Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Something Happened

My nominee for most useful alert box. I usually make fun of Windows when this happens. Most unsettling.

Monday, December 21, 2009

M42, The Orion Nebula

Because you can never have too many pictures of the Orion Nebula.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 30 x 45 seconds
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Meade 10" LX200, Meade f/6.3 focal reducer
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: Short Tube 80, Meade DSI
Filter: Astronomik CLS
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

Monday, December 14, 2009

Oh Dear

Saw one of these in a truck stop over the weekend:

(Here's a hint: Remember the movie 'Top Gun?')

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tell Me The Truth

said Ian. "About what?" I asked.

"You." He said. "And Christmas."

"What's that, buddy?"

"You're really Santa Claus."

"Uh oh," I thought. Is this the year? "Why do you think I'm Santa Claus?"

"Your beard has that white part, and I heard you going 'ho, ho, ho.'"

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Gift Idea

OK, I know. It's been forever since this thing got updated. But here's the deal. The Astronomy Gods have been offended somewhere, because the weather has sucked for the last, well, forever. But as soon as that changes, I'm gonna be right out there sucking down some photons. Mars is coming soon.

Meanwhile, the holiday gift giving season is upon us. And I know, you're all wondering, what does imjeffp want to find under the tree on the big morning? My friends, look no further (or farther, or whatever)--this could well be heaven in a jar.



Now, I've not had the opportunity to try this stuff, but Lord! IT'S BACON! AND MAYONNAISE! TOGETHER!

So please, Santa, you know I've been good. At least nothing the grand jury could pin on me. Do me a favor this year.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Wings Over Houston

I paid a little extra this year to sit in the "Photo Pit" for the Wings Over Houston air show, and I'm glad I did. I don't recall the exact number of shots I took, but I filled up three 1 GB memory cards. I rented a 300-mm image-stabilized telephoto lens, and I think that made all the difference. Look for a calendar coming soon.

Photo Page

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Designer Halloween

Dang, I wish I had thought of this. Thanks Sone!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

OU Sucks

I put up a new CafePress store to point out that no matter what the score, OU still sucks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Popcorn Time!

Hi friends. How would you like to help support Ian's Cub Scout pack? Maybe help pay for a kid to go camping? Or help one with a Pinewood Derby Car? Or just pay for the patches on his uniform? You can do all of that and more when you buy popcorn! 70% of your purchase goes to the Scouts, but 100% of your purchase will be delicious!

Send me an email if you're interested, and I'll make sure your order gets to you.

Popcorn Brochure

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Prediction

Sorry for the long delay folks. When you have a month of clouds, there's just not much astronomy to write about. I was all set to shoot the LCROSS impact, but after seeing the lack of results from everyone else, I'm not too upset to be clouded out.

Anyway, to fill the time, here's my prediction for this weekend's Texas-OU game. OU leading at the half, 7-3. Texas comes back in the second half to get the win, 13-7. Texas's only touchdown will come from a turnover or a return.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Very Busy Day

A connector for 120,000-volt electric equipment.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

T-28 Trojan

Caught this beautiful silver T-28 Trojan sitting on the ramp in Brenham.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Monday, September 07, 2009

PC and Pixel

Third Jupiter of the Year, Part II

A little sharper and a lot cleaner. I'm still frustrated though. I see other folks using similar gear to mine turning out better shots, and I don't know what I can do better.

10" LX200, 250 frames LRGB, DMK21AF04, Televue 2.5x Powermate

Third Jupiter of the Year

Not necessarily the final image from tonight, but the first of four processed. Pretty good seeing; call it 3/5 with a slow undulation.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Second Jupiter of the Year

A little soft in worsening seeing. The moons are Ganymede and Europa. If I had stayed up another couple of hours we could have tried to catch them in front of the planet. Oh well. Finally got the LX200 remounted in the observatory--I told myself I was going to wait until we got a break from 100-degree days. We may have a few left, but it IS September, right?

250 frames ea LRGB, DMK21AF

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

More Drawerings

Since the heat and/or clouds have been keeping me in, you get to look at stuff from my day job.


