Friday, December 30, 2011

Little by Little...

  I've been working a lot with the images that have quickly been piling up on my hard drive since I first bought my telescope.  Astrophotography is a strange form of photography for me.  I've always kind of hated Photoshop and software gimmicks because it feels like cheating to me.  I've always tried to keep my editing changes to the whole image.  Now with astrophotography I'm forced to combine tens or even hundreds of images down to a single picture and really stretch the color and exposure to bring out the detail.  I think I might be alright with that.  I really like the pictures that I'm getting and actually feel they are representative, but it still feels feels like cheating.

  The Great Orion Nebula with another night's worth of data added in to enhance the trapezium stars and nebulosity.

The Universe Today Guide to the Night Sky - January

  I was checking out one of my favorite websites on astronomy and they happened to post a guide to the night sky for the month of January.  I was reading through it and when I came to the section on Orion I suddenly said, "Dang, that picture looks a lot like mine..."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


  Some of the neighbors came over to look through binoculars and my telescope setup in the back yard.  It was a lot of fun and was awesome to have someone else to talk to about the sky, new targets to point the scopes at, and of course our dream telescopes.

  When I first went out to put the telescope up, the small crescent moon was getting ready to set above the tree line and the neighbors house.  It really is amazing how good the human eye is at some things.  Looking at the crescent moon, the eye can properly expose both the light AND dark of the moon AT THE SAME TIME!!!  I wish my camera could do that.  Here is the moon exposed to bring out the earthshine glow of the dark section.  It is illuminated solely by the double reflected light bouncing off the earth, off the moon, and then finally back down to us.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Video Advantage -

  I woke at 4:30am Christmas morning because the dog kicked me in the neck.  After shoving the brown bear away from my face and the prime real estate of the bed, I happened to wake enough to see what time it was and was warm enough to check what the sky looked like outside the window.  It was crystal clear and I decided to throw the telescope outside and take my first real look at Saturn.  Honestly the most beautiful planet in the solar system, I have only had one brief glimpse of it since being shown to the eyepiece of the telescope by my father as a small child.  I'm not sure if the memory is real, or if it is just recreated in my mind, but regardless, seeing it once again is awe inspiring.  Currently, my camera cannot capture just how good it looks visually in even my 4" telescope.  I hope to get some better representations up on the blog before the new year.

  I also took a couple of minutes of video.  Using software called Registax, I was able to combine several minutes of video in to a single image.  The software is able to filter out the flutter and wiggle of the atmosphere to make a much sharper image of planets.  It's pretty amazing.  I can't wait to get a bigger scope...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting Fainter

  Finally did some research, and this picture comprises M42 - The Great Orion Nebula, M43 is the small but bright bit of nebulosity just to the top of the bright trapezium stars, separated by the lane of dark dust.  The blue nebula to the top is called "the Running Man Nebula" or NGC 1973/1975/1977.

  I promise that I'm still taking pictures of things other than stars.  It's just the thing that I'm currently obsessing about during my short windows of free time to edit on the computer.

  I was finally fortunate enough to get a window of semi-clear skies and got to set up my scope for a good run at Orion. I have a new sky-glow filter that lets me combat the haze from Boulder, and I wanted to see how long I could push the exposures now.  I started at three minutes and worked my way up to ten minutes at ISO 1600.  Ten minutes actually gave me an amazingly good looking black where the sky in fact should be black.  It's hard to do test shots that last ten minutes, so I went and got a pillow and a big piece of cardboard and laid down on the concrete in my big down puffy and practiced the names of stars while I waited for the shutter.  I was really happy with the faint nebulosity that showed up in these longer exposures, especially in the blue reflection nebula to the north of M42.  Now I need to work on some combined exposures so that I don't lose all of the detail around the bright trapezium stars.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Short Night

  With the forecast looking good and the early sky crystal clear, I was excited to set up my telescope over the weekend.  Finally the moon was out of the way and I was planning on a good session at the scope.  I was able to get a handful of pictures before some unexpected wispy clouds moved over the flatirons and spoiled the evening.  

