Last weekend was the first star party I attended this year – in this area anyway. The past Winter was long and cruel for astronomers, and May is a rather late start. We went to my favorite place, SkyView Acres, in Goldendale, WA.
The above photo is the “Leo Triplet” or “Leo Trio” – 3 galaxies in the Leo constellation. The one on the left is NGC3628, commonly known as the Hamburger Galaxy. In the upper right is M65, and lower right is M66. This is an LRGB image made up of 24 L (luminance) exposures and 12 each of red, green, and blue. All exposures were 4 minutes, so the total is 240 minutes, or 4 hours. Normally, with that much integration time I could get more of the faint details around the outer edges of the galaxies, but conditions were less than ideal, and I opted to use a good deal of sharpening to improve the structure in the bright areas, and let the dimmer stuff stay hidden rather than become noisy from sharpening. It’s possible, of course, to apply sharpening only to the bright areas, and I did that to some degree. I may go back and spend more time to see what I can pull out of the raw data.
The star party was a success in that I found and fixed a number of issues, and I managed to test a new telescope, but managed to capture only 2 images, the second of which I haven’t yet processed. The telescope test showed it to have very good optics, but I decided I wanted something with greater flexibility in image scale, so this one is going back. I’ll tell you about the new one after it arrives, which will, hopefully, be in about a month.