My goal for this blog is to share and to show that great deep-space and planetary images can be photographed in one’s own backyard, even with bright city lights around. I live in a moderately high light polluted area. I have additional filters to delete some of the emitted artificial light and imaging hardware ordered and will be posting even better backyard pictures in the future. Until then, "Clear heavenly skies!"
You can contact me at patprokop49@gmail.com and also view updates on my Weather and Nature Facebook Page



Added: May 18, 2018 ... The Planets May 10, 2018
The Planets as seen from my backyard in Savannah, GA on May 10, 2018 between 3 - 5 am. I took these through the 11" Celestron Edge HD f/10 telescope using a 2X Barlow to enlarge the view. I used the Altair Hypercam 183C Camera and SharpCap 3.0 to capture the image files then RegiStax 6.0 to stack and process. Since then, clouds and rain have prevented any new viewing opportunities. Jupiter just passed opposition and is now moving further away but Saturn and Mars continue to get closer and brighter and will be very prominent in the sky during the summer months. Expect a lot more pictures of them then along with Venus


Added: May 12, 2018 ... Saturn
The 7th planet from the sun ... SATURN ... The Ringed Planet
I took this picture on the morning of May 10, 2018 at 4:37 am. The telescope was the Celestron Edge HD 11" with 2X barlow lens using the Altair Hypercam 183C camera. I took 300 image frames and used the best 30 in stacking in a program called 'AutoStakkert'.

At the time, Saturn was about 871.2 million miles away. Saturn will be getting closer and on June 26 will be 843 million miles away shining a bright yellow in the constellation of Sagittarius.


Added: May 4, 2018 ... Spiral Galaxy ... Messier 100
Messier 100 is a spiral galaxy located in the southern part of the constellation of Coma Berenices ... (Nearly high overhead at 11 pm in early May). This is the furthest object that I have ever photographed ... 55 to 60 million light-years away!!! This galaxy contains about 400 billion stars, as compared to about 250 billion in our own Milky Way Galaxy. According to its 'red shift' it is moving away from us at around 1,525 km/sec ... much faster than the Pinwheel Galaxy which is moving away at 360 km/sec! This image was rather difficult to process but I was able to stack 21 of the sub-frames which were 150 seconds each giving a total exposure time of 52min 30sec. I've just about pushed to the limit of seeing distant galaxies with any type of fullness with my telescope within my backyard in a 'yellow' light-polluted region.

Specifics:
Telescope: Celestron Edge HD 11" with a 0.7X field reducer
Focal Ratio: f/7 (with Reducer)
Camera: Altair Hyperspace 183C CMOS at gain 35
Capture software: Altair Capture
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 ...
(RMS Error 0.69 of 1 second of arc)
Filter: CLS (City Light Suppression)
Exposure: 21 sub-frames at 150 seconds each
Dark Frames: 10 sub-frames at 150 seconds
Stacking: Photoshop CC ... Manually
Post Processing: PixInsight & Photoshop CC
Mount: Celestron CGEM II GoTo EQ Mount
Outside Temperature: 67°
Click on Picture for Larger Size


Added April 29, 2018 ... The Pinwheel Galaxy ... Messier 101
This galaxy is about 22 million light-years away and in the sky is located within the Big Dipper (Ursa Major). The galaxy contains about 1 trillion stars! I took this image on the night of a full moon which greatly interfered generating much light pollution. The total exposure time is 1 hour and 8 minutes, plus 26 minutes of calibration frames. I used the 11" Celestron Edge HD Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope with a 0.7X field reducer attached resulting in a focal ratio of f/7.

Specifics:
Camera: Altair Hyperspace 183C CMOS at gain 35
Capture software: Altair Capture
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 ...
(RMS Error 0.48 of 1 second of arc)
Filter: CLS (City Light Suppression)
Exposure: 44 sub-frames at 120 seconds each
(10 frames were extracted in post processing)
Dark Frames: 12 sub-frames at 120 seconds
Flat Frames: 20 sub-frames
Stacking: Photoshop CC ... Manually
Post Processing: PixInsight & Photoshop CC
Mount: Celestron CGEM II GoTo EQ Mount
Outside Temperature: 60°
Click on Picture for Larger Size


Added April 22, 2018 ... The Whirlpool Galaxy ... Messier 51.
This spiral galaxy is about 23 million light-years away. In the sky, it is located near the end of the handle of the Big Dipper in the constellation of Canes Venatici and contains more than 100 billion stars. Off to the right is the much smaller dwarf companion, known as NGC 5195. I took this picture on the night of April 20/21 with a 1 hour exposure time using 30 sub-frames of 2 minutes each. I used the 11" Celestron Edge HD Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope with a 0.7X field reducer attached resulting in a focal ratio of f/7.

