Mike's Astro Photos

Galaxies

Jan.23 2014

Super Nova in the Cigar Galaxy

by , under Galaxies

Was yesterday one of those days when you felt a disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced? Well it wasn’t just a feeling. As it turns out, a super nova was detected in the Cigar Galaxy yesterday. Super Novas are the largest explosions in the Universe and this one could be seen from over 11.5 million light years away! Don’t worry about all those souls that were vaporized in this cosmic eruption. It happened a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

You can see the super nova in this image from this morning. Its the bright star near the bottom center of the galaxy just below the red gas outbursts.

Super Nova Inside the Cigar Galaxy

For reference, check out this image of M82 I took last spring. Clearly, that star was not there then. From what I have read, the Nova is expected to brighten over the next two weeks.

Here’s a single frame of the galaxy taken through a clear filter for future reference.

Super Nova in the Cigar Galaxy – Single 20 minute exposure through clear filter – January 23rd, 2014

This was a relatively quick exposure of just 40 minutes X red, green and blue and 60 minutes of Luminance. I blended in a few hours of luminance data from last year to help sharpen the details in the galaxy.

Image Details for Super Nova in Cigar Galaxy
RGB: 40 minutes each
Luminance: 1 hour + 4 hours of old data
Total exposure: 3.5 hours
Camera: Apogee U16M
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Auberry, CA
Date: January 23rd, 2014
Software: The SkyX, MaximDL, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop

 

 

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Nov.03 2013

Triangulum Galaxy

by , under Galaxies

Here’s my latest long exposure photo of the Triangulum Galaxy. The last time I imaged this galaxy was in 2010 and I’ve made some progress since then. For reference, here are some of my first amateur photos of the Triangulum Galaxy. At about 3 million light years away, the Triangulum Galaxy is home to approximately 40 billion stars. Its the 3rd largest galaxy in our local group and you can actually see it with the naked eye under very dark skies. Its apparent size in our sky is actually bigger than the full moon, but because it is so dim, you can’t really see it.

Click the image below for a larger (2000×2000) version of this picture or click here for an even bigger wall paper sized version of the galaxy (4000×4000).

Triangulum Galaxy – October 2013

Image Details for The Triangulum Galaxy
Shot With 2 Hours 40 minutes of RGB and 5 hours of Lum
Total exposure: 12.8 hours
Camera: Apogee U16M
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Auberry, CA
Date: October 25,26 2013
Software: The SkyX, MaximDL, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop

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Oct.22 2013

Spiral Galaxy M74

by , under Galaxies

Here’s my latest astrophoto of the spiral galaxy Messier 74. At approximately 32 million light-years away from Earth, this Grand Design Spiral Galaxy is home to an estimated 100 billion stars.

Grand Design Spiral Galaxy – Messier 74

Image Details for Galaxy M74
Shot With 2 Hours of RGB and 3 hours of Lum
Total exposure: 9 hours
Camera: Apogee U16M
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Auberry, CA
Date: October 5,6,7 2013
Software: The SkyX, MaximDL, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop

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May.15 2013

Whirlpool Galaxy – Messier 51

by , under Galaxies

I haven’t been getting as much scope time in as I’d like so far this year, but I’m hoping to buck this trend soon. While I’m still struggling with a few technical details, I had a good session last night and was able to capture some useable data for this photo of The Whirlpool Galaxy.

Whirlpool Galaxy – Messier 51 – May 15th, 2013

Photo Details

M51
LRGB 140x70x70x70 Minutes Each
Total exposure: 5 hours
Camera: Apogee U16M
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Auberry, CA
Date: May 15 2013
Software: The SkyX, MaximDL, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop

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Mar.27 2013

A Galaxy in Peril M82

by , under Galaxies

I haven’t had much time for astrophotography lately, especially with all of the fireballs falling, but I did finally get around to processing and finalizing this picture of Messier 82, A Galaxy in Peril. I slowly acquired data for this image over the month of February and for various quality reasons had to disgard about 2/3s of it. The processed image below is the result of 9 total hours worth of exposure time gathered over a two week period.

