Thursday, October 25, 2007

Comet 17P/Holmes

The astronomy mailing lists exploded yesterday with reports about Comet 17P/Holmes' unexpected dramatic increase in brightness. Here's the story from
A small and very faint comet has surprised observers around the world by overnight becoming bright enough to see with the unaided eye.

Comet Holmes, which was discovered in November 1892 by Edwin Holmes, in London England, was no brighter than magnitude 17 in mid-October—that's about 25,000 times fainter than the faintest star that can normally be seen without any optical aid. In order to view an object this faint, one would need a moderately large telescope.

But the comet's brightness has suddenly rocketed all the way up to 3rd-magnitude, brightening nearly 400,000 times in less than 24 hours! On this astronomers scale, smaller numbers mean brighter objects. From urban locations, a 3rd-magnitude object might be hidden by light pollution, but under rural skies it would be clearly vsiible.

I shot it with all three cameras last night and got the best results with the SPC900C webcam. This is 1000 frames shot through the 10" LX200 @ f/10. It's very close to what I saw in the eyepiece: a bright nucleus, a small fan-shaped "tail" inside a glowing disc. It almost looked like a star seen through dew-covered optics (I checked!). I thought it was sort of greenish in the telescope, but it was yellow to my naked eye, and came out sort of golden here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Meade In Trouble?

Since I'm not a Meade dealer, I don't feel particularly bound by their dealer website restrictions. Here is the PDF documenting the discontinuance of the RCX400, among other things.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

M33, The Triangulum Galaxy

Third time I've shot M33, and each one is better than the last.

AT80EDT on the LX200, 12 x 300 sec, Digital Rebel XT @ ISO 1600

Happy Dog

Friday, October 12, 2007

NGC 6992, The Veil Nebula (East)

Here's why I bought the AT80EDT:

From Wikipedia:
The Veil Nebula, also known as the Cygnus Loop or the Witch's Broom Nebula, is a large, relatively faint supernova remnant in the constellation Cygnus. The source supernova exploded some 5,000 to 8,000 years ago, and the remnants have since expanded to cover an area of 3 degrees. The distance to the nebula is not precisely known, with estimates ranging from 1,400 to 2,600 light years. It was discovered on 1784 September 5 by William Herschel. He described the western end of the nebula as "Extended; passes thro' 52 Cygni... near 2 degree in length." and described the eastern end as "Branching nebulosity... The following part divides into several streams uniting again towards the south."

24 x 300 seconds through the AT80EDT piggybacked on the 10" LX200, Canon Rebel XT @ 1600 ISO

Thursday, October 11, 2007

AT80EDT Second and Third Light

Here's M31 a couple of more times, but this time from the Heritage Park Observatory. The AT80EDT is mounted on top of, and guided using the DSI through, the 10" LX200. Now we can make judgments about chromatic aberration (CA, the colored halos around bright objects) and field flatness.

Here's the first go:

Click for the full size and look in the four corners. You can see that the stars are streaks pointing away from the center of the image. That's the field curvature. The good news is the lack of CA--if it's there, I can't see it.

So I added a TeleVue field flattener in front of the camera. It's not designed specifically for this scope, but since it was the cheapest option by two-thirds, I figured I'd give it a try. It increases the focal length by 10%, so I get a slightly smaller field of view.

The corners still aren't perfect, but I'm pretty happy with the results.

I Need One Of These

How have I survived this long without a R2-D2 pepper mill?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hook 'Em, Cowboys?

Photo from Sports Illustrated

OK, so he grew up in California and played for Arizona, but Dallas Cowboys kicker Nick Folk showed a little Texas spirit when the Cowboys beat the Bills on Monday night.

Monday, October 08, 2007


I knew I should have taken off from work to go to Okie-Tex:

Maybe next year.

TeleVue Ethos

If you remember from back in May, I got a chance to look though a TeleVue Ethos, their new 100° field of view eyepiece. They're now available for a cool $620.

Yeah, that's as much as a nice 80mm APO refractor, which is why I'm not likely to own one anytime soon.

I have found what may be a suitable replacement though, and it's much more reasonably priced. I need to check it out under some dark skies, though:

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Texas 21, Oklahoma 28

I told my neighbor last night I expected the Horns would get the stuff kicked out of 'em today. I predicted 35–3, OU, so I suppose losing by only one touchdown isn't so bad. If not for one fumble, we might have won. Alas.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Something Is Terribly Wrong With Me

When I saw this Burger King costume, my first thought was how useful it'd be for making really freaky, creepy homemade porn.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Cool-Looking Little Airplane

Spotted this Van's RV-4 parked at the airport in Nacogdoches.

Monday, October 01, 2007