Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hope For The Future

As we close out 2008, I wanted to share a scene I came across today that gives me hope for the future. Trudy, Ian and I went to the local outlet mall so I could pick up a couple of pairs of new jeans, and while we there we went into the KB Toys to check out their going out of business sale. Everything in the store was half off, and was pretty well picked over at this point as you'd probably expect. Still, there was one shelf left that seemed to be fully stocked: the one with all of the toys and dolls featuring pro wrestlers.

Here's to 2009 everybody!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Rosette Nebula, NGC 2237

The Rosette Nebula is a large, circular H II region located near one end of a giant molecular cloud in the Monoceros region of the Milky Way Galaxy. The open cluster NGC 2244 is closely associated with the nebulosity, the stars of the cluster having been formed from the nebula's matter.

The cluster and nebula lie at a distance of some 5,200 light years from Earth (although estimates of the distance vary considerably) and measure roughly 130 light years in diameter. The radiation from the young stars excite the atoms in the nebula, causing them to emit radiation themselves producing the emission nebula we see. The mass of the nebula is estimated to be around 10,000 solar masses.

Exposure: 30 x 5 minutes
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Astro-Tech AT80ED 80mm APO refractor, TeleVue 1.1x field flattener
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: Meade LX200 @ f/3.3
Filter: Astronomik CLS
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) & Horsehead Nebula (B33)

Not the first light with this modded XT/350D, but my first light as its owner. Here's a stack of 50 x 4 minutes with an Astronomik CLS through the AT80EDT, plus 20 darks & flats. Mount & guiding was the 10" LX200 @ f/3.3 using an original DSI with PHD Guiding. Capture & initial processing with Nebulosity, finished in Photoshop w/Noel's actions. Focus with the Stiletto only.

Some nights, everything just comes together. Every frame a keeper, almost no movement between subs--I could probably have doubled my exposure times.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Skater Boi

Just before he stuck a skate between my feet and sent me hard to the ice. Nearly a week later and my ribs are still sore.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Next iPhone?

I gotta get me one of these.

(Jeez, two weeks without posting? Sorry 'bout that y'all.)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Christmas Parade

Pictures from the 2008 Woodlands Christmas Parade are here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The BCS Can Bite My Longhorn Ass

It's not just the BCS, but the way the Big 12 tiebreaker works. Here's a comment from the Austin American-Statesman:

Oklahoma is fortunate to reside in the Big 12. It is one of five leagues that is broken up into divisions – and it's the only league whose tiebreaker system would've ended up with the Sooners as the champion.

ACC: Texas (fifth tiebreaker)
Overall record for non-division teams (Texas wins; Longhorns opponents are 21-15, OU's and Tech's are 20-16)

Big 12: Oklahoma (fifth tiebreaker)
Team with top BCS ranking (No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Texas, No. 7 Texas Tech)

Conference USA: Texas (sixth tiebreaker)
Records against cross-division opponents in descending order of finish (Texas wins; Longhorns defeated North champ Missouri)

Mid-American: Texas (fourth tiebreaker)
Cross-division opponents in rank order (Texas wins; beat North champ Missouri)

SEC: Texas (sixth tiebreaker)
Team with highest BCS, unless second tied team is ranked within five or fewer places of highest ranked team. In this case, head to head of winner of top two is the representative. (Oklahoma is No. 2, Texas is No. 3, Texas Tech is No. 7; Texas beat Oklahoma)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ISS, Second Attempt

This was an amazing pass. I set the exposure way back on the camera, and used the hand controller to control the scope. My best results came when I'd get just ahead of the station, stop, and let it fly through the FOV--about nine or ten frames at 60 frames per second!

I don't know what's what in this shot, except that those are solar panels to the left. This is a 150% enlargement.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


How you can tell that your computer is kaput and you have to go to the Apple Store instead of setting up and making astro images:

Monday, November 17, 2008

ISS, First Attempt

OK, I learned a few lessons. The International Space Station is bright; I'll need to reduce the exposure even more. Second, people with tremors like me shouldn't attempt to hand-track the telescope to follow the station. I didn't have too much trouble getting it in frame, but nearly every exposure was streaked by motion blur, even at 60 frames-per-second.

We're supposed to have another good pass Wednesday, I'll give it another go then.

10" LX200 @ f/6.3, DMK21AF04 @ 60 fps

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The 5 Reasons Luke Skywalker Is a Complete Idiot

As found on the internet...

