Friday, November 12, 2021

Clear Skies in Early November

The past week was great for Astronomy and Astrophotographers in the CNY area. Seven straight days of clear nights around the new moon. When was the last time that happened?

The first night out was Tuesday 11/2/2021. My plan that night was to shoot the Helix Nebula, however my camera a Sony A660 Mirrorless was not cooperating with Astrophotography Tool (APT). I could have certainly photographed the Helix nebula however as I discussed in the last post I have been using plate solving to center the image. The issue with the camera was that the orientation sensor which senses when the camera is vertical instead of horizontal was causing the images to be doubled and not display correctly in APT. This meant plate solving wasn't possible. Unfortunately I didn't realize this until I got home (I eventually found the true solution, and there is more on that below.) As a back up plan I photographed the Bubble Nebula (NGC-7635) in Cassiopeia. This is twenty nine 200 second guided subs taken at Darling Hill Observatory in Vesper, NY. Using a Sony A6600 camera on a iOptron CEM40G mount using a Celestron 127 Mak Telescope.


As soon as I got home I discovered a work around to the problem with APT and my camera. Basically I would need to rotate the camera 90˚ so that it was orientated horizontally at all times when photographing. This made it pain for objects that move across the night sky since the camera rotates during that time. However I knew that I could solve an image of the Helix nebula if I rotated the camera. I only ended up with an hour of stackable images on 11/3 since clouds rolled in. It was only clear for two hours that night. I continued to shoot the object on 11/4 and 11/5. However 11/5 would not stack because my focus was slightly off. This is fifty four guided subs at 200 seconds a piece across two nights at Darling Hill Observatory in Vesper, NY. Using a Sony A6600 camera on an iOptron CEM40G mount using a Celestron 127 Mak Telescope. I plan to shoot this again as there isn't as much detail as I would like and I had to really stretch the reds too far.

The next night 11/5 Bob O. a member of the Syracuse Astronomical Society suggested I try not using the skyglow filter I had in my light train. I took the advice and tried to reshoot the helix nebula but it was just slightly out of focus and would not stack. I then moved back to the Bubble Nebula as I wanted to put more time on it and see the difference without the filter. What a difference that made. This is twenty nine 200 second guided subs from 11/2. Combined with twenty two 200 second guided subs from 11/5 using a Celestron 127 Mak telescope.

On 11/5 the night was still young and Orion was rising so I moved onto the flame nebula. This is fourteen 200 second guided subs taken at DHO. A Sony A6600 camera on an iOptron CEM40G mount using a Celestron 127 Mak telescope.

On 11/6 I was getting a bit frustrated with the APT issues with my camera so I decided to give the Canon 7D another chance at a photograph. The plan that night was to shoot NCG-891 known as the Outer Limits Galaxy so named because it appears in the end credits of the 1960's TV series. This is fifty-nine 200 second guided subs. Using a Canon 7D on an iOptron CEM40G mount using a Celestron 127 Mak telescope.

I wasn't super pleased with the images I saw from the Canon. I also shot the Horsehead nebula and the Orion nebula but they did not come out very well. On 11/7 I decided to shoot the same object NGC-891 with the Sony A6600 Camera. I think the result from the Canon camera was better. I am not sure if this was due to worse visibility or that the Canon really does a better job. This is thirty six 300 seconds subs taken at DHO on 11/7/21 using a Celestron 127 Mak Telescope. 

At the end of the night I shot the Orion nebula and this time it came out better. This is three 300 second guided subs and twenty 30 second guided subs using a Celestron 127 Mak Telescope.

The next night I arrived a little early to the DHO because I wanted to see if it was possible to work out the issue with APT and the Sony camera as well. Turns out there is a setting in the ASCOM drivers which was reapplying a bayer pattern to the images. Once I turned that off the images displayed correctly. It also meant that I could do the normal plate solve and not just the blind plate solve since it could remove the background properly.

To end the run of clear skies for the first time in 6 days I did not go to the DHO. One of the goals for the night was to test out the automatic meridian flip feature of APT since plate solving now works properly without the rebayering. I shot M52 in Cassiopeia this object was about 2 hours before the meridian at 6:00PM. This gave plenty of time to shoot the object and have it try the Autoflip. Sure enough once the meridian was reached APT did a plate solve waited 10 minutes as set and then moved to the other side of the meridian and continued to photograph. This is thirty-one 300s guided subs taken on 11/8/21 and 11/10/21 at ISO400 using a Celestron 127 Mak Telescope.
Nova Cassiopeiae 2021 is visible as the brightest star on the right side of the image in the center.

I ended that night with another shot at Orion. Now that I could truly plate solve I could select a position in the night sky and frame it up. That was my plan for the Orion Nebula. I have wanted to get a photo of it along with the Running Man Nebula which is always just out of frame. I was able to use the RA and Dec of a location right between the two. This is fourteen 300s guided subs on the Sony and iOptron mount using a Celestron 127 Mak Telescope.

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