Some CCD Images taken with an SBIG ST-8e.

Images last updated 2005/01/07

A couple of years ago I had the good fortune to host 2 visiting American amateurs - John Gleason and Steve Mandel. Despite some absolutley dreadful weather on this visit they came back again (well, Steve had been here before during 1986 to see Halley's Comet and knew what to expect when the weather did clear). At the end of their next visit they thought they might keep coming back and so asked whether I'd mind if they stored their equipment in my observatory to save them the expense of shipping it back and forth across the Pacific Ocean.

How could I refuse?! The deal allowed me to use the equipment (carefully!) in the 50 weeks of the year that they weren't here, and in return I saved them the cost of air freight. My wife thought that I'd hypnotised them into this, but it was their idea. Honest.

And thus was the Australian/American Imaging Station (AAIS) formed. I am forever indebted to John and Steve for the hours of fun I've had to endure at their expense.

The equipment consists of an SBIG ST-8e and CFW-8 filter wheel. The filters are the standard red, green & blue SBIG inteference set, and a very nice 3nm bandpass H-alpha filter by Custom Scientific. There is also a 130-mm f/6 Astrophysics Starfire refractor sitting on a Losmandy G-11 mount. An ST-4 autoguider completes the package. When used with the refractor, the ST-8 produces pixels 2·38 arcseconds square, and a field of view of 60 × 40 arcminutes. A superb wide-field imaging system, especially when coupled with the H-alpha filter.

Me, the equipment (here mounted outside the observatory during their visit, but subsequently moved inside), John Gleason and Steve Mandel. The equipment requires US 110V power so there are 240V down-converters before the normal power supplies - hence an extremely messy collection of wires and boxes around the telescope.

Update! Things progress with the AAIS. I've bought a share in the ST-8e and the G-11 mount has been sold. This is to make room for the Paramount ME mount that John has bought and is sending down.

Update! The Paramount ME mount is installed and in use. What a great mount! Thanks John.

Update! My 30cm f/5 truss-tube Newtonian is now attached to the Paramount ME. The mount handles the telescope with ease - what a great mount. I know that the telescope doesn't look great - that shiney black mess of a tube is lightweight, clear polycarbonate sheeting rolled into a tube and covered on the inside with black flocked paper (from Edmunds) for baffling. Unfortunately, the glue shows through and looks dreadful - but it works well.


Here are a few of the results of my "looking after" Steve and John's equipment. I didn't initially use it much as I had just started construction of my dome and spent most of my time on that project. The majority of the images here are through the H-alpha filter of emission nebula, but there are a couple of tri-colour and unfiltered images. Make sure to visit John's web page for his fantastic images taken while visiting Coonabarabran.

The images are usually only shown at half resolution - this CCD chip is a lot bigger than my trusty Cookbook 245 chip (which has been relegated to being an occasional autoguider). They are presented in reverse chronological order - the oldest images are at the bottom of the page, with the newest ones added at the top of the list. The oldest aren't very good but it takes a while to learn how to use this stuff - plus as we found out later the G-11 had some bearing problems which made tracking erratic and reduced the success rate.

C/2004 Q2 Machholz
(157kB)
A 50mm f/1.4 Pentax lens (set to f/2.8-4) was used for this sum of 5, 5 minute exposures on 2005/01/06, as the comet passed by the Pleides. Taken right after the shot below.
C/2004 Q2 Machholz
(93kB)
A 210mm lens (Vivitar 28-210 zoom) was used for this sum of 5, 5 minute exposures on 2005/01/06. Note the changed attitude of the twin tails in the week between this and the shot below.
C/2004 Q2 Machholz
(137kB)
A 210mm lens (Vivitar 28-210 zoom, actually) was used for this sum of 6, 5 minute exposures on 2004/12/29. Note the ion and dust tails are at significantly different angles due to the angle at which we are seeing this comet.
IC 5148
(87kB)
tri-colour A tri-colour of a nice planetary in Grus which my wife christened the iced doughnut nebula after seeing my original H-alpha shot. It's rather faint and took 10 RGB shots (each R & G 4 minutes, B 8 minutes) before the noise became acceptibly reduced. Cropped, but at full scale. Note the many faint galaxies visible.
4179 (Toutatis)
(95kB)
Red The very close approach of asteroid 4179 (Toutatis), on the night of 2004/09/28 with the 30cm f/5 and ST-8e. A 15 minute exposure (almost full moon!) through a red filter. The galaxy at the upper right is IC 4810 - about the only object it passed close to appear in the same frame while on it's travels through the constellations. The field is slightly over ½° wide; at the time the asteroid was travelling about 1° per hour.
LBN 72
(48kB)
H-alpha A close-up of the brightest part of this relatively unknown region in Serpens, near M16, of which this shot is a much wider view. A most peculiar looking object, I think.
NGC 6726/7/9 region
Corona Australis region

