Since Nov 6, 2000
THE GREATEST STATE OF THE GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH.
Here in California it's late December, two days before Christmas in the year 2004. We had another beautiful sunny 72 degree day, with unlimited visibility, a mild pacific breeze and I was wearing my shorts, as usual. Our orange trees are loaded, and flowers are all blooming, and it's generally like this year round.
We just flipped on the weather and most of the rest of the country is in a brutal, dark deep freeze, under feet of snow. And winter just started. Been there done that. Never again.
Even though we live in paradise, sometimes I grow a little tired of this planet and all of it's endless problems.
Often I have a desire to leave, and since I can't afford to build a spacecraft, I figured the next best thing was to visually leave, so I decided to build a small optical astronomical observatory and take images/photos of the universe. Some are posted below.
My interest in astronomy goes back to when I was very young, during the historic NASA Apollo moon missions.
My interest are now in astro-photography and astronomical digital imaging. Below are some of my earlier shots. All the images were taken with a Meade Instruments, computerized Schmidt-Cassegrain, Catadioptric, 10 inch astronomical telescope using a film format. It uses a series of mirrors and lenses.
In the future I plan on going digital, using CCD cameras and other digital formats. This is my 8th telescope and I am quite happy with it.
All four photographs, except Mars were taken with an Olympus OM-1, using eyepiece projection, 25mm eyepiece, with a variable tele-extender, and a Vari-Magnifier.
The Mars image was taken using a 12.5 mm eyepiece with a one second exposure using a digital format.
The planet Jupiter was 1/4 second exposure, the lunar surface 1/2 second and the planet Saturn was 1 1/4 second exposure.
In 2003 the orbit of Mars brought it to a closer point to Earth than it has been in the last 60,000 years, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity.
In the below image, the polar ice cap of Mars can clearly be seen along with faint surface detail.
Focusing and tracking an object is critical when using eyepiece projection. The images are slightly out of focus, as they were manually focused. In the future, I will be using an electronic focuser.
Looking through the actual eyepiece without the camera, the images are much better, and the resolution is substantially improved. Planetary atmospheric/gas cloud detail and higher resolution lunar surface detail are much better than seen in these images below.
The star cluster below is M3 and is one of the most outstanding globular clusters, containing an estimated 500,000 stars. At a distance of about 33,900 light years, it is further away than the center of our Galaxy. The age of globular cluster predates earth and has been estimated at about 20 billion years old.
M3 is visible to the naked eye under very good conditions. It was not visible to the unaided eye at my location due to moderate light pollution. This image is a 20 minute exposure, film format, and was processed with Adobe Photoshop, as the raw image had slight light pollution fogging, was slightly out of focus and there were tracking problems.
I recently added a photograph of M-42 Nebula in Orion that was taken on 11/13/04. Prime focus, 3 minute exposure film format. At at distance of about 1600 light years from earth, the Orion Nebula owes its appearance to a grouping of four young, hot stars known as the Trapezium. The brightest member produces enough radiation to cause the surrounding shell of hydrogen gas to glow so brightly that we can see it from a distance of 1,600 light-years. The gas clouds are actually a stellar nursery where new stars are being formed. The bright part of the nebula is the glow of many luminous, newborn stars shining on the surrounding gas cloud. The nebula and the brighter stars are very young by astronomical standards, at about 30000 years old. Compare this to our own Sun, which is a middle-aged star at over four billion years!
The Planet Saturn is out of focus, and blurred. This was a manual focus shot and the best of many taken. I wasn't to thrilled with the lack of detail, and plan on improving that. Through the eyepiece alone, it is much clearer, and much more detailed, the different atmospheric cloud/gas bands extending across the planet can easily be seen. I never get tired of turning the scope towards Saturn.
It needs to be said that most other amateur astronomers do *much* better astrophotography/imaging work than I, as I have still much to learn about astrophotography and digital imaging.
Sometime in the near future, I will post some images that I hope and expect to be considerably better than those below. It's very time consuming and one can lose lots of sleep chasing the stars.
Sometimes I find it relaxing to get away from this planet, just for a while, and I realize just how small and unique our planet really is. Nothing last forever, our sun and our planet won't either. The stars are the true future, the final frontier.
M-42 Orion Nebula
My Dad worked with the Secret Service in the 60s and 70s along with other law enforcement agencies. I have photographs of him with President Kennedy, among many other dignitaries, one of which is below.
Below is the book, "The Quotable Ronald Reagan" circa 1975 signed by President Ronald Reagan. It's one of my prized possessions.
Regardless of what you think of President Kennedy, he still needed to be protected. My Dad is the one on the right, looking directly back at Kennedy. His partner is looking directly at the cameraman taking the photograph. They were both involved in a shootout in an unrelated incident not long after this photograph was taken, both survived and killed the individual that was attempting to kill them.