The Dark Side Observatory

in Weatherly, Pennsylvania, USA

Welcome to the Dark Side Observatory in Weatherly, Pennsylvania, USA.  The Dark Side Observatory is the personal observatory of Tom and Jane Wildoner. It was constructed in 2017 and continues to be modified as time permits. The links below present some of our images, clicking on an image will open a new window with the full resolution. IMAGE USE: We have a liberal policy in the use of our images, you may share/use the image as long as the image is not edited in any way and credit is given to Tom and Jane Wildoner, The Dark Side Observatory.  

Questions or comments can be addressed to thedarksideobservatory@gmail.com

You can follow us on FLICKR and on ASTROBIN. I also post images on my Facebook account at https://www.facebook.com/tom.wildoner and https://www.facebook.com/thedarksideobservatory as well as REDDIT. We also routinely post the latest images on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/tomwildoner/

Our images have been used on UNIVERSE TODAY, EARTHSKY, The Washington Post, Sky and Telescope, Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD), Amateur Astronomy Picture of the Day, WNEP News, BBC Sky at Night Magazine, SyFy.com, Live Science, Let's Talk Science, NASA, Amateur Astronomy Image of the Dat (AAPOD2), WBRE News, High Point Scientific and numerous online media outlets, E-Magazines and educational outlets.

Video content will also be posted on our YOUTUBE channel. (https://www.youtube.com/@thedarksideobservatory)

Photo Release: June 14, 2024

Open Cluster NGC 2420 in Gemini

This is the open star cluster NGC 2420 (also known as Collinder 154, Melotte 69) located in the constellation Gemini and it has an estimated age of 2.5 ± 0.5 billion years. The cluster counts about 685 member stars within a radius of 20 arc minutes, which corresponds to about 39 light years. 
Designation: NGC 2420Right Ascension (J2000.0): 07h 38m 23.8sDeclination (J2000.0): +21° 34' 27"Visual magnitude: 8.3 mag
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 54 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: February 5, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: June 10, 2024

Supernova 2024igg in Galaxy NGC 5876

This is the galaxy designated NGC 5876, Barred Spiral Galaxy in Boötes. The galaxy currently has a supernova designated as SN 2024igg. During my 30-minutes of collected data, SN 2024igg showed an estimated magnitude of 14.8. 
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at 0F, 30 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in TYCHO software. Image Date: June 9, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: June 8, 2024

Globular Cluster Messier 3 (M3)

Messier 3 (also known as M3 or NGC 5272) is a globular cluster found in the northern constellation of Canes Venatici. M3 is one of the three brightest globular clusters in the Northern hemisphere (along with M13 and M5). This cluster is made up of around 500,000 stars. It is estimated to be 11.4 billion years old. It is located at a distance of about 33,900 light-years away from Earth.
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Class: VIConstellation: Canes VenaticiRight ascension: 13h 42m 11.62sDeclination: +28° 22′ 38.2″Distance: 33.9 klyApparent magnitude (V): 6.39Apparent dimensions (V): 18′.0
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 100 x 60 second exposures, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Plus, processed in PixInsight. Image Date: April 15, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: June 5, 2024

Spiral Galaxy NGC 2683 in Lynx

NGC 2683 is a spiral galaxy in the northern constellation of Lynx. It was discovered by the astronomer William Herschel on February 5, 1788. My image was done using 2 hours and 42 minus of collected data, I really love the dark dust lanes visible in this galaxy.
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: LynxRight ascension: 08h 52m 41.3sDeclination: +33° 25′ 19″Distance: 30.53 ± 0.91 MlyApparent magnitude (V): 10.6
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 162 x 60 seconds (2 hours and 42 minutes), Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: February 5, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: May 17, 2024

Globular Cluster Messier 13 (M13)

