Face on Spirals: IC 342
Hidden away by dust from our own galaxy lay a huge galaxy known only as the boring “IC 342″. Nearly 20 arc minutes square, this spiral fills a wide field of view under modest powers. Visually, it’s not much more than a faint, fuzzy star with hints of nebulosity scattered around. Imaging this target is equally dificult given it’s diffuse nature and the dust hiding it away.
I’ve imaged it on several occasions and never been very happy with the result, until now. However, this pushed all my limits! I operated my telescope remotely with Stellarium and VNC through the entire night of September 6, 2011, pulling out a whopping 6 hours of 30 minute exposures. Yes, 30 minute light frames! Guiding with the Orion OAG and SSAG pulling out 5 second guiding exposures, the CGE Pro and AT10RCF really pulled through for me, despite a few frames with moonlight present. Due to some issues with my new STL11000, this image was captured with the Orion Starshoot Pro v2 — a color CCD, with no filters on top.
I tried stacking this several times with both average and standard deviation combines but wasn’t happy with the results. In a plight of desperation not to lose an entire night of oversampled data, I used a drizzle stack (0.4 reduction, 1.5 upsample) to process the image down (responsible for some of the ‘grid’ appearance when zoomed into this image). Then I did a 3×3 median blur, 1.2px Gaussian blur, and then a 2×2 average bin to shrink it way back down from the drizzle. Gentle stretching and a 10px high pass filter, and whallah. Somewhere in the process I lost some color of the stars.
One thing’s for sure: if you’re looking for a tough target that seems easy to image, give this one a go! I promise it will be a good learning experience in a whole new level of patience!