Saturday, March 13, 2010

Astro Session 3/12/2010

This past Friday night was fantastic. Clear skies, 3/5 seeing and 5/5 transparency. I drove out to the Canyon of the Eagles observing site in Central Texas with my two scope setups; my Meade 12" Lightbridge and astrophotography rig. Packed with star charts, cokes and snacks, I was set for a big night. I got there well before sunset, set up all my gear and ate dinner as the sun sunk below the horizon. Not a cloud in sight - excellent!

I had two goals for the evening. Firstly, to try and tackle some astrophotography. I wanted to shoot the M81 and M82 galaxy group. I set up my guide camera with PHD Guiding and was happy to see that my laptop recognized the CGEM mount without any issues at all. It took about four minutes of so for PHD to get its guiding all sorted, and then I was ready to shoot away. I was taking ten minute exposures, so shot from about 9:15PM to 11:15PM. After that, I shot about six 10 minute exposures of M51 just fro grins.

While my camera was working away, I used the Lightbridge throughout the night to get ahead of my abysmal attempt on the Caldwell Catalog. Dad was ahead by two objects and I wanted to be the leader ;-). I have to say, 90% of the objects in this observing list are VERY hard to find, even under some pretty dark skies. I was going full manual too, just using a star chart, binoculars, my 8*50 finder and Lightbridge. In three hours I found six new objects, which I jotted down in my observing guide. One object, C25 (NGC2419) was a particularly difficult globular cluster (Magnitude 10.4) which I really struggled to find. I did so after an hour, but GOLLY it was hard! I was glad to finally find it, though. A few other objects I was able to find by binoculars. So, it was good to add to our list and get the momentum going again.

I am processing data for my captures and will post them here once I am satisfied with the results. The M81 & M82 snaps are hard to post-process without inducing noisy resulting images. I did take flat files but they came out rather rubbish-like so have decided not to use them. So, if I get decent results, I'll post them here.

A great night out in any case!


Sidewalk Universe said...

Don't give up on your Caldwells! Soon you will have them down like the M's. Many will look good in your 12". They are indeed a great group of fun objects!

Phil said...

Thanks, Sidewalk! I think it's a good challenge, and doing astronomy like this (non-GOTO) really helps with fostering your acquaintance of the night sky.

Thanks for visiting the blog, too!