Mike's Astro Photos

Tag: Galaxies

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

by , under Galaxies

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

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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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Jan.27 2012

NGC 2175

by , under Nebula

Here’s a recent astrophoto of NGC 2175, an open cluster centered in the Monkey Head Nebula. Found in target rich Orion, this nebula is a huge cloud of hydrogen gas covering an area larger than the full moon. The star cluster is visible to the aided eye and was first discovered before 1654 by  Giovanni Batista Hodierna.

NGC 2175 & The Monkey Head Nebula - January 24th, 2012

Click the picture above for a larger image, or download this huge full resolution desktop wall paper version.

Photo Details
NGC2175
RGB 6X600s / 3 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: 01/20/2012(RGB), 01/24/2012
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

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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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Mar.20 2011

Sunflower Galaxy – Lightbuckets

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I’ve started looking into remote observatories recently. These are telescopes in far off dark places usually with optimal seeing conditions. The telescopes and cameras are all 100% computer automated and you can buy time on the scopes and do whatever you want. Here’s what I was able to do on my first run using LB0002 at Light Buckets Observatory.

Sunflower Galaxy - March 13, 2011

Here’s a close up of the galaxy at full resolution:

Sunflower Galaxy - March 13, 2011

Image Details
LB-0002 Rodeo, NM
8″ Newtonian Astrograph
30x30x30 RGB 40xL
Processed with CCDStack & Photoshop Elements

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Feb.07 2011

NGC 891

by , under Galaxies

Here’s my first attempt of photographing NGC 891, an edge-on spiral galaxy hidden about 30 million light years away in the constellation Andromeda.

I was surprised by how big the galaxy was especially since I was using a low powered telescope to view it. There are a couple of interesting things about this galaxy. 1) its edge-on which simply means what you think it means — we are looking directly at the edge or side of the galaxy. 2) Its an unbarred galaxy, which basically means there’s a big bulge in the middle of the galaxy. Since we are edge-on with the galaxy, we can see exactly how big that bulge is. These two factors working together along with the galaxy’s relative closeness and apparent size make NGC 891 a perfect astrophotography target.

During post processing, I had a few problems and some noise was introduced into the photo. I attribute this mostly to a bad set of flats. My flat field photo taking skills are one of the items on my short list for improvement. Problems aside, I’m still happy with the results and I will definitely be back to photograph this guy again.

NGC 891 - December 28th, 2010

NGC 891 - December 28th, 2010

Photo Details
William Optics FLT98 APO Refractor
Celestron CGEM Mount
Canon 20da DSLR Camera
1 hour exposure = 5 minute x 12 @ ISO 400

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Nov.09 2010

M33 – Triangulum Galaxy

by , under Galaxies

Approximately 3 million light years away in the constellation Triangulum is a spiral galaxy called The Triangulum Galaxy. Catalogued as Messier 33 or NGC 598,it is sometimes icalled the Pinwheel Galaxy, a nickname it shares with Messier 101. The Triangulum Galaxy is the third-largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way Galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy and about 30 other smaller galaxies.

M33 The Triangulum Galaxy - November 2nd, 2010

M33 The Triangulum Galaxy - November 2nd, 2010

Photo Details:
William Optics FLT 98 / CGEM Mount
Canon 20Da Camera
SBIG STV Autoguider
12×5 minute ISO 400 exposures
Deep Sky Stacker
Photoshop cleanup

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Sep.12 2010

Andromeda

by , under Galaxies

Here’s a recent photo of the Andromeda Galaxy taken with a William Optics FLT98. At a mere 2.2 million light years away, Andromeda is the closest spiral galaxy to Earth and visible as a fuzzy dot in binoculars or a small telescope. On a dark night you can see it with your naked eye or a basic camera lens. Andromeda is estimated to have over 1 trillion stars making it 2-3 times larger than the Milkyway.

Andromeda Galaxy - Sept 6th, 2010

Andromeda Galaxy - Sept 6th, 2010

Photo Details
William Optics FLT 98
Canon 20Da Camera
12×3 minute ISO 400
SBIG STV Auto Guider

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Jun.12 2010

Sombrero – William Optics FLT 98

by , under Galaxies

Here’s a photo of the Sombrero Galaxy through the WOFLT98.

Sombrero Galaxy - May 5th, 2010

Sombrero Galaxy - May 5th, 2010

Here’s a crop at full resolution:

Sombrero Galaxy

Sombrero Galaxy

I’m still getting the hang of this scope, but check out the difference in zoom and quality with the Sombrero picture take with the SCT.

Photo Details
William Optics FLT98
Canon 20Da DSLR
3 frames @ 2 minutes each
ISO800

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Jan.27 2010

Sombrero Galaxy 2009

by , under Galaxies

Here’s a recent shot of the Sombrero Galaxy from Dec 17th 2009. I’ve been wanting to shoot this guy again since getting my observatory setup but he hasn’t been available. I was up at 4:00 AM one night, ready to call it quits but saw the Sombrero on the goto menu. I extended the session an extra 15 minutes to capture 4×3 minute frames of this spectacular galaxy.

Sombrero Galaxy

Sombrero Galaxy - December 17th, 2009

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