Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex

The brightest orange star is the Antares, which represents the head of the constellation Scorpius. This star has surrounded all kinds of nebulae – dark, reflection, emission. Basically, nearly all the colors of the universe can be seen here.

TelescopeWilliam Optics RedCat 51/250 f4.9
Aperture51 mm
Focal length250 mm
MountiOptron Skyguider Pro
AutoguidingZWO 178MM, QHY Mini Guide Scope 30/130 mm
CameraCanon EOS 6Da
Filtersnone
Exposure60x120s, ISO 1600
Date2022-05-29

NGC 6744 Galaxy

NGC 6744 is a galaxy in the constellation Pavo. The galaxy has beautiful spiral arms, which attracted my attention and I spent 4 hours collecting the light coming from this 28 million light-years distant deep space object.

TelescopeMeade 10"
Aperture254 mm
Focal length2097 mm
MountMK 100K
AutoguidingMGEN 240 mm
CameraZWO 071 @-10°C
CorrectorTS 0.67 reducer
Filtersnone
Exposure78x180s, Gain 95, bin 1x1,
Date2022-05-28

M83 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy

Messier 83, sometimes called Southern Pinwheel Galaxy is one of the most difficult deep space objects in the whole of Messier’s catalog. It is located between the constellations Hydra and Centaurus. This galaxy has a very low southern declination (close to the horizon) and this makes it difficult to photograph in Central Europe. I tried a few years ago in La Palma, but my attempt was ruined by clouds and bad weather in general. This time I was better prepared: traveled south and hired a telescope with a much longer focal length. However, after the acquisition in the post-processing stage, I noticed that the final image is not that sharp and it was not really publishable. I was quite disappointed and put the picture in the archive. Recently I came back to this image because a new tool for sharpening was released – BlurXTerminator. I must say, this plugin for Pixinsight makes magical things. It reduces the stars and simultaneously makes the non-stellar object significantly sharper. I managed to turn an unfocused picture into this:

TelescopeMeade 10″
Aperture254 mm
Focal length2097 mm
MountMK 100K
AutoguidingMGEN 240 mm
CameraZWO 071 @-10°C
CorrectorTS 0.67 reducer
Filtersnon
Exposure52x180s, Gain 95, bin 1×1,
Date2022-05-28

NGC 3372 Eta Carina Nebula

Eta Carina Nebula is the southern hemisphere’s most prominent deep space object. In fact, this nebula is the reason why I packed all my portable astro-gear and flew to Namibia. Carina is approximately 4x brighter than the Orion nebula, which could be considered a highlight of the northern hemisphere. Moreover, it’s much larger. The nebula is a combination of emission and dark nebulae, located in the constellation Carina and it’s roughly 8500 light-years away from us.

It was a struggle to get the rig working in Namibia, but after two nights I managed and the next day, when I processed the pictures, a big smile appeared on my face. Well done, mission accomplished.

During our stay at Kiripotib Namibia, the other guest rented a 14.5-inch Dobsonian telescope and allowed us to have a look at the Carina (thank you so much, Peter). It was a simply spectacular view. Such a huge aperture combined with TeleVue eyepieces – WOW effect was there. Moreover, the Dobsonian had a filter wheel with OIII, UHC, and H-beta filters. Just by turning it, one could see a completely different nebulosity. I was really happy to see this beautiful deep space object with my own eyes.

Here is the processed picture in the Hubble color palette.