Messier 82 - A Galaxy in Peril

Messier 82 – A Galaxy in Peril

While it looks like this galaxy is exploding or being torn apart, astronomers believe the red filaments extendending outward from its core are ionized gases being blown out of the galaxy by solar winds and super nova explosions.

M82 is close enough to M81, that I was able to join the images into a nice mosaic of both galaxies.

Mosaic Photo of Galaxies Messier 82 & 81

Photo Details

M82
LRGB 1400x1200x1200x1200 Minutes Each
Total exposure: 9 hours
Camera: Apogee U16M
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Auberry, CA
Date: Feb 2013
Software: The SkyX, MaximDL, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop

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Feb.26 2013

Bode’s Galaxy – M81

by , under Galaxies

I had to take a break from astrophotos for a little while at the beginning of the year to focus on some Earth based projects. In addition to not having the time, I had lost some of my inspiration and motivation for the work. When I finally got back into it, I realized there were a bunch of things I had been doing wrong. I had been rushing through the process to get to the end result, but not spending the time on the details and fine points needed to consistently create quality photos. As a result, fundmental problems with my procedures were preventing me from seeing clearly. After some time away, these errors were apparent and I spent a good bit of effort on each aspect trying to perfect it or at least get it working better. After a few weeks of slow paced, calm progress I started to get the results I was looking for (or at least better results!)

Here’s my first galaxy photo of the new year, Messier 81, aka Bode’s Galaxy. For reference purposes, here’s a Hubble photo of the same object.

Messier 81 – February 10th, 2013

Here’s a an extra big high-res 3200×3200 version of this galaxy picture.

Photo Details
M81
LRGB 1200x600x600x600 Minutes Each
Total exposure: 5 hours
Camera: Apogee U16M
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Auberry, CA
Date: Feb 5,6,7 2013
Software: The SkyX, MaximDL, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop

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Nov.15 2012

Galaxy NGC 891 – First Light at SRO

by , under Galaxies

As expected I hit a few obstacles after leaving my scope in California at the Sierra Remote Observatory. The first was a crashing PC that somehow started acting up right after I left. I ended up replacing this and re-installing all the software. I’m glad I did though, because it hasn’t crashed since (knock knock). Once the computer was stable I worked with the guys at SRO to fix the collimation on the scope. They did a great job with this and I was able to get my first run of images this week. I was tweaking tracking paramaters and setup over a few nights and still have some kinks left to work out, but we are almost there. Here’s my first light image from SRO. Its no APOD, but not to shabby.

Galaxy NGC 891 - November 13th, 2012 - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Galaxy NGC 891 – November 13th, 2012

NGC 891 is considered an ‘edge-on’ spiral galaxy, which means from our perspective we can only see the side of it. The galactic bulge in the center of the disk is a classic sign of an edge on galaxy. At 30 million light years away, NGC 891 is one of the most famous edge-on spiral galaxies. Its also one of my favorite astrophotography targets. Here are some of my past images of NGC 891 – NGC 891 – December 3rd, 2011 and another shot of NGC 891 on February 7th, 2011.

Photo Details
NGC 891
RGB 60x60x60 Minutes Each
Total exposure: 3 hours
Camera: Apogee U16M
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Auberry, CA
Date: 11/13/2012, 11/14/2012
Software: The SkyX, MaximDL, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop

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Sep.08 2012

High Resolution Andromeda Galaxy – Messier 31

by , under Galaxies

The Andromeda Galaxy has been one of my favorite pursuits since I started with astrophotography. It took me a while to figure out how to shoot it and each telescope you use reveals different things about the galaxy. I took this photo of Andromeda Friday night using a 14.5 inch  RC and full format CCD. Andromeda is still too big to fit completely in this field of view, but I think we are getting about 75% of it. For reference, this is the same setup I used on the blue moon, so yes, Andromeda is bigger than the full moon in the night sky. Its just dimmer and harder to see with the naked eye. Imagine what it would be like to look up in the sky and see something like this.

