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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Needle Galaxy

Thanks to tsuyu (the rainy season in Japan), I’ve had some time to process some images. This image has an integration time of 680 minutes in LRGB. The cool thing about this image is that the photos were taken while I was asleep. The automation process in CCDAP worked wonderfully. Over the course of several weeks in May, the observatory was under the control of the computer. All I had to do was tell the program what I wanted to image and how many images to take and that was it. Opening/ closing of the dome, temperature regulation of the camera, focusing, mount control, autoguiding, weather monitoring (the dome did close once due to cloud cover), camera rotation, filter changes were entirely automated. I still needed to do the calibration frames, but most of the hard work was done. Automation is a good thing…when it works. The weakest link in the system is the focuser. I’ll be replacing the focuser very soon with a FastFocus system and Lacerta. This will give continuous focusing which should improve the FWHM. Currently the FWHM is around 3.5. I expect that number to decrease to around 2.5 or better. Stay tuned...

The Needle Galaxy lies about 40 million light years away. The edge of the galaxy is visible which makes this a popular target for astrophotographers. The distinct shape is narrow and pointed which is why it's called, "Needle Galaxy". If you look closely at the image you'll see some faint fuzzy objects which are other galaxies. For an even closer look at this galaxy, please check out the image NASA took with the Hubble Space Telescope. George

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