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Latest round of astrophotos

A few more astrophotos, all taken with the FZ28 afocally (through the eyepiece) using the 100mm refractor and a 28mm RKE eyepiece. For all the deep sky objects, I stacked multiple short exposures, using the very handy free tool Deep Sky Stacker, and subtracted dark frames and bias frames to improve contrast. Additionally, I post-processed these to improve contrast overall: this makes an especially big difference on star clusters, where it's often possible to get the background almost black while still clearly showing very faint stars. For reasonably bright deep-sky objects, it doesn't take a particularly long exposure to get interesting results. It works out that a total of 2-4 minutes (corresponding to 8-16 15-second exposures) is often enough. Finally, most of these are resized from the original images, which are much larger.

My favorite is this one of M35 (nine 15 second exposures at ISO 400). If you look closely you can see the small cluster NGC 2158 in the lower right. After tweaking the contrast a bit I was able to resolve a half-dozen or so faint stars in that cluster, which is certainly more than I've ever done visually with this 100mm refractor. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen NGC 2158 at all with the 100mm, at least from my somewhat light-polluted backyard. The cluster shows up even better in the raw TIFF file I get after stacking, where there's a faint sprinkling of stars across the cluster background. The whole thing looks rather like the view in a 10" scope I used to have.

Some others I got recently:

First-quarter moon (single exposure, 1/50 sec, ISO 100). Spectacular detail along the terminator.

Closeup of the terminator (a 100% crop -- no resizing). Prominent craters include the impressive trio Ptolemaeus, Arzachel, and Alphonsus, as well as Archimedes in Mare Imbrium.

M42 (Orion Nebula). 9 15-second exposures, ISO 400.

M42 (Orion Nebula) again -- trying different exposure and stacking options. 18 10-second exposures, ISO 800. This was a little off center, so some of the stars are a little streaky. The nebula itself turned out quite well, given the circumstances.

Double Cluster in Perseus. 18 10-second exposures, ISO 800. Again, a little streaky off-center. I may try this as a piggyback shot -- the image scale is smaller, but alignment isn't quite as much of an issue.

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