Tag Archives: Space

Knowledge – The sky is not the limit

A while back I was approached by my local primary school and asked if I would be happy to go in an present an assembly on astrophotography for the children (and the staff were keen too) as part of their Space Education curriculum and STEM, anyone who knows me knows I love to present to a crowd as I do this every day, but this time would be different, this time I would be presenting to children as young as 6 so I had to put some real thought into the content in order to keep their attention.

We started off by talking about what astrophotography is, many of the children had a good idea of what it is, most of the children had told me what things they had seen in pictures from space such as the Moon, Planets such as Jupiter and Saturn as well as images of the milky way, we also talked about how astrophotography images are taken and we talked about different telescopes, especially the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and how much it cost when it was first launched in 1990, we looked at some of the images produced by Hubble and then looked at some of the images I have produced and the children thought mine were better because my telescope cost far less.

After looking at some images, I shown them some photos of the equipment I use for imaging and I asked them if they knew what each part was, I was pleasantly surprised at some of the reactions and answers to my questions, clearly the staff at the school had done an outstanding job of teaching them about space. I got many questions from the children about my hobby and about space in general and the enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge about what lies beyond our planet was amazing. We finished up with a video of my images which was met with oooh’s and wow’s from the children, a link to the video can be found at the bottom of this post.

I wish to thank Miss Reeve at Northland Wood Primary Academy for inviting me to come in and talk to the children and I hope I inspired some budding astronomers in the audience (as well as the staff).

NGC4565 – Needle Galaxy in RGB

The Needle Galaxy is located int he constellation of Coma Berencies and is an edge on spiral galaxy at a distance of 30-50 million light years from earth

Image Details:
101x150S in R
101x150S in G
101x150S in B

Total Capture time: 12.6 Hours

Acquisition Dates: Jan. 28, 2019, Feb. 3, 2019, Feb. 25, 2019, Feb. 26, 2019, Feb. 27, 2019, March 26, 2019, March 29, 2019, March 30, 2019, April 1, 2019

Equipment Details:
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M Mono ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher Finder Scope
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Focuser: Primalucelab ROBO Focuser
FIlterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium RGB
Power and USB Control: Pegasus Astro USB Ultimate Hub Pro
Acquisition Software: Main-Sequence Software Inc. Sequence Generator Pro
Processing Software: PixInsight 1.8.6

M78 / NGC 2068 in RGB

This is the first time I have ever imaged this object, I will re-visit next year when I will image at F2.8 with a wider field of view using a keller reducer.

Since this object is in the southern area of sky, I am limited by trees and the house on the data I can capture in a single night

Image Details:
101x150S – Red
101x150S – Green
101x150S – Blue

101 Darks, Flats and Dark Flats

Image Acquisition Dates: Jan. 1, 2019, Jan. 2, 2019, Jan. 8, 2019, Jan. 9, 2019, Jan. 27, 2019, Jan. 28, 2019, Jan. 30, 2019, Feb. 10, 2019, Feb. 20, 2019, Feb. 23, 2019, Feb. 24, 2019, Feb. 25, 2019

Equipment Used:
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M Mono ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher Finder Scope
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Focuser: Primalucelab ROBO Focuser
FIlterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium RGB and Ha
Power and USB Control: Pegasus Astro USB Ultimate Hub Pro
Acquisition Software: Main-Sequence Software Inc. Sequence Generator Pro
Processing Software: PixInsight 1.8.6

IC36 Y Cas Nebula in SHO

Located in the constellation of Cassiopeia this rather feint nebula is illuminated by a very bright Magnitude 2.15 star Navi

Image Details:
101x300S in SII – Red Channel
101x300S in Ha – Green Channel
101x300S in OIII – Blue Channel

Total integration time: 25.2 Hours

101 Darks, Flats and Dark Flats applied

Acquisition Dates: Oct. 27, 2018, Dec. 13, 2018, Dec. 27, 2018, Jan. 1, 2019, Jan. 2, 2019, Jan. 4, 2019, Jan. 8, 2019, Jan. 9, 2019, Jan. 11, 2019, Jan. 18, 2019, Jan. 20, 2019, Jan. 23, 2019, Jan. 27, 2019, Jan. 28, 2019, Jan. 30, 2019

Equipment Details:
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M Mono ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher Finder Scope
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Focuser: Primalucelab ROBO Focuser
FIlterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium Ha, SII and OIII
Power and USB Control: Pegasus Astro USB Ultimate Hub Pro
Acquisition Software: Main-Sequence Software Inc. Sequence Generator Pro
Processing Software: PixInsight 1.8.6

PrimaluceLabs Sesto Senso Robo Focuser

Getting the best FWHM in your images is something that I have struggled with when imaging a whole night. As the temperature fluctuates, so does the FWHM in your images, this was a problem I had with my images at the beginning of the season. I looked around and the only focuser I could find was not a stepper motor focuser, so it didn’t offer predictable results. Since I am using the stock focuser for my Sky-Watcher Quattro 8-CF (and it’s a solid focuser at that), I did not really want to change focuser mid-season, so I did some research and landed upon the PrimaluceLabs Sesto Senso ROBO Focuser.

Now my expectations here were pretty low since I tried an electronic focuser and tried to use some sort of Auto Focus routine without any length of success, but when the Sesto Senso arrived I was excited as I looked at it and thought to myself that this would do the job.

Out of the box the Sesto Senso is very solid, good quality feel to it, and came with a bunch of different adapters for different focusers, one specifically for my Sky-Watcher Focuser too. I read the installation instructions a couple of times and set to work on upgrading my scope.