Specifics:
Camera: Altair Hyperspace 183C CMOS at gain 40
Capture software: Altair Capture
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 ...
(RMS Error 0.68 of 1 second of arc)
Filter: CLS (City Light Suppression)
Exposure: 10 sub-frames at 120 seconds each
Dark Frames: 10 sub-frames at 120 seconds
Stacking: Photoshop CC ... Manually
Post Processing: PixInsight & Photoshop CC
Mount: Celestron CGEM II GoTo EQ Mount
Outside Temperature: 55°
Click on Picture for Larger Size


Added April 21, 2018 ... Globular Cluster ... Messier 53.
Messier 53 is a "Globular Star Cluster" located in the direction in Coma Berenices and composed of around 500,000 old stars and is within our own Milky Way Galaxy about midway between the galactic center and the outer edged. (Our solar system is very near the outer edge of the galaxy). M 53 is about 53,000 light-years from us. Many of the stars in this cluster are the original stars (1st generation) of the galaxy while our sun is known as a 2nd generation star while 3rd generation stars are forming in other portions of our galaxy, such as the area of the Orion Nebula and the Pleiades.

I took this picture on the night of April 20, 2018, at 11 pm. 10 frames were used out of the 20 that I took (computer's best picks I guess). Each frame was 2 minutes in length.

Specifics:

Telescope: 11" Celestron Edge HD Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope with a 0.7X field reducer attached resulting in a focal ratio of f/7
Camera: Altair Hyperspace 183C CMOS at gain 40
Capture software: Altair Capture
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 ...
(RMS Error 0.68 of 1 second of arc)
Filter: CLS (City Light Suppression)
Exposure: 10 sub-frames at 120 seconds each
Dark Frames: 10 sub-frames at 120 seconds
Stacking: PixInsight
Post Processing: PixInsight & Photoshop CC
Mount: Celestron CGEM II GoTo EQ Mount
Outside Temperature: 55°
Click on Picture for Larger Size


Added April 18, 2018 ... The "Black Eye Galaxy" (Messier 64).
This spiral galaxy is about 24 million light-years from earth and in the sky is located high in the east around 10 pm in April within the constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair). The nickname is due to a spectacular dark band of absorbing dust in front of the nucleus that results in a smudged appearance. This galaxy contains about 100 billion stars, about half of that of our Milky Way Galaxy. This cannot be seen without the aid of a telescope, mainly 3 inches or larger in lens/mirror size.

I took this picture on the night of April 17 from 9:30 pm to 12:30 am. The exposure of the sub-frames was 120 seconds each with a total of 90 frames. (4 frames were contaminated and were not used in the stacking) resulting in a total exposure time of 2 hours and 52 minutes.

Specifics:
Date: April 17, 2018
Telescope: Celestron 11" f/10
Camera: Altair Hyperspace 183C CMOS at gain 40
Capture software: Altair Capture
Guiding Software: PHD2 ... (RMS Error 0.78 of 1 second of arc)
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Filter: None
Exposure: 90 sub-frames at 120 seconds each
Stacking: Photoshop CC (manually)
Mount: Celestron CGEM II GoTo EQ Mount
Outside Temperature: 60°
Click on Picture for Larger Size


Added April 17, 2018 ... "The Sombrero Galaxy".
The Sombrero Galaxy (Messier 104) ...This galaxy is about 29.3 million light-years away from us. In the sky, it is located about half-way between the constellations Virgo and Corvus and is low in the south around midnight at this time of the year. The galaxy appears “edge on” from our point of view. Its bright nucleus, large central bulge and spiral arms threaded through with a thick dust lane make it look a little like a hat from Mexico, hence the name.
Specifics:
Date: April 16, 2018
Telescope: Celestron 11" f/10
Camera: Altair Hyperspace 183C CMOS at gain 50
Capture software: Altair Capture
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 ... (RMS Error 0.68 of 1 second of arc)
Filter: City Light Suppression
Exposure: 16 sub-frames at 120 seconds each
Stacking: Photoshop CC
Mount: Celestron CGEM II GoTo EQ Mount
Outside Temperature: 50°


