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Bode's, Cigar, and Whirlpool Galaxies

Posted: 13 April 2021

Saturday evening, 10 April 2021, I participated in the first Virtual Star Party at Oracle State Park, our local IDA "International Dark Sky Park", held in conjunction with International Dark Sky Week, 5-12 April 2021.

Saturday night was cloudy at Cassiopeia Observatory. Cloudy skies continued until Monday, 12 April. Strong winds returned late Monday afternoon, but calmed down after sunset.

Open: Monday, 12 April 2021, 1909 MST
Temperature: 80°F
Session: 1622
Conditions: Clear, breezy

12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece
2" 14mm 100° eyepiece
2" UHC filter


After opening the observatory I prepared the D850 DSLR for prime focus imaging.

1923 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

Slewed to M52 (open star cluster) for an attempt to view Nova V1405 Cas very low in the sky and through tree branches.

1931 MST: observed Nova V1405 Cas, 102X.

The breezes were calm now.

1937 MST: viewed M81 (Bode's Galaxy) and M82 (Cigar Galaxy), 102X.

Mounted the D850 DSLR at prime focus + UHC filter, focused on the star Capella, and locked the 12" primary mirror. Slewed to M81.

2008 MST: StarLock ON.

I then did StarLock autoguided exposures of M81, M82, and M51, ISO 12800, White Balance 5560K. I did 1 minute exposures for framing test images of each object and then six 5-minutes exposures of each object. I stacked the images using Affinity Photo for these effective 30 minutes exposures.

M81 (Bode's Galaxy)

M82 (Cigar Galaxy)

M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy)

2206 MST: StarLock OFF.

Viewed M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy), 102X and 174X. Then viewed M104 (Sombrero Galaxy), 174X. The view of M104 at this high magnification was very nice. Then viewed M104, 102X.

2228 MST: LX600 OFF.

2239 MST: took a Sky Quality reading and reported the result to Globe at Night.

Close: Monday, 12 April 2021, 2244 MST
Temperature: 64°F
Session Length: 3h 35m
Conditions: Clear, SQM 21.25

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