I've put a wider angle version of my M101 shot from Spectacle Lake that I took on May 6, 2007, in my HAA Gallery page, as well as an image of M67 I took the same night. They're now the first two entries in my album.
Another excellent night up in Tobermory. This time I started by imaging the setting moon and Venus while my dad and brother toured the sky with my GoTo.
Then I decided to do some visual observing for awhile too - such clear dark skies. Before packing up I shot 3 five minute and 1 ten minute exposure of a portion of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. On the full sized original I can make out over 30 positive matches for galaxies and about a dozen or so maybe's.
Virgo Galaxy Cluster (Widefield)
Virgo Galaxy Cluster (Widefield) - labelled - see my gallery for large format image.
Ideal conditions greeted the 8 observers who came out to Binbrook last night. After turning away some May 2-4 campers, we set up in the parking lot by the boat launch and used the dwindling daylight to check out everyone's equipment.
Ron Kitchen had recently finished building his 12" truss-dob and treated me to excellent views of M3 and M13. New members Gary and Cathy Krevenky didn't take long to assemble their SCT but needed a little help with alignment stars.
Steve Germann was trying out one of Mike Spicer's loaner scopes, and guest Dean Inglis brought an 8" Meade LX90. Rounding out the optics were Don Pullen's 7" Maksutov, Gail's Starblast, and my 6" dobsonian which provided the first views of the night when I spotted Mercury sitting in the haze above Hamilton airport.
It would be a good night for planets as we would also turn our glass to Venus, Saturn, and eventually Jupiter. We caught Io just before it transited the planet and, apparently, Mike Spicer caught it just after it was done. Other targets such as galaxies M65/66, M63, M94, planetaries NGC 6543 & 6210, and globular clusters M92 and NGC 6229 were found and enjoyed.
Just before midnight, Dean reported his scope had dewed up and we decided that it was as good a time as any to call it a night. Several satellites had been spotted and a coyote chorus had intermittently serenaded us. The temperature remained comfortable, the seeing and transparency had been in the upper range of good, and there were no bugs - that's about as good as it gets at Binbrook and I'm glad we could take advantage.
Oh yeah, we also discovered a brand new, and very civilized, porta-john located by the pavilion at viewing area "B". Could you ask anything more of a great observing site :)
From Dean Inglis;
Many thanks for inviting me to the HAA dark site: well worth the drive, which incidently is 35 min from home contrary to my reported underestimate! I greatly appreciated your hospitality as Chair of the HAA and as a fellow observer.
Having a GOTO is fun and quick, but I was really quite amazed at your detailed charts and pointing out that planetary neb to me with your scope! Last night held several firsts for me: Mercury,Cassini's division, the Leo triplet +++
Today was one of those rare occassions where I had a quiet day at work and the sky was clear. I decided to bring along my 100mm refractor, camera tripod and a solar filter. I had in mind to do a little solar viewing from the office parking lot.
Around 2:30pm I took a break from work and set up in the parking lot. I had seen some scattered clouds in the west and I didn't want to wait until the sun set low enough to be affected by them. So with the sun still high, I set up the scope in the lot and took a look at the sun (thank goodness for the diagonal or my neck would be really sore).
The sky was pretty steady for mid-day which was nice and the breeze was light. I was very pleased to see a cluster of sunspots just off the equator. There were 2 medium spots and 3 or 4 smaller ones all grouped together. I started with my Skywatcher (Synta) 20mm LET eyepiece to give me a wide view. I then tried to zoom in on the spots with my 9mm LET, but I couldn't get a good focus. I remembered I had borrowed a 12mm Xcel from Mike Spicer so I gave that a try. It did a great job of bringing up the spots in more detail. I could see some detail of the spot edges which was great considering the camera tripod isn't the most steady mount I own.
I pulled out my camera to try and take some photos through the eyepiece by hand. Unfortunately I forgot to bring the transfer cable, so if the photos worked out, I'll have to post them later. Maybe some other intrepid club member had the same idea and might have a few good photos to share.
