September 23, 2012

Cant Escape the Lights

It sure is a lot darker once you get out of the city, but you are by no means free of light pollution. Here, the lights of Courtenay light up the sky from about 20 km away.

September 21, 2012

A Stunning Milky Way

I apologize for the infrequency of posts of late, but settling into a new semester of school while working is a bit busy. I will try to get back on with posts every day, but no promises.

This is a picture of the Milky Way arching its majestic way across the skies of Merville. I nearly drove my car into the ditch on numerous occasions for the sheer majesty of this celestial river of light.

September 17, 2012

Green Trees Dark Skys

I think the title says it all in this one. It is neat to see what parts of the trees moved and what parts were still. This is a composite of two photos.

September 9, 2012

Looking Out

The telescope pointing at a nearly full moon. An airplane crossed the sky in this picture.

September 6, 2012

Blue Snowball

This is NGC 7662 known also by the slightly more charismatic name the Blue Snowball. It is a planetary nebula like the Dumbell Nebula and the Ring Nebula which I have featured pictures of. This picture was fun to take because I was looking at pictures of planetary nebulae on the internet trying to find ones to take photos of. I saw a picture of this one and decided to take a picture of it. I turned the telescope to it, pressed the shutter, and out popped this picture a 30 second exposure later, looking almost identical to the picture I had seen online.

September 5, 2012

The Littlest One

Take a look at this. Watch it a few times...See what you can see.

If you saw one of the dots moving you saw the same thing I did. What is that moving dot you might be thinking...I have the answer. That dot is Pluto, once a fully fledged planet, now just a dwarf planet hanging out in the far outer reaches of the solar system.

The two images were taken almost exactly 24 hours apart. The dots that stay still are stars in the background, and anything which moves is in our solar system. This is one of the ways of finding asteroids and Kuiper belt objects. Take images a day or two apart then flip back and forth between them to see if anything moves.

September 4, 2012

Late Night Heavy Lifting

The Dumbell Nebula. M27. First noted by Charles Messier in 1764, this spectacular planetary nebula lies about 1200 light years away. Contrary to its name, a planetary nebula has nothing to do with planets. They were named that for their disc like appearance in early telescopes, much like planets.

What we now know them to be is a shell of gas ejected by a star as it begins to collapse at the end of its life. The outer layers of the star are thrown off and expand out into space. This particular nebula is expanding at about 17 miles per second. In another few thousand years the gas will expand to the point that it is too diffuse to see and the white dwarf at its center will be all that remains.

In this nebula you can see the bright white dwarf right at the center of the nebula. It is that star which lights up the hot gasses. The different colors come from the different gasses. Red is hydrogen gas and the blue green is mostly oxygen.

September 3, 2012

The Moon of Yesternight

I know that I have posted a fair few pictures of the moon before, but this one is a little different. This is a composite of photos I took last night with the 32 inch telescope at UVic. The field of view is very small on the telescope, so to cover the entire moon I needed to take about 30 photos. When combined, that produced a picture that is 14000x11000 pixels. To put that in perspective, the image is 154 megapixels! If my calculations are correct, that means that the picture would be about 12 feet wide if it was displayed at the full resolution zoomed to the real size.

The image here is much smaller as I had to compress the file to upload it. If anyone is interested, I could send the full resolution picture so that you can take a look. It is cool to be able to poke around on the moon with it.

September 2, 2012

Blast from the past

There is nothing particularily special going on in this picture. I took it last december from Mt Douglas Park.

Clearly seen are Taurus and Orion.

September 1, 2012

Dipper Digging Coal

Here is something a little different. This is the big dipper from the bottom of a little gully in a coal field.

As you can see, the stars are out of focus. That is because I focused on the ground just in front of the camera.

I sat the camera down on the ground and focused it. I pressed the shutter for a 30 second exposure, then shone a flashlight across the gull for a second or two.