Added April 17, 2018 ... "The Ring Nebula in Lyra".
This is the Ring Nebula in Lyra near the star Vega ... in appearance. This nebula is about 2,300 light-years away. It formed when its dying red giant star (see little dot in center of the ring) expelled its shell of ionized gas to form the ring, while the star itself became a white dwarf, a dense stellar remnant roughly the size of the Earth. (Will this be the fate of our sun in about 5 billion years from now?) I took this picture at 2 am April 17, 2018 with the 11" f/10 Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope.
Specifics:
Date: April 17 from 1:00 am to 2:20 am
Telescope: Celestron Edge HD Schmidt–Cassegrain f/10
Camera: Altair Hyperspace 183C CMOS at gain 40
Capture software: Altair Capture
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 ... (RMS Error 0.68 of 1 second of arc)
Filter: CLS
Exposure: 29 sub-frames at 120 seconds each
Dark Frames: 10 sub-frames at 120 seconds
Stacking: PixInsight
Post Processing: PixInsight & Photoshop Elements
Mount: Celestron CGEM II GoTo EQ Mount
Outside Temperature: 47°


Added April 5, 2018 ... "Cluster of Galaxies in Virgo".
Here's a thought-provoking picture ... a cluster of galaxies seen in the direction of the constellation of Virgo. Many of these galaxies are 50 to 100 million light-years away!!! This is the view from my little 3" diameter ED80T CF telescope at an exposure of over 1 hour in the early morning of April 5, 2018, in my backyard.
Specifics:
Date: April 5 from 12:30 am to 2:00 am
Telescope: ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic Refractor f/6
Camera: Altair Hyperspace 183C CMOS at gain 25
Capture software: Altair Capture
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 ... (RMS Error 0.68 of 1 second of arc)
Filter: None
Exposure: 49 sub-frames at 90 seconds each
Dark Frames: 10 sub-frames at 90 seconds
Stacking: DeepSkyStacker
Post Processing: PixInsight & Photoshop Elements
Mount: Celestron CGEM II GoTo EQ Mount
Outside Temperature: 53°


Added March 23, 2018 ... "The Sunflower Galaxy".
The Sunflower Galaxy, a.k.a. Messier 63. This galaxy is about 37 million light-years in distance from us located just to the south of the Big Dipper's handle in the constellation Canes Venatici. This galaxy is about the same size of our own, The Milky Way Galaxy.
Specifics:
Date: March 22 from 11pm to 1am
Telescope: Celestron Edge HD 11"
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T2i ... ISO: 800
Capture software: Backyard EOS
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 ... (RMS Error 0.62 of 1 second of arc)
Filter: None
Exposure: 62 sub-frames at 120 seconds each
Dark Frames: 10 sub-frames at 120 seconds
Stacking: DeepSkyStacker
Post Processing: PixInsight & Photoshop Elements
Mount: Celestron CGEM II GoTo EQ Mount
Outside Temperature: 48°


Added March 16, 2018 ... "The Pinwheel Galaxy".
The Pinwheel Galaxy, also known as Messier 101. This face-on spiral galaxy is about 21 million light-years away. In the sky, it is located near the end of the handle of the Big Dipper. This image took me over 2 hours to expose as it was very faint!
Specifics:
Date: March 16, 2018 ... 12:10 am to 2:40 am
Telescope: ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic Refractor f/6
Camera: Altair Hyperspace 183C CMOS at gain 25
Filter: Orion Skyglow Light Pollution
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 ... (RMS Error 0.87 of 1 second of arc)
Exposure: 70 sub-frames at 120 seconds each
Dark Frames: 10 sub-frames at 120 seconds
Stacking: DeepSkyStacker
Post Processing: PixInsight & Photoshop Elements
Mount: Celestron CGEM II GoTo EQ Mount
Outside Temperature: 48°


Added March 14, 2018 ... "The Leo Triplet" of galaxies.
These 3 galaxies comprise of NGC 3628 (left), M66 (bottom right), and M65 (top right). All three are large spiral galaxies and are found in the vicinity of the constellation of Leo the Lion. All 3 galaxies are about 30 million light-years from us. I took this image on the night of March 13, 2018, using 65 X 90-second sub-frames and then stacked them in DeepSkyStacker software, resulting in a 97.5-minute exposure. (I took 83 frames but 18 of them were sub-par and excused)
Specifics:
Telescope: ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic Refractor f/6
Camera: Altair Hyperspace 183C CMOS at gain 25
Filter: Orion Skyglow Light Pollution
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 ... (RMS 0.65)
Exposure: 97.5 minutes (67 sub-frames at 90 seconds each)
Dark Frames: 10 sub-frames at 90 seconds
Post Processing: PixInsight & Photoshop CC
Mount: Celestron CGEM II GoTo EQ Mount
Outside Temperature: 41°


