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Autumn Stars Arise

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Autumn Stars - The Pleiades rises this season
M45 – The Pleiades

Autumn Stars – Pleiades Rising

Last Saturday I spent a very cold, but very dark and clear night at the RASC Observatory in Wellandport, Ontario.  There were 4 of us that stayed the night, and I think every one of us complained about being underdressed!  I began my night by shooting NGC 7293 – The Helix Nebula.  I have never tried to shoot this object before, and to be honest, I didn’t think it was possible from Southern Ontario.  I ended up with about 2 hours on it, but I think I will need to double that to really bring out the detail.  As you can see, my unmodified Canon 450d makes this object look rather bluish-purple.

NGC 7293 - Helix Nebula

NGC 7293 – The Helix Nebula

My main focus for the night was The Pleiades.  This wonderful star cluster is located in the constellation Taurus the Bull.  At this time of year, Taurus is just starting to rise high enough in the East to start photographing Messier Object 45, the Pleiades open star cluster. I imaged this object last year, and was relatively happy with it, but I have learned a lot since then!  The details of the above photo (of Pleiades) are as follows:

M45 – The Pleiades Photo Details

Also known as “The Seven Sisters” in the Constellation Taurus

38 x 210″ ISO 1600 Totaling 2 Hours 13 Minutes

Stacked with 16 darks, 16 flats, 16 bias

Explore Scientific 80mm ED Triplet Apo
Celestron CG-5
Orion 50mm Mini Guidescope
Meade DSI II CCD Camera
Canon 450d unmodded
Stacked in DSS
Processed in PS CS5

Removing Reflections in M45 image

Astrophotography processing The Pleiades

The autumn stars seem to shine extra bright as they bring in the winter constellations behind them. M45 can be surprisingly challenging to process, considering the inherent reflection issues that may arise.  The healing brush in Adobe Photoshop is helpful in removing the unwanted halos and reflections in your image.  You will definitely want to be careful not to remove any background stars or nebulosity in the process!

I will probably give it another shot once I have added more time.  I am looking forward to re-doing Orion once it stays up for a little bit longer.  Thanks for looking!

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Backyard Pleiades

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As you may have been able to tell from the image below, this post is quite old! This was the first time I attempted to capture Messier 45 through a refractor telescope from the backyard. Since then, I photographed The Pleiades several times.

Looking back at this post, I realize how pivotal the books I ordered from Jerry Lodriguss were to my success. My current image processing workflow shadows many of the lessons learned from his tremendous videos.

backyard Pleiades

M45 – The Pleiades

Although M45 is an extremely popular open star cluster in the night sky, it is very difficult to image properly. The toughest challenge is to get the entire formation framed nicely in one shot.  My 80mm Refractor has quite a large field of view, and I was just able to get the object centered without losing too much of the surrounding stars.

This image was collected from my backyard, well, my parent’s backyard. Yes, I still live at home. It’s rather light-polluted, a Class 6 on the Bortle Scale. I am satisfied with my early results, but as usual, there are a number of things I could do to improve this image:

  • Use a field flattener/reducer for a wider field of view and flat edges
  • Use a Bahtinov Mask to make sure I am in perfect focus
  • Capture longer light frames at a dark sky site
  • Properly stack the image with dark, bias, and flat frames.

Then, of course, there is the image processing! This has been said to be the hardest part of astrophotography to overcome early on, and present the biggest steepest learning curve. Hopefully the new books I have just ordered will help me with this!

These guides were produced by Jerry Lodriguss, and I am very excited to get started!

Our members observing night at RASC is this Saturday. Currently, the weather does not look like it’s going to cooperate, but my fingers are crossed. Stay tuned for my next post!

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