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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 […]


Playing With Pacman

The sky has been mostly clear of clouds lately, but often full of smoke from forest fires.  At times it has been bad enough that we’ve had to close the windows to avoid the smell of smoke.  But I found a couple of reasonably clear nights and decided to re-shoot the Pacman Nebula (NGC281), which I haven’t done in about 5 years.  I don’t know when the “Pacman” name was first used to describe this emission nebula in Cassiopeia, but the video game character was created in 1980, so it is quite new in astronomical terms.  The nebula was first […]


Eclipse Report, Part 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3a0nZAFfcEI&feature=youtu.be The above video is one of three that I captured during the eclipse.  This one uses a “white light” solar filter and is fairly wide angle, as it was intended to show the extended corona (and some nearby stars) during totality (more on that later).  The second was shot with my H-alpha solar telescope and is much more “close up”.  That one needs a lot of processing, since each frame of the movie requires processing hundreds of frames to produce a good image.  The third one is essentially useless.  In the not to distant future I hope to add […]


Eclipse Report, Part 1

You may have heard that the total solar eclipse caused some major traffic jams in Oregon.  I managed to avoid most of that by traveling to the Oregon Star Party (OSP) on Aug. 15th and returning very early on the 22nd.  That is, I left at 5AM.  Apparently, very few people are willing to get up early to beat the traffic, so I managed to get out of the path of totality (where most people were) while they were still sleeping. I have only a vague memory of a solar eclipse when I was a kid, and it probably wasn’t […]


I Couldn’t Resist

I’m very busy and more than a little sleep deprived, but I have to share this with you:  I knew when I saw the first Hydrogen-alpha frame that this was going to be an interesting image, so after completing the capture Tuesday night, I processed it – and was even more pleased with the final image than expected. The object is another from the Sharpless catalog, Sh2-132.  Like many of the objects in the Sharpless catalog, it doesn’t have a common name, but I’m going to call it “The Ghost Rider Nebula”.  Do you see it?  The large arc in […]


Busy Days and Dreary Nights

The night sky has actually been completely free of clouds for several days.  Unfortunately, it has not been free of smoke.  Only a few of the brightest stars can be seen and the Moon looks decidedly yellow.  And the same weather pattern that is allowing this smoke to stick around is also keeping us very warm here.  Daytime temperatures have been well over 100 degrees F, and at night it doesn’t get cold enough for my camera to operate properly, so it’s a double whammy. I’m getting ready for the Oregon Star Party – and the eclipse!  My inventory has […]