And here is bi-color version (R-Ha, G-OIII, B-OIII)

TelescopeSharpstar 94EDPH
Aperture94 mm
Focal length414 mm
MountRainbow Astro RST 135
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, QHY Mini Guide Scope
CameraZWO 2600MM @-10°C
CorrectorF4.4 Quad Reducer
FiltersAntlia Ha, OIII, SII 3 nm
Exposure87x300s, Gain 100, bin 1x1,
Date2022-05-27

Saturn

I have been chasing this planet for a very long time. Saturn is the most beautiful planet in the Solar System and yet I haven’t been able to photograph it properly. This is mainly caused by the fact that in the last years this planet had very low southern declination (it has been quite close to the horizon). Therefore, I was not able to capture it from home, and during my travels, to southern places, I never had a suitable telescope with me. Finally, I got an opportunity. I was in the southern hemisphere, specifically in Namibia, and I rented Meade 10″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. The first night I photographed Centarus A Galaxy. Early in the morning around 4 a.m. I came to park to scope, but before that, I removed the ASI071 camera. Focal length 3130 mm I prolonged by TeleVue 2.5 Barlow lens to nearly 8 m, attached ZWO ASI485, and captured 2000 frames. Then I selected 25% best frames and here we go:

TelescopeMeade 10"
Aperture254 mm
Focal length7825 mm
MountMK 100K
Autoguidingnon
CameraZWO ASI485MC
CorrectorTeleVue Barlow 2.5x
Filtersnon
Exposure2000x180ms, Gain 222, 25% selected,
Date2022-05-28

NGC 5128 Centaurus A Galaxy

NGC 5128 Centaurus A is a galaxy, which can be found in cancellation, you can guess which one, Centarus. This galaxy is not visible from Europe or from the northern hemisphere. If anyone wants to observe or photograph it, he has to go south. And this is precisely what I did. I went to Namibia, specifically to an Astrofarm Kiripotib. I went there with a plan and this Galaxy was my first and primary target. As for most galaxies, one needs a long focal length. Therefore, I rented a telescope there. Specifically, it was Meade 10″. I brought my own focal reducer TS 0.67 and attached my old ASI071. I made in a total of 133 pictures, each 3 minutes long, and stacked them together. This means nearly 7 hours of exposure time. The dust cloud blocking the light from the galaxy really popped out with the little help of deconvolution.

TelescopeMeade 10"
Aperture254 mm
Focal length2097 mm
MountMK 100K
AutoguidingMGEN 240 mm
CameraZWO 071 @-10°C
CorrectorTS 0.67 reducer
Filtersnon
Exposure133x180s, Gain 95, bin 1x1,
Date2022-05-27

NGC2264 Cone nebula

The Cone Nebula is a molecular cloud of excited hydrogen gas, located in the constellation Monoceros. It belongs to the group of nebulae, which can be observed/photographed during the winter in the northern hemisphere. I tried to capture this object a long time ago without success. I must say, it’s a very difficult one, so I attempted this time with new equipment. Specifically new extra, super, mega narrowband filters, having a bandwidth of only 3 nm. Combined with a small 6″ Newtonian telescope I was able to generate a pretty decent picture.

Here is a fake Hubble palette edit:

And here is a more natural-looking bi-color edit:

TelescopeNewton 150/600 mm
Aperture150 mm
Focal length570 mm
MountRainbow Astro RST 135
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, QHY Mini Guide Scope
CameraZWO 2600MM @-10°C
CorrectorMaxField coma corrector
FiltersAntlia Ha, OIII, SII 3 nm
Exposure142x300s, Gain 100, bin 1x1,
Date2022-03-09

NGC2174 Monkey Head Nebula

Another nebula, which resembles a head of an animal is designated NGC 2174, sometimes called Monkey Head Nebula. After capturing the Horse Head Nebula in the constellation Orion, I waited for a few days for good weather and pointed my telescope again into the Orion, this time to its northern part. Monkey Head Nebula is an HII region, which is approximately 6400 light-years away from Earth. To find a monkey is not that difficult. There is a baboon’s head on the upper left side, which is looking into the constellation Taurus.

The best way to capture this nebula is by using narrowband filters. For this purpose, I ordered a new monochrome camera ZWO 2600MM with a 2″ filter wheel. The filters are equally important as a camera, so I decided on Antlia 3 nm. As a first light, I must say that this combination works really well. I made in total 90 exposures, 5 minutes each, which means over 7 hours of integration time.

