Saturday, May 11, 2013

Age of Aquarids

Last weekend had beautiful clear skies and was pretty close to the peak of the Eta-Aquarid meteor shower so I spend the night at the Observatory at Bisbee Hill.  My astro-buddy Jim had a spanking new Canon 60D he was chomping at the bit to try out on the scope.  After resolving a bit of alignment as well as PC issues we decided to shoot a couple galaxies I've been wanting to hit.  These three images were processed with out darks subtracted because Randy wasn't there to remind us (it's all your fault, Randy).  I may reprocess them with darks later to see if it can improve anything.

We started with the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51), that's always a favorite lying in the constellation Canes Venatici (Bo├Âtes' hunting dogs).  This shot is 29 frames stacked and processed with Deep Sky Stacker then touched up a tad in Photoshop.  The focus could be admittedly better but not bad for the virgin astrophoto on the new DSLR.

















We then moved on to the Black Eye Galaxy (M64).  Quite an interesting little (or unfathomably huge depending on your perspective) gem lying in the constellation Coma Berenices. This image is 29 stacked frames.

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Coma Berenices is apparently a satellite superhighway because we captured 4 of them traveling through our tiny window on the sky.  Kinda nifty.










The Sunflower Galaxy(M63) is another found in Canes Venatici.  It was pretty bleh in the individual images, I almost didn't bother processing them but after stacking it really popped (I guess that's the point though, isn't it?).

















While we were shooting with the scope I had my camera shooting a time lapse of the Eta-Aquarid meteors. The radiant is in the constellation Aquarius and specifically the star Eta-Aquarii, "Eta" being the 7th brightest star of the constellation.  Aquarius was set to rise in the east around 2:30 so I decided a "Milky Way rise" time lapse was in order.  I set up my camera with a wide lens and intervalometer set at 45 sec and started shooting around 11:30pm until my battery died at 4:05am.  I hoped I could make it until the Moon rose over the treeline but apparently I need to invest in a battery grip to double my power.  I captured at least three meteors towards the end of the night.  The local farm kids were having quite a party in the woods at the bottom of the video.  At one point they decided it would be fun to drive a truck up to the observatory, but when we gave them the international sign for cut the lights (or maybe they thought we were threatening to cut their throats?) they quickly returned to their bonfire.  This is my best time lapse to date, definitely something to improve on, I've got much more to learn.