A Full Moon

Last night was a full moon, the Harvest Moon to be precise. And this year it appeared bigger than normal being at perigee. The sky was very clear and? the moon seemed brighter than usual, a very pretty sight. No pictures, just a visual? experience.

Okie-Tex Star Party 2006

The Okie-Tex Star Party (OTSP) was a mix of clear skies and disastrous weather. In summary I give it three out of five stars. My criteria in evaluating the OTSP always revolves around astrophotography YMMV. Although I love observing the night sky I drive the distance for the chance to photograph in truly dark skies.

I arrived on Saturday, which is early since the star party does not officially start until Sunday. As with last year many others arrived early. Saturday was a nice clear night. The only issue was the moon rise around 3:00am.

I captured exposures for one image Saturday night: Western Veil Nebula, NGC 6960.

Sunday night started clear but as forecast became cloudy. Got an early start and captured some exposures of M16. Monday was a clear night, perhaps our best night for the week. Most of the night was spent acquiring exposures of vdb142, part of a larger nebula IC 1396 in Cepheus.

Tuesday night was windy to very windy and I experienced problem acquiring my target(s) and making things work right. I should have switched to a lighter weight / lower profile setup using Phil’s 300mm Nikon lens – but I didn’t. Frustrating night but I have those occasionally.

Wednesday night clouded up and most of us packed stuff away with a chance of rain in the forecast. This turned out to be a good choice.

Thursday morning the back side of a strong low pressure system swept through the area. Peak wind gusts were reported in the mid 70 mph range. This was no joke as I was in the main star party tent that morning when it was on the verge of failure. Many of us suffered damage; I had my tent poles cracked due to wind stress and my oldest tent was torn. John to the east of me had his metal awning assembly destroyed. Bill to the west of me had his camper severely damaged (although he did a remarkable job repairing it). It was fortunate that we only had wind – had it been wind, rain and lightning things would have been really bad.

This was the worst storm damage I had seen at Okie-Tex in all my years of attendance. In the past strong storms were often followed by excellent nights. Unfortunately that was not the case this year. Thursday night was cloudy. Friday night forecast was for clouds and possibly Saturday was going to be cloudy as well. I left the star party Friday afternoon.

Can’t wait until next year!

Flint Hills: Mini Star Party

New image: M8 Lagoon Nebula, imaged Saturday night, July 22 in the Flint Hills.

A group of us got together and enjoyed a good night of observing and astrophotography. Phil and I were doing astrophotography. Chuck brought his trusty 13 inch dob while Fred and Richard had a new truss tube dob with them. Dan? and Sherry brought a Meade LXD 16 and a 20 inch dob.

IRIS Tutorial

Jim Solomon has revised and updated his Astrophotography Cookbook. Jim walks you through acquiring and processing your DSLR images using IRIS. I do not always agree with Jims steps but he has done an excellent job documenting the whole process.

I use IRIS to process the RAW images from my camera. IRIS is not the friendliest program in this area but has many features I like (can’t beat the cost either: freeware). I find the save to PSD format function very frustrating since I know it could be implemented better.? Hopefully this will be improved in the future or maybe I’ll get off my butt and write a PIC to TIFF or FITS converter.