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#6570756 Some Personal Thoughts—From an Old Timer (A Really Old Timer)

Posted by GeneT on 03 May 2015 - 02:02 PM

Today I turned 72 years of age.


     For 70 of those 72 years, I have been looking up at the sky. When I was two, my grandmother took me out to her back porch in Minnewaukan, North Dakota, (a town of about 500) pointed up into the dark Mag 7 skies and said, ‘look at the beautiful stars.’ I had no idea of what I was seeing. All I knew was that the dark night sky was an amazingly beautiful site. From that time forward, I have always checked out the night sky every chance I could.


     Over these years, a lot of hobbies have come and gone. Photography, back in the days when there was film, I used to develop my own negatives and print up my own positives from them. Color was too complicated, and too expensive in most cases. I took up shooting pistols and rifles and listening to short wave radio and music (led a dance band in high school playing tenor sax, and bassoon in the orchestra) and played basketball in high school. Boy Scouts took center stage, earning my Star award. Then I discovered girls, and all those hobbies went away—except for girls and astronomy. I found that the young ladies also liked looking up at the night sky and were interested in learning about its various objects. I also discovered that there is nothing like being out in a dark sky, to set a romantic mood.


     Astronomy is the only hobby that has remained with me over the past 70 years. In 1946, when I was three, my mother, a school teacher, moved us to Ely, Nevada, a town of about 5,000. A hill blocked the downtown sky at night, and again, I had Mag 6.5 to 7 skies—just outside my back door. One cold February night, a friend asked me if I would like to join him and his son (a friend of mine) to drive to the mining town of Ruth, Nevada to look through a telescope. I was 10 years old. I had never looked through a telescope. The owner had just purchased a 3.5 inch Questar and he did not know how to use it. The moon was about half full. I looked through the eyepiece and saw only a bright white glob, with no detail.


     Then, I saw a little knob near the eyepiece. I turned it—and suddenly the moon with all its glory of craters, rills, and plains popped into view. I was absolutely stunned. I have never forgotten that first view through the telescope. I read somewhere that the human brain loses about 25 thousand brain cells a day. At age 72, I don’t know how many I left. However, that first look at the moon through the Questar has forever seared that image into my mind.


     Sam Brown’s book All About Telescopes took a young person through some excellent information about astronomy; Leslie Peltier’s book Starlight Nights fueled my desire to keep looking up. Now, several large bookshelves are full of astronomy books, star atlases, and star maps. More recently, some computer programs and Tablet apps, continue to serve me well.


     Back in the days that I lived in Ely, Nevada, many of the people had limited financial means. I could not afford to subscribe to Sky and Telescope, so I went to the library each month to read it. A telescope was also out of my family’s financial reach to buy one. In the comics I liked to read, I saw the ads for a 3 inch reflector, for $29.95, that would show craters on the moon, the rings of Saturn, and other sky objects. If I wanted a telescope, I would have to pay for it. I was leery that the 3 inch telescope would do all that the ads claimed. At age 15, I drooled over the ads in Sky and Telescope for Unitron refractors and reflectors in the four to 16 inch category. I was drawn to a four inch, F10 Dynascope ad. It had an equatorial mount. Electric clock drive was not yet available for most telescopes. It listed for $79.95. I could not afford the telescope. I worked all summer mowing lawns at a dollar a pop. I had already saved up about $20 shoveling walks the winter before. At 6,400 feet above sea level, Ely gets quite cold. If does not snow that often, but enough so I could make some money shoveling walks. Finally, I had the $79.95 plus delivery costs saved up. I sent off for the telescope. It arrived in perfect condition.


     In dark, pristine skies, you can see a lot even with a small aperture telescope. Today light pollution is so bad that many of us live in Mag 3 skies, and even after driving for 20 miles or so, we still only have Mag 5 or so skies. Back in the 1950’s, I was viewing with a four incher in Mag 6.5 to 7 skies. I was viewing the moon, planets, clusters, a few brighter galaxies and nebula, and found that there were numerous double stars that I could split with that small instrument. There was no astronomy club that I could join, but I did have a friend who lived about a block away who also shared a deep interest in astronomy. He and I had numerous sleep-overs in the summer where we stayed up most of the evening looking at sky objects.


     These are some of my best memories of this great hobby that gives so much positive energy to my life. Looking up at the stars connect the 70 years of my life through both the good times and the bad. I graduated from high school in Ely, but had to sell my little four incher to pay for some books when attending the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. I could not afford another telescope for several more years. Life’s journey took me through a divorce, but then I found and remarried the woman of my dreams and was blessed with two wonderful daughters and two sons. They in turn blessed Jeannie and I with three wonderful granddaughters and two grandsons. After 28 years serving in the Air Force, we found ourselves back living in San Antonio. I went through several other telescopes over the years, but ended up with a 12.5 inch, F5 Portaball, as my final telescope.


