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Imaging: Uranus Moons, Messier Objects,
Fornax Galaxies, Comet Lovejoy

Posted: 17 January 2015

Open: Friday, 16 January 2015, 1807 MST
Temperature: 62°F
Session: 769
Conditions: Clear, few clouds low West-Northwest

1815 MST: viewed Mercury, 83X. Half phase visible. Then Venus, 83X. Essentially full phase. Next was Uranus, 83X and 222X. Disk view good. Would try to capture some moons of Uranus after end of Astronomical Twilight (1908 MST). Began preparing the D7000 DSLR for imaging.

1836 MST: viewed Mars, low in southwest sky, 222X. Hint of a dark area and maybe the North Polar Cap or a cloud visible. Seeing was not very good due to the low altitude of Mars. Next viewed Neptune, 222X, also low in the southwest. Small disk visible.

Returned to Uranus. 1843 MST: a small object was visible very close the planet. Since all the moons of Uranus are Magnitude +14 and greater, was this a moon or a star?

1851 MST: Zodiacal Light now visible.

1900 MST: mounted the D7000 DSLR at prime focus of the 8" LX200-ACF and did a focus test on a star using a Bahtinov Mask. I then did some images of Uranus. This is a 20 second, ISO 6400, exposure showing possibly two moons:


I identified the two objects using both SkySafari Pro for Mac OS X and Starry Night Pro Plus. The moon Titania should have been imaged but I don't think I got it. Will take another image on the next session to see if any moon motion is detected.

Slewed to M42 (Great Nebula in Orion) to image M43 separately for my Messier Photo Album. Initially did some unguided 30 second exposures at prime focus, but tracking was not very good. Switched to using an off-axis guider (OAG) and captured this guided image of M43, 5 minutes, ISO 4000 (cropped from full-frame image):


Oddly, tracking was pretty good after I switched to the OAG. I had to do only minimal guiding corrections.

I then imaged M78 (nebula), guided 5 minutes, ISO 6400:


And M79 (globular cluster), guided 1 minute, ISO 3200:


Both M78 and M79 were re-imaged to improve on past images for the Messier Photo Album.

Next, imaged M41 (open cluster). It really needed the focal reducer, so added it for this 30 seconds, ISO 2500 (full-frame) image:


I then imaged some Fornax galaxies, very low in the southern sky, at prime focus + focal reducer. First was NGC1316. No guide stars could be found so this is a cropped, unguided, 2 minutes, ISO 6400, exposure showing NGC1316 at the center and NGC1318 to the left:


This is NGC1365, cropped, unguided, 2 minutes, ISO 6400:


My last Deep Sky Object imaged through the 8" telescope was NGC2174 (Monkey Head Nebula). I wanted to see if this very faint nebula could be imaged with my equipment. I did an unguided, 1 minute, ISO 6400, exposure and did indeed capture it. The camera orientation was not convenient for guiding so I decided to defer more imaging of NGC2174 to the next session.

2130 MST: began preparing to photograph Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy). Mounted the D7000 DSLR with 18-105mm lens piggyback on the 8" telescope. Did a focus test at 105mm using my new Gerd Neumann Bahtinov Mask for Camera Lens on the star Aldebaran. Due to the star's faintness, it took some time to get a precise focus. I then did some zooming in and out to get good framing of the Pleiades and Comet Lovejoy. This is a guided, slightly cropped, 5 minutes, ISO 6400, FL 58mm, photograph showing the Comet's long tail passing by the Pleiades:


I zoomed out some more to capture the Comet, the Pleiades, and the Hyades star cluster. This slightly cropped image is guided, 5 minutes, ISO 6400, FL 30mm:


2245 MST: ended comet imaging. Viewed Comet Lovejoy using my Celestron Cometron 12x70 Binoculars. The bright nucleus and large coma were impressive. The binoculars lived up to the name "Cometron" as about 2° of the comet's tail was visible.

2306 MST: viewed Comet Lovejoy in the 8" telescope, 83X. The bright nucleus and large coma were easily seen. And the tail was faintly visible across the entire FOV.

2310 MST: viewed Jupiter, 83X and 222X. Three moons were visible as was the transiting shadow of Europa. Tried 444X to see if the moon Europa was visible against the planet's disk; it was not. Switched to the Baader Zoom 8-24mm Eyepiece. It provided excellent views of Jupiter at all focal lengths. This is a great Jupiter observing eyepiece.

Having viewed Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune during this session in Cassiopeia Observatory, I observed six planets this night.

Close: Friday, 16 January 2015, 2339 MST
Temperature: 49°F

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