M64 - The Black Eye Galaxy

Submitted by jimwcoleman

Viewing was horrible in the Seattle area tonight ... the moon was bright and the skies were very hazy - so much so that there was a ring around the moon most of the night. But I was out working on the equipment and managed to eek out a photo ... this is Messier 64, the Black Eye Galaxy, and a favorite target of mine.

Meade 8" LX200R, Orion G3 Color Starshoot at prime focus, guided by Orion ST-80 and PHD. 6x120sec subs, stacked with MaximDL.

04/09/2016 - The boring side of Jupiter

Submitted by jimwcoleman

Here is an image of what is sometimes affectionately called "The Boring side of Jupiter."

As the planet rotates, many of its distinctive feature markings (such as the Great Red Spot) are sometimes turned away from Earth, so all we see is what you see here. Still beautiful, but lacking some of those iconic features we expect to see when viewing a picture of Jupiter.

NGC 2903 - a galaxy in Leo

Submitted by jimwcoleman

Here is NGC 2903, a magnitude 9.7 galaxy roughly 20 million miles away in the Constellation Leo the Lion.

To get this photo, I coupled an Orion Starshoot G3 CCD cam to the prime focus of an 8" LX200, guided by a piggy-backed Orion ST-80 and PHD. Over time, I'm seeing some error in declination, so I limited my exposures to 60 seconds, exposed 50 and stacked only 12. As the image is not as sharp as I would like I would suspect collimation, but the scope was collimated only hours before this photo was taken. Therefore, I suspect tracking/guiding.

Jupiter in better seeing - 04/01/2016

Submitted by jimwcoleman

Here is tonight's effort with Jupiter. This time, I used the same equipment as last night (8" Meade LX200R and a Celestron Skyris 132M) but this time, I added in a Meade 2x Telextender for higher magnification.

Seeing was a bit better than last night, but the image was still quite jumpy. This is 65 percent of 1800 frames, stacked by Registax 6. FireCapture was used to capture the .avi.

Stars from Messier 67 in Cancer

Submitted by jimwcoleman

Messier 67 (M67) is an open cluster in the Cancer constellation. M67 has more than 100 stars similar to the Sun, and countless red giants. The total star count has been estimated at well over 500.

Here is a high-magnification view of some of those stars in the cluster.

Meade 8" LX200R with Orion G3 Starshoot CCD at prime focus, guided with Orion ST-80, PHD, 17x21 seconds, MaximDL. From a Port Orchard, Washington back yard.

Jupiter in fair seeing

Submitted by jimwcoleman

Tonight was my first-ever use of my new Celestron 132M camera. As my filter wheel has not yet arrived, I was limited to black and white exposures.

Here is my first stack and I'm pretty happy with it for my first time. Most of the battle was learning to use FireCapture, as I'd never used it before. This was a 60 second exposure through an 8" Meade LX200, stacked 50% of best frames.

Pretty good polar alignment

Submitted by jimwcoleman

Here's my PHD graph from this morning's alignment. The Meade LX200 is on a permanent pier in a backyard observatory, but it's alignment was off a bit over the long cold winter ... probably expansion/contraction of the pier, wedge, etc. So this morning, I got up at 2 a.m. and worked on alignment for a bit. Here, I did drift alignment on both axis and got the trendlines to flatline where they go. With any luck, I won't have to align again for another year. :)

M3 with the Orion Starshoot G3

Submitted by jimwcoleman

I was dismayed to see how out-of-focus this image turned out to be, especially after I spent 90 minutes drift aligning the scope at oh-dark-thirty this morning. I used a Bahtinov mask on Arcturus to dial in the focus, but there must have been some mirror shift while slewing to M3.

Anyway, here's what I got this morning using the Orion G3 Starshoot. It's been a long, wet Seattle-area winter, so I was just happy to FINALLY get back out under the stars. Even if I only got a poor-to-mediocre photo.

Focusing tips and tricks at high magnification are always welcome!

Orion G3 Starshoot is not a planetary cam

Submitted by jimwcoleman

This really puzzled me for some time. Every time I tried to shoot Jupiter with the Orion G3 Starshoot, I would get a vertical white line out of the top and bottom of the planet in the image. I soon realized that the image was way overexposed and started playing with the offset and gain. But then, after much trial and error, I realized that the Starshoot G3 is a deep-space cam, not a planetary cam. Just like the box says, heh heh.

In this image, you are actually looking at Betelgeuse ... overexposed to show you the same effect I was getting with Jupiter.

Astrophotography class

Submitted by jimwcoleman

I will be giving a one-hour astrophotography class/demo at work today... it will be similar to the one I did at South Kitsap High School and other presentations I have done... a full setup, but indoors. I love introducing this fascinating hobby to others and always hope that it will "stick" with someone who will then go forth and do great things in the field!