Description:

This is NGC 2683, an edge-on spiral galaxy in the constellation of Lynx. I got everything set up and ready to shoot and then the clouds moved in. Thankfully, the clouds parted at about 9:45pm and I had not given up yet. I'm glad I didn't. This is a crop of the full-size frame. North is up.

 
Sunset over the Pacific
SaratogaSkies Jim Solomon's Astropics

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Sunset over the Pacific

Mouse-over to see annotations. (Requires Javascript) Click to see high-res version.

Image Details:

Camera: Canon 5D
Mount: None
Scope: Canon EF 24-105 mm f/4L IS USM lens
Configuration: Prime Focus
Additional Optics: n/a (Prime)
Filter: None
Effective Focal Length: 105mm
Effective Focal Ratio: f/8
Exposure: 1/41.5 sec
Total Exposure: 0hrs, 0min
Date: 5/6/2008 8:13 PM PDT
Location: Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve
Acquisition: Manual
Focus: Auto
Dithering: None
Guiding: None

Processing:

  • Canon Digital Professional Pro: CR2 to TIF conversion
  • Photoshop: Shadows/Highlights, Levels, Resizing, sRGB color space conversion, JPG Conversion

Image Description:

This is a hurried but nonetheless pleasing shot of the sun setting over the Pacific. This is shot roughly toward Half Moon Bay, which had clearly been socked in by the Marine Layer along with most of the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area. This was one of the first shots I captured before the “main event,” which was this shot of Mercury and the Moon setting together over the Pacific. See the writeup on that image for more information on the location from which this is shot. A higher resolution image is also available. Celestial North is as indicated on the mouse-over. Sunset was at a compass heading of WNW that evening.

 
SaratogaSkies Jim Solomon's Astropics

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SaratogaSkies Jim Solomon's Astropics

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SaratogaSkies Jim Solomon's Astropics

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SaratogaSkies Jim Solomon's Astropics

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SaratogaSkies Jim Solomon's Astropics

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SaratogaSkies Jim Solomon's Astropics

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M13 (Great Cluster in Hercules)
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M13 (Great Cluster in Hercules)

Mouse-over to see annotations. (Requires Javascript) Click to see high-res version.

Image Details:

Camera: SBIG ST-2000XM
Mount: Astro-Physics 1200GTO
Scope: AP Starfire 160EDF APO Refractor
Configuration: Prime Focus
Additional Optics: n/a (Prime)
Filter: Astrodon LRGB I-Series Filters
Effective Focal Length: 1200mm
Effective Focal Ratio: f/7.5
Exposure: 8 × 8min @ -20°C (Lum); {16R, 16G, 16B} × 2min @ -15°C
Total Exposure: 2hrs, 40min
Date: 6/10/2008 11:37 PM; 7/25/2009 11:12 PM (Start)
Location: Saratoga, CA, USA
Acquisition: CCDSoft
Focus: FocusMax
Dithering: None
Guiding: Self Guided

Processing:

  • IRIS: Registration, gradient removal
  • JimP: Dark subtraction, Flat field, Kappa-Sigma Stacking, White balance, LRGB combining, ASINH stretching
  • Photoshop: JPG conversion

Image Description:

This is M13, aka, the Great (globular) Cluster in Hercules. I captured the RGB of this image with the TMB 152/1200, and the Luminance about a year later with the AP 160 Starfire EDF. The RGB was taken on a pretty icky night, with FWHMs well over 3”. But the Luminance exposures, taken through the exquisite AP 160, all had sub-2” FWHMs, on a night of fantastic seeing, at least for my location. Some minor DEC backlash adjustments resulted in pretty good guiding too. Note that there is absolutely no sharpening applied to this image. All in all, this is by far my best image of a globular cluster. A higher-resolution image is also available. North is up.

 
NGC 6960 (Cirrus Nebula)
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NGC 6960 (Cirrus Nebula)

[Hα+R G B]

Mouse-over to see annotations. (Requires Javascript) Click to see high-res version.

