Tag Archives: Narrowband

M81 and M82 Bodes Galaxy and Cigar Galaxy in LHaRGB

After much waiting, I finally have the RGB Data to go with the luminance layer, a new learning curve was the HDR Compose process in PixInsight, I used this to include the 300S Exposures I had previously that were burning out the core.

Equipment Used:
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M Back Illuminated ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher 8″ Quattro F4
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher 90×50 Finder
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium LRGB + 7nm Ha
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro
Image Processing: PixInsight

Image Details:
101x150S in LRGB, Total 16.83 Hours
25x300S in LRGB, Total 8.33 Hours
25x600S in Ha, Total 4.16 Hours
Total exposure time: 29.32 Hours
BIAS, Darks and Flats subtracted
Target: M81 and M82 in Ursa Major
Acquisition Dates: Feb. 11, 2018,  Feb. 12, 2018,  Feb. 16, 2018,  Feb. 23, 2018,  Feb. 24, 2018,  March 13, 2018,  March 14, 2018,  March 15, 2018,  March 16, 2018,  March 19, 2018,  March 20, 2018

M97 / NGC3587 – Owl Nebula in LHaRGB

I have imaged this before in the same frame as the Surfboard Galaxy, however the 0.62 Arcseconds Per Pixel the Qhyccd 183M gives me on my Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 gives me a much higher resolution image, so here it is, the Owl Nebula in the constellation of Ursa Major at a distance of 2030 Light years from Earth

Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M 20mpx ColdMOS Camera at -20C and DSO Gain
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II Mono
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher 50×90 Finder Scope
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm RGB
Coma Corrector: Sky-Watcher Aplanatic Coma Corrector
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro
Image Processing: PixInsight

Image Details:
Target: M97/NGC3587 – Owl Nebula
Constelation: Ursa Major
Red: 27x300S
Green: 27x300S
Blue: 27x300S
Ha: 25x600S
Darks: 51x300S
Flats: 101
Bias: 251 converted to SuperBIAS and deducted from Flats
Imaging Dates: Feb. 12, 2018,  Feb. 16, 2018,  Feb. 24, 2018,  Feb. 25, 2018

PixInsight Image processing workflow:
1. Calibrated against darks and Bias Subtracted Flats
2. Star Alignment for all RGB and Ha Frames
3. Least noise frame from each colour chosen as Normalization Frame and Dynamic Background Extraction Performed
4. Normalization of all frames
5. Stacking of frames and generation of drizle data (for larger quality image in future)
6. Performed LinearFit using Red stacked image as reference for RGB Frames
7. Performed DynamicCrop on all channels and Ha
8. Performed MultiMedianTransformation to reduce background noise
9. Performed SCNR to remove excessive green in image
10. Stretched the image using HistogramTransformation
11. Performed an Unsharp Mask on RGB and HA Data
12. Performed an ATWT on the Background
11. Merged the Ha Data using the HaRVB-AIP Script in PixInsight
12. Performed a CurvesTransformation to bring out the star colour

QHY183M Review – Part 2

As promised, now that I have done some imaging with my new QHYCCD 183M Mono ColdMOS Back Illuminated camera here’s the second part of my review on the camera.

Pixel size:- The pixel size on the 183M is 2.4um which I absolutely love, on my Sky-Watcher 8 Inch Quattro F4 the camera gives me a field of view of 0.62 Arcseconds/Pixel, which is a fantastic resolution, I remember when I had my Atik 383L+ and my Astro-Tech AT8RC F8, that offered me a resolution of around 0.63 Arcseconds/Pixel, so I am now imaging at almost the same field of view but at F4 and at 20mpx, but let’s just put that into comparison on the same scope, the first image below is IC434 taken with the Atik 383L+ on the Quattro, and the second image below is taken with the QHY183M on the same telescope, you can see what impact it has on the field of view:

