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D7000 DSLR: Heart and Soul Nebulae

Posted: 25 December 2011

I opened the observatory Saturday, 24 December, at 1733 MST, 51°F. My goal for this night was to attempt more imaging of the Heart and Soul Nebulae in the constellation of Cassiopeia. 1741 MST: viewed Venus at 77X and 206X. Gibbous phase clearly evident at 206X. Then to Jupiter, 77X, 133X, and 206X. Four moons visible. I then began making preparations to image IC1805 (Heart Nebula) and IC1848 (Soul Nebula) at prime focus + focal reducer + Off-Axis Guider. I mounted the D7000 DSLR on the telescope and rotated it to determine the best orientation to make the guide eyepiece easily accessible. I completed the preparations at 1811 MST and began waiting for the sky to get darker.

At 1844 MST, I captured this "Christmas Star":


Actually, it is my focus test image of Capella using the Bahtinov Mask. I then slewed to IC1805 and began searching for a guide star. I found a faint star to use. Since I could not see the nebula on the camera screen, I would have to wait until post-processing to determine whether framing was OK. I began imaging at 1855 MST. I did guided 5 and 10 minute exposures, ISO 6400. I then slewed to IC1848 and found a guide star, which was even fainter than the one used for IC1805. I did guided 5 and 10 minute exposures, ISO 6400. Twice during the 10 minute exposure, the neighbor to the north turned on his bright, horizontally aimed, unshielded, floodlights. The lights are aimed directly at the observatory and I was imaging towards the north. I wondered if my image would be ruined, but I did not retake it.

With my imaging completed, I took a last look at Jupiter, 77X. I closed the observatory at 2031 MST, 39°F.

During post-processing in Aperture (and some noise reduction software I am testing), I was able to bring out some of the Heart Nebula in this slightly cropped 10 minute exposure:


The Soul Nebula was more difficult, but some "wispy" areas are visible in this slightly cropped 10 minute exposure:


The Heart and Soul Nebulae are difficult imaging targets, especially for a DSLR. So, I'm happy that I have been able to capture at least some of the nebulae.

As I have mentioned in some past reports, I have used the iOS free app "Clock GT" on my iPhone for timing long duration exposures on my D7000 DSLR. This app was super as it displayed in red digits, had a seconds display, honored the 24-hour clock setting on the iPhone, and did not auto-shutoff. However, the recent 1.1 update added the display of ads, making the app unusable as the ads are too bright in the darkened observatory. I can't fault the developer for adding ads to the free version, but it certainly stopped me from using the app. I searched for alternatives and found two: "Night Stand HD Lite" and "Free Digital Clock". Both apps were configurable to display red digits, and display HH:MM:SS. However, neither app honors the 24-clock setting on the iPhone. And Night Stand HD Lite does not prevent the auto-shutoff on the iPhone after 3 minutes (my iOS setting). Consequently, Free Digital Clock is now my timing app for use in the observatory, as I can tolerate the 12-hour display since I only use the minutes and seconds for exposure timing.


I am still looking for an inexpensive electric digital clock with HH:MM:SS and preferrably red digits for use in the observatory. Maybe I'll find one someday. And perhaps I have: Elgin 3451E Pick Your Color LCD Alarm Clock. Even better would be one that works with the iPod to play music through speakers.


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