TelescopeNewton 254/1000 mm
Aperture254 mm
Focal length950 mm
MountGemini G53f
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, TS 60/240 mm
CameraZWO 2600MM @-10°C
CorrectorMaxField coma corrector
FiltersAntlia Ha, OIII, SII 3 nm
Exposure90x300s, Gain 100, bin 1x1,
Date2022-03-06

B33 HORSEHEAD NEBULA

Horsehead nebula is IMHO the most beautiful deep space object. It is located in the constellation Orion. Everybody knows this constellation because it can be easily identified by three aligned stars (Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka), which forms the belt of the Orion.

The nebula is very dim. Therefore, visual observation is nearly impossible, unless you have a telescope, having at least 1 meter in diameter. To photograph it, one needs a very long exposure time. I used 5 minutes per image and I took 36 of them. The nebula complex is visually very large, so the optimal focal length should be shorter than 750 mm. I used a Newtonian telescope with a focal length of 1000 mm but reduced to 750 mm by the Nexus coma corrector. It turns the Newtonian into a light-collecting bucket, but the quality suffers from that. The stars in the corners are everything, but round. Moreover, I used dual-band filter Optolong L-eXtreme, which increased the contrast of the nebula, but also made the asymmetric halo around the bright stars. I played a bit with the white balance and pushed the colors into the orange tint, to reach the warmer feeling in cold February.

TelescopeNewton 254/1000 mm
Aperture254 mm
Focal length750 mm
MountGemini G53f
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, TS 60/240 mm
CameraZWO 071 Pro @-10°C
CorrectorNexus coma corrector
FiltersOptolong l-eXtreme
Exposure36x300s, Gain 95, bin 1x1,
Date2022-02-09

IC443 Jellyfish nebula

Jellyfish Nebula is a supernova remnant in the constellation Gemini. A very long time ago a supermassive star exploded and emitted a lot of material into space. It is not clear when exactly it happened, but the latest research dates the explosion between a few thousand years and 30’000 years. The shape definitely resembles a jellyfish, having the head at the top and tentacles at the bottom and overall it looks like it floats in the space. It’s interesting how many nebulae have names related to an animal. For example the Seagull Nebula, the Elephant Trunk Nebula, the Eagle Nebula, the Lobster Nebula, the Horsehead Nebula, etc.

TelescopeNewton 254/1000 mm
Aperture254 mm
Focal length750 mm
MountGemini G53f
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, TS 60/240 mm
CameraZWO 071 Pro @-10°C
CorrectorNexus coma corrector
FiltersOptolong l-eXtreme
Exposure48x300s, Gain 95, bin 1x1,
Date2022-02-06

IC2177 Seagull Nebula

I am not a huge fan of birding, but I captured this “Seagull” with pleasure. Initially, I noticed on my wide-angle photo, that there is a giant nebula north of Sirius. I checked in Stellarium what would be the optimal focal length and found out that this is a perfect target for William Optics RedCat combined with an APS-C sensor. Moreover, I was able to fit the M50 open cluster into the field of view (on the left side).

TelescopeWilliam Optics RedCat 51/250 f4.9
Aperture51 mm
Focal length250 mm
MountRainbow Astro RST 135
AutoguidingZWO 178MM, QHY Mini Guide Scope 30/130 mm
CameraZWO 071 Pro @-10°C
Correctorno
FiltersOptolong L-eXtreme 2"
Exposure85x180s, gain 95
Date2022-01-23

NGC1499 California Nebula

California Nebula is a cloud of ionized hydrogen gas (HII region), which can be found in the constellation Perseus. The nebula is 1320 light-years away from Earth and it is 100 light-years long. Visual observation is very difficult, due to very low brightness. The first person who spotted this nebula was Edward Emerson Barnard in 1885. Since it is an emission nebula, it can be relatively easily photographed even under the light-polluted sky, with help of a narrowband filter.

I always wanted to capture this nebula, but the focal length must be relatively short. This is a perfect opportunity to test the William Optics RedCat. This time not with Canon EOS 6Da, but I attached a cooled astro camera ZWO ASI071 and placed the Optolong L-eXtreme dual-band filter.

