Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Autoguiding - M81 & M82 Galaxy Group

Tonight was a very nice night! 5/5 transparency and 4/5 seeing - these nights are too rare, sadly. I took the LX200 out to the local observing spot and set it up for autoguided running...

I spent the better part of last night working out how to use my new Meade DSI with the freeware PHD Guiding software, as well as learning how to let PHD Guiding drive my LX200. It took most of the night last night, mainly due to having to figure out how to set up and configure the Meade ASCOM drivers needed for the software to communicate with my scope. (ASCOM is a recent standardized method for PC->telescope communications).

So, it took me about 1.5 hours to figure out the configuration when I was out in the field tonight. My laptop was certain another application was connected to the scope and would not allow me to connect to it via the guiding software. I managed to locate the process (MeadeETXDriver) and kill it, and then was able to connect successfully.

So, below is my first autoguided image attempt. The image is cropped a fair bit. Nice roundish stars, could be better but I'll take it. (Side note - the stars in my recent images seem to be burned or really bright, not sure why...) This is the M81/M82 galaxy group near Ursa Major. M81 is the bigger galaxy that shows some spiral structure. M82, or the "Cigar Galaxy" is the brighter, thinner object above M81. The fainter blob to the left is yet another galaxy - NGC3077, which I was surprised to see once my images were processed!

I'm happy with this shot. When I attempt this next, it will be far away from light polluted skies...

Image Details:
  • William Optics 66mm Petzval with Nikon D40 DSLR
  • Guided by Meade 8" LX200 with Meade DSI, mounted on Milburn wedge
  • 8*3 minute exposures @ ISO800
  • 2*3 minute darks
  • 6 * flat frames
  • Registered and Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
  • Mild noise reduction in NeatImage
  • Subtracted Gaussian blur layer to try to remove light pollution
Click on image for full size


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Polaris B said...

Congrats, Phil. I was out last night doing the same thing, although I was not so fortunate. RA guiding was all my mount would muster, and I had some movement in Dec after the Dec guiding turned off. I'll be back out soon.

Phil said...

Polaris - were you using PHD Guiding? Every so often when I was doing the initial guiding sequence, I got the same sort of error about canceling DEC guiding because there was no movement. Weird... I just kept trying until it took.

Ewan said...

Hi Phil. It feels like it has been too long since I posted a comment here. M81 & M82 are two of my favorite galaxies and I have to say you pulled some great detail from both of them. Capturing NGC 3077 in there as well just adds to the whole image. Great stuff!

Phil said...

Thanks, Ewan! Yes, I was surprised to see NGC 3077 appear after I stacked the images. Hope all is well and that you're getting some clear skies!

Polaris B said...

Yes, PHD. I will try again soon, perhaps with changed settings. Clear skies to you this weekend.