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Critters, IC1396 Elephant Trunk Nebula,
NGC404 Mirach's Ghost Galaxy

Posted: 5 September 2013

Had some light rainshowers on Tuesday, 3 September 2013. No observing. The sky cleared on Wednesday, 4 September, and Cassiopeia Observatory was opened at 1828 MST, 98°F. The sky was mostly clear with some clouds low in the west and north. I had a couple of visitors at the observatory:



Viewed Venus, 83X and 222X, at 1839 MST. Seeing was not good but the gibbous phase was easily seen. At 1841 MST, a few minutes before sunset, viewed Saturn, 222X. It was faintly visible. Sunset was at 1847 MST. At 1854 MST, one cloud band on Saturn and Cassini Division were visible using 222X. Saturn was really too low for good viewing. Took my last look at Saturn, 83X, at 1905 MST. The moon Titan was now visible.

While waiting for astronomical twilight to end I began preparing the D7000 DSLR for DSO imaging. I would have to use my backup illuminated reticle eyepiece with Meade illuminator as I needed to order a battery for the Rigel Systems PulsGuide. The special battery was not available locally in several stores that I had checked. Since the Meade illuminator does not "blink", it will be slightly more difficult guiding on a faint star than is the case with the PulsGuide.

While preparing the camera I noticed a new visitor to the observatory:


The scorpion was terminated with extreme prejudice.

At 1930 MST, slewed the 8" LX200-ACF to IC1396 (nebula) and began waiting for twilight to end. I had imaged IC1396 on a previous session, but I wanted to try for the "Elephant Trunk", which was mostly outside of the previous image field-of-view (FOV). I added a focal reducer and mounted the D7000 DSLR to the 8" using the off-axis guider. I slewed to Deneb and did a focus test using the Bahtinov Mask. Then slewed back to IC1396. Using the previously captured image, I slewed the telescope slightly to bring the Elephant Trunk (not visible in the camera viewfinder) to near the center of the FOV. I did this by using some stars that were visible on the previous image and in the camera viewfinder. I located a faint guide star (which would make guiding difficult) and at 2010 MST, took this (cropped) 5 minute, ISO 6400, guided image of the IC1396 Elephant Trunk:


I completed imaging at 2016 MST and removed the camera and focal reducer from the telescope. I then mounted the reticle eyepiece to a visual back in preparation to re-do the "drift alignment" of the wedge. It had been several months since it was last done. I began doing the drift alignment at 2030 MST and completed the alignment at 2139 MST. I made some slight adjustments in azimuth and one small adjustment in latitude.

While I was doing the drift alignment another visitor arrived in the observatory:


I tried to convince her to leave as I didn't want to step on her, but she refused. I guess she really wanted to watch me do the alignment. As I was completing the alignment about an hour later, I finally got her to leave.

I did some DSO observing, 83X, beginning at 2143 MST. First was M13 (Great Globular Cluster in Hercules). Next was M57 (the Ring Nebula), followed by M16 (Eagle Nebula). I then checked Observer Pro on the iPhone for some possible DSOs. I selected and viewed NGC6818 (planetary nebula; will image on the next session), NGC7009 (Saturn Nebula, planetary nebula), NGC7293 (Helix Nebula), NGC7252 (Atoms for Peace Galaxy), and NGC404 (Mirach's Ghost Galaxy). I decided I would try imaging NGC7252 and NGC404.

Mounted the D7000 DSLR at prime focus of the 8" using the off-axis guider. At 2223 MST, did a focus test using the star Fomalhaut with the Bahtinov Mask. I then did a 1 minute, ISO 6400, unguided framing test exposure of NGC7252. No guide star was visible in the reticle eyepiece, and has it turned out, the galaxy was too faint to be visible in the resulting image as viewed on the camera viewscreen. I did a 3 minute, unguided exposure, but again, no galaxy was visible in the image. I then did a 5 minute, unguided exposure, and still the "Atoms for Peace Galaxy" was not visible on the camera viewscreen. During post-processing of these images, the galaxy was still not visible. I will try again to image NGC7252 on a future session.

I then slewed to NGC404 (Mirach's Ghost Galaxy). I expected it to be a tough object to photograph due the bright star Mirach (Beta Andromeda) being nearby. I centered Mirach in the camera viewfinder and did a 1 minute, ISO 6400, framing test exposure. The galaxy was easily seen in this image. I then did a 5 minute, guided exposure with this result:


A faint reflection of the bright star is visible above and left of the galaxy, but otherwise the image turned out well.

I finished imaging at 2301 MST and removed the camera from the telescope. I did some more observing of NGC404 (Mirach's Ghost Galaxy) at 83X and 222X. With Mirach placed outside of the eyepiece FOV, the galaxy was easily seen. With Mirach in the FOV, the galaxy was still visible, if you knew it was there. Otherwise, you might think you were seeing a reflection of the star.

At 2316 MST, viewed Uranus, 83X and 222X. The planet's disk was obvious and bright. Then viewed Neptune, 83X and 222X. Its disk was much smaller but still evident.

The observatory was closed at 2346 MST, 78°F.

On my previous report I mentioned seeing and photographing a weather balloon. This story has some information about the balloon.

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

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