     The night skies has provided my life continuity, and brought me peace and joy second only to that provided by my wife, children, and grandchildren. The night skies and its stellar views were a constant in my life, no matter where the Air Force assigned me. The night skies were a constant in my life through a divorce, the ups and downs of the economy, illnesses and life’s good times. I was born at the end of World War II, remember the Korean War, the Kennedy assignation, Water Gate, the Vietnam War, the dot.com bust, the more recent financial downturns, and recoveries, and the more recent wars in the Middle East.


     Auriga, Orion, Pegasus, Andromeda, Lyra, Hercules, Ursa Major and Minor, Canis Major and Minor, Leo and others were my best friends. They could be counted on to march across the heavens, and return at their appointed times, and places. The planets and moon more randomly wandered through the constellations to provide some interesting relief. But, over the years, the starry skies became my best friends—friends that could always be counted on.


     More recently, I have a friend who approached me and said, ‘if you ever want to sell your Portaball, I would like to buy it.’ What she was getting at was, ‘when you die, have your wife call me. I would like to buy your Portaball.’ However, my daughter Stacy beat her to it. Stacy said, ‘dad, when you die, can I have your telescope?’ I said sure. My wife and I have talked about one day dying, and wanted our children to know that death is not something that we are afraid of.


     We are at peace with our religious faith and have told our children that death is just part of the cycle of life. We told our children that death is just part of life’s journey. We have told our children that our deaths one day will result in helping to make up the contents of more new stars as we take our places in the heavens.


     However, it is great knowing that my children have also grown to love the night sky with one of them wanting my telescope. Before those two offers, I was thinking of having the Portaball buried with me. However, there are state and federal laws to contend with, plus even if that could happen, I probably would have to buy two grave sites. I am happy that one of my daughters will carry on the hobby of astronomy with the telescope that brought her dad so much pleasure.


     What Stacy doesn't know is that along with the telescope, she will also get a 21,13, 8, 6, and 4.7 Ethos; a 10, 8, and 6 Delos, a 9 Hutech, an 8 Brandon, a 7 TMB supermono, 5 XO and other eyepieces. I will leave her instructions in my will about the value of those eyepieces, and knowing her, she will keep and treasure those eyepieces, along with my 12.5 inch Portaball, the rest of her life.


     Old age is creeping up on me. I have to be careful when driving at night. I can’t drive and talk at the same time because my mind wanders. Testosterone shots and Viagra help keep me going. Although my telescope is very portable, it now is getting more challenging to load, set it up, and take down. I don’t know how long I will be able to do so.


     However, the night skies will always be there and beautiful to behold—even if I am limited to the one power views of my eyes. That’s all the ancients had and they marveled at the night sky for thousands of years, before the advent of optics and telescopes.


     I have lived a blessed, full life. I hope to live a few more years—before I eventually turn to dust, and take my place in the heavens, to become the stuff of stars.


Gene Townsend
San Antonio, TX

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#7936297 A Beautiful Mind and one of my very best friends

Posted by Camcon101 on 12 June 2017 - 06:27 PM

Did you notice how the stars seemed to burn a little less brightly last night? I fear that it is due to the fact that the astronomical world has lost a great artisan as well as a vibrant spirit. It is with a heavy heart that I inform all of you of the passing away of Howie Glatter late last night after a short but intense battle with cancer. Howie’s contributions to the field of astronomy and, in particular, to the art of collimation was priceless and he will be greatly missed by all of us. His attention to detail and his unswerving adherence to tolerances far beyond the norm allowed him to create a product that, to this very day, has seen no equal.
    Howie truly was a great artist at his craft but that is not all that he was. He was a true independent thinker, a lover of Bach, an old hippie, and an ardent political activist. Irrespective of your political leanings, one had to admit that Howie was a passionate man: whether that be with his politics, his wide interests, or his friends and family. You could not help but admire his ardent devotion to everything in this world that he loved. There was, however, one strong and supportive force in Howie’s life that kept in balance all of his fervent enthusiasm: his wife, Pok Sun. The love between these two people was everlasting and Pok Sun was the force that kept Howie’s life in balance. Her devotion to him was extraordinary and he was very lucky to have had her throughout his journey here on earth. As it turns out, his time here on earth has been cut short by a hideous disease plaguing all too many people in this world. 
So we must say goodbye to another legend in this business. One whose shoes will not easily be filled. Rest in eternal peace my dear friend and be sure to say hello to JFK for me when you see him. Too bad we will never know that you were right all along.
Indeed, I am sorry to tell you that the photons striking our eyes from now on will not be quite as parallel as they were when Howie was with us. But I suppose the universe will manage to be content with being a bit less collimated in the future..


