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Star Clusters

Double Cluster in Perseus

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Perseus Double Cluster

NGC 869 and NGC 884

Date Photographed: February 1, 2016

Total Exposure Time: 30 Minutes (60 x 30″ frames @ ISO 800)
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ-5 Pro Synscan
Camera: Canon EOS 7D (stock)
Camera Lens: Canon EF 300mm F/4L

Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
Processed in Adobe Photoshop CC

The clear sky chart for my area stated that the skies were to be clear for approximately 2 hours on Monday night. That was all the inspiration I needed to head out to the backyard and do some experimenting. Nights like this are perfect for trying out new techniques and equipment. Anything I get is a bonus.

Wide Field Astrophotography

I’ve tried imaging using my Canon EF 300mm F/4 L once before, but it was prime-time milky way season, and I just couldn’t do any more testing on that short July night.  When time and opportunities are in limited supply, I always go with the tried-and-true system (Explore Scientific ED80 and Canon Xsi)

However, Monday night I gave my bird photography camera (Canon EOS 7D) a go at the night sky, with the 300mm lens in place of a telescope. But what target requires a nice wide field of view, short exposures, and is something I’ve never given any serious thought to?  NGC 869 and NGC 884: Open star clusters in the constellation Perseus.

These pretty star clusters are now almost directly overhead around 8:00 pm.

Double Cluster - Stars

Since I do not own an intervalometer for this DSLR, I was limited to 30″ exposures. Fortunately, star clusters tend to come out very nice using stacks of shorter exposure lengths.  The photos above are a stack of 60 x 30″ frames at ISO 800. The second image is cropped to frame the double cluster in the center of the image.

Canon 7D for astrophotography

I might have to try this setup for a full night of imaging on an area with interesting deep-sky treasures. A few of the obvious drawbacks of this system are the short exposure times, lack of light-pollution filter, and a non-modified DSLR. Not to mention, I am not automating the imaging session with BackyardEOS. For my laptop is in use, watching a Blu-ray in the garage;) (Wonders of the Universe)

Astrophotography with a Canon 7D

After capturing a respectable amount of photons on the double cluster in Perseus, I couldn’t resist trying this lens on the Orion Nebula. There it was, just taunting me in the distance.  I snapped some 30-second exposures off with the 7D and the telephoto lens. It was fun to see the colorful images of the nebula appear on the LCD display, every 30 seconds. The photo below is the result of my quick trial.

Wide field Orion Nebula image

Orion Nebula taken with Canon 7D and 300mm Lens

 

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Astrophotography from a Light Polluted Backyard

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Backyard Astrophotography

Summer would not be complete without spending a night enjoying the dazzling beauty that is the constellation Sagittarius. The “teapot” asterism just clears my fence to the south of my backyard in central St. Catharines. From my latitude, August is my last chance to image the many star clusters and nebulae that populate this area.

Last night, I set out to gather as much light on the Lagoon Nebula and the Trifid Nebula as possible before they dipped below the trees. With the nights being so short at this time of year, it is important to have your astrophotography equipment setup process down-pat.

As soon as Polaris is faintly visible in the North, I begin my calibration and alignment process on my trusty Sky-Watcher HEQ5 mount.

The summer triangle in the night sky

In the photo above, you can see the Summer Triangle asterism as seen from my backyard. This photo was processed extensively to reduce the light pollution present from my city backyard. When shooting through the glow of a bright city, it if often best to shoot your deep sky targets when they are directly overhead to avoid the light dome. 

The Light Pollution Effect

I should mention, that the third-quarter moon rose at midnight last night. (I ended my imaging session at 11:30pm) Enhanced detail and better contrast would be easier to pull out of this image if my imaging session took place closer to the new moon.

Light pollution is also a major factor where I live. My backyard lies within the border of a red/white zone for light pollution (Bortle Class 8). Surprisingly enough, however, I can still just barely pick out the Milky Way with my naked eye.

To compensate for this unfortunate reality, I use an IDAS Light Pollution Filter to help block out the unwanted light from the street lights and porch lights that surround me.

Wide Field Deep-Sky Image

The Trifid and Lagoon Nebula in the constellation Sagittarius

With my brief window of opportunity, I was able to take (14) 210 second exposures at ISO 800 with my modified Canon Rebel Xsi. Once stacked, the total exposure length equaled a whopping 49 minutes!

Despite the challenges mentioned above, I think I was able to produce an acceptable image of this summertime deep-sky treat. My 80mm telescope offers the perfect opportunity to capture both nebulae in the same field of view.  This will likely be the last photo taken in this rich and starry area of the Milky Way until next year, when it rises again in the Spring.

M8 and M20 Wide Field Image

M8 and M20 in Sagittarius

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Modified)
ISO: 800
Total Exposure: 49 minutes (14 x 210 seconds)
Image Processing Software: DeepSkyStacker, Adobe Photoshop CC
Support Files: 9 dark frames

Backyard astrophotography setup

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