In early winter take a nighttime trip to the country and look to the
northern sky. You'll find the big dipper is sitting on the northern
horizon and way up overhead is the constellation Cassiopeia looking like a
big W above Polaris, the North Star. Follow the eastern inner leg of
the W back to the south just a bit and you may see a smudge of light between
the W and the top of Perseus. It takes a dark sky to see it with the
naked eye but that smudge is the Double Cluster; two open clusters of stars,
NGC 884 and NGC 869 or known together as C14 in Caldwell's catalog.
NGC 884, the cluster to the left in this image, is about 7,600 light years
distant while 889 is a bit closer at 6,800 light years distance. Both
clusters are comparatively young at between 3 and 5 million years old and
each have over 300 blue super giant stars among their members.
As with most open clusters, the Double Cluster does not disappoint when
viewed through a telescope. I like a relatively fast Newtonian of 10"
aperture or more along with a long, wide angle eyepiece so both clusters fit
within the field of view. If anything, the clusters are even more
stunning then they are photographically because the background stars visible
in photographs such as this tend to fade out somewhat. Stay at the
eyepiece for a bit and you'll most likely begin to see the star colors begin
to pop out especially in larger telescopes.
Date: 11/2012 Over Two Nights
Telescope: TMB130SS @ f/5.25
Camera: SBIG STL-6303E
Acquisition and Guiding: CCD Autopilot controlling Maxim DL
LRGB Combine Exposures:
Luminance - 20 x 300, Bin 1x1, 1.7 hr
Red - 5x600 Seconds, Bin 1x1
Green - 5x600 Seconds, Bin 1x1
Blue - 5x600 Seconds, Bin 1x1
ImagesPlus: Calibration, align and
combine, digital development
Photoshop CS4: Luminance, color combine, levels, curves,
LAB color adjustment, sharpening