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Orion Nebula with iPhone and NightCap Pro

Posted: 24 December 2016

Sunday afternoon, 18 December 2016, I attended the "Dark Skies Celestial Concert", a joint event of the Oracle Piano Society and the Oracle Dark Skies Committee. That evening there was a star party at the Concert Hall. A report is on the Oracle Dark Skies Committee web site.

Monday, 19 December, was partly cloudy and windy as another storm system approached. The sky was mostly overcast on Tuesday, 20 December. Rain arrived on Wednesday, 21 December (0.35"). Thursday, 22 December, was also cloudy and wet. And had something you don't see very often: a noontime rainbow in the North that was briefly visible from my home:


The rainbow had been brighter but had faded by the time I was able to photograph it. The rainbow sighting was followed about an hour later by a thunderstorm! Nice "winter" weather. Got a total of 0.68" rain on Thursday.

Checked the POD again; still had a minor leak at the base of the primary dome. I had previously tightened the bolts joining the two halves of the primary dome but that didn't solve the leak problem. I decided that I would apply more sealant to the join once the air temperature rebounds. Fortunately, the leak is in a location where no damage occurs.

Friday, 23 December, was partly cloudy with a forecast of a clear night (before another storm arrives on Saturday). The sky mostly cleared later that night so I went to the observatory.

Open: Friday, 23 December 2016, 1956 MST
Temperature: 52°F
Session: 1054
Conditions: Mostly clear, breezy, humidity 66%

Equipment Used:
12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
Wired AutoStar II handset
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece
2" 50mm eyepiece

iPhone 6s Plus

2003 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

Viewed Venus, 102X, low in the southwestern sky.

Slewed to M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) and briefly viewed it at 102X. SYNCed the AutoStar on it. Then slewed to NGC70 (faint galaxy). The faint galaxies NGC68 and NGC71 were also in the same field-of-view (FOV) but I could not positively ID any of the three galaxies. I had hoped to image these galaxies this night.

Slewed to the star Aldebaran and SYNCed. Then slewed to NGC660 (polar-ring galaxy), which I also hoped to image this night. The view of this galaxy was not as good as it was on the previous session.

2023 MST: slewed to the eclipsing variable star RW Tauri, which I had previously stored as a "User Object" on the AutoStar. Switched to the 2" 50mm eyepiece (49X) to ID the stars in the FOV. Although this night would not have an eclipse, I hoped to image the star field. (The next eclipse would be Saturday, 24 December, 2313 MST, but clouds and possible snow are in the forecast.)

I eventually decided to not try any DSLR astrophotography this night due to the high humidity (my papers were getting wet!) and the poor seeing.

2036 MST: viewed M42 (Great Nebula in Orion), 49X. With this low magnification the view of this large and bright nebula was very nice. I decided to image it using the iPhone 6s Plus. Mounted the iPhone on the eyepiece using the Levenhuk Smartphone Adapter. Did some images at various exposure settings using the iOS app NightCap Pro. This is an afocal 49X image, Long Exposure, Light Boost, ISO 3200, shutter speed 1/3sec, duration 31 seconds:


This is how M42 appeared LIVE on the Apple Watch:


2059 MST: ended iPhone imaging.

Switched back to the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece (102X) and viewed M42 and M43. Lovely view.

Then began closing the observatory due to the high humidity. LX600 OFF.

Close: Friday, 23 December 2016, 2113 MST
Temperature: 48°F
Session Length: 1h 17m
Conditions: Clear, humidity 75%

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