(60kB)
tri-colour The 30cm f/5 was used for a close-up of this beautiful region in Corona Australis. Lots of dusty reflections around bright stars. In the upper right is a portion of a very dense, dark cloud (Bernes 157). Nearby is the globular cluster NGC 6723. Visually, this region is superb to explore, offering just about every sort of galactic object (it just lacks a PN). I fell that the image is let down by the coma of the f/5 mirror, visible in the bright stars to the upper left.
NGC 3576
(95kB)
H-alpha The 30cm f/5 was used for a close-up of this region in Carina. This is a actually a 2-part mosiac as it doesn't quite fit in one shot.
Transit of Venus
Follow the link to see some of my images of the 2004/06/08 transit of Venus.
NGC 3576 / NGC 3603
(83kB)
H-alpha The 13cm f/6 was used for a quick exposure of this region in Carina.
C/2001 Q4 NEAT
(49kB)
The 13cm f/6 Starfire was used for this unfiltered shot of Comet NEAT (2001 Q4); 2004/05/12. The sum of 10, 2 minute exposures. The bright star interfering with this picture is Beta Cnc.
C/2001 Q4 NEAT
(44kB)
tri-colour I swore I would never take another CCD tri-colour image of a comet again. The moving comet makes the stars appear as red, green and blue streaks which I think looks dreadful - sort of like this. But I thought if I took lots of exposures and then median each colour channel then the stars would go away and the image would look more pleasing. It almost worked.
C/2001 Q4 NEAT
(45kB)
The 13cm f/6 Starfire was used for this unfiltered shot of Comet NEAT (2001 Q4); 2004/05/11. The sum of 19, 2 minute exposures.
C/2001 Q4 NEAT
(62kB)
Back to the 13cm f/6 Starfire for this unfiltered shot of Comet NEAT (2001 Q4); 2004/05/10. The sum of 15, 2 minute exposures - the comet is already noticeably fading. The autoguider was more successful at tracking on the comet's nucleus this time.
NGC 4945
(86kB)
Unfiltered through the 30cm f/5, shown at half scale. Also the sum of 5, 5 minute exposures.
M104 - Sombrero
(27kB)
Unfiltered through the 30cm f/5, shown at half scale. The sum of 5, 5 minute exposures. This image (28kB) is full scale, but cropped.
Asteroid 46568
(111kB)
While I was imaging without a filter, I had a go at an asteroid. Not just any asteroid, mind you, but 46568, also known as 1991SL but now named "Stevenlee" - a most wonderful honour. The sum of 6, 5 minute exposures; long enough to show a decent trail. Note also asteroid 28370 near the upper right edge (in this cropped image) which is a main belt asteroid and so has a shorter path at a different angle to 46569. "My" asteroid is a Hungaria type; with semi-major typically just under 2.0 AU (so it's inside the inner edge of the main belt), almost circular (e~0.1) and of moderately high inclination (~20 deg). There are also a number of faint galaxies visible in the image.
C/2001 Q4 NEAT
(39kB)
Comet NEAT (2001 Q4) unfiltered through the 30cm f/5; 2004/05/09. The sum of 30, 40 second exposures - any longer exposure and the nucleus saturated. The Paramount was told to track at the comet's rate. Nice mount (or have I already said that!).
Horsehead
(63kB)
H-alpha While I had my old 12cm f/5 refractor attached to the ST-8e, I thought I'd try it with the H-alpha filter. I was stunned with the quality. I may try this again. I grabbed this region as it was low in the west, but it still looks fine. The sum of 5, 5 minute exposures guided with an ST-4 on an 8cm f/9 refractor.
C/2001 Q4 NEAT
(43kB)
Comet NEAT (2001 Q4) unfiltered through my old 12-cm f/5 Refractor. 2004/04/25. Not quite the same quality as the Starfire but a shorter focal length hence wider field. Again, shot from my mount but the ST-4 tracked on the bright star passing near the nucleus instead of the comet, hence the comet isn't as sharp as it should be.
C/2001 Q4 NEAT
(52kB)
Comet NEAT (2001 Q4) unfiltered through the 13-cm f/6 Starfire. 2004/04/20. Includes a satellite trail. I used my old mount and attempted to autoguide with an ST-4 on the comet's nucleus through my 8cm guidescope, with partial success. Nice structure starting to show in the tail.
