Oct 272019
 
Road to the Observing Ridge at Dawn Thursday Morning

After missing the BFSP at Cherry Springs State Park, PA last new moon we were anxious to get out for one last hurah for the year. Weather looked great initially from midweek into the weekend but rapidly went downhill as we got closer to the weekend. We did however have an amazingly clear Weds night and clear until 3:00am or so on Thursday.

Observers on the Ridge on Thursday Morning

Friday morning arrived with clouds and slightly warmer temps (no frost) than Thursday morning. The sunrise was spectacular.

I am not a galaxy imager. I’m at home with short refractors imaging large nebula in our own galaxy. Spring and Fall are more or less galaxy season though if you want to be able to image the same object the majority of these longer nights. So I picked out a decent size bright galaxy and dusted off the long f/ratio 5″ refractor and gave it a try. It’s not without it’s problems but nice to see a 28 year old refractor still collecting photons!

Crop of Galaxy NGC 891
Click image for full size
NGC 891 – Full Frame (minor crop)
5.3 hours of Lum, 5.5 hours RGB
AP130EDT f/8 with SX-46 CCD on AP900GTO
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Annotated NGC 891
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Sep 302019
 

We had some great weather for the annual star party at Pickett State Park, TN last new moon. This star party is still young and looking to grow. The park rangers are doing a great job, it’s a great venue for presentations and a great field for observing / photography. I’m not sure why it still remains a hidden gem of sorts.

Overall sky quality, other than some early clouds, was excellent. With SQM measurements around 21.77 mag/arcsec^2 this was the darkest I’ve seen Pickett. I would note too that of the other dark sky sites I routinely visit, this quality of night is nothing to complain about.

Presentation Space
Setup on the field
Dusk; waiting for the thin stuff to clear
Last few clouds clearing with the MW shinning through!
The rig is facing N,NE towards the Constellation Cepheus imaging Sharpless Object SH2-154
SH2-154: AP900GTO, FSQ-106ED with SX-46 CCD. Image scale of 2.33 arcsec/pixel. Exposure time ~13.5 hours. Also plainly visible on the right edge of the frame is SH2-155 The Cave Nebula. Sometimes the faint objects like 154 don’t get a lot of love because they’re not much to look at. At least it’s got a nice tight open cluster NGC 7419 nearby to draw some attention.
Annotated

Jul 282019
 

We had a great clear spell 7/23 through 7/27 with only moderate lunar interference in the early hours of the morning. This is 14 hours of exposure divided equally across Hydrogen-alpha, Oxygen [III], and Sulfur[II] emission lines. Scope was an AP130GTX with Apogee U16 CCD on an AP1200GTO mount. Located outside Clinton, TN. The following are crops from the main image.

Finally, here is the nearly full frame image encompassing the whole area.

Jul 072019
 

With weather looking wet and wild for the 2019 Cherry Springs Star Party and things looking slightly less soggy at Calhoun we decided to cancel on Cherry Springs and gamble on Calhoun. Good thing we were setup on the top of a ridge so we never had to deal with muddy conditions considering all the rain we didn’t know was coming.

The first couple days were all clouded out.
Night time conditions were very soupy
Couple nights later things were improving but still very humid and hazy. The Milky Way was at least starting to pull out of the haze.
Cloudy rainy days
Equipment setup and hoping for clearing
Frank and the Astro Tent
Finally some stars poking through the clouds. Look at that new bright light in the East / NE; it’s really projecting up!
M101 – LRGB with FSQ-106ED and SX-46 CCD on AP900GTO Mount. 6 hours total exposure in hazy conditions. Best SQM 21.8 mag/arcsec^2.
M101 Annotated – Check out all those background galaxies!
Widefield of Scutum, Serpens, Sagittarius, and Ophiucus. Canon 6D with Rokinon 85mm f/4 tracking on an Atlas EQ-G. 14x3min shots stacked, no calibration.
Widefield of Scutum, Serpens, Sagittarius, and Ophiucus annotated. You can see this very busy area is really a crossroads of constellations.
Some VERY ominous clouds started moving in…
Hail Storm
M17 LRGB – FSQ-106ED with SX-46 CCD on AP900GTO Mount. Total Exposure almost 2 hours of hazy low to the horizon 5 minute subs.
From Jupiter to the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. Canon 6D with Rokinon 85mm @f4. 6x3min frames stacked, no calibration.

May 072019
 

Due to a moisture breach of my camera causing frosting issues which caused me to throw out all but 4.5 hours of data out of 18 I figured I might as well post this as it’s not going to get much better. Image scale was 1.31 arcsec/pixel which seems to give fairly decent sampling for the average seeing here in East Tennessee. Imaging location just outside Clinton, TN with average SQM measurements ranging from 20.1 to 20.4 mag/arcsec^2.

