August 2014

Now the nights are starting to draw in a little I should be able to get out with my telescope with out it being to late.

Andromeda (M31)

Surprisingly I've got an early start this month, the night of the 2nd was clear and the sky was clear and I had some deep-sky objects in my sights.

It now takes quite some time to setup - EQ Mount alignment, cameras, focuser and cables - it's come a long way from my first setup 8 months ago that took 5 mins! hay ho such is progress :o)

I was setup by about 21:30 and the first job was to calibrate PHD and my QHY5L-II guide camera so I slewed over to Arcturus and connected my guide camera to my mount, USB to the laptop and screwed it onto the adaptor and then fitted it to my spare 9 x 50 finder scope. It took about 5 mins for PHD to calibrate it to my mount then I was ready to do some Deep-Sky imaging

Image camera/adaptor and scope

All of the above were brought from Modern Astronomy

The first object I wanted to try and image is our close neighbour the Andromeda Galaxy Messier 31. I have lots of trees around my drive but luckily enough on this occasion when I slewed my scope round it was pointing between the trees. I connected my EOS 450D with remote lockable shutter release to the focuser and took a 3 minute exposure to make sure it was in the field of view, and it was slap bang in the middle. In PHD I found a bright enough star and started auto guiding. As the galaxy is faint i had to use the exposures to focus the scope.


Once I achieved the best focus I could I locked the remote shutter open and allowed the camera to take 10 or so images for stacking Deep Sky Stacker. I didn't bother with the darks and flats that are required for better viewing but I was still impressed with my first deep sky stack :o)


The Andromeda Galaxy is 2.5 million light-years from Earth and it's our nearest spiral galaxy. It is estimated to have twice the number of stars than our Milky Way approx. 1 Trillion. The bright object in the top left hand corner is M32 a dwarf elliptical galaxy about 2.65 million light-years from Earth which gives some scale to the size of Andromeda. It is estimated that the Andromeda galaxy is the largest galaxy in our local cluster of approx. 47 galaxies with the Milky way being only just smaller then Andromeda at approx ~80% the mass.

The Ring Nebula (M57)

I then decided to turn my atentions to something a little harder to see/image 'The Ring Nebula'.

After slewing to the object i popped a 10mm eye piece in and focused it, the object was very faint but i could make out the ring if i looked away from the object its self and looked with my 'Peripheral vision' i popped on the EOS and took a couple of frames to get focus. Once achieved i took a few frames to stack.

As you can see below the object is very faint and i will need to take more frames to get a brighter images, i will also need to take 'Darks' and 'Flats' to improve the image further. (info on 'Darks' & 'Flats')

Ring nebula M57

I then popped in a 2" x2 barlow and took some more images for stacking - this image is a little zoomed.

Ring Nebula M57

Cluster (M13)

The next object on my list was M13 The Hercules Globular Cluster but for some reason i couldn't find it after a few snaps it ended up with the image below - not M13 but a few nice stars.

Cluster M13

Moon Saturn Mars

On the night of the 3rd there was the rare occurrence of the Moon, Saturn and Mars being close together so i decided to pop out the EOS to capture a few images. In the image below; top left is Saturn, bottom right Mars and the Moon which also has visable earthshine on the dark section.

"The phenomenon of planetshine occurs when reflected sunlight from a planet illuminates the night side of one of its moons. Typically, this results in the moon's night side being bathed in a soft, faint light. The best known example of planetshine is earthshine, which can be seen from Earth when the Moon is a thin crescent." - Planetshine Wikipedia

Moon, Mars & Saturn

Perseids Meteor Shower

On the night of the 12th was the peak of the shower so i thought we'd pop out with my EOS and tripod and see if i could capture a few meteors.

"The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift–Tuttle. The Perseids are so called because the point from which they appear to come, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus.

The stream of debris is called the Perseid cloud and stretches along the orbit of the comet Swift–Tuttle. The cloud consists of particles ejected by the comet as it travels on its 133-year orbit. Most of the particles have been part of the cloud for around a thousand years.

The earliest information on this meteor shower is found in Chinese annuals in A.D. 36. However, credit for recognising the shower's annual appearance is given to Adolphe Quetelet, who reported in 1835 that there was a shower emanating from the constellation Perseus.

The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity between 9 and 14 August, depending on the particular location of the stream. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky; but, because of the path of Swift-Tuttle's orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the Northern Hemisphere. As with many meteor showers, the visible rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since the side of the Earth nearest to turning into the sun scoops up more meteors as the Earth moves through space."
- Perseids Wikipedia

The moon was quite high and full tonight so a lot of the sky was washed out and only the brightest meteors would be visible. I setup the EOS at about 23:30, after setting it up on the tripod an owl flew past the car a hovered over the camera for at least 30 seconds sadly I didn't manage to get a photo of it :o(

I had the camera exposure set to 20 secs, ISO set to 1600, aperture to f/4 and the focus to infinity (18mm with my lens). I locked the remote shutter release on while we stared at the sky to capture a glimpse, but within a minute I was snoozing (zzzzzzzz). After a short while my wife woke me up and we stared at the skies for a while and every now and then we saw what we thought may have been meteors but I think it was our eyes playing tricks on us. I stopped the shutter and packed away and headed home.

The next day I looked at each frame which confirmed my suspicions that our eyes were playing tricks on us, but on the last couple of frames (now stacked below) we had captured a meteor.


I also processed all the images in startrails which produced image below. its a bit lighter - because of the full moon - than I would like for my first startrails it's not too bad.


Sadly that's it for this month as we were going away for a couple of weekends, I really need to get a startravel 80 or some good binoculars for when we're away but as I'm finding out with our weather even if I have the equipment I still may not get to use it!

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