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 282015
 

We’re coming up on the end of 2015.  I had high hopes of getting more finished this year but all things considered, things are moving along.  It shouldn’t be too long and our new garage with workshop will be finished which will allow me to layout imaging systems somewhere other than in our bedrooms….  From there, I hope to get the Exploradome up and running in 2016 with the OGS 10″ RC and U16 acting as the workhorse imaging system.

 

Digging out a few large stumps

Digging out a few large stumps

Aerial view of the observatory site.  Needs a lot of cleanup.

Aerial view of the observatory site. Needs a lot of cleanup.

Testing the OGS 10" RC

Testing the OGS 10″ RC

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

 

Nov 212015
 

Observatory site prep is still moving along slowly.  Pulling stumps is a long process but I’m getting there.  At least the summer heat is behind me but the limited daylight is making it hard to get much done on the weekdays.

20151121_131212

20151121_154654

Here’s what the site is looking like.  Starting to look a little more open.

20151121_161150

20151121_161418

20151121_161316

Sep 132015
 

Earlier this year (2015) Pickett / Pogue State Park was named a Silver Tier IDA dark site.  I haven’t made it up for a night of astrophotography yet but have been wanting to visit the area and scope it out before lugging all the equipment up there for the first time.  On Sunday my wife, the dogs, and I made a visit up to hike the short trail to the Pogue Canyon Overlook.  The trail head is connected to the parking lot that adjoins the astronomy field at the Pogue SNA.  First off, finding the place wasn’t difficult BUT google maps does not have current satellite imagery from there so I couldn’t pinpoint it easily.  The address given didn’t seem to match up with anything in the imagery.  So, to make it a little easier, here is an image of the location:

Pogue Google

Pogue Creek Canyon – State Natural Area ; 36°31’19.35″N, 84°49’5.31″W

I’ve been interested in Pickett / Pogue for a while since it appears to be one of the darkest places in Tennessee and is located only 1:40 from my home.  Here are a few light pollution maps showing where it is in relationship to sources of light pollution:

Pickett Pogue East TN Light Pollution

Pickett / Pogue East TN Light Pollution with some notable astronomy observing locations highlighted.

 

Pickett Pogue Light Pollution02

Pickett – Pogue local light pollution from Jamestown & Oneida

 

Pickett Pogue Light Pollution01

Pickett – Pogue Light Pollution – Globe at Night

 

I also wanted to share a few photos from the site to show you all what to expect when you arrive at the site:

Pogue_parkinglot

Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area Parking Lot

PogueSE

Astronomy Field South – Facing Pickett Park Hwy (154)

 

PogueSW

Astronomy Field West

 

PogueNW

Astronomy Field North

 

IMG_1188

Pickett’s Dark Sky Project

A little bit of side information that might be of interest as it contains SQM measurements, photos, and upcoming event information:

Pickett – Pogue Dark Sky Press Release

Pickett – Pogue Internation Dark Sky Assoc. Application

Picket – Pogue Lighting Plan – Dark Sky Friendly Lighting

Don’t forget, the Fall Star Gaze is happening 9/19/2015 at this location!  I’d love to see you there but I’m tied up and can’t make it.  Hope to make it out under the stars there another time.

Sep 072015
 

This was my first visit to Fall Creek Falls for the 2015 Tennessee Fall Star Gaze.  It’s a casual get together held at a clearing within walking distance from the Inn.  The site is reasonably dark measuring 21.42+ on Friday and 21.31 on Saturday after some thundershowers upped the humidity level.  Both nights were good so long as you were prepared for dew.

I spent both nights gathering data on SH2-155; the Cave Nebula.  It’s a fairly dark object and I’d like more than the 4.5 hours of exposure time I got on it but a couple technical issues coupled with the early moon rise limited my time….

SH2-155 AP130EDT f/8 reduced to f/6 AP900GTO3 Mount Apogee Ascent A694 CCD 9x10min Lum 7x10min Red 6x10min Green 5x10min Blue

SH2-155
AP130EDT f/8 reduced to f/6
AP900GTO3 Mount
Apogee Ascent A694 CCD
9x10min Lum
7x10min Red
6x10min Green
5x10min Blue

 

SH2-155 Annotated

SH2-155 Annotated

S 155, also known as the Cave Nebula, Sh2-155 or Caldwell 9, is a dim and very diffuse bright nebula within a larger nebula complex containing emission, reflection, and dark nebulosity. It is located in the constellation Cepheus.

Visually it is a difficult object, but with adequate exposure, makes a striking image. The nebula gets its name Cave Nebula from the dark lane at the eastern side abutting the brightest curve of emission nebulosity which gives the appearance of a deep cave when seen through a telescope visually.

Information Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Fall Creek Falls Milkyway Pano Canon 6D, 17-40mm @ 17mm f/4, 20sec

Fall Creek Falls Milky Way Pano
Canon 6D, 17-40mm @ 17mm f/4, 20sec

This was my first time to Fall Creek Falls and I was not sure what to expect in terms of amenities.  For those of you considering going:  Restrooms are a 1000+ ft walk from the site.  There are no restrooms at the field, nor is there any power, water, etc.  The only things available at the site are trashcans.  The Inn, as I mentioned before, offers restrooms, along with buffet meals, vending machines, and accommodations on the lake.