Deep Sky

First Light: Sky-Watcher Esprit 150mm

The following are accounts of Grand Mesa Observatory's first light imaging run using the Sky-Watcher Esprit 150mm ED F7.0 Triplet APO Refractor. This is the latest project of observatory director Terry Hancock, and all images were captured from the Grand Mesa Observatory in Western Colorado. The target chosen for first light was NGC 7635, which was chosen for its spectacular detail in both narrowband and broadband spectra. The telescope itself was sent to us by Sky-Watcher USA for testing, so hopefully these accounts will help answer any lingering questions some of you may have.

Thoughts from the Director:
"I acquired the data in Color using LRGB Filters and I added H-Alpha to the red channel and as a luminance layer. For the Hubble Palette image these were captured using Chroma 5nm filters, Ha was binned 1x1, OIII and SII binned 2x2. I’m very impressed with the Sky-Watcher 150 Esprit, using the big chip QHY16200A CCD Monochome camera with an OAG the Esprit 150 gives a very sharp image and a nice flat field, (Sky-Watcher quote a 43mm image circle), although a little slower than the TAK130, image quality is superb and unlike many APO refractors I have owned or tested the Esprit has a dedicated Field Flattener/corrector. For Autofocusing we purchased the Starizona Micro-Touch stepper motor which slips onto the dual speed side of the focuser, I’m using TheSkyX @ focus 3 for autofocus and it works great."

Total Integration time for HaLRGB = 8.25 hours
Total Integration time for Hubble Palette = 9.25 hours

Higher resolution images:

Image capture details:
Terry Hancock
Location: Purdy Mesa, Colorado

LRGB Image:
Dates: August 3rd 2018
LRGB, 240 min, 6 x 600 sec each, bin 1x1
H-Alpha 255 min, 17 x 900 sec, bin 1x1
Camera: QHY16200A
Gain 0, Offset 130, Calibrated with flat, Dark & Bias
Optics: Sky-Watcher Esprit 150mm ED Triplet APO Refractor
Filters by Chroma (Narrowband are 5nm)
Image Acquisition software Maxim DL5
Pre Processed in Pixinsight
Post Processed in Photoshop

Hubble Palette Image:
Dates: July 7, 24, 26, 2018
H-Alpha 255 min, 17 x 900 sec, bin 1x1
OIII 150 min, 15 x 600 sec, bin 2x2
SII 150 min, 15 x 600 sec, bin 2x2
Camera: QHY16200A
Gain 0, Offset 130, Calibrated with flat, Dark & Bias
Optics: Sky-Watcher Esprit 150mm ED Triplet APO Refractor
Filters by Chroma (Narrowband are 5nm) 
Image Acquisition software Maxim DL5
Pre Processed in Pixinsight
Post Processed in Photoshop

The Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635):
NGC 7635, also called the Bubble Nebula, Sharpless 162, or Caldwell 11, is a H II region emission nebula in the constellation Cassiopeia. It lies close to the direction of the open cluster Messier 52 which can be seen in this image upper left. The "bubble" is created by the stellar wind from a massive hot, 8 magnitude young central star. The nebula is near a giant molecular cloud which contains the expansion of the bubble nebula while itself being excited by the hot central star, causing it to glow. It was discovered in 1787 by William Herschel

Rho Ophiuchi & The Blue Horse Nebulae

This 2 panel mosaic of The Rho Orphiuchi Cloud Complex is one of the most beautiful and active star forming regions in the night sky with so many types of objects such as open and globular clusters, dark, reflection and emission nebulae. This particular image was shot over two nights using the QHY367C Full Frame CMOS with the Rokinon 135mm F2.0 lens @ F4.0

Observatory director Terry Hancock had previously captured Rho Ophiuchi using the Takahashi FSQ130 and QHY367C, and that image can be seen here: 

This particular camera/lens combination will be added to our equipment rentals "Subscriptions" commencing the month of August. Contact us now using the online form, or send an email directly to for details and have a look at what we currently have available

Image capture details
Terry Hancock
Location: Purdy Mesa, Colorado
Dates: June 12, 18th 2018
RGGB 149 x 2 min
Camera: QHY367C
Gain 2850, Offset 170, Calibrated with flat, Dark & Bias
Optics: Rokinon 135mm F2 Telephoto Lens @ F4
Focusing: David Lane's Reveal Focus Filter
Mount: Piggyback on 12" RC, Paramount ME
Image Acquisition software Maxim DL5
Pre Processed in Pixinsight
Post Processed in Photoshop


Galactic Maelstrom M81


Messier 81 (M81), or as it is also called, Bode's Galaxy, is a bright, swirling spiral galaxy located in the constellation Ursa Major just up and to the right of the top of the Big Dipper asterism. This image was captured at Grand Mesa Observatory by Tom Masterson and Terry Hancock, and it beautifully highlights the interesting and delicate structures of the spiral arms.

First discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1774, M81's relative brightness (apparent magnitude 6.94) and closeness (11.8 million light-years distant) makes it one of the most studied and photographed galaxies in the night sky. It contains an active galactic nucleus powered by a supermassive black hole at its center and was host to one of the brightest supernovae of the 20th century, SN 1993J. Also in this image, the blue blob above M81 is a satellite galaxy gravitationally locked to M81 called Holmberg IX, which is thought to have formed within the last 200 million years, making it the youngest nearby galaxy.

M81 wiki:

M81 in 60 seconds from NASA:

Holmberg IX:


Technical Info:

Grand Mesa Observatory System #2

Telescope: AGO 12.5” Astrograph/Newtonian
Camera: QHY163M Monocrome CMOS
Guiding: OAG
Mount: Paramount ME

LUM 25x 300sec 1x
RGB 25x 300sec 1x1 (4h10min total)

Processing/Stacking: PixInsight, PhotoshopCC, Registar, Straton

Location: Grand Mesa Observatory, Purdy Mesa, CO

Another Featured Image for Valentine's Day

One of the latest images of The Heart Nebula captured at GMO was just featured in the European Blog "Universe Of Magic" as a commemoration of Valentines Day!

Terry Hancock was quoted as saying "It is a real honor to be featured on Universe Of Magic which features work by some of the world's finest astrophotographers. This selection in particular has a real significance to me for 5 years ago on Valentine's Day one of my Heart Nebula images was chosen for my first NASA APOD!" (That APOD can be seen here:

Juan Carlos of Universe Of Magic also allowed Terry to write a dedication to his fiance, Nancy McGuire, and included that in the official Universe of Magic post (which can be seen here:

El corazón de Terry Hancock.JPG