Welcome to the Curdridge Observatory Astronomy, Telescope and Astrophotography Blog

Welcome to the Curdridge telescope observatory astrophotography blog. We explore many aspects of astronomy and astrophotography especially including projects such as telescope mounts. We have a Newtonian reflecting telescope in our budget observatory made from fence panels. Most of our imaging is done using Astrodon narrowband filters and cooled astronomy CCD cameras.

Category: Astronomy Images
Posted by: Tom How
The DSLR experiment continues. This time with a mosaic. Each panel of this two-framer of part of the M31 region is made up of about 12 x 300s exposures at ISO800.

The Canon 350D DSLR is mounted at prime focus on my 8 inch 1000mm focal length Newtonian telescope. The camera is modified with a higher band-pass IR filter, but no light pollution filters have been used.

As you can see I've made a poor job of joining the two sections together. Getting the background colour flat across the whole image is proving troublesome.

Because of this I've pushed the background rather too dark, so more processing practice needed!

Click here for a larger sized version.

Category: Astronomy Images
Posted by: Tom How
The ongoing experiment with DSLR astrophotography is coming along fairly well. Here is a fairly large integration (about 4 hours exposure) on part of the IC1805 Hear NEbula complex (also known as the Rolling Stones Nebula).

After spending so much time hiding behind a hydrogen alpha filter, I've almost forgotten about star colours. The DSLR gives a nice quick route to a full colour image. Of course, they have their drawbacks with noise and so forth, but this this has been a lot of fun.

Processing colour DSLR astro photos in photoshop is yet another learning curve I'm struggling with.

IC1805 Heart Nebula with 8 inch F5 Newtonian and the homemade mount. No filters. Click through for the larger version.

Category: Astronomy Images
Posted by: Tom How
Slowly getting the hang of this DSLR astro imaging lark.

Lesson from last night: Remember to charge the batteries for the camera!! I'm using 6 x AA rechargeable batteries to run the camera, but I think i forgot to charge them because they ran flat around 12:30 this morning. I didn't change them because I was asleep in bed at the time!!

Anyhow, here is what you can do with a Canon 350d and an 8 inch Newtonian telescope in about 10 mins...A part of the M31 Galaxy...



Category: Astronomy Images
Posted by: Tom How
After spending a lot of time and energy getting the mini-WASP telescope array up and running at the New Forest Observatory, it was a pleasant change to do some imaging back at the Curdridge Observatory.

Last night a brief clear spell gave me time to dust off the homemade GEM telescope mount. Happily everything seemed to be behaving after few weeks of neglect. I was a bit worried the telescope was had got the hump with me running over to play at the NFO.

With the clouds starting to come in, I only had time to take 4 x 900s exposures of the very bright Bubble Nebula region with the Hydrogen Alpha filter in place.

For a change I decided to let Maxim handle the guiding the DIY mount instead of PHD guiding. Surprisingly it seems to work better than PHD guiding, which was unexpected. Using Maxim to do the guiding opens up the ability to dither the sub exposures a bit to handle the hot pixels and noise. The standard webcam settings in Maxim didn't seem to work for long exposure, but a bit of informed tweaking on my part got it working.

Maxim also supports plate solving: Quite nice to point the mouse at any star in the image and have it tell you the RA/DEC coordinates and the catalogue number automatically. Opens the door to a bit of asteroid spotting if I feel so inclined :)

Anyhow, here is the image: Pretty noisy because it is only 1 hour of data, but much better than nothing!

bubble nebula NGC 7635
Category: Astronomy Images
Posted by: Tom How
Finally the skies cleared last night to allow a bit of astrophotography. Still learning the foibles of my own homemade GEM mount, but hopefully we are starting to get somewhere. This is 9 x 1200s exposures combined and stretched a bit. Art 285 camera with Astrodon 6nm Ha filter on a F5 8 inch newtonian. The full resolution version has an image scale of around 1.33 arc seconds per pixel.

NGC 7380 is the open cluster of stars discovered by Willian Herschel's little sister Caroline in 1787. Of course, they wouldn't have spotted much of the nebulosity in the region - the is is catalogued in the Sharpless catalgoue as sh-142.

The major problem with the data is the horrific star shapes. Although the scope is guiding ok in RA, the DEC guiding is still rubberbanding all over the place. More work required.

Click here for the full sized version

ngc 7380
Category: Astronomy Images
Posted by: Tom How
I have managed a very short exposure of M16 Eagle Nebula between the clouds. Clear skies are in short supply this week. We have no moon - which is known for creating clouds. I'm on holiday this week. More clouds created. And Greg in the New Forest has got his new equipment almost up and running. Many many clouds created!

A couple of clear hours last night enabled me to test the fixed up guide camera under the skies. I knew the clouds were coming so I ran off 10 x 120s frames of the M16 region. This is a very bright emission nebula and star forming region made famous by the classic Hubble shot of the "pillars of creation".

The camera had a 6nm Astrodon Hydrogen Alpha on it and I operated the camera in 2x2 binning mode to get lots of signal in short time.

The result was somewhat better than I expected for only 20 minutes of exposure time.

The guide camera isn't working properly. Very noisy - so much so that the guiding software kept loosing the guidestar with predictable results.

M16 Eagle Nebula
Category: Astronomy Images
Posted by: Tom How
This is very poor season for Astrophotography and astronomy. It doesn't get dark. It is raining. Very difficult to do any astro imaging. To keep myself sane, I've been looking through my data from last year (2010) for anything I've not finished off or published.

During september, I took a lot of data in narrowband of the Heart Nebula with the intention of creating a mosaic of the area. Whilst I got some good narrowband data for the Heart Nebula, I only got the hydrogen alpha data for the Soul nebula section. The weather soon deteriorated and I lost my enthusiasm for the project, so data for the two corners never got collected.

As I've gone back to more high resolution imaging this year, it is very unlikely that I'll get the data needed to complete the scene, so I've dusted it off and posted it in monochrome.

The IC1805/IC1848 Heart and Soul complex (featuring the Rolling Stones Nebula) is a vast area of nebulosity on the border of Cassiopeia and Perseus. The field presented here is around 4 degrees across - which is about 8 moon diameters. This means that this region appears 8 times larger than the full moon in the sky - if only our eyes worked better!

The data for this image is all captured using an Artemis 285 CCD camera and a 135mm M42 SLR lens (5 on ebay) on my LXD55 telescope mount. An Astrodon 6nm hydrogen alpha narrowband filter was used. Autoguiding using a 1000mm guidescope with a black and white chipped SC1 webcam.

The data was collected across several nights in September 2010 during a period of good weather. The mosaic is made up from two separate shots. The upper right shot is a 9.5 hour exposure, made up by combining 900s sub exposures. The lower left panel is a 9 hour exposure, again, made up by combining 900s sub exposures. Total integration time is 18.5 hours. Moonlight interfered with the Soul nebula section, hence the loss of depth in that area compared to the upper right frame.

The image below is resized down to 640 pixels wide.

Click here for the 1024 pixel version.

Click here for the original resolution version.

The collected data for each panel is median combined in Maxim and the post-processed in photoshop. Final construction in photoshop.


Category: Astronomy Images
Posted by: Tom How
Do not get excited, I haven't taken any new data! This dataset of 7 x 900s frames of the NGC7822 region in sh2-171 dates from october. I'd hoped to add some more data but clearly I haven't, so I am calling it a day on this one.

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Category: Astronomy Images
Posted by: Tom How
Managed the first decent image for a month

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Category: Astronomy Images
Posted by: Tom How
I've tweaked with the colour balance on my IC1805 tri colour narrowband image

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