Digicam Night


Mark Stronge
  Castle Espie, Comber, County Down, Northern Ireland
Photo Title
  Digicam night
Time and Date taken
  10th June 2003
Equipment used
  Meade LX200 10inch SCT, MaxView 40mm eyepiece coupled afocally to camera
Capturing device used
  Minolta Dimage 7 5Mp
Technical details
  5 ISO400 30second exposures stacked in K3CCDTools

On Tuesday 10th June, the forecast was looking good and I called up John McConnell, EAAS chairman, to see if he was interested in a night's observing at Castle Espie, Comber. I did manage to limit the phone call to under one hour so that left time for the night's observing! John and David Goudy arrived around 2330hrs, around the right time for the sky is just getting dark at this time of year. We packed the 10" SCT and accessories into the car and headed down the road for some observing. First stop was the moon and we got quite a nice image of Sinus Iridium, Plato, the Alpine Valley and the rainbow craters, one of which is called Pythagoras. (The set of 3 craters on the northern end of the terminator.)

Wide field of NW surface of moon

Taken by David Goudy at Digicam night

John McConnell showing new member, Mark Stronge, how to navigate the night skyNext stop was some deep sky and while we could just make out the arms of M51, only the core was visible using the Dimage 7 at it's maximum exposure time, and the sky was not really very dark. M57 was better and an acceptable image of the Ring Nebula was produced. This image below is the result of a stack of 5 ISO400 30second exposures using K3CCDTools (it can handle megapixel frames). With only 5 stacked images in K3CCDTools, we were able to see stars down to 15th magnitude which is quite pleasing, though image noise is apparent. While the image was unguided, the GOTO on the Meade LX-200 was active which allowed us to get reasonably round stars. Vignetting of the lesser variety is visible with a brightened centre image. Next time I will attempt a flat field image to reduce this problem. The observing finished at 0315hrs when we got a glimpse of Mars that was just visible through the atmosphere. Next time, we will image Mars, as it is currently flying towards us and getting bigger, brighter and more sociable :-)

M57 taken in June



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