We all know Luke Skywalker as the main protagonist throughout the original Star Wars movies and onward into the novels of questionable quality. We all grew up wanting to be him—learning to use the Force, blowing up the Death Star, saving the galaxy. But the thing is, despite all his badass moments, he actually kind of sucks. Perhaps not as much as his father Anakin, but that could be due to Mark Hamill’s acting ability, in that he can act. Sure with the emotional music and all the screen time Luke Skywalker seems to be the hero, but really he’s an idiot who makes bad decisions and has a series of terrible ideas, and he's lucky it all kind of works out for him, his friends, and the Rebel Alliance in the end.

5) Trusting the Force to Help Him Blow Up the Death Star

I have never really figured out what was so special about Luke using the Force in attacking the first Death Star. As far as I could tell, it did nothing but give Darth Vader a slightly higher level of difficulty in blasting his X-Wing, which he seemed to aptly overcome as he blew up R2-D2, and proceeded to almost blow the crap out of Luke’s X-Wing had Han Solo not saved his ass with the Millennium Falcon. Some might say his use of the Force involved him turning off his targeting computer and trusting himself to shoot the exhaust port. If that’s using the Force then I am using the Force every time I turn off my cruise control in my car. I mean, they make targeting systems for a reason, Luke—and chances are, the Rebels would prefer to trust your X-Wing's highly sophisticated on-board computer than a mystical power you spent a few hours learning yesterday afternoon.

4) Refusing to Listen to the Only Living Jedi in the Galaxy

Luke gets a vision of his dead mentor Obi-Wan telling him to go to Dagobah to get training from the Jedi Master, Yoda. Luke obeys, goes out to Dagobah, finds Yoda, and then proceeds to ignore him at every important turn. Yoda tells him not to go into the scary cave with weapons, Luke doesn’t listen. Yoda gives him a lesson about overcoming great obstacles, and Luke doesn’t take it to heart, can’t lift his own X-Wing and gets all pissy. Yoda and the Ghost of Obi-Wan both tell him not to go running off to Bespin to save his friends as he’s going to endanger everything they fought for. Luke doesn’t listen, goes off to Bespin, helps nobody and gets his damn hand chopped off.

Well done, Luke. Why should “Obi-Wan coming back as a ghost to give important instructions” convey any significance to you? Why should not pay attention to the one muppet who knows how to use the Force? You're just a jerk who nearly turned into a Hoth-sicle—you surely know better than both of 'em!

3) His Insanely Stupid Plan To Rescue Han Solo from Jabba The Hutt

Let us imagine that Luke Skywalker is trying to tell you his plan to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt.

Luke: "Okay so, first we get Lando Calrissian posing as a guard inside Jabba’s Palace."

You: "How do we do that?"

Luke: "We just get him a costume and he—just walks in."

You: "Um, okay, say it’s that easy. So then Lando gets Han out of the carbonite and we pick them up and get away?"

Luke: "No. What happens next is that I put my lightsaber in a hidden compartment in R2-D2 and send R2-D2 and C3PO to Jabba the Hutt as gifts."

You: "Wait, why-"

Luke: "Just listen. Next we have Leia pose as a bounty hunter arriving at Jabba’s palace with Chewbacca captured. She’s going to hand over Chewbacca to Jabba."

You: "Wait, why? Wouldn’t that mean we would now have to rescue Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C3PO? That just makes it more difficult, right?"

Luke: "Just go with me here. Next, Leia is going to sneak around at night and get Han Solo out of the carbonite, but get captured."

You: "What? Why would we get everyone captured like that?"

Luke: "Now I’ll show up, use my Force powers to get in to Jabba’s fortress, get past the guards to an audience before Jabba and then use my Jedi mind trick to get Jabba to release everyone. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll get captured."

You: "Okay, if you can just use your Force powers to get in to the palace and all the way to Jabba, then let's just have you go in right now and get Han out."

Luke: "No, that's stupid. I’m going to get myself captured. Because then you see, we’ll be taken to the sarlacc pit and then, when we’re on the skiff, I’ll get sent out first and then R2-D2 will manage to get to the top of Jabba’s sail barge and shoot out my lightsaber, and then with Lando’s help, we’ll just—rescue everyone and then everything will be fine!"

You: "That is the stupidest plan I’ve ever heard of."

Luke: "I’ve thought of everything."

You: "Clearly you didn’t."

