The Pinwheel Galaxy with supernova 2023ixf

I posted previously about supernova 2023 ixf, discovered May 19, 2023 in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) in constellation Ursa Major. I was able to capture a few hours of data on this galaxy after the supernova discovery, and included a before-and-after comparison in my original post. Here I present the fully-processed image. I was able to shoot about three hours of 5-minute exposures using LRGB filters through my Celestron C8 with Starizona SCT Corrector IV, for a net focal length of 1470 mm. The images were taken using an ASI533MM Pro mono camera.

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On May 19th, supernova hunter Koichi Itagawa discovered a new supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101). Over the next few days the supernova, designated 2023ixf, increased in brightness significantly, and I had a chance to photograph it on the evening of May 21st.

The Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) showing Supernova 2023ixf

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This image was taken the evening of 21 May 2023 and shows supernova 2023ixf about 2 days after it was discovered.

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Spiral Galaxy Messier 106

Springtime weather in the Colorado Rockies can be a real adventure. Shorter nights, frequent clouds, and weather that changes quickly can make it a challenging season for astrophotography. The last few weeks have not seen decent conditions for imaging, either because of the weather or the bright moon. So when I saw what looked like a window of opportunity a few days ago, I quickly planned an imaging session and set up my equipment in hopes that I’d be able to get at least a few hours in. This would be my second outing with my Celestron C8 OTA and Starizona SCT Corrector IV, and I was looking forward to the same success I had with this setup when I shot M51 a few weeks ago.

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The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) as imaged through my new (to me) C8 SCT.

Last summer I was given a Celestron C8 optical tube assembly (OTA) in partial payment for some freelance coding work (I wrote an ASCOM driver for a product development effort). It wasn’t until this spring after returning from some winter travel that I’ve been able to take the time to set it up for imaging. This is not the EdgeHD version of the C8, but rather the “classic” f/10 version. I didn’t have another scope (aside from the OTA from my Celestron NexStar 6SE, perhaps) that was really suitable for galaxy season, so I was excited to put it into use. Its first image did not disappoint.

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The Rosette Nebula in narrowband SHO, processed using the Hubble palette.

After an extended layoff from astrophotography, the weather and the moon together cooperated for the last two nights to give me a small window to shoot the Rosette Nebula once again, this time using Optolong narrowband filters (6.5-nm bandwidth) for H-alpha, S-II, and O-III. I was able to grab 5.5 hours worth of 5-minute exposures, 22 for each filter, along with the usual dark, flat, dark flat, and bias calibration frames. This was the first image where I was able to use the new BlurXTerminator plugin for PixInsight from RC-Astro, and I have to say I was impressed with what it could do to sharpen the image.

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After monkeying around with PixInsight, trying to figure out the best way to process my narrowband data, I finally found a recipe that’s repeatable, and I created a video to share it with other narrowband newbies. This isn’t a PixInsight tutorial–you need to already be familiar with PixInsight. But if you already know PixInsight, it’ll help you with how to combine three grayscale master lights (one each for H-alpha, SII, and OIII) into a single RGB image using the Hubble palette. I doubt there are any new tricks here for anyone who already has narrowband experience, but for newbies it might be worth a watch.

The Elephant’s Trunk Nebula (IC1396)

My second attempt at narrow-band SHO imaging was the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula, IC1396. I’m pretty pleased with the way this one turned out. This go round I shot 10-minute subs instead of 5-minute subs. I was able to shoot a total of 22.5 hours of data (7.5 hours for each of my Optolong narrowband filters–hydrogen-alpha (7 nm), sulfur-II (6.5 nm), and oxygen-III (6.5nm)–through my mono camera, the ZWO ASI533MM Pro. I shot through my Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 f/5.5 refractor on its iOptron GEM45 mount.

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The Andromeda Galaxy (M31), imaged using a Sky-Watcher Evolux 62ED on a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer GTi mount.

In retirement, my wife and I plan to do some traveling in our Jayco Class C RV, especially during the winter months when we can temporarily relocate to someplace a bit warmer than the Colorado mountains. However, the winter months are the best time of the year for astrophotography, and I wasn’t thrilled about missing the opportunity for some prime imaging. I decided that it would be a good idea to put together a more portable setup for astrophotography–something that could ride along with us without taking up too much space or weight. When Sky-Watcher announced their new full-goto star tracker, the Star Adventurer GTi, I resolved to give it a go.

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The Cygnus Wall in the North American Nebula (NGC7000), in SHO.

After a long summer of short, cloudy evenings, I’m finally back at shooting astrophotographs. In the spring I picked up a new mono camera, the ZWO ASI533MM Pro, and a set of Optolong narrowband filters for hydrogen-alpha (7 nm), sulfur-II (6.5 nm), and oxygen-III (6.5nm). I also picked up the ZWO mini filter wheel so I could automate my filter changes. Last week I finally got them all out for some shooting, and I spent three nights shooting subs of the Cygnus Wall, a star formation region of the North American Nebula (NGC7000) in the constellation Cygnus.

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