Messier 13 (M13 or NGC 6205) is also referred to as the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, is one of the brightest and best known globular clusters in the northern skies. It shines at a magnitude of 5.8, is about 22,200 light years away and contains an estimated 300,000 stars.
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Class: VConstellation: HerculesRight ascension: 16h 41m 41.24sDeclination: +36° 27′ 35.5″Distance: 22.2 klyApparent magnitude (V): 5.8Apparent dimensions (V): 20 arcminutes
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 2h30m using 60 second exposures, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Plus, processed in PixInsight. Image Date: April 15, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: May 9, 2024

Irregular Galaxy NGC 4449 in Canes Venatici

NGC 4449, also known as Caldwell 21, is an irregular Magellanic type galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici, being located about 13 million light-years away. It is part of the M94 Group or Canes Venatici I Group that is relatively close to the Local Group hosting our Milky Way galaxy. This galaxy is similar in nature to the Milky Way's satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), though it is not as bright nor as large. NGC 4449 has a general bar shape, also characteristic of the LMC, with scattered young blue star clusters.
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: Canes VenaticiRight ascension: 12h 28m 11.9sDeclination: +44° 05′ 40″Distance: 13.08 ± 0.98 MlyApparent magnitude (V): 10.0
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 162 x 60 seconds (2 hours and 42 minutes), Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: February 4, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

FLICKR Image of the Day - May 9, 2024

Photo Release: May 6, 2024

 Spiral Galaxy NGC 2841 in Ursa Major

NGC 2841 is an unbarred spiral galaxy in the northern constellation of Ursa Major. J. L. E. Dreyer, the author of the New General Catalog, described it as, "very bright, large, very much extended 151°, very suddenly much brighter middle equal to 10th magnitude star". Initially thought to be about 30 million light-years distant, a 2001 Hubble Space Telescope survey of the galaxy's Cepheid variables determined its distance to be approximately 46 million light-years. (Wikipedia)
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: Ursa MajorRight ascension: 09h 22m 02.655sDeclination: +50° 58′ 35.32″Distance: 46.0 ± 4.9 MlyApparent magnitude (V): 10.1
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 355 x 60 seconds (5 hours and 55 minutes), Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: February 4, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: May 3, 2024

 The Eskimo Nebula - NGC 2392

This is the planetary nebula called The Eskimo Nebula or NGC 2392. It is a double-shell planetary nebula located in the constellation Gemini. Radial velocity measurements reveal that this diameter of the cloud is growing at a rate of 68 miles per second (Burnham, 1978).
Observation data: J2000 epochRight ascension: 07h 29m 10.7669sDeclination: +20° 54′ 42.488″Distance: 6520±560 lyApparent magnitude (V): 10.1Apparent dimensions (V): 48″ × 48″Constellation: Gemini
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 35 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: January 3, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: May 1, 2024

 Supernova 2023wrk in Galaxy NGC 3690

This is the galaxy designated NGC 3690 (Arp 299 - intersecting galaxies) in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy currently has a supernova designated as SN 2023wrk. It was discovered in November 2023. During my 60-minutes of collected data, SN 2023wrk showed an estimated magnitude of 18.2.
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at 0F, 60 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in TYCHO software. Image Date: April 30, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: April 30, 2024

 Supernova 2024bch in Galaxy NGC 3206

This is the galaxy designated NGC 3206 in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy currently has a supernova designated as SN 2024bch. It was discovered on January 29, 2024 by Patrick Wiggins from the University of Utah (USA). During my 60-minutes of collected data, SN 2024bch showed a magnitude of 16.5, significantly dimming from its peak magnitude in early February 2024 and from my observation on March 7, 2024 with a magnitude of 14.7.
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at 0F, 60 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in TYCHO software. Image Date: April 30, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: April 29, 2024