Installation
Installation was fairly easy and straight forward, I removed the slow focusing knob off the focuser and attached the adapter for the Sky-Watcher that came with the Sesto Senso, so within 30 minutes it was successfully fitted. And I can still manually focus with the fast focusing knob on the other side of the focuser:

After all the physical installation was done, I then needed to install the software on the observatory PC, since I image using Sequence Generator Pro, I proceeded to install Sesto Software and the ASCOM driver so that SGPro could talk to the focuser, again this was relatively simple to do. Once this was completed it was important to load up the Sesto software and perform a calibration so that the Sesto Senso knows where the most innner and outer focus positions are.

Setting the Focus Control module in SGPro was a breeze, for this I used a Focusing Mask to get a rough focus and set that point for all of my filters, now the following setting are what works for me really well, but basically:

  • I use 20 data points to achieve focus.
  • Step size between focus points is 20
  • Focus frame is 10 seconds for all filters, this is to get a better normalised focus frame, I was finding 5 seconds was too short and gave un-predictable results.
  • I set it to re-focus after a temperature change of 3.0 Degrees C since the last focus.
  • I re-focus on any centering action which is useful if you use a mirrored telescope like me.
Sequence Generate Pro Auto Focus settings
You can see here that my start off point is 50146, so it will go 10 points either direction of this point at 20 steps per point

I have now been using the Sesto Senso for a few months now and it has not failed me, I maintain a good FWHM value throughout the night and it an awesome piece of kit, well done Primaluce Labs. Is there anything that I would change about it?

Only one thing…….It requires separate power, which in all honesty I can understand why but if I could run the power through USB that would be a bonus.

One problem I have with the Auto Focus routine in SGPro is that in the image sequence, since my filters for LRGB are all parfocal, but my Narrowband filters are not, I only wish to focus on a filter change if it’s going from LRGB to Narrowband to LRGB or Narrowband to Narrowband, unfortunately SGPro doesn’t have that intelligence in the sequence, I am trying to persuade Jared to have that in there to make life that bit more simple.

Anyway I hope this review inspires you to consider this awesome piece of kit, it’s certainly helped me!

NGC6888 – Crescent Nebula in SHO Narrowband

This object is a little tricker for me since I only have a 3-3.5 hour window per evening due to trees and the house blocking my view, this is also the first image that I used the drizzle function within PixInsight to be able to provide a detailed up close version of the image, I was very happy to have captured the brown “Globules” within the nebula to

Crescent Nebula in SHO Narrowband
Same object but with a 2x drizzle function in PixInsight applied

Image Details:
Red Channel – SII Data – 89x300S
Green Channel – Ha Data – 64x300S
Blue Channel – OIII Data – 109x300S

101 Darks, Flats and BIAS Frames used 

Equipment Used:-
Imaging Camera: QHY183M Mono ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Imaging Scope: Skywatcher Quattro 8″ F4 Newtonian
Guide Scope: Skywatcher Finder Scope
Guide Camera: QHY5L-II
Mount: Skywatcher EQ8 Pro GEM Mount
Focuser: PrimaluceLabs ROBO Focuser
Filterwheel: StarlightXpress 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader 7nm Ha, SII and OIII
Acquision Software: Main Sequence Software Sequence Generator Pro
Processing Software: Pixinsight 1.8.5

M51 – Whirlpool Galaxy in LRGB

Another Image that I have previously imaged with the Atik Camera, again demonstrating a different resolution obviously showing off a bit more detail, here’s the image previously:

Equipment Used:
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M 20mpx ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher Finder Scope
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8-Pro GEM Goto Mount
Filterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm LRGB Filters

Software:
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro 3
Guiding: PHD2
Image Processing: PixInsight

Target Details:
Name: M51 / NGC5194 / Whirlpool Galaxy
Constellation:Canes Venatici
RA: 13h 29m 53.00s
Dec: 47° 11′ 51.10″
Distance from Earth: >23 Million Light Years

Image Details:
Luminance: 101×150 Second Exposures
Red: 85×150 Second Exposures
Green: 85×150 Second Exposures
Blue: 85×150 Second Exposures
Total Exposure Time: 14.83 Hours

Acquisition Dates: 6 Apr 2018, 19/20/21 Apr 2018, 5/6/7/8/9 May 2018

 

 

 

Leo Triplet in LRGB

This is not the first time I have imaged this trio of trespassers, I have imaged them before on the same scope but with my previous Atik 383L+ CCD Imager, so again similar to M81 and M82, you can clearly see the difference in resolution the new camera offers, here’s the previous image taken from my previous post here:

Equipment Used:
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M 20mpx ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher Finder Scope
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8-Pro GEM Goto Mount
Filterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm LRGB Filters

Software:
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro 3
Guiding: PHD2
Image Processing: PixInsight

Image Details:
Luminance: 101×150 Second Exposures
Red: 101×150 Second Exposures
Green: 101×150 Second Exposures
Blue: 101×150 Second Exposures
Acquisition Dates: 18/19/20/21 Apr 2018,  4/5/6/7/8/9 May 2018

Total Exposure Time: 16.83 Hours

Target Details: Leo Triplet
Constellation: Leo
RA: 11h 19m 36.15s
Dec: 13° 17′ 2.90″
Distance from Earth: 35 Million Light Years
Galaxies: M65 (Top Right), M66 (Bottom Right) and NGC3628 (Bottom Left) also known as The Hamburger Galaxy or Sarah’s Galaxy

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

Gear:
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