Photo Trip to Coast Road Reservoir - June 6, 2007

Beautiful clean skies arrived, and my final exams were done. I wanted to spend the evening doing something sublime and introspective and artistic - what better than a night under the stars capturing some raw material onto which to work my magic? After surveying my favorite deep sky objects target list, I decided to do the galaxy group in Coma consisting of NGC 4631 (the "Whale"), its tiny elliptical companion NGC 4627, and the nearby NGC 4656 (the "Hockey Stick"). This is a close group which is in the early stages of merger, and both big galaxies are significantly gravitationally tweeked by the other. I arrived at the dam, set up quickly, got a set of exposures going, and listened to BBC World on KAZU while I worked.

The image below is a stack of 12x5min in Registax 3 (Registax 4 for some reason wouldn't properly get all images aligned) taken with the ST2000XCM on the Meade 8" f/4 on GM8 mount, at T=-30C. No flat fielding, as I don't have a good flat for this configuration yet. I tried using the flat for the Megrez refractor, but it over-corrected for vignetting and did not seem to make any improvement in pixel-to-pixel noise. The stacked image was then processed in Photoshop CS2 after loading Astronomy Tools Actions. 'make stars smaller', 2x 'space noise reduction', then smart sharpen at 154%, saturation increased, levels to darken sky. No cropping.

The Whale (lower right) and the Hockey Stick (upper left)