Howie will be interred on Monday June 19. He is survived by his wife, Pok Sun Glatter.


Jeffrey Norwood

Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions



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#7825658 For those who follow the Christian Faith....

Posted by Tom T on 16 April 2017 - 07:51 AM

Have a blessed Easter!
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#7899093 What does OCD and 16 hours produce in an image of M51?

Posted by jhayes_tucson on 23 May 2017 - 01:15 PM

Even though images of M51 are a dime a dozen, the Whirlpool remains one of my favorite galaxies because it is so large, detailed, and colorful. This image started out as a test of my newly tuned up and reconfigured C14 Edge based telescope system. I've been slowly improving both the optical system, the OTA, and the mount control system, which will soon be moved to a remote location. What started out as a test soon became a full blown project as our central Oregon skies finally cleared after a long and VERY cloudy winter. The Rayleigh criterion for the resolution of a 14" telescope is about .4 arc-sec, although as we all know, seeing greatly reduces that number for long exposure imaging. After tuning the wavefront of the telescope, I was curious to see if I could gather data good enough to extract information down to about 1 arc-second. The luminous subs in this data had an average FWHM about 1.8 arc-sec and after performing deconvolution on the data, the stacked result shows stars at about 1.1 arc-seconds FWHM. Even though this image is within a factor of two of the limiting resolution of a theoretical 14" system, seeing effects still render the smallest details unrecoverable. At a distance of about 23 mly, this image shows features down to about 100 - 150 ly across. It is cool to see that even "small" amateur telescopes like the C14 can produce images of stars in other Galaxies!


Be sure to check out the full screen image on my AB page--there's a lot going on in it (http://www.astrobin.com/296599/B/.)    You can also find the technical details there as well.  As always, CC&C is welcome.  





PS I uploaded two different crops of the full image. The tight crop holds it's own to a full screen display but I also enjoy seeing the galaxy floating with more space around it (as shown in the wider field crop.) Feel free to let me know which works better for you...


Attached Thumbnails

  • M51 V1.7 Cropped - sm.jpg
  • M51 V1.7 Tight Crop - sm.jpg

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#7920635 Moon - my work with SCT 9.25" and ASI178MC

Posted by easybob95 on 04 June 2017 - 11:44 AM



here are my best photos of the Moon, using my C9.25 and an ASI178 colour camera.


The photos were taken on June the 1st. The Moon was not very high n the sky but the turbulence was very quiet.


North part of the Moon :





Mare Tranquillitatis and mare Serenitatis region :





Mare Nectaris and Mare Fecunditatis region :






North part of the Moon mosaic, enhancing the colours to show the wide variety of soils, mainly the metallic oxides concentration in soils.The result is quite good for a colour sensor camera.





A close up on Tranquillitatis and Serenitatis Mare. No doubt the geological history of those mare are quite different, considering the difference in soils composition. ZWO ASI178MC allows good work on soils colours. But i hope i will have much better results when i will get ASI178 mono and RGB filters.





Well, that's all for now.


Clear sky.



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#7164300 Is an 80mm good for planetary?

Posted by BillP on 15 April 2016 - 09:52 PM

I often read others say that planetary observing does not get "interesting" until you get to 120 to 130mm of aperture, or that an 80mm and even a 100mm scope is too small for this odd thing called "serious planetary" :lol: .  Well, all I have to say to that is poppycock ... and please don't any newbies listen to that kind of advice!


So tonight it is very clear and steady, but it's Friday and I just didn't feel like the hassle of one of my larger scopes.  I keep the Vixen 81S Apo next to the back door mounted on a Porta II and when I looked at that I just smiled. 


Rear Quarter Shot (web).jpg


OK, what to observe?  Well the Moon is out and could get some nice terminator action, but Jupiter is right there too.  I decided to start with the less bright Jupiter.  On the Vixen I had my Baader Zeiss 1.25" T2 prism diagonal and put my 25mm Sterling Plossl in to find my target.  Once acquired I moved immediately to my 6.5mm Morpheus which would give me about 100x, so a nice starting magnification for this large planet.  I was greeted with a beautiful view and even at 100x could clearly see four primary belts plus nice gradations of shading in both polar regions and one of Jupiter's moons was just outside Jupiter's disk casting a beautiful jett black shadow onto NEB.