TelescopeWilliam Optics RedCat 51/250 f4.9
Aperture51 mm
Focal length250 mm
MountRainbow Astro RST 135
AutoguidingZWO 178MM, QHY Mini Guide Scope 30/130 mm
CameraZWO 071 Pro @-10°C
Correctorno
FiltersOptolong L-eXtreme 2"
Exposure105x180s, gain 95
Date2022-01-23

NGC2237 Rosette Nebula

A second deep space object, on which I tested the combination of Canon 6Da with WO RedCat was the NGC 2237 Rosette Nebula (a short description can be found in my previous post). The field of view of this telescope, combined with a full-frame sensor of 6Da is huge. The Rosette on the left can be simultaneously captured with the Cone Nebula NGC 2264 (on the left). I simply love this scope and I cannot wait to test it under the dark sky in broadband.

TelescopeWilliam Optics RedCat 51/250 f4.9
Aperture51 mm
Focal length250 mm
MountiOptron SkyGuider Pro
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, TS 60/240 mm
CameraCanon EOS 6Da
Correctorno
FiltersOptolong L-eXtreme 2"
Exposure42x180s, Iso 1600
Date2022-01-12

IC1396 Elephant Trunk Nebula

I have a new toy. Motivated by a quite bad experience with ASKAR 180 FMA and its chromatic aberration I started to search for a better pocket-size telescope. To decide which one was quite simple. I would say there is nothing sharper and nothing with a better reputation than William Optics RedCat 51mm. The detailed comparison with ASKAR will come a bit later. This is the first light, where I tested the portable setup – iOptron Skyguider on a tripod, Canon 6Da, and the RedCat. The Moon was shining like crazy, therefore I attached the dual narrow band filter Optolong L-eXtreme filter. After 3 hours of collecting the filtrated photons, a pretty nice picture came out of it. I took this DSO using the same camera combined with the ASKAR 180FMA (link) but in broadband. Therefore, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. However, the RedCat looks much sharper and it contains more details. I cannot wait to test the RedCat under dark skies.

TelescopeWilliam Optics RedCat 51/250 f4.9
Aperture51 mm
Focal length250 mm
MountiOptron SkyGuider Pro
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, TS 60/240 mm
CameraCanon 6Da
Correctorno
FiltersOptolong L-eXtreme 2"
Exposure62x180s, Iso 1600
Date2022-01-12

NGC 2237 Rosette Nebula

I couldn’t imagine a better final object for the winter season. Rosette Nebula is my favorite H II region in the constellation Monoceros. At the same time, I used this deep-space object to test my portable Newtonian telescope with my new monochromatic camera ZWO ASI 2600MM. Well compared to the previous setup, this camera has much smaller pixels, which increases the requirements for the optics, specifically for the coma corrector. I am not happy with the star shape and for my planned trip to Namibia, I will try to find a portable refractor.

Here is a “fake” Hubble palette (SII, Ha, OIII):

And here more realistic bi-color variant (Ha, OIII, OIII)

TelescopeNewton 150/600 mm
Aperture150 mm
Focal length570 mm
MountRainbow Astro RST 135
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, QHY Mini Guide Scope
CameraZWO 2600MM @-10°C
CorrectorMaxField coma corrector
FiltersAntlia Ha, OIII, SII 3 nm
Exposure94x300s, Gain 100, bin 1×1,
Date2022-01-12

Comet C/2019 Y4 Atlas

The comet C/2019 Y4 Atlas was possible to spot in the constellation Lynx nearly two years ago (April 2020). This comet was discovered on 28th December 2019 by Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System. The trajectory of the comet is suspiciously similar to another comet C/1844 Y1, which visited us nearly two centuries ago. Most probably it’s a fragment of the old visitor and the next opportunity to see this comet will occur in the year 2194.

