There are only a few nights that I can image one of the most spectacular nebulae in the sky. I refer to NGC 7293, also known as the Helix Nebula. It has also been referred to as the “eye of God.” Why it has been so difficult to image is because my observatory is situated near trees on the horizon, and unless it is trackable above the trees, I cannot get any image at all.
The Helix has the largest apparent diameter of any planetary nebula. It lies in the constellation Aquarius, which lies low in the southern sky. Looking like a giant circle, the nebula surrounds a dying star that has blown off its outer layers, once its central supply of nuclear fuel was nearly exhausted. The remnant central star is a dense “white dwarf” that can no longer support nuclear reactions. At a distance of 450 light years, it is the closest planetary nebula to earth. More
As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” After a four-month stay in Traverse City, I’m once again in the Luberon region of the Vaucluse in Southern France. Back home in Provence.
It was a good summer for me, and one with decisions made and changes. I decided not to sell my lovely little condo and rapidly decided to find a house sitter for it for the winter. Lady Luck (or the starts or whatever) was on my side and I have a terrific woman who is looking after the condo. Things fell quickly into place and I flew out of Traverse City on September 3rd, Labor Day. More
I was sorely disappointed to hear both Romney and Obama parrot the same codswallop about Iran. That is, I expected it from Romney. However, I’d thought the president was a little more savvy, especially since earlier this year Reuters reported that, “The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran’s nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead.” Doesn’t he read the papers? More
Tonight is the waning of the first of autumn’s Harvest Moons. Targeting anything in a full moon’s neighboring radiance is always more challenging. However, in my quest to search out new galaxies far, far away, I thought I’d give Abell 347, a cluster of faint galaxies, which includes NGC 912, a try. All of this group are in the constellation Andromeda. Abell 347 is rather more difficult to image, since all of its galaxies are 13th magnitude or greater. More
Retired college professors must carefully tend to their social life, else it will fade away and eventually vanish. One way to slow this progression is to invite a guest for dinner. Perhaps a new member of the library staff, or a new nurse, or a senior secretary will agree to come, indeed she may be thrilled by the invitation. My invitations, unfortunately, are rarely reciprocated. Perhaps because my women guests are not very sure of their cooking skills, and as I was a marriageable bachelor, they may not want to reveal the paucity of their culinary assets … but who knows? More
Americans supposedly don’t care about foreign policy, but they come absolutely unglued when it comes to “security.” Maybe they should make a connection between the two. I mean, security threats come more often from foreigners than from Front Street.
Writing before the debate, I expect Mr. Romney to attack President Obama for being “weak.” So what does Mr. Romney consider “strong”? More
As we enter October, I have a mission to accomplish. I would like to image DSOs I have not done before. Grant Privett and Paul Parsons published a little known book, somewhat dated (1957), which offers the astronomer DSOs that few know about. At least I didn’t. I take better pictures than are in the book because the technology available today is much better for amateurs than 50 years ago. More
M81, a spectacular spiral galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major, is about the apparent size of the full moon, which we are one day from … Sept. 30th. I imaged it with previous equipment, but not with the present scope and camera.
Two things were working against me. I had misplaced my 8 GB flash drive … perhaps it accidentally fell into the wastebasket at home. So, I had to save it to My Pictures on my computer. This actually turned out to be fortunate because I could see the thumbnail images after exposure. Meteors, airplanes, and satellites leave star trails in an image and when one combines a folder of 30 or so, one such image can spoil the final picture. If one such image is seen, it has to be deleted. More