Cluster of sunspots
A few curious people stopped by to take a look while I was observing. They were surprised that someone would look at the sun. And without exception, when they saw the sunspots, they asked if it was dirt on the lens. (I eventually got paranoid and had to double-check to make sure I wasn't seeing things >just kidding.)
Eventually the work called me back to reality and I packed up. It was a nice afternoon break from work. I hope this evening at Binbrook will be just as rewarding.
The sky was hazy and very unsteady when I set up last night - I thought the CSC may have been wrong again - but by the time I finished aligning things had settled down considerably and the haze was mostly moved to the distant horizon. I only imaged M101 (Spindle Galaxy) and M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy) - although actually both widefield images yielded about 6 or so positive's for other small gallaxies. I then decided to snap of an image of the setting Venus - it was casting a bright beam across the water. The beam was actually about twice as bright earlier but my camera was busy on my main scope and I didn't want to disturb it.
Spindle (Widefield) - 3 x 4min and 1 x 5min @ ISO1600 on 80mm APO
Whirlpool (Widefield) - 3 x 5min @ ISO1600 on 80mm APO
Last night I figured I should do a little bit of stargazing since I may not have much time to do it in the next couple of days. Skies looked reasonably clear so I popped my Equinox 80mm APO on my camera tripod and attached my Rigel Quickfinder base to the scope by means of 3 elastic bands (oh horrors). After easily collimating the quickfinder I was on my way to finding several deep sky objects.
M13 globular - showed itself very easily in the 32mm EP. Could not resolve any stars even in the 10mm. I should have tried a higher power ...
M82/81 galaxies - nice to look at.. but obviously doesn't beat the 6in view
M92 globular - nice and bright. Much smaller than M13
M57 planetary nebula- took me a little while to find this because I wasn't expecting it to be so small. It was easily mistaken for a slightly out of focus star (I was hunting it down with my 32mm EP at the time)
M65/66 (leo trio galaxies) - I was surprised to see these. I popped in the 10mm EP and the view was better. You could sort of make out the shapes. After, I must have spent the rest of my time out looking for the NGC friend but could barely make it out. I may have been imagining things! I guess this is where you need more aperture or even darker skies.
As you can see my list was very random. I was happy to see these objects since you wouldn't expect an 80mm scope to be much of a deep sky hunter but it's not too bad. I got a lot of satisfaction in finding them with minimal equipment (no GOTO). I was also so surprised that I was able to find them relatively quickly with the aid of the rigel quickfinder. They don't call it quick for nothing... where was this invention when I was an 11 year old with my 4.5 in newt. Back then it took me an entire night to find a couple of objects.
I can see myself (maybe) using this set up for the messier marathon next year.
Anyway take care for now and have fun this weekend.
I posted three new pictures of the Antares / M4 area, the Leo Trio (M65, M66 and NGC 3628), and the M106 area (they're the first three pics at the top row of my HAA album). I took these during my May 6 --> May 11, 2007 trip to Spectacle Lake.
Photo submitted by Peter McHugh.
My backyard view of the northern sky somewhere around 10:00 pm a week ago. I've marked the constellations and the pole star. I cropped out the house which was on right near the top. Image is 1.7 Megs. I know there is noise; I made no effort to remove it, but it still looks pretty good. It's not too hard to visualize or imagine where Andromeda is and roughly when it will emerge in the north eastern morning sky - am I wrong?
The image is a very short focal length (14 mm / 28 mm equivalent in 35 mm format ) the stars would probably get lost if the image were to be reduced in size and resolution for our site. If you look closely at the stars nearer the end of the handle of the Big Dipper I have a problem (they are twinned - I can't account for this; the shot was not perfectly tracked, but that wouldn't cause the twinning). The effect extends down into the image a little and gradually disappears. Oh well.
Corrections were confined to exposure, curves, gamma, saturation, and gradient filter to reduce the bright glare from the city. My vantage is from the Hamilton Central Mountain area.
Note the very faint aircraft trail through the cup of the little dipper (roughly horizontal). You'll have to really zoom in to see it.
Sorry for the very late post...