M106 – 4.5 hours AP130GTX, Apogee U8300, AP1200GTO

Oct 142018
 

I attended the annual Calhoun County Park Star Party (Oct 5-7) for the first time this year.  The sky wasn’t the best it could be.  Friday and Sat night both had humidity and dew off the charts with variable fog that seemed to slide up and down the hill but never got so high that it killed observing.  I can’t help but think that it impaired the images a little but it may have just been the choice of a faint target during a hazy time of year.  Sky quality measurements topped and held pretty steady around 21.6 mag/arcsec^2.  I’m sure on a crisp night it would be a little darker.  While there were some small light domes on the horizon they weren’t hardly worth mentioning in my opinion.  The park was wonderful and the staff was so friendly they even prepared a great meal for us on Sat night.  In total about 16 people showed for the party from TN, WV, PA, OH, and KY.  Special thanks to Larry McHenry for posting info about the star party and turning us onto this event and Calhoun as an observing site.  He typically posts updates on Cloudynights star party forum for upcoming Calhoun events.

Foggy Morning

Visual Rig

Imaigng Rig

Hot Afternoon

(Backside) From the Pond

 

Since Calhoun is pretty dark I decided to go after a fainter full spectrum object than I could ever do from home.  VdB objects (reflection nebulae compiled by Sidney van den Bergh) are great targets when looking for something off the beaten path but aren’t always what I would call showcase objects.  VdB 14 and 15 make for a nice parring here in a rich park of the sky in Camelopardalis.

vdb 14 & vdb 15:  12 hours of LRGB exposure with Tak FSQ-106ED Scope, SX-46 CCD, AP900GTO Mount.

Sep 092018
 

Unfortunately we were mostly clouded out for the star party.  From the sounds of it some of the other big star parties going on concurrently were also clouded out.  It just wasn’t a good weather weekend for a large portion of the eastern US.  Regardless of the clouds, the rangers at Pickett put together some good food and speakers for the event to keep it entertaining.  I stayed for only one night and snapped a few pics of the hazy skies with the Milky Way trying to peak through.

 

 

Jul 012018
 

I made the 13 hour trip up to Cherry Springs State Park for the Annual CSSP Star Party hosted by the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg PA, Inc. I went up a few days before the star party since it’s always helpful to get a good spot.  Those of us that were there early on Monday night were treated to a fabulous night with SQM measurements >21.9!  Overall it was an amazing streak of clear weather for PA with a total of 4 imaging nights.  I was hoping for one or two so as not to set my expectations too high so I was very pleased with four nights!

I even did a little visual at low power with a 4″ refractor.  LDN 1795 (large 50’x50’dark nebula in Scorpius) looked absolutely amazing to me at 19X.  First time I had a WOW moment visually.

 

Waiting for Darkness

 

Just Some Slightly Concerning Weather Passing Through
Everything is buttoned up and locked down. Luckily it skirted us to the North.

 

Rho Region
Canon 6D @ ISO 3200
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 5.6

 

B312 on the Edge of Sagittarius and Scutum
Canon 6D @ ISO 3200
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 @f/4
8x240sec Exposure

 

M8 & M20 Nestled Among the Stars
Canon 6D @ ISO 3200
Canon 70-200 f/2.8 @ f/4
10x240sec total exposure

 

CSSP 2018 Milky Way
Canon 6D @ ISO 3200
Canon 17-40mm f/4 @ f/6.7 and 37mm
1 x 240 seconds

 

The North American Nebula And The Pelican
Canon 6D @ ISO 3200
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 @ f/4.5
10x240sec exposure

 

The Cave Nebula
Tak FSQ-106ED
SX-46 w/ Maxi Wheel and Lodestar OAG
AP900GTO Mount
6.5 Hours Exposure Time over two nights

 

The Cocoon Nebula
FSQ-106ED
SX-46 w/ Maxi Wheel and Lodestar OAG
AP900GTO
3 hours total Exposure

Feb 042018
 

A couple images from last years 2017 CSSP that I finally got around to looking at.  It wasn’t a very productive astrophotography trip but enjoyable none the less.

 

If you’re going to come to a star party like this please follow the rules and don’t be a rude jackass like the following guy.  We all understand and tolerate some light issues, car alarms, and emergencies but when you light the place up over and over without any regard for your neighbors I would suggest staying home and not ruining everyone else’s vacation!

Jan 282018
 

I recently replaced the dome control electronics after the Foster Systems controller bit the dust and I replaced with a MaxDome II controller for rotation and shutter operation.  It’s working flawlessly so far and I couldn’t be happier.  I threw the 5″ refractor back in the observatory with the 16803 chipped camera for a widefield rig at 2.2 arcsec/pixel resolution.  Drizzle processing yields better star shapes/sampling than the low resolution would suggest.  Both images are cropped from the same image with 20.5 hours of total exposure time in the traditional Hubble Pallet.