Light Pollution is No Longer The Problem

The number one topic of conversation at the Oregon Star Party (OSP) this year was that there is no longer much doubt that wild fires are increasing in frequency and size, and that this has a major impact on amateur astronomy.  Nor is there much doubt that this will continue to be more of a problem in the future – at least until all the vegetation on the west coast is lost to fire and there is nothing left to burn. I was at OSP from Tuesday through Sunday and the air was hazy from smoke almost the entire time.  […]


Off to OSP

The word of the day is chaos.  I’ve been getting ready for OSP (the Oregon Star Party), which starts next week.  To give you an idea of just how busy it has been here at Wa-chur-ed Observatory, we’ve had multiple nights of beautiful, clear skies lately, but I have not been out to the observatory at all – too many other things need to get done.  Very few things have higher priority for me than collecting a few photons from a dark sky. But I do have some progress to report as a result of my “indoor work”:  First, I’ve […]


Mighty Mount

I was at a star party most of last week, and have 2 or 3 images from that waiting for processing.  There are also 2 new images from Australia I had hoped to share with you, but they are also in the queue for processing, as I am too busy with other priorities (ones that will, hopefully, generate immediate income).  But not wanting to have no updates to this blog for too long, I thought I would share some details on my new mount, the Paramount MyT. Paramount pronounces it as “mighty”, as in “Mighty Mouse”, which is kind of […]


55 Million Solar Masses

My latest image from Australia is Centaurus A (NGC5128), a large, unusual galaxy.  The photo looks like a thick dust lane with a very bright star behind it, but all that glowing in the center is actually from the core of the galaxy, which includes a supermassive black hole, estimated to be 55 million times the mass of our Sun (which is itself far beyond the size of objects in normal human experience). If my camera could pick up x-ray and/or radio signals we would see enormous jets radiating from the center, perpendicular to the disk.  The inner portions of […]


A Faint Nebula and a Super Bright Mount

This is Sh2-135, another obscure nebula from the Sharpless catalog.  It’s almost entirely red because it’s almost entirely made up of hydrogen – and even the H-alpha signal is pretty weak.  The brightest part of it (near the center) also contains a bit of Sulfur, which I have assigned to blue-green, so it is leaning very slightly toward magenta, but still looks pretty much red.  In summary, the hydrogen was weak, the sulfur was extremely weak, and the oxygen was non-existent!  I integrated about 11 hours of exposure time here, including the O-III, but it would look pretty much the […]


Here Comes the Sunflower

The Sunflower Galaxy (M63) is a large, but very distant galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici.  At a distance of about 27 million light-years, it is amazing that we can see this much detail.  In fact, I rarely photograph galaxies because most of them are so small that it requires excellent conditions (very dark skies and low turbulence) to get a decent image.  I shot this at last week’s star party, using the William Optics FLT-132.  This is actually cropped quite a bit and includes less than half of the full frame.  You can see another galaxy in the upper […]


A Quick Sharpless

I’m about to leave for a star party, but had to stay up late last night to finish capturing this target, and then felt compelled to do at least a quick processing to share it with you. Continuing last year’s exploration of the Sharpless Catalog, this is Sh2-112 in the constellation Cygnus.  The main (brighter) part of this nebula is a bit small for my telescope & camera, but there is a good deal of dimmer nebulosity around it, especially on the right side in this view.  And this dimmer nebulosity seems to contain all 3 of the emission lines […]


I Wasn’t Expecting This

Many of the objects in the southern hemisphere sky are unfamiliar to me, including this, the “Running Chicken Nebula” (IC2944).  But I also wasn’t expecting to have another image for you so soon.  There are a bunch of targets in the queue that are RGB rather than narrowband targets, and these take longer to capture because you have to wait until there is no Moon out – on top of everything else that can get in the way of astrophotography.  Somehow, I thought this was one of those targets, but it is mostly emission nebula, and thus a narrowband target. […]


One More From Last Weekend

This is M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, which I last shot 4 years ago.  It’s fairly small, so it’s difficult to get a sharp image, and I don’t often try.  The above version is cropped to less than half the full frame, and the galaxy is still a small portion of the area.  Below is the (almost) whole image: It looks a bit sharper this way, and you get to see at least one more galaxy in the lower left corner. This image was put together from about 2 hours of luminence data and 2 hours of RGB data.  As with […]


Do Whales Play Hockey?

From the first dark site star party of 2018 this past weekend, this is the Whale and Hockey Stick galaxies (NGC4631 and 4656, respectively).  It’s also my first LRGB image with the new FLT132 telescope, and I’m happy to report that the L frames were just as sharp as the RGB (which was not the case with the previous ‘scope, due to residual chromatic aberration).  It might not have been a good test of chromatic aberration because less-than-ideal seeing made all frames less than perfectly sharp. I shot more than 7 hours of this target, but discarded about 2 hours […]