2) Throwing Away His Lightsaber in Front of the Emperor

So Luke decides not to put his lightsaber through Darth Vader’s head once he realizes that he’s going along the same dark path as his father. So what does he do next? He tosses away his lightsaber and then proclaims to the Emperor that he is a Jedi. Thus, he has no way to defend himself when the Emperor blasts him with lightning and if it wasn’t for his Father saving his butt (please note how many times Luke gets saved by someone else) he would have been a charred piece of Tatooine bacon. Okay, yes, tossing away the lightsaber makes a definitive statement of renouncing Father-killing, but what did he think would happen other than the Emperor kicking his ass? Did Luke think that perhaps he would proclaim “I am a Jedi, like my father before me,” and the Emperor would suddenly shout “No! You are the purest good! I am nothing in the presence of your light!” and then fling himself backward into the chasm? Why didn’t Luke just try to give the Emperor a big hug and kisses and call him a ‘snookle bear.’ He’s a master of the Dark Side, so of course he’s going to kick your ass. Luke was warned not to underestimate the of course, he does exactly that.

1) Not Joining the Dark Side

No, seriously! Luke gets dumped on his whole life—his adoptive parents get killed, all his friends get injured or killed, the girl he falls in love with turns out to be his sister, his father turns out to be one of the most evil people in the galaxy, his hand gets cut off. Then he gets a chance to co-rule the galaxy. Who wouldn't take that offer at that point?

What has Luke had to look forward to after the original trilogy? Mostly trying to start up the whole Jedi Order by himself, which is a ton of work, and watching Han have almost constant sex with Leia. Between that and ruling with Vader, it's not unlike a choice between working in your local library and becoming President. Not really much of a choice there. And you can comment all you want about the Dark Side being a path to pain and suffering and a loss of humanity, but let’s face it—the Dark Side is simply cooler. Members of the Sith have neat custom lightsabers, get to slap everyone around, and just plain look cooler. For Halloween, how many Luke costumes do you see people wearing nowadays? Zero. How many Darth Vader costumes do you see? Still too many to count. Bad is good, baby.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wings Over Houston

Ian and I went to Houston Saturday with the Wades for the Wings Over Houston Airshow. We all seemed to have a good time--I know I did. Check out all the photos here.

My favorites were the Tora! Tora! Tora! and Thunderbirds flights, along with touring inside the B-17. Ian liked the explosions and trying on the pilot helmet.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NGC 7635, The Bubble Nebula Again

I was so happy with the results on the Bubble through the AT80EDT that I went back with the LX200 and shot it again. 24 x 5 min. Looks like I had some mirror flop or flex somewhere, because I know the guiding was spot on. Still, not too shabby for the unmodded camera.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

M52, an Open Cluster, and NGC 7635, the Bubble Nebula

AT80EDT on the LX200, 24 x 5 mins, Digital Rebel XT @ ISO 1600

I planned this shot to frame M52 & the Bubble, but when I processed  it I immediately went, "what the heck is that up there?" The bonus object is NGC 7538, a diffuse nebula. I guess I need to pay more attention to Starry Night Pro when I'm planning the next one, eh?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Whole Bunch of New Photos

We've been busy here at Casa P. Somehow I managed to get the family to sleep in the tent two weekends in a row. The first weekend in October was the Central Texas Star Party. We had an impressive lightning display Friday night (which I totally failed to get any pictures of) and a very windy Saturday night which shut down most of the observing. It was still a pleasant weekend out.

A large panorama of the Eagle Eye Observatory in the morning sunlight

While we in the area, we took a short side trip to Longhorn Cavern State Park. The cave is different from Carlsbad in that it was formed by flowing water--an underground river if you like. The tour took just over an hour and was well worth taking. I'm hoping to go back with the Cub Scouts soon.

The following weekend was the Pack 312 family camp out at Lake Bastrop. More great fall weather. Ian discovered that calling "Here fishy, fishy!" doesn't help much when attempting to catch a fish. It took him a while, but by Saturday night he was running around like a monkey with the rest of the boys.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The $700 FireWire Port

Let's face it--I love my Macs. And when Apple introduces new models, I get all drooly and my hands twitch around my credit cards. The new MacBooks and MacBook Pros introduced today are certainly drool-worthy: cool new milled-aluminum enclosures, way, way faster graphics, faster processors, etc. The MacBook even gets the backlit keyboard I've been lusting after. Oh, and they dropped the prices. Sweet!

But as Steve says, there's one more thing. The new MacBook? No FireWire port. No way to add one. Too bad, so sad. You want FireWire, get a 15" MacBook Pro.

The new MacBook. Notice the missing FireWire port.