Image Details:

Camera: Mofidied Canon Rebel XT (350D): Hutech Type I Filter Replacement
Mount: Celestron AS-GT
Scope: Celestron C8-N (8" f/5 Newtonian)
Configuration: Prime Focus
Additional Optics: Celestron/Baader Multi Purpose Coma Corrector (MPCC)
Filter: Hutech Hα Front Filter (HA-FF)
Effective Focal Length: 1000mm
Effective Focal Ratio: f/5
Exposure: 30 x 8min @ ISO 400 (RGB), 30 x 8min @ ISO 1600 (Hα)
Total Exposure: 8hrs, 0min
Date: 9/17/2006 (RGB); 9/19/2006 (Hα)
Location: Saratoga, CA, USA
Acquisition: DSLRfocus
Focus: DSLRFocus
Dithering: GADFly 1.0.5
Guiding: GuideDog via Philips ToUcam Pro II (840k) through Orion ST80 w/ Celestron 2x "Kit" Barlow

Processing:

  • IRIS: Dark subtraction, registration, gradient removal
  • JimP: Flat field, Kappa-Sigma Stacking, White balance, HαRGB combination, ASINH stretching
  • Photoshop: Levels, cropping, sharpening, JPG conversion
  • Neat Image: Noise reduction

Image Description:

This is NGC 6960, aka the Cirrus/Filamentary/Lace-work Nebula and the Western portion of the Veil Nebula, a supernova remnant in the constellation of Cygnus. This image consists of 4hrs of RGB exposure and 4hrs of Hα exposure over two nights.

Unlike my previous Hα+R G B images, in this one I used Hα for Luminance, and the RGB data for color after first blending a smidgeon of Hα into the Red channel. I suppose that makes this technically an Hα:Hα+R:G:B image. Using Hα for Luminance gives a very high contrast result, with added benefit of attenuating the star field which otherwise tends to overwhelm the rather faint nebula. And blending a bit of Hα into the Red channel prevents the salmon-i-zation (salmonella!? <g>) — i.e., the washout — of the red region that results from simple luminance layering in Photoshop. Robert Gendler has an explanation of this technique at his web site. Mousing-over the image shows the RGB stack, without any of the Hα data. Notice how the Veil tends to get lost in the Milky Way star field in that RGB-only image.

A higher-resolution image is also available. North is left.

 
Outer Planets (Jupiter Uranus Neptune)
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Outer Planets (Jupiter Uranus Neptune)

[Hα+R G B]

Image Details:

Camera: SBIG ST-2000XM
Mount: Astro-Physics 1200GTO
Scope: AP Starfire 160EDF APO Refractor
Configuration: Negative Projection (Barlowed)
Additional Optics: TeleVue 5x PowerMate
Filter: Astrodon RGB I-Series Filters
Effective Focal Length: 6185mm
Effective Focal Ratio: f/38.7
Exposure: Jupiter: 50 × 0.1s; Uranus & Neptune: 100 × 1s {R,G,B}
Total Exposure: 0hrs, 3min
Date: 8/26/2008 9:45 PM PDT
Location: Saratoga, CA, USA
Acquisition: CCDSoft
Focus: FocusMax
Dithering: None
Guiding: None

Processing:

  • IRIS: Registration, Wavelets, White balance, G2V calibration
  • JimP: Dark subtraction, Flat field, Kappa-Sigma Stacking
  • Photoshop: Compositing, JPG conversion

Image Description:

This is my first attempt at imaging planets with an astronomical CCD camera, as opposed to with a webcam or DSLR. Uranus and Neptune are particularly difficult targets, given their tiny apparent sizes (3.7” and 2.3”, respectively). I did a G2V star color calibration, corrected for atmospheric extinction, in order to get as accurate a color balance on Uranus and Neptune as possible. On a decent monitor, the difference in color between those two should be fairly obvious. All in all, given the wrong tool for the job — a CCD with a painfully slow frame rate — and the awful seeing, I'm pretty pleased with the results. Jupiter was done as a “control” group to make sure I didn't get carried away with wavelet processing. In fact, I used the same wavelet coefficients on all of the individual images. The image is a composite pasted together in Photoshop of the highly cropped, but nonetheless full resolution images. Hover the mouse over the image to see the labels, although such should not be necessary given the highly educated nature of the visitors to my web site! <smile> North is up.

 
NGC 7635 & M52 (Bubble Nebula & Open Cluster)
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NGC 7635 & M52 (Bubble Nebula & Open Cluster)

[Hα+R G B]

Mouse-over to see annotations. (Requires Javascript) Click to see high-res version.