 NGC 2685 - The Helix Galaxy

Explanation Via APOD: NGC 2685 is a confirmed polar ring galaxy - a rare type of galaxy with stars, gas and dust orbiting in rings perpendicular to the plane of a flat galactic disk. The bizarre configuration could be caused by the chance capture of material from another galaxy by a disk galaxy, with the captured debris strung out in a rotating ring. Still, observed properties of NGC 2685 suggest that the rotating ring structure is remarkably old and stable. In this sharp view of the peculiar system also known as Arp 336 or the Helix galaxy, the strange, perpendicular rings are easy to trace as they pass in front of the galactic disk, along with other disturbed outer structures. NGC 2685 is about 50,000 light-years across and 40 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: Ursa MajorRight ascension: 08h 55m 34.75sDeclination: +58° 44′ 03.87″
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 5 hours and 24 minutes using 60 second exposures, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInsight. Image Date: February 6, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: April 25, 2024

 Messier 108 - The Surfboard Galaxy

Messier 108 (M108 or NGC 3556), nicknamed the Surfboard Galaxy, is a barred spiral galaxy located in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy lies at an approximate distance of 45.9 million light years from Earth and has an apparent magnitude of 10.7. 
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: Ursa MajorRight ascension: 11h 11m 31.0sDeclination: +55° 40′ 27″Distance: 8.8 Mpc (28.7 Mly)Apparent magnitude (V): 10.0
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 239 x 60 second exposures, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInisght. Image Date: December 19, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: April 23, 2024

 Sunspots

Here is another image from yesterday's solar imaging - check out all the sunspots!
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI071MC camera, glass solar filter, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro mount, ASIAir Pro, processed in SharpCap Pro v4.1 and Registax, best 20% of 1500 frames. Image Date: April 22, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: April 22, 2024

 Solar Surface

Spent several hours in the driveway doing some solar imaging - very active sun right now! This is just a section of the solar surface.
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI462MC camera, Daystar Quark Chromosphere, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro mount, ASIAir Pro, processed in SharpCap Pro v4.1 and Registax, best 20% of 1500 frames. Image Date: April 22, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: April 22, 2024

 The Witch Head Nebula

As the name implies, this reflection nebula associated with the star Rigel looks suspiciously like a fairytale crone. Formally known as IC 2118 in the constellation Orion, the Witch Head Nebula glows primarily by light reflected from the star. The color of this very blue nebula is caused not only by blue color of its star, but also because the dust grains reflect blue light more efficiently than red. A similar physical process causes Earth’s daytime sky to appear blue. (ref: NASA)


Tech Specs: William Optics REDCAT 51 Telescope, ZWO ASI071MC camera running at -10F, just over 7 hours of collected data using 60 second exposures, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro mount, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInsight. Image Date: February 5 and 6, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

FLICKR Image of the Day - April 23, 2024

Photo Release: April 18, 2024

 T Coronae Borealis Observation - April 15, 2024

This is an observation of the star T Coronae Borealis (T CrB) which has the possibility of brightening to be viewed with the naked eye at some point this year. Currently, my magnitude estimate is 10.15 is based on 55 x 60 second images and determined using Tycho software. There are only four stars like this in our galaxy and you can read more about this upcoming event from NASA (https://blogs.nasa.gov/Watch_the_Skies/2024/02/27/view-nova-explosion-new-star-in-northern-crown/)
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 55 x 60 second exposures, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in Tycho software. Image Date: April 15, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: April 16, 2024

First Quarter Moon

Last night’s first quarter moon from the observatory
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, best 20% of 1000 images, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in AutoStakkert and Registax. Image Date: April 15, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: April 12, 2024

Open Cluster Messier 38 (M38) in Auriga

Messier 38 or M38, also known as NGC 1912 or Starfish Cluster, is the third Messier open cluster in the constellation of Auriga. Adjacent to M38 you can also spot the small open cluster NGC 1907 (to the upper right).
Observation data (J2000.0 epoch)Right ascension: 05h 28m 43sDeclination: +35° 51′ 18″Distance: 3,480 lyApparent magnitude (V): 7.4Apparent dimensions (V): 21′
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 81 x 60 seconds, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInisght software. Image Date: November 13, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: April 10, 2024

Solar Eclipse Collage

Here is a collage of eclipse images taken in Erie, Pennsylvania on April 8, 2024. A mix of images using a Redcat telescope and Canon 6D camera. Probably the most awe inspiring thing I have ever witnessed. If you get a chace to experience something like this, put the camera down and absorb it, you will not regret it.

