Table Mountain Star Party – Trip Report

It has taken a few days to recover from the long drive back from Eden Valley (just east of Oroville, WA) and the Table Mountain Star Party.  I had never been to this event before, although it has been going on for longer than I’ve been into astronomy, and it used to be much closer.  So while I don’t yet have any astro-photos from there, I want to give you a quick report. To put it in as few words as possible:  Wonderful!  Aside from the long drive, that is.  Not so many years ago, this star party was held, […]

Sharpless 86 in Vulpecula

I did it again.  Here is another object from the Sharpless catalog, taken over the last few nights.  Capturing this has, unfortunately, kept me from processing the images I took at the last star party.  Not so much because I haven’t had time, but because I need to capture some calibration frames (what are called “flat frames”) before I can process them, and that means switching the camera from narrowband filters (what I use in my home observatory) to the RGB filters I used at the star party, then back again.  But I will get to them eventually. Sharpless 86 (Sh2-86) […]

A Sharp Picture of a Sharpless Object

A while ago, I posted a monochrome image (H-alpha channel) of M16 and another bright, but unknown (to me) hydrogen region.  The second object did not appear in my planetarium software and very few images I could find on the internet included it, so I asked people for help in identifying it.  I eventually came up with an answer myself:  It was Sh2-54, AKA Sharpless 54.  More importantly, this led me to the online catalog of Sharpless objects, Stewart Sharpless was an American astronomer who worked on a number of important projects and with some well known astronomers, including Edwin […]

Star Party in the Round

Recently, a friend has been making 360 degree by 180 degree panoramas of the night sky in various locations as part of a light pollution study.  As you can see, this is a pretty useful tool to document and demonstrate what light pollution looks like, but it also makes a pretty nice picture, so I asked him how to do it.  Mike was very helpful.  Not only did he show me how to do it, he loaned me his fancy tripod head to capture the frames, and did part of the processing that requires some software I don’t have (yet). […]

Pioneer Days

Things are crazy busy here at Wa-chur-ed Observatory, but I wanted to take a minute to tell you about the event we did last weekend, the Linn County Pioneer Picnic in Brownsville, OR.  This was a 3 day event filled with all manner of family fun.  We were located at the end of the vendor area, next to a rock climbing wall provided by the OR National Guard.  That drew a lot of people to the area, but was also a distraction.  In any case, it was great fun to watch kids climb the wall – especially the little ones, […]

The Eagle and the Unnamed

M16, the Eagle Nebula, is a beautiful and often photographed object in the southern sky (when viewed from the northern hemisphere).  It is the northern-most of a series of well known objects in the area, including M17, M18, M20, and M8.  But in this photo M16 is in the lower right corner and the object in the upper left is farther north.  What’s interesting about this is that although the object in the upper left is quite bright (and although smaller than M16, not particularly small compared to typical astronomical targets), it has no common name.  In fact, so far […]

To Capture a Globular Cluster

I’ve tried many times to get a good photo of M13, the Hercules Cluster, and this is the best one yet, although it’s done with a telescope that is a bit low in magnification for this object.  M13 is a “globular cluster”, a group of stars that are gravitationally bound to each other.  In this case, there are about 300,000 stars in the cluster, so the goal in photographing it is to be able to distinguish one star from another as much as possible (obviously, we can’t come close to seeing all 300,000), which means getting excellent sharpness. Theoretically, a […]

Astronomy Season has (Finally) Arrived

Over the past week we’ve had some really great weather here in the Pacific Northwest, and I took advantage of the clear skies to start the astronomy season – with astro-photography, of course.  There are some dark-sky star parties going on as a write this, and I didn’t go because there is too much work to do at home, but that didn’t keep me from opening up the observatory and starting some semi-automated captures. The target this time was NGC6888, the Crescent Nebula.  This is a popular target in the Cygnus constellation, and is often photographed, both in natural color […]

You Don’t Always Get What You Want

We had some clear skies here for a few days, and although I’ve been too busy to stay up all night for deep-space object (DSO) photography, I had been waiting for the opportunity to try planetary imaging with the ASI174 camera I got a few months ago, and there was a transit of Io across Jupiter happening that night.  I didn’t get it. Here’s what happened:  The picture above was taken well before the transit started (I think the dim spot just to the left of Jupiter is Io) with the camera attached directly to my 8″ EdgeHD telescope.  This […]

PerfectStar Goes Bipolar

In this case “bipolar” does not refer to a disorder, but to a type of motor.  The current version of PerfectStar, like most focus controllers, uses “unipolar” stepper motors.  The indirect reason for this is that I (and probably most of my competitors) designed the controller to be compatible with existing motors (and for the motor to be compatible with other controllers) despite some significant advantages of bipolar motors over unipolar.  I’ll provide more details on that later, but first, I want to point out some other changes. In the above photo we see the “front” end of the controller. […]