Welcome to my Astrophotography Blog!

This is a journal of my adventures in astrophotography -- taking images of distant celestial objects. Please look around and feel free to add your comments, questions, and critique to any of the entries by clicking the "comments" button on the bottom of each entry -- or just say "howdy!

And don't forget to click on the images for a larger view!

So choose either the Red pill or the Blue pill and follow me down the wormhole....


Comanche Springs Star Party

Comanche Springs Star Party
Doin' my thang at the Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus (where I often become a "red ghost")

Dallas Sky

Rancho Venado Sky

Atoka Sky

Camanche Springs Sky

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I joined the Texas Astronomical Society (TAS) at the first of the year and have enjoyed their meetings (great speakers) and their local star parties.

Yesterday I finally made it up to the club's "dark site" property in Atoka, Oklahoma (only about 1.7 hours from Dallas).

No, that is not a pic of a weird church next to a cemetery -- it is the Al Bowen Observatory next to part of the viewing field (those are not "plots", but rather concrete pads and power poles for setting up telescopes in the field.

I went to the site with Max, the club VP, to do some painting and general maintenance to the dome.

Here are the stairs leading up to the dome -- it looks like a submarine. The red lights are used everywhere to preserve one's dark adapted eye at night.

Inside the dome, Max inspects our re-painting efforts. He is a very cool and interesting dude. We had a good afternoon of philosophising.

That scope is a big 16" Meade SCT. I look forward to heading back to the site at night and taking a peek through that sucka!

The Otaka site is FREE to all members of TAS. What a deal!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Strangers in the Night...

Interesting things happen when you sit in a field late at night in the middle of nowhere...

While sitting under the stars during an astrophoto session, one hears all kinds of "sounds of the night". On May 31 about midnight I heard some strange "crying". I thought it was a wounded rabbit. About a half hour later a deer started snorting at me from some nearby cedar trees. It was totally dark (no moon) and I could not see anything.

Deer use this loud snort as an alarm as they dash away from danger, but this deer was not leaving. She kept snorting and circling me (unseen) for a good thirty minutes. I was amused but thought nothing of it.

The next morning, Kim got up to let the dogs out and came running back inside all alarmed! I thought there was a rattlesnake in the yard. Instead, we found a tiny newborn deer in the fire pit! The little critter was just a day or so old and didn't even have its eyes open yet. Evidently it got lost and fell into the fire pit and couldn't get out.

So, THAT was the crying I heard the night before. And now the "snorting deer" made sense -- mama was looking for her baby and I was in her path. The fawn was really exhausted and I thought near death. It has hot outside, already close to 90 F. I cooled her down with some water (she was to young to know how to drink) and set her in the shade. Then she surprised me by standing up and wobbling down the hill, crying for mama again. She had some life left in her yet!

So I decided to take her to the cedars at the bottom of the hill to the north of the house where I knew mama and other deer generally hang-out. I sat her under a tree and Kim and I went to town for lunch and to buy a baby bottle to try to get some fluids in her. But when we came back a couple hours later, she was gone.

We looked all around, but she was nowhere to be found. Then Kim saw a group of deer running in the cedars about 50 yards away. It appeared little "Star" (okay, I named her... I'm a softy) got reunited with her clan... a happy ending : )

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Man in Space!

Wow, this was a LOT of fun to shoot! This is the International Space Station (ISS) with the Shuttle docked on top. It came zipping overhead here in Dallas last night around 9:15 at 80 degrees above North.

This sucker moves quick! It was a really bright Mag -2 and looked like a super bright plane. It was only visible from my atrium for a little over a minute.

I shot this with a simple ToUcam webcam attached to my CPC 800 telescope. As soon as it started overhead, I manually chased it around the sky and recorded an 800 frame AVI of it zipping in and out (mostly out) of my field of view. But I managed to catch about 20 images of the ISS. This is the best one.

This is the first time I've attempted this and didn't know what to expect, so I am very happy with the results. It is SO COOL what goes on just right above our heads. It amazes me that you can simply look up and see space stations flying overhead and actually take pictures of them!

I'm going to have to try this again : )

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Back in town after a few days in Vegas (where I took lots of photos of OTHER heavenly bodies at the 2008 Exotic World Burlesque show -- yahoo!)

I am still processing the data from my recent trip a week ago to the ranch. I just finished my first image of Jupiter. I did not catch the famous Red Spot, but I did get the moons: Io, Ganymede, and Europa.
Here is a closer look at the Jovian Giant. Many of the bands are clearly visible.
These images were taken with a simple webcam and a Powermate 2X magnifier through my CPC 800. Approximately 400 frames from the resulting AVI were registered and stacked in the Registax program (a very cool FREE application)!
I hope to make more/better images of Jupiter and capture the Red Spot, along with some transiting moons.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Trifids, Whirlpools, Lagoons, and Greek Philosophy!!

Wow! What a great weekend at the ranch! I finally took the new TAK scope and mount out for an imaging session under great skies.

I did my first polar alignment, so I'm not a polar virgin anymore. It was actually pretty easy using the Takahashi mount's polar scope to dial-in Polaris and the requisite off-set. So I was good to go in no time.

Image specs: ISO 1600, 66 min (200 sec. subs)

Here is my first success -- the Trifid Nebula (upper left) next to the larger Lagoon Nebula (lower right). Actually, the Lagoon is too large for me to capture all of it with the Trifid. Part of it is cropped-off. I'll probably take a photo next time of just the Lagoon.

This area of the sky is looking directly towards the hub of our Milky Way galaxy -- lots of stars! In fact, the Lagoon Nebula is a big "star hatchery".

There are two main types of nebulae -- reflection and emission. The Trifid is a good example of both! The Blue areas are reflection and the Red are hydrogen emission. Actually, there is a lot more hydrogen emission nebulosity than my camera is able to capture (since commercial cameras have hydrogen blocking filters for terrestrial photography). Guess what my next upgrade will be?

Here is a wide-field image of the Whirlpool Galaxy. I tried imaging this before with my older set-up but could not get enough exposure. Here I have MUCH more light.

I like this wide view. As incredibly huge as this galaxy is, it appears almost petite in the vastness of space.

Space is freakin' HUGE....

Image specs: ISO 1600, 40 min. (60 sec. subs)

Finally, here is the open star cluster M7. It is also called "Ptolemy's Cluster" after the Greek philosopher. He used to look up at this cluster a lot and talk about it for some reason. Hey, he was a philosopher...
Anyway, the cluster is the loose bright star grouping in the center. The "clouds" in the background are actually millions of stars (I've counted).
Again, this is looking towards our galactic hub -- a VERY dense region!
Image specs: ISO 1600, 30 min. (60 sec. subs)
I was up all night 2 nights straight shooting and observing. It was awesome. I'm still looking at my data. I'll have my first image of Jupiter coming soon!