So here's the deal. I use a wonderful little camera for planetary photography, the DMK21AF04.US. The "F" in that string of alphabet soup stands for FireWire. Sure, The Imaging Source also sells that camera in a USB 2 version. But you know what? There are no Mac drivers for it. And no matter what the USB folks say, FireWire has better sustained transfer rates. It's a fact, you can go look it up.

So what do I do? I put my credit card back in my wallet. Sorry Apple--you lost me this time around.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Make-Believe Maverick

From Rolling Stone:
In its broad strokes, McCain's life story is oddly similar to that of the current occupant of the White House. John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers' powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives' evangelical churches.

In one vital respect, however, the comparison is deeply unfair to the current president: George W. Bush was a much better pilot.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

M31, the Andromeda Galaxy & M45, The Pleiades

Not a bad night of astroimaging from the Heritage Park Observatory. First up is another attempt at M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. Tight focus and pretty good tracking--except for the third of the frames where the guider lost the guide star. So here are 20 x 5 minutes worth through the AT80EDT mounted piggyback & guided with the LX200, captured with the Digital Rebel XT with Astronomik CLS filter, via Nebulosity & PHD guiding. To do this justice, I really need a moonless night that I can devote the entire night to it.

Here's one of my favorite things to attempt to image--M45, the Pleiades. It's bright and easy to see, except for the blue nebulosity. You can start to see the "brush strokes" in this one hour shot (12 x 5 minutes, same setup as above). The same thing applies--this needs about six times more exposure to help kill the noise.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tiger Cub

We'll see how this works out. "Don't take my picture--I look like a dork."

The Telescope: 400 Years and Counting

A nice essay on

Quick -- name the invention that has done most to redefine our place in the universe.

Hint: This invention was also the most seditious, blasphemous instrument of all time, shaking the very foundations of society.

The answer, if you haven't already guessed it, is the telescope. It's hard to believe that this instrument, often sold as a cheesy toy in gift shops, is perhaps the single most important scientific instrument of all time.

Now that the telescope is celebrating its 400th anniversary, it's a good time to take stock of this marvelous invention.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Time Travel

Part of me wonders what it would be like if you could travel back in time to repair your mistakes and make things better. Part of me worries this has already happened.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sixth Jupiter of the Year

Shot this right at dusk while Jupiter was transiting. Not too bad seeing, maybe 3-4/5. LRGB, DMK21AF04.US, 10" LX200 @ f/25

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hook 'Em Horns

Just in case my relatives in Fayetteville missed the game: UT 52, Arkansas 10

And in case they forgot: UT 52, Rice 10

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An Insane Full Moon Photo

Bart Declercq in Haaltert, Belgium made this 23,000,000-pixel image of the 99.74% full moon with equipment similar to mine.

He writes:
Took a while to process, at 43 separate 1000 frame AVI's, up to 35 alignment points per AVI and 128 best images per point.

Taken with Celestron C9.25 in prime focus (F/10 = 2350mm) with DMK31 camera and infrared filter.

The original image is 4820x4820 pixels and 3.9 megabytes in size (the original 16-bits TIFF is 50 megabytes) and can be accessed here.

Next goal, on a high mid-winter full moon, is to do this at F/16, which should result in about a 64 million pixel image, and will require well over a hundred AVIs.

At the theoretical limit of my scope, it should be possible to go up to F/24, which will result in a roughly 200 million pixel image, but which would require more than 200 AVI's - the biggest problem with that would be that there's not enough time in one night to shoot such an image with the DMK31...

Monday, September 08, 2008


I just may start taking more interest in Ukrainian politics.

I Stand By What I Said

From XKCD, one of my favorite web comics:

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Fifth Jupiter of the Year (The Small One)

Drug the LX200 to Mansfield Dam last night for Dam Astronomers and shot this Jupiter. Seeing was pretty poor, so I took the Powermate out and shot this at f/10. LRGB with the DMK21AF04.US.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Talking Heads

I want to have Jon Stewart's love child.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sunset, The Moon and Venus

The four-day-old crescent Moon and a brilliant Venus set over Cedar Park, Texas Wednesday.

<edit 5 Sept 08> I read today that this is a side-effect of Kasatochi Volcano erupting last month. We should be seeing this for a few more weeks.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

More Advice on Raising Your Child

Most of the American populace thinks it improper to spank children, so I have tried other methods to control my kid when he has one of 'those moments.'

One that I found effective is for me to just take him for a car ride and talk.

Some say it's the vibration from the car, others say it's the time away from any distractions such as TV, video games, computer, iPod, etc.

