Beware the Eye’ds of March

by David Skitt, Observatory Chairperson

As many visual astronomers do, I happen to like Albireo, the Binary star in the Constellation Cygnus.  Albireo A and B have two incredibly bold, blue and gold colors that make it simple to explain to observatory visitors how stars at different stages of life portray different colors, all related to their fusion temperature.  To bring the analogy closer to home, I often pair my Albireo explanation with the different colors and temperatures found within a candle flame.

Visually, under stupid high power, Beta1 CygnI and Beta2 CygnI (aka, Albireo A and B) stare back at you like two eyes, sort of like the eyes in NGC 457, the Owl Cluster in Cassiopeia (another visual favorite of mine).  But I wondered if I could get a good EAA (electronically assisted astronomy) photograph of the Cygeye duo that really showed their true colors.  So, on March 4, 2023, at 1217, I set out to do so.

I attached my Celestron 8” SCT onto the clubs eYeOptron AZMP mount.  I ran the scope at its native focal length of f/10.  At the back of the scope, I mounted my SkeYelight Express, UltraStar Color camera.  This combination would give me a FOV of 0.25 degrees by 0.19 degrees.  I used a general light pollution filter to cut down on the New Jersey dayglow.  I took n000 subs at n0.0 seconds each to not blow out the colors in each sub.  I stacked the images in PixeYeSight and used the Star Eliminator plug-out so Albireo A and B would shine through.  Here is my final image:

Not a bad image for sooo much work.  But what caught my I was the indistinct white dot at the top center of the image.  It couldn’t be a star since I had used the PixOutsight Star Eliminator plug-In.  Since it was still dark and flat out, I decided to drill down to see if I could EAA image that pale white thing.  Given the narrow FOV I needed just for Albireo A/B, I knew I had to bring out the big camera guns to resolve that tiny object.

I called in a favor from A-I Associates Matossian.  They loaned me their OPTOS, P2000Dtx camera.  After a bunch of off-the wall adapters and filter thread changes, I managed to get the binocular imager attached to my SkeYe-watcher 8” Quattro f/4, Imaging Newtonian.  Thank God the iOptron AZMP mount was up to the task, thanks to its new Teflon clutch washer!

In no time biased, I had my light frames.  Post processing, however, took much longer than the blink of the eye.  Initial clipping was done on my eYePad.  Some touch up work was done with the spray paint feature in Microsoft Paint 3D.  Finally, a little bit of overlay work was done in GIMP.  Here are the final two images from that brief imaging session.  I am not sure, but I think I discovered some unknown beYenary retina nebula!

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