Two of the club members were camping out at the observatory, so I could stay as late as I wanted. I’d’ve camped too, if I didn’t have to be at work the next day. I stayed until about 12:30 AM, and didn’t get out of there until about 1 AM. The sky didn’t look especially dark, but I could see quite a few stars. There were some high clouds, but the humidity was low-ish. I started imaging on M65 and 66, but high clouds soon obscured it. One of the club memebrs, Bob, had his massive 14-inch set up, and he had it pointed at the Ring Nebula, a planetary nebula, at one point, and it was much larger than I thought! So I aimed over there next, and took some images on that for a while. Goto was excellent, but tracking not as good, this time around. I had to toss a lot of the images, both from drift and high clouds passing through. I also snagged a few images on the Dumbbell Nebula, which I hadn’t realized was up yet. Both of the nebulae came out great; M65&66 are going to need a lot more data, and a better set of flats, however.
M65 & M66 (two of the Leo Triplet), Nikon D3100 on my C11, f/6.3 focal reducer
I also tried stacking these ones together with the set I took back in April, which resulted in a 33x30s image, but it wasn’t much better. I’d like to do like 70+. We shall see.
(Note from June 6, 2016): I learned later than M66 had a supernova that was first discovered on Friday the 27th, and I can see it when my image from April and the one from May are compared!
I have imaged a supernova! (End note)
The color came out great on the Ring Nebula; even the subs look great. Stacked (and in some of the subs), you can clearly see the central star, which is apparently a magnitude +15.75. You can also see the red shock front.
M57 Ring Nebula, Nikon D3100, C11 with f/6.3 focal reducer
In all my images from this evening, the stars look slightly chevron-shaped; this looks like a collimation problem, but I had very nice symmetrical donuts. Fellow club member Bob said that sometimes heat and cause this, or a slight cant in the camera. So I’m not sure what’s up with that.
The Dumbbell Nebula one came out great too – you can see both the apple core shape and the orthogonal football shape, as well as the red shock front. Also, what a star field as a setting! More stars came out in post-processing in GIMP when I played with the light curves. Check out this comparison between my first attempt last October and now. I didn’t keep track of the DSS stacking stats back then, but I only gave it 9 raw images. Pretty awesome difference.
Of course, I’m also better at the image processing bit now, especially with the light curves tool in GIMP.
Soon, I will need to get a guide scope. But then, I’ll need even more time to set it up – so I’ll have to only use the whole setup on Friday and Saturday nights when I can stay out really late. On the other hand, I’ll be able to get enough images for processing faster, since I’ll lose far fewer to drift. And, I can start playing around with longer-exposure images.