FOV on Atik 383L+ with 8″ Quattro F4

FOV on QHY183M with 8″ Quattro F4

As you can see from the above two images the difference in the field of view due to the chip and pixel size, to put that in comparison, the following table compares the two cameras:

CameraQHY183MAtik 383L+
Pixel Size2.4um5.4um
Chip Size13.3mm x 8.9mm17.6mm x 13.52mm
Chip Resolution in Pixels5544x36943354 x 2529
Total pixels20,479,5368,482,226
Field of View on 8" Quattro F40.62 Arcsec/Pixel1.389 Arcsec/Pixel

Camera Sensitivity:- Since moving to the QHY183M I have had to make changes to how I image, having owned the Atik 383L+ for a good few years, I got used to imaging with it, so when I moved to the QHY183M I suddenly noticed that this camera was quite a bit more sensitive, the first image above consists of 300 second frames for the LRGB whereas the second image consists of just 150 second frames, yes 150 second frames!!!

When I first started imaging M81/M82 with the QHY183M, I immediately started with 300 Second frames, I ended up with the same amount of 300 second frames that I had with the Atik 383L+ but I just could not process it, after further analysis I noticed then that the lights were severely clipped, to put this into perspective, below is the Sequence Generator Pro Histogram for both the 300 second exposure (left) and the 150 second exposure (right)

As you can see the histogram on the left for the 300 second exposure is severly clipped on the right side of the histogram indicating that the exposure was too long, the histogram on the right for the 150 second exposure is a lot better, there is still some slight clipping happening but this was a luminance frame, this clearly indicates that the 183M is much more sensitive than my previous CCD imager.

The following two images were produced with the 183M, firstly IC434 consists of 19×300 Second Exposures in RGB and the Second Image of The Owl Nebula consists of 27×300 second exposures in RGB + 25x600S in Ha

Software Integration:- As you probably know already, I use Sequence Generator Pro for my image acquisition and the integration with the camera has been pretty seemless, the ASCOM platform driver works pretty well, and I have the camera set to the default gain and offset setting that QHY have provided which is 16 of Gain and 76 for offset:

UV/IR Sensitivity:- I have read online that the 183M is a little bit sensitive to UV/IR Light, so I asked the guys at QHYCCD about this abd they informed be that the window on the senor is straight clear glass, so it also lets in UV/IR Light, which for me is not an issue as all of my Baader filters are UV/IR Blocked anyway, but it is something to consider if I ever change filters.

The camera has performed way beyond my expectations, had to change some of my approaches to image acquisition but that was to be expected, I am extremely happy with the camera and look forward to getting more data to compliment the Luminance for M81/M82 in the not so distant future.

If you are considering the QHY183M as an imaging camera, and would like to discuss, then feel free to reach out to me.

Clear Skies

M97 and M108 – Owl Nebula and Surfboard Galaxy in LRGB

M97 and M108

The Owl Nebula (also known as Messier 97, M97 or NGC 3587) is a planetary nebula located approximately 2,030 light years away in the constellation Ursa Major.  It was discovered by French astronomer Pierre Méchain on February 16, 1781

Messier 108 (also known as NGC 3556) is a barred spiral galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. It was discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781 or 1782. From the perspective of the Earth, this galaxy is seen almost edge-on.

The image consists of the following
23x180S – Red
23x180S – Green
23x180S – Blue
25x180S – Luminance

25 Darks, 25 Flats and 25 BIAS frames have also been applied

Equipment Used:-
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro Series 8-CF F4 Imaging Newtonian
Flattener: Sky-Watcher Aplanatic Coma Corrector
Imaging Camera: Atik Cameras 383L+ Mono CCD -20C
Guide Scope: Celestron Telescopes C80ED Reftractor
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Filterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm Unmounted LRGB
Image Capture: Main Sequence Software SGPro
Image Stacking: Maxim-DL
Image Processing: PixInsight

Leo Triplet of Galaxies

Leo Triplet In LRGB (above) and LRGB+HA (below)

The Leo Triplet consists of three galaxies at a distance of around 35 million light years, M65 (top right), M66 (bottom right) and NGC3628 (left).  I have always aimed at imaging the triplet since I started imaging but never got around to it.

