Category Archives: Astronomy

Orion updates – autumn '08 pt.1

As regular readers of my blog will probably have realised, I have a particular fondness for the constellation of Orion. Earlier this year I spent some time creating a blog post about the constellation. However, the year rolled on and I ran out of clear skies to do further imaging. Well with autumn, Orion is back in the sky. So far I’ve had opportunity to re-image Orion’s Sword and the Horsehead Region with a new lens & with more tuned guiding. Here are the 2 new versions, hope you like them:

Horsehead & Flame Nebulae  … click on image for a larger view

Image Details:

  • Object:   Horsehead & Flame Nebulae
  • Camera:  Canon 300D (modified)
  • Optics:   Canon 500mm f4 L IS
  • Aperture: f4.0
  • ISO: 800
  • Filter: Astronomik UHC in camera
  • Exposure:  1hr 35 mins (5min subs)


Orion's Sword - M42/43  … click on image for a larger view

Image Details:

  • Object:   Orion’s Sword incl. Messiers 42 & 43 + the Running Man
  • Camera:  Canon 40D
  • Optics:   Canon 500mm f4 L IS
  • Aperture: f4.5
  • ISO: 1250
  • Filter: None
  • Exposure:  1hr 20 mins (5s, 30s, 2min and 4min subs)

With the co-operation of the weather I hope to complete further imaging within Orion, throughout the coming winter; so watch this space. You will now be able to view these images in my astrogallery and selected versions will be available to purchase as prints or posters from Posters Wales. Thanks for looking.


IC1396 & the Elephant's Trunk

IC1396 is an open cluster with associated nebulosity, located in the constellation of Cepheus, some 2400 light years away. It is seen with bright Ha emissions & dark dust lanes, some of which are concealing young proto stars. Within the cluster there are 2 nebulae designated IC1396A & IC1396B. The A part is also called the Elephant Trunk nebula and can be seen upper right in the image below; part B is beyond the base of the ‘trunk’. These regions are areas of dust & gas where star birth is ongoing. My image below is of the central part of IC1396 …

IC1396 incl Elephant's Trunk Nebula   Click image for a larger view or look in my astrogallery

Image Details:

Canon 300D modified

Canon 500mm f4 L IS plus 1.4 extender giving 700mm @ f5.6

Astronomik UHC filter

46 x 3 minute sub exposures @ ISO1600 – Total Exposure 2hrs 18 mins

Celestron CG5 mount

Guiding: SXpress Lodestar & PhD Guiding

Processing: Iris, Photoshop, Lightroom

Conditions: variable due to mist & moving clouds. Full Moon.

The Elephant’s Trunk shape is caused by the action of a large ionising double star (SAO33626 seen beneath it in the picture above) and the  opposing winds from young stars within the trunk. The 2 actions are compressing interstellar gases into the rim of the nebula.

At the bottom left of the image, the ‘Garnet’ star Mu Cephei can just be seen. This is one of the largest stars that we have so far observed, having a radius almost 1500 times larger than that of our sun. The Garnet star (HIP 107259) has a variable magnitude of 4 to 5 and is 5260 light years from Earth. To put the size of this star in perspective, if replacing our sun, its outer edge would be somewhere around Saturn. It is doomed in time to explode as a substantial supernova.


If you have WorldWide Telescope, click here to view the whole of IC1396.


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Jupiter's Moons '08

After what I think was 2 months of cloud, last night gave me a welcome view of the night sky. Conditions did not look as if they would last, so whilst setting up for a deep sky shot of IC1396 (post to follow) I took a quick snapshot of Jupiter & her Galilean moons. This is what Stellarium predicted that I should see:

image   Click stellarium image for a bigger view…

And below is the quickie 15 second exposure that I took:

Jupiter & moons  Click image for a larger view …

Its always good when predictions are accurate 🙂

Needless to say tonight is back to gloomy cloud but at least I had a planetary view, saw several late meteors from the recent shower & took some deep sky exposures. Hopefully it won’t be 2 months before the next clear night.



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The Milky Way

When thinking about imaging galaxies it is easy to over look our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Most of the nebulae & star clusters that we image, are part of the Milky Way. Last night offered a brief respite in the summer clouds, which allowed me to take a quick widefield image of our galaxy. Naturally, being within one arm of the galaxy we cannot image the full beauty of its spiral structure; instead what we see is an awe inspiring myriad of stars, banded with dust and peppered by nebulae. This is a sight that all should stand and enjoy, a simple pair of binoculars or a spotting scope will help bring the billions of stars a little closer.


Here’s my image from last night, it is centred on Cygnus and shows, amongst others; the N. American, Pelican & Elephant Trunk nebulae:

Milky Way  

Image Details:

Canon 300D modified
Canon 15mm fisheye
ISO800 f3.2
12×1.5mins exposure
UHC Filter
CG5 mount unguided


click image for a larger view …


The Milky Way is thought to be a barred spiral galaxy (SBbc), containing over 200 billion stars of which our sun is a fairly average individual. The galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter (1 light year equals 5,878,499,812,499 miles!). To put this in perspective the distance across our solar system from Earth to Pluto is about 0.08 light years; the furthest travelled man made probes are the Voyager spacecraft, they are currently crossing the boundaries between our solar system & interstellar space. When observing from Earth our galactic centre is in the direction of Sagittarius; a clear dark rural sky is best for viewing our galaxy. The galaxy is over 10 billion years old and most likely contains a super massive black hole at its centre. Our solar system is located on the inner edge of the Orion arm of our galaxy.


To view a map of the Milky Way & our position click here.


If you have Worldwide Telescope, click here for a view similar to part of my image.


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Cygnus Loop '08 – Part 1

As part of my summer project (an exploration of Cygnus), I am aiming to create a detailed mosaic of the Cygnus Loop (Veil Nebula). The clouds have not been helpful so far and the forecast for the next few weeks is no better 🙁 However I have had chance to take a test widefield image of the loop region.

This image is intended as the rough outline for my mosaic, the lid of the jigsaw puzzle box, if you like. It consists of 5 x 5 minute sub exposures at ISO 800 & f3.2; so not much integration time but hopefully deep enough.

veil-130608-b1f od2-AL2b   Click image for a larger view …

Anyway, with the lack of available imaging time, I thought I’d share the above image with you. Hopefully something is better than nothing!

Image Data:

Focal Length
Focal Ratio
Total Exposure
Canon 300D (modified)
Canon 70 – 200 L
Astronomik UHC filter
CG5 German equatorial
SX Lodestar @ 300mm & PHD
5 x 300s


The whole nebulous area is a remnant of an ancient Supernova that took place some 15 to 20 thousand years ago. It is located only about 2,600 light years away from Earth.

It is catalogued as several separate entries including NGC6960 (the Witch’s Broom or Western Veil) to the right & NGC6992 (the Eastern Veil) to the left. Also included are NGC6995 (below 6992), NGC6974 & 6979 (top middle-left) and Fleming’s Triangular Wisp (top middle-right).

To view this region in Worldwide Telescope follow this link.

Watch this space over the coming months for a more detailed image (oh & please wish me clear skies!).


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