M63, the Sunflower galaxy

The last time I was imaging, I noticed that many frames would vary in the background color and brightness. I realized that this was due to light leaking into the the telescope, from my laptop, flashlights, neighbors’ porch lights, pretty much anything. I built a shroud to cover the middle, open part of my telescope, and I also built a dew shield to sit on the top of the tube.

And, of course, once I get these complete and get a good clear night, the moon is out in full bore! However, my new light shrouds must have worked, as the images I obtained were not too bad considering the circumstances. They are at least as good as my previous, moon-less galaxy images. And although the sky looked dark to my eye, the light pollution from nearby Akron and Fairlawn was ever present in my images.

So, after having conquered the two most famous galaxies around the Big Dipper, I decided to keep moving along the line. The next galaxy is the Sunflower Galaxy, which is a bit smaller and dimmer than the Whirlpool galaxy. It took a little while to find, as there weren’t any good landmark stars around it that made it easy to locate. Two full tracking sessions were employed, and I took 200 images of it in total. The last 70 images mostly turned out really well, as the scope was pointed straight up, and so well balanced, and I had the tracking motor speed perfectly set.

I ended up stacking the best 49 images based on roundness. The image is noisier than I was hoping for with that many subframes, but considering the light pollution, the moon, and the dimness, it turned out pretty decent. This galaxy doesn’t have quite the detail and contrast of the last two, but you can definitely see structure and a dust lane at the bottom-left of the galaxy.

UPDATE: I tried a bit different preprocessing settings this time, and I feel like the result turned out better just after stacking the images. Here’s a newer version to compare to: