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.

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!

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

May 152016
 

M63 - Close Up

Galaxy M63 – Close Up

M63 - AP900GTO, Stellarvue SVQ-100, Apogee Ascent A694, Baader LRGB Filters, 4.5 Hour Total Exposure TIme.

M63 – AP900GTO, Stellarvue SVQ-100, Apogee Ascent A694, Baader LRGB Filters, 4.5 Hour Total Exposure Time.

 

 

M63 - Annotated

M63 – Annotated

Messier 63 (also known as M63, NGC 5055, or the Sunflower Galaxy) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici consisting of a central disc surrounded by many short spiral arm segments. M63 is part of the M51 Group, a group of galaxies that also includes M51 (the ‘Whirlpool Galaxy’). M63 is an active galaxy with a LINER nucleus.[3]

M63 was discovered by Pierre Méchain on June 14, 1779.[4] The galaxy was then listed by Charles Messier as object 63 in the Messier Catalogue.

In the mid-19th century, Lord Rosse identified spiral structures within the galaxy, making this one of the first galaxies in which such structure was identified.[4]

In 1971, a supernova with a magnitude of 11.8 appeared in one of the arms of M63.

Information courtesy of Wikipedia.

 

Tennessee Spring Star Party at Dusk

Tennessee Spring Star Party at Dusk

Sat Night had some thin clouds moving through

Sat Night had some thin clouds moving through

 

Friday night was fantastic without a cloud to be seen.  Saturday night was less pristine with a lot of thin cloud moving through.  I thought we had some clearing later but a lot of the images from Sat night showed very inconsistent background values which leads me to believe we had thin stuff moving through all night.  Still, how many clear nights can you ask for?  It was a great TSSP and looking forward to the Fall Star Party.

SQM measurements topped out around 21.3 on Friday night and 21.4 on Saturday night.

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.