New Moon Astrophotography Sessions - January 2007

The dark of the moon this month was dominated by attention to Comet McNaught. However, I did squeeze in 3 deep sky projects. First, on the 18th I drove out to Coast Rd reservoir for a series on of my priority targets - the "Running Man Nebula" in Orion, but I don't see a running man, I'd call it the "Gumby Nebula". All pictures here are with the ST2000XCM on the Meade 8" f/4 LXD75.

Jan 18 - Coast Road Reservoir. A USB cable yanking on the camera and slowly twisting during the 3rd exposure created an opportunity. I had a 1minute framing shot, a single 5 minute shot, and then 11 more 5 minute shots at a different image rotation. So, I've processed and presented each of these as a clinic on photon noise and what it does to an image. Note that I used the (usually excellent) Astro Tools action='deep space noise reduction' and 'noise reduction' and yet these don't do anything to improve photon noise present in the first two images. These did a great job on reducing noise in the 55 minute stack however. And this seems fair - you just can't fudge on photon statistics. You need to put in the long exposure time to get a good final shot.

Running Man Nebula - 1 minute, processed pretty much like the final stack at right.

Running Man Nebula - 5 minutes, processed pretty much like the final stack at right.

Running Man Nebula - 11x5min stacked in Registax3. Photoshop CS2: curves, cropped, unsharp mask, AstroTools 2x 'make stars smaller', 'space noise reduction', 'deep space noise reduction', 'DSO enhance, reduce stars', 'local contrast enhance'.

Jan 20 - Bonny Doon Airfield. Two targets tonight; the Plieades early on, high overhead in a dark sky. Then M78 reflection and emission region in Orion. However, very light cirrus and the lack of fog over Santa Cruz raised the sky background and made for a hard time pulling the faint H-alpha regions of this object out of the noise. I also photographed the tail of Comet McNaught once again. Here's my page on the Great Comet of '07.

Western side of the Plieades. sRGB single shot color processed in CCDOPS5, then 8x5min stack in Registax4. Photoshop CS2: AstroTools 'make stars smaller', smart sharpen, levels, AstroTools 'deep space noise reduction' then 'space noise reduction'

M78 in Orion - 10x5min stack of sRGB single shot color frames in CCDOPS5. Photoshop CS2: curves, color saturation, levels, despeckle, AstroTools 'deep space noise reduction', smart sharpen, 'make stars smaller', unsharp mask.