2/20/2014 M16 astrophoto to appear in Sky and Telescope’s May issue

Hello Everyone,

I recently learned that my astrophoto of M16 (aka The Eagle Nebula) will appear in Sky and Telescope magazine’s May issue!

I’m told that the image will appear in the gallery section and will be about  a half-page in size.

Getting an image published in Sky and Telescope is one of the top honors for an amateur astrophotographer, so I was pretty thrilled to hear the news.  Since they will be paying me $50 for the image perhaps I can now say that I’m a “pro astrophotographer”?

I think I need a bigger telescope.  :)


10/13/2013 M16 The Eagle Nebula

Hello Everyone!

After several months away from the world of astrophotography and image processing we are back with our first major imaging project of the summer.  The image presented here is that of the Messier 16 (M16), also known as the Eagle Nebula.  It is located approximately 6500 light years from Earth in the constellation Serpens.  The center area of this region of space was the site of the famous Hubble Space Telescope photo, “Pillars of Creation.”  While I do think my colors are slightly better, the Hubble image does seem have the edge on image detail.  ;)

To the left and down from the pillars is located a fantastic stellar spire.  As with the pillars, this area is also a likely star forming region.

M16 is presented here in Hubble palette:

Red = S II (ionized sulfur)
Green = HA (hydrogen alpha)
Blue = O III (doubly ionized oxygen, having two electrons removed)

Here are the technical details:

M16 – The Eagle Nebula
Capture date: July 8, 2013 – August 5, 2013
LRGB image using Ha for Luminance, SII for Red, OIII for Blue and Ha for Green
Astrodon filters: 5nm HA, 5nm SII and 3nm OIII
17 exposures of OIII, with 20 minute subs each
18 exposures of SII, with 20 minute subs each
26 exposures of HA, with 20 minute subs each
Imaging scope: Astro-Tech AT10RC Ritchey Chrétien at f/6.7 (native f/8)
Focal reducer: Astro Physics CCDT67 focal reducer
Imaging camera: QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera: Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Mount: Celestron CGE hypertuned by Deep Space Products
Capture and stacking in Maxim DL
All other processing in Photoshop

Over 20 hours of starlight exposures went into this project.

M16(en)


2/10/2013 NGC6888 Reprocessed

Hello Everyone,

I also spent some time today reprocessing a set of data from 2011.  Below you will find a completely new processing of NGC6888 (The Crescent Nebula), using LRD fat tail deconvolution for sharpening.

Enjoy!

LRGB2_flattened_final


2/10/2013 NGC 6992

Greetings Everyone!

After taking a few months break from image processing I decided to jump back into this past weekend.

Since the weather in Seattle isn’t exactly perfect for imaging in February, this latest image was produced from data which I captured September – October, 2012. This particular object is called NGC 6992, otherwise known as the Eastern Veil nebula.

This is my first attempt to capture the veil nebula. It’s quite a large structure, so it isn’t possible to capture the entire object with my scope. The good news is that many sections of the nebula are fantastic and beautiful just on their own, and I do plan to image these other parts of the nebula in 2013.

From the wikipedia artice, “The Veil Nebula is a cloud of heated and ionized gas and dust in the constellation Cygnus. It constitutes the visible portions of the Cygnus Loop (radio source W78, or Sharpless 103), a large but relatively faint supernova remnant. The source supernova exploded some 5,000 to 8,000 years ago, and the remnants have since expanded to cover an area roughly 3 degrees in diameter (about 6 times the diameter, or 36 times the area, of the full moon). The distance to the nebula is not precisely known, but Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) data supports a distance of about 1,470 light-years.”

From an image processing standpoint, I have been wanting to make some progress with coming up with better imaging sharpening techniques for quite some time now. Most techniques I’ve tried so far produce halos around stars, and many add a sort of blotchy noise to the resulting image. I have been trying to find something better. After some searching I ran across “Fat Tail” Richardson-Lucy Deconvolution and decided to give it a try. After spending some time learning how to adjust this new tool, I think the results were pretty good.