The scope was of course fully acclimated as it is 80mm and had been cooling for more than 60 seconds, so I moved to the 4.5mm Morpheus for almost 140x.  WoW was I treated to a glorious view of Jupiter.  Now NEB was clearly showing its knotty structure, SEB was showing its nicely undulating upper and lower boundaries and internal the whitish separations within the belt were clearly showing.  NTB and STB were also nicely defined and within NTB there appeared to be either a dark knot or perhaps a barge.  I also like how this season SSTeZ and NNTeZ are both so clearly showing and appear very prominently lighter in hue than the contrasting belts and polar regions they are near.  SSTeZ I felt was particularly interesting as it was just so much wider than I am used to seeing it from years past.  Watching the shadow of the moon move across the lower region of NEB was also a treat, and as time marched on I began to see a disturbance in the corner of SEB.  After a few minutes it was obvious that GRS was making it around into site.  And as it came more into view, it also clearly showed a ruddy orange color and the white separation around GRS into the SEB was clearly visible, as was that the GRS itself was not uniform in hue but darker and lighter in different sections.  Finally I moved to observing the moons themselves and the color of Ganymede was just so different and a had a nice orange-yellow character to it.  It was actually quite interesting to observe being noticeably larger and of a different color than the other moons.


After spending some time with Jupiter I moved to Luna and was quite moved at the clarity and level of detail.  I always enjoy the several mountain formations just outside of Plato on the Maria and today they were showing super clear and bright.  Montes Teneriffe was being bisected by the Terminator but still could see lots of bumps and structure to what was showing.  Mons Pico and Pico 3 were also appearing super bright and white with good structure and detail.  I just love these little mounds, their shapes, and how they are so bright white on the background of the Maria floor.  I then decided to go Bino for a while and popped in the APM 2.7x ED Barlow with my WO Binoviewers with the standard LOA-21 eyepieces without the 3D arrays.  This configuration gets me close to 90x which was plenty to show lots of details for some long term observing, later adding a small extension to get that setup to 110x.  Not being able to push this setup to much higher magnifications, I then switched back to mono viewing and put the APM 2.7x in with the 9mm Morpheus for about 190x and this was just perfect!  Details were exploding everywhere and image scale was nicely large.  With this more magnification I moved to another favorite lunar target, the mountains around crater Chinge-Te (i.e., Noth Massif, South Massif, Sculptured Hills, others).  At almost 200x in the little 81mm Apo all these mountains very clearly showed their heights above the lunar floor and visually appeared as little towers in the region.  Overall, a beautiful sight and very satisfying observation.


I could go on and on as I kept switching back and forth between Jupiter and the Moon.  This very capable lunar and planetary telescope, the Vixen 81S Apo, was providing a wealth of details, all sharply etched, and a satisfyingly rock steady view.  So are small 80mm scopes unworthy of being considered planetary instruments?  Resoundingly NO I say!  So if you are thinking of getting a small scope for planetary observing, don't be swayed by the ramblings of the aperture addicts.  A little 80mm in good seeing provides a wonderful level of planetary detail and can easily make a very satisfying planetary instrument for critical planetary study.  Remember that the trick to satisfying critical planetary observing is never the instrument, but is always the observer.  So study your target before you observe, then skillful use of even a small 80mm instrument will be more than sufficient aperture for the task!


Oh yes, and before I turned in tonight I had to give a quick look at the double star Castor.  80mm scopes are so nie for doubles as they always produce such beautiful and stable little airy disk balls.  This beautiful and bright double sure made a really nice "goodnight" observation!  80mm scopes are da bomb and just fine for "serious" planetary observing  :hamsterdance:

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#8308186 M78 - Another Beautiful Reflection Nebula in Orion

Posted by jhayes_tucson on 31 December 2017 - 08:50 PM

M78 is a reflection nebula that's a part of the Orion Molecular Cloud complex. This area is a complex combination of reflection nebula and dark dust lanes and it's a region that I've wanted to image for many years. Now that I have a good view of the southern sky, it was finally possible. Unfortunately, mediocre seeing and occasional windy nights through the new moon cycle made it tough to accumulate enough high quality images to finish this image. I would have liked 1.5 x- 2x as much data but the conditions just wouldn't cooperate (at least for now.) Correctly color calibrating this image was particularly challenging because blue light from many of the stars in this region is filtered out so that they appear more red than they would in open space. Photometric calibration simply doesn't work well. I tried virtually every reference standard available before simply using the balance determined by the filters themselves (i.e. no calibration other than background neutralization.) Maybe I'll gather more data on this one to try to clean it up a bit but for now, I think that it's a pretty good start.


As always, C&C is welcome so let me know what you think.


Happy New Year to everyone...




You can find more details for this image at:  https://www.astrobin.com/327896/B/

Attached Thumbnails

  • M78_NoColorCal V3.7 Cropped sm.jpg

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#8051187 Nils Olof Carlin

Posted by Vic Menard on 15 August 2017 - 12:41 PM

I just received an email from Robert Dalby FRAS with the sad news that Nils Olof passed away yesterday. Robert asked me to post this in the Cloudy Nights forums, which Nils Olof enjoyed so much. Robert told me that Nils Olof, "...had taken ill with a reoccurrence of a longstanding heart condition and passed away while in the care of doctors at Lund University Hospital."


