Saturday, February 28, 2015

Holding Pattern -Thoughts on the Coming Season

The winter of 2014-15 here in Maine has been the snowiest in a few years, akin to the 2010-11 season.  If that isn't enough to cancel imaging plans, February is going into the record books as the coldest recorded !  

Flanders Pond Observatory on The Last Day of February 
I've traded hobbies for the last month or so, swapping out the camera for a snow shovel.  Not much fun of course, but a break in the action gives one time to reflect on the upcoming season and the body of work to work on.  

The old observatory has seen better days and this spring will be a time for repairs.  The moist location has taken its toll since it's construction in 2003.  The floor and walls are needing attention, the roof however is good as the day it was built and can hold a good snow load and still slide with relative ease.

Imaging plans will include a fresh look at Sharpless 2-27 in Ophiuchus with an experimental technique for enhancing the capture of this very faint nebula. It is rarely imaged by any means and the combination of red sensitive color emulsion, proper filtering and clear dark skies will bring success.

Sharpless 2-27 in Ophiuchus

The emission nebula Sh2-27 is centered on the young zeta Ophiuchi, a runaway star.  This O type star excites the interstellar medium revealing the "bright" nebula.  The nebula itself is huge and if one could see it with the unaided eye would span 20 full Moon diameters!  Wide-field optics are necessary, even a small telescope cannot capture it in its entirety.  The image above was taken with a portrait lens looking just above the center halo of our Milky Way galaxy.

It is a challenging object to image.  It has a low declination and even natural sky brightness cloaks it from unfiltered cameras.  It usually shows up as a rather large and faint indistinctive patch of light on red sensitive film or astro modded DSLR's.  It came to my attention 10 years ago when imaging with a simple 35mm camera and 50mm lens.

Watch this blog for more information on Sharpless 2-27.  I'm hoping to best my results from 2008 and a full write up on this interesting object.