MAS Observtory: RC-16 Ritchey-Chretien Astrophotography
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First Light: March 25, 2005

m82.llrgbcropwebbest2.032505.jpg
This first light image from the RC-16 was shot on a hazy moonlit night. This is M82 in Ursula Major, a favorite of many astrophotographers because of the unusual characteristics eminating from the center of this edge on spiral galaxy.  This was imaged with an SBIG ST-10XME and A0-7 at prime (f/9).  An LLRGB image (6x10 minute exposures of L, R. G and B).  Images aquired with CCDAutopilot II and CCDSoft.  Processed with Maxim DL, Adobe CS and deconvoluted with AIP. Deconvolution significantly improved the "relative" seeing to approximately 2 arc-sec/pixel (FWHM of 6.00 pixels, image scale of 0.38 arc-sec and 'rough' conversion factor of 80% gives 6 x .38 x .8 = 1.84 arc-sec).  Of note, this image was taken before the RC-16 was properly collimated.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Weather Blues....

badweathermay2005.jpg

This comes from NOAA, and is just my way of saying that, from an amateur astronomy perspective, our New England weather is, lets just say, less than optimal this month (May of 2005).  We've essentually had rain for a week and we're expecting another weeks worth.  Notice the weather in the Southwest.  Some things just aren't "fair".......
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Before Re-Collimation

pre-collimation.july2005.jpg

After looking closely at the previous image I suspected that the collimation might be off.  In fact, a check with the Takahashi Collimating Scope showed this to be the case, as can be seen above.  The primary mirror required a slight tip/tilt for correction.  Details on how to perform this is in the users guide at the RCOS users website.  The primary is adjusted after centering the secondary, which was also out of allignment.
 
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M51

m51.thefinal.4.l2005.ao.67flr.jpg

This image was dissapointing, and I have posted it for just that reason. This was imaged with an SBIG ST-10XME and A0-7 at f/6.  Although the original image was performed with 8 separate 10 minute images (LRGB), only 3-4 images were usable due to technical errors, clouds obscuring some images and a series being shot after dawn.  It was assembled as an LLRGB image (only 3-4 x10 minute exposures of L, R. G and B).  Images aquired with CCDAutopilot II and CCDSoft.  Processed with Maxim DL, Adobe CS and deconvoluted with AIP. Lesson Learned: You can only push the limits of processing when you have the data to support it.  On the other hand, I was amazed to get even this much from the poor data available.  I saved what I could by being careful NOT to overprocess, as evidenced by the lack of any "burn-out" of the core (though some overprocessing was necessary with color saturation and unsharp masking towards the end, as is unfortunately evident).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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M16

m16.lastfinal.crop.halpha.andrgbjune10.2005.jpg

This was an attempt during a full moon with a great deal of humidity.  The green gradient, most pronounced on the right, and the green halo around the stars, resulted from these conditions.  The "seeing" was 3.51 arc-seconds (AIP calculated FWHM of non-saturated stars was 6.89 pixels and the image scale, at f/9, was 0.51 arc-seconds/pixel).  With Richard-Lucy deconvolution the FWHM improved to 2.7 arc-seconds, for an adjusted "seeing" of 1.37 arc-seconds/pixel. Nonetheless there is a horrible greene cast which I was only partially able to remove with Maxim's gradient removal tool, the New CCD Astronomies dradient tool removal and the use of Adobe Photoshop CS (others are much more expert at doing this, and it will be a new goal of mine to learn).  This is an H-alpha/Clear-RGB image of 18 separate 2 minute guided exposures.  Images captured with an SBIG STL-6303 and guided with the internal autoguider.  Image aquiition with CCD AutoPilot II.  Processed with Maxim DL AIP and Adobe Photoshop (KBQ, June 21, 2005).  The "Luminescence" image was a 60%-40% layering of the Ha and Clear filtered images (assembled in Adobe Photoshop).  Combining the H-alpha and Clear images seemed to cause less color distortion than combining the Ha and Red images.
Lesson Learned:  Imaging during a full moon in a hazy/humid sky is going to result in a significant gradient.  Trying to remove this gradient will diminish the signal to noise ratio, resulting in what is shown here.  Others have found more effective ways to deal with these gradients and it's worth the time to learn their techniques.  As an example, I doublt anyone can see any gradients in Dr. Robert Gendler's images, most of which were shot over lighted suburban skies.
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After Re-Collimation

after-collimation.july2005.jpg

The primary mirror error is corrected, with the baffles now looking like concentric rings.  These images were taken by simply aiming my Sony CCD camera down the barrel of the Takahashi Collimating Scope.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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NGC 4565

ngc4565.best2final.crop.llrgb.8of10min.ddp.67flr.jpg

  Another image which just couldn't be worked any further.  Thisnis NGC 4565, a stunning edge-on spiral galaxy in the constellation of Coma Berenices, some  31 million light years distant, with a length of 125,000 light years.  Theres a beautiful "dust" lane which covers about two thirds of its' length.   This is an LLRGB image of 6 separate 10 minute guided exposures using the AP 0.67 FLR.  Images captured with an SBIG ST-10 XME and guided with the internal autoguider.  Image aquiition with CCD AutoPilot II.  Processed with Maxim DL and Adobe Photoshop (KBQ, April 2005).
Lesson Learned:  On a positive note, the stars are beautifully round.  On the other hand, this is a composit of an too few images under less than ideal cky conditions.  Although the detail surpasses any previous attempts, on my part, at this galaxy, there is a stunning lack of faint background galaxies and the image is somewhat grainy.  The cause is due to a number of issues including poor flats and the need for more images (ie, increase the signal to noise ratio).   
   The REAL lesson here is to spend more time on fewer images.  This is VERY difficult for anyone, such as myself, who still is in the early stages of this "hobbie" (or is that "obsession").  It is very tempting to image new objects.  Despite the technical flaws which arise from this approach, the delight in imaging many galaxies sometimes overwhelms the desire to image a few well.  Now that I've got some of this "out of my system" with this remarkable telescope, I plan to collect more data PRIOR to processing.
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M51 Revisited

m51.finalcropadobeclandcunsmask.rgb.pm.14x15mineach.july2005.jpg

A revisit with M51.  This time around the image was taken with a Class I SBIG STL-6303XME.  There were approximately 16 separate 15 minute images taken with the L, R, G and B filters; for a total expoure time of 16 hours.   The image was assembled as an LRGB image.   Images aquired with CCDAutopilot II and CCDSoft.  Processed with Maxim DL, Adobe CS and deconvoluted with AIP. Lesson Learned: The increased amount of data and improvements in data processing "helped" improve this image.  The telescope was not properly collimated when this image was taken, and it is hoped that the next series will show even greater detail.  Prior to deconvolution the seeing was about 3.5 arc-seconds with a 'percieved' post-deconvolution improvement to about 2.3 arc-seconds. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Secondary Mirror Poorly Collimated

secondaryalreadycollimated.july2005.jpg

Prior to correcting the primary mirror the secondary has to be allligned.  This image shows that the center of the secondary mirror is NOT centered in the Takahashi Collimating Telescope.  The central irregular mark with the circle around it is the felt tiped marker region (made in the exact center of the secondary mirror)   This image was taken BEFORE the primary mirrors were collimated, and therefore the primary collimation error is still visable. 
 
 
 
 
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