Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First clear nights in many months - finally a chance to really try my new filters.

This last weekend our strange winter weather turned into spring.  Temps have been in the mid 50's most of the winter but last weekend it got up into the mid 60's and zero clouds for several days.  
Without clouds, and a sliver of moon, I got a chance to try my new CLS light pollution filter.  This was only the second time since I got it in late October.  I said the weather has been warm, not clear.
Here is the photon harvest from last weekend.  (Click each image to see it in full size)

Rosette Nebula:  best shot yet of this object.  I think I'm actually surprised and very happy how this turned out.  This was purely visible light with the CLS filter, no hydrogen alpha filter this time for the red stuff.  This is 12 x 5 minutes at ISO 800 with the Orion 80ED.
Asteroid 4-Vesta: One of those rare chances when the weather and some sky event line up correctly to see it when it happens.  Asteroid 4-Vesta was at opposition on February 17 - which makes it closest to Earth and brightest.  It was about magnitude 6.0 when I took these over 2 nights.   A few dim fuzzies are seen in here too down to 14th magnitude.  Light pollution?  No problem.

Mars:  was at opposition over a month ago, so it's on it's way out again farther from us.  It's already smaller in the scope than before, but this was the first chance I had to get a photo of it.  Atmosphere was somewhat stable this night, but not great.  At least the polar cap can be seen as well as some of the darker features on the surface.  This was taken with a fairly new webcam that I'm still figuring out.  Bought it last fall but haven't had skies to use it.

M42 in Orion: always a favorite target in the winter skies.  But I was almost thinking I would totally miss out this year since the sky has been cloudy.  Finally got some shots of it.  Again with the CLS filter.  I got some thin whispy details out of the far edge of the nebula.  This was something I didn't see before unless using the Hydrogen-Alpha filter.  I'll probably leave this filter on the camera all the time!  This photo is made up of 28 exposures from about 20 seconds up to 5 minutes. 

Leo Triplet galaxies:   This is the group of galaxies under Leo's rump.  You need to click the photo to see full size, then some of the details show up better.  This was only 5 exposures at about 5 minutes each.
Horsehead nebula:  Always a very challenging and frustrating object to image.  It's very diffuse and dim, and the really cool part of this nebula is obviously the dark horsey in the cloud.  This one is just north of M42 and just below the leftmost star of Orion's belt (the bright star at the top).  This thing is pretty much invisible if you look through the eyepiece, and you may get a hint if the right filters are used.  Otherwise, it really only comes out in photographs.  This one is only 3 exposures at 6.5 minutes.

Moon is bright again, clouds are back and no clearing forecast for at least the next week.  The wait begins again....

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