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Andromeda Galaxy Globular Clusters observing;
M45, M35, IC443, & IC418 imaging

Posted: 16 November 2014

Another news report on our local state park being honored as an IDA "International Dark Sky Park", this one by Arizona Republic. And this Arizona State Parks Press Release: Oracle State Park.

The Oracle Fire Department put this message on display beginning 13 November:


Clouds came in on Thursday, 13 November, so didn't open the observatory. Saturday, 15 November, the sky cleared.

Opened: Saturday, 15 November 2014, 1759 MST
Temperature: 64°F
Session: 749
Conditions: A few clouds around

1805 MST: Mars, 83X. No details seen.

1818 MST: slewed to M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), 30 minutes before end of astronomical twilight. M31 nucleus and some spiral structure seen; companion galaxies M32 easily seen and M110 faintly visible. Decided to observe some Deep Sky Objects (DSOs) in M31. I previously did this on 3 October 2013 using an article in the November 2013 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine (page 59). While music from the movie "Star Wars" was playing on my iPod in my SkyShed POD, at 1837 MST I began observing DSOs "in a galaxy, far, far away". Did a GOTO NGC206 on the AutoStar II. I could easily see the NGC206 (stellar association) at 83X. I then star-hopped to the open cluster C107. It was a difficult object. But the globular cluster G76 was easily seen using averted vision. At 222X, G76 was visible as a non-point fuzzy object. 1907 MST: began star-hopping to the globular cluster G1 and located it at 1917 MST using 83X. I confirmed I had it using 222X. No averted vision was needed to see its large fuzzy disk. It is really fun to see DSOs in another galaxy. I hope others will take up the challenge.

1929 MST: viewed M45 (Pleiades) using focal reducer + 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece (53X). The entire cluster filled the field-of-view (FOV). Some breezes began at this time. I began preparing to image M45. Mounted the D7000 DSLR at prime focus + focal reducer using the OPT 2" adapter. All stars were in the camera FOV. Began waiting for M45 to rise higher. 1945-1954 MST: short break to get a warmer coat.

2000 MST: did a focus test image on the star Capella using a Bahtinov Mask. Did 20 1 minute, ISO 800, unguided exposures of M45 with the intention of stacking them. Unfortunately, the exposure setting for each image did not capture the nebulosity but did make for a pretty photograph of the Pleiades stars, as seen in this correct orientation view as it appeared in the eastern sky:


I also did a 1 minute, ISO 6400, exposure which brought out some of the nebulosity. This image was postprocessed using Neat Image:


2047 MST: completed imaging of M45. I plan to do more multiple longer exposures for stacking on a future session.

While waiting for my next DSO imaging target to rise I did some sky observing using my 12x70 binoculars. Observed M45 (Pleiades), Double Cluster, Hyades, M31, and M35 (open cluster). 2121 MST: breezes were getting stronger. 2135 MST, after locating M33 (Triangulum Galaxy) using the 12x70 binoculars, I could faintly detect it using my naked eyes.

2140 MST: began imaging of M35 (open cluster) for my Messier Photo Album. This is a 60 second, ISO 800, exposure taken at prime focus + focal reducer:


Look to the lower left of M35 and you'll see a cluster of old red stars. I removed the camera and viewed M35 at 53X. The old cluster was easily seen.

I then slewed to IC443 (nebula); some nebulosity was faintly visible. Remounted the camera using an off-axis guider (OAG). Did a focus test on the star Betelgeuse. Did some framing test exposures, 60 seconds, ISO 6400. Located a good guide star and began waiting for IC443 to rise higher. 2245 MST: this is a 5 minute, ISO 6400, cropped image, postprocessed using Neat Image:


I removed the camera and focal reducer. Viewed IC418 (planetary nebula), 83X and 222X. It was a small but nice blue disk. Remounted the camera at prime focus using the OAG. This is a highly cropped, 5 second, ISO 800 image:


This planetary nebula really needs to be imaged at higher magnification. I plan to do that on a future session.

2327 MST: viewed M42 (Great Orion Nebula), 83X. Switched to my new William Optics Binoviewers with 20mm eyepieces. The view of M42 was gorgeous. M42 extended across the entire FOV. Other than on the Trapezium stars (which appeared slightly tilted), no 3D effect was seen.

2348 MST: did some SQM-L and iOS "Dark Sky Meter" app sky measurements.

Closed: Saturday, 15 November 2014, 2359 MST
Temperature: 53°F, humidity 53%, windy

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