Sunday, March 14, 2010

M51 "Whirlpool" Galaxy

This is my Whirlpool Galaxy shot from last Friday night. It's much better than my M81/M82 in my opinion. The galaxy looked really small in my raw images due to the 80mm ED's wide field with the Nikon D40 attached. However, I processed this image using Deep Sky Stacker's 2X Drizzle method, and then cropped into the galaxy. Not too shabby, and better than my last attempt last year for sure. It looks like I caught some nebulosity shooting off the satellite galaxy, as well as some other objects.

Image Details:
  • Imaging Scope: Astrotelescopes 80mm ED Refractor
  • Imaging Camera: Nikon D40
  • Guiding Scope: William Optics 66mm Petzval Refractor
  • Guiding Camera: Meade DSI-C
  • Exposures: 6 * 10 minute lights, 3 * 10 minute darks, 7 flats
  • ISO 400
  • Aligned and Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
  • Post-Processing in Photoshop (Trial Version)
  • Noise reduction in Neat Image


Polaris B said...

Yeah, that is great, as is M81-82. Very nice detail on M81! Ten minute subs---how cool is that? I wash out in about six minutes here, so you have a great site and a mount that is working well! I have M81 and 82 on my target list, now, and a reason to go back to M51.

Anonymous said...

Awesome photo, Phil. I like your work a lot.

- Todd

Phil said...

Thanks guys! There's some blue artifacts around the stars that I am not sure about. I am pretty certain that it is not chromatic aberration as I haven't seen this in other shots with the same scope that I have taken. Must be something in the processing.

Sidewalk Universe said...

Hey I like your attitude - "try hard amateur". Do not turn into a astro snob! Your pics are excellent and will be refined as go go along without apology!

Looking forward to your future postings on your well developed blog page!

Phil said...

Hey, Richard!

Thanks for visiting and posting here. I appreciate the positive and encouraging feedback! I have run into such "astro-snobs" and they aggravate me, especially when I see them "mentoring" newbies. I hope to bring a positive attitude to newbies and fellow amateurs alike and hope this blog is having an impact to some degree.

I'll have to devote some time to review your blog as it looks like you have some great material there (as well as some delish recipes!)

Clear skies!


Sidewalk Universe said...

Hey Phil believe it or not I do observe (serious visual guy) and do outreach.

Weather and timing has not lined up. My page has random stuff on it due to the ever spontaneous random comments folks make. You if you choose to enter the fray please do.

My page is not high brow in any way more of a journal of my outreach and a connect point for other "light hearted" astronomers!

I will be posting my street events as they start up.

Again you have a nice page & attitude.

Elena said...

Hey Phil!

I absolutely love your photos; they are so gorgeous and clear. I'm seventeen and VERY new to astronomy and everything telescope, so excuse my lack of knowledge. I'm very quickly falling in love with it. I just bought a 6 inch scope (Orion Skyquest XT6), and I'm planning on getting a 4 mm eyepiece soon (maybe a 2x Barlow also). How different are your photos from what you see in your scopes alone? I know you do long exposures, but are you able to see galaxies without imaging software?


Phil said...

Hi Elena,

Thanks for the feedback and for visiting my blog!

I own an Orion XT6 and LOVE it. I have driven it all over the place, even interstate, and it has continued to hold its collimation and provide great images. My kids use it now for the most part and despite the rough treatment, it still holds up. I think you'll love using it!

Don't be too keen on high power. Except for planets and the moon, high power is over-rated! A lot of deep sky objects like galaxies, nebulae and clusters are often best viewed with a wide-angle, low-to-medium power lens. Your XT6 probably came with something like a 10mm Plossl eyepiece. Just try a 2X barlow to start off with and see. High power views of the planets and moon are great, but you have to consider air stability as well.

For hunting down deep sky objects, think about investing in a wide angle eyepiece somewhere around the 15-20mm range. Orion has a series of eyepieces called "Stratus" which I owned for a while, are fairly inexpensive and offer superb wide-field views. Definitely worth considering.

Regarding photos, they're typically always very different from what you'll see with your naked eye at the eyepiece. Camera sensors will pick up a lot more light photons and, hence, colors, than the human eye, especially with long exposures. However, take your scope to a dark sky site (and one that is safe!) and point it up at the Orion Nebula (M42) with your low power eyepiece. Just watch it for a while, and you will see tons of detail in the gas clouds and new stars being formed there.

Clear skies!

Phil said...

Elena - one more thing. Yes, you can see galaxies. Again, at a dark sky site, try seeking out the following objects:

- M31 Andromeda Galaxy
- M81 and M82 Group
- M51

The latter two are challenging, so the darker the skies the better. You may not see fancy spiral arms and lots of detail, but you should be able to make out the central bulges and some spiral arm detail.

Also, try looking for some Globular Clusters. They're amazing. Shoot for M13 in Hercules...