The night of Sunday May 7th (at home) was very productive with the 6in SCT. I started out by doing a bit of galaxy hunting... I just can't resist faint fuzzies. Anyway I spent a little while looking for m109. It was a bit difficult and I thought I was looking in the wrong spot till I hooked up the camera to image it and lo and behold it was there, and I was looking in the right spot after all. I guess the conditions have to be exceptional for this galaxy to show itself easily. I roamed around in Leo and Virgo a bit before aiming my scope at M13. I was determined to get a better image of it. The last one was only a 30 sec exposure and had pretty poor tracking. This time since getting a polar scope installed (thanks Tim) I had much better tracking. Also, I actually was able to achieve a pretty good focus with the aid of a bright star which was far from M13 and surprisingly the focus held together well when aiming back to the target.
Here are the specs:
M13 By KerryLH
Canon 300D @ prime focus on the C6 SCT (CG-5 GOTO mount) with f6.3 focal reducer.
2x1min and 1x22sec exposure, ISO1600, 1 dark frame, unguided, stacked in photoshop.
PERFECT WEATHER MONDAY 7TH MAY
Five days of clear skies! wow, and Monday night was excellent, too. I imaged from the pation in Hamilton. Although the air is polluted, it's possible to capture galaxies from the patio! Here is an image of M51 taken this morning after removing the skyglow:
Greetings from Spectacle Lake Lodge, near Barry's Bay. Here I am, up here on my semi-annual astrophotography trip to my favourite dark-sky spot, hauling my Canon Digital Rebel 300D, my Tamron 300mm f/2.8 telephoto lens, my Super-Polaris equatorial mount, and all the gizmos that go with them. I've been more known as a hanger-on of film sky-shooting, but this is my first DIGITAL trip.
Last night (May 6, 2007) was spectacular, and very dark, and I went shutterbug crazy, taking 30-sec, 1-minute and 2-minute unguided time exposures of a pile of deep sky objects, especially galaxies, including M101 in Ursa Major:
This is a very closly-zoomed-in excerpt of my image of M101 taken Sunday, May 6, 2007 from the lodge. It is only a two minute exposure, at f/2.8, at ISO 1600. I will be posting images from my trip on my web site and in my HAA Gallery soon.
Saturday proved to be a reasonably good night for viewing (relative to what we've had over the past many months).
Jim W, Kerry-Ann H, Tim H, Steve G, Glenn & Gail M and I set up for a mini star party to take advantage of the clear skies before the moon rose. Some of the group were real troupers. They had been down at the photography show in Toronto and a few even took a little detour to a local astro store. Others had been working or coming off nightshift, but still had the energy to come out for observing. Talk about devotion to a worthy cause!
After scoping out (pun intended) the scouts that were sharing the park this weekend, we set up over at the boat launch area to reduce the effect of their lights, and damaging the grass. When we arrived, a few stray cirrus clouds were just disappating leaving us with clear skies. The forecast had indicated winds to be up to 25kph, but they were light - initially. It looked like it was going to be a nice evening, but the seeing was likely to be unsettled.
I set up my goto controller and attempted star alignment for the first time. Once aligned, I found that the controller didn't always get me very close to the intended object. Clearly I've got to do a better job of picking more appropriate alignment stars closer to the ecliptic instead of using some high at the zenith. But it got me in the area and it tracked quite well. It was fun punching in some objects and having the controller get quite close. I even attempted a few photos with my EZ mount and point&shoot camera. Exposures were all wrong, but for a change, there wasn't any star trailing. It's a start.
Tim and Kerry were working on a mix of some photography and visual observations. I think Jim even tried a few shots. But most of the the night was spent viewing a variety of objects and sharing views in each other scopes. As usual Glenn was challenging himself with some new targets for his log. The scouts even came down to look through some of the scopes and ask lots of questions. Must be working on their astronomy badge.
Unfortunately a strong breeze picked up during the evening and made the cool temps feel worse than they were. Gail was well prepared with her long-johns and multiple layers, but not everyone else was so well attired against the wind. I set up a small campstove to heat water for coffee and tea for those that wanted some warmth.
