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2017 Pictures
Pictures from the CFF 132 Telescope

These are the pictures from the new CFF 132 refractor I received in August. The telescope is the last of a limited run made by CFF and mine carries the serial number "010". Being a former computer guy, I do like that.

Below is M103, a star cluster in the constellation Cassiopeia. This is the first picture off the new telescope and it was taken from the back yard.

M103 (also known as NGC 581) is a bright open cluster that is fairly easy to find in even small scope or binoculars.

But in an image like this, the cluster is almost lost in the surrounding star field. The camera is not the same as a human eye and it does a really good job of picking up and recording faint stuff.

Still, the cluster is fairly easy to photograph from the city and was in a good position overhead at the time. And it has lots of stars everywhere around it too so I could evaluate the perfomance of the new scope out to the edges of the camera sensor.

And so far, things are looking really good. The stars are round all the way out to the edges. The colors looks correct and the contrast is very impressive too. And the overall image quality so far looks to be as good, if not quite a bit better than any other scopes I've ever owned or used.

Since the backyard test succeeded, the very next night I did the right thing and took the rig out of town to a semi-dark site near Lindbrook. The nebula image below is the first image from that trip and is the very first dark site image taken with this particular telescope.

There was cloud that night and a lot of the exposures were unusable. But there was still enough frames left over to put together a passable image of the nebula core.

The image also contains a hint of the nebula's outer shell. In this image the shell is pretty faint though and in the full size in the nebula itself is rather small too.

To see any amount of detail. you will need to zoom in on the nebula. Once there, look for the faint color in the outer shell that sort of forms wings on either side.

Some dark site time was also used to take a picture of the Deer Lick Group and Stephan's Quintet. The field of view in the CFF field is easily big enough to get both of these galaxy groups in the same frame. The camera field is quite a bit smaller but it all did fit on the sensor. So, over the course of two nights I collected a few hours worth of data.

The biggest and brightest galaxy in this image is NGC 7331, also known as the Deer Lick Galaxy. The rest of the Deer Lick group are mostly above and to the right of NGC 7331.

Stephen's Quintet is the small cluster near the lower left edge of the photo. Both groups are fairly faint and it's best to zoom in and pan around to see the galaxies they contain.

There is not a lot of detail in this one and like the M33 image below, it's pretty noisy. (Noise being the "speckles" you often see in the background when zooming in.)

After having taken pictures of a cluster, a small nebula and some small galaxies, it was time for something big and bright. Of all the visible galaxies at the time, M33 looked like it would work very well with the field of view of the new CFF.

So I pointed the scope that way and managed to collect three hours of data, all of which went into this image.

As mentioned above, if you zoom in, you will see the image is still pretty noisy. And a lot of the details are not quite fully formed either.

But on the other hand, a lot of the tiny pinpoints that make up the galaxy are coming through. Plus, the details that do come through are pretty good actually. So the potential is certainly there for a much better picture.

Sadly though, I ran out of time on this one. After collecting the three hours of data the one night, the clouds rolled in the next day and stayed rolled in.

And rain was coming too so I had to pack up and take the rig back to the city.

Once the rig was safely home, I waited a few days for some clear sky. It did show up and so I set up in the back yard to try my hand at some narrowband imaging with the new telescope.

With no rain in the forecast, I was able to get a lot more data. A little over twelve hours this time and it shows.

The details in the nebula are starting to come through and the overall impression is rather good.

I also adjusted my RGB exposure times a bit. It didn't seem to help, but it didn't seem to hurt either.

Perhaps the best part is the fact that this was take from the city and still looks pretty good. This is possible due to the H-alpha filter used for this image.

The RGB (red, green, blue) filters were used, but only to collect enough data to colorize the stars. The rest of the image, the nebula itself, was collected mostly from the H-alpha filter.

The Ha filter does a really good job of rejecting light pollution, moonlight and other bright light like nearby stars. The remaining light it picks up is the specific emission band given off by ionized hydrogen in the alpha state. This band is deep red and images of it contains the details that reveal the structure of the nebula.

Below is a two panel mosaic of the Double Cluster. This is a famous pair of clusters in the Perseus constellation. They are quite bright and can be seen with the naked eye.

I have a few other pictures of these clusters as well so you can compare some differences. The other pictures use strings to induce diffraction spikes. Diffraction spikes can enhance an image, particularly star clusters. But they are also a form of distortion.

For this image I didn't use strings and so there are no spikes other than the tiny ones from the micro-lenses in the camera. So, the data collected is displayed mostly "as-is" directly off the telescope.

The image came out pretty good but there was some color separation due to the atmosphere. When the temperatures drop around here, the denser air seems to cause the colors to separate out a bit. The end result is usually pronounced colors on one side of the stars or the other.

The number of separated color pixels is quite small and it's not normally a problem. So when it shows up I usually just ignore it. Sometimes there is a bit of processing I do to alleviate this problem but normally I only do it if the problem is bad enough to be noticable. It's hard to see this time so like I said, this one's an "as-is" image and nothing was done to fix this issue.

Instead, I concentrated on getting the two images to merge nicely. Some time was also spent on getting the backgrounds to evenly balance as well as making adjustments to get common color and brightness levels across the image.

Once I had a new image of the Double C luster, I decided to try M34, a single cluster in the constellation Perseus.

The M34 image came out pretty good but a color separation problem was evident in the raw data. The red, green and blue dots didn't exactly line up and the stars tended to red on one side and blue on the other. To minimize this effect, I made some alignment adjustments and was able to get the colors to mostly line up correctly.

On the right is IC 417, an emission nebula in the Auriga constellation. This one took a little over seventeen hours of data and even so, most of it is pretty dim. Still, the main central structure came through and the basic outline of the rest of the nebula shows up as well.

So that's most of the pictures taken with the new CFF telescope in 2017. There are some other pictures that didn't make it to the site this time too. I tried some galaxies and star images. The galaxies were a good start but there was not enough time to get good images. The stars ended up on Wikipedia, but that's a work in progress for another time.

The about page was also updated to reflect some equipment changes. Besides getting the new telescope, there was a few other updates as well. Most notably, the EQ8 is now in a permanent home in a friends observatory. And I'm using an ST80 as the guidescope now with the 10Micron mount.

Click here to view the About Page for this site

So, until next time, keep looking up.

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