M3 Globular Cluster

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2013/04/16 - My mount went back to ASA in Austria to resolve an USB issue. They replaced the USB board and now it's working reliable again. I needed to redo the polar alignment, tracking model and installation of all the software. M3 is an easy target for this 'first light' after the repair.

Messier 3 is a globular cluster of stars in the northern constellation of Canes Venatici. It was discovered by Charles Messier on May 3, 1764, and resolved into stars by William Herschel around 1784. Since then, it has become one of the best-studied globular clusters. Identification of the cluster's unusually large variable star population was begun in 1913 by American astronomer Solon Irving Bailey and new variable members continue to be identified up through 2004.

Many amateur astronomers consider it one of the finest northern globular clusters, following only Messier 13. M3 has an apparent magnitude of 6.2, making it a difficult naked eye target even with dark conditions. With a moderate-sized telescope, the cluster is fully defined. It can be a challenge to locate through the technique of star hopping, but can be found by looking almost exactly halfway along an imaginary line connecting the bright star Arcturus to Cor Caroli. Using a telescope with a 25 cm (9.8 in) aperture, the cluster has a bright core with a diameter of about 6 arcminutes and spans a total of 12 arcminutes.

This cluster is one of the largest and brightest, and is made up of around 500,000 stars. It is estimated to be 8 billion years old. It is located at a distance of about 33,900 light-years away from Earth. Messier 3 is located 31.6 kly (9.7 kpc) above the Galactic plane and roughly 38.8 kly (11.9 kpc) from the center of the Milky Way. It contains 274 known variable stars; by far the highest number found in any globular cluster. These include 133 RR Lyrae variables, of which about a third display the Blazhko effect of long-period modulation. The overall abundance of elements other than hydrogen and helium, what astronomers term the metallicity, is in the range of –1.34 to –1.50 dex. This value gives the logarithm of the abundance relative to the Sun; the actual proportion is 3.2–4.6% of the solar abundance. Messier 3 is the prototype for the Oosterhoff type I cluster, which is considered "metal-rich". That is, for a globular cluster, Messier 3 has a relatively high abundance of heavier elements.

Object information
Name : M3 Globular Cluster
Type : Globular cluster
Constellation : Canes Venatici
Distance : 33.900 light-year
Apparent dimensions : 18'
Apparent magnitude : 6.20

Image information
Image date : 2013/04/16
Right ascension : 13:42:11.279
Declination : 28°22' 34.92"
Focal length : 1381.35 mm
Focal ratio : f/5.44
Image resolution : 0.806 arcsec/pixel
Field of view : 44' 19.3" x 33' 19.7"
Sensor temperature : -25°C
Light frames : 20 minutes total exposure time
5x 60 sec. luminance unbinned
5x 60 sec. RGB unbinned
Image acquisition with CCDAutoPilot and Maxim DL
Auto-guiding with Maxim DL
Auto-focusing with FocusMax
Bias frames : 100x unbinned
Dark frames : Bap pixel map
Flat frames : 5x luminance unbinned
5x RGB unbinned
Created with Gerd Neumann Aurora flatfield panel
Processing : PixInsight for calibration (bias frames, bad pixel map and flat frames), alignment and integration.
Adobe Photoshop CS6 for final touch.

Equipment information
Telescope : Robtics 10" 2000mm f/8 Ritchey Chretien
Corrector : Astro-Physics CCDT67 Focal Reducer
Focuser : Moonlite CS Ritchey Chretien focuser with high resolution stepper motor
Mount : ASA DDM60 Pro direct drive german equatorial mount controlled with AutoSlew
Camera : QSI 683wsg-8 cooled CCD camera with Kodak KAF-8300 sensor and Off Axis Guide (OAG) port
Guidecamera : Starlight Xpress Lodestar autoguider
Filters : Astrodon Tru-Balance E-Series LRGB & Astrodon 3nm H-α, 3nm O-III, 3nm S-II and 3nm N-II
Observatory site : Etten-Leur, The Netherlands