The Cocoon Nebula

The other target I captured at the Golden State Star Party is the Cocoon Nebula (IC5146), which is, coincidentally, somewhat similar to the Trifid Nebula in appearance and structure.  The red portion is emission nebula, but the faint blue and brown regions are reflection nebula.  The Cocoon is in the constellation Cygnus, so much higher in the sky than Trifid.  Although it was nice to be able to photograph objects farther south, I wanted to get at least 1 target that was not so close to the horizon and the blurring that happens down there.  There was still a fair […]


The Trifid Nebula from GSSP

One advantage to making the long trip to GSSP is that it is more than 5 degrees south of home, so objects in the southern sky are more than 5 degrees higher above the horizon.  I had intended to photograph a new (to me) target, the Blue Horsehead Nebula, but found it to be too big for my gear – I could fit only a small portion of it in my field of view.  So instead, I went back to a familiar target that I hadn’t photographed for years, the Trifid Nebula. Also known as Messier 20, Trifid is partially […]


Golden State Star Party

Just back from GSSP, the Golden State Star Party, near Adin, CA.  Above is a photo of my astrophotography rig, with my motorhome behind it, and the Andromeda Galaxy in the lower left (WAY behind it).  It was a 450 mile drive, and its always questionable whether a star party is worth such a long drive, but we did have a good time. In comparison to the Oregon Star Party (OSP), GSSP is a little smaller, with about 400 attendees.  The location is attractive, and doesn’t have nearly as much dust as OSP.  It is on farm land that is […]


Welcome to Summer!

Today (June 21st) is the Summer solstice, so it is now officially Summer.  And the longest day/shortest night of the year. I think that amateur astronomers have mixed feelings about Summer.  It’s annoying that the night is so short (tonight, even without the Moon, it would be truly dark for only a few hours), and you have to stay up pretty late before it starts.  On the other hand, you can stay up through all of it and still get to bed long before it’s time for breakfast.  And usually, you can stay up all night without freezing. I must […]


A Home Galaxy

It’s fun to imagine that distant worlds might be home to other sentient beings, who stare up at their night sky to see the Milky Way Galaxy (although, even translated to their language, that would be a very odd name for it).  Perhaps there is some such world or worlds in the Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as M51 or NGC5194.  But in this case, “home galaxy” means that I captured this image of M51 from my home observatory, which is unusual because 99% of the images I capture from here are narrowband images of emission nebulae.  And I was surprised […]


Another Image from Last Week

You might notice that both this and my previous post have images of galaxies rather than my usual nebulae (and more specifically, emission nebulae captured with narrowband filters).  That’s partly because I wanted to take advantage of the dark sky at the star party to photograph things I can’t shoot from home.  But it’s also true that at this time of year, the Milky Way doesn’t come up until 3AM or so, and all of the nebulae we photograph are in the Milky Way, so it’s now “galaxy season”. The largest galaxy in this image is M106, also known as […]


First Star Party of 2019

Last weekend was the first star party I attended this year – in this area anyway.  The past Winter was long and cruel for astronomers, and May is a rather late start.  We went to my favorite place, SkyView Acres, in Goldendale, WA. The above photo is the “Leo Triplet” or “Leo Trio” – 3 galaxies in the Leo constellation.  The one on the left is NGC3628, commonly known as the Hamburger Galaxy.  In the upper right is M65, and lower right is M66.  This is an LRGB image made up of 24 L (luminance) exposures and 12 each of […]


Skull & Crossbones

NGC2467 is an emission nebula in the constellation Puppis, and about 17,000 light-years from Earth.  It is often referred to as the “Skull & Crossbones Nebula”, and I think you can easily see skull shape, but the cross bones are not obvious to me.  The red extends to the upper left in something like a broad line, and the lower left is certainly extended, but is really just a blob.  With a lot of imagination I guess you could see these features extending to the upper right and lower right to form an X. This is from the remote observatory […]


And Here It Is…

This is the first ever photograph of a black hole.  Not what you expected?  Well, to a VERY small degree, that’s because I lied to you in my last post when I said that it would be the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, Sag A*.  This is actually the center of M87, a supermassive galaxy in the constellation Virgo.  Although it is about 53 million light-years away, it is apparently large enough that it made a better target than Sag A*.  But the EHT team reports that an image of Sag A* is coming soon. […]


First Photo of a Black Hole (sort of)

I’ve been asked many times whether I have ever photographed a black hole, and my answer has always been that it’s not possible to photograph a black hole.  That’s technically correct, since no light (or other electromagnetic energy) can escape a black hole.  However, it is theoretically possible to capture an image of the “event horizon” around a black hole, and very soon we will all be able to witness the results of that theory put into practice. The above image is a computer simulation of such an event horizon, generated back in 1978 by a fellow with the ironic […]