Monday, December 29, 2008

Sword of Orion: Second Attempt

After imaging M37, I set my sights on my intended target for the evening, the Sword of Orion. The last time I imaged it, it was sitting low in the Austin light dome and made for some really bad processing limitations, almost doubled in effect by the fact that I took my flat frames incorrectly, so the resulting image was so-so.

This time, I focused on obtaining good flat images. I took some sample images with me from other folks to make sure mine were vaguely similar, and this helped a lot (stored the other sample flat images on my cell phone for reference!).

I waited until about 9:30PM until Orion rose out of the mucky light pollution. My target was for three minute exposures, for about an hour's worth of data. However, my scope had other plans! :-( After a night of behaving nicely, it began an RA drift on it's own, maybe half a degree or so every four or five seconds. I could not understand why the scope was doing this. The motor was making some odd noises, and the amp meter fluctuated ever so slightly as the scope went on its merry way. Very strange.

So, I only managed to capture two three minute frames. In the raw data, the light pollution is still highly evident. You can see it in the final image below, with the lighter shade of darkness at the right of the image. I think that unless I buy a fancy filter, imaging at the usual, local spot is now out of the question.

Anyway, below is the resulting image. Better than my last attempt IMHO but it has a long way to go. The Running Man nebula is more pronounced, and the colors are a bit more vibrant.

Image Details:
  • Nikon D40
  • William Optics 66mm Petzval mounted atop Meade LX200 8" SCT with Milburn Wedge
  • 2 * 3 min light frames @ ISO800
  • 5 * flat frames
  • 10 * bias frames
  • 2 * dark frames
  • Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
  • Auto Level adjustment in Photoshop
  • Noise Reduction in NeatImage

I will need to spend some time determining my new LX200 issue. I really hope this isn't the start of another RA runaway issue. I can't afford to send it to California for repairs again!!!! In the meantime, my next outing will be a pure visual exercise. My Lightbridge needs to gather some photons and I need some time to back off the imaging and enjoy the night sky without doing it behind a camera.


Ewan said...

Nice job Phil! Lots of great detail in there. Keep up the good work!

Ps: Did you know that your blog came 56th in the Top 100 Space and Astronomy Blogs?

Phil said...

Thanks for the deedback, mate! Sadly this was just two exposures before my scope decided to act up on me. I was planning for about 10 more exposures. Grrr....

I did not know I had made that list!! Very exciting! I am getting a lot of hits on the blog so it's nice to see the popularity increasing. Hopefully by writing about my experiences I can help others going through the same stuff.

Hope you had a nice Christmas/holiday and all the very best for the New Year!

Ewan said...

It's a shame your scope started to play up. For two exposures it's still a really great image.

I was really pleased to see your blog listed in the Top 100. Being able to share your knowledge and experiences' is definitely a good thing. Like I said before: keep up the good work ;-)

Wishing you all the best for the New Year.