I think the effect is kinda neat! I think it looks like the dipper has been digging in the dirt.

August 31, 2012


This is a shot where you can see earthshine. There is a the bright crescent moon, but the rest of the moon is visible, not entirely black. This is actually light from the sun which has reflected off the earth and is lighting up the moon!

August 30, 2012

Its a Small World After All!

Here is one which is a little bit different. This one is from atop the building which houses the telescope at UVic - The Bob Wright Centere - and is a polar projection of a panorama. Just to the right of the dome in the foreground is actually a dome in the background which houses the old 20 inch telescope. This was taken at about 5:30am. I call it the Tiny Planet Projection.

August 29, 2012


The sun coming over the shoulder of Mt Baker just after six one morning not so long ago. A flock of birds flying through the picture and the mountains shadows on the clouds complete this image for me.

August 28, 2012

A Different Sort of Glob

Here is a globular cluster. We have already seen M13 a few times, but this one is M2. It is somewhat more faint than M13, but it is just as spectacular. This cluster is about 37,000 light years away and is almost 200 light years across. There are nearly 150,000 stars in the cluster.

This second picture is the result of playing with the levels in the picture to get a more accurate representation of the colors. I have yet to figure out how to do it without completely blowing out the center.

August 27, 2012

A Dome in Action

I posted a panorama of the dome earlier, but this one is sort of an action shot. Here the telescope is pointing at Jupiter in the early morning sky.

August 26, 2012

Whirlpool Having a Snack

This is my very first and very grainy picture of M51 - the Whirlpool Galaxy. As you can see there are actually two galaxies here, one large face on spiral, and another small one with no real shape. The small one is in fact being subjected to galactic cannibalism, the larger spiral is eating it. Another cool thing about this is that you can see some of the dark dust lanes in the spiral arms of the galaxy.

I am actually writing this on the 18th, I am way ahead, so if I take a better picture in the meantime I will leave this one here, and add the new one to this post.

August 25, 2012

Dark Sky

There is nothing special in this picture, it is just a shot of the night sky taken at Goldstream park. The sky is a lot darker there than in the rest of the city.

August 24, 2012

Sisters in the Sky

While not the most spectacular of photos, this is a picture of the stars in the Pleiades. You can see the main stars form a sort of miniature dipper. At least I think they do. If you do it right you can get some really cool pictures of the Pleiades with all sorts of nebulosity, and I am going to give that a try a little later in the year once they start coming up a bit earlier.

I thoght that picture was a bit dull, so here is another. The Pleiades are just down from the top of the picture on the right. You can see a little bit of the blue reflection nebulosity going on in that one! Also in this picture are Jupiter, the moon, and Venus going down the line there.

August 23, 2012

Ring Number Two

I posted a picture of the Ring Nebula or M57 a while ago, but it was not nearly as nice as I think this one is. Here you can see the different colors of the planetary nebula and even the white dwarf lying at the center. This planetary nebula was created when a red giant star expelled its outer layers of gas in its dying days, forming a shell of gas expanding away from the star.

August 22, 2012

The Great Hunter

Although it is blurry and grainy and all, one can clearly see that this is the ever wonderful Orion Nebula. Sitting in the middle of the nebula is the group of stars called the Trapezium. These super bright young stars are in the center of the star forming region.

I took this just a few days ago, and it was already getting light out and it was right down on the horizon so it is not nearly as good as it could be, but I will try again later when it is nice and high in the sky.

August 21, 2012

The Great Crescent

You can guess what this is a picture of I am sure. I don't think I really need to write anything about this one. I love the moon...

August 20, 2012

Trails from the Point

I have been waiting for a while to post this one. Here are some fancy startrails from Cattle Point. I took these images during the meteor shower last week, and although they are hard to see, There actually are a couple in this picture.

The most easily seen is in the bottom right. There are two bright startrails, and just a little above the higher one in the center is a little line going a different direction than the rest. That is a meteor.

