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Imaging: Crescent Moon, Orion Nebula, Leo Triplet Galaxies

Posted: 11 March 2016

Wednesday afternoon, 9 March 2016, I checked the focal reducer + visual back mating since I had detected some looseness on the previous session. Nothing wrong was found. Will have to see if the looseness occurs again. That evening I attended the presentation "The Arizona Dark Sky Highway: Keeping the Stars Bright" given by Dr. John Barentine, International Dark-Sky Association, at a meeting of the Superstitution Area Land Trust in Apache Junction, AZ:


Following Dr. Barentine's talk, a local astronomy club had several telescopes set up. Unfortunately, thin clouds interferred with viewing. When I returned home late Wednesday evening the sky in Oracle was mostly clear but I was too tired to the open the observatory. Thursday, 10 March, dawned partly cloudy and breezy, but the sky was mostly clear by mid-day. The forecast for the night still called for clear skies.

Open: Thursday, 10 March 2016, 1812 MST
Temperature: 86°F
Session: 932
Conditions: Mostly clear, some clouds low in west

Started the session with the StarLock OFF. Used the Wireless AutoStar II this night. 1824 MST: viewed the crescent Moon, 102X. Then began setting up for DSLR imaging. 1830 MST: sunset. 1836 MST: took this handheld iPhone 6s Plus photo of the western sky with the crescent Moon at the top:


This is the Moon as photographed using the D7200 DSLR at prime focus + visual back on the 12" LX600, 1/320sec, ISO 400, White Balance Auto:


1839 MST: began lunar observing, 271X. Very nice view in the 12" telescope. 1858 MST: switched to the William Optics Binoviewers, 122X. Wow! Great views using both eyes through the 12" LX600. Crater Humboldt on the lunar limb was nice tonight, with its far wall very distinct. 1907 MST: the Moon was now too low for good viewing of details, but Earthshine was lovely in the Binoviewers. Switched back to the 2" 24mm UWA (102X) eyepiece and took this handheld afocal photo of the Earthshine using the iPhone:


1925-2010 MST: did a series of D7200 DSLR focus tests at prime focus + visual back, with and without the Astrozap focusing mask. I also did a collimation check using the mask (per its enclosed instructions). All seemed OK with the telescope and camera. Guess I just need to adjust the mount and StarLock for optimal tracking. Will do that once the telescope is mounted on its pier (still waiting for it to arrive). At the end of the focus tests I took this 30 seconds, ISO 3200, White Balance 4000K, image of M42 (Orion Nebula):


Turned StarLock ON. 2020 MST: GOTO NGC3628 (Sarah's Galaxy, part of the Leo Triplet of Galaxies). It was still somewhat low in the east but I decided to try some imaging anyway. After doing another focus test with the mask (using the star Regulus), I did some imaging of NGC3628 at prime focus + visual back. This is a cropped 2 minutes, ISO 25600, WB 4000K, black-and-white image:


I then added the Optec focal reducer and did a GOTO M65 (galaxy in the Leo Triplet). Did another focus test with the mask and began a series of framing test exposures of the Leo Triplet (M65, M66, and NGC3628). Had to rotate the camera about 90° to get all three galaxies in the field-of-view. This is a 30 seconds, ISO 25600, WB 4000K, B&W image:


2125 MST: ended DSO imaging. Removed the camera and turned StarLock OFF. Viewed Jupiter, 271X. Nice view, although seeing wasn't ideal. Four moons were visible. Added the Televue 2X PowerMate (for 542X) but seeing wasn't good enough for that much magnification. Switched to the 1.25" 26mm eyepiece (94X) and the Orion SteadyPix afocal adapter to do some iPhone imaging of Jupiter. This cropped image is a merge of two photos showing Jupiter and the four moons:


I added a Moon Filter to keep Jupiter from overexposing during video recordings. This is a stack (using Keith's Image Stacker) of 232 video frames captured with NightCap Pro (ISO 64, 1/14sec, 15 seconds):


2240 MST: resumed Jupiter observing, 271X. Seeing not good.

Then turned StarLock ON and observed some galaxies, 102X: M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy), M81, M82, and M101. All were nice views.

Ended the session after over 5 hours in the observatory. A good night.

Close: Thursday, 10 March 2016, 2323 MST
Temperature: 58°F
Session Length: 5h 11m
Conditions: Clear

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