Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Solar System in Review

I can sit and complain about clouds being so bad this year all I want, but the fact of the matter is 2014 was a great year and I'm blessed to spend it with my friends and family!

Spanning from January 4th to December 30th (Never give up!), all photos are mine, including the Earth and all taken within the calendar year of 2014.

While last year was the year of the comet with 4, this was the year of the asteroid for me with over 12.  I say over 12 because as I learned to hunt these tiny and faint things amidst the stars I found some images of poor quality and sometimes iffy results.

Here's the high resolution version on imgur as google shrinks it.

Here's the high res version with labels on imgur

Sun - 20141021

Sunspot map from the same day:

My other solar photos here

Earth via my amateur nature collection


Lunar Eclipse - 20141008

Lunar Eclipse 2014

Mars - 20140327

This image was featured on the Spaceweather!
Mars 2013-2014

Asteroids and minor planets

This year was the year of the asteroid as I got my MPC site designation by observing 3 asteroids in one field of view over 3 nights!

My work in progress table
Jupiter - 20140104

This image was Published in Sky & Telescope April 2014
Jupiter 2013
Saturn - 20140508
Saturn 2014
Uranus - 20141112

I also made a moon animation!
Solar System - Uranus - All years
Neptune - 20140827

Neptune All Years

MISSING from 2014 are:

Astronomy / Solar System / Venus / All years


If you enjoyed this post please check out my other work on my homepage:

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Mike Phillips

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

October saw some great clear skies - part 2, the nebula edition

This edition is very nebula heavy.  Nebula are interesting in their aesthetics and beauty but are foreboding, inhospitable places.  In sharp contrast I love galaxies, they're tiny, life bearing universes unto themselves.  They are like turning up a rock and finding varied things of all kinds, rocks, bugs, worms.  Each galaxy too is unique, but i get ahead of myself thats post 3 of my wonderful start to fall deep sky observing!  Also be sure to check out part 1

IC 1848 the Soul Nebula

I had previously shot this area last year   One major difference that jumps out is the B&W vs false color from this year.  The color in all my newer nebula shots is false, created in photoshop where I turn the white areas of the nebula 'red' and the bright stars 'blue'.  The other things to notice are the duration of subs/total as well as the roundness resulting from better guiding, which is a combination of better guide cam and better overall polar alignment techniques.  Also the collimation was a bit better for this years attempt!

Second up is NCC 281 or the Pacman Nebula.

Here's a link to the 1920x1080 wallpaper edition!

Finally batting clean up for round 2 of my fall, clear and deep sky collection...

NGC 1499 the California Nebula.  I think this is the area around the San Francisco Bay area!  :)

Thanks for looking and be sure to check out all my Astronomy related images and follow me on Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

October saw some great clear skies -- Part 1

This month was full of many clear days.  I took advantage

First up is NGC 100, which according to has "a mere apparent size of 6.2 by 0.6 arcmins." It is also described as "exceptionally elongated galaxy, with a very small nucleus in comparison to its overall size. Such galaxies are sometimes called "superthin" galaxies." Nearby is PGC 1509358 a 17.9th mag galaxy.

Also in the lower left is UGC00219 a bright 15.5mag at a distance of 240,700,000 LY

Come poke around the full 1:1 resolution here

Next up is NGC 7814, another edge on galaxy. The one sports a nice dust lane and in contrast to the above galaxy, NGC100, this galaxy, NGC 7814 is a spiral. It "is sometimes referred to as "the little sombrero", a miniature version of Messier 104." ( Edge on galaxies are very fun and the reddish orange core might be slightly exaggerated in this photo unintentially as I had a color balance issue.

Here's a link to the full 1:1 resolution

In the high res photo, the most astounding thing I've found to date is SDSSJ000302.45 or PGC3377433 in another catalog. At mag 20+ this tiny galaxy has a measured recessional velocity of 115421 km/s in converted distance it's 5.3 BLY away!!! WHAT?!!

Between the galaxy NGC7814 and the three bright starts to its right is the faint galaxy in question. Here's a closer look.



Blink Animation

Finally up a a face on galaxy and part of the Messier catalog, M74.  It's two main spiral arms make it a Grand design spiral galaxy ( ).

Full res here!!!

My full album of all galaxy photos -

All deep sky photos are here -

All photos are taken with my custom 14" f/4.5 Newtonian ()

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A refreshed Little Dumbbell - M76

I had previously shot this target on the same telescope ( +Akule  ) last year but used a DSLR.

Here's my more recent effort with a CCD.
Astrobin has the full 1:1 resolution

The full 1:1, HD (1920x1080) resolution for your desktop wallpaper 

Now for the somewhat unfair side by side CCD vs DSLR
The DSLR, a Canon 7D is on the left from last year.  The new SBIG STF-8300M is on the right.
What is really unfair is that the integration times are MUCH different.
Still to me, there is a HUGE difference and I wouldn't want to use a DSLR as my main camera for this type of work.

The most fun was that I was inside playing games while the image was taken using Sequence Generator Pro and monitored via teamviewer.  The clouds started to pass but the guiding held up so I kept going!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Uranus and 5 moon animation

Taken over the span of 36 minutes on September 28th, 2014.  I was able to image; Titania (mag. 13.9), dimmest Miranda (mag. 16.5), Ariel (mag. 14.4 ~Pluto's brightness), Umbriel (mag. 15.0) and Oberon (mag. 14.1).