M65 (NGC 3623) and M66 (NGC 3627) are classed as intermiediate spiral galaxies and NGC3628 is also known as the Hamburger Galaxy or Sarah’s Galaxy and is classed as an Unbarred Spiral Galaxy.

The image consists of:-
29x300S of Luminance
14x300S Red, Green and Blue
15x600S of 7nm HA in the LRGB+HA Image
25 Darks and flats subtracted from all frames

Equipment Details:
Imaging Telescope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8-CF F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Atik Cameras 383L+ Mono CCD
Coma Corrector: Sky-Watcher Aplanatic Coma Corrector
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Guide Scoope: Celestron Telescopes C80ED Refractor
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm USB EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium LRGB + 7NM HA

Image Aquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro
Image Pre-Processing and STacking: Maxim-DL
Post Processing: PixInsight

In my opinion, there’s only a subtle difference between the LRGB and LRGBHA images, personally I preffer the LRGB Version, the data was captured over multiple nights since the beginning of 2017 but in total gives 5.91 Hours on the LRGB Image and 8.41 Hours for the LRGB+HA Image

NGC2264 – Cone Nebula in SHO Narrowband

My latest image, I feel like I need more SII and OIII Data though to be perfectly honest, I captured quite a lot of dust even with narrowband mainly due to the high amount of HA frames I suspect, well here it is

Image Details:
27x 600S in 7nm HA
18x 600S in 7nm OIII
18x 600S in 7nm SII

25 Darks and Flats subtracted from lights

Data was acquired on the following dates: 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st January 2017, 13th and 18th February 2017

Equipment Used:
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher​ Quattro 8-CF Imaging Newtonian @F4 with the Skywatcher Aplanatic Coma Corrector
Imaging Camera: Atik Cameras​ 383L+ Mono CCD Cooled to -20C
Guide Scope: Celestron Telescopes​ C80ED Refractor
Guide Camera: Qhyccd​ QHY5L-II Mono
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd​ 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium​ 7nm HA, OIII and SII 36mm Unmounted
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software​ SGPro
Stacking and Combining: Maxim-DL
Processing: PixInsight​

Atik 383L+ Cooled Mono CCD Imaging Camera

After owning the Atik 383L+ Mono CCD Camera for over three years now, I would say I am definitely qualified to write a review.  I bought my camera back in 2013 when I lived in Ireland it was during the time when I transitioned from imaging with a Cooled and Modified DSLR Camera to Mono CCD Imaging.  At the time I was considering one of two cameras, the QHY8 Mono CCD and the Atik 383L+ Mono CCD, at the time the QHY was slightly cheaper but the Cooling Delta and Readout Noise was better on the Atik despite the fact that they both used the Kodak KAF8300 chip.

When I first received my camera, I was thoroughly impressed with the build quality, the red aluminium casing gave it a really professional feel to the camera and came complete with USB Cable, 12v Cigarette Power Cable and Software Media, all packaged really well, and when taking the camera out of the box, you could tell that Atik had put a lot of effort and consideration into their build quality and finish of the camera.  So far so good!

People quite often ask me how big the camera is, it just so happens that at the time I got my camera, I took a picture of the camera next to a AAA battery, just for comparison you can see that it is a fairly compact camera and at around 700g wasn’t too heavy either.

Because I couldn’t wait until my filterwheel had arrived, I wanted to test the camera functionality, so I installed all of the software onto my desktop PC and plugged the camera in.  At the time I got the camera, I was using Nebulosity to perform my image acquisition, so the first thing to do was build my dark frames at my desired temperature of -20C.  The dark frames showed very little in the way of noise which I was extremely happy with.  The installation of Drivers and  ASCOM Platform drivers all went perfectly without any problems, and Nebulosity worked well using the ASCOM Camera platform driver.

