Posts Tagged ‘iTelescope’

C/2013 US10 Catalina – A Christmas Comet

December 18, 2015 Leave a comment


I last viewed Comet Catalina in August when it was only visible in the southern hemisphere. It is now visible low in the east during the early hours of the morning around 5am, but will be steadily gaining in height throughout December and January. It is currently magnitude 6 and easily seen in 8x or 10x binoculars as a faint grey smudge in the constellation Virgo.

The comet is displaying a couple of really nice, widely separated, tails at the moment with the fainter ion gas tail at the bottom, blown at high speed away from the direction of the Sun by the solar wind. The dust tail at the top is moving much more slowly away from the comet. Having been dislodged from it’s home in the Oort Cloud recently on a hyperbolic trajectory Catalina is making just one approach into the Solar System before vanishing back out and never to be seen again. The comet reached perihelion, it’s closest approach to the Sun, on November 15th and is now on the journey out.

Image taken 18/12/15 5.37am New Mexico time on iTelescope.Net T20. 4 x 300 sec Luminance. RA: 14h 17m 18.0s DEC: 01° 13′ 51″ (J2000). Stacked in DeepSkyStacker 3, Processed in Maxim DL5 and Photoshop CS2.


Comet C/2013 US 10 (Catalina)

August 9, 2015 1 comment

Discovered by R.A. Kowalski and the Catalina Sky Survey in October 2013 C/2013 US10 is now at magnitude 7.5 and brightening. It is only observable in the southern hemisphere at the moment, but should be visible in the north from November. This photo shows the bright nucleus, the ion tail to the left and the finer dust tail rising vertically in the photo.


Image taken 2.26am 10/8/15 using remote iTelescope T12 (Tak FSQ ED 106, Camera: SBIG STL-11000M) Siding Spring Observatory, Australia. 2 x 300 Luminance. Stacked and registered in DeepSkyStacker 3, Processed in Maxim DL 5 and Photoshop CS2.

Categories: Comets Tags: , , ,

Star Cluster NGC 6603 in the M24 Small Sagittarius Star Cloud

There’s nothing particularly impressive or image worthy happening on the Sun at the moment so instead of concentrating on our own star I thought I would show you a few thousand ! The bright knot of stars at the centre of the image below is the open star cluster NGC 6603 buried deep in the heart of the brightest part of the M24 Small Sagittarius Star Cloud, close to the centre of our galaxy.


NGC 6603 was discovered by John Herschel around 1825-33 and includes 30 stars with an approximate age of 200 million years. The component stars shine at magnitude 11 or 12 and the larger stars dotted around its location in the foreground are magnitude 6.5 – 7.5. The surrounding star cloud as a whole is aged between 200 and 600 million years old. Lets take a closer look at the NGC 6603 cluster………

NGC 6603 cropped There’s a lovely chain of stars in the cluster heading towards the top right of centre.

Image taken 28/3/15 4.56am New Mexico time 10.56am UT on iTelescope T3 (Tak TOA 150, SBIG ST-8300C) RA: 18h 18m 24.1s DEC: -18° 24′ 00″ (J2000)

Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring glides past the globular cluster M92 29/3/15

March 30, 2015 Leave a comment

SidingSpringstackedcrop2altComet C/2014/A1 Siding Spring passing M92 (comet is faint grey fuzzy tail and coma to right of cluster)

Comet Siding Spring was discovered by Robert H. McNaught at the Siding Spring observatory in Australia on January 3rd 2013. Never one of the brightest comets, it reached a peak magnitude of 9 in December 2014 and is now fading as it moves out of the Solar System. Current magnitude estimates put it at 14.7, so you will only see this with large aperture telescopes.

I happened to notice it was passing the globular cluster M92 in Hercules in the early hours of yesterday morning and took this quick image as a record of its passage.

M92 was discovered by Johann Elert Bode in December 1777. It is 27,000 light-years distant and contains about 400,000 stars. Like most metal-poor globular clusters it is extremely old and current estimates put its age at 14.2 billion years, which is pretty much the age of our universe ! This cluster is often overlooked for the more famous and visually larger M13 cluster, but is a visually pleasing and interesting object nonetheless. Using just the eye a 4″ to 5″ telescope will resolve a few outer stars, but to resolve the whole cluster you will need a 12″ or larger telescope. The whole cluster resolves easily with digital imaging in wide view telescopes of 3″.

Image taken 29/3/15 3.58am New Mexico time (9.58am UTC) on iTelescope T20 (Takahashi 106mm, Camera: FLI ProLine PL11002M) RA: 17h 17m 00.0s DEC: 43° 26′ 00″ (J2000)

Orbital TrackCurrent orbital track location of comet C/2013/A1 (light blue line) as it leaves the Solar System

Chasing Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy at dusk in moonlight – not recommended !

