Sunday, July 28, 2019

A Cloud, But it Was Good!

Yesterday's astronomy forecast via email, courtesy of the fine folks at ClearDarkSky:

"Favorable observing conditions at Lynchburg College Observatory
Based on your  subscription.

Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
07-28 @ Hour 04 for 2 hours (0%/Above Ave./Excellent)"

I'm about a dozen miles from Lynchburg College, but my location is within the granularity of the forecast.

Good to excellent seeing?  On a weekend?  I'll take it!

It turns out that the forecast was fairly correct.  Good seeing all night long.

No clouds.  Good seeing.  Dark sky.  Milky Way was visible.  A few early Perseids streaked across the sky.  Moonrise was around 2am.  I finished shortly before then.

A Good Cloud

The regular readers of this blog have probably picked up on that I'm not fond of clouds.  Sure, it can be cloudy all day and I'd be fine with that.  On weekend nights?  Shoo, clouds.

There is a cloud, however, that I developed much fondness for last night as I explored Sagittarius with the telescope.  Sagittarius?  It is approaching Sagittarius season!

I was exploring Sagittarius with the help of SkySafari and my handy DIY telescope joystick controller, and I stumbled across the Sagittarius Star Cloud, also known as Messier 24.

Gorgeous, isn't it? (Click on this image and others to make them larger...)

The Sagittarius Star Cloud, 8 frames at 4 seconds stacked
Sagittarius is full of beautiful stars and nebula.  Here are a couple of the others that I imaged this morning:

The Lagoon Nebula

Also known as Messier 8.  It is a giant interstellar cloud and is classified as an emission nebula.  Look at all of the beautiful internal structure.

The Lagoon Nebula, 19 frames at 4 seconds stacked

The Trifid Nebula

Also known as Messier 20. The Trifid Nebula also gets some "fame" from the original Star Trek series episode, "The Alternative Factor" (1967).  An image of the Trifid Nebula featured prominently when the episode culminated in a battle between the antagonists in a corridor leading to alternative universes near the Trifid Nebula.

The Trifid Nebula, 25 frames at 4 seconds stacked

Each of these images was captured with only minutes of integration time.  No post processing necessary.  I used SharpCap, my 10 inch Dob, and a ZWO ASI294MC imager.  I like the ASI294MC for its wide field of view, its deep well, and high sensitivity.



  1. I always learn something from your blog posts. Today I learned what the Sagittarius Star Cloud is. Glad you had such favorable seeing conditions!

  2. Great images! I've been reading about SharpCap and wondering if it would work with a DSLR on a tracking setup. It would be fun to capture some wide(r) angle views of the Milky Way with nice scenery in the foreground.

    1. Thanks! SharpCap is amazing. Its license is a subscription model and cost me about twelve dollars a year -- it's a bargain, but most of its capabilities are free to use -- more than enough to give it a try. I've read a few threads on the forums about people using it with DSLRs so there is a some hope you'll have success.


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