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

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My little Dumbbell

This is the Dumbbell Nebula, otherwise known as M27. What you are looking at is the massive amounts of material being ejected from a dying star. As the star burns out its fuel it begins to cool and lose mass, collapsing and exploding. What a way to go!

Although it has the nickname "Dumbbell", I think it looks more like an "Apple Core". Hence, I am starting an international movement to have it re-named. If you want to support this movement send as much money as you can to me and I will make sure it is put to good use (in the name of science of course).

This image started out as a test: new focal reducer, new HA filter, new processing scheme, etc. I shot this target on two consecutive nights from my heavily light polluted home in Dallas (and with a full moon). The first night I shot RGB color with my Reducer Q, then the next night I shot HA (Hydrogen Alpha wavelength) without the Reducer Q. I registered and combined these data sets to yield the image you see here. I was really surprised by how much good data I got -- the HA filter REALLY helps enhance the RGB (and is impervious to light pollution).

Most folks use long focal lengths to get a lot closer to this target, but I was happy to keep it in this WIDE field. It is like a little colorful island in the abyss.

Be sure to click on the image for a larger view!

And stay tuned... I have a LOT of new images coming soon : )

Monday, September 15, 2008

Meanwhile in Colorado...

Okay, so the moon is blazing high in the sky again. My imaging stops for a couple of weeks until the skies grow dark once more. It is time to clean and repair gear, learn new tools, and review some recent events that may have slipped through the cracks.

Last month, Kim and I spent a week in Colorado -- a convention in Denver, visiting family in Colorado Springs, and then fly fishing in Creede.

I took my camera along (naturally) and did a bit of shooting at night around the Antlers Lodge in Creede. This first one is taken from a small suspension bridge over the Rio Grande. You can see Sagittarius and the tail of Scorpius framing the moon.

The Perseid meteor shower happened to peak my first night there! Fortunately it was clear and the moon set early. I got up around 4 am and watched the shower. They came in waves. A couple of times I saw 4-5 meteors at once. Cool!

Of course, I tried to capture a shot of a really spectacular Perseid Meteor. It is always a matter of luck and proper timing to be taking an exposure when one flashes across your field. I missed some good ones, but did manage to capture a small faint one on the horizon.

Eventually, I noticed it getting lighter in the east. At first I thought it was my imagination. It did not seem late enough for the sun to rise. I forgot the sun rises earlier in Mountain Time.
So my viewing came to an end, but not before I saw Orion rise just ahead of the sun. It was really beautiful.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Welcome to The Triangulum!

This is the Traingulum Galaxy, otherwise known as M33. It is a fairly large spiral galaxy close to Andromeda.

You can see the dark brown dust lanes and the red "knots" where there is ongoing star formation in the spiral arms. I hope to add some Ha (Hydrogen Alpha) data to this image at a later date. This requires additional long exposures with a narrow band filter that allows only hydrogen emission wave lengths. What the hell does this mean?

Well, star formation is creating lots of radiation that excites the clouds of nearby hydrogen, causing it to glow red. By using a filter that focuses on this red bandwidth, one can really bring out those cool formation areas -- so you can see those cute little red star nurseries : )

This image was taken in Atoka with my normal rig (FSQ 106, QHY8 camera) and a 3 hour exposure.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Seven Sisters (hubba hubba)

Otherwise known as the Pleiades, or M45, this classic asterism (association of stars) is plowing through a vast cloud of dust, yielding some beautiful blue reflection nebulae.

Why the "Seven Sisters"? Well, first there are obviously more than seven. But I suspect when the lonesome and bleary-eyed Greek shepherds looked up they could only count seven stars. And since they were indeed lonely shepherds, these stars looked like beautiful women. I'm sure they named all kinds of things after women -- piles of rocks, trees, mud puddles, clouds, etc. Did I mention these guys were lonely?

But indeed, this is truly a beautiful object. And in fact, one can easily see it with the naked eye (even in light-polluted Dallas). While it requires a long exposure to pull out the nebulosity, the star asterism itself is easily seen, and even better through binos!

I was really happy with the way this image turned out. It is over 3 hours of exposure, which gives a lot of detail on this bright object.

Again, be sure to click on it for a larger view : )

Monday, September 1, 2008

Electric Richard and LDN1222

How's that for a "trippy" header?

So, I went back to Atoka last Thursday and Friday night. My ol' pal Richard Allen got some much deserved time off work and expressed interest in wandering around in the dark, so he was my astro buddy on this trip.

We had the place to ourselves on Thursday and the skies were great. I was hunting for LDN 1222 -- a small Dark Nebula near Cassiopeia. It is a little "off the beaten path" and a bit of a challenge to find. But it was the "Challenge of the Month" on the Cloudy Nights forum, so I took up the gauntlet and gave it a shot.

This is my wide field image of the area around LDN 1222. The actual target is that small dark patch hugging the upper center border. I was not totally sure I got the right target until checking this image against my charts later the next day.

I composed for the larger Emission Nebula in the lower left, and those cool tiny Dark Nebula "squiggles" in the center of frame.

This is a really interesting area, but very hard for me to process (it took all day in front of Photoshop to pull out the data). While clear, the skies were very humid and hazy and it gave me some light pollution vignettes that corrupted my colors -- took a bunch of time to balance things out (time to invest in some filters). Plus, I had no images to use as reference. I just had to "wing it". But I think I got close to a good "naked eye" version of this area.

LDN 1222 was exposed with 17 x 10 min subs (just under 3 hours of data).

Later that same night, I managed to get a good shot of the Pleiades.

So, that was Thursday night. On Friday we were joined by my pal Max (and briefly by Terry, also from the club). Friday night I shot M33.

Up next: Images of the Pleiades and M33... stay tuned!