Saturday, September 25, 2010

Auction Photos

My employer participates in the State Employee Charitable Campaign every year. Our Big Event is a silent auction that contains items donated by employees and local businesses. This year's auction is on October 1st and will be held at the Windham School District Headquarters building in Huntsville, TX.

A coworker suggested that I submit 8x10 prints of some of my astroimages to the auction. I selected four images that I thought would have wide appeal.  Some have been reprocessed so that they would be more suitable for large prints. The images here have been reduced for screen display.

Sword of Orion
This is one of my all-time favorite images, and one of my favorite targets. The large nebula in the center, The Great Orion Nebula (Messier 42), is a complex structure of emission, reflection and dark nebulae. The nebula on the left, The Running Man, is composed of three separately cataloged reflection nebulae: NGC 1973, NGC 1975, and NGC 1977.
The Pleiades
This image of The Pleiades looks great on the screen, but some of the fainter details didn't show up very well in the print. Still, it's made a beautiful photo.

Andromeda Galaxy
This is a new image of the Andromeda Galaxy that I have not posted on the blog before. I took it with my ST80 on the Vixen GP mount. I wasn't impressed with the subs that I was getting, so I cut the session short and moved to another target. Later, when I stacked and processed the image, I realized that it didn't turn out half bad. It has been heavily processed to remove noise and chromatic aberration. I intend to go back and reshoot the Andromeda Galaxy at the next opportunity that I have for imaging.

Flame and Horsehead Nebulae
This image of the Flame and Horsehead nebulae is my favorite of the prints. It is also a new post to the blog, and a reprocess of an older image.

In addition to the prints, I am submitting a certificate for a private screening at the Sam Houston State University planetarium, hosted by planetarium director Mike Prokosch.

If anyone is interested in attending the auction, drop me a line and I'll give you directions to the building.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Huntsville, a Portal into an Alternate Universe

I think that my hometown of Huntsville, Texas must be at the intersection between our universe and another.  Why do I think this? There are lots of reasons. The purpose of this post is to bring to light some unusual features that I have found around town that have led me to believe that Huntsville is riddled with portals into another reality, which I like to refer to as Universe X

I also believe that things and beings from Universe X sometimes cross over into our universe. The Farrington Building, which is the science building on the campus of Sam Houston State University, appears to be at the epicenter of these strange incursions. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the result of some experiment in interspatial physics that went horribly wrong.

I have seen many strange things in Huntsville--most of them at Walmart.  Below are images of some of these strange features, but be warned: the natural conclusions that one must draw after seeing these images are quite disturbing. I believe that Huntsville--and possibly the entire Earth--may be the target of a full-scale invasion of hideous beings from Universe X!

Portal to an Alien World?
Located on a wall near the west door of the Farrington Building is this seemingly inconspicuous hole, which is about an inch across. When I discovered it in July 2009 it was spewing forth a cool wind at a prodigious rate.

I think it is a tiny portal into an alien world located in another universe. It must be cold there, or perhaps the seasons are different than here in Huntsville.  I suspect that the lab in which the portal was supposed to be created is on the other side of this wall.  Maybe the scientists who made it were a little off in their calculations, and the portal ended up inside the wall.  At any rate, it appears that the scientists made a couple of unsuccessful exploratory holes before finding the exact spot into the interspatial rift.

Doorway to the 4th Dimension
Inside the southern stairwell of the Farrington Building is a half-height doorway with these two signs taped to it. The one on the left labels this door as "Doorway to the 4th Dimension." The sign on the right is a list of warnings. Here is a close-up:

I do not know who put these signs here or when they were placed, but they confirm my belief that something unusual is happening. Someone has obviously taken notice and felt the need to caution others. Three people may have even lost their lives. The door was locked, so I was unable to engage in my own investigation.

Reserved Parking for Alien Visitors?
This sign has had me baffled for quite some time. It is located in the parking lot next to the Estill Building (which, interestingly, is next door to Farrington). What does "PERM T" mean? Is it a code, or does it perhaps refer to a "visitor" named "Perm T?" And by "visitor" I mean "visitor from another universe." Maybe this is where Perm T, Alien Being from Universe X, parks his car when he visits Earth.

Simple Stairway, or Alien Mind Control Device?
The image above is of part of the main stairwell at the Newton Gresham Library. Ordinarily I wouldn't take much notice of such a mundane object, but after examining this photo I was struck by both the object's symmetry and the repetition of its elements. It seems strangely mesmerizing. I wondered if such a device could be used to induce an hypnotic state in humans, opening their minds up to control by a hostile entity. "Oh, you're just being paranoid," I've told myself. But, then I saw this:

Typical Library Sign, or Coded Alien Instruction Sheet?

You might be thinking, "Big deal! This is a library, after all."  I mean, we've all been taught to be quiet in the library, right?

Well, think of it this way: if you were a ruthless alien from an another universe and you wanted to control the minds of humans using hypnosis, wouldn't you need quiet for your hypnosis device to work? And where else do humans gather in significant numbers and stay quiet? Certainly not a football stadium! (Although I am convinced that spectator sports are also a form of mind control.)

