05/12/2024 – A Sunflower on Mother’s Day

After a couple weeks of a whole lot of clouds, Sunday was a nice night. Temperatures in the mid-50s, clear, and only a little sliver of a Moon. It has been a bit since I collected any light in the SV503 (been playing with the SeeStar). A really nice night to be back on the bigger scope. This session was short, but I collected some nice light from the Sunflower galaxy.

One of the things I was trying out during this session was guiding using PHD2 instead of the internal Ekos guider. PHD2 is running on the Raspberry Pi connecting to the camera and mount on the local indiserver. Ekos is connecting to the gear and PHD2 from my desktop PC. This seemed to work fairly well, but not sure I really gained anything. I’ll do a bit more testing to see. Other than some initial issues with getting the exposure length and gain right all worked as expected.

I removed the focal reducer and installed the UA field flattener. The flattener weighs a bit more than the reducer so I had to rebalance things. Ekos auto focus set the steps at 2035 and plate solving is calculating the focal length at 710.4 mm (F/7). Need to adjust my spacing on the flattener, it should be closer to 702 mm. Ran the Ekos polar alignment routine and it was pretty close so it only took a few minutes to get it dialed in.

I had planned to try for NGC 4038/NGC 4039, the Antennae Galaxies, but it was too low and getting into the trees in the yard. I ended up on M63 which was in a much better area of the sky. I only captured a little over an hour of M63’s photons since it was a school night. Packed things up around 11:15 PM.

Primary (Imaging) Secondary (Guiding)
Scope: SVBONY SV503 102ED
Reducer/Flattener: UA 1.0x Flattener
Filter: None
Camera: ZWO ASI294 MC Pro, Cooled to -10 C
Focuser: ZWO EAF
Mount: Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro
Scope: SVBONY SV106 60mm Guide Scope
Camera: Orion Star Shooter Autoguider (OSSAG)
Telescope Control, Image Acquisition, and Image Processing Software
Equipment Control and Imaging Software: KStars/Ekos connecting to INDI Server on a Raspberry Pi
Stacking/Processing Software: GraXpert, Siril astronomical image processing tool, Siril’s Interactive Companion (Sirilic)

This is Messier 63, the Sunflower Galaxy, a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Canes Venatici. M63 is approximately 29 million light years from us and contains around 400 billion stars. This stack is of 15 x 300 second exposures at 121 gain, 30 offset, and bin 2×2. Stacked, cropped, and processed with GraXpert and Siril.
Messier 63, the Sunflower Galaxy, 15 x 300 seconds 05/12/2024
Very pretty galaxy, and definitely the best results I have had for M 63. It really needed some flats, there are a couple of dust motes in the image. I got up early and shot some flats, but there is something wrong with them. I was able to mess around with the histogram, clipping a little on the black level, to make the dust motes barely noticeable… but it would be better with flats. I may try to shoot some more later on.

Hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day!

I’ll do a bit of a write up on my PHD2 configuration soon. Clear skies…

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