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.

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

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.

 

Jul 302017
 

I was the first one to arrive for the star party on Saturday night at Look Rock South.  It’s a beautiful view to the south looking into the Smokies.

 

We definitely had some clouds for the beginning of the night with some sucker holes now and then.  I was never able to get off a 20 minute shot without the clouds rushing in within 10 minutes…

But things finally started to clear up and the Milky Way really started to pop out.

Emission Nebula NGC 6820 or Sharpless SH 2-86. AP130GTX with Field Flattener Custom 4″ OAG Apogee U16 CCD w/Baader Ha 7nm filter AP900GTO Mount 9x20min Exposures Image Scale 2.16 arcsec/pixel; reduced to 4.32 arcsec/pixel

Once it was cleared up I was off to take some test shots and validate the portable rig was ready for more serious projects.  NGC 6820 AKA Sharpless SH 2-86 and all the surrounding emission and dark nebula has always been a favorite of mine.  It’s located in Vulpecula not that far from M27, the Dumbbell Nebula.  It reminds me of a less popular M16 with it’s gas and dust pillars and dark globules.  Open cluster NGC 6823 resides in the midst of the nebula and is about 6,000 light years away.

 

Nov 292016
 

Just getting around to publishing some pictures from the 2016 Black Forest Star Party at Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania.  What a great stretch of weather for PA!  The nights weren’t the darkest or most transparent (SQM 21.4-21.5) nights I’ve had at CSSP but clear and a little murky was way better than the alternative after driving up from Knoxville TN.  Had a great time with some old friends and good to see some old club members too.

 

 

Had a few imaging problems related to dithering and settle time / settle criteria that made me lose a fair number of shots but I got two images which, I have to be honest, I’m not real pleased with.  They are however, more challenging objects, but would have come out better had the sky conditions been closer to the SQM 21.8 that I’ve seen before at CSSP.  But, we take whatever quality of clear sky we can get during a pre-planned star party!

ngc-7129

Reflection Nebula NGC 7129 Stellarvue SVQ100, Apogee A694 CCD, Atlas EQ-G Mount, Baader LRGB Filters Lum 9x10min: 1.5 hours RGB each 8x10min: 4 hours Total Time 5.5 hours

 

sh2-115v7

SH2-115 Atlas Eq-G Mount, Stellarvue SVQ100, Apogee Ascent A694 CCD, Baader narrowband filters Ha: 8x20min, O[III]: 10x20min, S[II]: 13x20min Total Exposure: 10.3 hours

Apr 042016
 
Field_setup

The first arrivals setting up on the astronomy field

On April 1st through April 3rd Pickett State Park, a newly designated IDA Dark Sky Site, held its first Astronomy Weekend Star Party. We were clouded out Friday night but clouds on Saturday finally yielded to clear skies albeit with some very gusty winds until the wee hours of the morning.

Waiting for Clouds to Clear

Waiting for Clouds to Clear while Orion sets

MW_Rising

Early morning Milky Way rising over the astronomy field

Star Trails over the astronomy field

Star Trails over the astronomy field

Polar Region Star Trails

Polar Region Star Trails

Leo_Triplet2

The Leo Triplet – M65, M66, & NGC 3628
Stellarvue SVQ 100, Apogee Ascent A694, AP900GTO Mount, Exposure 4 hours, SQM 21.48

Rho

Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex stretching down to the Lagoon Nebula Canon 6D with 40mm f/4 ISO 1600 4min single exposure

 

 

 

Jan 112016
 

My buddy and I drove up to Pickett State Park which recently was designated a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. The night wasn’t perfect; cold, little too windy, and high thin clouds to the south that at times mucked with our images.  I had wanted to test out a new widefield camera tracker from StarSync LLC.  Unfortunately, I forgot my intervalometer so I was limited to 30 second exposures which isn’t the best test.  Still, I think it’s the tracker I’ve been waiting for.  I love the design.