To say that Nils Olof will be "sorely missed" is an understatement. I would place his contributions to these forums somewhere between "this should be in the text book" and legendary. I will always remember his "magical" back of the envelope math-in-a-hurry, where, with a few select numbers, he would almost spontaneously deliver the solution that had been eluding everyone else--for days... It seemed to me that over the past few years, Nils Olof would kind of stroll into the fray with a quiet, yet perceptive, voice of reason, and, well, how can you argue with that? 


Nils Olof’s insights regarding the autocollimator and Newtonian axial tolerances were particularly important to me for validating the alignment criteria in the fifth edition of "New Perspectives on Newtonian Collimation”. But even more important, at least in my mind, was with his help, finally uniting all of the theories and applications in such a way that everyone could agree, “This is it!” That was something I knew from the beginning, could not be done without Nils Olof nodding his head in the background.


Today, I'm thankful for the Cloudy Nights forums, where I feel like I actually got to know Nils Olof Carlin. Like many reading this, I will miss him, and I will never forget him!

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#7687055 First Jupiter of the year with nice seeing!

Posted by RAC on 04 February 2017 - 06:39 PM

First time this year I've got up this early and I'm glad I did! I kept it simple and just used my ASI224 with the ADC, 5 x Powermate and my 20" dob. I took 6 videos and this is about the best one but they are all very similar.



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#8242938 My first APOD!

Posted by Peter in Reno on 30 November 2017 - 02:18 PM

My first APOD. Whooo!!!!




I want to thank everyone here for providing great advice for many years and made it possible to receive this honor.



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#7819904 First picture in CN, Jupiter 07 april 2017, C14. Paris France.

Posted by wilexpel on 13 April 2017 - 07:39 AM

Hello everyone !




This is the first image I post on the CN forum, I do not
speak English it is a Google translation , so I will
certainly have difficulty to answer you correctly.
I introduce myself, my name is William PELLISSARD and I picture from
Paris in the 13th arrondissement, in the 15th is the last floor of my
building, in a loggia. Unfortunately I can not see more than 55 ° in
height because of the ceiling.
The sky is not often cleared on the Paris side but sometimes, quite
rarely, there is a clearance with a good seeing, you have to take
advantage of it. I own a Celestron 14 Xlt and a JPZ Takahashi mount, I
mainly use the cameras Zwo IMX 224C (planetary) and IMX 174 (lunar).

The nights of 07 and 08 April were particularly good, it had been 4
years since I had seen such a good seeing. I take advantage to post this
capture of Jupiter, it becomes more and more difficult to make good
images because of the height of the planets (Jupiter max 34 °).

I wish you all a good sky and beautiful planetary images.

best regards.




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#8385626 Jupiter GRS -@ sunrise, Wow - best 2 minutes of my 2018 - 16 inch Dob

Posted by wavydavy on 07 February 2018 - 09:24 AM

Last shot of the morning at 6:48 am , this surprised me big time ...

There was a small gap after 1/2 hr of heavy clouds...This was shot through the mist part way, and only lasted 2 minutes ..

.I had the shutter at 1<4ms and managed to squeeze in 17,000 frames... stacked 66% , Autostakkert said the quality was high ... I had no idea ...



FireCapture v2.5  Settings
Camera=ZWO ASI224MC
CMI=15.4° CMII=302.3° CMIII=142.7°  (during mid of capture)
LT=UT -5h
Frames captured=17549
File type=SER
FPS (avg.)=141
Gain=373 (62%)
AutoHisto=75 (off)
Gamma=50 (off)
SoftwareGain=10 (off)
Sensor temperature=31.1 °C

Attached Thumbnails

  • Jup_064930_l6_ap76_WOW_HARD_1_GRS_REG_GIMP____v2-NDN.png

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#7217701 Mars with good seeing.

Posted by RAC on 15 May 2016 - 06:53 AM

I had some good seeing tonight so I have a few videos to look at but for now here's a quicky.




DIY 20" f3.8 newtonian on AltAz mount

Televue 5 X powermate,

IR/UV block filter.



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#7230466 3 planetes seen with the 1 meter Telescope of the Pic du Midi Observatory

Posted by J-Luc Dauvergne on 21 May 2016 - 01:49 PM

Hi all,

I don't come very often here but I have some good images to share.
May be you remeber this popular topic with images from the Pic du Midi observatory.


I'm back with good images from the last night.
Let's star with Mars


It's even better on Jupiter and Saturn, I post it as soon as possible.