C/2001 Q4 NEAT
(19kB)
Comet NEAT (2001 Q4) unfiltered through the 30-cm f/5. 2004/04/16.
NGC 2359
(117kB)
False colour A false-colour image of Thor's helmet, through the 30-cm f/5. H-alpha makes up the red channel, [OIII] the green, while a straight Blue filter makes the blue. Not as nice as the Eta Carinae shot below, I feel, but you can still make out the H-alpha shock fronts quite well.
Eta Carina
(64kB)
False colour A false-colour image of this fantastic region through the 30-cm f/5. H-alpha makes up the red channel, [OIII] the green, while a straight Blue filter makes the blue.
Eta Carinae nebula
(51kB)
H-alpha The H-alpha channel of the above false colour image. Processed to show greater contrast, especially in the dark globules.
RCW32 (Vela)
(58kB)
H-alpha Part of the Vela region of nebulosity. Visible as a small, bright blob at the top of my wide field image of this area, this image shows it in detail through the 30-cm f/5. Rather reminiscent of NGC 2024 in Orion, I think.
NGC 2359 (Thor's helmet)
(93kB)
H-alpha A bubble blown out from a Wolf-Rayet star. Splendid visualy and very nice with the H-alpha filter to bring out the detail. 5, 30 minute exposures through the 30-cm f/5.
Horsehead
(36kB)
H-alpha Enough said! Through the 30-cm f/5 Newtonian.
Eta Carinae nebula
(54kB)
H-alpha Just a single 5 minute exposure through the 30-cm f/5 and H-alpha filter shows some wonderful detail in the very centre of this object. It would take lots of exposures to make a mosaic at this resolution. Perhaps...
M46 & NGC 2438
(66kB)
H-alpha H-alpha image of the open cluster M46 with the lovely bonus of NGC 2438. M46 mostly disappears through the H-alpha filter, but the PN comes out nicely. Shown at half resolution from a single 30 minute exposure through the 30-cm f/5. Here is a crop of the PN.
NGC 1763 (LMC) (68kB)
NGC 1763 (low contrast crop)
H-alpha H-alpha image of a great nebula in the LMC. I've also imaged this region before with the AP130 but it lacked decent exposure time. This is a stack of 5, 30 minute exposures, shown at half resolution. Also included are NGCs 1760, 1769 and 1773 as well as the open clusters NGC 1761 and 1776. The low contrast crop is shown at full resolution and shows the detail in the brighter parts of the nebula. A wonderful object both visually and with the CCD.
NGC 2070 (Tarantula)
(50kB)
H-alpha H-alpha image of the Tarantula in the LMC through the 30cm f/5. 4, 30 minute exposures.
The SUN - 2003/10/30
The SUN - 2003/10/31
The Sun - with 3 naked-eye sunspots - through Baader Solar film on the AP130 refractor. Full resolution - it's worth it.
NGC 346 (SMC)
(80kB)
H-alpha H-alpha image of another SMC nebula region. I've also imaged this region before with the AP130. A stack of 8, 30 minute exposures, shown at half resolution. I intended to do the left side (NGC 371) as another image sequence but haven't quite managed it - yet. Both of these NGC objects are classified as open clusters but the H-alpha filter looses the stars but brings out the nebulosity.
NGC 249 region (SMC)
(115kB)
H-alpha H-alpha image of the SMC region around NGCs 249 & 267. I've imaged this region before with the AP130, but I wanted to do it again with the 30cm. I like it. A stack of 13, 30 minute exposures, shown at half scale.
IC 5148
(46kB)
H-alpha H-alpha image of a nice, round and little known planetary nebula in Grus - through my 30cm f/5 Newtonian on the Paramount. Full resolution, but cropped. My wife christened this the "iced doughnut" nebula.
M20
(100kB)
tri-colour Quick tri-colour of the coulourful M20. I was demonstrating how to take tri-colour images and M20 was available - and always works well. The contrast is a bit high and the colour saturation a bit much, but I like it anyway. 30cm f/5 Newtonian on the Paramount. Half resolution.
NGC 246
(34kB)