The Great Andromeda Galaxy in High Resolution – September 7th, 2012

Click the picture above for a [2400x2400] version or download a super high res [3700x3700] version of Andromeda here.

For comparison purposes, here are some past photos I’ve taken of Andromeda: Andromeda with a FLT 98 wide field telescope and SBIG ST8300 CCD in September 2011, Andromeda with FLT 98 and DSLR Camera in September 2010, the first picture I ever took of Andromeda with a Celestron CPC1100 and DSLR in January 2010 and of course the telescopic Bolide with Andromeda picture from July 2009.

Photo Details
Messier 31 – The Great Andromeda Galaxy
RGB 50X50X50 Minutes Each
Total exposure 2 hours 30 minutes
Camera: Apogee U16M
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Freeland MD
Date: 9/7/2012
Software: The SkyX, MaximDL, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop

here’s a zoomify version that is fun to play around with. Click the image to zoom in and the icons to control. Full screen mode is pretty cool.

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Apr.07 2012

Messier 100

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Here’s a long exposure photograph of the spiral galaxy Messier 100. I collected the data for this picture over several nights in late February this year.  Exposure times were 2 hours each of Red, Green and Blue color channels and 2 hours 40 minutes of Luminance. Total exposure time: 8 hours and 40 minutes.

Messier 100 - February 26, 2012

Messier 100 - February 26, 2012

Click the image above for a larger picture, or download this high res version of m100 3630×2420.

Located roughly 55 million light years from Earth, Messier 100 is a grand design spiral galaxy estimated to be 160,000 light years wide.

Photo Details
Messier 100
RGB 2 hours each
Luminance 2 hours 40 minutes
Total exposure 8 hours 40 minutes
Camera: SBIG ST8300
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Freeland MD
Date: 02/20/2012, 02/26/2012
Software: The SkyX, CCDSoft, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop
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Mar.30 2012

Supernova in M95

by , under Galaxies

An amateur astronomer discovered a supernova in the galaxy Messier 95 on March 16th, 2012. Two weeks later, the supernova continues to shine bright. Here’s a picture of M95 I took earlier this week. The supernova is the star to the lower right of the galaxy core. No one knows for sure when the supernova first erupted, but this object is not seen in pictures of the galaxy taken before March 20th.

Super Nova in M95 - March 26th 2012

Super Nova in M95 - March 26th 2012

Messier 95 is an estimated 38 million light years away from Earth, which means the star in this galaxy would have exploded over 38 million years ago. A supernova is the most powerful release of energy in the Universe. This supernova from a far distant galaxy outshines some of the other stars in the picture, which are all in our local Milkyway Galaxy. This gives you a relative idea about how bright and powerful supernovas are.

Photo Details
Messier 95
RGB: 3 hours (1 hour each)
Luminance: 2 hours
Total Exposure Time: 5 hours
Camera: SBIG ST8300
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Freeland MD
Date: 03/26/2012, 03/27/2012, 03/29/2012
Software: The SkyX, CCDSoft, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop
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Feb.18 2012

Messier 106

by , under Galaxies

Last night was the first fully clear night we’ve had in weeks and with only a crescent moon popping out after 3:30, it was the perfect night for some astrophotography. I am still fine tuning aspects of my system and spent the first few hours of the night running tests, measuring various things and tweaking knobs in an effort to make improvements to polar alignment, PEC & collimation. I’ve gotten a new software suite from CCD Ware that really lets you fine tune these things. I didn’t want to waste the entire night tinkering so I moved on after making a little progress. Also on my list of procedural improvements, is mastering CCD Auto Pilot, which I’m getting better at, but still not entirely there. Last night I actually had a CCDAP5 session going great, but it lost the guide star after 2 frames and then lost the ability to plate solve. Not wanting to waste the night’s opportunity with tinkering, I rolled back to my non-automated procedures and started imaging the spiral galaxy Messier 106.

