Paul Hughes Astroimaging: Blog en-us (C) Paul Hughes Astroimaging (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Sun, 01 Jan 2017 16:09:00 GMT Sun, 01 Jan 2017 16:09:00 GMT Paul Hughes Astroimaging: Blog 120 92 01/01/17: Image Processing Update Finally processed my image of M45 The Pleiades -LRGB 90:120:120:120, total exposure time 7.5 hours. This was really difficult to process. There were a number of light pollution gradients and internal reflections to contend with. I was trying to achieve an image that doesn't look over processed or too blue!

After several attempts I finalised the new image. I would have liked more star colour but that will be one of the next steps on the LRGB learning curve. M45 The Pleiades LRGB


]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Sun, 01 Jan 2017 16:08:29 GMT
04/11/16: Update I finished processing the NGC 281 image this evening. This is a HaRGB image (300:120:180:120), total exposure time 12 hours

I used Robert Gendler's technique of blending the hydrogen alpha data with the red filtered data to use for the RGB image, then layering in the main hydrogen alpha data. It results in less washed-out reds in the nebula  

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Fri, 04 Nov 2016 23:58:38 GMT
01/11/16: Update A busy couple of nights

Yesterday I managed to get two hours of blue data for NGC 281 and then once it had crossed the meridian I switched to M45 and captured nearly two hours of blue data.

This evening with it being cloudy, the camera has been taking dark frames

Progress update:

NGC 281

Hydrogen alpha - 5.5 hours

Red - still to shoot - aim for 2 hours

Green - 3 hours

Blue - 2 hours

‚ÄčM45 Pleiades

‚ÄčLuminance - 1.5 hours

Red - still to shoot - aim for 1.5 hours

Green - still to shoot - aim for 1.5 hours

Blue - 1.75 hours






]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Tue, 01 Nov 2016 22:23:09 GMT
30/10/16: Imaging update Unexpected clear skies this evening so decided to gather some more NGC 281 data. I acquired 3 hours through the green filter before the scope cables hit the mount. I then decided to capture some luminance data for M45 The Pleiades; another target I'm interested in.

As I have been using 5 minute subframes I will need some 5 minute darks at -22 degrees

RGB and Hydrogen alpha flats captures at twilight this evening.

Guiding performance was good, especially in declination due to the better polar alignment


]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Sun, 30 Oct 2016 23:55:42 GMT
27/10/16: Update Last night I managed another 2.5 hours of NGC-281 in hydrogen alpha. I spent a little longer than usual setting up as I'm still getting to grips with PHD2 and the need to optimise the polar alignment for best results.

Autoguiding performance was very good, with good RMS values for both RA and Dec. Sub-pixel guiding was achieved ensuring round stars in all 15 minute subframes.

This evening the CCD is busy capturing dark frames and I'll run the Bias frames later.

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Thu, 27 Oct 2016 21:21:40 GMT
22/10/16: A new imaging season begins After some disappointing weather over the last 12 months, I've taken my first proper deep sky image again in 2016. NGC 281, The Pac-Man Nebula is a nice easy target in Cassiopeia. This latest image is simply 2.5 hours of hydrogen alpha data, no darks, flats or bias frames. Naturally the image will be reprocessed when these calibration frames are available. I also want to add another evening's worth of data when the weather allows it.

NGC 281 will be my project focus over the nest few sessions. Firstly I will create a HaRGB image, then shoot O-III and S-II data to create a Hubble Palette image. The narrowband data will need to be several hours per filter to achieve a good image. I will be aiming for at least 5-6 hours per channel.

I am now using PHD2 autoguiding software with its added features. In order to improve guiding performance I have started using the polar align assistant which allows even greater polar alignment accuracy than the Takahashi EM-200 polar alignment scope does. Given the declination backlash which unfortunately plagues the EM-200, a very accurate polar alignment will reduce much of the declination drift and any necessary corrections. Guiding performance was very good last night despite the wind. Polar alignment was accurate and declination guiding corrections kept to a minimum. Sub-pixel guiding was still achieved with round stars in each of the subframes.




]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Sun, 23 Oct 2016 22:42:23 GMT
30/09/14: Imaging Update-NGC-7380 Hubble Palette Well I finally managed a Hubble Palette image of NGC 7380 after gathering 4.25 hours of S-II data over a couple of evenings. This one took a lot of processing but I found the chapter on narrowband imaging in 'Lessons from the Masters' very useful. One of the main challenges was getting the colour balance right-the H-a data can really swamp the image. The addition of the super-luminance layer also really helped to preserve some fine detail.

