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Crescent Moon & Venus, Uranus Moons, NGC2403 Galaxy

Posted: 1 December 2016

Saturday, 26 November 2016, dawned cloudy and breezy from an approaching cold front. Did some more ScopeBoss iOS app tests for the developer on Saturday. Late Sunday night, 27 November, got 0.3" rain, with some brief snow flurries about 2300 MST. Tuesday, 29 November, the sky cleared mid-afternoon.

At the suggestion of astronomer friend Robert Sparks (Twitter @halfastro), at sunset on Tuesday I made an attempt to observe a very young crescent Moon. The Moon was new on Tuesday, 29 November, at 0516 MST. I would make the attempt beginning at 1717 MST (sunset), making the Moon something over 12 hours old if I got to see it before it set. My previous record for a new Moon observation was 13h48m on 1 January 2014. I mounted my D7200 DSLR with a 150-600mm lens on a camera tripod in case I got a chance to photograph the Moon. To try to visually locate the thin crescent Moon I used a pair of brand new binoculars (purchased this same day; will post a review soon). I used the iOS app PhotoPills to locate where in the western sky the Moon would be at sunset and when it set (1751 MST):


Unfortunately, some haze, contrails, and thin clouds prevented the western sky from being ideal to see such a young Moon, and I was not successful. But it was fun to make the attempt.

Although the sky was mostly clear Tuesday evening, I did not open the observatory that night. I had to wake up at 0200 MST that morning to drive to Phoenix and did not get back home until after noon. I was just too tired to go to the observatory that night.

Open: Wednesday, 30 November 2016, 1755 MST
Temperature: 61°F
Session: 1050
Conditions: Mostly clear

Equipment Used:
12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
Wired AutoStar II handset
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece

D7200 DSLR

After arriving at the observatory I took this photo of the observatory with Venus and the crescent Moon:

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Some Earthshine is visible on the Moon.

1758 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF. High Precision OFF. I immediately began preparations for the upcoming excellent pass of the International Space Station (ISS). I mounted the DSLR at prime focus of the 12" telescope, focused on the star Fomalhaut, locked the focus, and updated the ISS TLE in the AutoStar. 1813 MST: preparations were finally completed (in a rush) but the pass had already started. I never caught up with the space station with telescope and so wasn't able to image it.

1820 MST: slewed to the planet Uranus. On my last report I had an image of Uranus moons. I now believe I had mis-identified the moons, confusing some stars with its moons. I have corrected the image on that report. I decided to re-image the planet's moons this night once the sky was darker.

1828 MST: while waiting I did some viewing using my new binoculars: M45 (the Pleiades), Hyades (star cluster), M31/M32/M110 (Andromeda Galaxy and its companion galaxies), Double Cluster, M13 (Great Globular Cluster in Hercules), Venus, Mars, and some of the Milky Way in Cygnus. 1904 MST: ended binoculars use.

1905 MST: began imaging Uranus at prime focus of the 12" telescope using the D7200 DSLR. This 3 seconds, ISO 5000, image shows two moons:


1925 MST: slewed to NGC2403 (galaxy). I had previously imaged this galaxy with the 12" telescope using a focal reducer. This night I would image it at prime focus (with no focal reducer). I slewed to the star Capella, SYNCed the AutoStar, and focused the image. Then returned to NGC2403 and waited for it to get a little higher before imaging it. The temperature was down to 45°F. 1938 MST: decided to begin imaging before I got too cold. StarLock ON. Seeing was initially pretty good; saw StarLock guiding rates <2. Did some framing test exposures (1 minute, ISO 6400) and then did this StarLock autoguided 5 minutes, ISO 6400, White Balance 4000K image:


I also did 10 1 minute, ISO 1000, WB 4000K exposures (StarLock autoguided). During post-processing I edited the images in Adobe Lightroom (levels) and then stacked the 10 images using Keith's Image Stacker. There were occasional breezes during these exposures and I saw StarLock guiding rates >3 and sometimes >6. This is the resulting image of NGC2403:


There is not a lot of difference in the two images. The nucleus of the galaxy is a little better exposed in the stacked image.

2007 MST: completed imaging. StarLock OFF. Viewed NGC2403, 102X. Then began closing up.

Close: Wednesday, 30 November 2016, 2026 MST
Temperature: 42°F
Session Length: 2h 31m
Conditions: Clear

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