Monday, May 25, 2009

Galaxies, space stations and rings....

Good weather again the last few nights. Been testing out the newly re-aligned mount some more. Still doing much better than it has in years, how I went this long without fixing this properly, I don't know. I was just trying to depend on the autoguiding system to fix my errors, but then it can only do so much!
So, here are some galaxies to start with...

(click the images for a full sized view of each)

M101- a BIG galaxy, and relatively bright, but the problem is that the thing is smeared out over such a large area that it ends up not being so bright. But if you are in a dark enough sky, you can actually pick this out with binoculars. Here in the Great Seattle Nebula, you can just barely make out the center with averted vision. The details on this one - 17 images at 5 minutes each ISO 800 with F/6.3 reducer (for the hopefully few techie types that read my blog ).

NGC-4565 - probably one of the best example of an edge-on galaxy. Another challenging target, actually what target isn't challenging!? There is another little galaxy to the lower right. That one was about 14th magnitude, so you can see that I can pull in some deep stuff despite my light pollution situation here. Details: 11 images 5 minutes each also at ISO 800.M-51 - Probably my favorite galaxy. Why? It's just darn cool with that other little one sucking stars off the big one, and it's somewhat bright - but still hard to image well. This is probably one of my best images of this galaxy far, far away. I don't want to add up all the hours I've spent trying to get the ultimate image of this, probably an embarrassing amount of time pointed at this thing!
M-57 Ring Nebula - This is the remains of an old star that basically shed it's skin along with most of it's guts. Didn't explode in a neat way, but just let go of it's outer layers and became what we call a planetary nebula with a white dwarf in the middle (you can see the central star). It's a planetary nebula since it appears about the same size and shape (round) as a planet.
This one is another good indication that my guiding is doing better. I got brave and removed the focal reducer and worked at F/10 this time. Basically, the less reduction the more your sloppy autoguiding will show up when your stars look like Twinkies! Round like a Ding Dong is better, without the sticky chocolate.

ISS - Finally, the International Space Station has made some favorable passes the last few nights.

Finally, if you wonder why the station looks so bright at times, here is the answer. Sunlight reflecting off the solar panels. The thing flared up tonight to magnitude -5 at least when I took this. Blurry image from tonight, but this is a good one to show the panels shining back at us.

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