Comet Stacking by Jeff Tropeano

I shot my first comet last night from the backyard: Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy.

After my capturing session, I set PixInsight to pre-process the images, but forgot one very important thing about comets.  They move.  You can see the streak of movement in the comet against the background star field.  This is almost 60 minutes of imaging.

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy moving against background stars over 60 minutes.

Guess I'll have to run it again.

Harry from has a good video tutorial on processing a comet in PixInsight.  I'll be using his guide this time!

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
— Albert Einstein

Processing M31 in PixInsight by Jeff Tropeano

My recent image of M31 was a real processing chore.  I'm still getting a lot of color muddle (you can see it clearly in the M32 companion in my M31 image), and I feel like I'm losing a lot of detail in my low signal areas.  In this M31 image, I should be presenting more detail at the outer edge of the galaxy, like this amazing image by Redditor /u/Le_Baron.  He's done an amazing job capturing detail, and has a great rig.  The detail he can acquire through all of that milky light pollution is incredible.

In my image, I tried to follow the steps outlined by /u/PixInsightFTW in the YouTube video below.  Thanks for PixInsightFTW for publishing such a helpful tutorial!  And thanks to the community at /r/astrophotography!

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
— Pablo Picasso

Insignificance vs. Self-importance by Jeff Tropeano

Every Thursday evening, I volunteer at The University of Denver's Historic Chamberlin Observatory.  When a young person looks into the eyepiece of the telescope, I've learned to expect the oohs-and-aahs of wonderment and awe.

Getting the kids excited is easy, but the thing I enjoy most is getting that same reaction from an adult.  I think that adults are more defensive with their excitement, and it's a fun challenge to try to coax it out of them.   Most adults are uncomfortable feeling insignificant, and basking in your smallness can be tough.  It's easy to turn this feeling around on someone.  Instead of making them feel small, make them feel big:

"All of those stars emitted their light 32,000 years ago. Ever since, they've been on a journey destined to do nothing but land in your eyeball, be absorbed by your retina, and get converted into a electrical signal in your brain that you now call a memory."

That the universe was made
Just to be seen by my eyes.
— Sleeping at Last, "Saturn"

Ring Nebula Imaging Session and a Meteor! by Jeff Tropeano

I spent early Tuesday evening attempting to image M57, The Ring Nebula.  Unfortunately, it wasn't a great imaging session.  M57 is a tough object to image - it's got a very small angular distance, and my 10" scope's field of view is probably too wide to image this object well.  I also had some issues auto guiding, and some gremlins with my mount reinitializing randomly while slewing.

There was a silver lining to my dud imaging session, though.  A fantastic meteor that I caught for about 15 seconds. It was a very slow moving object in the sky, flickering in brightness, with a very apparent bright tail.  It had obviously been traversing the sky for a while, and I saw it about 15 degrees south of Zenith.  It traveled through zenith along a South-North trajectory, and maintained brightness until it passed to the Northern horizon.  Observation ended about 20 degrees north of horizon, until my dumb house got in the way.  There was also a "chunkier" section of tail, almost like a comet tail, about 3-4 angular degrees long (crude arms-length finger measurement).  I stood quiet for a few minutes after the sighting, but heard nothing.

The meteor made the local newspaper, likely because of so many sightings of it from Red Rocks (during The Big Lebowski!).

M57, captured on September 2nd, 2014 from Lakewood, CO.  Stack of 30 lights, 10 darks, and 10 bias frames.  Stacked image, with no post-processing.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
— Thomas Edison

New Gear Jinx Jinx! by Jeff Tropeano

Well, I didn't end up jinxing myself.  Although I was worried about the weather and clouds, when we arrived at our campsite, the entire southern sky opened up.  The iOptron Sky Tracker worked amazingly well.  As a matter of fact, I didn't give it enough credit.  I shot at ISO 1600, and I probably could have gone down to 800 without trailing.

I'm happy with my first wide-angle shot.  Processing wide-angle shots is a lot different than deep sky, and I have a long way to go.

A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.
— Marcel Proust

New Gear Jinx by Jeff Tropeano

The iOptron SkyTracker I ordered came today (thanks UPS for getting all of the delivery issues squared away).  Combine that with new moon, and you've got a pretty good guarantee that wherever I'll be, it'll be cloudy.

The wife and I are planning to camp tonight near the Great Sand Dunes on our way to Santa Fe this weekend, and I was hoping to get some wide angle landscape images out of the evening, but I may have jinxed myself by buying new gear.

Lesson learned.

Sky forecast for July 25th and July 26th. I bet I can jinx this weather.

Sky forecast for July 25th and July 26th. I bet I can jinx this weather.

Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?
— Alanis Morrissette

Publishing Day by Jeff Tropeano

I guess I'm going to call this site officially published.  I'd like to write an entry as to why I decided to make this site, but I'm not sure of that myself yet.

For now, my intent is for this to remain a place where I can post the photographs I'm most proud of, jot a few thoughts down, and capture my learning process.

- J

In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.
— Terry Pratchett