Saturday, May 18, 2024

M104 from the Beaver Meadow Observatory (BMO)

 It's been a while ...

It has been quite some time since my last post. The last few months have been challenging. Life is like that sometimes. I have had some opportunities to do some Astrophotography, mostly at our club's observatory with our imaging group. Just getting around to posting about it. Better late than never. 

Monday April 15th (Tax Day here in the US) was clear. Our club's imaging group assembled at the observatory and via Zoom. I joined via Zoom. We have switched to NINA as our capture software. In our group, I'm the most familiar with NINA as I've used it for about 3 years. Therefore, I like to join via Zoom when I'm unable to attend in person to help get our imaging runs setup. One of our member's put her ZWO ASI533MC Pro on the club's Celestron 14" Edge HD. The sensor on the 533 is similar to my 2600, just a little smaller and square. We decided on M104, The Sombrero Galaxy as our target. We started capturing 60 second subs due to the presence of the Moon in the sky. The subs looked amazing. Skies were not the best. We imaged for well over an hour but only ended up with 34 usable subs. That's 34 minutes of total exposure. The results were absolutely stunning! This is my process of the data.

M104 from the Beaver Meadow Observatory.


All pre and post processing was performed in PixInsight. Pre-Processing: All subs were visually inspected with Blink and subs with issues were removed. All light Frames, Flats, Darks and Dark flats were loaded into WBPP. Linear Post Processing: Background extraction was performed with GraXpert followed by BXT (correct only). SPCC was used for Color Calibration followed by a full application of BXT. Noise was reduced with NXT. The image was made non-linear with HT. Non-linear Post Processing: Stars were removed with StarXT. Stars: Saturation was increased with CT. Starless: Saturation was increased with CT. LHE was applied at 3 Kernel sizes. Unsharp mask was applied and MMT was used to increase sharpness. The Stars and Starless images were combined with Pixel Math to produce the final image.

What is it?

Messier 104 (M104) is also known as The Sombrero Galaxy. It is a Spiral Galaxy in the constellation of Virgo. M104 has an active nucleus and has a Supermassive Black Hole with a mass 1 billion times the mass of the Sun at its center. Note the prominent dust lane. 

An annotated im age of M104, The Sombrero Galaxy

How Big is it?

This object has an apparent size of 8.4 by 4.9 arcminutes (1 degree is 60 arcminutes) on the night sky. It is 130,000 light-years (ly) in diameter.

How Far is it?

It is located about 28 million light-years (ly) from Earth in the Constellation Virgo.

How to find it?

This object is visible in small telescopes. A 10" telescope or larger is required to see the dust lane. It is located between the constellations of Virgo and Corvus as indicated in the finder chart below. Use the Stars Spica in Virgo and Algorab in Corvus to find it.

Finder chart for m104, The Sombrero Galaxy.

Image Details:

Capture Date: 04/15/2024
Location: North Java, NY (Buffalo Astronomical Association's Beaver Meadow Observatory)
Telescope: Celestron 14" Edge HD w/0.7 Reducer
Camera: ZWO ASI533MC Pro
Filter: None
Mount: Astro Physics AP1200 Mount
Exposure: 34 exposures at 60 sec / Gain 100 / Offset 10 / -10° C each for a total exposure of 34 minutes.
Software: NINA, PHD2, and PixInsight

Clear Skies!

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