Messier 106 - February 17th, 2012

Photo Details
Messier 106
RGB 4X600s / 2 hours total exposure
Camera: SBIG ST8300
Guider: SBIG 402 with MMOAG Off Axis Guider
Telescope: RCOS 14.5
Mount: Paramount ME
Location: Freeland MD
Date: 02/17/2012(RGB)
Software: The SkyX, CCDSoft, FocusMax, CCDAutoPilot, CCDStack, Photoshop
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Dec.29 2011

M51 – The Whirlpool Galaxy

by , under Galaxies

Here’s a photo I took from my observatory of Messier 51, the famous Whirlpool Galaxy.

M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy - December 28th, 2011

At an estimated 23 million light years away, M51 is one of the most famous galaxies in the sky and a popular target for amateur astronomers. M51 is an interacting, grand-design, spiral galaxy. Interacting means, the galaxy is merging with another galaxy resulting in a disturbance of both galaxies because the gravitational fields of each are ‘interacting’ with each other. Grand-design is a designation for a special type of spiral galaxy that has prominent, well defined continuous spiral arms. Less than 10% of all spiral galaxies are designated grand-design.

Earlier this year in June 2011, a super nova was discovered inside M51 bringing renewed attention to the galaxy. I don’t think the supernova is still visible in last night’s image. I did look to see if it was there though.

Happy New Year!

Astro Photo Details
30 minutes RGB & 60 minutes of L / 150 total minutes (2.5 hours)
SBIG ST8300 Camera
MMOAG & SBIG 402 Guide Camera
Paramount ME Mount
RCOS 14.5
The Sky X / CCDStack / CCDSoft

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Dec.05 2011

Galaxy NGC 891

by , under Galaxies

Here’s a photo of the Galaxy NGC 891. This is the first image I have taken with my new system where all things were working perfectly: mount, scope, focusing, temperature & software. I am especially excited about figuring out the automation software because I literally slept through this job!

NGC 891 – December 03, 2011

Astro Photo Details
30s of minute RGBL / 120 Total minutes
SBIG ST8300 Camera
MMOAG & SBIG 402 Guide Camera
Paramount ME Mount
RCOS 14.5
The Sky X / CCDStack / CCD Auto Pilot

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Nov.19 2011

Spiral Galaxy – NGC 7331

by , under Galaxies

I’ve been testing out a new scope the last month. I was finally able to get a pretty good shot out of it last night. Here’s a picture of the fantastic spiral galaxy, NGC 7331

Spiral Galaxy NGC 7331 - November 18th, 2011

NGC 7331 is 49 million light years away and approximately 30,000 light years across. It was discovered by Wilhelm Herschel in 1784 and is one of the brightest galaxies not cataloged by Messier.

Astro Photo Details
5×10 minute RGB / 150 Total minutes
SBIG ST8300 Camera
MMOAG & SBIG 402 Guide Camera
Paramount ME Mount
RCOS 14.5
CCDSoft / The Sky X / CCDStack

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Sep.28 2011

M31 Astrophoto – The Great Andromeda Galaxy

by , under Galaxies

Here’s my latest picture of the The Great Andromeda Galaxy. Also known as Messier 31, Andromeda is a spiral galaxy about 2.2 million light years away from Earth. In 964 a persian astronomer described the galaxy as a ‘small cloud’. When you look at Andromeda through a telescope, it looks like a smudge or a small cloud. Only with a camera and long exposure, does the galaxy’s true form take shape. The majestic spirals and bright center core reveal a universal grouping of over 1 trillion stars!

Andromeda Galaxy - August 23, 2011

Compare the astrophoto above with a picture of the Andromeda Galaxy from about 1 year ago, or this photo of Andromeda from 18 months ago. Skills, equipment and 1 year’s experience make a big difference in picture quality!

Astro Photo Details
5×10 minute RGB / 150 Total minutes
SBIG ST8300 Camera
Orion ST80 Guide Scope
SBIG 402 Guide Camera
Paramount ME Mount
William Optics FLT98
CCDSoft / The Sky X / CCDStack

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