De-saturation helped get rid of the strong magenta in the star colours.

On with the next target.....

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Wed, 01 Oct 2014 18:54:53 GMT
22/09/14: Imaging Update Well the nights have started to draw in a bit now which means that the new imaging season can start. I've decided to continue with Hubble Palette narrowband imaging this year so look forward to getting some decent images!

My latest image is a bicolour (Ha:sG:OIII) process of NGC 7380-The Wizard Nebula, a large nebula in Cepheus. Total exposure time - 3.5 hours hydrogen alpha (from 2011) and 4 hour of oxygen-III. Although the skies have been clear, the seeing hasn't been great and individual 15 minute O-III subframes have shown little nebulosity. Despite this I hope I've managed to come up with a decent image. The next plan will be to add some S-II data to develop a Hubble Palette image

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Mon, 22 Sep 2014 20:58:35 GMT
28/06/14: Update Well the shorter nights have made deep sky imaging pretty much impossible when you have to be up early in the morning! I have however just uploaded a shot of the Leo Triplet from some data captured back in February. Since I last had a go at this object I have discovered how to process the data without burning out the galaxy cores. This meant that the detail in the galaxy arms has been preserved. Obviously some RGB data would be nice but that will have to wait.

Currently the cameras are off the scopes and I have spent a few evenings observing the planets Saturn and Mars. I'd forgotten just how sharp my Takahashi FS-102 was on planets. Saturn looked stunning in particular.

Looking forward to the nights drawing in a bit so I can get some imaging done at reasonable hours! Still deciding on a target but I'm keen to try some more tricolour narrowband imaging in the next few months

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Sat, 28 Jun 2014 10:43:50 GMT
14/03/14: Update It has certainly been a better week this week for astronomy, although the Moon has been quite high in the sky for astroimaging. Nevertheless I managed an image of a beautiful spiral galaxy in Ursa Major. Galaxy season is now here, so I have decided to try LRGB imaging again as the evenings aren't dark enough at this time of year for the hours of exposure demanded by narrowband imaging. I've selected a number of galaxy groupings and star clusters to target over the next couple of months.

This week I also had to replace the desiccant within my CCD camera. I had started to notice a patch of condensation appearing on the images-a sign that the desiccant needed replacing. This is relatively straightforward although it does involve dismantling the camera and opening the CCD chamber itself. It was also a good opportunity to give the filters a clean in readiness for the galaxy imaging.

On the visual astronomy front, I have spent a couple of enjoyable sessions viewing Jupiter with the 8'' Newtonian. At high power, some detail is visible within the cloud bands. Earlier this week there was a shadow transit of Io which was great to see, as was the emergence of the moon itself from in front of the planetary disk. Last weekend I spent a couple of hours tracking down some galaxies in Leo and Ursa Major. The EQ-5 setting circles aren't bad and do seem to work! The Leo Triplet was nice to see, although quite washed out in the moonlight. This will certainly be one of my next targets. I did try it a couple of years ago, but was not happy with the result. Now being more familiar with the CCD and image processing I look forward to giving it another go.

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Fri, 14 Mar 2014 22:06:19 GMT
21/02/14: Update Well it has been a couple of months since my last blog post. As many will know, the weather in the UK has been particularly bad for many weeks now. Deep sky imaging has been virtually impossible, with not a single clear usable moonless night. I've finally managed to generate a six hour hydrogen alpha exposure of IC 410, 'The Tadpoles' in Auriga. I'm not sure when I will get the OIII or SII data!

On the visual astronomy front, the Tolcarn Observatory Astronomy Group has had a couple of clear club nights, albeit with the moon in the sky. Last week we had the opportunity to test a mate's new scope; a William Optics GT-102 triplet refractor. The build quality on this scope is excellent, with a feathertouch focuser and integrated camera angle adjuster. We had some cracking views of Jupiter at high magnification. That night was also the first time I've seen the 14'' Meade LX200 show what it can really do. At 280x magnification we detected structure in the bands and the Great Red Spot itself. I've never seen Jupiter so clear. I'm looking forward to some galaxy hunts with this light bucket! The Takahashi TSA-120 also did not disappoint, with clear crisp views of the planet.


]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Fri, 21 Feb 2014 21:46:14 GMT
24/12/13: Merry Christmas
Unfortunately the weather has not made it possible to do any imaging for the last few weeks. However, Xmas is here again. Can I have some clear skies please??!!

