Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Happy Holidays

Season's Greetings from the Quarter-Meter Telescope at the Heritage Park Observatory!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Raising The Roof

I ran into problem in the Heritage Park Observatory: the building was sinking. It had dropped enough that I had to park the telescope "just so" get it to clear the roof. I finally broke down and bought 40 concrete pavers and 280 pounds of sand. With Trudy's help, we got the building disassembled, re-levelled, paved and rebuilt in just a couple of hours. The hardest part was getting the materials home--one paver's not too heavy, but 40 of 'em is another story.

I've got plenty of clearance now. I'm just worried that I won't be able to see Polaris any more--that's going to make aligning interesting!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

M33, The Triangulum Galaxy Returns

When last we saw M33, I was calling it a learning image. Well, I've done some learning, but still have some more to go.

This one's 45 x 60 sec. I'm getting the periodic error trained out of the LX200 mount, so the stars aren't long streaks like they had been. I probably could have shot 90 or 120 seconds subs--the image would look better if I did. I'm still working on autoguiding, too, which will make even longer subs possible. My polar alignment is getting closer; I've iterative aligned the wedge as best as possible, but there's still some N-S drift, which means there's probably some field rotation, too. Neublosity's align and rotate is helping out here by taking out the rotation between subs. I'll eventually learn how to drift align--I think I'm getting close.

Still my regular setup of 10" LX200 Classic @ f/6.3 and the stock Digital Rebel XT.

NGC 7293, The Helix Nebula

Ugh. Just awful. 60 x 60 sec (+ 5 darks & 5 flats) in the 10" LX200 @ f/6.3. I had to stretch the heck out of it to get anything to show. You can barely make out the nebula on any of the single frames. I'm sticking with bright things for a while.

Friday, November 24, 2006

M31, The Andromeda Galaxy Returns

M31 was the first deep space object I shot one year ago. This is a tight shot of the core, showing dark lanes spiraling away. Every star you see here is between us and the galaxy.

30 x 30 sec. The short exposures gave me the nice round stars.

M42, The Orion Nebula Returns

Another rerun, this time a new version of M42, The Orion Nebula. Also here is M43, de Mairan's Nebula, a.k.a. the Running Man.

Shot this through the ST80 riding piggyback on the LX200. I learned a few new tricks since the last time I tried imaging with this scope.

This one's a composite of two images: the core of M42 is 30 x 10 seconds, the rest of the image is 30 x 30 seconds, Rebel XT.

M1, The Crab Nebula Returns

We've had the best week of weather for imaging, so I've been out five nights in a row. I need to start backing up a bunch of older stuff, because I've got gigs and gigs of new data to process.

Up first, M1, the Crab Nebula. I shot this the first time back in January, and I'm pleased with the progress I'm making. This one's 42 x 60 sec.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NGC 457, The Owl Cluster

Click for full-size.

I really like the way this one turned out. NGC 457 is an asterism in Cassiopeia that's fun to show to kids. "Hey! Do you want to see E.T.?"

The diffraction spikes are synthetic, created in Photoshop using Noel Carboni's Astronomy Tools Photoshop Actions Set. I like it.

Image is 45 x 60 sec, Canon Digital Rebel XT, 10" LX200@ f/6.3. Processed with Nebulosity. I'm really digging this app and finding out what all it will do.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Double Cluster

Click for larger image.

This came out better than it should have. 30 x 60 sec. for NGC 869; 10 x 60 sec for NGC 884; all unguided on the LX200 @ f/6.3, Canon Digital Rebel XT.

Wedding Pictures I'd Like To See

Saturday evening the whole family came to Austin for my cousin James' wedding. Lovely ceremony, the bridesmaid's dresses showed lots of skin, and an open bar at the reception.

So today when I went to see the pictures, I got this warning on the computer at work:

URL: http://www.brendaladdphoto.com/
Detail: Access denied by SmartFilter content category.
The requested URL belongs to the following category:

I knew we left the reception too early!

On hoisting, and petards

From Laid-Off Dad. I wish I had written this:

On hoisting, and petards

One of the great modern conveniences of this or any century is the Daddyvator™, which allows the more diminutive among us to demand a greater vantage point of the world around them. It's a simple device; the child pushes a button on Daddy's knee, and that child is slowly hoisted up to Daddy's eye level. Once aloft, the child has several options, including:

  • reaching and/or whining for things that have been stashed out of his sightline!
  • gumming up and/or crushing Daddy's glasses!
  • voiding his nose and/or mouth on Daddy's collarbone!
  • offering up his soft, warm neck for kisses and/or abundant zerbiting!
  • and/or so much more!

