The Pleiades

The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters and M45, are a great fall and winter treat in the night sky. To my eyes they look like a small cloud without binoculars but those with better vision can resolve several of the stars in the cluster. There are actually more than seven but those with the keenest vision can usually get that many. I was eager to try this before it disappeared for the season and a rare clear night presented itself.

Since this was a Sunday night I set the equipment up on my back deck and did this at home. The advantage was that it saved me two hours of travel time. The disadvantage was that the light pollution was even worse. I’d been told by those with more experience that it was possible to image from light polluted skies but that it would take significantly more integration time to make up for that extra noise source. I wanted to see just how much worse it would be and if it would be practical for me to image from home.

My 12V camera power adapter had not arrived yet so I was limited in time. It was in the high 30’s (Fahrenheit) so somewhat warmer than the night I photographed Orion but I knew the camera batteries would not last much longer In fact they lasted just long enough to capture 30 light frames, 30 dark frames and 30 flat frames. It turns out I would not have been able to get more than 30 light frames anyway because the neighbors house was slowly “rising” through the last few frames. This had M45 right in the middle of the sky glow coming from Leesburg making it about a worst case scenario. I wasn’t sure what I’d get.

For the most part the problems I had the first night were resolved. I still had a plate solving issue but managed to work around it and think I know the root cause so the next time out it should, hopefully, work properly.

I processed the images in PixInsight. This is a complicated but very capable image processing application and I’ve got a long way to go in being proficient but with the help of some tutorials on the web was able to make a decent image out of the minimal data I had.

I think two minute exposures are about the longest I can manage at 200mm without guiding.

Overall, the noise pollution made its presence known. The Orion image is cleaner than this one. I would need much more integration time to clean this up but M45 is too low in the sky to try again until the fall. Even so, I did capture some of the nebulosity around the stars.

I’m not sure what the next target will be. The power adapter for the camera has arrived but so has the moon so it will be a couple of weeks before I can try again.

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