H-alpha H-alpha image of the large, intricately shaped planetary nebula NGC 246 - through my 30cm f/5 Newtonian on the Paramount. Half resolution.
M22
(103kB)
tri-colour Tri-colour of M22 - a nice globular cluster in Sagittarius. Through my 30cm f/5 Newtonian newly mated to the Paramount. Half resolution.
Full moon
(141kB)
The full moon (within an hour of geometric full moon, although not in eclipse so it still shows some shadows) through the 13cm Starfire + 3nm H-alpha filter. Full resolution. There is also this version (163kb) at higher contrast. Some like it like that, but not real.
Mercury transit 2003/05/07
(132kB)
One of the sequence I took of the transit of Mercury on the afternoon of 2003/05/07. 13cm Starfire + Baader solar film + 3nm H-alpha filter. Full resolution. Mercury is the small spot at the bottom of the image.
IC 2944, 2948
(96kB)
H-alpha Nebulosity near Lambda Centaurus. Wide angle shot with a 28-210 zoom lens set to about 200mm.
IC 2177 region
(94kB)
H-alpha Extensive nebulosity which crosses the border of the constellations of Monoceros and Canis Major. Shot with a 28-210 zoom lens set to about 200mm.
NGC 2736 (the Pencil)
(119kB)
H-alpha SNR (?) in Vela. 2×30 minutes with the AP130, totally unguided on the Paramount ME.
NGC 7293 (the Helix)
(45kB)
tri-colour The well-known planetary nebula - The Helix. Taken with the 13cm Starfire and standard SBIG colour filters. 2 each of red, green and blue, for 12·5, 12·5 and 20 minutes respectively.
NGC 7293 (the Helix)
(58kB)
H-alpha The well-known planetary nebula - The Helix. Taken with the 13cm Starfire and 3nm bandpass H-alpha filter. The sum of 3, 20 minute exposures. The contrast is turned up to show the extensive outer nebulosity (without loosing too much detail in the bright regions).
LBN 58
(119kB)
H-alpha You'll find this nebula some 3 degrees west of M16. Also known as Sh2-46, it is not a visual target - at least I've never seen it. The sum of 3, 20 minute exposures, but it set before I could get more so it looks a little noisy.
NGC 346 region
(61kB)
H-alpha NGC 346 (the big one on the right), NGC 371 and lots of other nebulosity in the SMC. These are listed as open clusters, but the H-alpha filter shows lots of nebulosity. Taken with the 13cm Starfire and 3nm bandpass H-alpha filter. The sum of 5, 20 minute exposures. If this shot looks a little fuzzy - it is. I forgot to focus at the start of the night and the refractor is quite sensitive to temperature changes...and the temperature was a little cooler than the previous night I had observed.
LBN 72
(115kB)
H-alpha You'll find this nebula some 2 degrees north of M16. Not an easy visual target except for the brightest bit on the right. NGC 6604 (an open cluster) is also found in this very extensive nebula (left of centre) but does not stand out. This is a mosaic taken over several nights as I decided to add more area to it. Shown at roughly ¼ the original scale.
M16
(42kB)
H-alpha Nothing unexpected here. The sum of 6, 20 minute exposures through the H-alpha filter. More detail of the "pillars" is shown in this full-resolution, high-contrast section (35kb)..
M17
(42kB)
H-alpha There is a lot of nebulosity in this region! The sum of 8, 20 minute exposures through the H-alpha filter.
The SUN
(143kB)
The Sun through a Baader Solar film on the 13-cm refractor. I am amazed at the detail visible in this image, shown here at full resolution. I'd never tried imaging the Sun with this equipment but the big (naked-eye) sunspot just begged to be recorded. To get the exposure short enough for the CCD shutter I actually used the H-alpha filter as well as the solar film. Even so, the centre is only just below saturation. (The filter is not narrow enough to call this picture a solar H-alpha shot. One day...)
The MOON
(59kB)
Just past first quarter Moon; prime focus through the 13-cm refractor. Shown here at full resolution.
IC 2948
(51kB)
H-alpha IC 2948 taken while testing my old 20-cm f/4·5 Newtonian with the ST-8e. The sum of 6, 10 minute exposures.
