I wasn't expecting good results tonight on the imaging front as the moon was high in the sky. Therefore I decided to take the cameras off the scopes and have a bit of a viewing session with a mate of mine. I put the kettle on and we made a start!
The first target was the moon and we managed to get some clean crisp views of the visible lunar surface. We explored some of the features along the terminator at high power. Unfortunately I'm not familiar with names but the craters looked nice!
We then began a hunt for some deep sky objects. I knew galaxies would be a challenge in the bright moonlit sky, but I managed to locate several nice globular clusters; M3, M53, M13 and M92. The constellation Lyra had just risen but I located M57 The Ring Nebula without a problem. Saturn cleared the roof at around 2230 so we had a quick look at the brilliant ringed planet before calling it a night.
It was good to get the toys out on Friday and Saturday night. Galaxy season is upon us and I decided to delve into the constellations Leo and Coma Berenices and see what I could find.
I do like widefield galaxy imaging as it gives a sense of scale, and reminds you of the vastness of the cosmos. Both images taken this weekend (M100, M105 etc) contain a large number of faint background galaxies that would be far beyond what could be observed visually through an amateur telescope. Maybe at some point I'll add some colour data, but I find RGB imaging quite labour intensive and the rewards don't justify the effort, for me anyway. There are many imagers who do make it work and I've still got a lot of learning to do! So the monochrome images will suffice for now.
After five failed attempts at spotting it, I finally got a look at Comet Pan-STARRS last night. A binocular sweep of the western sky from a layby on top of the clay works outside St Austell revealed the comet, and a small tail. Just above was the faint smudge of the Andromeda Galaxy M31. My estimate of the comet's current brightness is magnitude 4. I couldn't make it out as a naked eye object so it has dimmed considerably since it first appeared a couple of weeks ago. Luckily some have managed to get some really good images of this icy visitor to our skies. I had to settle with a few quick snaps before my camera battery decided to give up due to the cold! Anyhow, my favourite shot was one which appeared to include three meteor trails as well as the comet; certainly a lucky shot! I also managed a shot which showed M31 as well as the comet. I finished off with some telephoto shots at 75-300mm, but the focus wasn't great so they weren't worth displaying.
Roll on Comet ISON!
Clear skies all
Well things have been pretty quiet since returning home from Mozambique. The weather continues to scupper any attempts at deep sky astrophotography but hopefully things will improve soon.
Reflecting on my Mozambique trip, the astrophotography side was a real disappointment. Unfortunately the moon was around for most of the trip and then the rainy season kicked in several days before we left. Whilst I had the opportunity to take a few tracked shots with the Polarie, I didn't feel they were anything special.
Anyway, the kit is all ready for the next clear night. I hope to continue with narrowband imaging this year but also develop my processing skills further in particular.
Work continues on the new observatory site outside St Austell that I am involved with. Unfortunately things have slowed down a bit, mainly due to the weather but also down to the significant delay in the main observatory being built. I won't name the company responsible for this, I just wish they would get the job done so we can get on with things!
Anyway, roll on the clear nights, I'm beginning to forget what stars look like!
Currently having a fantastic time in Mozambique with the family. The trip has corresponding with an ever brightening moon in the sky which has limited deep sky photography with the Vixen Polarie, but I have added a couple of scenic shots to the website.
I have taken the opportunity however to get some practice in with the Polarie. Unlike the Northern Hemisphere polar alignment is more difficult as there is no Pole Star! I've also found the Polarie compass to be inaccurate which is a bit of a disappointment. On the nights it has been clear, I have managed 2-3 minute exposures before trailing, but the moonlight has washed out any decent deep sky stuff.
On a recent hunting trip, I did see the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon which was amazing, but to photograph it I would have needed to put down the shotgun!
Anyway, with still another week to go I hope to get some deep sky stuff. Watch this space!