Nighttime Visitor, iPhone Moon, D7000 M33 & Orion DSOs
Posted: 3 November 2011
As I walked to the observatory about an hour after sunset, I saw an owl backlit by the fading twilight. I quickly took some photos with the D7000 DSLR and 70-300mm VR lens (set to 300mm). Focusing was a challenge due to the low light and the distance to the owl. But I managed to grab some nice photos. The bright light in the first photo below is the planet Venus, out of focus.
The observatory was opened at 1826 MST, 66°F. The sky was clear with no clouds anywhere, but there was a slight breeze. 1830 MST: viewed the moon at 77X with the 8" LX200-ACF. Switched to the visual back and began some iPhone 4 afocal imaging. This is the moon at 77X:
I then did some iPhone imaging along the terminator at 231X. During post-processing, I stitched the images together using DoubleTake, with this result:
The stitching was not perfect due to the changing scale of the original photos as the iPhone refocused and also due to the poor seeing this night. But the effect is still pretty good.
1850 MST: switched back to the diagonal and began lunar observing. The seeing was not great but I could not pass up viewing the VERY IMPRESSIVE shadows at Montes Caucasus using the 5.5mm eyepiece (364X). This cropped iPhone image, 231X, shows how they looked:
1924 MST: continued visual observing but had to switch to the 9.7mm eyepiece (206X) due to the worsening seeing. 1936 MST: took a "flying" tour over the moon; the view was nice during brief moments of good seeing, with good details seen. At 1947 MST, I took a break to get a warmer coat. The temperature inside the observatory was down to 55°F. The local fire department weather station was reporting 46°F. Returned to observing at 1957 MST. 2012 MST: took a look at Jupiter at 206X. Seeing was not very good, and the breezes were getting stronger. The Great Red Spot was at the central meridian. Three moons were visible. I then returned to the moon, using the 15mm eyepiece (133X). I took this iPhone afocal image, 231X, of the "Lunar X". The image is cropped to the same scale as the one showing Montes Caucasus.
2132 MST: ended lunar viewing and returned to Jupiter; a fourth moon was now visible. 2145 MST: slewed to M33 (Pinwheel Galaxy), tonight's DSO imaging target (after moonset). The galaxy was faintly visible at 77X against the still bright moonlit sky. 2155 MST: M1 (Crab Nebula), faintly visible at 77X. 2231 MST: Back to Jupiter; seeing a little better and the breezes had ended. At 2300 MST, I took a break while waiting for the moon to set. I returned to observing at 2359 MST and took a quick look at M42 (Great Nebula in Orion). I then began setting up for D7000 DSLR piggyback imaging of the M33 galaxy, focal length 300mm. I could just barely see M33 in the camera viewfinder. After some focusing and framing test exposures, and after finding a good guide star, I began guided imaging. This is a 10 minute, ISO 6400, guided exposure, cropped:
At 0114 MST, I ended M33 imaging and decided to take some piggyback images of DSOs in Orion. This is an unguided 1 minute, ISO 6400, 300mm exposure of M42:
M42 is at the bottom, the Flame Nebula is left of center, and the Horsehead Nebula is just below and right of the Flame. And here is the Flame and Horsehead nebulae, cropped and rotated, unguided, 5 minute, ISO 6400, focal length 300mm:
0150 MST: ended imaging and began trying to visually pickup the Horsehead Nebula at 77X. 0215 MST: finally got it, with great difficulty, using a Hydrogen-Beta filter. 0228 MST: took a quick look at Mars, low in the east, and then began closing up as the wind was blowing stronger.
Closed the observatory at 0238 MST, 60°F, after a 8h12m session.
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