Leo Triplet

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Small telescopes aren’t ideal for galaxies, unless you aim to snap a picture of the Leo Triplet.  The area around Leo has many galaxies, but the three below (M65, M66 and NGC3628) are brightest and most recognized.

Leo Triplet - M66 Galaxy Group

Leo Triplet – M65 (right), M66 (below) and NGC3628 (upper left)

All three galaxies are of the spiral type, but look different because of their orientation.  NGC3628 is edge-on and the dark band in the middle are dust lanes that cut across it.  This trio is located 35 million light years away.

Skywatcher 80ED
Canon 400D (ISO 800)
32 x 30sec

Crab Nebula – Need Bigger Scope

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After my series of open star clusters, I decided to try my luck with the neighboring Crab Nebula (Messier 1).  A single 30s exposure show some signal, but barely above the background light pollution.

Very faint M1, just above light pollution levels

Very faint M1, just above light pollution levels

OK, lets see what the wonders of digital stacking and post-processing can do…

After stacking 28 frames, and various histogram and level stretching, I was able to get the nebula to stand out.  That’s quite an improvement from the single frame from above.

Crab Nebula - Messier 1 - Benoit Guertin

Crab Nebula – Messier 1 – Benoit Guertin

I couldn’t get any color out of it, but I believe the color images of the Crab Nebula that you often see are compositions from narrow band filters, and are “scientific colors”.

Conclusions, need to gather more light and image at a longer focal length.  Even if I increase my exposure time, as the object is small I won’t be able to get much detail out of it.  I could add a barlow to double the focal length, but would also need to further increase my exposure time.  If I try this again, I’d need a 2x barlow and at least 2 minutes exposition, and have everything autoguided.  Not there yet… Best reserved for larger and more powerful telescopes.

Skywatcher 80ED
Canon XTi (400D) ISO 800
28 x 30sec (stacked with IRIS and post-processed in GIMP)

Auriga and Its Three Bright Open Clusters

An easy target for anyone is the constellation Auriga and it’s three bright open star clusters.  It may be considered a winter constellation, but there is still plenty of time for some decent observation.  In the early April evenings , Auriga lies west about 45 degrees over the horizon.  It’s brightest star, Capella,  the sixth brightest in the night sky can easily be located.  Therefore these open clusters are easy targets for a quick star-hopping observation for anyone with a small telescope or binoculars.

Auriga in April with three bright open clusters (boxed)

Auriga in April with three bright open clusters (boxed)

My last few posts have been the photos that I’ve captured of these three Messier objects: M36, M37 and M38.  Below is a view if the boxed area from above but with the photos of the open clusters inserted at their correct location.

M37, M36 and M38 (respectively) in Auriga

M37, M36 and M38 (respectively) in Auriga

To see larger images of the open clusters, refer to my following blogs:

Messier 36 – Open Cluster in Auriga
Messier 37 – Brightest Open Cluster in Auriga
Messier 38 and NGC1907 – Open Clusters in Auriga

 

 

 

Messier 37 – Brightest Open Cluster in Auriga

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A few weeks ago I spent some time imaging the three bright open clusters in Auriga.  After Messier 36 and 38, I now bring you Messier 37.

Surveys indicated the cluster contains about 1,500 solar masses and about 500 identified stars.  As with M36 and M38 it is located about 4,500 light years from Earth.

Messier 37 - Open Cluster in Auriga

Messier 37 – Open Cluster in Auriga – Benoit Guertin

Large research telescopes often have too narrow field of view to capture open star clusters.  This is where us backyard astronomers with our gear can shine.

Skywatcher 80ED
Canon 400D
33 x 30sec (ISO 800)

Messier 38 and NGC1907 – Open Clusters in Auriga

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Following my previous post on Messier 36, a simple 2 degree slew of the telescope and I was centered on Messier 38 (NGC1912).  This open cluster measures 21 light years across ( 21′ apparent) or twice the size of M36.  It is also much older than M36 which is why you’ll find less hot blue stars within the group if you compare with M36.

Just half a degree below is an older and smaller open cluster NGC1907.  While some have speculated that they are locked together (a binary cluster?) this cluster is 500 million years old, almost twice the age of M38, hence were formed at different periods and most likely from different molecular gas.  This is just a chanced fly-by with no interactions.

Open Clusters Messier 38 and NGC1907

Open Clusters Messier 38 and NGC1907

Skywatcher 80ED
Canon Digital Rebel XTi (400D)
30 x 30sec (ISO 800)
Registration with IRIS
Post-Processing with GIMP

Messier 36 – Open Cluster in Auriga

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Open Cluster Messier 36 (NGC 1960) is located in the Auriga constellation.  Located about 4,100 light years from Earth, and 14 light years across, it has at least 60 members.  It is very similar to the Pleiades (M45) and if M36 was at the same distance (M45 is 10 times closer) it would be of similar magnitude.  Two other open clusters from Messier’s catalog are located nearby: M37 and M38.  The stars in the cluster are of spectral type B2, and fairly young: 25 million years.

Open Cluster Messier 36. Skywatcher 80ED, Canon 400D 18x30sec

Open Cluster Messier 36. Skywatcher 80ED, Canon 400D 18x30sec

The blue-ish stars contrast with the older yellow and orange stars in the background.  This can be further enhanced by using the SBLUR function in IRIS to selectively blur and enhance the colors of bright stars.  While the colors are exaggerated in the image below, it is nevertheless interesting to see the vast diversity of stars and their color.

Open Cluster Messier 36. Skywatcher 80ED, Canon 400D 18x30sec

Open Cluster Messier 36. Skywatcher 80ED, Canon 400D 18x30sec (SBLUR for colour)

Telescope: Skywatcher 80ED
Camera: Canon Digital Rebel XTi (400D)
Exposure: 18 x 30sec (ISO 800)
Date: 18Mar2016

Faint Images of Galaxies M95 and M96

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Galaxies are always a challenge… Imaging objects such as nebulas within our galaxy is much better suited to my small telescope.  At 700mm focal length, galaxies over 30 million light years away are rather small and lack detail.  Nevertheless this is my go at Messier 95 and 96 in the constellation of the Lion.

These galaxies were discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781 with a 12in telescope, nearly 4 times the size of mine.

Galaxies Messier 95 and 96 - Benoit Guertin

Galaxies Messier 95 and 96 – Benoit Guertin

The image was scaled to 30% and I’ve added insets of the galaxies.

Telescope: Sky-Watcher 80ED
Camera: Canon XTi (ISO 400)
Image: 30 x 30sec