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#7221866 Cat's Eye Nebula: 2 years and 130 hours

Posted by josh smith on 17 May 2016 - 09:39 AM

Whew! It is finally over. Not sure if I will do one of these again, but my favorite target in the night sky is the Cat's Eye Nebula and I thought it deserved my utmost attention. After getting a good head start last spring, I just decided to park on it nearly every clear night I was at home whether it was for an hour at the end of the night this spring or an hour for the beginning of the night last fall. There were quite a few nights where it was all I shot as well. By the image details, you can see that my goal was to get as much range as possible in this image including the super bright core which is 10000 times brighter than the extremely faint outer Ha regions and somewhere in between are the concentric shells surrounding the bright core. It took exposures of all different filters and lengths to reach the full range of this target.


The total acquisition time ended up being somewhat inflated due to the horrible lp in Pittsburgh and my new house in Florida as I wanted to make sure I had a very nice and deep sky background as well to complement all the work that went into the Cat's Eye. This took a lot of broadband data!


To some extent, I'm not thrilled with the picture as the Cat's Eye itself isn't quite as clean as I'd hoped for. However, it's not so much how clean it was as how overpowering the signal was that was surprising. It made it very tough to emphasize the delicate features while showing the full extent of the emission data. It was a very delicate balance and now that I've finished, I'm still pretty pleased. This was a good exercise in viewing the power of stacking and SNR buildup as well as the disappointment of diminishing returns. The quality is clearly far superior to last year when I was at 30 hours but certainly not 4x better.


I certainly have my new home in Florida to thank for making this project possible. The weather has been astounding this spring with night after night of clear and steady skies. I suspect our astronomy season is drawing to a close, but I'll be ready to hit the ground running again next winter :)


As always, thank you so much for viewing and any C&C's you have are very much appreciated!




Different channels, acquisition details, and focus...







Special thanks to David Ault, Hytham, and Bobby Gross for some feedback, commentary, and assistance in background modlization before publishing.

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#6165843 500 Best DSO list

Posted by Starman1 on 16 August 2014 - 07:00 PM

I just reduced this is size to something I can post.

A lot of you have requested this from me, so I am posting it here.

It is a list of the 500 best DSOs, as seen in a 4" refractor and 5" Maksutov in modestly dark skies over a couple of years.

It started as a list of 2000 favorites culled from my much larger log, then got whittled down as I re-observed every object.


There will be some challenges here for the newbie, and there will be some really spectacular objects in larger scopes.


So enjoy.  I include a LOT of information about each object.

Attached Files

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#5989507 Post a picture of your refractors (PART 7)

Posted by Messyone on 03 May 2014 - 08:37 PM

Another page in this chapter.
Here is my recent ATM Istar 150 f12 with Polarex 40mm finder and to go over the top a 90mm f11 Orion with GSO 2" focuser.
Mount is the circa 1870 Gaunt, which I nearly sold but the buyer pulled out. I'm working on a tangent arm for the dec axis along the lines of the 8" refractor at the Chabot Observatory, and a 7.5" hand slo mo control on the RA. In the meantime this works with nothing other than perfect balancing with sliding weights. Total no electric bliss.
edit: Hopefully here is the photo

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#7067849 Astro-Physics 180 f9 - First Light

Posted by daveCollins on 21 February 2016 - 09:05 PM

I purchased this scope on auction last year. I think from the point of view of the history of Astro-Physics, this scope occupies a special place. In particular

  • No other AP 180 f9 has been produced with the same tube geometry and paint. So this is a unique scope from Astro-Physics.
  • It is my understanding that this will be the last large refractor they will build.
  • This is the only scope Astro-Physics ever sold as new on auction.
  • This is the most expensive new refractor ever sold by Astro-Physics.
  • The glass for the scope was in storage since the mid-1990s. So it is a new scope with the newest coatings, but old "special" glass.
  • The scope was sold with no engraved cell ring. So it has a Prototype feel to it.

I am not speaking for Astro-Physics. I want to be clear that nothing I am saying has been said officially by Astro-Physics. But I am making statements based on facts and my own sources of information. One other note is that the other scopes auctioned by Astro-Physics were not new. Some such scopes sold for more than this scope. The point being that this was an unused scope and was sold as new on auction.


So it looks like in the long history of Astro-Physics, this scope is the end of the road for large refractors. I like the fact that this scope was slightly modified by Roland for the purposes of visual observing and so with this last scope, he used his creativity to create something that realized his vision. This is fitting for the end of the story.


I picked up the scope in person and Roland and Marj where kind enough to be photographed with the scope as it left their hands. This was 3 days before Christmas 2015.







