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2015 Astronomical Viewing Blog Archive


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December 27, 2015

I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas. Here at Dry Creek View Observatory, we had a White Christmas with another 6 inches of snow on Christmas Day. That makes about 24 inches in December. Fortunately most of it melted between snow falls so we only have about 6 inches on the ground. Since it has been cloudy, I have been working on a new Logo for the observatory. It is shown below and will appear on each of my web pages. I will get back to observing and picture taking when the skies clear.

New Dry Creek View Observatory Logo

December 20, 2015

We have had 14 inches of snow at the Dry Creek View Observatory and no clear nights. Therefore, I have been working on my Tutorial Section of the web page. I posted a PDF file on how to connect Celestron GO TO Mounts for telescope control in Stellarium. Check it out and see if it works for you. I would appreciate any comments to make it better.

November 27, 2015

During the past few months, I have been traveling a lot for my “Day Job”. On one particular flight, I met a person who does programming for Web Pages. She looked at my site and offered a few suggestions. One suggestion is that I put “Higher Resolution” images in the gallery. I have done this with the “Orion and Running Man” image. As time goes on, I will continue to make changes to the site to make it better.

I know I have taken many images of M 42, but it seems to call to me when I am taking pictures. It is a challenging object to take pictures of and I keep trying to make it better. The picture below is my latest attempt. It is getting better but still not perfect.

M 42 and NGC 1977 Running Man

A larger "High Resolution" Image is in the Gallery.

September 30, 2015

Early Sunday Evening, I ventured to the observatory (150 feet from my house) to try and get a shot of the last Super Moon of the Tetrad. I decided to use my son's Nikon D800 camera as I am considering purchasing the D810. The D800 is an amazing camera and worked perfectly. As the moon rose over the eastern mountains, the eclipse had already started. I rushed to get the moon in sharp focus so I could be ready for the full eclipse. I believe this is my best picture yet of an eclipse. Shooting through my HyperStar Lens, I was able to shoot at f/1.9 and an ISO of 100. The shutter duration was only 3 seconds. The results are below.

Blood Moon 9-27-15

The above picture does not do the photo justice as the shrinking of the image creates distortions around the edges. To get a larger view without the distortions, see my Astrophotography Gallery under "Solar System". It is worth the view.

September 26, 2015

Time for my monthly blog update. I have had fun this last month taking pictures and viewing. My target of choice this month was the Cocoon Nebula IC 5146. I took 26 photos and stacked them. I really love the HyperStar Lens. The result is below. You can see a larger picture in the Gallery. Notice the abundance of stars as compared to the Sculptor Galaxy Below. The Cocoon Nebula is the constellation Cygnus which is in the middle of the Milky Way. Thus the abundance of stars. The photo was taken on September 8, 2015.

IC 5146 Cocoon Nebula

August 15, 2015

New Moon Thursday night and I wanted to see if I could see the tail end of the Perseid Meteor Shower. The shower proved to be a bust on Thursday, but I was told Wednesday was awesome. The problem was "CLOUDS" Wednesday Night. It cleared around 12:30 AM but as I had to get up at 5:00 AM and I gave up. I was told it was awesome. So, with no showers on Thursday, I turned to the Camera. I always wanted to take a second picture of the Sculptor Galaxy NGC 253 with my modified Nikon D5200. I used the HyperStar lens and the results are below.

NGC 253 Sculptor Galaxy Cropped and Zoomed.

NGC 253 Sculptor Galaxy Full field of view.

The images can be seen in the Gallery for a larger view. These images are much more crisp and the stars are round. I had some problems with the "Roundness" of the stars when I zoomed in. I rebalanced the scope and the problem seems to be solved. It is hard to tell from these small pictures, but the roundness and detail can be seen in the Gallery.

