John McDonald

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John has used a Nikon Coolpix 995 point-and-shoot as well as a Pentax ist DS dSLR for astrophotography, but now mainly uses a Canon 30D dSLR equipped with a variety of lenses. Processing software includes ImagesPlus, Photoshop and Neat Image. He uses a William Optics 105mm apochromatic refractor or a 10" Newtonion, both mounted  on an HEQ5. John also sometimes uses a variety of camera lenses for wide field work. John McDonald's Personal Astronomy Website

John's Current Gallery


M42 - Orion Nebula & Running Man Nebula - Dec 28, 2006

I took another image of the Orion Sword region last evening with the idea of testing how well the upgraded HEQ5 was tracking. Tracking was very good at 2 minutes and the 4 minute exposure showed only a bit of mistracking. All exposures were useable and gave a fairly good image. The running man shows up well as does the faint nebulosity of the outer regions of M42. The center of M42 is overexposed so I tried combining with my previous best to see if I could capture a wider range of intensities. The result is the second image which represents my personal best for this target.

Telescope - Williams 105mm scope on upgraded Skywatcher HEQ5 mount Camera - Pentax ist-DS with 0.8x focal reducer

Exposures - 1 242 sec exposure and 4 119 sec exposures all at ISO 800 and with dark frames subtracted in the camera. Also used 12 flat and 10 bias frames. Processing - Images Plus, Photoshop and NeatImage

Combination of Image 1 and several previous images
Exposures- 14- 1 sec., 10- 4.5 sec., 12- 12.2 sec., 23- 27.5 sec., 1- 242 sec exposure and 4- 119 sec exposures all at ISO 800 light frames with equal dark exposures done in the camera. Also used 12 flat and 10 bias frames.

Rosette Nebula - NGC 2237-39, 2246 and NGC 2244 - Dec 28, 2006

Went to the hill with Charles, Bruno and Guy last evening and planned to test the upgrade of my HEQ5 mount. The mount worked quite well and I have now joined the ranks of the lazy astronomers with goto capability. During testing I also tried some exposures of the Rosette Nebula and the attached image is the result. It had a total of 13 minutes of exposure which is not a lot for this diffuse target so the image needed some fairly aggressively processing. I am pleased that I was able to tease out some of the beautiful nebulosity.

Telescope - Williams 105mm scope on upgraded Skywatcher HEQ5 mount Camera - Pentax ist-DS with 0.8x focal reducer Exposures - 1 242 sec exposure and 11 58.1 sec exposures all at ISO 800 and with dark frames subtracted in the camera
Processing - Images Plus, Photoshop and NeatImage

Starfield Armchair Challenge - images taken from Maui Dec 1 & 7, 2006

Winner: Charles Banville
Runnerup: Brian Robilliard

Given the prospect of more poor weather for observing, I thought you might need something to while away the time.

I am attaching the first of three images that I took of the southern sky from Maui last week. You can amuse your self by trying to identify the region of the sky and some of the objects in them. There is a small prize in the form of a can of macadamia nuts from Maui for the first person who sends back the correct name of the brightest star in all three images.

To help you with the image scale, Images 1 and 2 were taken with a 24 mm lens on DSLR and with the sensor size taken into account the field is roughly 40 x 60 degrees. Image 3 was taken with a 135 mm lens for a rougly 7 x 10 degree field. Also, the horizontal is parallel to the RA plane for all three images. The poor image quality in two of the images may add to the challenge. It was not deliberate. There was a full moon and some cloud to contend with.

First clue: All of the images were taken in a southerly to somewhat southwesterly direction.

Second clue: The dates and times of exposures were as follows:
Images 1 and 2 - Dec 1 between 2 and 3 AM local Maui time
Image 3 - Dec 7 between 7 and 8 PM local Maui time
Note Maui time is UT-10 hours.

M42 Orion Nebula & Moon over Haleakala - Dec 5, 2006, Maui, Hawaii

Images from a session on Tuesday, Dec. 5 when I got to the top of the 10,000 foot "Haleakala" volcano. The image of the moon over Haleakala was a combination of two exposures to tame the extreme range of the moons brightness and the surrounding twilight. One was taken with the normal zoom lens at f=45mm and the other was taken with a 400 mm telephoto lens and scaled to the size of the overexposed moon in the first image.