It looks like a droplet drifting through the space. The picture was taken as the first light of the new telescope TS-Optics 150 mm f/2.8 hyperbolic Astrograph. This telescope disappointed me in its optical quality. So, don’t look at the stars in the corners. Postprocessing was quite tricky, but I somehow learned how to do it. In total, I stacked 44 exposures, each 3 minutes long, which means slightly more than 2 hours of integration time.

TelescopeTS-Optics 150 mm f/2.8 hyperbolic Astrograph
Aperture150 mm
Focal length420 mm
MountGemini G53f
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, QHY Mini Guide Scope
CameraZWO 071 Pro @-10°C
Corrector2.5" coma corrector
Filtersno
Exposure44x180s, Gain 94, bin 1x1,
Date2020-04-15

Comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS

I missed the most prominent comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) in 2021 due to permanent, constant, ever-lasting bad weather. In the last 3 months, I was able to see the star only through the holes in the clouds (except one night during our winter vacation in Laax). At least I have time to process the old data I took a long time ago. In 2020 I took pictures of two comets and here is one of them. It’s called C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) and on the 25th of May 2020 was possible to spot it, roaming in the constellation Ursa Major.

I was postponing the processing very long time because the comets are the most difficult object to process. There is a fixed background of the stars and deep space objects and the comet is slightly moving across the field. This means that the pictures must be registered twice and merged together afterward. Since I have plenty of time now, I was able to experiment, and here is the final image:

TelescopeNewton 254/1000 mm
Aperture254 mm
Focal length1060 mm
MountGemini G53f
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, TS 60/240 mm
CameraZWO 071 Pro @-10°C
CorrectorExplore Scientific HR coma corrector
Filtersno
Exposure34x180s, Gain 94, bin 1x1,
Date2020-05-25

Chasing darkness in Switzerland 2021 – Flims Laax

I haven’t been able to photograph the stars for a very long time. I live in a valley where many rivers flow, which brings a lot of moisture into the air. This moisture condenses, which forms either fog or clouds. I was sick of this weather and decided to climb above the clouds and finally take some pictures. Like last year I chose Berghaus Nagens in Flims/Laax ski resort and combine this trip with a skiing vacation. So, how was it? Well, I have bad luck this year. I got only a single cloudless night out of five. Moreover, it was the last one. So, I was not able to photograph the whole night and around midnight I had to pack the gear.

There is a time wrap made by GoPro Hero 8 Black. A view to the south direction. Orion is rising, snowcats are preparing the slopes and the only light pollution comes from city Milan, which is 100 km away.

The primary target was a very difficult one – IC 2118 Witch Head Nebula. This reflection nebula is illuminated by the supergiant star Rigel (right leg of the Orion constellation). The dark skies are the essence and the Askar mini telescope did the job. However, I was surprised how terrible was the chromatic aberration. This can be partially corrected in postprocessing, but not fully. I think I will have to find a better scope.

LensAskar FMA180 F4.5
CameraCanon EOS 6Da
MountiOptron Skyguider Pro
Exposure35x180s, ISO 1600
Date2021-12-30

Before the Orion constellation rose up, I captured the M45 Pleiades. It’s an integration of 63 frames each 2 minutes long. Here, the dark skies reveal some dark nebulae in the visual surroundings of the star cluster. Again, I was quite disappointed by the chromatic aberration of the Askar telescope.

LensAskar FMA180 F4.5
CameraCanon EOS 6Da
MountiOptron Skyguider Pro
Exposure62x120s, ISO 1600
Date2021-12-30