I had some weather challenges and timing issues and so first light took a while. I traveled to a site two mountain ridges outside of DC. First light was during a full moon with slightly

poorer seeing than average, but with clear-ish moments.


  • Absolutely beautiful day for February 20th. In the 60s, clear, medium wind, full moon (92%).
  • I was the only one of the mountain so I was able to thoroughly enjoy the solitude with the stars for this first light experience.





In the following, you can see the moon rising:






And now the excitement is building ...




  • Color
    • My first target had to be the moon. It wasn't my original plan, but it just grabbed me and pulled me in. The image put up by the scope was free of color. There was no green, yellow, blue, violet .... just a sharp pristine white crisp limb.
  • Moon Details
    • Crater Pythagoras - The central peak was illuminated only at its top. The shadow of this illuminated section was cast onto the opposite crater wall (inside wall). So I could see the shadow from the other wall as a line with the peak's contribution above that line. It was an impressive site. The scope showed fine details such as ridges on the inside crater walland structures leading into the crater.
      • A few hours later I came back to find the entire inside of the crater illuminated. I even with full illumination, the contrast from the scope showed fine details and was a pleasure to experience for what seemed like half an hour.
    • Around Pythagoras there are some "flat" crater areas. I could see subtle differences in the colors of the surfaces. My moon atlases don't do the moon justice. Astro-Photography doesn't give me the sense of fine detail that look through this scope does.
  • Jupiter
    • Jupiter was 20 or 30 degrees away from the full moon. Not sure if this would have any effect, but I thought I would emphasize this contribution to the sky conditions. Due to moisture in the air, the moon generally illuminated the entire sky with a glow.
    • I could see details in the two central bands, while the other bands sort of came and went without much detail. But in the central bands, the effects of swirls varied along the length of the bands.
    • I watched the transit of Io. For most of the transit, I was watching Io's shadow which traversed a single band. It looked like a tiny black dot, clearly visible. At the end of the transit, I could see Io while it was still over Jupiter. I could easily see the moon as a small white sphere over the planet. As it moved of Jupiter's disk, it was well defined and slowly separated from the limb.
    • A couple of hours later, I went back to Jupiter and watched the end of the Occultation with Europa. Just as with Io, I could see a well-defined orb separate from the planetary disk.

Both Jupiter and our Moon where wonderful objects to enjoy on this beautiful evening with warm temperatures. I was able to relax and enjoy the show. I was happy with this scope's

performance especially considering the tough conditions of a full moon with illuminated moister in the air and slightly challenging seeing.


Mounting of the scope. I am 5 feet 10 inches, 60 years old, and I don't lift weights or exercise other than lots of walking. I found the scope simple to mount. I had no trouble lifting

it cradled in my arms onto a mounted set of rings. I don't know what else to say other than for me the whole process was so easy as to not even be a consideration.


  • M3 Globular Cluster
    • This showed as a fine sprinkling of stars. Even with so so seeing, it was fun to observe and showed fine details and had a 3D look with averted vision.
  • M5 Globular Cluster
    • Similar to M3. Lots of fine detail as well as a few bright stars mixed in. I don't know if the brighter stars are in the cluster or are just optically co-located.
  • M13 Globular Cluster
    • What was surprising with this is that I could see similar detail in M3 and M5. This is probably due to conditions. M13 was only 30 degrees off the horizon in an area of moon induced glow without a single star visible. I couldn't even see the little dipper asterism. I could easily see Polaris naked eye, but I couldn't make out the asterism itself.
  • Rigel
    • Rigel was a surprise. Even with the sky glow I could see the companion clearly even though Rigel was a fuzzy sphere. With all the challenges, the scope performed well.
  • Sigma Ori
    • Great star system. All stars were easily visible, although the dim "C" companion was a sharp pinpoint but much dimmer than the others.

I am happy with the scope. Before first light I was nervous about the scope since it was expensive. But on the other hand, I would have accepted the scope for what it is due to its specialness to me. As it turned out, no excuses were needed since the scope performs well and has a well figured set of lenses. The in-focus rings and out-focus rings are as good as any that I've seen. With the evenings seeing conditions, I could not see any difference between the two. It is a well-constructed high quality instrument that I'll enjoy for a long time.

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#7677936 Finally risking showing something here

Posted by Diane Miller on 31 January 2017 - 01:01 AM

After 4 months of many speed bumps, I'm getting some usable data from my Orion Sirius and simple software setup.  Using a Canon 7D Mk II on a Canon 400mm DO II lens.  36 exposures, ISO 1600, f/4, 90 sec.   Processed in PixInsight.  Still in kindergarten there (and with the mount, my first EQ) but at least getting a start.


Would still be at Step One without the excellent support and information here!  Huge thanks to everyone!





