A Joint Project to Image the Pleiades (M45) Reflection Nebula


The image of M45 that you see here is the result of a collaboration between two AP-SIG members, myself (Bill Hanagan) and Rick Spencer .  The original image is a larger, more detailed window into space than can be posted on this website, but other than the finest details, most of the features of this reflection nebula are still visible in this downsized image.  With the original image you can zoom in quite a bit to explore the fine details that this window into space holds.  While I think this image looks pretty good for the amount of time invested acquiring data, there is a lot more detail in this object that remains to be captured and I hope to get back to it to image it in greater detail another time.   

We acquired the RAW data from Rick's driveway on October 5, 2016 using his ES-127 f/7.5 scope and Losmandy GM-8 mount.  We used my Canon EOS 6D full-frame
DSLR at ISO 3200 with an Astronomik CLS-CCD light pollution reduction filter to acquire the sub-exposures.  We also used my SBIG ST402ME camera and eFinder mounted on Rick's telescope for guiding.  Guiding and image acquisition were handled by my Windows laptop computer.  I used "Backyard EOS" for focusing, framing, and acquiring the sub-exposures.  

Backyard EOS is a great application designed specifically for doing astrophotography with Canon EOS DSLRs that's been around for several years.  There's a version for Nikon DSLRs as well.  Backyard EOS facilitates and automates just about every aspect of DSLR data acquisition. Like virtually all imaging software and the device drivers needed by the telescope hardware, this software runs under Windows.  And, like a lot of imaging software and device drivers, it doesn't run anywhere else.   The "Premium" edition of Backyard EOS costs $50 and there is a 30-day free trial.  Here's the link.   https://www.otelescope.com/index.php?/home/   I, for one, have no problem giving $50 to someone who creates software that is thoroughly debugged and reliable and makes imaging a lot easier to do.   

There are several great features to Backyard EOS and Backyard Nikon which I'll briefly mention here.  1) It provides a highly magnified view of any star you select to make focusing easier and more accurate.  This is typically much easier to see on a computer screen than on the Live view screen on the back of your camera.  2) It provides a full computer-sized view of the images being produced, so you can more accurately frame your target before acquiring images.  3) It automatically engages the camera's mirror lockup ahead of each light exposure to minimize vibration.  4) It automatically names and acquires the number of light, dark, flat, and bias frames that you specify.   5) It operates in a subdued red "night mode" so you can preserve your dark adaptation.  6) It interfaces with PHD guiding to implement dithering, which improves signal-to-noise ratio and optimizes the elimination of sensor defects.   

I did all of the image processing in PixInsight using 11x2 minute "light" (image) frames for a total exposure time of 22 minutes.  Calibration frames included 10x2 minute dark frames, 50x1/4000th second bias frames, and 10x1 second flat frames. 


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