Drawing a milk jug is harder than it sounds. There's a reason the handle is hidden behind the pitcher.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Courtesy of my Mother-In-Law

How to say 'I love you' in 25 languages

English I Love You
Spanish Te Amo
French Je T'aime
German lch Liebe Dich
Japanese Ai Shite Imasu
Thai Phom rak khun
Italian Ti amo
Chinese Wo Ai Ni
Swedish Jag Alskar
Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and parts of Florida
Nice ass, get in the truck

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Four Craters

Looking at the southeast edge of the Moon, one day after full. The four craters, from top to bottom: Langrenus, Vendelinus, Petavius and Furnerius. In the upper left are two small craters with a "comet tail." Those are Messier and Messier A.

DMK21AF04.US, C6 @ f/10, 3 frame mosaic

Jupiter in the C6

First Jupiter of the year. Shot this at the dam through the 6-inch Celestron SCT. Not quite as much resolution as I'm used to getting, but I'm pretty happy with the results through the little scope. Poor to average seeing. Altitude 30°. LRGB, DMK21AF04.US, C6 @ f/25.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Monday, August 03, 2009

Hey, That's Me!

Check out the byline.

Sadly, it's not me. But it would be cool if it were!

Friday, July 31, 2009

An iPhone App I'd Like To See

Since I've been using with my iPhone for a while now, I've come up with an app I'd like to play with: all six primary flight instruments, aka the "six pack."

I've been looking at other apps and thinking how this would work.

1. Airspeed. Easy enough. There are speedometer apps that use the info from the GPS. Wouldn't be true airspeed without a pitot tube, but close enough for make believe.

2. Attitude Indicator. Get the info from the iPhone's accelerometers. I found a couple of not very nice-looking apps that do this already.

3. Altimeter. Found a couple of good-looking apps that do this. Uses the info from the GPS, so subject to the inaccuracies there.

4. Turn Coordinator. This might be a little harder, but should be doable. The ball is just a level, easy enough. I think you could do the turn needle using the iPhone compass and measuring the rate of change.

5. Directional Gyro. Uses the compass built in to the 3GS phone.

6. Vertical Speed Indicator. Measure the rate of change on the altimeter.

As far as the interface, I'd start with a screen showing all six indicators in the standard layout. Tapping on one would blow it up to full screen. Tapping again would return to the wide view.

Easy enough, no? I'd pay $4.99 to $9.99 for a really nice, realistic-looking, app.

Version II

Same info as the six-pack, but combined EFIS-style Primary Flight Display.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Endeavour + ISS

Caught the Space Shuttle Endeavour followed by the International Space Station through the Big Dipper, Ursa Major.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thoughts on New PCs

On one of the message boards I read, a poster was talking about the new Windows PC she just purchased. There were several replies about "be sure to install a firewall," "make sure you update the anti-virus software," and suggestions for a malware scanner and removal tool.

The poster's reply was "Thanks! It's at the shop right now, having my old files transferred to it!"

All this got me to thinking, "Does this sound normal to most PC users? That buying a new machine involves an immediate need to install a bunch of 3rd party tools before connecting to the internet, and that transferring data requires a professional?"

You see, I was thinking about my last new Mac. I took it out of the box. I turned it on. I connected a Firewire cable between the old Mac and the new one and Migration Assistant moved all of my info over. And that was it.

So, do those of you using PCs really think that her experience was normal? 'Cause to me, it sounds like a big pain in the rear.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy 40th Anniversary Apollo 11

Here's a re-run from a couple of years back:

And don't miss Jamie and Adam on CNN.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Anyone Wanna Buy Me A Gift?

Just $2,350 at Amazon!

Actually, my Seiko looks a lot like this watch and probably keeps better time. But nobody wore my Seiko on the Moon.

Dear Internet

Dear Internet:

1 not firmly or tightly fixed in place
2 (of a garment) not fitting tightly or closely
3 relaxed; physically slack

verb [ trans. ]
set free; release

Please note: none of these mean you can't find something, or your team didn't win. "Loose" and "lose" are two different words.

Your pal,


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Naive Thoughts on Health Care Reform

I'm no expert, but I think:

Health insurance needs to separate from employment. "A public plan takes away our right to choose our coverage." Bull. If you're like me, you don't have any choice about your coverage now--you get the plan selected by your employer. Your job doesn't provide your auto insurance or your homeowners/renter's coverage, why should health coverage be any different? Employers benefit not only from not having to provide coverage, but from eliminating the people needed to administer and shop for their programs. Less money needed for benefits means more money for salaries.

