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, December 10, 2011


Hey gang, it has abeen a while since I posted on this blog. This is because I have been focusing on my NEW BuckSnort Observatory website : )

Please feel free to have a look and let me know what you think. There are still a few dead links, but it is mostly all up. Hopefully it will be 100% soon.

I intend to continue to use this blog for news events, etc. But check out the gallery at BuckSnort for all the latest images.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Busy Month

I have imaged a lot of targets over the last few weeks (thank you clear skies)! As such, I have a backlog of data I have been processing. I like these problems.

Here is a 4 panel mosaic from the constellation Lacerta that features Sharpless 126 (the red nebula) and a plethora of smaller VDB and LBN objects.
Here is a 3 panel mosaic of the Eagle Nebula, Swan Nebula, and Barnard 92 near the heart of our Milky Way.

This dusty vista around Cepheus is centered on LBN 552. If you look closely, you can see a dusty "obscene gesture" ...heh, heh.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cocoon over North America

Aha! At last, a new astrophoto! See? I told you I'd have a new one soon.

Yep, after a lengthy haitus (working on observatories, dealing with weather, etc.) I finally have an image to present.

This wide field mosaic stretches from the North American Nebula (lower right) to the Cocoon Nebula (upper left). That's about a 13x10 degree chunk of sky. To accomodate that field of view, I imaged 8 panels to be stitched together into this mosaic image. Total exposure was a little over 12 hours.

I actually started this project at the Texas Star Party back in May, but was unable to complete it due to clouds. I then finished it down at my BuckSnort observatory a couple of weeks ago.

Summer is wide field season, so be on the lookout for more to come!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Farewell Atlantis

Last Friday July 8th I finally realized a dream and attended my first (and last) Shuttle launch. I just barely made it. Atlantis is the last Shuttle to fly... ever.

The Shuttle program had promised to make space flight routine and common place. It actually worked too well -- many Americans stopped being impressed and/or paying attention. And I too admit to procrastinating up until the very last flight. In fact, if it wasn't for my friend John who works at NASA, I would not have been given the chance. But last week, Kim and I were invited to view the launch as NASA VIP guests!

It was indeed an exciting 2 days. On Thursday, we attended a briefing and were given a tour of the pad (bussing up to the infield fence, right next to the pad itself). Then on Friday, we were taken to the Banana Creek viewing area, the same area from which the astronaut's families view.

And the launch was spectacular!

It was also bittersweet. Since this launch brings the Shuttle program to an end, many of the NASA personel who stood and cheered are transitioning into other areas or being laid off. Surely a shame, especially since the NASA folks I met were extremely impressive and passionate individuals -- real "top shelf" people.

Another thought occured to me as we drove back to the hotel from the launch. For the first time in my life, my country does not have the ability to launch an astronaut into space. I've always felt that NASA and our space program represented the high water mark for America -- especially the Apollo missions. Of course the Shuttle program cannot last forever, but the problem is there is nothing to take its place. And so, if we want to put an astronaut in space we have to ask the Russians. So who won the space race afterall?

I try not to get political in my postings here, so I will stop before I rant. Instead, I'll just say a big THANKS to all the folks at NASA for their great work and great hospitality. It was a fantastic experience!

See more pics here

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

HUGE fireball over BuckSnort!

Last night (11:47 pm, June 20, 2011) I caught a HUGE fireball on my meteor camera at BuckSnort Observatory in Central Texas. This was certainly the biggest meteor I have captured so far.

The video sequence was captured using a Watec video camera, f/0.8 lens, and UFOCapture software.

See the video here:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Milk & Dish

We had clear skies on the Saturday night before TSP officially began, so I took the opportunity to revisit a favorite location -- the VLBA Radio Telescope just a few hundred yards from where Kim and I were staying at the Sproul Ranch.

This year I chose to try a 3 panel panorama with the Milky Way arching to the dish (like a galactic rainbow leading to the pot-o-gold). This was shot with my Nikon D700, 12-24mm lens, on a tripod. Each 3 exposures were 45 seconds, then stitched together using Photomerge in CS5.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Playing with FIRE

I went to the Texas Star Party last week and once again had a great time. The only thing missing were the stars! We only had 2 clear nights out of the week, but we did have wildfires (and thankfully no one was hurt). This made for some interesting photo opportunities.

I went out late one night with my buddy Vance and I shot the Milky Way as it appeared through a hole in the smoke and clouds.

The next night the fires were still burning (and even larger) and I took Kim up into the mountains to see the flames. We made our way up to the top of the McDonald observatory and I was surprised to see the shutter open on the 107" dome and the astronomers still hard at work -- the fire was only about 3 miles away!

Although I did not manage to finish an 8 panel mosaic I started, it was still a great week. I even won the TSP astrophoto awards : )

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Das PlaneWave!

