Weak Leonids

Friday night, November 17th, I met Phil in the Flint Hills for a night of meteor observing. The sky was clear and the temperatures were ok at low 40s. The wind was bothersome; steady 10mph or better all night with gusts up to 15 or 20mph at times. While not watching for the elusive Leonid meteors I was taking pictures.

New image: The Seagull nebula, IC 2177. Imaging sequence started around 2:30am. Temperature had dropped to 30 degrees F.

There were very few Leonid meteors until early Saturday morning. I saw more sporadic meteors until around 4:00am. The frequency of Leonids increased the last few hours before end of darkness with most being fast and faint streaks. Overall a weak display, Leo-NOTs as we started calling them.

Mercury Transit

Well the transit is over for me; sun is too low for my location. But you could not have asked for a better day here around Lawrence. Hot and sunny, no clouds!

Of course to look at the sun you need a special filter. I constructed my Baader solar filter for my AP130 scope this morning. I’ve had the material forever and just needed a good excuse to finish it. Works fantastic. The view is bright and crisp. Using a 17mm eyepiece on my scope the suns whole disk was visible with the little dot of Mercury slowly working its way across the sun. A giant new sunspot was visible, dwarfing the little spot that Mercury was.

I did not intend to photograph this event since I was not setup with the right equipment. But I could not resist attaching the Canon 20d to the scope and shooting off a few exposures using eyepiece projection. To be posted later.

Andromeda Galaxy

New Image: M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. Taken at Clearfield Observatory the same night as the M45 photograph I posted a few days ago.

My first good chance to use Phil Anderson’s Nikon ED 300mm lens and it worked pretty well. The field is flat. This lens does need a minus violet filter, bright stars exhibited blue halos. I reduced this in the photograph you see using selective color range in photoshop.

I used my side by side arrangement to carry this lens, and I seem to have problems with balance (and tracking) when I do this. While doing a sequence of exposures an airplane flew through the field of view and upset the autoguider. I lost five exposures due to excessive trailing. I should not have lost that many exposures since the autoguider did not completely lose the guide star. I also had difficulty aligning the sub exposures in IRIS for some reason.

The Pleiades

New image: M45 The Pleiades, from Clearfield Observatory on October 28th. Also called the seven sisters, this is the finest open cluster in the night sky.

The series of images used to create this photograph were taken about the time of changing off Daylight Savings Time (DST). So I gained an extra hour of darkness that morning.

Updated 2006.11.03: I reprocessed the image to better hold details while keeping noise down.

A Shower and A Comet

October 21st was the peak of the Orionid meteor shower. It was cloudy in my area until Sunday so I missed the main show. This is unfortunate, the activity reported this year by various observers on mailing lists described higher than normal activity. That increase is confirmed by a report in the Meteor Activity Outlook by Robert Lunsford. From the page:

The Orionids (ORI) put on a fantastic display this past weekend. Rates were three times than what were expected. Rates are still above normal at around 10-15 per hour.”

Sunday night (10/23) Phil and I met in the Flint Hills to catch Comet Swan. We were bothered by clouds all night and I was not successful in getting a good picture. By 1:00 am we were seeing many Orionids, two days after the peak. Clearly the shower had been nice this year.

NGC 6888

New Image: NGC 6888, the Crescent nebula in Cygnus. From the Flint Hills on August 23rd, this is a redo of a shot I did last year at nearly the same time.

This time the sky was better and I exposed much longer. Post processing of this image is also much better than last year. Sky was clear all night but ground fog slowly enveloped the area and we had to quit around 1:00am.

Orionid Meteor Shower

The Oriniod Meteor Shower timing is very favorable this year: the moon is not a factor being new on the 22nd.

This shower is a result of Halley’s comet and is fairly weak with a ZHR of around 20. I watched this shower in 2003 and saw very few meteors; certainly less than I expected.