Photo Release: April 6, 2024

Spiral Galaxy Messier 100 in Canes Venatici

Messier 100 (also known as NGC 4321 or the Mirror Galaxy) is a grand design intermediate spiral galaxy in the southern part of the mildly northern Coma Berenices. It is one of the brightest and largest galaxies in the Virgo Cluster and is approximately 55 million light-years from our galaxy, its diameter being 107,000 light years. (ref: Wikipedia) The last time I imaged this galaxy was March 2023 when the dwarf planet Ceres was passing between the Earth and Messier 100 spiral arms.
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: Coma BerenicesRight ascension: 12h 22m 54.9sDeclination: +15° 49′ 21″Distance: 55 MlyGroup or cluster: Virgo ClusterApparent magnitude (V): 9.3
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 162 x 60 seconds (2 hours and 42 minutes), Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: February 5, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: April 3, 2024

Galaxy Messier 106 in Canes Venatici

Messier 106 (also known as NGC 4258) is an intermediate spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. M106 is at a distance of about 22 to 25 million light-years away from Earth. M106 contains an active nucleus classified as a Type 2 Seyfert, and the presence of a central supermassive black hole has been demonstrated from radio-wavelength observations of the rotation of a disk of molecular gas orbiting within the inner light-year around the black hole. NGC 4217 is a possible companion galaxy of Messier 106. (ref: Wikipedia)
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: Canes VenaticiRight ascension: 12h 18m 57.5sDeclination: +47° 18′ 14″Distance: 23.7 ± 1.5 MlyApparent magnitude (V): 8.4Size: 135,000 ly (in diameter)Apparent size (V): 18′.6 × 7′.2
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 108 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInsight. Image Date: March 7, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

FLICKR Image of the Day - April 3, 2024

Photo Release: March 30, 2024

The Black Eye Galaxy - Messier 64

The Black Eye Galaxy (also called Sleeping Beauty Galaxy or Evil Eye Galaxy and designated Messier 64, M64, or NGC 4826) is a relatively isolated spiral galaxy 17 million light-years away in the mildly northern constellation of Coma Berenices. A dark band of absorbing dust partially in front of its bright nucleus gave rise to its nicknames of the "Black Eye", "Evil Eye", or "Sleeping Beauty" galaxy. (ref: Wikipedia)
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: Coma BerenicesRight ascension: 12h 56m 43.696sDeclination: +21° 40′ 57.57″Distance: 17.3 MlyApparent magnitude (V): 8.52
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 120 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInsight. Image Date: March 7, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: March 11, 2024

Spiral Galaxy Messier 101 in Ursa Major

The Pinwheel Galaxy (also known as Messier 101, M101 or NGC 5457) is a face-on spiral galaxy 21 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major. The giant spiral disk of stars, dust and gas is 170,000 light-years across — nearly twice the diameter of our galaxy, the Milky Way. M101 is estimated to contain at least one trillion stars. The galaxy’s spiral arms are sprinkled with large regions of star-forming nebulas. These nebulas are areas of intense star formation within giant molecular hydrogen clouds. Brilliant, young clusters of hot, blue, newborn stars trace out the spiral arms. (ref: Wikipedia and NASA)
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: Ursa MajorRight ascension: 14h 03m 12.6sDeclination: +54° 20′ 57″Distance: 20.9 ± 1.8 MlyApparent magnitude (V): 7.9
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 47 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: February 5, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: March 8, 2024

Supernova 2024bch in Galaxy NGC 3206

This is the galaxy designated NGC 3206 in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy currently has a supernova designated as SN 2024bch. It was discovered on January 29, 2024 by Patrick Wiggins from the University of Utah (USA). During my 60-minutes of collected data, SN 2024bch showed a magnitude of 14.7, dimming from its peak magnitude in early February 2024.
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 60 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: March 7, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: March 6, 2024

