Thursday, December 30, 2010

M1, The Crab Nebula


I had a case of photon fever, and didn't get this quite as focused as it should have been. Not terribly different than the 2006 version, maybe better tracking. Even that wasn't great--I threw out half of the frames for trailing in RA. Not sure where that's coming from.

Second light with the AT6RC, and I'm very happy with the new scope so far. Very little vignetting and a nice flat field with the AT2FF in place.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 15 x 120 sec (30:00) @ ISO 1600, 10 flat, 10 dark
Camera: Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D) (stock)
Scope: AT6RC, AT2FF field flattener
Mount: Meade LXD 650
Guider: Zenithstar 66, Meade DSI
Filter: None
Software: Nebulosity, Photoshop

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

People Of Earth, I Lack Basic Social Skills


Citizens of Earth! Please, do not be afraid!

I come from a small green home on Edgemore Avenue. There I live in the basement, below my now elderly parents. I have been observing you and your kind for many years, primarily through the shades of my bedroom window and on the television set. Understand, I mean you no harm. I only seek to learn more of your strange earthling ways.

Your customs intrigue me. The casual and lighthearted nature of your conversations, the cultural references you so frequently employ to elicit laughter, the way you will sometimes pat another human on the back to display affection and foster an atmosphere of warmth. These behaviors are entirely foreign to me. For instance, how do you keep yourself from shifting nervously all the time?

Please, do not stare directly into my eyes! You are making me very uncomfortable! Look away, humans! Look away!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

AT6RC First Light

After 4 months on back-order, my new AT6RC finally arrived. I built an adapter to attach the LXD 650 mount to the observatory pier, and got everything set up in time for tomorrow's lunar eclipse. We'll know more about how the scope performs on star fields in a couple of weeks, after we get past the full moon. Meanwhile, here's a single exposure of the moon one day before full:



Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 1/100 second (0.01)
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: AT6RC, AT2FF field flattener
Mount: Meade LXD 650
Guider: None
Filter: None
Software: Nebulosity, Photoshop

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

I'll Make You A Deal


If you're a true believer, write me a check dated May 22, 2011, and I promise I won't cash it until then.

Good news, everyone! If you’ve been worried about the rapture and the second coming of Jesus Christ, you don’t have to worry anymore. A date has been set for Jesus’s return, so you have more than enough time to get your affairs in order and get right with the church of your choice. According to a billboard taken out in Nashville, Tennessee, Jesus will return on May 21, 2011.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Astromart™ Sucks

Why does Astromart™ suck so hard? Here's one reason: You pay your $12, and in return you get "Astromart™ has the sole discretion to amend these terms of use at any time, to terminate your membership account for any reason or no reason at all at any time, to delete posts or ads at any time, and to use or copy material from posts or ads at any time." (Terms of Service 30 November 2010)

So, you send Herb your money, in return he can use your photos or descriptions of your items for any purpose, including marketing his own products, or he can simply take your money and refuse to allow you to use the site.

No thanks--I don't do business with thieves, crooks or liars.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday, November 07, 2010

NGC 7293, The Helix Nebula


Did you ever have one of those times when nothing worked right? When things unrelated would fail in sequence? That was my night last night. Just finding this stupid thing took nearly an hour, punctuated by the camera battery adapter flaking out, and not being able to figure out how to get the guide scope to focus, to plugging the autoguider into the wrong port on the mount and spending 20 minutes trying to figure out why it's not working. So instead of 4 hours on this, Here's just 12 5-minute exposures stacked with no darks and no flats. How I got as much as I did is beyond me, because I did everything wrong I could have.

EagleEye Observatory, Canyon of the Eagles Park, Burnet TX
Exposure: 12 x 5 minutes
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Celestron C6, Meade f/6.3 focal reducer
Mount: Meade LXD650
Guider: Short Tube 80, Meade DSI
Filter: None
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

Thursday, November 04, 2010

My Living Will

Courtesy of my sister:

MY LIVING WILL

Last night, my friends and I were sitting in the living room and I said to them, "I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."

They got up, unplugged the computer and threw out my Diet Coke. They are SO on my s**t list ...

Monday, November 01, 2010

My Dream


My dream is to make a photo like this one that Brad Hill made from Nashville, Tennessee, and recently published in Sky & Telescope magazine. Be sure to click and view it full-size. That's Ganymede on the right, showing detail. Astounding! Thirty years ago it took a spacecraft to see that kind of detail on the moons of Jupiter.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Home, 1983–85


J324 Prather Hall (Middle window, 1 down from the top).

I didn't feel really old until I realized whoever is living there now wasn't born when I was there.

Darrel K. Royal, Texas Memorial Stadium


Stitched with AutoStitch on the iPhone.

Jupiter, 29 October 1010


Again in the C6, but this time from Mansfield Dam, where I'm not shooting over the roof of the house. This is a 1.5X enlargement.
Best 98% of 500 frames LRGB, DMK21AF04, Televue 2.5x Powermate

Friday, October 15, 2010

Jupiter, 15 October 2010


Thought we needed to see this side of Jupiter for a change. Moon is Io.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jupiter, 9 October 2010 (C6)


Actual Size



1.5X Resample



2X Drizzle


I've been unhappy with the last few Jupiters--they just weren't as good as the conditions said they should have been--so I decided to try a different telescope. I set the little 6" Celestron C6 up in the back yard and gave it a go.

Wow.

I don't know what's going on exactly with the bigger 10" LX200, but I'm clearly missing something somewhere when the upscaled image from the 6-inch scope is showing better detail than I'm getting from the bigger scope.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Jupiter, 7 October 2010 (SPC900NC)


Just for grins, I shot this with the old SPC900NC webcam. It's OK, but you can tell the difference between the cheap camera and the other one.

Jupiter, 7 October 2010


The angled lines are an artifact on the sensor. I don't know if it's the cover filter or the sensor itself. I tried imaging this with flats, but it didn't take care of it as well as I'd hoped.

I still want to try a different scope as well. I think I'm hitting the limits of my LX200.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

No Sleep For the Wicked


Dark blue is good. Three rows of dark blue is unheard of.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Friday, October 01, 2010

Jupiter, 1 October 2010



These might have been better if I had waited, but I wanted to catch the Great Reddish Spot. First shot was at 9:30, 33° up. Second one was an hour later, 44° elevation. I'm pleased these are as nice as they are for being so low in the sky.

Also tried out a new application (WinJupos) that compensates for the planet's rotation between shots. It take me nearly 2 minutes to complete a series, and in that time Jupiter has rotated enough that the luminance channel I shot first doesn't align perfectly with the the blue channel I shot last. The improvement is subtle, but I'll take whatever I can get.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jupiter, 30 September 2010



10" LX200, Best 98% of 750 frames LRGB, DMK21AF04, Televue 2.5x Powermate

I gotta get some sleep. This good weather is killing me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jupiter, 29 September 2010




That's Europa casting the shadow, and Io off to the right (again).

10" LX200, Best 98% of 750 frames LRGB, DMK21AF04, Televue 2.5x Powermate

Not A Picture of Jupiter


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jupiter, 27 September 2010


10" LX200, Best 98% of 750 frames LRGB, DMK21AF04, Televue 2.5x Powermate

A little soft. We're forecast for excellent seeing after midnight tonight; we'll see if I make it out.

Friday, September 24, 2010

OU Still Sucks

Don't forget, the big game is coming up!



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

The lawyers made me change the shirt. They suck too.

Orbital Mechanics



(Actually, I think Orbital Mechanics is a great name for a band.)

Jupiter, 23 September 2010


Jove's looking kinda dull this year. The southern equatorial belt is missing, and there's not a whole lot of activity in the equator either.

10" LX200, Best 500 of 750 frames LRGB, DMK21AF04, Televue 2.5x Powermate

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jupiter, 21 September 2010


A day past opposition, and we got a break in the clouds. That's Europa casting a shadow on the planet, and Io off to the right.

The color on this one is weird, not sure why. Didn't get a good luminance frame, so this is just RGB.
10" LX200, Best 500 of 750 frames RGB, DMK21AF04, Televue 2.5x Powermate

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Role Model


Have I mentioned how Calvin's dad is my parenting role model?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day, Second Grade


At least he's wearing different shoes this year.

More here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

IC 5070, The Pelican Nebula


The Pelican Nebula is a large area of emission nebula in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), close to Deneb, and divided from its brighter, larger neighbor, the North America Nebula, by a molecular cloud filled with dark dust.

X-Bar Ranch, Eldorado, TX
Exposure: 43 x 5 minutes (3:35)
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: AT80EDT
Mount: Meade LXD650
Guider: ST80, Meade DSI
Filter: None
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

Saturday, August 14, 2010

NGC 7000, The North American Nebula



Wikipedia entry.

Photographed at X-Bar Ranch, between Eldorado and Sonora, Texas.

First time I've dealt with a "meridian flip." With a German Equatorial Mount, when an object passes from the eastern sky to the western sky, you have to turn the mount so that the scope switches sides. Getting the camera realigned close to where it was was a bit tricky, but not terribly hard.

X-Bar Ranch, Eldorado, TX
Exposure: 30 x 2 minutes + 30 x 5 minutes (3.5 hours)
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: AT80EDT
Mount: Meade LXD650
Guider: ST80, Meade DSI
Filter: None
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

Monday, August 02, 2010

Jupiter, 2 August 2010


First time around for this appearance of Jupiter, and I'm setting the bar high this year. We've had a high-pressure dome settle in on top of us the last couple of days, and the seeing has been, well, astronomical. I set up the gear before going to bed, then rolled out at 0500 this morning to shoot this. CSC said 4/5 seeing, and it may have been better.

10" LX200, Best 500 of 1000 frames LRGB, DMK21AF04, Televue 2.5x Powermate

Sunday, August 01, 2010

M17, The Omega Nebula

Here's a third version (1) (2) of M17, aka the Swan Nebula.



Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 90 x 90 seconds (2:15)
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Meade LX200 @ f/6.3
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: ST80, Meade DSI
Filter: None
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

NGC 6888, The Crescent Nebula

Here's another look at NGC6888, the Crescent Nebula.



Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 90 x 90 seconds (2:15)
Camera: Modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
Scope: Meade LX200 @ f/6.3
Mount: Meade LX200
Guider: ST80, Meade DSI
Filter: None
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chicago Panoramas


Looking north from Shedd Aquarium.


Looking north from Museum Campus.


Looking east from Sears Tower.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Another Couple of Busy Days

One of these days we'll get back to astronomy …

Meanwhile, here's a bit of 3D work that's different from the stuff I usually do. Client sends over an image from a video: "Can you copy this?"


Modeled in Sketchup, rendered with Indigo.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Say Hello To My Leeetle Friend



Colt M4 Carbine, .22
25 yards, standing, iron sights. Not awful for the first time out. Gun shoots great.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Proposal For Private Spaceflight


How to pay for a trip to the Moon with private money. Just do it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Very Busy Couple of Days


120,000-volt electrical termination, drawn in Adobe Illustrator.