Either way, my kid usually calms down and stop misbehaving after our car ride together. Eye to eye contact helps a lot too.

I've included a photo below of one of my sessions with him, in case you would like to use the technique.

Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day of School

Hard to believe he's a first-grader already. More pictures here.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea™?

From CNN: Democrats to kick off convention with 'One Nation' theme

I mean, sure, I'm all in favor of unity and teamwork, but "One Nation?" Did no one at the DNC think maybe, just maybe, channeling 1930s Germany might not be the best course? "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein F├╝hrer!" What's next, "God is with us?"

I would have expected this from the folks who brought us the Department of Fatherland Homeland Security, but the Dems? Come on! Sheesh.

Oh, and Hillary supporters? Get over it.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I've admired these portraits (scroll down to the end) by fellow Austin Astronomical Society member Todd Hargis, so when we were both at the Eagle Eye Observatory last month, I talked him into shooting mine. I think he did a great job, given what he had to work with.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another Olympic Swimmer

Sing it with me, to the tune of Camptown Ladies:

"Peter Van Den Hoogenband, do-dah, do-dah..."

Explaining Michael Phelps

From Sports Illustrated:
British swimmer Simon Burnett provided his theory to U.S. head coach Eddie Reese when they ran into each other in the cafeteria.

"He was saying to me, 'I think I've figured out Michael Phelps. He is not from another planet; he is from the future. His father made him and made a time machine. Sixty years from now he is an average swimmer, but he has come back here to mop up."'

Makes as much sense as John Naber's remark on NPR the other night that they need to re-measure the pool in Beijing, as it seems to be a little short.

Monday, August 11, 2008

NBC Can Bite My Mac-Using Ass

Q: What do I need in order to start downloading full episodes?
A: We recommend the following specifications to ensure that you have a good viewing experience:
Operating System*: Microsoft Windows Vista or Microsoft Windows XP (any version, including MCE) with Service Pack 2 installed

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fourth Jupiter of the Year

Took a break from watching the Olympics to catch this Red Spot transit. There's also a smaller red spot on the northern equatorial band. The moon is Europa. Altitude here is 36°. 10" LX200 @ f/25, DMK21AF04, RGB. The L channel was just awful, so I left it off.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Pretty Good Joke

What do Winnie The Pooh and Alexander The Great have in common?

>>>They have the same middle name.

(Highlight the text to reveal the answer.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

M57, the Ring Nebula Again

A definite improvement over my 2006 attempt. This is the center crop of the full frame. The DSLR @ f/6.3 may not be the best camera for this small object; some day I'll try the DMK @ f/10 on it--if I can keep my guiding running smoothly enough.

30 x 240 sec, 10" LX200 @ f/6.3, 350D @ ISO 800, Astronomik CLS, guided with ST80/DSI/PHD Guiding

Saturday, July 19, 2008

M27, The Dumbbell Nebula Again

Shot this for the July Digital Astro challenge. 30 x 240 seconds @ ISO 800, Astronomik CLS filter, Rebel XT, 10" LX200 @ f/6.3, captured & DDP with Nebulosity, guided with PHD Guiding. Definitely a step up since my 2006 attempt. The amazing part is that I shot this under a full moon.

Third Jupiter of the Year

Jupiter at 35°. Pretty good seeing at 1:30 this morning with just a moderate ripple. Jupiter was far enough west that it wasn't directly over the roof of the house. LRGB with the DMK21AF04 in the LX200 @ f/25.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Copernicus Crater

Click for full size.

Not the first time I've shot this crater, but definitely my best results to date. Mosaic of five shots, best of 2500 frames each with the DMK and a green filter through the LX200 @ f/25.

Plato and Vallis Alpes

Click for full size.

This may not be the smoothest, sharpest photo I've made of the Moon, but it does finally show the rille in the floor of Alpine Valley!

Second Jupiter of the Year

Should have shot this the night before when we had some 4/5 seeing, but tonight's not all bad. Call it 3/5. Best of 1000 frames each LRGB in the DMK through the LX200 @ f/25. Jupiter is at 36° altitude.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Life Lesson #53

Never date a girl whose daddy calls her "Princess." Odds are, she believes him.

Monday, July 07, 2008

NGC 6888, The Crescent Nebula

Man, I had everything working--dead on focus, great tracking, and good, clear skies. How come this always happens on Sunday night? So I only shot NGC 6888, the Crescent Nebula for an hour, when it could probably stand about five. First run with the new Moonlight focuser and Astronomik CLS filter--I'm happy so far with both.