NGC 6992 is presented here in Hubble palette:

Red = S II (ionized sulfur)
Green = HA (hydrogen alpha)
Blue = O III (doubly ionized oxygen, having two electrons removed)

Here are the technical details:

NGC 6992 – The Eastern Veil Nebula
Capture date: September 19, 2012 – October 5, 2012
LRGB image using Ha+SII+OIII for Luminance, SII for Red, OIII for Blue and Ha for Green
Astrodon filters: 5nm HA, 5nm SII and 3nm OIII
39 exposures of OIII, with 20 minute subs each
24 exposures of SII, with 20 minute subs each
21 exposures of HA, with 20 minute subs each
Imaging scope: Astro-Tech AT10RC Ritchey Chrétien at f/6.7 (native f/8)
Focal reducer: Astro Physics CCDT67 focal reducer
Imaging camera: QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera: Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Mount: Celestron CGE hypertuned by Deep Space Products
Capture and stacking in Maxim DL
All other processing in Photoshop

Over 28 hours of starlight exposures went into this project.

 ngc6992_LRGB2_flattened_final_1080p


8/26/2012 NGC 7380

Hello Everyone,

After nearly a year since our last post, I’m happy to be able to present our biggest project of the summer!

Back in 2011, one of the very first narrowband subjects I attempted was NGC 7380 – aka The Wizard nebula.  Unfortunately there were a number of problems with that original dataset, and I had always wanted to give it another try.  Presented here are the results of that effort.

From the wikipedia article, “NGC 7380 (also known as the Wizard Nebula) is an open cluster discovered by Caroline Herschel in 1787. William Herschel included his sister’s discovery in his catalog, and labelled it H VIII.77. It is also known as 142 in the 1959 Sharpless catalog (Sh2-142). This reasonably large nebula is located in Cepheus.”

As with my earlier attempt, this version of NGC 7380 is presented in Hubble palette.  Hubble palette is a popular scheme for using color to help astronomers identify the chemical composition of the different areas of the image.  Hubble palette is defined as follows:

Red = S II (ionized sulfur)
Green = HA (hydrogen alpha)
Blue = O III (doubly ionized oxygen, having two electrons removed)

And here are the technical details:

NGC 7380 – The Wizard Nebula
LRGB image using Ha for Luminance, SII for Red, OIII for Blue and Ha for Green
Astrodon filters (new for this year!) 5nm HA, 5nm SII and 3nm OIII
41 exposures of OIII, with 20 minute subs each
25 exposures of SII, with 20 minute subs each
45 exposures of HA, with 20 minute subs each
Imaging scope: Astro-Tech AT10RC Ritchey Chrétien at f/6.7 (native f/8)
Focal reducer: Astro Physics CCDT67 focal reducer
Imaging camera: QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera: Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Mount: Celestron CGE hypertuned by Deep Space Products
Capture and stacking in Maxim DL
All other processing in Photoshop

Over 39 hours of starlight exposures went into this project.

The Wizard Nebula


9/7/2011 IC1795

Hello Everyone,

Here is Seattle we usually have few opportunities in winter to do deep sky astrophotography.  Fortunately I still have some sets of unprocessed data which I saved from the summer months.  This weekend I finally got around to processing one of the sets.

The image you see here is that of IC 1795.  It is a star forming region near the much larger Heart Nebula, also known as IC 1805.  This is a false-color composite of narrowband (HA, OIII, SII) images taken between 8/31/2011 and 9/8/2011.  This particular arrangement of colors was originally used for Hubble space telescope photos and is therefore known as the Hubble Palette.

From the December 10th, 2009 APOD writeup on Don Goldman’s version of this image:  “This colorful cosmic portrait features glowing gas and obscuring dust clouds in IC 1795, a star forming region in the northern constellation Cassiopeia. The nebula’s colors were created by adopting the Hubble false-color palette for mapping narrow emission from oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur atoms to blue, green and red colors, and further blending the data with images of the region recorded through broadband filters. Not far on the sky from the famous Double Star Cluster in Perseus, IC 1795 is itself located next to IC 1805, the Heart Nebula, as part of a complex of star forming regions that lie at the edge of a large molecular cloud. Located just over 6,000 light-years away, the larger star forming complex sprawls along the Perseus spiral arm of our Milky Way Galaxy. At that distance, this picture would span about 70 light-years across IC 1795.”

