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....

JOhn

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, December 23, 2008

Howdy Neighbor!

This is M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. Andromeda is our closest neighboring galaxy. In fact, we are getting closer all the time. Scientists predict that our galaxy, the Milky Way, will eventually collide with Andromeda. When that happens, there is actually a chance that our solar system could be "captured" by Andromeda -- we could actually swap galaxies! We won't know for sure for a few million years, but place those bets early.

Another interesting fact about Andromeda and its distance and size... Since light takes time to travel through the universe, the further distances we see, the "older" the light is. In other words, if we look at an object that is 100 light years away we are actually seeing light that is 100 years old -- we are seeing that object as it was 100 years ago. Hence, we are looking into the past.

The light traveling from the far side of Andromeda left before man ever walked the Earth, while the light on the near side of Andromeda left after the first recorded history. So, Andromeda is also an amazing "time line" of man's existence. Pretty cosmic, huh?

Anyway, I took this image last October at Rancho Venado. I had a couple of false starts, but finally was satisfied with this image (I haven't done too many galaxies yet). It was taken with the FSQ 106ED with a total exposure of 110 minutes.

Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Major Award

Yes, in the immortal words of Darren McGavin from A Christmas Story... I have received "A Major Award". No, its not a "leg lamp". A couple of my astrophotos won the monthly competitions over at Cloudy Nights, a large astronomy forum http://www.cloudynights.com/index.php

Every month there are several competitions in astrophotography (DSLR, CCD, Beginner, Sketching). I entered 2 images...


In the "object of the month" challenge, my NGC 1333 won
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_UFwZfAXi71E/SPIivqLrrPI/AAAAAAAAARA/yEeRSjloBtA/s1600-h/NGC+1333+master_crop_med.jpg


And in the Group Challenge (a sort of "best of" from all the categories), my M42 won
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_UFwZfAXi71E/SRc1Q_BExsI/AAAAAAAAASs/g5fG7DXd4BU/s1600-h/M42_master_crop_med.jpg


Cloudy Nights is a great forum and resource for the aspiring astronomer and/or astrophotographer. The competitions are friendly and fun, with bragging rights and a t-shirt the ultimate reward. Plus, the winner gets to pick the next "object of the month". It is a great way to challenge yourself and work on your skills, as well as see other folk's take on a similar object.

My M42 photo will appear on the Cloudy Nights homepage next month : )

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Baby

What, ANOTHER telescope? Why do you need another telescope?! The answer is simple... why do you have a screwdriver AND a hammer? The right tool for the right job!

My Takahashi FSQ 106ED telescope is alive and well and will continue to get a workout for many years. But the Tak is a wide field scope for imaging large objects. To image SMALL objects I need a much longer focal length (think of it as changing lenses on your camera).

Galaxy season is coming up and there are not that many wide field targets in the spring, so this time around I will be ready! After much debating, I settled on a Meade LX200 ACF 10" SCT telescope. It has a long focal length, larger aperature, flat coma-free field, and a mirror lock. In other words, it is a good choice for narrow field astrophotography.

I am still putting this rig together. I am slightly worried about the weight on the mount, but the Tak mount is pretty darned robust. I may go with a lighter guidescope (the one on top), but for now I'm going to give this a try and see how it performs.

I am eager to try this out on galaxies and planetary nebulae. It should be a fun challenge! Stay tuned...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

M78 (with a dash of Loop)

Well, I have been out of the country for a couple of weeks (Kim and I took a cruise through the panama canal -- neato). But before I left town, I managed to get up to Atoka for a couple of nights. At last I can process my images!

The first night in Atoka was perfect, and very cold. The next night started well, but clouded up as I tried to image the California Nebula. So I packed up early and headed back to town around midnight. It is a bummer to bail on a session, but the upside is a nice warm bed!

Anyway, the image before you is M78, a reflection nebula in Orion. I shot this with the FSQ 106 taking 11 x 20min exposures for a total exposure of about 3.6 hours.

As I was processing the image I noticed I had captured an arc of red nebulosity in the upper right corner. I was not sure what it could be. But as I worked on pulling out the details, I was struck by hunch. After researching a bit I discovered my hunch was correct -- the red arc is part of the famous Barnard's Loop!

Most images I see of M78 are close-ups. But since my field was wide, I picked up the Loop in my shot as well. I knew the Loop was in Orion, but I had no idea it was so close to M78. It was really fun to "stumble upon it", then figure out what it was -- like making a discovery (even though all seasoned astronomers would certainly know exactly what it was immediately).

This quote really captures the idea...

"When you make the finding yourself - even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light - you'll never forget it."-Carl Sagan.