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Moon/Jupiter/Venus, ISS (good!), Saturn, Ring Nebula, Eagle Nebula,
North American Nebula, Trifid and Lagoon Nebulae

Posted: 21 June 2015

Some wispy smoke from the Kearny wildfire 30 miles north of Cassiopeia Observatory was visible at times during the day on Saturday, 20 June 2015. The fire was still at 1428 acres and was 60% contained.

Open: Saturday, 20 June 2015, 1844 MST
Temperature: 103°F
Session: 840
Conditions: Clear, but some smoke visible

Before opening the dome I had to clean off the exterior where a bird did its thing. Fortunately, it was minor compared to the "Blood and Guts" I had to deal with back in July 2010.

1857 MST: viewed the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter, 83X. I then began setting up to Livestream the view of Venus through the 8" telescope on Twitter Periscope. Mounted the iPhone 5s on the telescope afocally 154X with a variable polarizer filter to reduce the planet's brightness. This is what the viewers saw during the Livestream:


I updated the TLE using the AutoStar for the night's good pass of the International Space Station (ISS). 1922 MST: resumed lunar observing, 77X. 1936 MST: Jupiter was faintly naked eye visible. 1937 MST: sunset. This was the view towards the north and northeast showing the smoke that was in the sky:


Viewed the Moon, Jupiter, and Venus using 12x70 binoculars. Jupiter and Venus were not quite in the same field-of-view but they will be soon.

This iPhone 5s afocal 77X image of the Moon was taken using the MX-1 Afocal Adapter. The Apple Watch was used as a remote shutter release.


This is the view of the Moon on the Apple Watch when the photo above was taken:


1948 MST: did some brief lunar observing 166X.

1955 MST: began preparing to image the ISS during its excellent pass. Mounted the D7200 DSLR at prime focus + 2X PowerMate. Slewed to the star Spica and checked the finderscope alignment; OK. Did a focus test image using the Bahtinov Mask. 2005 MST: was ready for the ISS pass.

Initial pointing was somewhat off but tracking during the pass was OK for the most part. I did a HD video recording, 1.3X crop factor, 60 fps, 1/1600sec, ISO 5000, for 6 minutes and 6 seconds. The images on many frames were very good, as seen in this compilation:

Click or tap on image for larger version

Be certain to click on the image above to view the larger version. The changing perspective and apparent size of the ISS as the station approached and then receded from my location is very apparent.

2043 MST: after the ISS pass was over I took this photo of the western sky, f/5.6, 10 seconds, ISO 1600, FL 18mm, showing the Moon, Jupiter, Venus, and some stars:

Mouseover or tap on image
Mouseover or tap on image to see labels

2045 MST: viewed Saturn, 166X. Seeing was not ideal but still a nice view. I then noticed that I had some Kissing Bugs who came for dinner (me):


They were terminated.

2053 MST: this D7200 DSLR photo, f/5.6, 1 second, ISO 1600, FL 140mm, shows the crescent Moon with Earthshine, Jupiter (center), and Venus (right). The magnified inset shows three moons of Jupiter that were captured.


2106 MST: began setting up to image Saturn. Mounted the D7200 DSLR at prime focus + 2X PowerMate. Did a focus test image on Antares using a Bahtinov Mask. Did several 15 seconds long HD video recordings, 1.3X crop factor, 60 fps, 1/60sec, at various ISO settings. This is a stack of 933 frames at ISO 5000:


2122 MST: completed Saturn imaging and did some Saturn observing, 166X. Cassini Division was nice this night, as seen in the image above.

2148-2200 MST: short break. When I returned to the observatory I began preparing to try to image asteroid Icarus (Mag +13.8). I mounted the D7200 DSLR at prime focus and did a focus test image. After the moon set I used the GC Wi-Fi Adapter and SkySafari Pro to GOTO Icarus. Could not find a suitable guide star so decided to try an unguided 1 minute, ISO 25600, exposure. I planned to do 3 exposures separated by 30 minutes to show the asteroid's motion over 1 hour. Unfortunately, after the first exposure, I bumped the camera. I didn't know how bad a bump until I viewed the second image on the camera. Ouch. I used SkySafari Pro to recenter Icarus. Did the final exposure, hoping that at least two images would show the asteroid. Unfortunately, all images were badly trailed. No asteroid. With the Moon getting brighter every night, I have probably missed the best chance to image asteroid Icarus.

2338 MST: took this prime focus (cropped) image of M57 (Ring Nebula), unguided, 1 minute, ISO 12800:


And this is M16 (Eagle Nebula), guided, 5 minutes, ISO 12800, slightly cropped from the full-frame image:


The "eagle" shape is very obvious. The "Pillars of Creation" are at the center.

Next, I mounted the D7200 DSLR piggyback on the 8" LX200-ACF and did a focus test image on the star Deneb, FL 140mm, using the Gerd Neumann Bahtinov Mask for Camera Lens. Slewed the telescope to get NGC7000 (North American Nebula) in the camera field-of-view. This is an unguided, f/5.6, 5 minute, ISO 12800, FL 140mm, exposure:


Then slewed to M8 and did a framing test exposure to get M8 and M20 in the camera lens. Found a good guide star and took this guided, f/5.6, 2 minute, ISO 4000, FL 140mm, exposure, showing M20 (Trifid Nebula) above and M8 (Lagoon Nebula) below:


This cropped view from the same image shows the two nebulae:


0105 MST: ended imaging.

From 2008 MST to 2306 MST, I saw and killed 16 Kissing Bugs. As I was closing up the observatory I noticed that I had stepped on two others sometime during the night. Other than having to deal with so many Kissing Bugs and the Icarus imaging disaster, it was a nice 6h42m session in the observatory.

Close: Sunday, 21 June 2015, 0126 MST
Temperature: 77°F

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