Attached Thumbnails

  • M42 Orion Nebula PI-PS.jpg

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#7612674 Christmas 1969 - Christmas 2016

Posted by Mark F on 28 December 2016 - 12:55 AM

I was 14 years old, Christmas, 1969.  My father had died six-months earlier (thanks to smoking).  I had just started into Astronomy as a hobby a couple years before, with a 3-inch reflecting telescope that I bought from a mail order company that sold magic props and “x-ray” glasses.  I bought it by saving money from bottle deposits and odd errands for neighbors.  Plastic, cardboard, very little glass, and even less quality.


Every time I shopped with my father before he passed away, I would always linger at department stores, Penny’s, Montgomery Wards, Sears.  They always had a telescope displayed, and on the box they had blown-up images of Saturn’s rings, Lunar craters, the Orion Nebula, and the Andromeda Galaxy. No matter how much I pleaded and promised, he would remind me of my previous hobby attempts and failures, stamps, coins, etc.  He was right.  Money wasn’t tight back then, but it wasn’t overflowing to waste on a hobby he was almost certain that I would drop in a year or so.


My father died, and my life changed.  I am ashamed to say for a while I did not do my father proud.  Life didn’t matter, school didn’t matter. I didn’t care.  I acted terrible because I was hurting, my world was turned upside down.  Only the Lord knows what path I was walking and what my destination might have been if I didn’t turn my life around.  Probably not good.  I still did observing with that toy 3 inch reflector, and still wanted a better telescope, like the ones that I saw in the department stores.  But money was tighter, dad left us with a small life insurance policy and after medical and burial expenses, not much was left.  Mom had to stay at home to take care of me and my brother, so we lived on Social Security Survivor’s Benefits and a small Veteran’s check.  Enough to keep the house, pay the bills, and keep food on the table.


Christmas, 1969, there were presents under the tree for the family, much-in-part due to kind and loving aunts and uncles.  In the back, there was a wrapped present, a long box, about 3 feet x 8 inches x 8 inches.  The present had a tag with my name on it, from Mom.  I opened it, not really having an idea what was tinside.


As I peeled the wrapping off, a box saying Tasco 60 mm Telescope, 233 power immediately caught my eye.  I was dazed, excited, dreaming, and in awe.  I carefully opened the box, and saw a beautiful white refracting telescope to assemble for Christmas morning.  I thanked Mom profusely, but really not enough.  I later saw the scope at J C Penny for around $70.  That amount was a house payment for us.  A lot of money.  I don’t know how Mom did it, but she did.


I took it out the next clear night, and many following nights.  I still missed my Father, but I had something in my life that thrilled me, and made me enjoy life again.  The Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Orion and Andromeda Nebulas were captured in my Tasco from the front porch of our Canton, Ohio home.  Neighbors stopped by in the early evening and I showed them these objects thru my scope.  I even thought about becoming an astronomer, but I found out later that professional astronomy was much more than observing from a front porch.


I finished high school and made the National Honor Society, I ground and polished a 6 inch f/10 reflector during my senior year.  I graduated college with a BS in Geology, and have had a semi-successful career as a geologist, and continued my Astronomy hobby thru the years (Sorry Dad, you were wrong on that one :grin: ).  In the early 1980s, my younger cousin showed an interest in Astronomy, so I gave him my 2.4 inch Tasco.  It is probably now buried deep in a Cleveland Ohio landfill.


When I saw the Cloudy Nights topic “Blast from the Past,” I thought of my old Tasco, what it did for me, but also what my Mother did for me.  Whatever she sacrificed, I hope that somehow she is satisfied with my payment.  I am sorry that I didn’t tell her while she was here, she joined Father almost 30 years ago.


Thanks to the Cloudy Nights topic, I decided to try and reunite with a cousin for my long-lost Tasco.  I found a similar model on Ebay, a Tasco 9TE-5, close but not exactly the same.  The box was in poor condition, but everything that I had in my old Tasco was there, diameter, focal length, eyepieces, Barlow, Sun filter, finder scope, alt-azimuth mount, and black metal tripod. My wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, I had the answer.


It arrived before Christmas, my wife wrapped it, knowing that the surprise was gone.  Christmas Morning she handed it to me.  I took a deep breath, paused, and thought about Christmas 1969 as tears filled my eyes.  More tears filled my eyes as I held the OTA in my hands.  I assembled the telescope, and placed it by the Christmas tree, much like I did in 1969.  As soon as the weather clears up, I’ll take my new friend out to enjoy the night sky like a 14 year old boy.


My wife doesn’t know what her gift means to me, I will show her this post later.  And I hope Mom and Dad are reading it now.

Pictures later.


Thanks to all at Cloudy Nights forum for great posts.

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