When the child wants to return to Earth, he pushes the button on Daddy's nose and is slowly lowered.

This is all very charming until the child ages into a forceful Toddlesaurus, unaware of his burgeoning strength. At this point, he greets you at the door by slamming an implement -- usually one of his brother's phony power tools -- into Daddy's gimpy kneecaps. And once in the crook of Daddy's arm, he demands release by punching Daddy, full force, in the schnoz.

Then Daddy gets to wipe the tears from his eyes, knowing he has taught his child well.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Apparently Not

I was driving in to work this morning when I passed a truck pulling a stock trailer with a longhorn cow and a buffalo inside. I thought to myself "only in Texas," until I noticed the truck and trailer had Arkansas plates.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


The fog comes in on little fog feet.

We regret the error.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Creating Custom Hybrid, Auto-Open CDs in Mac OS X With Toast 7

I'm posting this because I can never remember the steps to making this work.

1. Launch Toast 7. From Utilities, select "Create Temporary Partition…"

2. This will be the Mac half of the disc. Copy into the temporary partition (which is actually a disc image) the content you want. If you're using a custom background, this is where you arrange the icons. Note that the background image must be at the root level of this partition. Once you have everything in place, leave the window open and select "Log Out…" from the Apple menu. This "locks" the window and icon placement in the partition.

3. Log back in. Launch Toast 7 again. Mount the temporary partition. (I opened it and made sure it was all arranged the way I wanted it.) With Toast set for Data, Mac Only, check Compressed and Auto-open disc window. Drag the partition to Toast and Save As Disc Image…

4. Mount the image in the Finder. It should auto-open and look like the temporary partition.

5. In Toast, select Custom Hybrid. You may have to go to Preferences, General and check "Show legacy formats and settings."

6. Click "Select Mac...", choose the still-mounted image, uncheck "Optimize on-the-fly," and click OK.

7. Click "Select ISO…" and add your PC content.

8. Burn or save as a disc image.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

M27, The Dumbbell Nebula, Reprocessed

I downloaded a new image processing app called Nebulosity, which offers more control for stacking, aligning and processing than Keith's Image Stacker. Mostly I was looking for a way to de-rotate an image stack. It's not a perfect program--the sequence of steps required is a little vague--but I'm happy with the early results.

Here's September's shot of M27 processed in KIS and Nebulosity.



Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mercury Transit

Well, that was underwhelming. It's a dot. Yup, still there. It's cool when you think about it, though.

Shot this with the NexImage through the ST80 and the Orion white-light filter. That's a big-a sunspot coming around on the right.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Caught the sun going behind the house at the end of the block as I was setting up for tomorrow's Mercury transit.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Oklahoma (State) University

I'm glad I'm not an OSU fan. Never mind the sound drubbing they took from the Texas Longhorns, but you know the 30-second spots that run during college games where the school gets to say how great they are? During the game Saturday night, TBS ran one for UT, then one for OU. Right state, wrong school.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dear Looser

(I shot this with the phone on my camera, which I haven't quite yet mastered, so excuse the crappy picture. The writing on the sign says, "If you want our troops to loose.")

Dear Looser,

First, thanks for making my job so much easier. It's folks like you who made me see that voting Democratic really isn't such a bad option.

Second, you might have noticed that things aren't going so great for our troops right now. October's been pretty tough, you know? So might it make a certain amount of sense to try something different? I mean, after your quarterback throws his fourth interception, you think about benching him. Or put it this way: If George Steinbrenner were President, do you suppose Rumsfeld would still have a job?

Your Democrat Pal,

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

M33 Revised

Thhanks to Rammysherriff on Cloudy Nights for touching this up and turning me on to PixInsight.

M33, The Triangulum Galaxy

I still have many issues to resolve--guiding, alignment (there's field rotation going on here), gradient removal and so on. Let's just call this one a learning image.

I moved the focal reducer in front of the focuser, so my imaging train is scope, FR, WO crayford, adapter, camera. I like the wider field, but it's vignetting. Stretching the histogram to get the galaxy to show just makes it worse.

30 x 60 sec., LX200 10" @ f/6.3, Rebel 350D


Halloween pictures are here.