Cone_FoxFur_100PV2

NGC 2264, Sh2-273: The Fox Fur and Cone Nebula. Taken with a Stellarvue SVQ100, Apogee Ascent A694 CCD, Atlas Mount, Baader LRGB Filters, Lodestar Autoguider CCD through an SX-OAG. Exposure time was 21x10min Lum, 6x10min each RGB. Sky brightness (SQM) ranged from 21.2 to 21.38 mag/arcsec^2.

This enigmatic formation of gas and dust lies in the constellation of Monoceros (the Unicorn) not far off the right arm of Orion. This is a close-up of a small section of a much larger complex, generally known as the Christmas Tree cluster. The mysterious Cone Nebula is also a part of this same cloud.

The red regions of this nebula are caused by hydrogen gas that has been stimulated to emit its own light by the copious ultraviolet radiation coming from the hot, blue stars of the cluster. The blue areas shine by a different process: they are mainly dust clouds that reflect the bluish light of the same stars.

Its popular name arises because the nebula looks like the head of a stole made from the fur of a red fox.

Information courtesy of Wikipedia.

 

Comet-Export_50p

Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) Integration centered on the comet and showing the star trails as the comet moves relative to its celestial backdrop.

Catallina

C/2013 US10 (Catalina) is an Oort cloud comet discovered on 31 October 2013 by the Catalina Sky Survey at an apparent magnitude of 19 using a 0.68-meter (27 in) Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope.[1] As of September 2015 the comet is around apparent magnitude 6.[6]

When discovered on 31 October 2013 observations from another object from 12 September 2013 were used in the preliminary orbit determination giving an incorrect solution that suggested an orbital period of only 6 years.[1] But by 6 November 2013 a longer observation arc from 14 August until 4 November made it apparent that the first solution had the wrong object from 12 September.[2]

By early May 2015 the comet was around apparent magnitude 12 and had an elongation of 60 degrees from the Sun as it moved further into the southern hemisphere.[7] The comet came to solar conjunction on 6 November 2015 when the comet was around magnitude 6.[6] The comet came to perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on 15 November 2015 at a distance of 0.82 AU from the Sun.[3] At perihelion, it had a velocity of 46.4 km/s (104,000 mph) with respect to the Sun which is slightly greater than the Sun’s escape velocity at that distance. It crossed the celestial equator on 17 December 2015 becoming a northern hemisphere object. On 17 January 2016 the comet will pass 0.72 AU (108,000,000 km; 67,000,000 mi) from Earth and should be around magnitude 6[6] while located in the constellation of Ursa Major.

C/2013 US10 is dynamically new. It came from the Oort cloud with a loosely bound chaotic orbit that was easily perturbed by galactic tides and passing stars. Before entering the planetary region (epoch 1950), C/2013 US10 had an orbital period of several million years.[4] After leaving the planetary region (epoch 2050), it will be on an ejection trajectory.[4]

Information courtesy of Wikipedia.

IMG_2293

Thin clouds to the south lingered half of the night. 30 second exposure at 17mm FL, Canon 6D, tracked on StarSync Tracker. Orions belt and sword are prominent.

 

IMG_2299

Another test of the StarSync Tracker. 17mm FL with Canon 6D, StarSync Tracker, 30 second exposure. M31, The Andromeda Galaxy, is the prominent galaxy in the top middle of the image; second of course to the winter Milky Way.

Dec 122015
 

Taken 12/5/2015 from Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina.  Sky quality was a little hazy early on and deteriorated by morning.  SQM readings started around 21.1 and topped out around 21.2 mag/arcsec^2.  This has always been a favorite object but I have always struggled processing it.  It’s dim, it’s difficult, it always seems soft…. I’d prefer to shoot these dark dusty nebula from a darker site and if I ever get the chance I’ll be coming back to this object.

NGC 1333 Stellarvue SVQ100 100mm f/5.8 APO Apogee Ascent A694 CCD Atlas EQG Mount w/EQMOD SX-OAG w/ Lodestar Guider Baader LRGB Filters 21x10min Lum, 3x10x5min RGB Cherohala Skyway, NC SQM: 21.1-21.2