Sun

I always wanted to capture the brightest object in the sky. However, it’s not as easy as you think. If you purchase any “normal” telescope, many unmissable warnings are covering the whole telescope not to point it to the sun, unless you want to get blind. This means if you’re going to observe or photograph the Sun, you need a dedicated telescope. There are basically two companies manufacturing dedicated solar telescopes: Coronado and Lunt. The third option is purchasing any refractor and using the DayStar filter QUARK. The third option is probably the cheapest way (depending on the selection of the refractor), but it has a feature, which I don’t like. The filter is equipped with the Barlow lens. This makes it nearly impossible to observe or photograph the whole disk. This was for me no-go and I started to decide between Coronado and Lunt. Based on pictures on astrobin.com I decided on Lunt. The next dilemma is the aperture – the bigger the better, but in the case of solar telescopes, the price grows exponentially with the aperture. In the end, I decided on 60 mm. Next decision: single or double stack. Here again the more stack the better, at least in terms of what you can see on the surface. Here is a very nice feature of the small Lunt telescope – the double stack is basically achieved by screwing the front filter in front of the telescope. This is a very fast way to turn the single stack, which is great for observation of the prominences, into the double stack, which is excellent for observing the surface. So I decided on the double stack.

The first experience with the single stack was great. The prominences were nicely visible. Moreover, even the surface had a clearly detectable structure. Then I screwed the double stack in front and the troubles started. Basically, the image was significantly worse compared to the single stack. After the discussion with Lunt, I am returning the front filter and waiting for the replacement.

Here is the stack of 540 images captured by FireCapture, processed by Autostakkert!, Registax, PixInsight, and LightRoom.

Technical details:

TelescopeLunt 60mm
Aperture60 mm
Focal length420 mm
MountRainbow Astro RST 135
Autoguidingno
CameraZWO ASI 178MM
Correctorno
FiltersNo
Exposure1000x7ms, Gain 0, bin 1x1,
Date2021-08-21

Chasing the darkness in Greece on Crete

This year we made our traditional summer vacation in Greece a bit earlier. The main reason was the cheap plane tickets to Crete. The destination was given, what remained was to specify the precise location. My friends recommended the southeast coast, so I started to search and found a house with a suitable terrace in the abandoned village Chametoulo. According to the light pollution map, the location should be perfect. We arrived at night, parked in front of the village, and moved all our stuff to the house through very narrow, steep streets. The first thing, which struck my eyes, was the presence of several LED powerful street lamps. WHY? Why there are street lamps in the empty village? Who pays for the electricity? Anyway, the terrace was partially covered and protected from the street lamps. On the other hand, it was very dark anywhere you look. I measured the SQM and directly at the zenith reached 21.55, which is a very good value. I started to get excited, but during our stay, my excitement was turned into frustration. It was very windy all the time. Some days it was less windy, but still, the conditions were far from being optimal. Fortunately, I took two rigs with me. The classical 150/600 mm Newtonian, sitting on RST 135 mount. The second one I tried in the winter – the pocket astrophotography rig. Askar F4.5 180 mm refractor, coupled with Canon 6D astro-modified and all this on extremely portable iOptron SkyGuider Pro. The Newtonian was totally unusable in the wind, but tiny Askar had no problems at all and I took roughly 1300 photos with Canon 6D camera.

Here is village Chametoulo during the day:

And here is village Chametoulo during the night:

Here is the double rig. I attached a 20 l canister to the tripod holding the RST 135 and 150/600 Newtonian to minimize the vibration due to the wind, but unfortunately, it didn’t help.

In the end, I managed to capture a couple of galaxies: M101 Pinwheel, M31 Andromeda, but otherwise, I gave up with 150/600 mm Newtonian. The smaller rig based on iOptron SkyGuider Pro performed much better. My primary target was Rho Ophiuchi @180 mm focal length. Then I captured the most interesting nebulae in constellations Serpens and Sagittarius – Lagoon, Trifid, Eagle, and Omega nebulae. Then I moved to the constellation Cygnus and capture it with many different focal lengths. And finally, I made a stop at the constellation Cassiopeia to compose the Heart, Soul nebulae with the Double Cluster NGC 869 and 884.

The Milky Way was not possible to photograph directly from the house, due to the street lamps in the village. I had to take a car and drive a bit to get to the South Coast Viewpoint:

Technical details:

LensSamyang 24 mm f1.4 @ f2.8
CameraCanon EOS 6Da
MountiOptron Skyguider Pro
Exposure16x15s, ISO 1600
Date2021-07-14