Plus, look very closely at the image in the lower-right corner of that sign. Do you see anything unusual about it? I do. Here are the things that I see that concern me:
  • The person who is "shushing" is standing outside of a house. Why a house? We're in a library!
  • Note that the "shush" sound, which seems to be indicated by the little arrows, is actually coming from the "shusher's" fingertips. Vocal sounds come from the mouth, not the fingers!
The sign is clearly a coded set of instructions that are delivered to us while we are in a stairwell-induced trance.  In Universe X alien-speak, it reads something like this:  "Sneak up to a human's house, then use the plasma-ray emitters in your fingers--you know, the ones we installed while you were in a trance in the stairwell--to melt the locks and steal their brains.  Then, return those brains to us, your Universe X Masters."

How do I know that aliens are stealing human brains in Huntsville?  Well, there are a lot of mindless people round about town.  I mostly see them at the local Walmart.

By now you probably think that I'm some kind of crackpot. Don't write me off, yet. Like I stated above, others have noticed that something is definitely wrong here in Huntsville. If I'm out of my mind, then I have company. Take a look at this:

What is a Raffic?!???
This door is located in an office building across town from the university. The text is a very explicit warning that something potentially dreadful lurks on the other side.  What is a "raffic?"  Is it something that pounces fast moving prey? What does it prey on? I am certain that it is a danger to humans, otherwise what would be the point in putting the warning on the door?

My leading theory is that the raffic is a beast from Universe X that has been brought to our universe. It hides in the stairwell behind this door. I bet that the Universe X aliens feed uncooperative humans to the raffic.

I have been through this door (slowly) many times, but have seen nothing particularly unusual. I am very curious though, to know what a raffic looks like so that I may avoid it in the future. My imagination has been in overdrive ever since I saw the warning. I'm pretty certain that a raffic looks something like this:

Raffic on the Other Side of the Door
I think it's something like a sasquatch, except with razor-sharp claws and horrible, pointy teeth. Yes, I'm almost certain that this is what a raffic looks like.

This is all that I dare show you at this time. I suspect that agents of Universe X are on to me. Stay safe, watch out for brainless people at Walmart, and stay clear of the raffic!

Monday, September 13, 2010

What is Messier 71?

Messier 71 is a rather unremarkable looking little cluster in the constellation Sagitta, but astronomers have puzzled over exactly what it is for many years.  It has characteristics of both an open cluster and a globular cluster.  The general consensus is, I believe, that it is a relatively young globular cluster (9 to 10 billion years old) with a loose grouping of stars.

Messier 71. ST80 on Vixen GP. 9x60 at ISO-1600
UPDATE: APOD posted an article featuring Messier 71 on December 10, 2014.

North America Nebula

I've been wanting to image NGC 7000, the North America Nebula for a long time. A couple of previous attempts made with the Epsilon-200 were not that impressive--mostly due to tracking problems with the mount. Also, the combination of the Epsilon-200's field of view and my camera's chip size is not wide enough to capture the entire nebula at once. Mike Prokosch captured it with his ST80 and Canon Rebel XTi, which has the same CMOS imaging chip as my camera. His turned out so well that I knew that I had to try. Here is mine:

NGC 7000, the North America Nebula.  ST80 on Vixen GP.  9x180 at ISO-1600.

The purple halos around the stars are the result of chromatic aberration. This is a common problem with refractor-type telescopes. It is caused by the fact that different wavelengths (colors) of light do not focus at the same point. The ST80 is an achromatic refractor, which means that it has a pair of objective lenses that help to reduce this effect; but, it is not 100% effective. Higher-end refractors, like apochromats and others that use specially made (and more expensive) lenses minimize or eliminate this effect. Mike's image doesn't have the pronounced purple halos because his exposure time was shorter.

But, hey!  I'm not worried about purple halos at this point.  I'm just happy that I can get decent astro images from my own yard!  After all, my primary purpose in doing all of this is to see things that I can't see with the naked eye.  I'll worry about making perfect images later...

The North America Nebula, named because its shape resembles the continent, is a huge molecular cloud located in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. The nebula is quite large from our point of view, spanning the width of about four full moons. It is difficult to see, though, because it is very dim. I can be seen with large telescopes under very dark skies, but the best way to see it is in long-exposure images, like the one above.

Vixen GP, Many Messiers

The Great News: We have a new baby boy! He arrived a few days ago, and is in fine health.

The Bad News: I won't have much, if any, spare time over the next few months to go out to the observatory to do imaging.

The Good News: Val, my astronomy pal over at, lent me a mount that I can use for astroimaging at my house!

I picked up the mount at an impromptu gathering at the observatory the other week and gave it a test drive. It worked great! This comes as no surprise, though, as the mount is a Vixen Great Polaris. It has a right-ascension drive (no declination drive or GOTO), a polar alignment scope, and a very sturdy tripod. Val has taken some excellent images using that mount.

I've been wanting to take a group shot of the Lagoon Nebula, Trifid Nebula and open cluster Messier 21 since they came up over the horizon a few months ago. I figured my ST80 had a wide enough field of view to capture all three, and then Mike Prokosch confirmed my thought when he created a fine image of the same region with his ST80 a couple of months ago. Here is my attempt, and first light with the Vixen GP:

Messier 8 (Lagoon Nebula, lower-left), Messier 20 (Trifid Nebula, middle-right), and Messier 21 (upper-right)
There is noticeable vignetting in the image.  I will need to work out a way to create flats with my ST80.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Better Coathanger

I had the opportunity to re-image the Coathanger Cluster with the Epsilon-200.  Here is the new version:

Coathanger Cluster, Epsilon-200