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

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Space Ghost!

Actually this is IC 2087, the center reflection nebula, while the rest of the real estate is mostly taken by the dark nebula Barnard 22. I took this 4 hour exposure during Oki-Tex. Although it does not have the "zip, pow" color of other nebulae, I really love the haunting beauty of these subtle dark forms (my wife thought this one looked like a ghost).

Its interesting how people see different things in these cosmic forms -- like an ink blot test. One person commented that it looks like the Enterprise is bursting through the cloud. What do I think it looks like? It looks to me like ET wearing a Burka (with his little heart-light glowing).

Anybody else wanna play?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

From Perseus It Came!

This is NGC 1333 located in Perseus. It is a large dusty region and reflection nebula. It also has a fair amount of new star-birth happening (those red "knots"). Just a lot going on in this area -- very interesting. I would like to re-visit this area again with a longer focal length scope to explore in detail some of these local areas in close-up.

This is another image I took at Okie-Tex. It is just under 3 hours exposure.

And now, an editorial moment:

A good friend was feeling down lately -- nostalgic for his youth, fearful of the state of the world, doubting his abilities, etc. You know, stuff most of us feel from time to time. I know I certainly am guilty on occasion. But a good remedy for me is to simply look up.

Get away from the crap. Get out under a dark sky full of stars and look up and you find amazing sights like the image above (okay, you need 3 hour exposure if you want all the color), but there is so much you can see -- even with binoculars or naked eye. And for me it really rekindles the awe and sense of wonder of being a kid. It puts things in perspective. The universe is forever mysterious and exciting! Incredible distances, enormous sizes, amazing processes, and we can see it all! How did all this happen? Where is it going? Ever feel like the "magic" is gone? Just look up... its up there!

Anyway, it works for me : )

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oklahoma Sandworm!

Okay, maybe not exactly a worm, but it is VERY dusty and worm-like (and I did shoot this in Oklahoma).

This is VDB 152, a dark reflection nebula in Cepheus. I think it is really beautiful. The clouds of dust are simply passing through the bright star at the top "mouth" of the worm. The light from the star reflects blue upon the nebula.

I really like these reflection and dark nebula types -- they have a lot of depth and dimension. They also look kinda spooky and mysterious.

This image was taken from Okie-Tex. Total exposure time through the FSQ 106 was a little over 2 hours.

More reflection nebulae on the way...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More Oki-Tex...

This is Camp Billy Joe in the Black Mesa area of the Oklahoma panhandle. It is actually a Christian Youth Camp that the Oklahoma Astronomy Club rents once a year to hold its annual star party.

It is kind of ironic that this site hosts a bunch of science-loving "Big Bangers" each year, but it is also pretty cool. I mean, no matter what one believes regarding the "how and why" of the origin of the universe, most folks simply agree that the universe is beautiful, mysterious, and a marvel to behold.
Under the amazing canopy of stars, it seemed to me that science and faith were both right at home.
Okay, so I haven't gone camping since I was in college. But I decided to buy a tent and go "old school", avoiding the bunkhouse that was available in exchange for some privacy, solitude, and NO snoring!

This was my home away from home with my tent set-up just a few paces from my telescope. And while I did have privacy, I could still hear my neighbors snoring in their tents.

Twice a day they rang the dinner bell and folks would make the short walk to the lodge where food was served and the vendors hung out. The food wasn't bad and the decor was amusing -- on the wall next to the chow line there hung religious paintings, as well as large syringes and signs about getting rabies vaccinations.
A big tent served as dining hall and presentation area for the guest speakers. They also had Internet connections.

Of course, the main draw was not the food or camping facilities but rather the incredibly dark skies. Here is shot of the Milky Way I took with my Nikon. As you can see, very clear and very dark. Just perfect weather!

Astronomy, and astrophotography in particular, demands that you stay up all night until the sun comes up and puts an end to your work. It is sometimes hard to stay awake, and often you hit "the wall". My favorite remedy was a trip to the Cosmic Cafe -- an all-night grill serving burgers, frito pie, green chili stew, grill cheese sandwiches, and hot and cold drinks until 3am. Perfect for the astrophotographer!

The red "submarine-like" lighting scheme is to protect your dark adapted eye (it takes up to 40 minutes to get completely dark adapted, so light restrictions are important).

As you can tell, I had a great time at this event. I am looking forward to returning next year, as well as exploring other similar events in the region.

Next up... new astro images!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Okie-Tex Star Party!

Wow, wow, wow! I just got back from my first big "star party" -- the 25th Okie-Tex Star Party that was held in the Black Mesa area of the Oklahoma panhandle. It was a 9 hour drive from Big D but totally worth it. I tent camped for 4 days under some of the darkest skies in the country... and the weather was perfect! It was incredible. I saw stuff I've never seen before... like the Zodiacal light and the Gegenschein (more about those later).

Expect a full report (with pics) coming soon. I also did LOTS of astro-imaging on multiple targets, so I will have a steady stream of new astro images to share very soon. In the meantime, here is a shot I took of some "star trails". This is done by simply taking a LONG exposure from a fixed camera on a tripod pointing north. As the Earth rotates, the sky seems to spin and thus blurs/streaks the stars. All the red lights are from the flashlights of folks in the field.

It was an exhausting trip, but completely cool. I'm hooked!