There are a couple others that I found, but to see them involves a lot of zooming in. Also arcing right across this picture is a nice satellite trail.

I quite like startrails, and I think this is my favourite one yet!

August 19, 2012

A Happy Family

I have been taking a ton of photos these past few weeks, and I have a huge backlog of them. I though I would do a bit of a different post today and put up a few photos instead of just one. Here are Photos of five of the planets in our solar system.

First up is Venus, the second planet from the sun. I took this picture with my little 4 inch scope on the night of the meteor shower recently. You can clearly see the fact that it is a crescent, being lit from the sun from the left side of the picture.

Next up is Uranus. This is one of the gas giants far out in the outer solar system. You can see a few little dots just to the right of the planet. Those are some of its moons. Most of Uranus' moons are named after characters from Shakespeare and Alexander Pope.

The next planet out is Neptune. Here we can see Neptune and its largest moon Triton. Neptune is the 8th and last planet from the sun.

One in from Uranus is Saturn, the 6th planet, and most peoples favorite. Unfortunately I never had a chance to take a really good photo of Saturn although I did see it looking excellent many times. On a good night you can see storms on the planet, and the gap between the rings and the planet itself!

I have put Jupiter, the 5th planet from the sun last because I think this is the best picture. I took this yesterday morning. You can clearly see the different bands of color on the planet itself, as well as the four moon all on one side at that moment.

To complete the set, we still need Mars, Mercury and Earth, the 4th, 1st and 3rd planets respectively. I have never had a chance to image Mars or Mercury through the telescope, and we are on earth, but I have captured them in pictures.

Here is Mars, the red planet, now with curiosity exploring away on its surface. This is an ancient photo of mine, but it is the only one I could find with Mars in It which is weird. Mars is the reddish dot high in the center of the frame.

And last but not least in any way is Mercury. Saturday morning was in fact the first morning I have actually taken a picture of Mercury. The little rocky planet is hard to capture because it is so small and close to the sun. If you go straight up from the top of the mountain - Mt Baker on planet earth to be exact - and slightly to the left up to just before the sky starts turning blue, you will find a tiny white dot which is Mercury.

Out of all of these planets, I still think that my favourite is a planet we call Earth.

And that concludes todays post. I hope you enjoyed!

August 18, 2012

A Way Made of Milk

The Milky Way shooting up from the edge of the sky to arc gracefully overhead.

August 17, 2012

The Pillars of Creation

I think that this is the coolest picture I have ever taken. I took this last night of the Eagle Nebula or M16. Visible right in the center are the Pillars of Creation. This is an intense star forming region. It is a bit grainy, and not all that well processed, but this is the first time I have got what I think of as a proper deep sky image. I hope you like it as much as I do!

August 16, 2012

M13 - My Best Yet!

Compare this to the previous pictures of M13 I have taken and you will see what I mean! The seeing was just extraordinary tonight. I also have pictures of M31, and M51 which I will work on tomorrow. I Am also going to try to figure out how to get this one into a color photo, but for now, this works.

August 15, 2012

Slipping into the sun

Here is another view of that spectacular alignment of last weekend. This was taken just as it was about to slip away into the sunrise at about 5:30 in the morning.

Pictured are Venus at the bottom left, the moon in the middle, and Jupiter at the top right.

This one I took from the top of Mount Tolmie on my way to bed. I tend to like to get to bed before the  sun rises just on a matter of principle.

August 14, 2012

4 Little Dots and 1 Big Dot

Here is our long lost friend Jupiter, seen here with all four of his buddies, the Galilean moons. In this picture the order is from left to right Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa.I took this through my little 4.5 inch telescope just a few days ago at about 4 in the morning or so. A friend and I spent the entire night from sunrise to sunset outside taking photos of the stars. It was lovely!