Once my filterwheel had arrived from StarlightXpress it was time to get the camera aquainted with the telescope, and at the time I was using an Astro-Tech 8 Inch Ritchey Chretien telescope on my already 3 Year Old NEQ6-Pro mount. Mating the camera to the filterwheel was relatively easy, I placed a thin cork shim onto the male thread of the filterwheel and screwed the camera on and adjusted the rotation of the filterwheel adapter to make sure the camera was at the right angle, I used the rubber shim to stop the metal to metal binding which makes it difficult to remove later, adding in the cork shim still allows it to be tightened up.

Since I had built my dark frame library, it was time to build my flat frames library, for this I used an EL Panel, one of the things I noticed was that a short exposure time of <1.0 seconds left a dark area to the lower right of the frame, after speaking with Atik they confirmed it was just the mechanical shutter, so I had to reduce the light on the EL Panel in order to increase the exposure time to get around this, other than that my flat frame library was built.

My first light for the camera was going to come from NGC7635 – Bubble Nebula in Narrowband, and whilst I must admit my imaging has come a long way since I took this picture, it is what it is and I was very happy with the results of sensitivity the camera delivered especially as this image is only 3x1800S frames for HA, OIII and SII.  Since I have had the camera, I have produced a substantial number of images to date and continue to do so using my Atik 383L+ Mono CCD Camera.

So how does Atik fair with me as a company, well it just so happens that I had to send my camera away for service due to excessive moisture causing Ice Crystals during cooling, I filed a support ticket with them and within a few days I got my camera back completely moisture free, I do not blame the camera here for the moisture, but more the fact that when I had my observatory located 15 miles away, I used to forget to switch the camera power off which would push a lot of moisture through the camera.  But the service from Atik was simply awesome.

Here’s a picture of the camera still used today attached to my F4 Quattro, I use Sequence Generator Pro for all my target acquisitions today but still using the ASCOM Camera Driver which is extremely stable

Just to recap why I am happy with the camera:

  • Build Quality
  • Size and Weight
  • Software Deployment
  • Sensitivity
  • Quietness of the camera

What could have been better?

  • Power cable – This could have been a stretchable power cable as I did run into a problem recently where the cable became snagged and it ripped the wire out of the jack plug that plugs into the camera, fortunately it didn’t damage the plug in port of the camera
  • Heated chip chamber, most cameras seem to have this now
  • Different colour options – I would have loved the camera in Blue or Green

You can see many of the images I have taken with this camera in my CCD Image Gallery Section here



Skywatcher Quattro 8-CF Imaging Newtonian

After much deliberation and conversations back and forth with Bernard at Modern Astronomy, I finally decided to go for the Skywatcher Quattro 8-CF 8” F4 Reflector, there was a number of factors that helped me reach this decision, most of it was the British weather being so unpredictable that I needed to get as many photons for my images in the shortest available time.  I was used to imaging at F7.5 that the F4 was going to give me significantly faster optics, I also opted for the Carbon Fiber version purely from a thermal expansion perspective as it was going to perform better than the steel tube version.  I also opted for the 8” as the Native focal length of 800mm suited me perfectly, and I plan on getting the Keller reducer to bring it down to 560mm @ F2.8.

Setup and Collimation
When I received my telescope and optically matched Aplanatic Coma Corrector, I was impressed with the build quality of the scope itself, internal baffles to boost contrast as well as eliminate stray light, and the focuser is pretty sturdy for a stock focuser, and quite easily handles the weight of my CCD and Filterwheel.  I mounted the telescope next to my Guide scope on my Skywatcher EQ8, I wish they had provided a Losmandy plate with the telescope, but the Vixen style bar still worked out well.  After balancing the scopes on the mount I was ready to check the collimation, for this I used my Farpoint Collimation Kit, firstly the laser to ensure it hits the centre spot of the primary, and the laser return reached the centre point of the laser collimator itself, the adjustments required were very minor.  After this I verified the collimation with the Farpoint Cheshire and it verified that the collimation was correct, only thing left to do was a star test, for this I used a 10mm Eyepiece and a fairly bright defocused star, the star was spot on, I could see all the concentric rings.  I then proceeded to perform the same star test with the CCD and the Aplanatic Corrector to verify, which of course it did.