Early, we were looking at Venus, Saturn and a number of clusters. Later, we added some galaxies. Once Jupiter rose around 11pm some of us tried to look at it, but the haze near the horizon made details difficult. We could see 3 of the major moons, but we couldn't tell if the 4th was behind or in transit. As Scorpius rose, we tried for some of the nebulas nearby, but the conditions were too bad.
Eventually the wind and the cold got the better of us and we finally packed up around midnight. Aside from the cold breeze coming off the reservoir, we really enjoyed ourselves and saw quite a bit considering the conditions.
A fun night with a great bunch of active club members.
THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME... by Glenn
Don's choice of viewing location was perfect in that it afforded a good surface for setting up, and kept us away from the scout's bright hurricane lamps which were still burning at midnight.
It was nice to observe with a group after so many months of waiting for the right combination of conditions, and while the seeing wasn't the best, transparency was quite good. For me, however, the timing was perfect as I was finally able to bag spiral galaxy M83, in among the trees at 11:30pm, which leaves only M74 unresolved on my Messier list.
For the scout visit, there was an excellent assortment of equipment on hand to give the best views of planets galaxies, globs, and open clusters. Enthusiasm ran high among the visitors and guests, alike. So, just like Don said - Saturday Night was ALRIGHT!
Update by Tim Harpur:
Last night I tried doing some unguided imaging using my 400mm telephoto camera lens instead of my usual imaging through my scope - the following are some of the results.
Update By KerryLH :
It was a blast observing with everyone last night. The company of such enthusiastic people made the night so enjoyable. Are other astronomy clubs like this? Anyway I planned on doing some imaging but never got around to it. I was really enjoying comparing the views of many faint fuzzies in the different scopes. I saw M83 in Glenn and Gail's scope but couldn't find it in mine. My GOTO alignment was off for the low southern sky. I searched a little with the aid of my Rigel Quickfinder but was quickly drawn away to viewing another object. Later in the night we were viewing the Ring Nebula, Jupiter and other rising objects. I came to the conclusion that I LOVE binoviewers. The views through Don's scope was so much more relaxing and easier on the eye. Not to mention it seemed like I could see more detail. This will be one item to add on the astro shopping list.
Nice widefield images, Tim! ...and thanks for helping me with setting up my polar scope.
Don, thanks for the tea! It gave me enough of a jolt to make it through the rest of the night.
Photo of the group setting up
It was a fine evening to be in Binbrook, except I forgot to dress for 10 degrees cooler than the thermometer. I did have a jacket though, and got by fine.
My experience with the Messier marathon allowed me to zoom in several
objects without much fumbling, which was proof to me that I had definitely come a long way from my first night out.
My binoculars proved valuable to the scouts and their leaders alike.
The parallelogram made it easy for different people to see the same object without a runaround or ladder. The Beehive Cluster definitely answered the question 'Why do they call it the Beehive Cluster?'.
I heard about a 'bino box' and am keen to see one in action. For observing at the zenith, it's almost impossible to do so comfortably with just a standard mount.
I could zoom in M13, Jupiter, Saturn (a yellowish dot, not round) and M81-82 and M65-66. The Pocket Sky Atlas helped confirm the view was right even if the objects were not obvious in the eyepiece.
Of course, the best part was checking out the views in all the other scopes, as items were found and advertized.
Also very interesting was watching the setup and takedown of the scopes, which will help me decide what kind to buy. In particular, the alignment process. The above remarks about alignment underline the need to give the scope every advantage in the process.
I definitely need a bit more than super binos because a lot of objects end up being pretty tiny at 15x magnification.
However, I will lose light if I don't increase aperture... so I am wondering. I would also like to try some imaging now that i have seen what can be done and the fine results that are obtained.
I was definitely encouraged by the warm friendliness of all the members present and their breadth of knowledge on the equipment and techniques. 'Worth the drive to Binbrook' -- or anywhere else. They also planted the idea of going to Starfest this year. I'll be there if it's anything like Saturday night. Thanks, HAA.
From Mike Jefferson:
Last night @ ~ 8:00 EDT(midnight UTC) GOES 11-12 reported a top-of-the-scale C-class (almost an M-class) flare! Most powerful one I've seen. Mike J.
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