August 13, 2012

A Beautiful Alignment

I took this on saturday night...well sunday morning actually at around 3:30. In the picture is the moon shining bright in the center. Lined up to either side of it however is what makes this image special. Up and to the right is the bright dot that is Jupiter, and below to the left is the bright dot that is Venus. The all lined up for a very spectacular show. Also in this picture is Taurus, just to the right of Jupiter.

August 12, 2012


Here is another picture from Quadra Island. This is actually a composite of three pictures, left right and centre. These three frames combine into what I think is one of my favourite astrophotos I have taken! When you click on the picture to enlarge it take not of three things. The first is the milky way stretching upwards from the centre of the picture. The second is the satellite which came out of the milky way and passed into the tree on the right. It is broken because I had to turn the camera. The third is the satellite in the far left hand side going up from the trees. I think this picture is really neat, and I am going to do more like it.

August 11, 2012

Vines and Lines

Startrails from Quadra Island.

I don't know why, but I quite like this one. I like the grapevines maybe.

August 9, 2012

Seeing Double

Alberio! This is a binary star system located about 380 light years from earth. It is believed that the orbital period of the stars around each other is about 100,000 years. As you can see, each of the stars is a markedly different color. As it turns out, the brighter yellow star is actually itself a very close binary system with two stars going around each other. The color of the stars tells us a lot about the stars. From just this picture we can tell that the blue star is much hotter than the yellow star.

August 6, 2012

Fly Me to the Moon

This I think is a very cool picture. I was looking through the finder scope of the 32 inch with my camera, and I saw a black moving thing on the moon. I snapped the shutter and this is what I saw! It was only lined up with the moon for about half a second, so it is super lucky that I got it. The only unfortunate thing is that i also got part of the crosshairs from the finderscope in the picture as well.

July 31, 2012


I know what you are thinking...No those were not put there by mistake. They are not astrophotos in anyway, and they are not even that good of photos besides that. The way that I took them is what makes them acceptable to put up here.

These were taken with my camera. The thing that sets them apart from any other photos I have taken is that there was no lens whatsoever attached to the camera. I was just holding the body. Normally there is no way at all to take a picture that looks like anything when you do that. There is however a way if you want to do it.

Here is a picture of what I was doing except replace my hand with the ccd in the camera.

It is a strange picture, but what is happening is that the image is coming through the telescope and being projected onto my hand. I think that is just the neatest thing! To do this, take the eyepeice out of the telescope, then move your hand back and forth until the image gets in focus.

As I said, not really astrophotos, but it is used in astronomy on occasion. I dont know if you recall the posts from the transit of Venus, but one of them showed a projected image of the sun.

There it is below. That is just the same thing, except all machined to work properly.

I thought it would be cool to try, and it turns out that it was!
I will get back to actual astrophotos tomorrow, this was just a fun thing that I thought I would show you.

July 30, 2012

Da Moon

This is the moon. I took this through my 4 inch refracting telescope with my camera attached to it. Fun stuff.

July 29, 2012

Dome Panorama

This is a composite of 30 pictures featuring the 32 inch telescope at UVic. The dome is actually round, it is not oval shaped, but you get a sort of fish eye effect with the composite like this. The telescope is actually much closer to me than it appears.

It is impossible to get a good view of the dome with just one shot unless you have a fisheye, and I dont have one of those, so I decided to make a composite to achieve the same effect. The compositor software is called Microsoft ICE, for Image Composite Editor. It is actually very good and easy to use.

On the left is another picture from the side this time.

I have said this before, but I will say it again. We host an open house every Wednesday night from 9-10 in the summer and from 8-10 during the winter. We take the month of september off as the telescope is used heavily for classes then.

The open house is located on the 5th floor of the Bob Wright Center at the University of Victoria and is open to all ages. In addition to this telescope we have several smaller telescopes set up on our rooftop terrace, and a virtual planetarium set up on a projector.

Recently we have been looking at Arcturus, Alberio, Saturn, Mars, the Moon, M57, M51, and M13.