Monday, April 04, 2016

Another Arizona Trip

My father came to visit in March from Australia, and I had the opportunity to take him to Arizona for a one-week tour. We explored the Grand Canyon, Phoenix, Sedona, old Route 66 and various points in between. A highlight was spending an evening at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. We took in several lectures which were very interesting. Some were entry-level astronomy "sky at night" fare, but others were more focused on the evolving discoveries connected with Pluto - from it's initial discovery to the recently acquired images and knowledge provided by the New Horizons spacecraft and its team of scientists. Not still a planet??? C'mon now - let it back into the club. It behaves just like one, from a tectonic perspective alone!

We managed to get a view through the 24" Clark Refractor (pictured below) of Jupiter, after lining up for about an hour in the cold. It was simply stunning! The seeing was very good that night, and we could see a clear image of the Great Red Spot, the planet's wispy cloud bands with intricate detail and the four Galilean moons. I could even see detail within the GRS itself, different shades of red. It's the best view of Jupiter I have ever seen, and dad was pretty much blown away by it as well. I'll drag my 12" Lightbridge to check out Jupiter again soon, but I know it won't be the same!


We also had the chance to visit the impact crater near Winslow. The views of the crater from the observation decks were terrific, and they have a splinter chunk of the asteroid/meteor that caused the impact on display to touch and examine more closely. It felt like pure iron or metal, and gave you an eerie sense of the damage a really large asteroid of this nature could cause if it impacted our planet. Well worth a visit if you're up that way!



Hopefully I'll have some more astro-images to share soon as the warm, spring nights take hold here in Texas.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Astro Update!



Well, we finally got some clear skies over the past week, and I have been able to get out and observe. The conditions have been great, with a little wind that has added to the chill factor during these so-called winter months (temps have been a lot higher than normal this year). It had been a while since I have actually imaged, so I got out under the stars a couple of times and revisited some old friends.

Below are a couple of shots of the Sword of Orion region, with different processing workflows applied to each. I'm not sure which one I like better, and wish I could blend the two from a color perspective. My new Orion field flattener made a huge difference, though - nice round stars to the edge of the field.



Image Details:

  • Imaging Scope: Astrotelescopes 80mm ED Refractor
  • Imaging Camera: Nikon D7000
  • Guide Scope: William Optics 66mm Petzval Refractor
  • Guide Camera: Orion Starshoot Auto Guider
  • Mount: Celestron CGEM
  • Orion Field Flattener
  • 10*5 minute lights
  • 10*1 minute lights
  • 10*5 minute darks
  • 40 bias frames
  • Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
  • Processed in GIMP


Below is the M47 cluster in Canis Major. I would like for my cluster images to have more "punch" - they lack impact somehow. Pretty sure its an exposure issue.


Image Details:




  • Imaging Scope: Astrotelescopes 80mm ED Refractor
  • Imaging Camera: Nikon D7000
  • Guide Scope: William Optics 66mm Petzval Refractor
  • Guide Camera: Orion Starshoot Auto Guider
  • Mount: Celestron CGEM
  • Orion Field Flattener
  • 10*1 minute lights
  • 10*5 minute darks
  • 40 bias frames
  • Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
  • Processed in GIMP
More to come soon!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Air & Space Museum at Dulles, Virginia

I was in DC for business last week, and stayed an extra day to check out the Smithsonian Air and Space museum annex at Dulles Airport in Virginia. It's about 30-40 minutes' drive from DC proper, and entry is free. There is a US$15.00 parking fee, however.

The museum itself is fantastic. It's like three large aircraft hangars brought into one building, and it's chock-full of amazing aircraft and space assets. Notable exhibits include the Space Shuttle Discovery, an SR-71 "Blackbird", the Enola Gay and an Air France Concorde. The museum has different sections for space flight, early aviation, WW2 aviation, the Cold War era and modern military. There's an IMAX theater there as well which is currently playing Star Wars Episode VII, but also shows some great movies about aviation, one of which being narrated by Harrison Ford.

I highly recommend visiting this museum if you're in the area. It's outstanding. The main Air & Space at the National Mall is very good, but this shows more experimental types.

Below is a picture of the Discovery in all its glory!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Geminids 2015

Ah, the Geminds. Lovely to watch, difficult to capture! This time of year, the weather makes for bad dew conditions, so having a couple of cameras pointing up at the night sky in the cold, late hours makes for difficult capturing attempts. Still, I managed to get the image below of a Geminid zooming near the Orion constellation and Pleiades with my 10-20mm Sigma lens, set at 10mm. ISO3200, 35" exposure.


Monday, November 09, 2015

Published in Amateur Astrophotography Magazine

What a treat! My black and white Sword of Orion image was published in this month's edition of "Amateur Astrophotographer" magazine as part of a feature on the Orion nebula. You can check it out here, page 62!

It's been difficult to get out under the stars lately. Central Texas has been deluged with several massive rain systems which have caused flooding and, sadly, loss of life. The meteorologists have predicted a wetter winter this year, so chances are ordinary that I will get much observing time in. We'll see.

I'm also being kept busy with a new project, a 1973 MGB! I bought it back in July, had a great run, then blew a pushrod in the engine. So, it's new engine time, but that's well underway and she'll be back on the road soon. Note it's a convertible - great 360 degree views of the night sky when driving at night!


Monday, September 28, 2015

Lunar Eclipse

Well, central Texas was completely socked in with clouds last night. We saw fleeting glimpses of the event but nothing to write home about. I did manage to get the shot below through a brief clearing of the cloud activity, though. Taken with a Nikon D7000, 80mm refractor mounted on a Manfrotto camera tripod.