Monday, 3 December 2012


As the title suggest, the image below is M42 Orion Nebula M42 processed in black & white.

My reason for the B&W was so the structure rather than the Colour would be the main focus of the image.

You can also see M43 underneath the Orion Nebula.

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Sunday, 2 December 2012


Saturday night proved to be a long one. I didn't get into bed until 06.00hrs on Sunday morning.

The sky was clear and the air was cold (down to -5 degrees) which is ideal for stargazing.

I set up the scope on Saturday afternoon and wired it up to my laptop which was in my conservatory.

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During the night various targets were aquired but my main target was thr Orion Nebula (M42). I had to wait until about 02.00hrs before it was in the ideal location for me to image it.

The Orion Nebula is part of a much larger Nebula called the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. This Cloud Complex extends throughout the constellation of Orion and includes Barnard's Loop, The Horsehead Nebula, M42, M78 and the Flame Nebula. Stars are forming throughout the Orion Nebula and due to this heat-intensive process the region is particularly prominent in infrared.

The Orion Nebula contains a very young open cluster known as the Trapezium due to the asterism of its primary four stars. It is basically a Nursery for baby stars.

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Monday, 26 November 2012


On Friday night the seeing was really good. For those unsure what I mean by "seeing", its basically a way of saying that the atmosphere was stable and that there wasn't has much moisture in the air.

Unfortunately for me, I was at work........................fortunately for me, we were a man down so I was required to carry out mealbreaks. Incorporating my own mealbreak gave me a 3 hour window of opportunity to get the scope out and have a play. I setup just outside the front door of my workplace, turned off as many lights as I could to reduce light pollution and started imaging. Rather than use laptops, Goto mounts, webcams and Guiding equipment, I kept it simple and used my basic EQ3 mount with the SW ED100 DS Pro refractor attached and fitted the DSLR directly to it using a x2 Barlow lens.

Quick exposures of about 50th sec at ISO 200 were used for the image of Jupiter. 10 of the final RAW files were then stacked in Registax to created the final image which was given a quick adjust in Photoshop.
You can also see three of Jupiters moons.

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Below is a re-edit I took of Jupiter a while ago.

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I also took a few shots of OUR moon of which the below image is one of the best.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012


I managed to get out to a nice clear sky on Saturday night (17/11/12). Set everything up and although I had a few minor issues which were mainly my fault, I did manage to get some imaging done.

I decided to concentrate on Clusters of stars but did do a few other subjects.

below is a slection of images that are all ISO800 and range from single subs of 120 seconds upto 300 seconds.

The first image is of an open cluster designated as Messier 103 (M103) or NGC581 which can be found in the constellation of Cassiopeia. M103 is about 10,000 light years away and is estimated to be 25 million year old. In astronomical terms it is very young. you can see the cluster on the lower left hand side of the image.

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The next image is the same as the one above but with an area in the upper right corner expanded to show another small cluster of stars called Trumpler 1 (TR1). I find it interesting how the 4 lower stars seem perfectly aligned.

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Next we have one of this years Moore Marathon targets.......The Double Cluster or NGC884 & NGC869 also known as Caldwell 14 can be found in the constellation of Perseus. These clusters are also very young and each cluster contains over 300 blue-white super giant stars. The clusters are also Blueshifted, with NGC869 approaching Earth at a speed of 21 Km/s. At a distance of between 6800 - 7600 light years away I suspect it will be a good few years before we clash....if ever.

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Next up is M52 or NGC7654 which is also an open cluster in Cassiopeia. Apparently, due to interstellar absorption of  light the distance to M52 is uncertain but estimates put it at between 3000 and 7000 Light years away ( quite a considerable estimate).

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A Mono image of Messier 1 (M1), also known as the Crab Nebula, NGC1952 or Taurus A. This is a Supernova Remnant found in the constellation of Taurus. At the centre of the Nebula lies the Crab Pulsar which is a rotating neutron star. The supernova remnant is bounded by an expanding shock wave and consists of material that has been ejected from the Star that went Nova and interstellar material that got swept up along the way.
Being mono removes all the RGB colour but still shows a lot of the structure. 

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This next image is a NASA Hubble image of the Crab to show you the really close detail and colour in M1.

As you can clearly see, the difference between my setup and NASA's is immense but then I don't have the USA funding my hobby. Even can clearly see structure in my image and to be fair, this is probably closer to what you would actually see in a 10 or 12 inch home telescope, remembering that our eyes will not show us much if any colour in the dark. 

