The Starry Night, 43
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04/03/2011. Trying to remember how everything works after several weeks off for stomach flu (Amy and I are trading it back and forth), scratched corneas (hers), a misplaced sacroiliac joint (mine), web deadlines, book design projects, tax preparations, snow, rain, and clouds. I spent some time this afternoon and evening clowning around. Tonight was not supposed to be clear, tomorrow night is supposed to be worse. But sometimes, the blue sky looks too inviting, and I figured I had to set the kit up again sometime and it might as well be today. I changed out the milk crate on the front of the trailer (I exchanged a polite, boutique-cute version for an honest to goodness Carnation milk crate which is larger and far stronger), and adapted the work surface to stay attached to it. The netbook, the cables, the power, the software all seemed amazingly familiar despite the long layoff. My main target tonight is the Trio in Leo which won't clear the pines till close to midnight, but I didn't want to waste the clear evening, either. While aligning and preparing to get started, I encountered the first "emergency" of the evening: the thermoelectric cooler on the ST2000XM seemed to have malfunctioned. Nothing I did would get the chip below -25C. Then I realized that the air was a balmy 68F, or about 40 degrees warmer than the last time I messed with this. "Problem" solved. I shot some fresh darks at -25C and picked up some twilight photons:
M35 & NGC 2158
And on to the main event... I watched the bright pair of galaxies M65 and M66 move through the treetops and when the pair sailed into clear sky, I went outside, adjusted the framing to include the third galaxy, picked a guide star, and began the red sequence. Back at the computer, I switched filters for the green sequence, then showered after setting the blue sequence in motion. I switched to the luminance filter and began a long sequence which I intended to continue overnight until the trio sank into the trees. I looked at the first frame and went to bed to await the arrival of the photon fairy:
The Trio in Leo
30x300s L, 3x300s RGB
This one has some problems. In addition to strong gradients in all channels, something set the guiding askew at the 31st luminance frame and continued for another half hour. Serious trailing. Then tracking settled down again on a different field. I wonder if a cable bound up? When you try this again, try fewer, longer exposures in L. The long tidal tail extending off to the left of the faintest member (top) is visible with very aggressive (ugly!) histogram stretches, so it is within reach. I'm more interested in catching details inside the galaxies than in the tidal streamers, but I'm not picky.
Moved the M106 photos to the next page. Things was getting long. Sorry for the extra click.
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