  I started the night by focusing and aligning the scopes on Jupiter before moving over to a globular cluster I had yet to search out.  Globular Clusters are densely packed balls of some of the oldest stars in the universe.  They formed back at the beginning of the galaxy and orbit in the halo, outside of the disk of the Milky Way.  Looking at M15 through binoculars, it appears as just a fuzzy star.  With the help of my camera, the individual stars really start to pop.

 M15 is one of the most densely packed globular clusters in our galaxy and it is suspected that the central core has collapsed on itself to form a central black hole.

  Once the clouds started to move in, I switched over to a regular camera lens and the ball head joint so that I could pick out spots in clear pockets.  One of those spots contained the Andromeda Galaxy hanging above one of our pine trees.  

   I've been working to bring out the nebulosity of the Pleiades and was really disappointed I didn't get the chance to finally tackle it for a couple of hours.  Instead, I got some wide angle shots of the famous cluster of stars.

  The Belt and Sword of Orion.  A wider view of the three belt stars and sword containing the Great Orion Nebula.  Just to the side of the left belt star is the faint inkling of the flame nebula.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Quarter Moon

  On Saturday the moon took a fortunate angle while setting behind the Flatirons.  I was able to get a few pictures of the quarter moon dropping down behind the iconic rock formation.  

     It's been unbelievably clear out, which has been absolutely terrible for my ski craving, but pretty awesome for photographing the sky.  Hopefully the forecast holds up tonight and I can finally use my new filter for taking pictures of some stars and nebula.  Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lunar Eclipse Video

Sunrise After the Eclipse

  So I finally had time to look back at the lunar eclipse pictures I took and realized that there were some pretty ridiculous ones I hadn't seen while rushing through them to put out a post.  After the moon set, I had a beautiful sunrise that began to light up the mountains.  With the power of my new telescope, I was able to drastically compress the distances and create an almost "tilt-shift" feeling to the scenery.  I didn't actually do much editing to get these images.

   The first and second flatiron above Boulder, Colorado.  Behind the rocky slabs the snow covered mountains of Indian Peaks and the Great Divide stand large.  

 14,259 foot tall Longs Peak glows orange with the morning sun on a crisp morning in December.

   The Boulder power plant and Colorado Front Range.

   Houses in the foothills of Boulder hunker down on a chilly morning below the massive form of Longs Peak.

   The Colorado Front Range north of Boulder, CO

  The Flatirons of Boulder, CO

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lunar Eclipse - Dec 10, 2011

The lunar eclipse above Indian Peaks.  Shot from just outside Boulder, CO, the Indian Peaks run along the continental divide.  The moon set just before totality on the morning of December 10, 2011.  It was a very impressive sight.

The lunar eclipse setting just before reaching totality.

An earlier view of the moon right at the beginning of the eclipse.

Midway through the lunar eclipse.  You can just start to see the orange glow of the moon in Earth's shadow.  

There are also more pictures, and higher-res versions on MY FLICKR GALLERY
I will also be adding higher quality pictures of the eclipse over the next couple of days, but need to do some work on them.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Moon

  The sky above Boulder finally cleared and I was able to test some equipment out that I've been dying to get going.  I didn't stay out long considering it was only 4 degrees outside, but I set up my new battery and inverter running the tracking mount for the first time.  I pointed the scopes at the moon for the first time in a couple of months and started recording a movie.  After a couple hours of compressing the video frames in to a single image, this is what popped out the other end!  Still seems a tad over-sharpened, but it's amazing what kind of detail can be teased out of 2,000 images...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Universe Today

  I made it on to one of my favorite astronomy websites called Universe Today!  Fraser Cain and Dr Pamela Gay run a weekly podcast called Astronomy Cast.  After starting to get in to astrophotography, I posted a handful of star photos on their Flickr page and they decided to put this one of the Scott Tent up on their website.  Check them out!