Green Goblin in Perseus

New picture: Comet 17/P Holmes, click image.

Around October 23rd 2007, from out of nowhere came a new ‘star’ in the constellation of Perseus. This star is a comet that brightened a millionfold for reasons still unknown. To have a new, unexpected naked eye treat is wonderful. The casual observer might not notice this but training binoculars on the star-like object reveals a bright fuzz ball.

More information about this comet can be found at

Okie-Tex Video clip

I created a short video clip to try and capture some of the magic of the Okie-Tex star party, the look and feel of the stars over the observing field. Click the title screen to the right or click here (5mb WMV file). This is from Wednesday night around midnight. The camera is pointed to the ESE. The activity you see is in the east field, while the west field is out of view to the left right. I am surprised I didn’t capture any hint of the lightning occurring somewhere around Amarillo, TX. You would occasionally see a flash in the night sky from the storms that developed after they passed us.

I have a new appreciation for creating a video clip, it takes time. This video is made from many individual 40 second exposures taken with a Canon 20D. Some color correction and brightness adjustments were done as a recipe through Canon’s DPP. These images were a test of camera placement, field of view and timing. Next year I’ll do a longer sequence and put more processing into the images.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Okie-Tex Star Party 2007 – The End

It was terrific to have a few more hours of sleep.? The daytime sky when I got up was clear and bright,? I couldn’t wait for darkness to arrive.? Its Friday and while some have left other participants have just arrived.? In fact, as night fell a local couple and their two kids happened to stop by our group.? They were from the area, having heard about the star party from other locals. To their good fortune two members of our ragtag group, Bill and Chuck,? have a talent for showing people the wonders of the sky.? It was fun to watch and talk with them.

From Thursday nights aborted session I had a game plan. As true darkness came I decided to fill the time until vdB14-15 was high enough by shooting the western portion of the Veil. Unfortunately the clouds in central New Mexico came sooner than I expected. About 10:00pm local time the sky was getting cloudy and I stopped shooting. Darn it.

The clouds were not solid like the blanket we had Thursday. The visual observers can cope with this situation much better than an imager. While you could try to expose, the aggravation of dealing with the autoguider losing the guide star and the effect clouds have on the exposure are not worth it. About? 2:00am it did not appear that we would clear up so I crashed for the night.? The visual guys reported it was pretty good around 5:00am, which the satellite data supports.

Based on? the weather pattern and various forecasts I decided I would leave the star party early. Before crashing Friday night I put some of my stuff away. Saturday morning it only took a few hours to pack up.? I was on the road just before 1:00pm.

As I traveled home I thought this had been a real good star party. The weather was good for its rare to get clear skies every night at any star party.? In the weeks to come I’ll process the data for the images I captured.

Okie-Tex Star Party 2007 – Day 5

Five nights, can we get a straight? Thursday evening is the Great Okie Tex Star Party Giveaway (part one). To my surprise I won a red led flashlight and to the delight of the crowd they were yelling ?how-ward?. This yell started years ago after a couple of high school girls looking for their science teacher were wandering up and down the field. It has continued ever since and is probably very puzzling to a newbie. Rumor has it that the yell happens at the Texas Star Party (TSP).

The night started good and I decided to add exposures to my Cave Nebula image (Sh2-155). Wind was a bit stronger than any of the previous nights but manageable for my setup. I had just started a new target, vdB14, when low clouds began appearing in the east. This was about 1:00am. I checked the infrared satellite images to see how long this would last. It was not showing anything, I?m guessing it was low level moisture that flowed into the area. In little time we were covered over. And in little time I went to sleep.

While I would have preferred to keep imaging, a little break to catch up on sleep was also a good thing. It turns out that it cleared up at 4:00am and a few of the true die-hards were up observing.

Okie-Tex Star Party 2007 – Day 4

Four straight nights of good to great weather! It?s interesting how sky conditions vary at night. To the untrained eye it may not seem like anything is different. But to us astronomers we note the change in transparency, objects do not have as high a contrast, the sky does not seem as dark. The seeing, or how steady the air is, can vary tremendously as well. These conditions are not mutually dependant or exclusive, truly great nights are clear, transparent and steady.

During analysis of the images from Wednesday night I found that many of the later exposures were affected by thin high level clouds. I decided to reshoot IC417 and NGC6914. Up until now I had not had any user mistakes or glitches while imaging, which is unusual for me. Tonight I had a few dumb ones, like the camera control cables hanging up on the mount midway through an exposure. That?s just being sloppy and it?s possible I just haven?t got enough sleep.

During the night I climbed partway up the side of the mesa to our north west. There I placed a camera that continuously took exposures for awhile. This was a test of an idea I have been kicking around for the past two years, to try and capture both the stars and activity on the field. After two hours I retrieved the camera. I found that coming down a hill at night is far harder than going up. It was also interesting to find that the temperature thirty or forty feet higher than the observing field is significantly warmer.

Okie-Tex Star Party 2007 – Day 3

It’s Wednesday afternoon and a bunch of us are getting pretty blurry eyed out in the Oklahoma panhandle. It looked for all the world like the night would be cloudy. Satellite imagery showed a system moving towards us. For a change mother nature smiled on the hundreds of telescopes here and the clouds dissipated or dodged us for most of the night.

Tuesday mornings low was near 40 degrees so its getting a bit warmer. Wednesday night I was overdressed – the southerly breeze kept us in the fifties for hours. Tim left during the day so I claimed his spot and put my tent by a bush for shade. Hope it helps in the morning.

I started off collecting NGC 6914 images and was caught off guard as it stayed clear. What to image next? Time for a midnight munchie run. Following a superb double cheeseburger from the starlight cafe I settled on shooting IC417 in Auriga.

I was pretty darn tired by the time I finished up around 6:30am. So was my neighbor Bill who likely decided climbing the ladder to use his 22 inch Starmaster was getting dangerous. Believe it or not you do see people falling off their ladders in the wee hours of the morning.

Okie-Tex Star Party 2007 – Day 2

Monday night turned out excellent: clear and cool. Seeing improved a bit over the previous night while the transparency was good as well. Sunday night I concentrated on imaging M33 all night, a redo of my previous effort here with longer exposure times. Tuesday it was time for a new target and like last year the Cave Nebula (Sh2-155) is high on my target list. And just like last year I had the hardest time finding and framing the darn thing. Persistence, cussing and kicking paid off – just took forever. I won?t admit how much time I wasted finding it. For most of the night I collected images of that hard found object.

The nighttime low temperature has been a bit cooler than I expected. Monday morning it dropped to 28 degrees. Then with my tent in the sun the temperature climbed to 124 degrees by the time I got up at noon. Freezing to sweating in less than six hours, crazy swing!

Updated 10.15.2007: attached below is a picture of my imaging setup among the dobsonian telescopes in our little group. Taken Monday night near sunset. A small part of the eastern field is visible in this picture (click image for larger size, 1024×760):

My Scope