A public plan doesn't eliminate private coverage. Take Medicare for example; you still need supplemental coverage for what Medicare does and doesn't pay.

How about this? Use Medicare as a model, and cover all citizens with a limited, basic plan. Allow individuals to purchase their own supplemental health coverage, just as they now do for anything else they insure. Competition results in improved plans

Can't afford the supplemental insurance? You can still see a doctor without going to the ER (probably the most expensive way to see a doctor now). The doc still gets something from your basic plan. And if you set up a method for doctors having medical school loans reduced in exchange for treating those patients, I bet you'd not have much trouble recruiting young docs.

Surely there are problems with this. So what am I not taking into account?

Back From New Mexico

Trip highlights: Having relatives in Cloudcroft to visit. Much praise for a fine Saturday night astronomy presentation, despite cloudy skies. Visiting the New Mexico Space History Museum and the model train museum in Alamogordo. Playing in the dunes at White Sands. Visiting the Sunspot Solar Observatory and getting a private tour of the Sloan and 3.5 meter telescopes at Apache Point Observatory. Cool days and cooler nights.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Maybe I Already Have One Of Those Government Jobs and Don't Know It

Came across this lovely nugget while formatting a set of instructions:
"Located under the Software section, the 2550-Series software is titled 2500-Series Locator PC Tool..."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

I Gotta Get One Of Those Government Jobs

"The vehicle will ship at the conclusion of the pre-ship activities."
-- U.S. Air Force Captain Elizabeth Aptekar, spokesperson for the X34B project referring to the shipment date of the X34B.

Story here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Another Modest Proposal

Forgive the divergence, but I'm still reeling from hours and hours of Deadliest Catch last weekend, and I have an idea.

The guys working these boats use, forgive me, salty language, and Discovery channel does a lot of bleeping. Fair enough, it is a family channel after all, even if it is on cable. But I am an adult not offended by hearing grown men saying they're "not catching shit." In other words, I'd like my reality programming to more accurately reflect reality.

For quite a while now, we've had a technology available called Second Audio Program (SAP), which allows a second audio track for a television program. You've probably seen "En Espanol on SAP" or something like that before. Why not have Discovery broadcast an uncensored version of the audio via SAP, and let me choose whether I want to hear the bleeps or not?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

M100, A Galaxy in Coma Berenices

As promised, here is a larger shot of M100 (right) and NGC 4312 (left). I didn't label them, but you can also see NGC 4328, 4323, 4322 and 4427 around M100. The 5-minute subs might have been ambitious--there was a little drift from, I'm assuming, mirror shift in the LX200.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 24 x 5 minutes
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Meade 10" LX200, Meade f/6.3 focal reducer
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: Short Tube 80, Meade DSI
Filter: Astronomik CLS
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

Monday, May 18, 2009

Only 10 Galaxies

Not quite as rich in galaxies, but still pretty good. First time I've shot 10-minute subs, and they came out OK. A very nice night on the back side of a cool front. M99 and M100 are the two big ones here, and each deserves a closer look in the big scope soon.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 12 x 10 minutes
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Astro-Tech AT80ED 80mm APO refractor, AT field flattener (new!)
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: Meade LX200 @ f/5, Meade DSI
Filter: Astronomik CLS
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

Monday, May 11, 2009

At Least 19 Galaxies

Trying out my new Astro-Tech field flattener in the AT80EDT. Look! Round stars out to the corners! I only got about an hour before the clouds rolled back in, so here's an abbreviated look at Markarian's Chain.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 7 x 6 minutes
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Astro-Tech AT80ED 80mm APO refractor, AT field flattener (new!)
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: Meade LX200 @ f/5, Meade DSI
Filter: Astronomik CLS
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Bathtub IV from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

100% real--not miniatures. Very cool.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Central Texas Air Show

Photos from the Central Texas Air Show in Temple are here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why It's A Bad Idea To Fuck With The President

White House Photo/Pete Souza

See that dude on the left? That's Reggie Love, personal assistant to the president. Also known as The Guy Who Gets Stuff Done, if you know what I mean.