NGC 1333 - Reflection Nebula in Perseus

NGC 1333 is a reflection nebula located in the northern constellation Perseus. The nebula is visible as a hazy patch in a small telescope, while a larger aperture will show a pair of dark nebulae designated Barnard 1 and Barnard 2. It is associated with a dark cloud L1450 (Barnard 205). Estimates of the distance to this nebula range from 980–1,140 ly.
This nebula is in the western part of the Perseus molecular cloud and is a young region of very active star formation, being one of the best-studied objects of its type. It contains a fairly typical hierarchy of star clusters that are still embedded in the molecular cloud in which they formed. 
Observation data: J2000.0 epochRight ascension: 03h 29m 11.3sDeclination: +31° 18′ 36″Distance: 967 lyApparent magnitude (V): 5.6Apparent dimensions (V): 6′ x 3′Constellation: Perseus
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 6 Hours using 60 second single exposures, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInsight. Image Date: December 15, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: March 3, 2024

NGC 5907 - The Splinter Galaxy of Draco

NGC 5907 (also known as Knife Edge Galaxy or Splinter Galaxy) is a spiral galaxy located approximately 50 million light years from Earth. Imaged with an 87% full moon causing a bit of processing anxiety.
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: DracoRight ascension: 15h 15m 53.8sDeclination: +56° 19′ 44″Distance: 53.5 ± 8.1 MlyApparent magnitude (V): 11.1
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 117 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight software packages. Image Date: January 22, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: February 29, 2024

Planetary Nebula NGC 2022 in Orion

NGC 2022 is a planetary nebula in the constellation of Orion, located at a distance of 8210 light-years from the Sun. 
NGC 2022 is a vast orb of gas in space, cast off by an aging star. The star is visible in the orb's center, shining through the gases it formerly held onto for most of its stellar life. When stars like the Sun grow advanced in age, they expand and glow red. These so-called red giants then begin to lose their outer layers of material into space. More than half of such a star's mass can be shed in this manner, forming a shell of surrounding gas. At the same time, the star's core shrinks and grows hotter, emitting ultraviolet light that causes the expelled gases to glow. This type of object is called, somewhat confusingly, a planetary nebula, though it has nothing to do with planets. The name derives from the rounded, planet-like appearance of these objects in early telescopes. (REF: https://science.nasa.gov/missions/hubble/hubbles-portrait-of-stars-gaseous-glow/)
Observation data: J2000 epochRight ascension: 05h 42m 06.19056sDeclination: +09° 05′ 10.5843″Distance: 8.21 klyApparent magnitude (V): 11.6Apparent dimensions (V): 28″Constellation: Orion
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 81 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: January 31, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: February 26, 2024

The Seagull Nebula Region and IC2177

IC 2177 is a region of nebulosity that lies along the border between the constellations Monoceros and Canis Major. The region is often referred to as the Seagull Nebula, and includes a larger nebulous region as well and open clusters NGC 2335 and NGC 2343 and a small reflection nebula named NGC 2327 (in the wing of the Seagull). The open cluster Messier 50 (M50 or NGC 2323) can be seen in the upper left corner.
Tech Specs: Williams Optics Redcat 51 Telescope, ZWO ASI071MC camera running at -10F, total capture 2 hours and 10 minutes using 300-second exposures, Optolong L-eXtreme 2” filter, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro mount, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: February 4, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: February 23, 2024

Star Shots - Arcturus (α Boötis)

Arcturus is the brightest star in the northern constellation of Boötes. With an apparent visual magnitude of −0.05, it is the fourth-brightest star in the night sky, and the brightest in the northern celestial hemisphere. The name Arcturus originated from ancient Greece; it was then cataloged as α Boötis by Johann Bayer in 1603, which is Latinized to Alpha Boötis. Arcturus forms one corner of the Spring Triangle asterism.
Located relatively close at 36.7 light-years from the Sun, Arcturus is a single red giant of spectral type K1.5III—an aging star around 7.1 billion years old that has used up its core hydrogen and evolved off the main sequence. It is about the same mass as the Sun, but has expanded to 25 times its size and is around 170 times as luminous. Its diameter is 35 million kilometers. Thus far no companion has been detected. (REF: Wikipedia)
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 22 x 60 second exposures, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInsight. Image Date: December 14, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: February 20, 2024

NGC 3184 - The Little Pinwheel Galaxy

NGC 3184, the Little Pinwheel Galaxy, is a spiral galaxy approximately 40 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. Its name comes from its resemblance to the Pinwheel Galaxy. 
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: Ursa MajorRight ascension: 10h 18m 17.0sDeclination: +41° 25′ 28″Distance: 39.8 ± 12 MlyApparent magnitude (V): 10.4Apparent size (V): 7.4′ × 6.9′
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 108 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS, PixInsight, and Tycho software packages. Image Date: January 22, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

FLICKR Image of the Day - February 22, 2024

Photo Release: February 17, 2024

Starless Rosette Nebula in Hubble Palette

The Rosette Nebula (also known as Caldwell 49 or Sharpless 275) is a large spherical ionized atomic hydrogen region (H II region) that is circular in appearance and located near one end of a giant molecular cloud in the Monoceros region of the Milky Way Galaxy. The open cluster NGC 2244 (Caldwell 50) is closely associated with the nebulosity, the stars of the cluster having been formed from the nebula's matter (from Wikipedia). The nebula is about 5,200 light-years away and spans nearly 65 light-years. This version has been processed using the Hubble Palette and the stars have been removed from the image..
Observation data: J2000.0 epochRight ascension: 06h 33m 45sDeclination: +04° 59′ 54″Distance: 5,200 lyApparent magnitude (V): 9.0Apparent dimensions (V): 1.3 °Constellation: Monoceros
Tech Specs: Williams Optics Redcat 51 Telescope, ZWO ASI071MC camera running at -10F, total capture 5 hours and 30 minutes using 300-second exposures,  Optolong L-eXtreme 2” filter, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro mount, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: February 4, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: February 14, 2024

The Crystal Ball Nebula of Taurus - NGC 1514

This planetary nebula is located right on the border of Taurus and Perseus. It is cataloged as NGC 1514 and is also known as the Crystal Ball Nebula. The magnitude, depending on the source, is listed at 10.9.
Observation data: J2000 epochRight ascension: 04h 09m 16.98573sDeclination: +30° 46′ 33.4699″Distance: 1520 lyApparent magnitude (V): 9.27Apparent dimensions (V): 2.2′Constellation: Taurus
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 68 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: January 2, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: February 11, 2024

Open Clusters NGC 6940 in Vulpecula

NGC 6940 is an open cluster in the constellation Vulpecula. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1784. The cluster is nearly a billion years old and it is located 2,500 light years away. 
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at 0F, 52x60 second, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: October 4, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: February 9, 2024

Galaxy NGC 4216 and Supernova 2024gy

This is an updated view of galaxy NGC 4216 currently containing a bright supernova designated as 2024gy. 
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: VirgoRight ascension: 12h 15m 54.4sDeclination: +13° 08′ 58″Distance: 55 MlyApparent magnitude (V): 11.0Apparent size (V): 8.1′ × 1.8′
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 120 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS, PixInsight, and Tycho software packages. Image Date: February 4, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: February 6, 2024