Sunday, 11 November 2012

GUIDING !!!!!!

Got a good clear night on Saturday (for a change) so got myself out and setup nice and early. Things didn't quite go to plan and to be honest spent a couple of unproductive hours faffing around.

Once I managed to get a grip of myself and set a decent workplan I actually started to get some results.

The mount was Polar Aligned, the mount and weights added, setup balanced and all plugged into my laptop. Carte de Ceil and EQmod were started and configured and my guidescope was calibrated.

Having failed miserably to get a decent shot of M31 Andromeda before, I set myself the challenge of grabbing some decent subs to work with. I took x5 600 second exposures and x1 1200 second exposure then added Darks, Flats and Bias frames. the result is below:

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M31 Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest spiral galaxy to our own, the Milky Way at a distance of 2,500,000 light years away. you can just see M32 (a dwarf elliptical galaxy) at the bottom of the screen.

I am really pleased with this image but know it needs more work to bring out the colours a bit more.

Guiding definately allows you to grab more photons and thus really start to bring out the details. Although it can be frustrating and unpredictable at times, guiding is definately the only way to achieve great images. 

The difference between this image and the one from my previous blog is unquestionable. what a difference.

Friday, 2 November 2012

A WINDY BUT CLEAR NIGHT !!! tonights challenge was to get my setup working using EQmod and Cartes de Ciel. EQmod is a way of connecting the telescope to my laptop and Cartes de Ciel is a piece of planetary software that can be used to guide the scope to my required targets.

I also attempted to use PHD Guiding for the first time. This involved using a webcam attached to a guidescope mounted on top of the main scope so that I could choose a star to act as a guide to ensure longer exposures. Unfortunately I struggled to gain focus so abandoned the attempt and reverted to imaging unguided.

Fortunately I did manage to get up to 180 seconds unguided without too much star trailing.

My first attempt was a single 180 second shot of M31 Andromeda Galaxy.

Click to Enlarge

The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2,500,000 light years away in the constellation of Andromeda. It is the nearest spiral galaxy to our own, the Milky Way.

It is one of the farthest objects visible to the naked eye in a dark sky.

In the top left you can also just make out M32 which is a dwarf elliptical galaxy. 

Below is an extreme close up of M82 (The Cigar Galaxy) in the Constellation of Ursa Major. This galaxy is usually classified as irregular, though is probably a distorted disk galaxy. It is famous for its heavy star-forming activity.

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Thursday, 1 November 2012


Set up tonight in what was a clearish sky. Slewed the mount over to M15, Pegasus Cluster and started my set of subs rolling. managed 1 single Sub and the clouds rolled in and stopped my imaging for the night.

On the Brightside, I did manage to grab x1 120second exposure which has actually come out ok.

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Messier 15 or M15 is a globular cluster in the constellation of Pegasus. it is one of the oldest known globular clusters estimated at being 12 billion years old.

M15 is about 33,600 light years away from Earth and is one of the most densley packed globulars in the Milky Way galaxy. it has approximately 100, 000 stars.

Monday, 29 October 2012


Managed to get out the other night for a bit of imaging work. Still working unguided at the moment so I am keeping sub exposure times down to a maximum of 90 . seconds @ ISO 800.

Light Pollution will always be a problem but due to the location of the streetlight that sits opposite my rear garden then I guess I can only work with what I have.

First Image is a single 60 second exposure @ ISO 800 of Pleiades (M45), otherwise known as the 7 Sisters.

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I was quite surprised at how much detail I managed to pull out of this image. For a single 60 second shot, I was amazed to see the start of some Nebulosity showing (Clouding) around the main stars.

M45 is an Open Cluster containing several hot B-type stars which are middle aged. Pleiades can be found in the constellation of Taurus. The cluster is dominated by hot blue and extremely luminous stars. The Nebulosity which was at first thought to be left over dust from the creation of the cluster is now believed to be unrelated. It is believed that the cluster is merely passing through an existing dust lane which is being illuminated by the stars.

Pleaides has a viusal magnitude of 1.4 which is bright in astronomical terms.

The next subject I chose was that of M42 (The Orion Nebula). This is a favourite with most imagers for several reasons.....a/ it's very easy to find being the middle star in Orions sword b/ it is visible with the naked eye or small binos and because of its size also usually gives a pleasing image.