I finally found the picture I was looking for.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This is the Perfect Time to Panic!

Looking at photos of people wearing surgical masks to avoid catching swine flu I wonder, how many regularly wear their seat belts?

The picture I still want to see is of someone with a mask around their neck smoking a cigarette.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Venus and the Moon-We Mean It This Time

Watch the full-size animation here.

Venus slides behind the Moon just after sunrise Wednesday morning in this series of photos from the Heritage Park Observatory in Cedar Park, Texas.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 39 frames
Camera: Canon Digital Rebel XT
Scope: Meade LX200 10"
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: none
Filter: None
Software: Nebulosity, Photoshop

Saturday, April 18, 2009

LKY Ranch BBQ and Spring Frolic

The 24th Annual LKY Ranch BBQ & Spring Frolic is now history. For the first time ever, the day was marked by rain. Between midnight last night and this morning, the rain gauge went up nearly five inches, with another inch still to come during the day. The turnout was lower than usual, but not the enthusiasm. As Linda explained to a person on the phone this morning, "Haven't you ever heard of a hurricane party?"

The good news is it quit raining for good about 1:30, and it was actually pretty pleasant on the porches.

Photos here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza is much smaller than it appears in the photos. KInda macabre watching people posing, smiling, on the Xs in the street marking the gunshots.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Rat's Nest

I am amazed every time I pick up the telephone that it actually works.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

Born a Moose

Every Friday, a man in Newfoundland fired up the barbie in the yard and cooked up a big moose steak. This was very annoying to his neighbours, who, being Catholic, were forbidden meat. They talked to the Priest, who, in turn, talked to the epicure. To the surprise of all, he agreed to become Catholic. On the day of his Confirmation, the Priest anointed him with the Holy Water, and said: "A Methodist you were born, a Methodist you were raised. You are now a Catholic."

THEN, they told him about meatless Fridays.

The next week, his neighbours were again assailed with the heavenly, but naughty aroma of charring moose meat. The Priest was immediately called, and went to the backslider's home. As he rounded the corner of the house, he beheld his new convert sprinkling barbie sauce on the steak.

Saying: "A moose you were born, a moose you were raised. You are now a codfish."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Second Saturn of the Year

Fairly decent seeing, call it 3/5. Stayed up late, so Saturn was about 55° up. A little noisy, but it'll do, pig.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 1500 frames each L, R, G, B
Camera: Imaging Source DMK21AF04.US
Scope: Meade LX200 10", Televue 2.5x Powermate (f/25)
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: none
Filter: Orion LRGB set
Software: AstroIIDC, Registax, Photoshop


I wish this was only a joke. I hate this dream!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Dolly Parton and Queen Elizabeth went to the Pearly Gates on the same day. They both met with an Angel to find out if they would be admitted to Heaven.

The angel said “Unfortunately, there’s only one space in Heaven today so I must decide which of one of you will be admitted.”

The Angel asked Dolly if there was some particular reason why she should go to Heaven.

Dolly took off her top and said, “Look at these, they’re the most perfect breasts God ever created and I’m sure it will please God to be able to see them every day, for eternity.”

The Angel thanked Dolly, and asked Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the same question.

The Queen walked over to a toilet, pulled the lever and flushes it without saying a word.

The Angel immediately said, “OK, your Majesty, you may go into Heaven.”

Dolly was outraged and asked, “What was that all about?”

“I showed you two of God’s own perfect creations and you turned me down.”

“She simply flushed a commode and she got admitted to Heaven! Would you explain that to me?”

“Sorry, Dolly,” said the Angel, “but even in Heaven, a royal flush beats a pair — no matter how big they are.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not So Bad

Shorter, but much better. Finally figuring out the rhythm, sort of.
Not So Bad

Even better with a little jazz drumming!
Not So Bad (Jazz Drum Mix)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Better Bad

Better, but not quite there yet.
Better Bad

Monday, March 09, 2009

Bad Bad

Sounds like I need to spend more time practicing.
Bad Bad

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Basket Case

Tycho is a basket case after getting 4 stitches last week. Looks like a dog bite according to the vet. He'll be fine, but supposedly the hair will grow in dark where he was shaved. Poor kitteh.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Wildflower Center Star Party

Photos from the Austin Astronomical Society/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Nature Night are here.

