Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Floors



Stand by for astronomy: I'm headed to dark skies this weekend. But in the meantime, we got new floors!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A 2-Headed Elephant


Not like drawing power connections.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Friday, March 04, 2011

I Just Can't Resist

Mike Huckabee, on Jamie Lynn Spears in 2007, unmarried and pregnant:
"Apparently, she's going to have the child and I think that is the right decision, a good decision, and I respect that and appreciate it. I hope it is not an encouragement to other 16-year-olds who think that is the best course of action."

"But at the same time I'm not going to condem her. There'll be plenty of people in line to do that and I always look for the shortest lines. I just hope that she will make another right decision and that's to give that child all the love and kindness and care that she can."


Mike Huckabee, on Natalie Portman in 2010, unmarried and pregnant:
"One of the most troubling things is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet that boasts of, hey look, we're having children, we're not married, but we're having children and they're doing just fine."

"There aren't really a lot of single moms out there that are making millions of dollars each year by being in a movie," Huckabee said. "I think it gives a distorted image that not everybody hires nannies and caretakers and nurses. Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and would not get healthcare."

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

M81 & M82, Bode's Galaxy & Cigar Galaxy


It's time once again to take a shot at this pair of galaxies off the Big Dipper. Best one of the lot, for sure. I'm definitely liking the AT6RC on the CI-700.

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 60 x 180 sec (3 hours) @ ISO 800, 10 flat, 20 dark
Camera: Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D) (modified)
Scope: AT6RC, AT2FF field flattener
Mount: Celestron CI-700/Skywalker
Guider: Zenithstar 66, Meade DSI
Filter: None
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Observatory Upgrades

It's been a busy winter here at Heritage Park Observatory. We've retired three telescopes, and added some new equipment.

It all started when I bought the Astro-Tech AT6RC 6-inch Ritchey-Chr├ętien astrograph. I had mounted it on the Meade LXD-650, but wasn't happy with the results. At the same time, I came across a great deal on a Celestron C-11, an 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. It took a little soul searching, but I decided to sell the LX200 and fund the C11. That left room to add a new mount, a used Celestron CI-700. The short tube 80 went with the LX200, but Mr. Daniel donated a used Zenithstar 66 to the stable. Got all that?

Before: 10" LX200, C6, AT80EDT & ST80, LXD-650 mount
After: C11, AT6RC, AT80EDT & ZS66, CI-700 and LXD-650 mounts

The end result is that the observatory is much more flexible in scope sizes. The CI-700 is semi-permanently mounted on the pier, and is capable of carrying the big C11 with the ZS66 riding piggyback, or any two-scope combination of AT6RC, AT80EDT and ZS66. The C11 should provide higher-resolution planetary imaging than the LX200, the AT6RC is an excellent all-around photography scope, the AT80EDT a good wide-field visual and imaging scope, and the ZS66 a lightweight guide scope also capable of wider fields than the AT80EDT.

The LXD-650 is now the portable setup. It can carry the C11 for visual use, which should make a nice setup for outreach activities, or it's good for imaging with the 80 or 66mm scopes. About the only time I might foresee taking the CI-700 into the field would be to travel to dark skies, like the Texas Star Party or X-Bar Ranch.

NGC 2392, The Eskimo Nebula


Still working on some differential flexure between the guide scope and the imaging scope, but getting very close now. The CI-700 mount tracks like a dream. I'm tempted to turn the guiding off and see what I can get.

This is a poor target choice for this scope/camera combination. (Too small.)

Heritage Park Observatory, Cedar Park, TX
Exposure: 8 x 300 sec (40 min) @ ISO 1600, 10 flat, 6 dark
Camera: Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D) (modified)
Scope: AT6RC, AT2FF field flattener
Mount: Celestron CI-700/Skywalker
Guider: Zenithstar 66, Meade DSI
Filter: None
Software: PHD Guiding, Nebulosity, Photoshop