The image of the Core of the Orion Nebula was taken using a 12 inch Meade SCT that "Stargazers", a commercial astronomy outfit on the island operates. Our guide, Jim, kindly let me connect my Pentax and 0.8x focal reducer. I took a variety of exposures from 30 sec to 1/10 sec and combined them. Total exposure time was only about 4 minutes at ISO 800. It would have been nice to take more frames but I did not want to keep Jim too long as he was ready to pack up after the session. I was not expecting much as the moon was really bright and the exposure time limited but at that altitude and with a 12 inch aperture you can still get something and the result was better than I expected.

Here are two more images that I got as we were getting set up for the observing session on Haleakala Tuesday evening. It is a pretty amazing place and I would love to come back during a new moon. My portable scope consisted of a 400 mm telephoto lens with with a homemade eyepiece adapter. It was really dwarfed by the 12 inch Meade that "Stargazers" had.

Comet C/2006 M4 Swan - Oct 16, 2006

Last night at the Astronomy Cafe Joe Carr and I both had a go at getting an image of Comet Swan. It was a mixture of rapidly changing clear and cloudy conditions and the parking lot lights were a bit close. The conditions were such that I did not think we would see the comet but Joe found it very quickly with his new 8" SCT goto and I soon followed with my (non goto) 105mm refractor. The clouds obscured most of the reference stars so I used the nearest cloud I saw in Joe's finder to locate it. Will have to remember that cloud so I can find it again. We both could see the nucleus clearly and each of us captured some frames during the breaks in the clouds. I was able to process 13 of the 17 frames I got. The others were marginal as a result of light pollution and a bit of mistracking. The fairly prominent star trail below and left of the comet is HIP70517.

Location and time: Astronomy Cafe at the Fairfield Community Centre in Victoria between 9:30 and 9:58PM PDT
Equipment: Williams Optics 105mm scope with Pentax ist-DS and 0.8x focal reducer on Skywatcher HEQ5
Exposures: Used 13 of 17 light frames each 30s at ISO 800 with equal dark subtraction in the camera
Processing: ImagesPlus, Photoshop and Astronomy Tools

Horsehead Nebula, Flame Nebula - Sep 27, 2006

I spent some sleepless nights last week. One resulted in the image of the Orion Nebula (below). I was pretty happy with that. However, two nights trying to image the region of the Flame and Horsehead nebulae resulted in only limited success. This was despite taking a total of 70 - 1 min light frames at ISO 800 and the same number of darks. Fog and poor transparency spoiled some frames and I messed up others trying out some noise correction ideas that did not work out. As a result, I was only able to use 18 of the 70 frames. The image has less detail than I had hoped as a result (see attached). It is possible to make out the horsehead nebula (just) and the Flame and NGC2023 nebula are evident. The overexposed object near the flame is the left end belt star of Orion and the irregular shaped blue object below the horsehead is NGC2023.

Location and time: backyard in Fairfield 2006-09-27 from 4:41 to 5:50am PDT and 2006-09-29 from 3:42 to 5:30am PDT
Equipment: WO 105mm with the Pentax ist-DS and a 0.8x focal reducer.
Exposure: 18 of 70 1min frames at ISO 800 were used. Same number of darks plus 12 bias and 10 flat frames.
Processing:- ImagesPlus, Photoshop and Astronomy tools

Sword or Orion, M42, Orion Nebula - Sept 26, 2006

This is pushing the season but I got up very early this morning (3:45am) and Orion was so beautiful I set up in the back yard and imaged it. The result is attached. It is a bright object but the range of intensities is extreme so I used a combination of exposure times and combined the results. In the shortest exposures the trapezium was well resolved but it sits on such a bright region it does not show up in the final image as much as I would like However it is just visible.

Location and time- Backyard in Fairfield from 4:12 am to 5:46 am PDT
Telescope- Williams Optics 105mm
Camera- Pentax ist-DS with 0.8x focal reducer
Mount- Skywatcher HEQ5
Exposures- 14- 1 sec., 10- 4.5 sec., 12- 12.2 sec., and 23- 27.5 sec. light frames with equal dark exposures done in the camera. Also used 12 flat and 10 bias frames
Processing in ImagesPlus, Photoshop, Astronomy tools and Neat Image

The Ring nebula is a tiny jewel - Sept 23, 2006

I am still a fan of wide field views of the sky and am attaching two views of M57 that I got last evening at the DAO. The first is a full frame image with my Williams Optics 105mm with 0.8x focal reducer for an effective focal length of 588 mm. As you can see the ring is really tiny but I like the sight of it this way, a jewel that you have to look for or you may miss it. The second image is a crop to get a better look at the nebula itself.

Location and date: DAO, the night of Sept 23, 2006
Telescope: WO 105 mm
Camera: Pentax ist-DS with 0.8x WO focal reducer
Mount: HEQ5
Exposure: 21 good frames of 31 light frames - all 60sec. with equal dark exposures using the cameras noise correction. Half were at ISO 3200 and half at ISO 800. 15 Bias and 10 flat frames also used. Processing in ImagesPlus, Photoshop, Neat Image and Astronomy Tools

M51 - Whirlpool Galaxy - Aug 27 & Sept 21, 2006

Charles and I went to the hill last evening and enjoyed better than advertised conditions. The Temperature was 13 deg. C, there was no wind and the sky was clear with good seeing. I tried imaging M51 and got 39 minutes worth of light frames (39x 1min exposures). After processing I did a weighted average combination with the 10 minute exposure image I got at the Sask. Summer Star Party.

Locations and dates: SSSP Aug. 27, 2006 and DAO Sept 21, 2006
Telescope: WO 105mm
Camera: Pentax ist-DS with 0.8x focal reducer
Mount: HEQ5
Exposure: Total of 49 minutes light (60sec x 49)plus 49 minutes dark. Also, 10 flat and 10 bias frames.
Processing: Calibrated, aligned, stacked and digitally developed in ImagesPlus followed by further processing in Photoshop CS, Neat Image and Astronomy Tools.

Big Dipper - August 2006

This was a tripod shot for 30s at ISO 800 with the lens at 18mm and f5.6. Processed and cropped using Photoshop and Astronomy tools. Location: Canmore, Alberta

Moon and Three Sisters- August 2006

This is a combination of three exposures As the moon was rising and passing behind the Three Sisters mountains. I thought each sister deserved a moon shot as it passed close by. You can see two of the sisters on the left and center with the tip of the third peak just visible on the right. Location: Canmore, Alberta

M51 - Whirlpool Galaxy- August 2006

Location: Saskatchewan Star Party 2006 The evening started out with an amazingly clear sky but unfortunately a strong wind came up as I was imaging M51 so I did not get nearly as much exposure time on it as I would have liked. The result is not bad considering I could only use 10 light frames.

Setting Moon at the Meadows Campground - August 2006

Location:Saskatchewan Star Party 2006

Andromeda Galaxy - Aug, 2006

This is my personal best for M31. I benefited from a very clear dark sky at the Saskatchewan Star Party 2006 and some inspiration from Jack Newton.

Location: Cyprus Hills, Saskatchewan
Telescope - Williams Optics 105 mm
Camera - Pentax ist-DS with WO 0.8x focal reducer
Exposures - 41 60 sec. light frames at ISO 800 with dark subtraction in camera. 12 Flat and 10 bias frames.
Processing with ImagesPlus, Photoshop, Astronomy Tools and Neat Image.

Moon about to occult the Pleiades - Aug 16, 2006 5:01am

I had a look at the moon about to occult the Pleiades and it was nice although the moon really overwhelms the stars. Nevertheless I tried a few tripod shots using a Pentax DSLR and telephoto lens. This image is a combination of exposures to show how it might have looked if our eyes could handle the extreme range of light intensities.

Location and time: Backyard in Fairfield at 5:01 am PDT 2006-08-16
Camera: Pentax ist-DS with 200 mm f2.5 lens
Exposure: 1 sec. and 1/500 sec. exposures both at ISO 800 f2.5
Processing: Photoshop

NGC 457 - ET Cluster - Aug 13, 2006

After doing the image of NGC 457 (ET cluster) earlier, I wondered if the color of the stars could be brought out better. My earlier attempt used 60 sec. exposures that overexposed the brighter stars so I tried again last evening taking exposures of 1 sec and 15 sec to combine with the 60 sec. ones. This image is a combination of all three and I think it does capture more of subtle colors fairly well.

Telescope: Williams Optics 105 mm
Camera: Pentax ist-DS with 0.8x WO Reducer/flattener for efl= 588mm
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ5
Exposures: 8-1s, 11-15s and 13-60 sec. ISO 800 light frames with noise correction; 10 flat and 10 bias
Processing: Calibration, Stacking and digital development in ImagesPlus followed by further processing, noise reduction and fun with Photoshop, Neat Image and Astronomy Tools

NGC 457 - ET Cluster - Aug 11, 2006

Last night Joe, David, Charles, Guy and I were at the 16" site and I took the attached image of the ET (Owl) Cluster. Given the ET connection I thought I could get a little fanciful in the processing and added diffraction spike using Astronomy Tools.

Telescope: Williams Optics 105 mm
Camera: Pentax ist-DS with 0.8x WO Reducer/flattener for eff. f = 588mm
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ5
Exposures: Used 9 of 13 60 sec. ISO 800 light frames with noise correction; 10 flat and 10 bias
Processing: Calibration, Stacking and digital development in ImagesPlus followed by further processing, noise reduction and fun with Photoshop, Neat Image and Astronomy Tools

Double Cluster in Perseus - Aug 5, 2006 - Looks like several of us focused on the Double Cluster in Perseus during the recent moonlit nights. On Saturday night at the Centre of the Universe I spent most of my time enjoying incredibly stable views of the Moon and Jupiter that accompanied the good seeing. There was a pretty good crowd and it was fun showing them the sights. I wasn't planning on doing much imaging but did get a few frames of the double cluster after closing and was rewarded with a much more detailed image of it I have obtained so far. The good seeing certainly helped and the WO scope and HEQ5 mount all performed well. I had no dud frames so could use all of them.

Location and date: Centre of the Universe; 2006-08-05 around midnight
Telescope: Williams Optics 105 mm
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ5
Camera: Pentax ist-DS with WO 0.8x focal reducer/flattener
Exposure: ISO 200, 12-10 sec., 6-30 sec. and 3-60 sec. light frames all with equal dark subtraction in the camera, 10 bias and 10 flats.Processing: calibration, stacking and digital development in ImagesPlus followed by further processing and cropping in Photoshop, noise reduction in Neat Image and star enhancement in Astronomy Tools.
Here is a montage from a total lunar eclipse I took several years ago using a film camera. I kept the slides in the hope of being able to do something with them and recently had a go. Even though my imaging set up at the time was pretty crude the result is not too bad. It also complements the partial solar eclipse montage from March 29, 2006 (see below).

PS for Bruno and other deleters - The moral is keep your old images. When you retire and need something to do you can reprocess to your hearts content.

Location and date: Edmonton on 2000/01/21
Telescope: Meade ETX 90
Camera: Pentax MX
Film: 400 ISO
Exposures: 1/250 to 10 sec.
Scanning: Canon FS 2710 film scanner
Processing: sharpened and enhanced in Photoshop
Eastern Veil Nebula - July 26, 27, 2006

I had some success last night at Cattle Point. This is an image of the Eastern Veil Nebula that is a crop of combined frames from June 26 and July 27. Like the Western Veil which I imaged recently, this subject is faint enough that it is pushing what is possible with my camera.

Telescope: Williams Optics 105 mm.
Camera: Pentax ist-DS and 0.8x focal reducer/flattener (eff. f = 588mm).
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ5.
Exposure: total of 45 min. of light and 32 min. of dark as follows:-
30 Light (noise reduced) frames 30 sec each at ISO 800
30 light and 17 Dark frames 60 sec each at ISO 3200
10 bias frames and 10 flats
Processing: Frames were aligned, calibrated, stacked and digitally developed with ImagesPlus followed by further processing in Photoshop, Neat Image and Astromomy Tools.

M8, Lagoon Nebula  July 25 and 26, 2006

I have been combining all the frames I have from two imaging evenings on the Lagoon Nebula and the attached is the result. I was able to tease out some of the faint nebulosity without getting the image too noisy and I like the result.

Location and times: Cattle Point June 25 and 26, 2006
Telescope: Williams Optics 105 mm
Camera: Pentax ist-DS with 0.8x focal reducer/flattener
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ5 driven but unguided
Exposures: Total of 59 light, 10 flat, and 10 bias frames all of 30 sec.
Darks were done in the camera with the light for total of 59 darks of 30 sec.
Processing: Aligned, stacked, cropped and digitally developed in ImagesPlus followed by further processing using Photoshop, Neat Image and Astronomy Tools.
Western Veil Nebula - July 20, 2006

I have tried to image parts of the Western Veil on two occasions and the image shown here is a portion of the section near the star, 52 Cygni from a combination of two of them. This nebula is quite faint in my camera and could use a lot more exposure but I was pleased to get as much as I did.

Location and time - Cattle Point 2006/07/06 and Observatory Hill 2006/07/20.
Telescope - Williams Optics 105 mm.
Camera - Pentax ist-DS with 0.8x focal reducer/flattener, eff. f = 588mm.
Mount - Skywatcher HEQ5 driven but unguided.
Exposures - 82 light, 22 Bias and 10 flat frames all of 30 sec with
noise subtraction in the camera instead of dark frames.
Processing - Stacked and digitally developed in ImagesPlus with further processing and noise reduction using Photoshop and Neat Image.

M16, Eagle Nebula - July 18, 2006

My image of the Eagle nebula is not as good as I hoped for as the lights from Oak Bay were producing quite a lot of sky glow low in the south. Nevertheless, the small dark eagle shape does show up in the centre. I hope to get more exposures to fill out the extended nebulosity region in another go when I get the chance.

Telescope - Williams Optics 105mm APO.
Camera - Pentax ist-DS with WO 0.8x focal reducer/flattener (effective
focal length 588mm).
Mount - unguided Skywatcher HEQ5
Exposures - 49 of 64 30s ISO 800 Light frames were used (total of 32s). Same exposure for darks which were subtracted in camera. 15 Bias frames. Temperature 14�C
M27, Dumbell Nebula - July 15, 2006

The weather turned out to be very good for observing [on Observatory Hill], we had an excellent evening. I spent my time getting more exposure time on M27, the Dumbell Nebula. The attached is a combination of exposures from the July 2/3 and 15/16 late night attempts. I wanted to get enough exposure to show this nebula's color without excessive noise.

M27, Dumbell Nebula
M17, Omega Nebula (also called the Swan) - June 28, 2006

Location and time: Cattle Point between 11:47pm and 12:54am
Telescope: Williams Optics 105mm with 0.8x focal reducer (f = 588mm)
Camera: Pentax ist-DS
Exposures: 57 light and 18 dark frames, each 30 sec. at ISO 800
Processing: Aligned, stacked, processed and cropped using a combination
of ImagesPlus, Photoshop, Neat Image and Astronomy Tools
M8, M20 & M21 - June 27, 2006

Charles, David and I had very fine conditions for imaging at Cattle Point last night. No Moon, No Wind, Good seeing and visibility. I got what I think is my best wide field image yet. I could just get M8, M20 and M21 all in the field and I like seeing these wonderful objects all together. It helps to get a sense of their scale and separation.

I reprocessed my image of M8, M20 and M21 to get a better color balance and more light in the nebula. I am finding the art of teasing the most out of my images is a real challenge, but it is fun to try. The problem is that it is addicting and I am not sure when to stop.

Location and time: Cattle Point between 12:15 and 1:15 am PDT
Telescope: Williams 105mm refractor with ).8x focal reducer (f = 588mm)
Camera: Pentax ist-DS
Exposures: 45 - 30 second shots at ISO 800
Processing: ImagesPlus, Photoshop and Neat Image

M13 - June 25, 2006

Last night at Astronomy hill was really great. After the Centre of the Universe closed (that sounds ominous), Several of us stayed on to do some imaging. I focused my time on M13 and got a result I am happy with. I have attached two versions. The first is a blow up of the cluster and includes about 25% of the full frame (by height). The second is a low resolution version of the full frame. I have marked the location of M13 (pretty obvious) as well as NGC6207 (which you may be able to see just to the left of the text). NGC 6207 is an 11.6 magnitude galaxy and is a fairly evident elongated smudge on the full resolution version.

I was curious to see what kind of resolution I could get with this low magnification set up and am pleased that it seems to do pretty well. Not sure if using a powermate instead of the focal reducer would yield much more detail but I will probably try it sometime to see.

Time and place: Astronomy Hill, between 12:15 and 1:10 am PDT
Telescope: Williams Optics 105mm
Camera: Pentax ist-DS with WO 0.8x focal reducer at prime focus - effective focal length 588mm
Exposures: 32 exposures, each 30s Raw format at ISO 800
Processing: Combined and processed the best 28 of 32 exposures using ImagesPlus, Photoshop and Neat Image

NGC 5000 - North American Nebula - June 24, 2006

Location: Cattle Point
Telescope: WO 105mm with WO 0.8x flattener/reducer
Camera: Pentax ist-DS
Exposures 17 - 30 second shots at ISO 800
Processing in ImagesPlus, Photoshop and NeatImage

Jupiter & moons - May 14, 2006 - Got some images of Jupiter showing the red spot the evening of May 14. David, Joe and I went to the hill and were rewarded with a very nice evening. The weather was exceptionally good with warm wind free conditions and excellent seeing until around midnight. I got several sequences of exposures of Jupiter all of which were reasonably good. The attached represents the best one and my personal best to date for this planet.

Location and date: Observatory Hill May 14, at 23:00 PDT
Telescope: WO 105mm
Mount: HEQ5
Camera: Nikon Coolpix 995 at max zoom and afocal with a 6.4mm eyepiece.
Effective focal length: 3675mm (f/35)
Exposures: VGA sequence of 14 frames,1/2s each at ISO 200 for the planet
and one 4s exposure at ISO 200 for the moons
Processing: Images Plus for stacking, grading, alignment followed by
color separation and realignment to cure color fringing from atmospheric
refraction. Sharpening and enhancement as well as combining with the
moon frame was done in Photoshop.
The Moon - May 13, 2006

I have been wishing the moon wasn't so bright on some of the clear nights as I am anxious to try some deep sky imaging. However, it is was there and I decided I might as well enjoy it. My image shows some nice detail of the nearly full moon.

telescope: WO 105mm refractor with WO flattener/0.8x focal reducer
Mount: HEQ5
Camera: Pentax ist-DS
Exposure: 1/500 sec at ISO 400
Time: 11:16PM PDT on May 9, 2006
Processing: Photoshop

Jupiter's Red Spot - May 9, 2006

I had a go at imaging Jupiter's Great Red Spot and was pleased that I could capture it with the camera as well as visually. The attached shows the result.

Telescope: WO 105 mm plus Powermate 2.5x
Camera: Pentax ist-DS at Prime focus
Mount: HEQ5
Exposure: Each image Combination of 30 exposures at 1/20 sec, ISO 400
Processing: Images Plus and Photoshop

Orion in Greece - April 2006

Orion over the Agios Nikolaos church in Ermoupolis, the main city in Syros. We had just arrived at our hotel and after unpacking, I opened the shutters to find this scene.

Camera Pentax ist-DS with standard zoom lens set at 35mm.
Exposure 8 sec at f4.5 and ISO 200

Partial Eclipse from Greece - March 29, 2006

Here is a set containing a few of the images I took of the partial eclipse of the sun on April 29 from Fira, Santorini, Greece. I tried to get to the island of Kastellorizo where there would be totality but it was difficult to do so I settled for a partial. The first shot was from the previous day when the weather was great. However on the 29th, the weather was variable cloudy and windy making it difficult to get a consistent set. If you look closely you can make out sunspots on the 2nd, third and fourth images.

Camera - Pentax ist-DS mounted on fixed tripod
Lens - f8, 500mm Tamron Mirror
Exposure varied as clouds rolled past

Mars - M45 Pleiades - Feb 13, 2006

Camera Pentax ist-DS
Mount HEQ5 polar aligned but unguided
Lens Pentax 200 mm
exposure 90 sec at f8 and ISO 200

M42 - Orion Nebula - Feb 10/06

Joe Carr invited us to Observatory Hill for what turned out to be a clear night with some good views. There was a nearly full moon but the clear air was a treat after a long period of muck. I spent the whole evening collecting photons of the Orion Nebula region with my wide angle setup. These two images represent a combination of the material I got on Friday evening with previous shots from October 11, 2005.


Camera - Pentax ist DS shooting in raw 16 bit format.
Exposure - total of 19.5 minutes as follows:
1) ISO 200, 17-30sec shots at f2.8, Lens 200mm f2.8 Pentax K
2) ISO 200, 14-30sec shots at f5.6, Lens 200mm f2.8 Pentax K
3) ISO 400, 4-30sec shots at f8.0, Lens 400mm F5.6 Pentax K
4) ISO 800, 4-30sec shots at f8.0, Lens 400mm F5.6 Pentax K

Images Plus used to align, combine, and digitally develop
Fine tuning with Photoshop CS2

M45 Pleiades

Camera - Pentax ist-DS
Lenses - 200mm f2.5 and 400mm f5.6 Pentax K mount
Mount - HEQ5
Exposure: Combination of a wide range of exposures to handle the extreme
dynamic range using the two lenses.

North American Nebula image

After learning more about processing, I have been trying to get more accurate information from some images I took of the North American Nebula last year. I was never too happy with the previous version and realized that part of the problem with the processing I had done was in not making the best use of all the dynamic range available in the raw image. This one was done with a combination of Images Plus and
Photoshop tools.

I think the color fidelity is more realistic than my previous attempt and better than I expected from a total exposure time of 3 minutes. Hopefully, all the time I am spending on my existing images will pay off when the weather improves and I can get some longer exposures.

Location- Backyard in Fairfield
Camera- Pentax ist DS
Lens- 200 mm Pentax f2.5
Mount- HEQ5 polar aligned but not guided.
Exposure- 6 30 sec. shots at f4 and ISO 400; - total exposure 3 minutes
eta Ursa Major and M51 - Oct 3, 2005 - Last night at the Astronomy Cafe I tried a wide field image in the region of eta Ursa Major and M51. I wasn't sure M51 would be large enough to show any detail but there is enough to show the spiral arms and the link to the companion galaxy. It is so small in the full image that I have cropped and enlarged the section containing M51.

Camera: Pentax ist DS
Lens: 200mm Pentax K mount f2.5
Exposure: 7 shots 30 sec. each at f2.5 and ISO 400
Processing: Stacked and processed in Photoshop

Andromeda Galaxy - Sept 26, 2005 - Here is a photo taken at the Astronomy Caf� last night. The conditions were a bit variable and Andromeda was in cloud some of the time, but I managed to find some clear periods. I used the mounting setup shown below..

Camera: Pentax ist-DS
Lens: 200mm f 2.5 Pentax K mount
Exposure: 6 at 30sec and f 2.5 plus 6 at 30 sec and f4, ISO 400

1492x1044 pixel 660k jpg

Double Cluster in Perseus - Here is an image taken with the wide field photography set up shown below.

Camera: Pentax ist DS
Lens: Pentax K mount 200 mm f2.5
Exposure: 4 shots at f4 for 30 sec. each, ISO 400
Processing: Stacked, processed and cropped to about 1/4 of the full image using Photoshop
I have been interested in trying wide field photographs of the sky and recently put together a setup for doing it (see photo). The mount is an HEQ5 and the scope is the optical tube from a Meade ETX90. The latter has a convenient mounting hole threaded for standard tripod screws making it easy to attach to a dovetail bar.

The camera is a Pentax DSLR mounted on a pan head so I can line it up with the scope easily. Balance is achieved separately for DEC and RA. DEC balance is easily achieved by sliding the dovetail. I shift the camera to different holes on the board to accommodate different weight lenses for the RA balance. I should make a slider for that as well but the mount is made for a much larger load and does not seem to notice mild imbalance.

M27 Dumbell Nebula - Sept 7, 2005 at Cattle Point
Telescope: - Skywatcher 8 inch Newton
Camera: Pentax ist DS
Convertor: Tele Vue Powermate 2.5x
Exposure: - 9 frames at ISO 1600 and 7 at ISO 3200 each for 30 sec.
16 frames stacked and processed in Pentax photolab and Photoshop.
Sunspot 798 - Sept 11, 2005 at approximately 1:40 PM.
Telescope: Meade ETX 90 with thousand oaks glass solar filter.
Eyepiece: Meade 4000 series 40 mm.
Camera: Nikon Coolpix 995 coupled a-focally with Scopetronix coupler.
Exposures: Camera set at focal length15mm, f4.3, 1/288 sec and focal length 31mm, f 10.3, 1/145 for the low and high magnification images respectively.
Crescent Moon

Camera - Pentax ist DS tripod mounted
Lens - 200 mm Pentax f2.5 K mount
Exposure - 1/6 sec at f8 and ISO 400

Sun (ha) - Nov 26, 2002 - After attending the workshop by Joe and David (RASCALS Star Party 2005), I thought I would see if an image I took some time ago using a friends telescope and H-alpha filter would have more useful information than I had thought. Here are two versions of the sun from the one image. One emphasizes the flares and the other shows surface structures . The camera was a Nikon Coolpix 995 coupled a-focally to a Tele Vue Pronto telescope with a Coronado H-alpha filter. Exposure was 1/250 sec. The picture was taken Nov. 26, 2002 at about 1:30 PM MST from Edmonton. Now I am looking forward to seeing what can be done with a DSLR and the club Coronado scope.
Crescent Moon and Venus at Clover Point, Aug 8 2005

I was at Clover Point and thought the view of the conjunction was spectacular. This image is not as good as David Lee's but gives another perspective on what was a truly beautiful sight.

Camera: Pentax Ist DS
Lens: Pentax 200mm F2
Exposure: F8 for .3 sec at ISO 400 at 10:32PM

M 57, The Ring Nebula

Scope - Skywatcher 8 inch f6 Newtonian on HEQ5 mount
Camera - Pentax ist DS with 2.5X Powermate converter.
Exposures - 4 at 25 sec and ISO 1600 plus 4 at 25 sec and ISO 3200 unguided

M13 in Hercules

I have enjoyed this cluster visually and thought it would be fun to try imaging it with a new digital SLR that I have recently purchased. The colors that show up in the image and the number of stars one can see certainly beat what I can see with my eyes.

Image details:
Telescope - 200 mm F6 Skywatcher Newtonian.
Camera - Pentax ist DS with 2.5X Powermate convertor.
Exposures - 3 of ~35 sec & 4 of ~18 sec, each at ISO 1600.
Processing - Stacked and processed in Photoshop. Some fairly aggressive filtering of the red & blue channels

Trying out a new scope and mount for planetary imaging.

Image Details:-
Scope - Skywatcher 8 inch f6 Newtonian on HEQ5 mount
Eyepiece - 12 mm Meade 4000 with 2x Barlow
Camera - Nikon Coolpix 995 mounted afocally
Exposure - 6 shots 1/30 sec with ISO 100 unguided

Planetary Conjunction - Venus-Mercury-Saturn - June 27, 2005

Here is my best of the night taken from Moss Rock in Fairfield, Victoria, BC.

Nikon Coolpix 995 with 3X tele convertor at effective focal length of 300mm. Exposure 1/15 sec at F4.4

Planetary Conjunction - Venus-Mercury-Saturn - June 23, 24, 25, 2005

Taken from Moss Rock in Fairfield, Victoria, BC (23rd, 24th), and Observatory Hill (25th).

The images were all taken around 10PM using a Nikon Coolpix 995 with 3X tele extender for an equivalent focal length of 456 mm.

This is a whole sky image taken from my backyard in the Fairfield district.
Camera - Nikon Coolpix 995 with fisheye converter
Mount - fixed tripod
Exposure- 59 sec at F2.6 at ISO 100
Sunspots - August 18, 21, 23, 2002

Here is a collage of sunspot images from 2002 when there was a large sunspot group. Location was Edmonton, Alberta and the equipment was an ETX 90mm with Coolpix 995 mounted afocally with a Scopetronix coupler. I used a Thousand Oaks Solar glass filter. The eyepiece focal length was 40 mm. I was trying to get the movement of the spots over a period of days. Note there is an artifact at ~4 oclock that appears to be a dust mote.

Sunspots - August 19, 2002

Here is another shot of the sun spots from 2002. This one was also taken with the Coolpix 995 a-focally with a 26 mm eyepiece to get increase the magnification.

Comet Hale-Bopp - 1997

Here are some more images from my past. They are of Hale Bopp and were taken with a Pentax Super Program camera in northern Alberta. The one over the cabin includes an auroral glow that is not unusual in that part of the world. It was tripod mounted with a 50 mm lens. The dark sky shot shows the plasma and dust tails. I used the same camera on a piggyback mount with a 200 mm lens. I must have been cold as I did not record exposure settings.

John's Current Gallery


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