Friday, February 27, 2009


The two-day-old crescent moon passes just over a degree away from Venus Friday evening.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 1/125 (Single frame)
Camera: Stock Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Astro-Tech AT80ED 80mm APO refractor
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: None
Filter: None
Software: Photoshop

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3)

From Wikipedia:
Comet Lulin (official designation C/2007 N3 (Lulin)) is a non-periodic comet. It was discovered by Ye Quanzhi and Lin Chi-Sheng from Lulin Observatory. It peaked in brightness and arrived at perigee for observers on Earth on February 24, 2009, at magnitude +5 and at 0.411 AU from Earth. … According to NASA, Comet Lulin's green color comes from a combination of gases that make up its local atmosphere, primarily cyanogen and diatomic carbon, which both appear as a green glow when illuminated by sunlight in the vacuum of space.

I was pleasantly surprised that PHD Guiding was able to guide on the comet. The streaks in this image are the background stars, smeared by the hour-long exposure on the comet itself as it sped through the solar system.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 30 x 2 minutes
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Astro-Tech AT80ED 80mm APO refractor, William Optics 0.8 FFIII field flattener (new!)
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: Meade LX200 @ f/5, Meade DSI
Filter: Astronomik CLS
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

First Saturn of the Year

Wow, the rings have closed dramatically since last time. Moderate seeing with Saturn just 35° up. I was tired and wanted to go to bed.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 1750 frames each L, R, G, B
Camera: Imaging Source DMK21AF04.US
Scope: Meade LX200 10", Televue 2.5x Powermate (f/25)
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: none
Filter: Orion LRGB set
Software: AstroIIDC, Photoshop

Monday, February 23, 2009

NGC 2264, The Cone Nebula

The Cone Nebula (also known as NGC 2264) is an H II region in the constellation of Monoceros. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1785. The nebula is located about 800 parsecs or 2,600 light-years away from Earth.

The Cone Nebula is part of the nebulosity surrounding the Christmas Tree Cluster. The designation of NGC 2264 in the New General Catalogue refers to both objects and not the nebula alone.

The diffuse Cone Nebula, so named because of its apparent shape, lies in the southern part of NGC 2264, the northern part being the magnitude-3.9 Christmas Tree Cluster. It is in the northern part of Monoceros, just north of the midpoint of a line from Procyon to Betelgeuse.

The cone's shape comes from a dark absorption nebula consisting of cold molecular hydrogen and dust in front of a faint emission nebula containing hydrogen ionized by S Monocerotis, the brightest star of NGC 2264. The faint nebula is approximately seven light-years long (with an apparent length of 10 arcminutes), and is 2,700 light-years away from Earth.

William Herschel discovered the Cone Nebula (which he designated H V.27) on December 26, 1785. It is part of a much larger star-forming complex—the Hubble Space Telescope was used to image forming stars in 1997.

I'm disappointed in this image after having M45 come out so well.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 19 x 5 minutes
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Astro-Tech AT80ED 80mm APO refractor, William Optics 0.8 FFIII field flattener (new!)
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: Meade LX200 @ f/5, Meade DSI
Filter: Astronomik CLS
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

Sunday, February 22, 2009

M45, The Pleiades

In astronomy, the Pleiades (Messier object 45) are an open star cluster in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters. It is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky. Pleiades has several meanings in different cultures and traditions.
The cluster is dominated by hot blue stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. Dust that forms a faint reflection nebulosity around the brightest stars was thought at first to be left over from the formation of the cluster (hence the alternate name Maia Nebula after the star Maia), but is now known to be an unrelated dust cloud in the interstellar medium that the stars are currently passing through. Astronomers estimate that the cluster will survive for about another 250 million years, after which it will disperse due to gravitational interactions with its galactic neighborhood.

Eagle Eye Observatory, Canyon of the Eagles.
Exposure: 50 x 2.5 minutes
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Astro-Tech AT80ED 80mm APO refractor, William Optics 0.8 FFIII field flattener (new!)
Mount: Meade LXD650
Guider: Short Tube 80, Meade DSI
Filter: None
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop