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Gravity Rules

Along with a group of people from Rose City Astronomers, I visited the LIGO (Laser Interferometry Gravitational-Wave Observatory) facility in Hanford, WA last weekend.  The impressive looking structure in the above photo is actually just a water tank (mainly in case of a fire), but has the best LIGO signage on the site – the LIGO logo, if you like. I’ve written about LIGO and gravitational waves here before, but in case you missed it, here’s a quick summary:  Gravitational waves are distortions of time-space caused by the movement of mass through space.  Their existence was predicted by Albert Einstein […]


Flying South for the Winter

There was a plan to capture more data on this target, the Swan Nebula (Messier 17), from the observatory in Australia, but the Swan has now flown too far away and is no longer a viable target.  The good news is that I was able to make this pretty decent image with the data I do have. By the way, don’t spend too much time trying to see a swan in this shape.  As is often the case, the photographic appearance of this nebula is very different from the visual appearance from which the name derives.  But if you really […]


Scary Eyes

The Helix Nebula (NGC7293) is a great example of what is called a “planetary nebula” (PN), and is one of the closest PNs to Earth at about 700 light-years.  “Planetary Nebula” is a misnomer that derives from their typically round appearance, which might be mistaken for a planet when viewed through primitive telescopes.  They are actually emission nebulae resulting from a star shedding its outer layers as it approaches its end of life.  Most PNs have a similar appearance, but this image is the best example from my small selection, partly because of its large angular size, and partly because it […]


Naming A Very Dramatic Nebula

NGC6357 is known as the Lobster Nebula, a diffuse emission nebula in Scorpius.  It is also known as the War & Peace Nebula, based on the appearance in infrared light of a skull on the eastern side and a dove on the western side.  No matter what you call it, this is a very dramatic nebula, with complex and varied structures throughout. The total exposure (integration time) for this image is 13 hours, with roughly equal amounts of H-alpha, O-III, and S-II, all captured in Australia.  I processed it by first creating a color image with H-a as red, S-II […]


A Bunch of Galaxies, Far, Far Away

In another image from Australia we see the Grus Quartet, consisting of (from left to right); NGC7552, NGC7582, NGC7590, and NGC7599.  The 3 on the right are sometimes called the Grus Triplet, but the other is such a nice barred spiral galaxy that it would be a shame to exclude it. All 4 galaxies are relatively close to each other, and probably interacting with each other gravitationally.  Their distance from Earth is estimated to be in the range 55 to 70 million light-years – far away indeed.  But if you look closely you will see numerous smaller galaxies, and they […]


The Eagle Flies Again

Charles Messier’s 16th entry (M16) in his now-famous catalog of celestial objects that aren’t comets is also known as the Eagle Nebula.  To me, a wide view of the nebula such as this does indeed resemble a bird of prey, although I’m not sure this is what they had in mind when they named it.  The outstretched wings in red are nearly impossible to see through a telescope, and it is rare for an object to be named for its photographic appearance. In any case, M16 is a great target for either visual or photographic astronomy.  In my part of […]


Perseids at OSP

The last night of the Oregon Star Party (OSP) was a day before the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower, but close enough that we were seeing a bunch of them.  And that last night was pretty much clear of the smoke that had plagued us all week, so I set up a DSLR camera with a fast, wide-angle lens on a tracking mount to capture a few of them. The above photo is a composite of more than a dozen individual frames containing one or more meteor streaks.  The camera was pointed toward the constellation Perseus, which was […]


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 […]