I know, I know... I've lately been taking more photos of gear than of the sky, but I am hoping my work now will pay off in LOTS of image data later!

So THIS is a milestone -- my buddy Phil finally brought his new PlaneWave 12.5" CDK scope, Optec 3" focuser, and Apogee U16 camera down to my BuckSnort Observatory last weekend.

When Phil learned I was building an observatory and intended to operate it remotely, he asked if I was interested in having a partner. When he proposed selling a bunch of his gear and buying this scope for the observatory, the offer was too good to pass up (besides, Phil is a great guy and I knew we'd have fun).

Anyway, we still have some minor issues to fix before it is fully operational (like adding more counterweight, replacing a bad USB hub, etc.), but we tested it on Friday night and it did great! We were both very excited.

This scope will allow me to image much smaller targets at great resolution (galaxies, planetary nebulae, small reflection nebulae, etc.) than I currently can with my "wide field" rigs . The available target list now goes way up.

And aside from the obvious photographic potential, the scope just looks COOL on my big red Paramount ME ; )

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

BuckSnort Update

I know what you are saying... "why the heck hasn't JOhn posted any new pictures lately?" Well, I've been busy working on my BuckSnort Observatory!

Since the initial structure was built last summer, I have been spending several hundred hours installing all kinds of gear -- computers, mounts, cameras, weather monitoring devices, networking stuff, running/burying cables, and doing lots of programming and trouble-shooting. Whew!

But the good news is I am almost finished. Everything is working great, and I have total remote access. I have not yet done any remote imaging because I am just now putting the final procedures and safeguards in place to prevent me from doing any boneheaded mistakes (or at least reduce the likelihood). Plus, my buddy Phil Jones is bringing his new PlaneWave 12.5" and Apogee U16 to mount on my Paramount ME at the end of April. At that time we will start remote imaging in earnest!

In addition to telescopes, I have also installed a video scanner that searches nightly for meteors, fireballs, and any other nocturnal transient events (UFOs)! These events will be viewable from the BuckSnort website.


Yes! Kim and I are putting together a dedicated BuckSnort website that will display all of the live camera feeds, weather info, as well as image gallery and other neato stuff. It should be online in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Working on my BuckSnort Observatory last week and encountered an unexpected couple of mostly clear nights. Soooo....

I shot a 2 panel mosaic of the Jellyfish Nebula, the Monkey Head Nebula, and M35. Doesn't "M35" sound kind of pedestrian after monkeys and Jellyfish?

The large red nebulous regions are Hydrogen gas that is being excited by nearby stars and glowing red (like a red neon sign). The blue stars of open cluster M35 provide a nice contrast methinks.

FSQ 106EDX f/3.63
STL11000M -25C
HaLRGB (120, 120, 30, 30, 30) per panel
Total exposure = 11hrs
CCD Stack, PixInsight, CS5

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Orion over Valley of Fire

Kim and I went to Vegas last week, so we took the opportunity to revisit the Valley of Fire state park. This park holds a special place for us because it is where Kim proposed to me 17 years ago (she used to complain "why must the guy always propose?", so I jokingly told her "fine I'm not going to, it is up to you!").

I had about an hour after sunset before we needed to head back to town -- just enough time to catch Orion peaking up over the rocks.

This is kind of an experiment. I purposely left the focus slightly soft to bloom the constellation stars a bit (focused past infinity). Unfortunately, it also made the foreground slightly soft. But still, I think it is kinda cool.

I was also experimenting with a flash -- firing 2-3 bursts to illuminate the foreground and distant rocks (there was no moon yet). We are planning a driving trip out west and I intend to do a lot of night landscape shooting, so I am just trying some different stuff. I think next time I will use good focus and add a soft filter to bloom the brighter stars.

Nikon D700 ISO 1600
Sigma 15mm f/5.6
45 sec

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Riddler

This dusty nebula is very seldom imaged. In fact, I could find no other examples on the internet (except for extremely wide shots that encompass the entire Orion/Eridanus area -- where this object shows as a tiny patch).

I have always noticed this nebula, being just west of the famous Witch Head, so last week I decided to see what it would look like up close. I could not find any catalog number for the nebula, so this object was a bit of a mystery to me. And when I saw the results, I was quite amused at the "?" shape -- so I call this the Riddler (as suggested to me by my pal Dave Pearson).

After posting this image, a fellow astrophotographer finally alerted me to the catalog name of this object. It is found in the Lynd's Bright Nebula catalog. It is actually 2 different nebulae -- LBN917 (bottom) and LBN906 (top).

After poking around a bit, I found more info on this area here http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0809/0809.0585v1.pdf

FSQ 106EDX f/3.63
STL-11000M -25C
LRGB 240,30,30,30
CCDStack, PixInsight, CS5