The Virgo Cluster

May 11th 2013: It’s been over 8 months since I was out imaging. Combination of bad weather and battles with equipment to get things straight convinced me to get an imaging scope that is adapted to my new full frame CCD camera. I am now back using a refractor. I went with the Takahashi FSQ106EDX III and its .73x reducer which combined with the Moravian Instruments G3-11000 gives a 5-degree wide frame. With the CDK17″ in the works I figured I’d happy with the Tak to work on wide field targets.

Other than for engineering and making a couple of adapters for this camera, the battle with equipment, collimation, and other excessive vignetting issues should be sorted out.

In many ways, this image is the actual first light for both the camera and the scope.

I wanted to shoot the Markarian’s chain when I had my AT65EDQ, but the wider field that gives the new equipment combination covers most of the Virgo Cluster so that’s what I went after. I could have framed it probably better especially considering that M100 is cut in half, but I’m overall happy with the results. With so many galaxies in the frame, I couldn’t resist and made a montage with some¬†annotations.

I started with some Luminance (10mn at 1×1) before the meridian flip followed by some more Luminance… after 3.5 hours, I started alternating between each of the 3 color filters (5mn at 2×2) until… it was too low and polluted by horrible gradients. Out of practice a little there, I guess I got my maths wrong. I ended up with about 30-40 mn per color. At that point, I pulled the flatbox out and started shooting flats, I was a little anxious about this as I never took any flat with a CCD camera. It’s got a shutter and it typically needs 3-4 seconds minimum. These flats turned out to be decent. I had a good bunch of darks waiting for me at home to start processing.

Here’s the picture (click for full frame):


And here’s the montage with annotations:


  • Date: May 11th 2013
  • Camera: Moravian Instruments G3-11000 (Sensor maintained at -25 C)
  • Exposures: ~ 5 hours of integration time (L: 600 s – 1×1, RGB: 300 s – 2×2)
  • Mount: Losmandy G11 Gemini 2
  • Imaging Telescope: Takahashi FSQ106EDX III @ f/3.6
  • Guiding: Borg 50 mm – Barlow 2x – SX Lodestar
  • Calibration: Darks, Flats, Dark Flats
  • Stacking: PixInsight 1.8
  • Final blending/processing: PixInsight 1.8 and Adobe Photoshop CS6 for the Montage/Annotations
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2 Responses to The Virgo Cluster

  1. Excellent first-light image!

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