First astro session of the year!

January 2, 2019 - Reading time: ~1 minute

The star at the core of this nebula is the "Flaming Star", AE Aurigae, in the constellation Auriga (The Charioteer), and all the surrounding dust and clouds of hydrogen is called the Flaming Star Nebula (IC 405). This emission nebula is around 1500 lightyears away and it's fairly large, about 5 lightyears across (roughly 47 trillion kilometers or 30 trillion miles across).

What's interesting is that even though AE Auriga is lighting up the nebula, it was not formed there, but rather is a "runaway star" that was probably ejected several million years ago from the star formation furnace in the core of the Orion Nebula. The star is moving quickly through the nebula, producing a violent bow shock with a wave of high energy electromagnetic radiation. 

Frames: 23 x 300 seconds of Ha, 5 x 300 seconds of OIII (I was not picking up oxygen at all!), and 20 x 360 seconds of SII. Equipment: William Optics GT81 APO refractor, ZWO ASI1600MM-Pro monochrome camera (unity gain 139/21), Astronomik filters, iOptron CEM25P mount, INDI/Ekos/KStars running in Stellarmate/Raspberry Pi 3b+. 

Astro-imaging Highlights 2018

December 30, 2018 - Reading time: ~1 minute

I put together a batch of images from my astrophotography sessions over the last year. This isn't in order, because a wanted a nice mix of color, narrowband, hydrogen-alpha only, wide-field, moon shots, along with some of my astro gear setups for some of these sessions.

Connecting the iOptron StarFi adapter

December 29, 2018 - Reading time: ~1 minute

My purpose was to avoid running another USB cable from the iOptron hand controller to the Raspberry Pi3B+, using iOptron's Wifi-to-serial adapter, "StarFi". Here's the basic setup: you plug in the hand controller normally. The adapter comes with two short cables with RJ jacks. The four lead RJ11 cable goes from the RS232 port on the StarFi to the serial port on the hand controller, and the 6 lead RJ-12 runs from the StarFi "Port" to the "iOptron Port" on the CEM25P mount. The instructions guide your through adding the device to your network and using it with ASCOM. I had no problem setting it up with Ekos/INDI, using an IP address instead of a serial port.

iOptron CEM25P mount setup

December 29, 2018 - Reading time: ~1 minute

Want to see what I do when I setup my wide-field narrowband astro gear for the night? I shot this with a GoPro on a headband, so it's kind of fun to watch. It's like playing a first-person game where you have to install some astronomy equipment to test your patience and dexterity before they hand over the more lethal hardware. This is close to real time, and my goal with setting up the 4x4 post in the ground and using drilled 4" x 6" aluminum plates was to allow me to spend the minimum time outside. I started using this a little over a year ago--to avoid being outside when it's really cold, and so far it's worked well. I have both mounts (iOptron and Orion Atlas) with the same size and format base plate, and I have mounting plates on the backyard "pier", tripod I can carry anywhere, and a rolling cart that I can set up in the driveway.



California Nebula - NGC 1499 Bi-color Ha + SII

December 28, 2018 - Reading time: ~1 minute

NGC 1499, California Nebula in bi-color narrowband hydrogen-alpha and sulfur 2. I captured this data on the 25th, but didn't have time to capture oxygen 3 frames with high clouds moving in and the moon rising. Even so, I like the way this turned out with the two bandpasses, almost fluorescent. NGC 1499 is about 1000 lightyears away, and if you haven't guessed, it's called "California Nebula" because if you flip this image 90 degrees counterclockwise it looks like the state. 

IC 1805 - Heart Nebula in the Hubble Palette

December 28, 2018 - Reading time: ~1 minute

The clouds and icy rain are here, and I've had time to process some of the data I captured over the last two nights. Here's IC 1805 and neighboring nebulae and star clusters in hydrogen-alpha, oxygen 3, sulfur 2 using the Hubble palette (SHO mapped to RGB). The Heart swings around the north celestial pole below the "W" asterism of Cassiopeia, and with trees to the north and the house blocking the view west I don't have all night to capture data. So, I went with the 11 x 300 seconds of Ha, 21 x 300 seconds of OIII, and 13 x 300 seconds of SII. Equipment: William Optics ZS61 APO refractor, ZWO ASI1600MM-Pro monochrome camera (unity gain 139/21), Astronomik filters, iOptron CEM25P mount, INDI/Ekos/KStars running in Stellarmate/Raspberry Pi 3b+. 

Astro System Update

December 27, 2018 - Reading time: ~1 minute

I bought Stellarmate OS in October and installed it on a Raspberry Pi3b+ (The latest Pi with a 1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core processor, dual-band wireless, and Bluetooth 4.2/BLE). This system is now running the INDI server core of my astro setup, and I replaced the second Pi in my "distributed INDI-based astro-imaging setup" post with an iOptron StarFi wireless telescope (mount) adapter. For the Orion Atlas EQ-G mount I'm using the Shoestring bluetooth-to-serial adapter (BT2EQ6 Bluetooth Module with DB-9 connector). I bought an inexpensive GPS dongle to get position and system time for Ekos and KStars. So far, Stellarmate is working out well. The only downside I have experienced is common on any remote astro system, that's the delays in the capture and focus workflows for large FITS files. My Atik 414EX had larger pixels and lower resolution, and ended up with 16-bit FITS files around 3 or 4 MB, while my higher resolution ZWOs (ASI071MC and ASI1600MM-P) are ten times that size.

Heart Nebula (IC 1805)

December 27, 2018 - Reading time: ~1 minute

With intermittent clouds rolling through last night it was difficult to stay on one target for long, but I did capture 11 x 300 second hydrogen-alpha frames of IC 1805, the Heart Nebula in the constellation Cassiopeia. This wonderful cloud of ionized hydrogen gas and dust is about 7500 lightyears away, and is made up of a few different nebulae, including the Fish Head (NGC 896) at the bottom, and the cluster of very large stars (some as much as 50 times the size of the sun) in the center (Melotte 15). Equipment: William Optics ZS61 APO refractor, ZWO ASI1600MM-Pro monochrome camera, Astronomik 12nm Ha filter, iOptron CEM25P mount, INDI/Ekos/KStars running in Stellarmate/Raspberry Pi 3b+.