Added March 8, 2018 ... The Rosette Nebula
The Rosette Nebula. It is about 5,000 light-years away with the radiation from the young stars illuminating the surrounding dust cloud. In the sky, it is located in the upper left side of Orion.
Specifics:
Telescope: ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic Refractor f/6
Camera: Altair Hyperspace 183C CMOS at gain 25
Filter: Orion Skyglow Light Pollution
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 ... (RMS 0.92)
Exposure: 76.5 minutes (51 sub-frames at 90 seconds each)
Dark Frames: 11 sub-frames at 90 seconds
Post Processing: PixInsight


Added March 4, 2018 ... Orion & Running Man Nebulas
My first picture with my new 80 mm ED80T CF Apochromatic Refractor in the backyard. The scope is attached (piggyback) on top of the Celestron 11" telescope. This nebula is about 1,340 light-years from us and is an area of new star formation. It is located just below the "Belt" of Orion, the Hunter, high in the southern sky at dusk in early March. To the lower left is the so-called "Running Man" nebula (can you see the runner?).
Specifics:
Telescope: Orion ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic Refractor f/6
Camera: Altair Hyperstar 183C ... gain setting 5.15 (out of 50)
Guiding: 50mm guide scope with Orion StarShoot AutoGuider
Guiding Software: PHD2 (guiding RMS was 0.52. That's pretty good for me)
Filters: None
72-minute Exposure ... (72 X 1 Min subframes)
20 Dark subframes at 60 seconds
Stacking Software: PixInsight


Added Feb 9, 2018 ... M 82 & M 81
Messier 81 (M81), also known as Bode’s Galaxy, is a grand design spiral galaxy located in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy lies at an approximate distance of 11.8 million light years from Earth.
Messier 82 (M82), also known as the Cigar Galaxy, is an edge-on starburst galaxy located in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy lies at a distance of 11.4 to 12.4 million light years from Earth.
I took this photograph Thursday night around midnight, 2018 using a little guide scope (Orion CT80mm ... 3") which has a wide focal ration of f/5 This 1 hour 12 minute image is composed of 72 X 6-second exposures (sub-frames) stacked together in Deep Skystacker after enhancements in PixInsight and Photoshop. This small f/5 scope will soon be replaced by a 3" f/6 refractor with a triple superb lens (Orion ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic Refractor) which will result in much greater details.
The best time of year to observe M81 and M82 is during the spring, so I need to wait a bit later to retry this dual, and after receiving the new scope.


Added Feb 6, 2018, 2018 ... Wide view of the Andromeda Galaxy
The Andromeda Galaxy ... 2.5 million light-years away (our closest galactic neighbor). Another test picture from the Altair Hypercam 183C astrophotography camera but using a little 80mm (3") refractor telescope. This is the equivalent of a 27-minute exposure. Actually, the scope is a large spotting/guide scope attached to the 11" Celestron. the f/5 focal ratio does give a nice wide field of view, as compared to f/10 of the Celestron. The new Altair Hypercam 183c astrophotography camera is becoming easier to use and yields much better images than the Canon T2i DSLR camera (but hey, the Canon is not a dedicated astrophotography camera).


Added Jan 21, 2018 ... M 82 (The Cigar Nebula)
Messier 82, also known as “The Cigar Nebula” is actually a galaxy about 5 times more luminous than our own Milky Way galaxy. This starburst galaxy is about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major which was high in the northern sky (at that time ... 11 pm) and is seen “edge-on” from our vantage point. I took this on the night of January 18, 2018 under a crystal clear cold sky (temp around 32°) using my 11" f/10 Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope using an Orion CLS light pollution filter, using the Canon T2i camera. This 1 hour 4 minute image is composed of 32 X 120-second exposures stacked together in Deep Skystacker after enhancements in Adobe's Light Room then post processed in Photoshop CC.


Added Jan 18, 2018 ... The Running Man Nebula in Orion
The Running Man Nebula (Sh2-279) is a bright nebula located very near the famous "Orion Nebula" which lies in the sword of Orion the Hunter. The Nebula is the northern most portion of his sword. This reflection nebula gives the appearance of a 'Running Man' and is about 1,500 light-years from earth. I took this on the night of January 18, 2018 using my 11" f/10 Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope using an Orion CLS light pollution filter. This 1 hour 6 minute image is composed of 44 X 90second exposure stacked together in Deep Skystacker after enhancements in Adobe's Light Room then post processed in Photoshop CC.


Added Jan 15, 2018 ... The Bubble Nebula in Cassiopeia
The "bubble" is created by the stellar wind from a massive hot magnitude young central star. The nebula is near a giant molecular cloud which contains the expansion of the bubble nebula while itself being excited by the hot central star, causing it to glow. The nebula is about 8,000 light-years away located in the constellation of Cassiopeia ... The Lady in the Chair. This image was make by stacking 21 X 90-second exposures at an ISO setting of 3200 making it an equivalent of a 31.5 minute exposure. Telescope: Celestron 11" Edge HD f/10 using an Orion CLS light pollution filter (There was a LOT of errant light in the yards this night).


Added Jan 14, 2018 ... Heavenly Backyard Astronomy Video #1
This is my first edition of "Heavenly Backyard Astronomy". In this video, my target was the CRAB NEBULA in the constellation Taurus the Bull which is the remnant of an exploding star (supernova) that occurred in 1054. What we see today is the outgassing of that explosion. It is about 6,500 light years away at a visual magnitude of 8.4. This image was captured Jan 13, 2018, in my backyard using 86 X 60second exposures at an ISO of 3200 on a Canon T2i using an Orion CLS (City Light Suppression) filter attached to the prime focus of my Celestron 11” Edge HD f/10 telescope. Outside temperature was in the upper 30s.


Added Jan 14, 2018 ... The Crab Nebula
The Crab Nebula is in the constellation of Taurus the Bull and is the remnant of an exploding star (super nova) that occurred in 1054. What we see today is the out gassing of that explosion. It is about 6,500 light years away at a visual magnitude of 8.4. This image was captured Jan 13, 2018 in my backyard using 86 X 60second exposures at an ISO of 3200 on a Canon T2i using an Orion CLS (City Light Suppression) filter attached to the prime focus of my Celestron 11” Edge HD f/10 telescope. Outside temperatures was in the upper 30s.


Added Jan 7, 2018 ... Jupiter & Mars Side-By-Side
Jupiter and Mars next to each other (visually) in the Sky Sunday morning, Jan 7, 2018. I took this with the 11" telescope. To the eye, the two looked as to be touching each other but through the telescope, the two show some separation, but not much. This view is less than the width of a full moon as viewed through the scope. Jupiter will pull away from Mars over the next several weeks while at the same time, Mars will be growing brighter and brighter over the next several months displaying as a bright ruddy red object in the morning sky until June when it enters the nighttime sky. ... Click on image for full size


Added Jan 6, 2018 ... The Whirlpool Galaxy
My first attempt at capturing the Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as M 51. This spiral galaxy is about 31 million light-years away. In the sky, it is located near the end of the handle of the Big Dipper. This is by far not the best image so, expect better productions coming soon. This image was taken from 6:04 am to 6:26 am, Saturday, Jan 6, 2018. I had to stop then because twilight was beginning. It was composed of 22 60-second exposures at ISO 1600 and stacked in Deep Sky Tracker. I did not use my "City Light-Pollution Reducing" filter, and it shows. ... Click on image for full size ...


Added Dec 22, 2017 ... The Andromeda Galaxy
My best image yet of Andromeda (M 31) ... I recorded this on the night of Dec 22 ... and getting better using Photoshop CC and LightRoom in the 'Stacking' process. This image was made from stacking 35 X 30second photos at ISO of 1600 from my 11" f/10 telescope. This galaxy is about 2 million light-years away. In other words, this is what it looked like 2 million years ago. This is our closest galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. The Andromeda galaxy is the furthest object you can see with the naked eye. In the winter, it is located high overhead at 7 pm.


Added Dec 22, 2017 ... The Orion Nebula
This is one of my favorite targets ... The Orion Nebula. Telescope used was the 11" Celestron Edge HD f/10 with a 0.63 reducer making the field of view equivalent to f/6.3. This is a 6 minute exposure made from 12 30 second exposure images. Click on the image to learn more as to how I captured and processed this beautiful image from my backyard in city lights.


My Set-Up
My 11 inch Celstron Schmidt-Cassegrain EdgeHD telescope and Computerized German Equitorial Mount (CGEM) Besides the telescope, numerous accessories are needed including a guide scope to help keep the scope directly on the object be photographed over time. Since the earth is rotating 15° per hour from west to east, the telescope must rotate along with it to track a celestial object. A camera attached to the prime focus is need to photograph the object. In this case, a Canon EOS T2i DSLR. Also included is a laptop computer to aid in tracking and photography.


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