Looking Back (and Forward)

One of the greatest things about astronomy is that when we look at very distant objects in the universe we are actually looking back in time.  Because it takes time for light (and other “signals”) to reach us over huge distances, we can literally see what things were like long ago.  Thus, the science of astronomy is largely about history.  The difference between astronomers and historians is that astronomers have to use a lot of tricky extrapolation and inference to learn about the past. I, on the other hand, can tell you about the recent past of Wa-chur-ed Observatory directly […]


Air & Space Photo Contest 1

Air & Space Magazine, published by the Smithsonian Institution, has an annual photo contest with 4 categories, including one for astronomy photos.  I submitted 10 images last Fall, including 1 collaborative image done with my friend, Kay Wyatt.  The judges have selected 10 finalists in each category, and I’m pleased to announce that our collaboration and 3 of my own images are among the Astronomy finalists! The judges will eventually choose a winner in each category, plus a Grand Prize winner across all categories.  But there is also a Readers’ Choice award.  You can vote for your favorite image in […]


New Focus Control System (Finally) Available

I told you about PerfectStar B some time ago – it’s my new focus control system using bipolar motors instead of the traditional unipolar motors.  And I had intended to put it on my website and start accepting orders back in September, but ran into some software issues that delayed the release just enough to push it into the busiest time of year, so I didn’t get around to updating the website until now, even though I have already shipped a couple of these to existing customers. The “B” in the name refers to its use of/support for bipolar stepper […]


2018 Calendar Now Available

The 2018 Calendar of Astro-Photography is now available!  For this edition the title is modified from the usual “Night Visions” to “Sky Visions: Night & Day” because a good portion of the photos included are of the Sun, including several from the Aug. 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. As you can see from the cover, three other photographers have contributed to the calendar this year.  Bob Yoesle is a very skilled solar observer and photographer, and has provided images of the Sun captured with different filters.  Kay Wyatt and Michael McKeag are friends who both got better pictures of the […]


Early Christmas

For many years the AT111EDT has been my “workhorse” telescope, and it has been great, for the most part.  No longer in production, it is a widely regarded triplet refractor with an excellent optical design for its price point.  However, for the last few years I have been wanting to upgrade.  Specifically, I wanted the ‘scope pictured above (stock photo), the William Optics FLT-132.  Aside from having a significantly larger aperture, the FLT-132 uses a better grade of glass for the ED element, resulting in less chromatic aberration.  This has been a problem for me when capturing LRGB images with […]


LIGO Announces First GW Detection of Colliding Neutron Stars

You probably heard about this announcement from LIGO yesterday, but I thought I should add some details, and shift the emphasis of the story to where it really belongs: The previous detections of gravitational waves (GW) all originated from the merging of large black holes.  Such mergers can produce relatively strong, but very brief GWs – just a small fraction of a second.  And they produce nothing else – no light or other electromagnetic radiation.  Therefore, these observations could not be confirmed by optical telescopes or other detectors. In contrast, this event, dubbed “GW170817” because it was detected on Aug. […]


A Baby Elephant

There are, of course, a finite number of objects that an astrophotographer can shoot.  It’s a large number, but definitely finite, and when you add restrictions (and, trust me, there are a LOT of restrictions) it can seem like a pretty small number.  So it’s encouraging to see that the same object can be photographed and processed in many different ways.  As an example, I have now photographed the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula at 3 different focal lengths; 640, 350, and now 200mm.  A much longer focal length is often used on this target to capture just the “trunk” itself (the […]


Wider…Wider…

In my earlier attempt to capture the Spaghetti Nebula I found that the 200mm camera lens wasn’t quite wide enough.  And that a faster (lower focal ratio) lens would also be beneficial.  So I put an 85mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens (stopped down to f/2.8) on the QSI camera and tried again last night.  It didn’t work.  The moon was full last night, and even with a 3nm H-alpha filter, there was enough sky illumination to almost completely overpower the Spaghetti.  I’ll try it again when the Moon goes away, but I have to comment again on what this says about […]


Spaghetti (with Tomato Sauce)

This is a bi-color version of the Spaghetti Nebula.  I wasn’t able to put together a suitable rig for the wider angle lens, so just captured O-3 (oxygen) with the same 200mm setup.  Hydrogen is assigned to red and oxygen to blue and green.  In other photos of this nebula I found online very few bothered with the S-2 channel, as there is so little there.  Well, as I said before, even the hydrogen is very dim.  Oxygen is even dimmer:  You can see just a hint of it in blue/green near the top. I suspect that this is pushing […]


Mama Mia!

There are lots of things to be surprised about these days, starting with how long it has been since I posted anything here!  It has been very busy for several weeks here at Wa-chur-ed Observatory, including product development, order fulfillment, and my daughter’s wedding!  But it has not included any astro-photography – until last night. The Spaghetti Nebula, also known as Simeis 147 and Sh2-240, is a supernova remnant in Taurus.  It doesn’t have any spicy meatballs in it, but it is surprisingly dim – probably the dimmest target I have ever attempted.  It’s also very large at over 3 […]