20 x 180 seconds, LX200 @ f/6.3, Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D), ISO 1600
Capture & processed with Nebulosity 2 (beta), guiding with PHD Guiding.

Happy Birthday To Me

Here's a real groaner to help me celebrate my birthday:

A couple lived near the ocean and used to walk the beach a lot. One summer they noticed a girl who was at the beach almost every day. She wasn't unusual, nor was the travel bag she carried, except for one thing; she would approach people who were sitting on the beach, glance around furtively, then speak to them.

Generally, the people would respond negatively and she would wander off. But occasionally someone would nod and there would be a quick exchange of money and something she carried in her bag. The couple assumed that she was selling drugs and debated calling the cops, but since they didn't know for sure, they just continued to watch her.

After a couple of weeks the wife said, 'Honey , have you ever noticed that she only goes up to people with boom boxes and other electronic devices?' He hadn't -- and said so. Then she said, 'Tomorrow I want you to get a towel and our big radio and go lie out on the beach. Then we can find out what she's really doing.'

Well, the plan went off without a hitch and the wife was almost hopping up & down with anticipation when she saw the girl talk to her husband and then leave. The man then walked up the beach and met his wife at the road.

'Well, Is she selling drugs?' she asked excitedly.

'No, she's not,' he said, enjoying this probably more than he should have.

'Well , what is it then? What does she do ?' his wife fairly shrieked.

The man grinned and said, 'She's a battery salesperson.'

'Batteries?' cried the wife.

'Yes', he replied - 'She sells C cells by the seashore!'

Friday, July 04, 2008

Texas Star Party Panorama for Starry Night Pro

I've posted a horizon panorama for the Texas Star Party for Starry Night here.

Refer to the Starry Night documentation for instructions on how to copy the .txt and .psd files into the Horizon Panoramas folder.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I Don't Think I'll Be Applying For This Job

I'm not really looking for a job, but I still get listings in my email. This one's been showing up for a while now; I wonder why?

Responsibilities - Doing the bidding of the Lead Artist, no matter how ridiculous his demands

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

First Jupiter of the Year

There are forces larger than myself conspiring against me. Here's the deal with planetary imaging. (Bear with me, it'll maybe make sense in the end.) I hope you already know that the Earth is tilted on its axis--that's why we have summer and winter. The plane of the solar system is called the ecliptic; it's the path that the sun and the planets appear to follow across the sky. In the summer, the sun is very high in the sky. The opposite side of that is that at night, when we're facing away from the sun, the planets are very low in the sky. That means that taking a picture of a planet in the summer requires shooting through miles and miles of turbulent atmosphere. It also means that from my back yard, shooting over the roof of my house, as it radiates heat like a blacktop road. All that to say I'm stunned this photo came out as well as it did. The moon to the right is Europa, and the black spot is Ganymede in front of the planet. The Great Red Spot is just visible on the lower right.

1000 frames each RGB with the DMK in the LX200 @ f/25. Processed with AstroIIDC.

Monday, June 23, 2008

M13, The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules Revisited

A little tighter than last year's shot, and maybe nicer color.

10" LX200 @ f/6.3, 19 x 120 sec, EOS 350 D @ 800 ISO

Friday, June 20, 2008


Came across this on a message board today, talking about measurements:

Up here in canada a metre is a metre and a foot is something you find in the ocean!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Final Night at TSP

I had already packed everything except my chair and binoculars for the last night at Texas Star Party, so I wasn't too upset when clouds started building up that afternoon. By 11:00, it was pretty obvious we weren't going to get any astronomical observing in that night. (Which is OK, since I was trying to leave by eight the next morning.)

First time I've seriously tried to shoot lightning. Man, it's hard to find focus in the dark!

NGC 6992 & NGC 6960, The Veil Nebula

NGC 6992, Veil Nebula (East), aka Network Nebula. The modified camera shows a lot more detail than my stock Rebel. The extra stars I attribute to the dark West Texas TSP skies.

NGC 6960, Veil Nebula (West), aka Witch's Broom. The bright star is 52 Cygni.

M20, The Trifid Nebula
and M8, The Lagoon Nebula

I went back and re-shot M20 (top) and M8 (bottom) together from TSP. One of my best deep sky photos.

Southern Milky Way

Looking back toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy from the Texas Star Party.

Friday, June 06, 2008


The Moon is 2.67 days old here. The bright star is 52 Geminorium, in Gemini.