Saturday, August 27, 2011

SN 2011fe at M101 aka PTF11kly

SN 2011fe in M101
08/26/2011 2 10:26 PM EST
©Billy Vazquez from Webster,NY @ VAO
Supernova 2011fe in M101 on August 26th, 2011 from Webster, NY at the Vazquez Astronomical Observatory.  Using the 12" SCT at f/10.   10 stacked exposures of 150 seconds, dark subtracted and flat fielded. No other processing done on the image other than the big black arrow pointing to the Supernova Type 1a, 2011fe.  From Webster, NY M101 starts at around 40 degrees of elevation from the horizon on the West at this time of the year.  Unlucky for me my West view of the sky is limited to about 37 degrees of altitude and above so I had a small window of opportunity to image the galaxy.

Nevertheless, it is a rare opportunity for an astronomer to be able to image a supernova event with his own observatory.  So this is a first for me and I feel pretty good about the results.  Next to do some photo metric analysis of the data and confirm its apparent magnitude.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dragonfly Cluster - NGC 457

NGC 487 - 2 minute exposure over RGB filters
12" SCT, Orion Parsec, f/6.3
©Billy Vazquez
The Dragonfly Cluster also known as the Owl Cluster is about 1,790 light years away from the Sun in the constellation Cassiopeia.  The cluster is fairly young at an approximate age of 21 million years.  The image to your right is the RGB composition of images taken at the Vazquez Astronomical Observatory (VAO).  2x2 binned, 2 x 2 min exposures stacked on red, green, blue filters.  

2 minutes of exposure doesn't do justice to this beautiful star cluster.  So therefore, I should come back to it someday and extend my exposure time to get some of the faintest stars.  But for now enjoy the view.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

NGC 281 - Pacman Nebula

NGC 281 - The Pacman Nebula
© Billy Vazquez 2011
VAO @ Webster, NY
As I was growing up, I remember my first refractor telescope that my grandmother bought for me at the Hayden Planetarium in NYC. I was 8 years old and I felt like a million bucks.   I remember the first light of my 2 inch refractor as I attempted to look at the night sky from my parents suburban residence in Puerto Rico.  I could see the stars but it made me wonder where were all those galaxies and nebulas I have seen in books?  Why can't I find them?

It took me some years but finally, I found them.   The image shown here its the PacMan Nebula, NGC 281.  I took this image from VAO using the 30cm LX200 ACF, 5 minute exposure in LRGB filters, post processed by MaximDL and Photoshop.    The nebula is a HII region, where you can see dark patches where no light is coming from.  These dark patches are called Bok Globules and it is where the magic happens.  Stars are born within the Bok Globules but the material around this new born stars is so dense that we cannot see them in optical light.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

M11 - NGC 6705 - The Wild Duck Cluster

M11, also known as the Wild Duck Cluster is an open cluster in our own Milky Way that contains about 2900 stars.   It has an estimated age of 220 million years.

A few nights ago, just before the clouds rolled in Webster NY.  I decided to capture this magnificent cluster and see, how does it look like in color.   To my surprise this cluster has many stars of different colors.  

I used 4 x 60 second exposures stacked on each channel, LRGB.   The top image its a powered up Photoshop enhanced version of M11.  I like to call this stars in steroids.  I felt a bit compelled to play the artist and see what I could do with it.

The middle image is just the LRGB color combine.  This image only has flat and dark subtraction processing.  So it should give you a clear indication of the colors of the stars.

The image at the bottom is just the stacked images on the luminance filter.  The only processing done on that image is dark substraction.  So it should give you an idea of how the cluster look like before any additional processing.

I can't help but to think what if we lived inside an open cluster like M11.   How would the night sky look like?  I can imagine hundreds of magnitude 1 stars all over the night sky.  It would be awesome!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

M15 - NGC 7078

M15 is a Globular Cluster in the constellation Pegasus.  It is is one of the oldest globular clusters known.   It is about 33,600 light years away and its total luminosity makes it 360,000 times more luminous than our Sun.  It is believed that at the center of M15 there is a blackhole that has pulled together a large concentration of stars orbiting it.

For the amateur astronomer this globular cluster looks like the image to your right.  The image was taken last night form VAO and it is a RGB color composite.   The exposure time was 20 seconds on each filter.   I post process the final image in photo shop for the artistic spikes on the foreground stars.

Now, I prefer grey scale  images myself so here is a rendition of  M15 in just the V band filter same exposure length and no processing.  You can see how cleaning up the image and stacking the 3 color filter images make for a more pleasant look.  But sometimes you really just want to see what comes right out of the telescope.  So I will give you both so you can enjoy the view.