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Imaging: D7000 Asteroid Pallas, iPhone 4 Planet Uranus;
Observing: Many DSOs

Posted: 4 November 2012

During the day on Saturday, 3 November 2012, I went out to the observatory and cleaned eyepieces, 2X Barlow Lens, and 3X TeleXtender. The sky was cloudy so this seemed like a good time to do that. I also removed some dust and pollen from the 8" corrector lens. By sunset, the clouds were mostly gone, so I opened the observatory at 1802 MST, 76°F.

At 1808 MST, viewed the planet Uranus, 77X. It appeared as a small blue disk. At 206X, the disk was better. I tried 412X but the planet was currently too low in the southeastern sky for good viewing at that high magnification.

At 1826 MST, slewed to the asteroid Pallas, as indicated by the AutoStar. Switched to the visual back. I then slewed to the RA/Dec for Pallas as shown by SkySafari Pro 3 on my iPhone, since its positional data is more current that what is in the AutoStar database. I checked the iOS app AstroAid (click the link for my new review) to determine the eyepiece field-of-view (FOV) and set SkySafari to show a similar FOV and orientation. At 1840 MST, I easily identified Pallas by using nearby stars as shown in SkySafari. I then mounted the D7000 DSLR at prime focus + visual back on the 8" LX200-ACF. I was able to do a focus test with the Bahtinov Mask using a bright star (1 Cet) in the same FOV as Pallas. I then did a 30 sec, ISO 1600, exposure. The image (right) has nearly the same FOV and orientation as the screen shot from SkySafari (left):

photo photo

I switched back to using the star diagonal and viewed Uranus, now higher in the sky. At 1907 MST, it showed a nice blue disk at 412X. I then attached the iPhone 4 using the MX-1 afocal adapter and did some imaging at 444X. Focusing was difficult due to the faintness of Uranus. This is a stack of 1428 frames from a video recording:


I completed imaging at 1921 MST, and viewed the planet Neptune, 77X. It was a very small pale blue disk. At 206X, the disk was evident but faint. Using 412X, the disk was more obvious.

Beginning at 1935 MST, I started observing some Deep Sky Objects (DSOs) at 77X. I first viewed NGC7635 (Bubble Nebula). Some nebulosity was faintly visible. I added a O-III filter; the nebulosity was more easily seen. I then viewed the galaxies M31, M32, and M110 while using the O-III filter. The filter really brought out the nucleus of each galaxy. I removed the filter and viewed the galaxies. While viewing M31 (which was high in the sky) I could detect considerable extent of the spiral arms.

Next, I checked Observer Pro on my iPhone to see what new (to me) DSOs might be currently visible. I selected NGC7606 (faint galaxy) and NGC488 (another faint galaxy). At 2003 MST, viewed NGC7606; it was definitely a small faint galaxy but was a nice one. I added it to my imaging list for a future session. While I was observing the faint galaxy, the neighbor to the north turned on his two exceedingly bright, horizontally aimed, floodlights, illuminating the interior of the observatory and the entire neighborhood. I was able to rotate the dome to avoid some of his light pollution, but it was still a light nuisance. Fortunately, he turned them back off within a few minutes. I also viewed NGC488, the other faint galaxy I had selected from Observer Pro. I added it to my imaging list.

I then did a tour of DSOs in the constellation of Aquarius: M72 (globular cluster), M73 (open cluster), NGC7009 (Saturn Nebula), M2 (globular cluster), and NGC7293 (Helix Nebula).

At 2027 MST, I slewed to Jupiter, low in the east, and viewed it at 77X. Four moons were visible. At 2047 MST, viewed M45 (Pleiades). I changed from the 1.25" 26mm eyepiece (77X) to a 2" 50mm eyepiece (40X) and viewed the Pleiades with this wider FOV. A lot of nebulosity was visible. At 2055 MST, I returned to Jupiter, 206X, but it was still too low in the sky for good viewing.

At 2108 MST, did a tour of DSOs in the constellation of Auriga. Viewed the open clusters NGC1664, NGC1857, NGC1893, NGC1907, M38, M36, and M37. Also viewed the diffuse nebula Caldwell 31. By 2117 MST, the eastern sky was beginning to brighten from the waning moon that was about to rise.

Returned to Jupiter at 2120 MST, 206X. The view was a little better now that it was higher.

Closed the observatory at 2150 MST, 60°F.

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