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Imaging: Auriga Open Star Clusters, M74 & M77 Galaxies

Posted: 28 January 2017

Open: Friday, 27 January 2017, 1807 MST
Temperature: 51°F
Session: 1064
Conditions: Clear, breezy

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

D7200 DSLR

1812 MST: 12" LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

First, I took a quick look at the planet Venus, 102X.

I then did some minor work in the observatory. I moved a shelf inside one of the POD bays to the back of the bay. With the larger telescope now in the observatory I kept bumping a red light that was mounted on the shelf with the telescope in some orientations. With the shelf moved I should no longer have that problem.

Next, I began preparing for Deep Sky Object (DSO) astrophotography, if the strong breezes would allow it. I wanted to do some more Messier Catalog imaging for my Messier Catalog Astrophotography Album update. In particular I wanted to image three open star clusters in the constellation of Auriga: M36, M37, and M38. I also wanted to re-do the M74 and M77 galaxies that I had imaged on the previous, poor seeing, session. Slewed the telescope to the star Capella and SYNCed the AutoStar. Mounted the D7200 DSLR at prime focus + focal reducer. 1843 MST: wind gusts were getting stronger. Focused Capella using the Bahtinov Mask and locked the primary mirror.

1905 MST: StarLock ON. Began imaging the Auriga open star clusters. These are full-frame images, StarLock autoguided, 30 seconds, ISO 800, White Balance 4000K:




Next, slewed to M74 (galaxy) and did a 1 minute, ISO 6400, test exposure. Seeing was not good again this night, but was not as bad as on the previous night. I also noticed that I needed to tweak the focus. First I SYNCed the AutoStar on M74 with it centered in the DSLR field-of-view. Then slewed to the star EPS AND and tweaked the focus using the Mask. Returned to M74 and imaged it, followed by M77 (galaxy). Both were StarLock autoguided, 5 minutes, ISO 6400, WB 4000K. The following images are slightly cropped from the full-frame images.



I was pleased that I captured the faint outer spiral arms in M77.

1949 MST: StarLock OFF. Ended imaging.

2001 MST: viewed M77 (galaxy), 102X. Nice view with some structure visible. Then began closing up for the night due to the wind.

Close: Friday, 27 January 2017, 2010 MST
Temperature: 37°F
Session Length: 2h 03m
Conditions: Clear, windy

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