Vela SNR region
(156kB)
H-alpha A 50mm lens (stopped down to f/4) coupled to the ST-8e. Two 20 minute exposures showing the Vela SNR, Gum nebula etc. This needs to be re-shot as a mosaic with the nebulosity better placed, but still quite exciting for a test exposure.
Crux
(147kB)
H-alpha A 50mm lens (stopped down to f/4) coupled to the ST-8e. A single, 5 minute exposure showing the whole of the constellation of the Southern Cross, including the coalsack dark nebula and parts of Centaurus. The bright nebula to the lower left is IC 2948 (shown in detail above).
Orion
(137kB)
H-alpha A 50mm lens (stopped down to f/4) coupled to the ST-8e. Shows the region near the belt stars - M42, the horsehead, NGC 2024 and Barnards loop. A stack of 5, 20 minute exposures. Pixels are over 37 arcseconds across, and the field of view is 15¾° × 10½°.
Eta Carinae
(110kB)
H-alpha A 210mm (actually a 28-210 Vivitar zoom) lens (f/5·6) coupled to the ST-8e. A stack of 3, 20 minute exposures showing this extensive nebula. Pixels are almost 9 arcseconds across and the field of view is 3¾° × 2½°.
NGC1763
(47kB)
H-alpha A stack of 30, 4 minute exposures showing this extensive nebula in the LMC. A difficult visual object, its delicate loops come alive in this image. This LRGB shot combines RGB exposures with the H-alpha for the L channel.
C/2000 WM1
(52kB)
tri-colour A series of unguided 2 minute exposures through red, green and blue filters (5,5,10) aligned in software on the comet head to produce this dreadful tri-colour image (I don't know why I bother with tri-colour comet images - I never like them!). Better is this stack of 9, 1 minute exposures without a filter. The comet had faded noticeably over the past few days.
C/2000 WM1
(56kB)
A series 10 of unguided 1 minute exposures aligned in software on the comet's head to produce this image. The 2 blobs near the head are galaxies - NGC 7590 and NGC 7599. In this image the individual frames are aligned to the stars so you can better see those galaxies, plus many other much fainter ones of the Abell clusters A5187 and A3998 in the background.
M4 (133kB)
NGC 362 (99kB)
NGC 104 (74kB)
Some tests with the ST-8 on my 30cm f/5. Unfortunately, the ST-8 is too heavy and distorts the focuser mount and so the images show various degrees of de-collimation at the edges of the frames (the size and orientation changes depending on where the telescope is pointed). Each image is the sum of a few 10 second exposures. Very disappointing.
C/2001 A2
(50kB)
Skirting the horizon now! A series 3 of unguided 1 minute exposures aligned to produce this image. The brightening/blurring to the upper-right is caused by a distant tree getting in the field. The last I saw of this comet.
C/2001 A2
(50kB)
A series of 4 unguided 1 minute exposures aligned to produce this image.
C/2001 A2
(57kB)
A series of 5 unguided 1 minute exposures aligned to produce this image. This is a nice comet.
C/2001 A2
(54kB)
A series of 6 unguided 1 minute exposures aligned to produce this image.
NGC267 region (SMC)
(90kB)
H-alpha A stack of 6, 10 minute exposures showing extensive nebulosity in the SMC. NGC 267, 249, 261, 248 etc. Most of the nebulosity doesn't even have an NGC designation. Not easy visual targets, but outstanding in this shot, I think.
M8
(35kB)
H-alpha A bit of tracking error is evident in this stack of 8, 10 minute exposures - but nice anyway. Must re-do this one day.
NGC 6334 etc - Cat's Paw
(44kB)
H-alpha My first reasonable image with the CCD/telescope. A stack of 5, 10 minute exposures.
Moon crescent
(45kB)
H-alpha I love the field of view of this combination! A quick snap to see how it looks. Shown at full resolution.
M20
(132kB)
tri-colour First attempt at using the system. A bit of trail, and it clouded up before I could get a second blue frame. It looks nice, anyway. A hint of more fun to come!

home back to Cookbook CCD to image processing


Page last updated 2005/01/07
Steven Lee