The Fish Head Nebula (IC1795) in Cassiopeia

This is a view of IC 1795 - The Fish Head Nebula, and is part of a huge star forming system of gas and dust located along the Perseus spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy.  The nebula is located in the constellation Cassiopeia approximately 6000 light-years from the Earth and is adjacent to the much larger Heart Nebula.  This image was designed around the Hubble Palette of colors, splitting my image into artificial Sulfur II, Hydrogen Alpha, and Oxygen III channels. The image was then reassembled giving these hues that are typical of images from the HST.
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC + Optolong L-eXtreme glass filter, running at 0F, 41 x 300 second exposures, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInsight. Image Date: September 16, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: February 2, 2024

Comet C/2022 E2 in Cancer

This is Comet C/2022 E2 (ATLAS) currently moving through the constellation Cancer and sporting a nice tail. 60-minute stacked image.
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 60 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: January 31, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: February 1, 2024

Comet C/2022 E2 Time Lapse Video

This is Comet C/2022 E2 (ATLAS) currently moving through the constellation Cancer and sporting a nice tail. This is a one-hour video compilation from last night.
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 60 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in Tycho Tracker software and recorded with OBS. Image Date: January 31, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: January 29, 2024

The Pleiades - Messier 45 - Seven Sisters

The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45, is an open star cluster located in the constellation Taurus. Robert Burnham states in his Celestial Handbook, "undoubtedly the most famous galactic star cluster in the heavens, known and regarded with reverence since remote antiquity." This was a two panel mosaic, each panel collected 3 hours and 36 minutes of data for just over 7 hours total time.
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: TaurusRight ascension: 03h 47m 24sDeclination: +24° 07′ 00″Distance: 444 ly on averageApparent magnitude (V): 1.6Apparent dimensions (V): 110' (arcmin)
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 216 x 60 second exposures for each panel, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInisght. Image Date: December 13, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

FLICKR Image of the Day - January 29, 2024

Photo Release: January 26, 2024

Star Shots – Rigel (Beta Orionis)

This is something I started 10 years ago called Star Shots, doing an occasional look at a bright star instead of clusters, nebulae, etc. This is the star Rigel and it is a blue supergiant star in the constellation of Orion. It has the Bayer designation β Orionis, which is Latinized to Beta Orionis and abbreviated Beta Ori or β Ori. Rigel is located at a distance of approximately 860 light-years from the Sun (Wikipedia). Rigel is also the 7th brightest star in our skies.
Hidden in the view is a pair of galaxies designated LEDA 1015512 and LEDA 16941, I’ve included a heavily processed image of these galaxies along with an image taken by Pan-STARRS (a 1.8-meter diameter telescope located near the summit of Haleakala on the Island of Maui). Not sure if these are interacting galaxies or not, if you know the answer, please drop a comment!
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 54 x 60 second exposures, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInisght. Image Date: December 14, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).
GALAXY IMAGE HERE.

Photo Release: January 23, 2024

Galaxy NGC 4216 and Supernova 2024gy

This is NGC 4216 currently containing a bright supernova designated as 2024gy. This is two hours of collected data showing the visual magnitude to be 12.8. 
Observation data (J2000 epoch)Constellation: VirgoRight ascension: 12h 15m 54.4sDeclination: +13° 08′ 58″Distance: 55 MlyApparent magnitude (V): 11.0Apparent size (V): 8.1′ × 1.8′
Tech Specs: Orion 8” RC Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 120 x 60 seconds, Celestron CGEM-DX pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS, PixInsight, and Tycho software packages. Image Date: January 22, 2024. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).
COLOR Image

Photo Release: January 22, 2024

Messier 97 - The Owl Nebula

The Owl Nebula (also known as Messier 97, M97 or NGC 3587) is a planetary nebula located approximately 2,030 light years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The owl-like appearance is caused by various formed shells expanding away from the central star.
Observation data: J2000.0 epochRight ascension: 11h 14m 47.734sDeclination: +55° 01′ 08.50″Distance: 2,030 lyApparent magnitude (V): 9.9Apparent dimensions (V): 3′.4 × 3′.3Constellation: Ursa Major
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 239 x 60 second exposures, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInisght. Image Date: December 19, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: January 19, 2024

