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Five Saturn Moons and Pluto Imaging; DSO Observing

Posted: 16 June 2012

Opened the observatory Friday, 15 June, at 1923 MST, 92°F. Conditions were clear but breezy. First viewed Mercury at 1931 MST, 77X and 206X. Seeing was not very good but the "half-moon" phase was visible. At 1937 MST, viewed Saturn, 77X and 206X; no moons were visible 5 minutes after sunset. At 1951 MST, the moons Titan, Tethys, and Rhea were visible. At 1857 MST, picked up Dione. At 2010 MST, saw Enceladus using averted vision at 133X.

At 2030 MST, I began Saturn imaging preparations. Did a focus test on Spica using the Bahtinov Mask. The following is a merge of two "hat trick", ISO 1600, eyepiece projection (160X) exposures:


The moons are (right to left): Titan, Tethys, Rhea, Enceladus, and Dione.

I then did some eyepiece projection (160X) HD video recordings of Saturn. This is a stack of 2720 frames from a recording 1/30sec, ISO 3200, 2 minutes:


I ended Saturn imaging at 2049 MST.

At 2100 MST, I began doing some DSO observing. First was M13 (the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules), 77X and 133X. I then switched to a 2" 50mm (40X) eyepiece and did the "Tonight's Best" AutoStar "guided tour". Viewed the following DSOs: M44 (open cluster), M4 (globular cluster), M6 (open cluster), M8 (Lagoon Nebula), M27 (Dumbbell Nebula), M20 (Trifid Nebula), M92 (globular cluster), M81 and M82 (galaxies; in same FOV), M5 (globular cluster), M104 (Sombrero Galaxy), M57 (Ring Nebula), M68 (globular cluster), Centaurus A (galaxy), M52 (open cluster), M16 (Eagle Nebula), M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy), and M53 (Spindle Galaxy). The tour ended. I continued DSO observing: M65, M66, and NGC3628 (Leo Triplet of Galaxies; all in same FOV), Omega Centauri (globular cluster), and NGC6960 (Veil Nebula). At 2148 MST, I ended DSO observing.

2208 MST, slewed to Pluto, low in the southeast, and using 77X, I began to identify stars in the eyepiece FOV using SkySafari 3 Pro on the iPhone. At 2216 MST, I had IDed all the stars and think I saw Pluto using averted vision. At 2225 MST, I set up for imaging. SYNCed on Pluto's position. Switched to using a visual back and mounted the D7000 DSLR at prime focus of the 8" LX200-ACF. Did a focus test on Antares using the Bahtinov Mask. At 2239 MST, began doing unguided imaging of Pluto at 90, 60, and 30 seconds, ISO 6400. The following is a cropped 60 second exposure with two possible "Pluto's" arrowed. For comparison, see the SkySafari screen at nearly the same scale and orientation.

photo photo

I will take another image of Pluto 24 hours later to check for motion. That will definitively identify Pluto. Stay tuned.

Closed the observatory at 2300 MST, 73°F. For two nights in a row, no Kissing Bugs were seen.

Comments are welcome; use the Comments section below, or you can Email Me. Thanks.

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