Friday, May 18, 2018

Patrick's Star

Some online friends of my wife registered a star in Patrick's name. It was a very sweet gesture. The registry company sent a folder with a nice certificate, pictured below, describing the star's location. They also included a star chart that highlighted the star and gave its official designation (more on that later). Here is the certificate:

Now keep in mind that none of this is in any way official. The astronomical community is not going to start calling this star "Patrick's Star."

In fact, these registries are a bit misleading. Sure, they create a record for the star name in their database, but it is not officially recognized by any authorities. And there is nothing stopping them or another registry from assigning the star a different name. The company listed above claims that all registered stars are visible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, there are only about 5,000 naked-eye stars, so this practice is not good for business unless each star is assigned to multiple individuals.

Which is OK, as far as I'm concerned, because there is a star in the sky that I will forever think of as Patrick's Star.

That star is officially known as Phi Draconis, 43 Draconis, HD 170000, HIP 89908, among others. It is located in the constellation Draco, which lies between Ursa Minor and Ursa Major. Phi Draconis is actually three separate stars that, at a distance of about 300 light years, appear as a single star to the naked eye.

One clear night recently, I went out and imaged Phi Draconis. The result is below:

Phi Draconis, aka "Patrick's Star" (center).
Patrick's Star circles the North Celestial Pole. From my latitude, the star never sets. I think that's appropriate.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

International Space Station in H-Alpha

Ever since I made the images and video of the ISS solar transit at Huntsville State Park, I have wanted to do the same thing using an H-Alpha solar telescope. The right combination of location, weather, and available time came together on May 6, 2018, so I borrowed a Coronado PST and headed to Davy Crockett Memorial Park in Crockett, Texas.

The transit occurred at 11:27:44 AM, and lasted about six tenths of a second. Considering it took nearly an hour to drive to the site and then almost a half hour to set up, this seemed like a small reward for the effort. But, it was very satisfying to see the space station race across the face of the Sun literally seconds after I had finished setting up and focusing the scope.

Composite of 11 separate images, combined and colorized in Photoshop CS6.

A 300% zoom of one of the better images in the series, showing some of the structural details.

Telescope: Coronado PST
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Camera: Mallincam SkyRaider AG
Processing: MALLINCAMSKY, PIPP, Photoshop CS6

Friday, April 6, 2018

In Memory of Patrick Shane Glasgow

In Loving Memory

Patrick Shane Glasgow
September 9, 2010 - March 14, 2018

We miss you.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Lunar Lunacy

I had time for a few quick lunar imaging experiments with the new scope.

The first image was made with the Canon EOS Rebel T3 (1100D). It has been enhanced to bring out the Moon's colors. The bluish areas are rich in titanium oxides, while the orange areas are relatively poor in both titanium and iron.

The rest of the images were made with the Mallincam SkyRaider AG monochrome camera.

These cropped images were produced using an Orion 2X Barlow:

I did not think that I would get images like this with a 430 mm focal length scope. I am seriously considering getting a better Barlow to see what else this scope can do.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Messier 78

Messier 78 is a reflection nebula in the Orion constellation. I have always found it a difficult object to image due to its intrinsic visual properties and the sheer bad luck I sometimes have with equipment and weather.

I think that a good, detailed image of this nebula can only be attained using a specialized CCD astroimaging camera, a long focal length scope, and a mount that can perform accurate tracking for long periods of time. I have none of these, but overall I'm fairly pleased with this one.

If you are viewing this on a laptop screen, phone, or tablet, then it is likely that you are going to miss a lot of the details in this image. The main part of the nebula is relatively faint, but the surrounding nebulosity is VERY faint. In fact, it is practically invisible as it absorbs nearly all of the light from the stars in and behind it. Examine the image. Where you don't see stars: that's the nebula. Pretty spooky, huh?

Messier 78
If your monitor brightness is fairly high, then you might see a splash of red on the lower-left corner. That is a portion of Barnard's Loop.

Exposure: 42x120@ISO1600
Telescope: AT72EDII
FF/Reducer:  ATR8 (f/4.8)
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3
Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop CS6

Sword of Orion, Again

Edit:  I originally posted the wrong image to this article. It was corrected on May 6, 2018.

If you have been following this blog for very long, you probably more than suspect that the Sword of Orion is one of my favorite targets. You would be right! I think it is a beautiful group of nebulae, and it is a fun and challenging object to image and process.

The sky conditions were almost perfect about a week ago, so I decided to try the new AT72EDII on the Sword. The results were superior to my previous attempts. I really like this little scope!

Sword of Orion
Click here for full size.
A 1920x1080 wallpaper version is available here.

Exposure: 23x120+12x60+12x30+8x15+8x4+8x2+1x1+1x0.5@ISO1600
Telescope: AT72EDII
FF/Reducer:  ATR8 (f/4.8)
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3
Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop CS6

Yes, I really did shoot all of those different exposure times. I was trying to capture the detail all the way down to the Trapezium Cluster. It was only marginally successful. I think I was pushing the limits of the scope, camera, and mount.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Andromeda Galaxy

Messier 31, the Andromeda Galaxy
Click here for full size.

Exposure: 18x90+8x45+8x20+8x10@ISO1600
Telescope: AT72EDII
FF/Reducer:  ATR8 (f/4.8)
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3
Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop CS6

As I've noted before, sometimes imaging sessions don't work out as planned. Technical problems, the limitations of the equipment, and sometimes just plain incompetence cause problems that create useless or sub-par data.

I had one of those cases a few nights ago.

My intended target was Messier 31, the Andromeda Galaxy. It was a little east of zenith when I started. As usual, my imaging time was short. That, and the fact that I cannot perform a reliable meridian flip with my rig (and I don't have software that can fix the image rotation), led me to decide to attempt to point the scope for imaging on the western half of the sky.

The scope barely cleared the side of the mount.

My first test image had some star trailing, but I assumed that it was the normal periodic error. Alignment seemed to have gone well, so I had no reason to suspect any problems.

The next several images had star trailing, too. Maybe it's the balance in this position, I thought. No problem, I tested the balance when it's pointed further west, so it will eventually settle itself out.

But the images never improved.

Time was running out. I decided that the best way to salvage the session was to shorten the exposure time. That yielded enough usable subs to produce the image above.

Still, I think it is my best image of the Andromeda Galaxy, yet. Did I mention that I'm really impressed with this little scope?