As mentioned above, frames from this exposure were taken over multiple nights from 8/31/2011 to 9/8/2011.  Each frame in the image consists of a 20 minute exposure, and there are 63 frames for a total of 21 hours of exposure time.  Here are the details on the image capture:

All images were taken between 8/31 – 9/8

19 exposures of HA taken between 8/31 – 9/1, with 20 minute subs each
30 exposures of OIII taken between 9/2 – 9/3 and 9/7 – 9/8 , with 20 minute subs each
14 exposures of SII, taken between 9/5 – 9/7, with 20 minute subs each

The final image consists of over 21 hours of exposures


9/24/2011 IC 1805 The center of the Heart Nebula

Hello Everyone!

After several weeks I was finally able to finish image processing for some narrowband captures I did in early September. This image is the center region of the Heart Nebula.  The center region (the bright part in the image) is known as NGC 896, and the Heart Nebula is known as IC 1805.

From the Wikipedia article:

“The Heart Nebula, IC 1805, Sh2-190, lies some 7500 light years away from Earth and is located in the Perseus Arm of the Galaxy in the constellation Cassiopeia. This is an emission nebula showing glowing gas and darker dust lanes. The nebula is formed by plasma of ionized hydrogen and free electrons.

The very brightest part of this nebula (the knot at the right) is separately classified as NGC 896, because it was the first part of this nebula to be discovered.

The nebula’s intense red output and its configuration are driven by the radiation emanating from a small group of stars near the nebula’s center. This open cluster of stars known as Melotte 15 contains a few bright stars nearly 50 times the mass of our Sun, and many more dim stars that are only a fraction of our Sun’s mass. The cluster used to contain a microquasar that was expelled millions of years ago.”

Frames for this image were taken from Seattle Washington over the course of seven nights, between September 9th and September 24th.

As I did not like the color set with the Hubble Palette for this image (it had a nasty green shade to it) I have opted for the popular gold/teal motif.

IC 1805 – The center region of the Heart Nebula
LRGB image using Ha for Luminance, SII for Red, OIII for Blue and Ha for Green
Hubble palette converted to Gold/Teal motif using this technique.
Baader filters
19 exposures of OIII, with 20 minute subs each
11 exposures of SII, with 20 minute subs each
15 exposures of HA, with 20 minute subs each
Imaging scope: Astro-Tech AT10RC Ritchey Chrétien at f/6.7 (native f/8)
Focal reducer: Astro Physics CCDT67 focal reducer
Imaging camera: QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera: Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Mount: Celestron CGE hypertuned by Deep Space Products
Capture and stacking in Maxim DL
All other processing in Photoshop

This final image contains over 15 hours of exposures.


8/28/2011 NGC 6888 The Crescent Nebula

This is my rendition of NGC 6888, also known as The Crescent Nebula.  It is an emission nebula in the constellation Cygnus. 

While it looks like a supernova remnant, it is actually a planetary nebula.  (from wikipedia) It is formed by the fast stellar wind from the Wolf-Rayet star WR 136 (HD 192163) colliding with and energizing the slower moving wind ejected by the star when it became a red giant around 400,000 years ago. The result of the collision is a shell and two shock waves, one moving outward and one moving inward. The inward moving shock wave heats the stellar wind to X-ray-emitting temperatures.

I had a really hard time processing this one, and I’m still not completely satisfied with the result.  I’m using 8nm Baader filters and I’m imaging from near downtown Seattle, with all the associated light pollution. Not sure if tighter bandpass Astrodon filters might help improve SNR on this subject.

Over 15 hours of exposure time went into creating this image.  That’s actually just counting the images that went into the final product.  Many more hours of images were not used due to various defects.

Here are the details:

NGC 6888 – The Crescent Nebula
LRGB image using OIII + 30% Ha for Luminance, HA for Red, OIII for Blue and OIII + 30% Ha for Green
Baader filters
13 exposures of Ha, with 20 minute subs each
32 exposures of OIII, with 20 minute subs each
Imaging scope: Astro-Tech AT10RC Ritchey Chrétien at f/6.7 (native f/8)
Focal reducer: Astro Physics CCDT67 focal reducer
Imaging camera: QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera: Starlight
Xpress Lodestar
Mount: Celestron CGE hypertuned by Deep Space Products
Capture and stacking in Maxim DL
All other processing in Photoshop


8/21/2011 IC 5070 The Pelican Nebula in Hubble palette

Hello Everyone,

Some nice clear August skies have made it possible to do some great narrowband imaging, and today I have finished processing what took four nights of imaging to record.  With over 11 hours of total exposure time, it is my most extensive attempt at narrowband imaging to date.  In fact, I’m pretty certain it is the longest amount of total exposure time I’ve ever put into a single target.

The image below is that of the ionization wavefront region of the Pelican Nebula.  Also known as IC 5070 it is an active star forming region that has been extensively studied (click here for wikipedia page).

You may recall that I previously imaged this region in 2008 from the dark skies of the Table Mountain star party using a modified digital SLR camera.  You can see that earlier image here.  When compared to the detail and color of today’s image the benefits of the narrowband technique becomes clear.  Imaging that was once only possible at remote locations can now be surpassed from light-polluted downtown Seattle.

In addition to the using new hardware, I have also spent many hours studying online tutorials on the topic of image processing.  Tutorials that I have found useful include those by Astrodon Imaging, Misti Mountain Observatory and a few others.  These techniques have enabled me to maximize the already great narrowband dataset.

IC 5070 – The Pelican Nebula
LRGB image using Ha for Luminance, SII for Red, OIII for Blue and Ha for Green
7 exposures of SII, with 20 minute subs each
13 exposures of OIII, with 20 minute subs each
13 exposures of Ha, with 20 minute subs each
Imaging scope:  Astro-Tech AT10RC  Ritchey Chrétien at f/6.7 (native f/8)
Focal reducer:  Astro Physics CCDT67 focal reducer
Imaging camera:  QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera:  Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Capture and stacking in Maxim DL
All other processing in Photoshop

 

 


7/29/2011 Stephan’s Quintet from Table Mountain

With the addition of our new CCD imaging camera, I have been quite curious to find out how far I can push our imaging setup in terms of being able to record those really dim “faint fuzzies” out there.

The image below is that of Stephan’s Quintet.  It was taken from the (mostly) dark sky of the Table Mountain Star party near Ellensburg, Washington.  The wikipedia entry on Stephan’s Quintet reads: 

“Stephan’s Quintet in the constellation Pegasus is a visual grouping of five galaxies of which four form the first compact galaxy group ever discovered. The group was discovered by Édouard Stephan in 1877 at Marseilles Observatory. The group is the most studied of all the compact galaxy groups. The brightest member of the visual grouping is NGC 7320 that is shown to have extensive H II regions, identified as red blobs, where active star formation is occurring.”

There was quite a wind during the evening I took this image and I had a telescope balace issue as well (who would have guessed my finderscope was throwing the balance off so much!) so these images are not as sharp as I would have liked.

That said, this is a new “personal best” for me. The brightest of the galaxies in this image (NGC7318b – the bottommost of the pair of little spiral guys in the center) is magnitude 13.9.

Stephan’s Quintet
6 exposures of Luminance, with 20 minute subs each
2 exposures of Red, with 20 minute subs each
2 exposures of Green, with 20 minute subs each
2 exposures of Blue, with 20 minute subs each

Imaging scope:  Astro-Tech AT10RC  Ritchey Chrétien f/8 at 2000mm
Imaging camera:  QSI 583wsg monochrome
Guide camera:  Starlight Xpress Lodestar
Capture and processing in Maxim DL
Final processing in Photoshop

Enjoy!