Scope Details:
Focal Length: 800mm
Apperture: 8 Inch
Focal Ratio: F4
Tube Composition: Carbon Fiber
Focuser: 2″ Dual Speed Linear Power Focuser

First light
My first target for 2016 is the Iris Nebula, my first set of frames came through and for a 5 minute exposure I was impressed with how much data I had collected, data that would have taken over 15 minutes to collect on the F7.5 refractor I now use as a guide scope, I managed to finish a target off within a few days of imaging rather than over a multitude of nights

I have also not had to re-collimate the scope or adjust the focuser on the scope over the few weeks I have had it, so overall I am above and beyond happy with my decision and I am now able to image targets in a shorter timeframe which in the UK you have to grab every clear sky you can

A few months on
I have had to re-collimate the scope 0 times, even after removing the primary mirror assemply for cleaning, the focuser is still rock solid and holds the camera gear extremely well.   I have made an addition to the scope, I have added a fan system to the rear of the primary mirror, the fan also has some nichrome wire which allows the air being blown around the primary to be just above the dew point which prevents dew forming on the primary and believe it or not the secondary also, even in high humidity sessions.

Build Quality: Extremely pleased with the build quality of the scope, even the focuser is sturdy and holds all of my gear really well

Collimation: Extremely easy with the right tools, it has required no further collimation in the months that I have now owned the scope

Improvements: Could have come with a fan assembly, most of the other F4 scopes from other vendors do

After months of usage, I have produced some really good images in short timeframes due to the fast F4 ratio, I am looking forward to using this scope again next season with 3nm NarrowBand filters and possibly the Keller Reducer to bring it down to F2.8



M81 and M82 Galaxies in LRGB+HA

By far my biggest challenging project to date, maybe not by image acquisition, but by processing.  The above two galaxies caused me lots of grief when trying to process, they just did not come out right with my normal method of processing, so I turned to PixInsight to process them, and I anm so glad I did, the whole learning curve put me back to almost the same level I was at in 2008, but the steep learning curve paid off

M81 and M82 Galaxies in Ursa Major

Image Details
29x300S in LRGB
17x600S in 7nm HA
25 Darks and 25 Flats applied

Equipment Details:
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8-CF 8″ Newtonian F4
Imaging Camera: Atik Cameras 383L+
Guide Scope: Celestron Telescopes C80ED
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm
Filters: Baader Planetarium LRGB+HA 36mm Unmounted

Stacking and Combining: Maxim DL
Processing: PixInsight 1.8 x64

The images were taken over a number of nights since the beginning of december and totals 12.5 Hours of exposure time

M33 – Triangulum Galaxy

My first galaxy with the F4 Quattro, M33 – Triangulum Galaxy.  The galaxy is located approximately 3 million light years away in the constellation of Triangulum, it is the third largest member in a cluster of galaxies which includes our own and the famous M31 Andromeda Galaxy

The image was the first taken with my Nichrome wire in front of the Mirror Fan to prevent dew forming on the Primary…..And it worked!!!

Image Details:
21x300S in LRGB
16x600S in HA

The HA was added as a Lighten Layer to the Red Channel, all frames have 25 Flats and 25 Darks applied

Equipment Used:
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8-CF @ F4
Imaging Camera: Atik Cameras 383L+ Mono Cooled to -20C
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm unmounted USB Filter Wheel
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm LRGB + 7nm HA
Guide Scope: Celestron Telescopes C80ED
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II

Software Used:
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software Sequence Generator Pro
Image Stacking and Combining: Maxim-DL
Post Processing: PixInsight