Monday, November 26, 2007

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night ...

... so I had nothing better to do than raid my astrophotography archive to find pictures to post.

[Image 1] is a picture of Comet 17P/Holmes taken 11/23/2007. The comet is washed out because there was a Full Moon and my neighbor's flood lamp was shining directly at my telescope.

The image was produced using:

Camera: Nikon D80 (Piggyback onto ETX-125)
Lens: Quantaray 70-300mm (@300mm Focal Length)
ISO Speed: 200
F-Number: F/5.6
Exposure time: 48 Seconds
If you want to find out more about Comet 17P/Holmes, here are some excellent links:
Now lets have some rainy night fun ...

[Image 2] is a wide field picture I took of the constellation Sagittarius in August 2007.
[Image 3] is a 'film negative' view of Image 2.
[Image 4] is star chart of the constellation Sagittarius I found on

Using Images 4 as a guide, see how many Messier objects you can identify in Images 2 &3, and if you can link the visible stars in the constellation. Actually, connecting the dots (stars) will help you find the Messier objects.

The dense starfield in Sagittarius is the Heart of the Milky Way Galaxy. (This constellation and its many celestial treasures are what hooked me on Astronomy and Astrophotography).

Helpful Star Gazing Hint: In the light pollutes skies of Northern Virginia, I often take wide field pictures of portions of the sky and study them on the computer to learn my constellations and other celestial objects.


Star Pilot

P.S. - Please excuse the formatting problems. Blogger's editor has a mind of its own.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Comet 17P/Holmes ...New Images

Finally got some clear weather after a cold front passed through. I took these images of Comet 17P/Holmes tonight (11/22/2007) with my Nikon D80 using a Quantaray 300mm zoom lens.

I tracked Mirfak (bright star just below the comet) with my ETX-125EC telescope and piggybacked my camera on top of the telescope.

Mirfak is the brightest star in the constellation Perseus. When the comet clears Mirfak and the Moon doesn't cause problems, I'll be able to get better pictures of the 'Coma' (big dust bubble) and 'Nucleus' (bright center).

17P/Holmes is now bigger than the Moon and I heard is approaching the size of the Sun.

The pictures have a some noise in them caused by a near full moon.

The pictures of 17P/Holmes aren't as good as what observatories produce, but their telescopes cost hundreds of thoudsnds of dollars. Mine cost $500 used.

Keep the Clear Skies Comin'

Star Pilot

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In These Desperate Times ...

... you take what you can get, and that applies to pictures of celestial objects too.

It was cloudy again tonight, so in desperation I took a few pictures of the Moon and the Constellation Perseus peeking thru the clouds.

Pictures are as Follows (Click on picture for larger image):
1. Cloudless Moon
2. Halo Moon (behind clouds)
3. Another Halo Moon
4. Constellation Perseus Peeking Out From Clouds
5. My Neighbors Flood Lamp that Shines In Our Bedroom Every Night.

Still Hoping for Clear Skies!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Cloudy Days & Cloudy Nights...

...and Comet 17P/Holmes is nowhere in sight. Sighhhh!

The above picture has been the view from my observing sight for several days (and nights). I heard the clouds will part today (11/19/2007) so I may be able to get a few shots of comet 17P/Holmes before the clouds return during mid-week. If I'm successful, I'll post them here.

Side Note: Yesterday, (Sunday 11/18/2007) I bought a used Quantaray 70-300mm F/1:4-5.6 lens for my Nikon D80. I intend to use the lens to take close-up astrophotography images of celestial objects. If the weather cooperates tonight I'll try the lens out on M45, M81 and comet 17P/Holmes.

Cool Link: Check out my son-in-law's blog to view his astrophotography and other blog entries.

Hoping for Clear Skies!!


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Comet 17P/Holmes ... First Sighting!

On Saturday, November 3rd, I had a chance to scan the heavens with my ETX-125EC.

Using the Electronic Controller to guide the scope manually, I took a tour of The Pleiades (M45). The open star cluster was breathtaking, as always. Since the night was dark and humidity low, I navigated my way to what I thought was the Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

But this fuzzy spot didn't look eliptical and was much brighter than my previous observations of M31. Hmmmmm!

I piggy-backed my Nikon D80 on the ETX-125 and took several long exposures of that region of sky using a 50mm f/1.8 lens.

The next work day I showed the exposures to a fellow backyard astronomer. He too was baffled why I was only seeing the core of M31 and not the entire elliptical starfield. We discussed different ways to set the camera to get additional shots.

Later that day I received an email from my oldest daughter that featured a Yahoo story on Comet 17P/Holmes, which had recently erupted. Amateur astronomers observed the comet changing from Magnitude-15 to Magnitude-2 in less than an hour. WOW!!!

One glance at the picture in the story told me I had photographed 17P/Holmes without realizing.

Following are a few pictures of comet 17P/Holmes taken from my 'light polluted' front yard in Northern Virginia.

Hope you enjoy the pictures. Later this week I'm going to attempt to track the comet and take some prime focus pictures. That should be fun.


Wide Fleid View of Comet 17p/Holmes

Cropped Image of Comet 17P/Holmes

Super Cropped image of Comet 17P/Holmes