July 19, 2015

I finely got a chance to do some photography. It was Friday night, and it was very clear, but had a strong wind from the south. I'm glad I braved the wind, as the next few days have been cloudy. As my target for the evening I chose M 27 the Dumbbell Nebula.The actual picture of the nebula turned out OK, but I am not pleased with the "Egg" shaped stars. I was autoguiding, but my Starshoot guider camera is having problems and kept losing its star lock by losing communication with my computer. I'm not sure if this was the cause, or my scope is out of balance when using the HyperStar Lens. I am investigating a new camera for my autoguiding. Below is a picture of the nebula. A larger version can be seen in the Astrophotography Gallery.

M 27 Dumbbell Nebula

July 10, 2015

The month of June was hectic in my life with the "Day Job" taking me away from the observatory and cloudy weather rolled in when I was home. That said, I did find time for some outreach programs with many people coming over to view the heavens. I wasn't able to take any pictures, but I did allot of viewing with those who came to visit the Observatory. One night I had about 15 girls from a Young Women's group along with their leaders. I showed them how the planets move along the Ecliptic and where the Meridian cuts the Eastern Sky from Western Sky. I told them how to find the North Star and then we looked at the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and M13. The moon was too bright to see any Deep Sky objects with any clarity. The information I gave them was enough to pass off requirements for their "Girls Camp" in Astronomy. I also got to use my new laser to point out the constellations and planets. See my Equipment tab to get more information on the Laser.

Next I had three families who wanted to see the Observatory. We looked at the same objects as I did with the Young Women. All in all, it was fun, even if I didn't get a chance to take pictures.

May 24, 2015

I haven't forgotten about astronomy, these past few weeks, but it has been really rainy at the Dry Creek View Observatory. The few nights that it cleared off, the moon was bright in the sky and not conducive to picture taking.

Last night on May 23, My nephew and his family came for a visit on their way to Disneyland. The skies miraculously cleared and we were able to observe Saturn, Venus, Jupiter, M 13 and the Crescent Moon. It was a fun evening, but no picture taking.

April 19, 2015

My day job is really busy this time of year and it has precluded me from doing any photography. However, I have had a few people over to the observatory to do some viewing and was able to capture the Lunar Eclipse on April 4.

Alignment Problems

Even with being busy, I did some alignment of my scope. For those who have Celestron CGE mounts and presumably other GOTO mounts from Celestron, I have found that after a few months the GO TO alignment starts to drift and objects are no longer centered. This only applies to those who have permanently mounted scopes and constantly use the "Hibernate" function of the controller. I attribute this to the change of seasons resulting in the changing of the constellations in the night sky. As the constellations set in the west, the alignment naturally introduces some error. To overcome this, I do a realignment of my scope every three months. I have also found, that after a few alignments, the alignment stars are not even close to where the scope thinks they should be. On other forums, I have noticed that this occurs with other celestron users as well. To overcome this problem, you must do a "Factory Reset" of the mount. This clears all of the memory in the controller and you must reenter your location and time. Once I do this, the Alignment Stars are once again close to where the scope thinks they should be and almost always in the "Finder Scope" field of view. I attribute this problem to memory overflow when using the "Hibernate" function repeatedly and then doing a realignment. The scope tends to get lost unless the memory is refreshed. This may not be the cause, but it is my best guess. It really doesn't matter as the reset of "Factory Settings" solves the problem. So for you users with permanently mounted scopes, Do a "Factory Reset" if your scope cannot find the Alignment Stars.

March 20, 2015

Last night was a great night for taking pictures. Clear dark skies, no wind and warm. I focused my task again on Jupiter. I am still not satisfied with the outcome and more processing is needed. For me planets are hard, they seem to take allot of practice.

After my foray with Jupiter, I decided to turn my attention to NGC 3242 which is the "Ghost of Jupiter" This planetary nebula is in the constellation Hydra. I took 20 pictures, but my Deep Sky Stacker (DSS) would not stack them as there were not many stars in the area to get a good reference for stacking. Fortunately, I was able to capture the nebula at ISO 800 with my D5200 camera. The noise is minimal, and the results of Cropped and uncropped images are shown below. I cropped the image to show more detail.

