Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Imaging Messier Marathon

A plan is being hatched here for an Imaging Messier Marathon or IMM. Just as with the regular visual MM this is all about quantity, not quality.

I have an secondary motive for doing this. I am co-owner of a small (if it was any smaller I'd be the sole owner and employee!) that creates educational software for the earth sciences. One program is an astronomy package, and I'd like to use my images to populate a photo gallery of common objects.

But this isn't about putting together a lot of images for students to ooh and aah over. Nothing I do can compare to what other imagers create, much less resemble something like a HST image.  My goal is to show them what the Ms look like through a small telescope--say a 6" or 8" Dob. I don't want them to be disappointed at the fact that faint fuzzies usually look just like that until you either use a large telescope or view from a really dark site. Sadly, most kids (and teachers) don't have access to either.

I know from experience that showing them the planets (particularly Saturn, Jupiter, crescent Venus and Mars at opposition) and the Moon can really wow them. But often it's the case that they expect galaxies to be just like those bright, colorful spirals seen on the Internet. Sometimes they can't even find a galaxy or globular in the field of view because they're looking for something much more spectacular.

So my goal is to produce a set of images that give teachers and kids an idea of what something will look like in a small telescope operating under a suburban canopy of light. A few of the images will be accompanied by better images, when I'm able to take them.

This means for most objects I would shoot a handful of light frames. Even though most galaxies and nebula show no color visually, I would probably shoot everything with the same scheme: 30 second exposures, binned 2x2, maybe three frames each of RGB, using my ST8300 and TV102. No autoguiding, and only a simple polar align.

Detailed resolution won't be important because untrained eyes have a hard time picking that out, and colors can be muted at best. Quantity, not quality.

As an act of faith that it will eventually be clear at night, I mailed in my registration for Wisconsin Observer's Weekend. Hooray!

No comments:

Post a Comment