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Venus and Crescent Moon, NGC278 Galaxy

Posted: 26 January 2012

After my long and successful imaging session on 19 January, clouds moved in on Friday, 20 January, and stayed until Wednesday, 25 January. On my 14 January report, I mentioned that my new HH:MM:SS clock for the observatory had failed. The replacement arrived on Wednesday, 25 January. After I opened the observatory at 1815 MST, 56°F, I set up the new clock. There were some clouds in the sky. At 1823 MST, viewed Venus and then the crescent moon at 77X. Their not-very-close conjunction looked like this in the western sky (taken with an iPhone 4):


Here's another view (taken with a D7000 DSLR, f/4.5, 1/10sec, 102mm, ISO 500, handheld):


I did a tour of the crescent moon at 206X. Seeing was not very good due to the high thin clouds. I checked the forecast sites to see if there had been any updates. Here is what they showed (7Timer! on the left and Clear Sky Chart on the right):

photo photo

It was beginning to look like 7Timer! would be more correct.

At 1850 MST, viewed Jupiter at 206X and 77X. Four moons and the Great Red Spot were visible.

I then went to NGC278, a small faint galaxy in Cassiopeia, with the plan of re-imaging it. I was not happy with the image I acquired on my last session and wanted to do a better guiding job during the exposure. At 1900 MST, the galaxy was clearly visible at 77X. I continued to monitor the clouds. At 1907 MST, I decided to begin imaging preparations in the hope of beating some clouds that were approaching Cassiopeia. I mounted the D7000 DSLR at prime focus of the 8" LX200-ACF using the Off-Axis Guider. I did a focus test image using the star Capella with the Bahtinov Mask. I then SYNCed on the star Shedir (Alp Cas) and slewed to NGC278 to look for a guide star in the 12mm illuminated reticle eyepiece. By the time I located a good guide star, a bank of thin clouds had reached Cassiopeia. At 1946 MST, I did a framing test exposure as a data point for future NGC278 imaging. As it turned out, this was the only image of NGC278 I was able to acquire this night. Here it is (1 minute, ISO 6400, full-frame, unguided):


Even with this short exposure, the galaxy was captured (upper left). Amazing that a consumer-level DSLR can do that.

After I completed the above exposure, clouds covered much of the sky. I decided to close up for the night.

Closed the observatory at 2010 MST, 49°F.

I checked the new clock at 0705 MST, 26 January, and it was still working. The overnight low had been in the mid-30s.


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