Open Cluster Messier 37 (M37) in Auriga

Messier 37 (also known as M37 or NGC 2099) is the second Messier open in the constellation of Auriga and is the brightest and richest of the three open clusters found there. M37 also hosts at least a dozen red giant stars. Admiral William Henry Smyth observed M37 in October 1836 and provided the following description, “A magnificent object, the whole field being strewed as it were with sparkling gold-dust.”
Observation data (J2000.0 epoch)Right ascension: 5h 52m 18sDeclination: +32° 33′ 02″Apparent magnitude (V): 6.2Apparent dimensions (V): 24′
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 81 x 60 seconds, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInisght software. Image Date: November 13, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: January 16, 2024

The Cave Nebula (Sh2-155) in Cepheus

This is a view of Sh2-155 - The Cave Nebula, found in the constellation Cepheus. This is just over 9-hours of collected data in 2022 and 2023 which I have finally combined. The Cave Nebula is a dim and very diffuse bright nebula within a larger nebula complex containing emission, reflection, and dark nebulosity. It is located in the constellation Cepheus and is approximately 2400 light years from Earth.
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC + Optolong L-eXtreme glass filter, running at 0F, 9 hours and 5 minutes using 300-second exposures exposures, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in PixInisght. Image Date: October 2022 and September 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: January 13, 2024

Open Clusters NGC 129 in Cassiopeia

NGC 129 is an open cluster in the constellation Cassiopeia. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1788. It is located almost exactly halfway between the bright stars Caph (β Cassiopeia) and γ Cassiopeia. It is large but not dense and can be observed by binoculars, through which the most obvious component is a small triangle of stars of magnitude 8 and 9, located in the center of the cluster (Wikipedia).
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at 0F, 54x60 second, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: October 4, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: January 10, 2024

Open Clusters Messier 35 and NGC 2158 in Gemini

These are the open clusters Messier 35 and the compact open cluster designated NGC 2158, both found in the constellation Gemini.  This is a huge open cluster that almost fills the same size in the sky as a full moon and it is about 2,800 light-years from Earth. As with any wide-field image of this open cluster, you get the added benefit of catching NGC 2158 nearby, not related to M35 as it lies about 9,000 light-years further away.
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at 0F, 139x60 second, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: October 11, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

FLICKR Image of the Day - January 11, 2024

Photo Release: January 7, 2024

Brocchi's Cluster in Vulpecula - The Coathanger Asterism

Here is a two panel mosaic of the Coathanger cluster. It is not a true open cluster as the stars are just a random alignment. The Coathanger is actually an asterism, a pattern of stars that form a shape but are not a constellation. Off to the right is the open cluster NGC 6802.
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at 0F, 31 x 60 seconds for each panel, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInsight. Image Date: August 18, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Photo Release: January 4, 2024

Open Cluster Messier 36 (M36) in Auriga

Messier 36 (M36 or NGC 1960) is the first of three large open clusters found in the constellation called Auriga. It lies at a distance of about 4,100 light years away from Earth and is about 14 light years across. There are at least sixty members in the cluster. The cluster is very similar to the Pleiades cluster (M45), and if it were the same distance from Earth it would be of similar magnitude. Burnham states, “The group makes its best impression with a fairly low power (20X to 50X)”. I would add that the entire area looks fantastic through a good pair of binoculars.
Observation data (J2000.0 epoch)Right ascension: 05h 36m 18.0sDeclination: +34° 08′ 24″Apparent magnitude (V): 6.3Apparent dimensions (V): 12'
Tech Specs: Sky-Watcher Esprit 120ED Telescope, ZWO ASI2600MC camera running at -10F, 81 x 60 seconds, Sky-Watcher EQ6R-Pro pier mounted, ZWO EAF and ASIAir Pro, processed in DSS and PixInisght software. Image Date: November 13, 2023. Location: The Dark Side Observatory (W59), Weatherly, PA, USA (Bortle Class 4).

Happy New Year

A collage of galaxy images from 2023.