Archive for November, 2013

A very nice picture from a friend

Blog Friday 22nd Nov 2013

Hello firstly I forgot to share the fact that on hmmmmm I think it was Tuesday morning (19th) that I took a look at Comet Lovejoy through my 10×70 binoculars, high overhead heading towards Ursa, looking fab, a large, bright round glow very easy to spot. I also tried for ISON low in the SE close to Saturn & Spica in Virgo, but didn’t pick it up, my horizon was poor and the Moon although in the west, nearly full.

Right onto the main thrust of this Blog, just had a stunning image through from my pal David Davis who lives a few miles north of me to the South of Cambridge, relatively new to astronomy, came straight in on retirement from a high power position and got into imaging with considerable success to date. Here without further ado is his wonderful image and accompanying text. Hope you like it?


Speak again soon, Dale

IC342 or Caldwell 5 a stunning Galaxy in Camelopardalis


“This is Caldwell 5, IC342, a large face-on spiral galaxy in Camelopardalis. This was captured on 12 November under a 74% full moon and very poor transparency. I thought I’d have a go since the sky was otherwise clear.
I understand that IC342 is as faint as it is because it lies on the galactic equator and is partially obscured by intervening dust. This puts it in the same sort of class of image difficulty as M74.
This is two and a quarter hours of LRGB exposures in 7 minute subs.
My first attempts at processing the data gave me a horrible brown cast which I suspect was due partly to light pollution, since I was not using a light pollution filter.Also, I stretched each stacked image in Deep Sky Stacker before combining them. I won’t do that again, you can’t control the amount of stretching you apply to each colour, and therefore the resultant colour balance in the combined image.
In my second attempt at processing the data, I used Dynamic Background Extraction in Pixinsight to remove any gradients in the background before stretching the contrast of each of the stacked subs. The spiral arms were only a few 100s of ADUs above the sky background and needed some teasing out and smoothing, so the attached is the result of a lot of work in Photoshop to extract what I could from the noisy data.



You’re wasting your time

Blog Sat Nov 16th 2013

Just wasted a few hours of quality sleeping time early hours of Saturday morning by get up and out into the observatory under a very hazy sky to search for comets Lovejoy & ISON. Saw neither and now completely clouded out 🙁 Hey ho all part of the joys of astronomy 🙂


Improvements to the 20″

Blog Thursday 14th November 2013


Es Reid and I had been talking for a few years about converting the observatory 20” from Newtonian focus to prime focus for video camera capability only, it was for this purpose that Es was arriving at Chipping at 4.30pm today, he had been working on the new spider with camera mount and focuser and was ready for a try out.

Es was already waiting as I arrived home in my usual rush! I was unable to get into the house down to family key issues but we won’t go there, but in short no tea lubrication for our work and it was bloody cold!

Surprisingly in such circumstances the whole thing went pretty much to plan, apart from the new spider mount points were a couple of centimetres short due to some inaccurate measurements Es had gotten from Rod, the original builder of the telescope tube. This didn’t affect the mock up and try out and Es insisted that he could easily mod the new spider.

We removed the old spider assembly and secondary mirror, Es fitted the camera into the ‘box’ he had constructed of aluminium with electrically powered focussing rack inside.

The sky was rapidly darkening and no sooner were all the new parts secure than we were able to go for first light. I slewed the scope to Altair and we managed to get the star onto the chip and find focus. Collimation of the mirror was miles out and it took Es a good while and plenty of patience to put that right. The Cell has always been a problem with the telescope, it doesn’t hold the heavy mirror too well at all if we are honest and there are positions where it squeezes and introduces astigmatism. The have been more than one attempt at correcting this and it has been improved over the years but it still has a way to go.

Anyhow the image was now focused and free from Coma & astigmatism, next job was to align the 6” refractor and the 20” mirror, this was my job as I have plenty of practice at it what with the mirror moving about all the time and me constantly realigning with the refractor. Es watched the 2 screens, and gave the “left a bit” “down a bit” instruction until we had Altair centred on both monitors. Well that was about all we could do, I was running out of time, I had a harmonica lesson to be at very soon and Es was keen to go once he realised his new creation worked, he was dead chuffed actually that it had ‘worked out of the box’ after all it was his design and engineering, nice one Es 🙂

Here is a quick picture of the new 4 vaned spider holding the camera, with the scope pointing at Altair in the blackness.

New prime focus spider with camera in position and working

Es whipped off the spider to take it back to Cambridge for further development, I shan’t put the secondary back in place unless it approaches New Moon later in the in the month, I can’t miss that with the 20” not being ready for action. In the mean time the 6” refractor and best camera will be on standby!

More to follow as the project develops, Dale

NGC 1060 Group

Blog Tuesday Nov 12th 2013

I got out last night despite the 78% Moon because I wanted to follow up on an observation made a couple of weeks back by my friend Mike Wood with a 20″ Dob. He contacted me the next day and asked if I had a sketch of NGC 1060 he could refer to, I didn’t. NGC 1060 et al is a relatively small galaxy group in Triangulum. I checked and found that I hadn’t sketched the group and immediately felt compelled to do so!
Last night I pulled out plenty of members despite the bright sky (SQM reading was 19.6) however little detail could be seen in any of the group members, this would have been different under a darker sky I’m sure but I’m not unhappy with the result overall. I was of course in my usual style using the Watec 120N+ deep sky video camera displaying onto a b&w monitor in semi real time for sketching purposes.
N is up and W is right in the drawings

NGC 1060 a relatively faint galaxy group in Triangulum


Key for identifying the galaxies in the main sketch

I have attached it here for your interest along with a rough pencil sketch identifying the members and approximate magnitudes. I hope this is of interest and potentially inspirational to some readers?
Best, Dale

3 Arp’s and a gem in Orion

Blog for Tuesday October 2013
Hi everybody,
 I got out under a fair sky on Tuesday evening  once our power came back on after 36hrs post the much publicised storm.
I bagged 3 well placed Arp’s in Peg to add to my collection and then when Orion rose high enough I went for NGC 1999 so strongly advocated by Martin Lewis (of Fossil Light fame) by his recent observation and excellent sketch from the October Kelling Heath star party. Seeing this for the first time was a real wow moment, quite stunning and unlike anything else I have observed, certainly a much over looked Orion Gem 🙂

NGC 1999

A quick personal summary of the Arp’s:
Arp 46 is actually the smaller galaxy to the south west UGC 12665, note the star just to the north and the slight brightening at the end of the extended arm close to the star, I believe that is a companion identified as VV 3146

Arp 46

Arp 86 is something of a M51 look alike, smaller of course but with a smaller companion at the end of an extended arm, not the 2 brighter (Ha?) regions in the

Arp 86

SW of the galaxy, lovely dust lanes too, a real beauty.

Arp 28 a very distinct e shaped galaxy, unbalanced with a dominant  spiral arm extending to the south, certainly different.

Arp 28

I hope the sketches are of interest?
My thanks also to friend Simon Kidd who helped me out with a scanning dilemma!
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