Monday, July 10, 2023

IC 1396 - The Elephant Trunk Nebula - 07/07/2023

 It was an unexpected clear night and a Friday night too!

Clear skies on a Friday night and daylight savings time actually working to my advantage. Noticed potential for clear skies that morning of July 7th but didn't get my hopes up too high. Got home from work, went to dinner, ran a few errands, and got home in plenty of time to setup before dark. Since the Moon was going to rise at midnight, figured it would be good to after an emission nebula so I could try out my L-eXtreme Dual Narrowband filter out with my ZWO ASI2600MC Pro for the first time. Got great results with the filter last year with my DSLR. I decided to shoot IC 1396, The Elephant Nebula in the constellation Cepheus. 

Started capturing 180 sec subs at 10:18 PM and kept going until 4:06AM, when I went outside to take flat frames. Ended up using 79 subs, resulting in a total exposure of 3.95 hours. The image was processed in PixInsight using a Dual Narrowband "SHO" method that was provided to me by a mentor from the Buffalo Astronomical Association. This method approximates the SHO or Hubble Palette color map scheme with data from dual Narrowband filters and one-shot color (OSC) cameras like mine. 

This is the resulting image. 

IC1396 - The Elephant Trunk Nebula from 07/07/2023

What is it?

IC 1396 is a region of ionized interstellar gas and dust that contains smaller regions of concentrated gas and dust that appear as dark knots or globules in visible light images. The gas in the entire region is being ionized by the bright star HD 206267 in the center of the image. The Elephant Trunk Nebula is one of those concentrations of gas and dust. It can be seen rising from the bottom of the image. These areas of concentrated gas and dust, including The Elephant Trunk, are star forming regions. Young stars within The Elephant Trunk were discovered in 2003 using infrared telescopes.

An annotated image of IC 1396, The Elephant Trunk Nebula.

How big is it?

The entire region is hundreds of light years across and spans over 3 degrees on the night sky.

How far is it?

IC 1396 is located about 2,400 light-years (ly) in the Constellation Cepheus.

How to find it?

The constellation Cepheus is located near the bright signpost constellation Cassiopeia. Cepheus is a circumpolar constellation for observers at mid-northern latitudes and above. This means the constellation never sets. It is visible all night, appearing to circle the north celestial pole currently located near the North star, Polaris. to me, this constellation looks like a house with disproportionately large roof. IC 1396 is indicated in the chart by the red rectangle just off what would be the ground floor of the house. 


Finding Chart for IC 1396 (the red rectangle in the center of the chart).

Image Details:

Capture Date:07/07/2023
Location: Eden, NY
Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 Essential Series Air-Spaced Triplet Refractor
Camera: ZWO ASI2600MC Pro
Filter: Optolong l-eXtreme 
Mount: Sky-Watcher USA EQ6-R Pro
Exposure: 79 exposures at 180 sec / Gain 100 / Offset 50 / -10°C each for a total exposure of 3.95 hours.
Software: NINA, SharpCap Pro, PHD2, and PixInsight


Clear Skies!
Ernie

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Markarian's Chain

 A great Galaxy Season target for widefield setups

Those of us with shorter focal length, widefield setups can feel target starved during galaxy season. Galaxies, with a few exceptions, are often small targets, better suited for longer focal length telescopes. Markarian's Chain is a string of galaxies located in the constellation of Virgo, that makes an aesthetically pleasing target for telescopes with a wide field of view. My imagination sees this string of galaxies as a snake like creature with an oversized head sporting a "meh" expression. 


Markarian's chain captured from my backyard on May 15, 2023.

The chain of galaxies includes M86 and M84 as well as a pair of interacting galaxies, NGC 4438 and NGC 4435, known as The Eyes. Not sure why they are called The Eyes, but I see M86 and M84 as a pair of eyes. The prominent elliptical galaxy located in the lower left corner of the image is M87. Please refer to the annotated image below to identify the prominent galaxies contained in this field of view. Please note, this annotation was limited to NGC and IC catalogs, as the resulting annotated image would be overwhelming due to the number of galaxies in this field if other catalogs were included. 

Annotated image of Markarian's Chain. Note: annotation limited to NGC and IC catalogs.

The data for this image was captured on the night of May 15, 2023. The imaging session began at 9:52 PM and was completed at 2:21 AM on the morning of the 16th, when the target was lost to the trees. A total of 102 120 sec sub exposures were captured, of which 65 were used to produce the image. If become more discriminating about the exposures I use to produce images. I use the Blink process and the "SubframeSelector" process in PixInsight to remove exposures with undesirable characteristics (poor focus, eccentric stars, low signal weight, etc...) due to various factors like passing clouds. I have found being more discriminating about the individual subs for the image has been producing better results. This is my third attempt at processing this data. Since we have not had any good conditions for imaging since late May, I have had plenty of time to process data lurking in my hard drive.

What is it?

Markarian's Chain is a string of galaxies located in the constellation of Virgo that forms part of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. The chain of galaxies is named after soviet astrophysicist, Benjamin Markarian, who discovered that at least seven of the galaxies in the chain move coherently. 

How big is it?

The field of view of this image is roughly 2.8 degrees by 1.9 degrees. 

How far is it?

The prominent galaxies in this image (M84, M86, and The Eyes) are located about 50 million light-years (50Mly) from Earth.

How to find it?

Unfortunately, as the publishing of this post, Markarian's Chain can be found low in the western sky. This target is best viewed during spring in the northern hemisphere. Markarian's Chain is located in the "bowl" of the constellation Virgo. Refer to the finder chart below. I use the two stars at the top of the bowl and Denebola, the star that marks the tail of Leo the Lion, to triangulate its position. 


Finding Chart for Markarian's Chain.

Image Details:

Capture Date:05/15/2023
Location: Eden, NY
Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 Essential Series Air-Spaced Triplet Refractor
Camera: ZWO ASI2600MC Pro
Filter: None
Mount: Sky-Watcher USA EQ6-R Pro
Exposure: 65 exposures at 120 sec / Gain 100 / Offset 50 / -10°C each for a total exposure of 2.2 hours.
Software: NINA, SharpCap Pro, PHD2, and PixInsight


Clear Skies!
Ernie



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