Image Details:

Camera: Mofidied Canon Rebel XT (350D): Hutech Type I Filter Replacement
Mount: Celestron AS-GT
Scope: Celestron C8-N (8" f/5 Newtonian)
Configuration: Prime Focus
Additional Optics: Celestron/Baader Multi Purpose Coma Corrector (MPCC)
Filter: None
Effective Focal Length: 1000mm
Effective Focal Ratio: f/5
Exposure: 45 x 4min @ ISO 400
Total Exposure: 3hrs, 0min
Date: 12/2/2005 7:34:47 PM PST (start)
Location: Saratoga, CA, USA
Acquisition: DSLRfocus
Focus: DSLRFocus
Dithering: GADFly 1.0.5
Guiding: GuideDog via Philips ToUcam Pro II (840k) through Orion ST80 w/ Celestron 2x "Kit" Barlow

Processing:

  • IRIS: Dark subtraction, registration, gradient removal
  • JimP: Flat field, Kappa-Sigma Stacking, White balance, ASINH stretching
  • Photoshop: Levels, cropping, JPG conversion
  • Neat Image: Noise reduction

Image Description:

This is NGC 7635, aka the Bubble Nebula, and open cluster M52 in the constellation of Cassiopeia. I used shorter subexposures (4min) at a lower ISO (400) than some previous shots (8min, ISO 800) in order to prevent severe over-saturation of the bright stars in M52. It worked pretty well, at the expense of slightly less detail in the faint regions of the Bubble Nebula. It was nice to get outside and grab this shot, as the weather here has been awful and I was in danger of a complete "shutout" this cycle. A higher-resolution image is also available. North is up.

 
M42 (The Great Nebula in Orion)
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M42 (The Great Nebula in Orion)

[Hα+R G B]

Mouse-over to see annotations. (Requires Javascript) Click to see high-res version.

Image Details:

Camera: Mofidied Canon Rebel XT (350D): Hutech Type I Filter Replacement
Mount: Celestron AS-GT
Scope: Orion ED80 (80mm f/7.5 APO Refractor)
Configuration: Focal Reduced
Additional Optics: William Optics 2" APO 0.8x Reducer/Field Flattener
Filter: Hutech Hα Front Filter (HA-FF)
Effective Focal Length: 480mm
Effective Focal Ratio: f/6
Exposure: 31x4m, 11x30s @ ISO 400 (RGB); 21x8m, 10x1m, 10x15s @ ISO 1600 (Hα)
Total Exposure: 5hrs, 10min
Date: 2/20/2006 (RGB); 1/7/2007 (Hα)
Location: Saratoga, CA, USA
Acquisition: DSLRfocus
Focus: DSLRFocus
Dithering: GADFly 1.0.5
Guiding: GuideDog via Philips ToUcam Pro II (840k) through Orion ST80 w/ Celestron 2x "Kit" Barlow

Processing:

  • IRIS: Dark subtraction, registration, gradient removal, high dynamic range compositing
  • JimP: Flat field, Kappa-Sigma Stacking, White balance, HαRGB combination, ASINH stretching
  • Photoshop: Levels, cropping, JPG conversion
  • Neat Image: Noise reduction

Image Description:

This is an update of my previous M42 image, with 3hrs of Hα exposure added to the existing RGB data. The Hα really helps bring out many of the features in this busy field.

To create the HαRGB composite, I used the original RGB data for Hue and Saturation, and used the equivalent of Photoshop's “Screen” blending mode to combine the luminance of the original RGB data with the (grayscale) Hα data. This Screen-blended Luminance, along with the Hue and Saturation of the original RGB image, was then converted back to RGB. This method seemed to preserve details in the non-Hα-emitting regions, provide excellent detail in the Hα regions, and preserve the colors.

Processing M42 provides a significant challenge because its dynamic range is so enormous. Long exposures are required to bring out the faint wisps of nebulosity, but those long exposures have the core/trapezium region completely blown out. So, short exposures are required to capture the detail in the bright, core/trapezium region. The typical method to combine the short and long exposures is using layer masks in Photoshop, as described well by Jerry Lodriguss. But for this image, I used IRIS's merge_hdr command to automatically merge and blend the various exposures into hdr (High Dynamic Range) images. The technique worked extremely well throughout the entire Hα image, as well as in the core region of the RGB image. However, it struggled to merge some of the clipped stars in the RGB image (away from the field center), perhaps due to registration imperfections. All in all, though, I'm extremely happy with this technique, and kudos to Christian Buil (author of the IRIS software) for this implementation of HDR.

Mouse-over the image to see the Hα image in grayscale. Mouse-off to see the HαRGB composite. A higher-resolution image is also available. North is up.