March 29, 2015 Leave a comment

Having somehow completely missed all of the best opportunities to image Comet Lovejoy I thought it was time to try this before the comet disappears below the horizon at dusk and becomes truly impossible to photograph.

To do that I needed time on the iTelescope T20 over in New Mexico. The problem is that I only had a 30 minute maximum window of opportunity to capture the data in 58% moonlight just after the sun had set and with the telescope rapidly approaching its low altitude limit of 25 degrees above the horizon ! In addition, as it was impossible to reserve time 2 hours before using the telescope, I had to run the gauntlet of someone else starting up a short random imaging session on the same telescope before I could get the session parameters set up and sent to the server. In the end I managed to run off two 5 minute exposures in black and white, but the following colour RGB session failed as I hit the telescopes altitude limit before the session was complete – aaargh ! The light from the moon and remaining faint daylight had  a pretty shocking effect on the raw .FITS files when I opened them up. There was a huge grey mist-like gradient across the images and numerous passing aircraft trails too due to the wide view provided by the Tak 106 telescope. Just take a look at this raw image below to see what I mean – this is what most astrophotographers don’t show you !

Before-processingAbove: Raw image before cleaning up – messy! Note the very long comet tail though

Now for the processed images which I am pretty happy with given the problems mentioned above. A good example of how to rescue things from a bad situation………

Lovejoy-wideWide view of comet Lovejoy after processing showing the long extended tail

Lovejoy4Detailed view of the coma and tail of comet Lovejoy

Lovejoy is fading in brightness from its maximum magnitude of 3.7 at perihelion in mid January to 6.8 now, but it is still visible with binoculars so take a look.  It was discovered by Terry Lovejoy in August 2014 and is currently travelling back out of the Solar System between the constellations Cassiopeia and Cepheus low in the north.

Lovejoy orbital pathCurrent orbital path out of the Solar System of comet Lovejoy (light blue line)

Images taken 28/3/15 8:30 am New Mexico time on iTelescope T20  Takahashi FSQ-ED 106, Camera  SBIG STL-11000M. 2 x300 sec, Bin 1, Luminance. RA: 01h 23m 18.0s DEC: 64° 40′ 09″ (J2000). Processed in MaxIm DL5, DeepSkyStacker 3, Photoshop CS2.

Supernova SN2015F in Galaxy NGC 2442 28-3-15

March 28, 2015 Leave a comment


I fancied a change of scenery after all of the recent solar activity of various sorts and ventured south of the equator this time. As many of you who read this blog will know I often like to take images of supernovae which briefly appear in distant galaxies and the current brightest supernova is SN2015F. I reserved some time at the iTelescope Siding Spring observatory in Australia and used their half metre T31 Planewave telescope to capture this image.

Supernova 2015F was discovered on 9/3/15 by Berto Monard. It is a Type Ia currently at magnitude 13.3 and is located within the intermediate spiral galaxy NGC 2442, more commonly known as the Meathook Galaxy, in the constellation Volans (southern hemisphere). The Meathook Galaxy lies 50 million light years away and was first discovered by John Herschel.

Type Ia supernovae are fairly common in galaxies with old star populations and are really useful for determining distances between objects and even the age of the universe. Type Ia’s are the result of a white dwarf star exploding in a binary star system due to complex gravitational interactions between the white dwarf and a much larger companion star. The white dwarf grows to approximately 1.4 times the size of the Sun and then becomes unstable and explodes, destroying the star completely.

Imaged 28/3/15 10.28pm Australia time (11.28am UTC) on iTelescope T31 CDK 500mm Planewave with FLI-PL09000 camera. 3×300 sec, Bin 1, Luminance, RA: 07h 36m 18.0s DEC: -69° 31′ 59″ (J2000). Processed in MaxImDL5, DeepSkyStacker 3 and Photoshop CS2.

Supernova SN 2013ct in galaxy NGC 428

August 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Supernova 2013ct is a Type Ia discovered by Stu Parker (BOSS – New Zealand) on 10/5/13 when it was at it’s peak magnitude of around 12.2.  It has now faded to approx mag 15.4

NGC 428 lies in the constellation Cetus approx. 37 million light years away. The galaxy has a distorted shape perhaps resulting from the collision of two galaxies.

Image taken 12/8/13 4.46 am local observatory time at Nerpio, Spain using remote iTelescope T07 (Planewave 17″ CDK, SBIG STL-11000M ABG). 4 x 300 secs Lum. Processed in Maxim DL5, Adobe Photoshop CS2, DeepSkyStacker 3.3.2

Click image to enlarge:


AAVSO Light Curve: