The Pleiades and the Andromeda Galaxy

Last weekend of September, I took part in the first edition of the Caprauna Star Party, which took place in the Ligurian Alps, the initial stretch of the Alpine range which is also the lowest and closest to the seaside.

The nice venue and the top-notch organization of the star party more than made up for the not so exceptional weather. As for my imaging loot, since I had joined in at the very last moment, I hadnt had enough time to better plan my session, so I improvised and went with two deep-sky classics: M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy) and M45 (the Pleiades Cluster). Click on the link below for more details and high-resolution pictures!

The rig I used is for sure not top-notch, but it did do a fair job. It consists of a SkyWatcher ED80 refractor as the main imaging scope with a Canon 350D DSLR, with an el-cheapo SkyWatcher 70/500 refractor as the guidescope together with a Magzero MZ-5m camera for autoguiding. The whole setup rode a Losmandy G11 mount with a FS2 motor drive.

The shots were taken on September 27 and 28, 2008. Exposure details are as follows:

  • M31: 70 min total (12 x 5 m + 1 x 10m) at ISO 800, 3 dark frames, no flats
  • M45: 80 min total (8 x 10 m) at ISO 800, 3 dark frames, no flats

Processing details:

  • Canon's DPP for converting raw frames into TIFFs
  • DeepSkyStacker for sub-exposure registration and stacking, and dark-frame subtraction
    Adobe Photoshop CS3 for final adjustment
  • This is was my first crack at DeepSkyStacker, and I must admit it really impressed me for its features and ease of use.

The pictures may look decent at first sight, but actually they do have a number of flaws (guiding and focusing problems, together with the scopes field of view not being perfectly flat), and for sure theres much room for improvement. The Pleiades probably came out slightly better, and there is quite a bit of M45s faint reflection nebulosity visible in there. You can click on both pictures below for higher resolution versions.

M 31:

M 45:

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