Merry Christmas all, here's to a productive year in 2014!

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Tue, 24 Dec 2013 18:01:31 GMT
10/12/13: Image Processing I was keen to see the results of the 3.5 hours of hydrogen alpha data of IC 410/IC1893. I therefore processed the image using Zone System principles, with micro curves adjustment finishing with high pass filtering. Once I can capture another 3 hours of H-alpha, I'll have another go before starting on the OIII data capture.

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Tue, 10 Dec 2013 22:21:15 GMT
08/12/13: Imaging Update This week I finally managed to process my first image using the Hubble Palette (SII:Ha:OIII). Although it only comprised two hours of hydrogen alpha data, the end result was satisfactory. I followed the instructions from the book 'Lessons from the Masters' by Rob Gendler after processing the individual filtered images separately using the Zone System approach. Getting the correct colour balance was important to generate an aesthetically pleasing image.

My next Hubble Palette project is another go at IC410, The Tadpole Nebula in Auriga. My plan is to aim for at least 6 hours per filter. I will shoot the H-alpha data first then the OIII which can then be combined in a bicolour image to begin with, then finish with the SII to generate the Hubble palette image. 

Tonight turned out clear in the end so I managed to gather 3.5 hours of H-alpha data (14 x 15min subframes). This will be processed later this week once I have taken a new batch of dark frames.


]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Sun, 08 Dec 2013 23:23:54 GMT
30/11/13: Tolcarn Observatory Opening The weather couldn't have been better today for the opening event of the Tolcarn Research and Education Observatory. It was a great opportunity to give the Polarie a run and capture a couple of widefield images of the stars over the observatory buildings.


]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Sat, 30 Nov 2013 23:24:00 GMT
24/10/13: Imaging Update Although I was generally pleased with the bicolour image of the Crescent Nebula, it just highlights how much exposure you need when working with narrowband filters. I've recently acquired an SII filter with the intention of creating images using the Hubble Palette (SII:Ha:OIII). Over the last couple of weeks I've managed three hours' worth of SII data. The weather hasn't exactly been friendly in this regard! Nevertheless, then next step will be to add some OIII data. I also plan to experiment with slightly longer subframes. I routinely image with 10 minute subs, but it's certainly worth trying 20 minute ones to see how it goes. This should improve the signal to noise ratio and the smoothness of the image. More to follow when I manage the OIII data!    

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Thu, 24 Oct 2013 20:41:23 GMT
29/08/13: Sadr Region imaging and processing Well it has been a good couple of months since my last blog post. Lots happening, especially on the Tolcarn Observatory development front. We had a successful open weekend for the Perseids meteor shower earlier this month, and obtained a couple of promising images with the new Takahashi TSA-120 and SBIG STT 8300. As the days start to draw in, I'm sure there'll be more to follow. This week I managed a couple of hour's worth of hydrogen alpha data on the region surrounding the star Gamma Cygni 'Sadr'. Unfortunately my dark frames collected on subsequent evenings weren't great so I had a lot of image clear-up to do. Despite this, everything else worked well and the guiding was spot on. After calibrating and combining the images I used the NewAstro Zone System technique to process the image. I was pleased with the final result.


]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Thu, 29 Aug 2013 20:29:46 GMT
26/06/13: New Astro Zone System Processing I've been fortunate to acquire a copy of Ron Wodaski's book 'The New Astro Zone System for Astroimaging'. My plan is to work through the processing principles and techniques and spend some time redoing older images. My first go was a re-process of the Rosette Nebula in H-alpha. I was really impressed with the result, which I believe to be a significant improvement over my original image. I've saved the image in a new folder called 'Zone System Processing'. More to follow.....

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Wed, 26 Jun 2013 21:04:41 GMT
26/05/13: Planetary Comjunction: Closest approach Another clear night and the opportunity to image the trio of planets low in the western sky. I managed to capture the image on the way back from a friends barbeque after finding a spot with a clear horizon. Had to be quick as wife and kids in the car obviously wanting to get back home to warm up!

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Sun, 26 May 2013 22:42:08 GMT
25/05/13: Planetary Conjunction Tonight was a fantastic opportunity to hunt down Jupiter, Venus and Mercury in the western sky after sunset. These three planets will form a tight triangle tomorrow on the 26th May so I'll try this all over again! The planets were low in the sky and starting to disappear into the cloud but a nice image was still possible. I also snapped a couple of images of the moon on my way back home.

]]> (Paul Hughes Astroimaging) Sat, 25 May 2013 22:42:55 GMT