The Cigar Galaxy


Mark Stronge
  Castle Ward farmyard , County Down, Northern Ireland
Photo Title
  The Cigar Galaxy
Time and Date taken
  24th September 2005 0020ut
Equipment used
  Meade 10inch LX200 Classic SCT, Meade f/6.3 focal reducer, anti-vibration pads, Kendrick dew heater
Capturing device used
  Canon 300D 6MP digital SLR
Technical details
  ISO1600, 9 frames of approximately 60 seconds stacked in K3CCDTools, 9 dark frames of 60 seconds summed in K3CCDTools to create a master dark frame, post-processing in Paint Shop Pro

The weather forecast was looking good and I arranged with Aaron Hunter to meet up at short notice and do some observing. I wanted to do some imaging too but only if the conditions were favourable.

I arrived at about 2130hrs and once we had loaded the scopes and wheelbarrow loaded (yes a wheelbarrow, transport for the LX200 to the observing spot), we headed round to Castle Ward to a spot Aaron had chosen for the night. We checked out one place Aaron had earmarked up on a hill but it was a bit breezy so we just set up in the Castle Ward farm yard (there are no streetlights in Castle Ward so we could really set up anywhere). We had a good observing session looking at M57, M27 and some beautiful tight globular clusters which the LX200 was able to resolve at 300x magnification. The Dumbbell Nebula was beautiful and I could see the "eye" shape of the faint structure that extends to either side of the dumbbell shape. After that there was M13, M15, M81 & 82 and M31, then Mars which was swimming due to the atmosphere, but we could make out some surface detail. Both of us had a glimpse of the polar caps but not for long. Aaron saw 9 meteors throughout the evening while I managed to see just 1. I had the upper hand though as I timed my observing through the eyepiece with meteors travelling behind me :-)

After doing an advanced polar alignment 2 times at 15 minute intervals, I decided to have a go at capturing the Cigar Galaxy. The conditions were average and Mars and the Moon were swimming in the atmosphere. Deep sky observing was limited too as the milky way was just visible. Observing M57, the central star was visible but not all the time so this shows how transparent the conditions were. All in all, I am quite pleased with the result below and with the performance of the scope without autoguiding. I hope to go further with this setup as it seems to work very well.


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