Focus Planetary Survey

What is the Focus Planetary Survey?


The Focus Planetary Survey (FPS) is a observation project aimed at documenting all the visible planetary nebula found in the Northern hemisphere sky. There are several catalogs of these objects from various surveys but no well documented master list. These small nebula are popular observing targets for both armature and professional astronomers. Observations made through the FPS will be complied into a complete atlas for astronomers of all levels to use. The FPS also looks to observe the faint outer shockwaves and nebulous shells found around some planetary nebula. 

Planetary nebula emit light in several frequencies, two of the most abundant frequencies are Oxygen-III (500.7nm) which is a blue color produced by double ionized Oxygen. H-alpha (656.3nm) which is a deep red color produced by excited hydrogen atoms. The FPS uses specialized filters to isolate these wavelengths to capture each image. The light from the nebula is collected by the telescope's and focused, the focused light passes through the filter and onto the camera sensors forming the image. Each image seen here is composed over several long exposures due to the faint light of the nebula. The images are stacked together to produce a final clean image of the nebula of interest.

The OIII wavelength at 500.7nm is also easy visible by the human eye. The images produced using this filter will better suite visual observers and provide a more true image of what might be seen when viewing the object visually. 

For more information on the equipment please see below. To see the image gallery of our current observations please visit the FPS Survey Gallery.


What is a Planetary Nebula?


At the end of a star's (similar to our own sun) life it expands into what is known as a red giant. As the star expands it sheds off it's atmosphere into space. This glowing shell of ionized gas moves out and away from the remanence of the star that once was. These nebulae appear spherical in shape which somewhat resemble a planet when observing them, thus the name Planetary nebula.


Planetary nebula are fairly unquiet from one another. Some are small and spherical, others have internal structures while others have complex outer halos that stretch far past the main nebula body. 

To the left is M27, the Dumbbell nebula, a planetary nebula found in the constellation Vulpecula. This is a image combining both the H-alpha and OIII filter images captured during our observations to produce a bi-color image. Survey images are black and white to better observe the nebula structures.



FPS Telescopes


The FPS is composed of two telescopes systems. The main survey telescope is a Sky-Watcher Quattro 300 (12") newtonian with a f/3 reducer corrector designed and built by Starizona. The telescope uses extremely narrow 3nm H-alpha and OIII filters for its observations. A dual band H-alpha/OIII filter is also used for obtaining images. With its fast f/3 focal ratio the 12" telescope can capture images 5.4x faster than an f/7 telescope. This allows the survey to observe half a dozen targets a night. The 12" is based at Focus' HQ in Phoenix, Arizona. The narrow filters allow observations to occur even inlight polluted locations. 

If the Quattro 300 captures a area of interest that requires more time a follow up observation is done using a Sky-Watcher Esprit 150EDT f/7 apo based at the Skies Away Remote site in central California. With its extremely dark skies and excellent seeing conditions the Esprit 150 allows us to take deeper images of particular targets. The telescope is paired with a high resolution ZWO6200MM 61-megapixel monochrome (black and white camera) and a full 10-position filter wheel. With this telescope we can observe objects in visible light as well as OIII and H-alpha. This telescope will observe one or two targets for multiple hours in order to pull out any faint details that we might be looking for. 



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