Bristol AS

School:
Bristol Astronomical Society
Website:
http://www.bristolastrosoc.org.uk
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Bristol Astronomical Society first became involved with the Faulkes Telescope team at the beginning of 2006 as part of a project on galaxy classification that we were undertaking with junior members concerned with galaxy classification.

For this project we imaged various galaxies including interacting galaxies such as the Antennae and NGC2207, and other bright spirals such as M100 where we were just 4 days too early to catch a supernova!

Spurred on by our successful capture of these images we decided to focus on compact groups of galaxies and, by chance, selected a couple from the Hickson catalogue.  This led to discussions with the Faulkes team at Cardiff on the possibility of joining a project to image in colour as many of the Hickson galaxies as possible.

Many of these groups are far more challenging than the initial galaxy project and tested to the limit our image processing skills.  A complete list of the 100 or so Hickson groups was displayed on our notice board on club nights and members asked to ‘sponsor’ one or more groups.  Each sponsor was asked to provide details of the group and the exposures and filters required to capture the image.  Since most of the club members were unfamiliar with image processing software a couple of club nights were devoted to imaging tutorials.

All of our imaging using the Faulkes telescopes is done off-line, i.e. we submit request detailing the objects and the exposures required and we receive back raw Fits data for subsequent processing by club members

It was soon obvious that creating great images from the raw data was a
challenge that not everyone wanted to partake in, so a small and enthusiastic band of members formed an imaging sub group.  This group does not confine itself to Faulkes images alone, but includes webcam, DSLR and CCD imaging.  Software ranges from freeware such as Registax and Iris to professional packages such as Maxim DL and Photoshop.  The aim of the group is to share imaging tips and skills in order to improve the overall imaging capabilities of the group.

Within this group we have now processed nearly two dozen sets of images from the Faulkes team to date, most of which have been Hickson groups. At one point we though we may have even discovered a new supernova in Hickson 51b (HCG51b), but alas it was later seen to be a star that was faint enough not to be on most star atlases, but happened to be in the line of
sight of the galaxy.

We were also very honoured to have some of our processed Hickson images published in a paper entitled "Faulkes Telescope North Observations of Hickson Groups of Interacting Galaxies"
(F.Lewis, P.Roche, S. Roberts, N.Szymanek, Bristol Astronomical Society) as part of the goal to produce multi-colour online version of the Hickson atlas.

The society has put on display many of the images during outreach events
such as the annual Bristol Festival of Nature events, bringing astronomy
and the beauty of these elusive objects to the public eye. Many of these images can also be found on the Bristol Astrosoc website http://www.bristolastrosoc.org.uk/wb/index.php.

We are indebted to the Faulkes team for their support and the opportunity and impetus it has given to our members to participate in such a challenging and exciting aspect of our hobby.