First here is the untouched animation showing Uranus at the same exposure of 1sec.

Next I added the color and properly exposed Uranian disk.  I shot at a nominal focal length using the 2.5x powermate and the soon to be older Flea3 camera.  Next time I'd love to get the QHY and 5x Powernate!

Also relevant, my 4 year old sounded out Uranus to...


I love it!

Also the fact i can image down to 16th magnitude at this focal length has me wondering about splitting Pluto and Charon!

Monday, September 22, 2014

And then there was ONE

I'm rolling through the Messier Catalog.  It's 8 or so years in the works but I now have images of 109 of the 110 objects!  Only one left is, M79 in Lepus the constellation just south of Orion.  I will hopefully image it before the end of the year.

Total list and progress is on my home page -

On a single clear night, mind you there haven't been many, I shot 3 more.

Here's M72, which I thought I had shot previously, but mis labled it so I had to shoot it for real this time!

Next up is either an asterism or open cluster, it's listed as both in different places, but M73 is the simple group of 4 stars in the upper right.

 M30 came out very nicely after a few battles with software and alignment issues in the previous two shots.  Here is the full field.  But click here on Astrobin for the full res

Here is the full res cropped at HD res.

While I waited for my targets to clear the trees I found a small group of galaxies, NGC 6702 & 6703.  Amongst them are many other galaxies, mag 15-16+  I found no measure of distance or radial velocity, which I initially found intriguing but am no annoyed I don't know how far away they are!

Here's a overlay with labels.

For more trippy 'vastness of the universe reads' link to an old post about Abell 262 here

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A few more for the Messier colletion

I struggle with trees in my yard that obscure a large portion of my night sky. I setup my 14" telescope in one of the only areas that get to -30° dec or better and waited for my targets to clear the treetops. In most cases the target barely cleared and there are dark artifacts where the trees obscured rich star fields near the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

I really wanted to get all the Messier objects from my own house and in this particular spot I cannot see the North Celestial Pole (NCP), which meant I had poor alignment and instead of fixing I limped along in a rush to catch my window. That meant that most of these are unguided shots.

M70 is at a distance of about 29,300 light years away from Earth and close to the Galactic Center. It is roughly the same size and luminosity as its neighbour in space, M69.

Solved -

A photo I've already done, but I have to shoot when the skies are clear. Here's open cluster, M23.

Solved -

Next up is a tiny open cluster, Cl Berkeley 90, C 2033+466, Ocl 196 (ref - ( didn't have labels for this, but I had identifed it via Cartes du Ceil's default catalogs and did find the above link and do see something faint.  This was more of a finding a guide star test.

Next up is another guiding test/time killer.  This didn't come out nicely at all, but here's NGC 6445, the Little Gem - or is it the Box Nebula? (

The last cluster I have shot before.  M54 is unique in the Messier catalog in that it was "Previously thought to belong to our Galaxy at a distance from Earth of about 50,000 light-years, it was discovered in 1994 that M54 most likely belongs to the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy (SagDEG),[7] making it the first globular cluster formerly thought to be part of our galaxy reassigned to extragalactic status, even if not recognized as such for nearly two and a quarter centuries." (ref -

Solved -

Finally as a special treat for you sticking with all these poor quality images, I present a rushed M17, 
The Omega Nebula, also known as the Swan Nebula, Checkmark Nebula, Lobster Nebula, and the Horseshoe Nebula is an H II region in the constellation Sagittarius. It was discovered by Philippe Loys de Chéseaux in 1745. Wikipedia. (ref -
Here's my previous attempt in my 6"

And Via my 14", +Akule

Here's a recent shot of my scope and if you want to learn more ask +Akule

Lastly you can see all my Messier objects I've shot to day here -
I have only 5 left to go!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

In case you didn't catch the live show, this week we kicked off a new style Amateur Astronomer hangout called "Nights at the Round Table" hosted by +John Kramer

Check out the replay for some introductions to the panelists, how we got started in imaging and a nice overview of our scopes, equipment and techniques.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mars 2014 ANIMATION!

Mars 2014 ANIMATION!

Using 7 processed and derotated source images from 7 different nights as seen in the labeled WinJUPOS map

Using Photoshop to feather out the seams, this map used for the final animation
A brief and related tutorial on processing Mars is here:

Akule Planetary Equipment H/W

Type: Custom Home Built Newtonian
Aperture: 356mm (14")
Focal Ratio: f/4.5 - 5x TeleVue Powermate at f/26 / 9,315mm EFL
Primary Mirror: Carl Zambuto 14" f/4.5
Camera: Point Grey Research Flea3 - FL3-FW-03S1M (monochrome)
Color Filter Wheel: True Technology UK (Tru-Tek) - SupraSlim with Visual Wide Wheel (built in diagonal)
Filters: Baader Planetarium LRGB Telescope Filter Set
Filters: Astronomik ProPlanet 742 IR-pass filter

Akule Planetary Processing S/W

OS: Lenovo W530 (Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit)
Acquisition: Torsten Edelmann’s Firecapture
Processing: AutoStakkert 2 -> AstraImage -> WinJUPOS -> PhotoShop -> Gimp

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