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IC1396 Nebula, DSO Observing, Critter Encounter,
M74 Galaxy Supernova SN2013ej

Posted: 1 September 2013

As expected, cloudy skies, with some occasional light rain, returned after my previous session in the observatory. But Saturday, 31 August 2013, was partly cloudy and looked promising by sunset. The observatory was opened at 1926 MST, 89°F. There were a few monsoon storm clouds to the west and south, but otherwise the sky was mostly clear.

At 1934 MST, viewed Venus in the 8" LX200-ACF, 83X. It was gibbous and bright. Next viewed was Saturn, 83X and 206X, but seeing was not very good as Saturn was low in the sky. I then slewed to Altair to try out the collimation technique discussed in the October 2013 issue of Sky & Telescope. Collimation looked good no matter where the star Altair was placed in the eyepiece field-of-view (FOV). No changes were made.

At 1950 MST, viewed Nova Delphini 2013 using 7x50 binoculars. It seemed a little fainter than my previous observation on 27 August.

I then slewed to IC1396, nebula in Cepheus. It was barely visible in the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece (83X). I switched to the 1.25" 26mm eyepiece (77X) and added the OIII filter, which provided a slightly better view. I then added the f/6.3 focal reducer and viewed the nebula with and without the OIII filter. The best view using the focal reducer was without the filter, however, the nebula was very faint. I also viewed μ Cephei (Herschel's Garnet Star) a red supergiant star. Definitely a red star.

At 2010 MST, I began preparing to image IC1396 with the D7000 DSLR at prime focus + focus reducer. I mounted the camera using the off-axis guider. I then discovered that I need to change the battery in the reticle eyepiece PulsGuide illuminator, athough it would be sufficient for this night's imaging. I did a focus test on the star Deneb using the Bahtinov Mask. At 2029 MST, I did a framing test exposure (1 minute, ISO 6400), but the nebula was not visible on the camera viewscreen. I found a faint guide star and did a 5 minute, ISO 6400, guided exposure. Again, the nebula was not visible on the camera screen, so I repositioned the telscope slightly, found a brighter guide star, and did another 5 minute guided exposure. Still no nebula on the screen. I decided I would have to check the images on the commputer and see what post-processing would reveal. And this is what was in the first 5 minute exposure:


The above, nearly full-frame image using the focal reducer, only captures the main portion of the nebula. At the top of the image the head of the "elephant trunk" is visible.

I completed imaging at 2053 MST. I removed the camera from the telescope, but left the focal reducer attached. The clouds were gone from the sky but it was warm and humid.

I then began deep sky object (DSO) observing using the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece + focal reducer. First was M31, M32, and M110 galaxies in Andromeda. Wow, the view was almost photographic! M32 and M110 were both easily in the same FOV with M31. I then viewed M33 galaxy. The spiral arms were visible, but the galaxy was too low in northeast for good viewing. Next, was the Double Cluster; lovely view with both clusters in the FOV. At 2118 MST, I saw a possible Delta Aquarid meteor. There were also lightning flashes visible in the sky from a distant monsoon storm.

I next did a tour of DSOs in Cassiopeia: NGC129 (open cluster), NGC147 (galaxy), NGC185 (galaxy), NGC225 (open cluster), NGC457 (open cluster), NGC559 (open cluster), M103 (open cluster), NGC654 (open cluster), NGC659 (open cluster), NGC663 (open cluster), NGC7635 (Bubble Nebula), M52 (open cluster), NGC7789 (open cluster).

At 2143 MST, I returned to M33 (galaxy), now higher in the sky. Nice but still too low for good viewing. I then did a tour of DSOs in Andromeda: M31/M32/M110 (galaxies), NGC752 (open cluster), NGC891 (galaxy), NGC7662 (Blue Snowball, planetary nebula). I also toured some DSOs in Pegasus: NGC7814 (galaxy), M15 (globular cluster), NGC7331 (galaxy), and NGC7479 (galaxy).

Returned to M33 (galaxy) at 2201. The view was now good, with spiral arms easily visible.

Next, I slewed to M74 (galaxy) to check on the supernova SN2013ej. The galaxy was too still low in the sky and the supernova was not visible. I removed the focal reducer to get a better view of the galaxy once it was higher. At 2236 MST, frequent lightning flashes were still visible from a distant monsoon storm to the south.

I took a short break from the observatory. When I left the house to return to the observatory at 2250 MST, I could smell a musty, animal odor. As I started down the pathway to the observatory a large animal a few feet from me in the bushes snorted at me and started stomping a foot. I couldn't see any animal but I suspect it was a javelina (wild pig, a protected species in Arizona). I backed up the pathway back to the house. This was the first time in 8+ years of observing here that I have been disturbed by a nearby large animal, although I have seen many large animals on our land (bobcats, deer, cow, coyotes, and javelina). I was able to return to the observatory undisturbed at 2258 MST.

At 2304 MST, I began setting up to image M74 at prime focus. Did a focus test on Alpha Andromeda. I located a good guide star and did a framing test exposure. At 2319 MST, I took this guided 5 minute, ISO 6400, exposure:


Compare the image above with the supernova still visible to this one I took in December 2010 (pre-supernova):


Frequent lightning in the south was still visible at 2330 MST. I removed the camera and did some observing of M74 and the supernova, 83X. The supernova was visible to the eye.

The observatory was closed at 2355 MST, 72°F.

As previously mentioned, Weasner's Mighty ETX Site had its final content update on 31 August 2013. It has been an honor to host the site for 17 years. The Site will remain online for the foreseeable future as a resource for all amateur astronomers.

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

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