IC410 Tadpoles

My last astrophoto was of IC405, also known as the Flaming Star Nebula.  IC410 is a close neighbor of IC405 – a bit of it is showing at the edge of the IC405 photo.  This nebula is best known for a small feature near the center, known as “The Tadpoles”: Most of the data for this image was captured near the full moon, and even though it is all narrowband data (using 3nm filters), the moonlight and haze made the O-III frames pretty bad.  The S-II frames were also less than ideal, so I leaned heavily on the H-a data […]

Moonrise Over Font’s Point

Yesterday’s Full Moon seriously limited the amount of deep-space imaging I’ve been able to do lately, but also provided a great opportunity for some “terrestrial” photography.  My friend, Mike, had calculated where we needed to be to place the rising moon just over Font’s Point, a popular local attraction.  I wasn’t really prepared for this in that I didn’t have a long focal length lens and hadn’t worked out how to bracket the exposures to capture both the dimly lit foreground and the very bright moon.  This was captured with a 200mm lens on a Nikon D300 camera.  I could […]

Flaming Star from California

My second image from our Winter in southern California is the Flaming Star Nebula (cataloged as IC405, Caldwell 31, and Sh2-229).  This was captured with the new Stellarvue SVX80T with 0.74X reducer/flattener, yielding an effective focal length of about 350mm at f/4.4.  With such fast optics a lot of information can be captured in a relatively short time.  In this case, I captured 4 hours of H-alpha, and 2 hours each of O-III and S-II.  The downside is that the optics are very sensitive to spacing and tilt.  Stellarvue recommends a spacing of 55mm +/-0.75mm from the reducer to the […]

Spaghetti All Night

My first image of the Winter in Borrego Springs, CA is the Spaghetti Nebula, cataloged as Simeis 147 and Sharpless 2-240.  This is a very large, dim supernova remnant (SNR) in the constellation Taurus.  It’s about 3,000 light-years from Earth, but the more interesting question is its age, and I couldn’t find any information about that.  Generally, as SNRs evolve they expand, become dimmer, and more diffuse.  This certainly is large and dim, but still has amazingly well defined structure. This is also my first image with the William Optics RedCat 51 telescope/lens.  Paired with the ASI1600 camera, it gives […]

Off to California

Above is a photo of IC405, the Flaming Star Nebula, in hydrogen-alpha.  This was captured as part of a test of a new telescope, the Stellarvue SVX80T-3.0.  Although this image looks pretty good (and I particularly like this framing of the object), I found some technical issues with the optics, and spent a good portion of the last month doing further testing and analysis.  I was able to improve it, and am on the verge of deciding that I was too critical in my first analysis.  It’s a very nice ‘scope overall, and the part I’ve been unhappy about is […]

The Mercury Transit

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html Tomorrow, Nov. 11th, the planet Mercury will pass between Earth and the Sun, appearing to take a leisurely stroll across the Sun over a period of about 5.5 hours.  Unfortunately, it is likely to be cloudy here, and even it it isn’t, this “transit” as it is called will be more than half over by the time the Sun comes up.  But on the East coast people will get to see most of it, weather permitting. Because Mercury and Venus are closer to the Sun than Earth is, we get to see them somewhat differently than we do the […]

Back to the Cave

This past weekend we had a New Moon and, surprisingly for this late in the year, good weather.  So I went to my favorite dark sky site, SkyView Acres, in Goldendale, WA.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a star party this late in the year.  My primary goal was to get some good RGB data of the Cave Nebula to go with the narrowband data I captured recently from home. The first night was great, although a bit cold.  I was getting some of the sharpest images I’ve had in this area, with an average FWHM of 2 […]


I won’t admit to having any particular phobias, but do believe that it’s quite insane to be crawling around through narrow passages deep underground (I’ve also never had even the slightest desire to jump out of an airplane).  So I recently explored a different kind of exotic structure, the Cave Nebula.  This is one of the targets I attempted to capture during the last dark site star party a few weeks ago, but something went wrong with that capture, so I’ve been working on it from home on the handful of clear nights we’ve had since then.  The Cave is […]

Fast Motors

My standard focus motors are designed for typical astrophotography needs, meaning that accuracy and high capacity (for heavy duty focusers and large cameras) are more important than speed.  But recently, a friend asked me to make a motor for visual use.  Using a focus motor for visual observing can actually be very helpful because it allows you to adjust focus without touching the telescope, thus avoiding the vibrations that generally happen when you touch a telescope.  The rotary knob on the PerfectStar family focus controllers makes for a very easy transition from direct focusing to motorized focusing.  Backlash compensation also […]

Bursting Bubbles

For the most recent New Moon I went to my favorite dark sky site, SkyView Acres, in Goldendale, WA.  Prior to that I had been capturing narrowband data of the Bubble Nebula (NGC7635) from home, so I thought I would add some RGB data from the dark sky site.  I had dreams of making a glorious multi-hued portrait of this popular object, but after playing around with it for hours, I have to say that my bubble has been burst:  I just couldn’t come up with a way to combine the data that looked any better than straight narrowband or […]