NGC 3242 Ghost of Jupiter Uncropped


NGC 3242 Ghost of Jupiter Cropped.

I have placed the Cropped version in the Gallery so you can see the detail of the nebula

March 13, 2015

Today I got a chance to process and post some pictures I took awhile back. The first is Stephens Quintet along with NGC 7331 in the same picture I took the picture on September 1, 2014. I count 22 galaxies in that photo. Check out the Gallery and see how many galaxies you can count.

The next photo I took and just processed was Galaxy NGC 2403. I took this picture on February 12, 2015 and I have posted this in the Gallery.

February 21, 2015

I have had allot of fun this past week. With the moon dark, and clear skies, I was able to get good shots of the Comet Lovejoy at ISO 400, the Convergence of the Moon Mars and Venus and I took some time to just view the heavens. On February 18, I had a friend, Saif Mogri from Los Angeles and Lee Tanner from Delta Utah to see the sights. The moon was dark, but we were able to see various galaxies, Jupiter and M 42. It was a great night. On February 20, I was driving home from visiting family in American Fork Utah, when I saw the convergence of the Moon Mars and Venus. I new I only had about 30 minutes to get a picture before the convergence would be too low in the western sky. I barely made it. The results of Comet Lovejoy at 400 ISO and the Convergence are shown below. In the Gallery, a larger version of each picture is shown. About two inches to the right of the comet and just above the tail, Galaxy NGC 746 can be seen.

Comet Lovejoy at ISO 400

Convertence of Moon Mars and Venus

January 31, 2015

Clouds, rain, light snow and the moon have precluded me from taking my ISO 400 picture of Comet Lovejoy. However it has given me time to post process a shot of M 78 in the constellation Orion. I took this shot on January 22 and just got around to the post processing. I took time with this and made sure that I did not blow out the highlights. The stars illuminating the nebula can still be seen in the photograph. I had to walk a fine line between getting cloud detail and not washing out the stars. The result is below.

M 78

I have placed this image in the gallery so that a larger picture can viewed.

January 24, 2015

Thursday Night was my night to try another attempt at Comet Lovejoy. This time I used a longer exposure to try and capture more of the tail. I used the same ISO setting of 800, but this time I took the shot with a shutter speed of 2.5 minutes. I did manage to get better detail of the tail, but I found when stacking the comet using Deep Sky Stacker in "Comet Mode", the resultant image was too dark and again I lost detail of the comet. I experimented and found I had a better picture using only 1 frame. This however resulted in allot of darkness around the edges of the photo because I did not stack with any Flat Frames". Therefore, I choose my best light frame, and stacked it in DSS with 1 flat frame. This eliminated the dark corners of the photo, and gave me the best view of the tail. My results are shown below.

Comet Lovejoy

Compared to my picture below, taken on January 18, I did achieve my goal of getting more tail detail. However, since there is only 1 picture stacked with a flat the noise level is a little higher. If I get another chance, I will try again with my ISO set at 400 and a shutter speed of 5 minutes. This will give me an equivalent exposure, but hopefully less noise. Presently I have not posted this in my gallery as I am not satisfied with the noise level. If I can get the noise down, I will post the better photo so you can see a larger image.

January 18, 2015

This is my first post in 2015. The holiday season was good to me, and I gained 5 pounds. The food was great, but the the skies did not cooperate. However, on January 17, I did have clear skies and was able to take my first shot or attempt at Comet Lovejoy. I have not posted this in my gallery as I am not satisfied with the results especially with the tail. I took the picture with my D5200 Camera and the HyperStar lens. Even with the HyperStar, I was just barely able to capture the comet and all of its tail. The picture is stacked with Deep Sky Stacker. I took 20 light frames at 20 seconds each. I think I need to increase the exposure time to around 1 minute to get a good shot of the tail. Perhaps next weekend I will give it a try. Below is Comet Lovejoy. If you look carefully, you can see the tail.

Comet Lovejoy




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