Click to Enlarge

Its not the best image and needs more subs to a/ bring out more detail b/ reduce the noise. That said, I am still pleased with the image given my limited experience. I will certainly be revisiting this over the next couple of months.

The next image is a bit different from the norm. I chose to have a look at a Double Star called Albireo.

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Albireo which can be found in the constellation Cygnus looks by the naked eye to be a single star but is actually a Double Star consisting of a brighter yellow star and a fainter blue star. 

Finally, I had a quick go at M81 (Bode's Galaxy) which is a spiral galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major. i was surprised to get anything out of this image with using such short exposures. You can just make out some structure to the spiral although the core of this galaxy is clearly visible.

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Longer exposures, far more subs and some callibration subs will really bring this image to life. Definately one to keep working on.

My next mission, weather permitting is to sort out this guiding. I have all the kit but need time and weather to get it all up and running. Once setup, this will vastly help my images.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

PSP2012 (Peak Star Party)

I went to my first Star Party last week....The Peak Star Party 2012 which was hosted by members from SGL (Stargazers Lounge), an online Astronomy Forum. The event was held at Shallow Grange Farm where we were all made very welcome. Facilities were good and the place was full of like minded people all interested in astronomy. There was easily 200 people at the event either in tents, Caravans or Motohomes.

The Sky at Night Team (Paul Abel, Pete Lawrence & Dr Chris North) were also in attendance closely followed by a BBC camera crew. The show will be aired in Jan 2013.

Although the weather wasn't great, I did manage to get a few hours of observing over the weekend. Clouds on Saturday and thick fog on Sunday morning made life difficult but we are an hardy bunch so standing in freezing fog at 3am waiting for a break in the clouds is not unheard of.

I got to have a play with a 16" Dobsonian which gave me amazing views of several of the sky's hidden gems.

The actual stargazing may have been in short supply but from a social standpoint, this was a great weekend. I met some great people and had a few good laughs as well as a beer or three. Even my partner and my little dog enjoyed themselves.

I would absolutely recommend to anyone who has an interest in astronomy to pop along to a star party. People are very friendly and will gladly let you look through their scopes. A great way for a beginner to test equipment and also pick up great advice.

Saturday, 13 October 2012


Second image from last night is of M27 (The Dumbell Nebula).

This was a real pain to edit with limited editing skills but considering it was an unguided 90 sec stack at ISO800 under badly Light Polluted skies, I'm still pleased to have managed to image it.

The Dumbell Nebula (also known as M27 or NGC 6853)  is another of the Planetary Nebulas. It was discovered by Charles Messier in 1764.

Planetary Nebula are generally faint objects and are a relatively short lived phenomenon, lasting a few tens of thousands of years.

The name "Planetary" originated with the first discovery in the 18th century because of the similarity in appearance to giant planets when viewed through small optical telescopes.

Click to Enlarge

 SO, you ask?

Why are these objects called "M" or "Messier"?

Charles Messier (26 June 1730 – 12 April 1817) was a French astronomer most notable for publishing an astronomical catalogue consisting of deep sky objects such as nebulae and star clusters that came to be known as the 110 "Messier Objects". The purpose of the catalogue was to help astronomical observers, in particular comet hunters such as himself, distinguish between permanent and transient visually diffuse objects in the sky.

Charles Messier


Managed to get out for an imaging session last night after work. The skies were clear so it was an opportunity not to be missed. I chose to have a look at M92 which is called a Globular Cluster. Discovered in 1777 by Johan Elert Bode, M92 is about 26,000 light years away from earth and can be found in the constellation of Hercules.

Globular Clusters are very tightly bound clusters of stars bound by gravity which gives them their spherical shapes and relatively high stellar densities towards the centre.

The setup, Polar aligment and 3 star alignment went well giving me a better and longer exposure time (unguided) of 60 seconds per sub @ ISO800 without any noticeable star trailing.

The set of subs (20 light and 10 darks) were then stacked in DSS (Deep Sky Stacker)to produce a single image which was then processed in Photoshop in order to produce a final image.

This is a single 60 second exposure before stacking or editing:


This is the finished image after stacking and editing


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

First Mini Movie

Got up nice and early this morning and thought I'd take a few shots of the Moon using my SPC900 webcam attached to the ED100 Pro refractor.

I can use the created 1200 frame Avi file to make a single stacked image or I can keep the video footage to create small movie files.

This also gave me the opporunity to have a play with Microsoft Movie Maker.

here is my first quick video.

Being new to this hobby, a lot of what I am doing is nothing more than experimentation and hopefuly learning what I can and can't do with the various software choices available to me. a real case of trial and error.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

First Deep Sky Object

Got setup tonight for the first time with my new scope and managed to bag my first Deep Sky Object.

The Ring Nebula.

It is located in the Northern Constellation of Lyra and also catalogued  as Messier 57 (M57), or NGC 6720. It is one of the most prominent examples of the DSOs called a Planetary Nebula. It was discovered by Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in Jan, 1779. It has an apparent Magnitude of 8.8.

This invisible to the naked eye Nebula is 2,300 Light Years away, So.................Pretty far away.

I took 12 Images (lights) and 3 Darks (these subtract the noise from the lights) in order to get these images. Each Light was a 30 second exposure @ ISO 800.

I would have liked to do longer exposures but my alignment was slightly out so anything longer was giving me elongated (eggy) stars.

First image is a wider shot with M57 in the middle:

Click on image to Enlarge

This is a close up of M57:

Click on image to Enlarge

Things to learn from this first image is that Astro-Photography is a very steep learning curve but one that is filled with possibilities. I hope you enjoy following me on this journey.

Friday, 5 October 2012


These are some of my early images of some of our nearest neighbours, taken using an SPC900 webcam connected to my Skywatcher 150PL. Seeing wasn't always great so they are not the best images but considering some of the distances involved, not bad for a beginner. I hope to vastly improve on these with my new setup.


Our Nearest Neighbour
Average Distance to Earth: 238 855 miles

you can see Surface detail plus one of the Polar Caps
 Average Distance from the Sun: 141 633 260 miles
2 Moons: Phobos, Deimos

plus one of its moons
Average Distance from the Sun: 483 682 810 miles
4 Moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto

Average Distance from the Sun: 67 237 910 miles

poor seeing but still shows the rings
 Average Distance from the Sun: 885 904 700 miles
7 Moons: Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione,
Titan, Lapetus

This is a huge Ice Giant but is so far away it appears as nothing more that a Blueish blob.
Average Distance from the Sun: 1 783 939 400 miles
5 Moons: Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon

Taken in White light using Baader Solar Film. You can clearly see several Sun spots
Radius: 432 200 miles (109 x Earth)
Surface Temp: 5 500 celcius
Age: 4.6 Billion years old 


Firstly, if you are reading this......WELCOME!!!

I am a relative newbie to Astronomy and a total newbie to blogging.

The aim of this blog is to record my journey into my new hobby.

I have always looked up to the stars with interest and had a cheap Tasco refractor telescope bought for me many years ago. Although it was poor quality, it did afford me half decent views of the Moon and planets.

This year, 2012, I purchased my first proper telescope, a Skywatcher 150PL on an EQ3 mount. This was partly purchased due to a genuine interest and also partly due to the Professor Brian Cox effect after watching BBC's Stargazing Live.

The Skywatcher 150PL:

This is a great visual observing scope but is limited for imaging due to the mount i.e. SW EQ3/2. Whilst the mount is more than adequate for a small basic scope it struggles with bigger scopes. 

The 150PL is great for observing Lunar and Planetary being a 6" Newtonian telescope with a focal length of 1200mm.

I modified the end cap with Baader Solar Film in order that I can use it as a Solar scope.

WARNING: Never look directly at the Sun through a telescope unless you have a correctly fitted, serviceable solar filter. Improper and unsafe use can cause instant Blindness

I fitted the mount with an RA Motordrive to help track my chosen subjects better and used an SPC900 webcam for basic Lunar, Planetary imaging.

Although this Scope has served my well, even taking into account the poor British weather, I really wanted to get into proper imaging of DSO's (Deep Sky Objects). 

My latest purchase is a full imaging rig which includes a Skywatcher HEQ5 pro Goto mount, SW ED100 DS Pro refractor Telescope, SW ST80 Guidescope and a  Canon 50D (already had the camera).

New Toy (complete with Dog)

This setup is going to be added to utilising some PC Software called EQmod which will allow me to directly connect the scope to my laptop so that i can control it via Some free Planetarium Software called Stellarium.

Once setup, I should be able to set up outside then control and see the stars via the comfort of my armchair.

The aim of this Blog will be to allow you to join me on what will no doubt be a huge learning curve and also to hopefully show you some of my images of the Universe and all its wonders. It will also be used as a personal record so that I can see how I progress with experience.