Monday, December 26, 2011

Jupiter from a few weeks ago.

It just hasn't been a very good time these days for observing in Seattle.  Years ago, we seemed to have better skies, but just never seem to get very many really good nights these days.  Clouds, fog, crud or just plain unstable.
This photo of Jupiter was taken earlier this month on a fairly stable night.  I've done better, but I have to take what I can get.  Jupiter is in a very good position near the meridian after sunset now, so you don't have to stay up too late for the best viewing through less atmosphere.
This is about 600 frames stacked with Registax 6.  I got it running in Linux and for some reason it really performed well and was faster than Windows 7, but I think it may have been using dual processors for that, I'll have to experiment with both OSs for some more comparisons.  
Volcanic moon Io is casting the shadow on the planet clouds.  You can just make it out on the lower right in the cloud band.

Aussies get all the luck with comets.

Been a while since I posted something on the blog site, so I need to get caught up again.   I'll just say 2011 has been a year to put behind me, and looking forward to starting 2012 - even if the Mayan calendar says this is our final year!
Comet Lovejoy seen from the ISS
So, once again there is a way cool fancy comet in the skies that favors those that walk upside down below the equator.  A few years back, they got the best view of Comet McNaught (but it was discovered by an Aussie anyway), and now Comet Lovejoy is showing off down there.  I guess I can't get too annoyed, even though we have had the 2nd driest December here in the NW, the skies have been quite foggy and hazy this month, so there haven't been that many really good observing nights.
Australian amateur Terry Lovejoy, discovered the comet and had it named after him.  The comet is known as a "sungrazer" since it appeared to be heading directly toward the sun and it's doom.  The SDO spacecraft has imaged a lot of these kamikaze comets over the years.  This comet barnstormed over the sun and reappeared on the other side surviving the  87,000 mile skimming of the solar surface.   It's now showing up in the "Down under" skies and putting on an amazing show!
(Although, the crew on the ISS has a much better view if you ask me).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Orbital time-lapse

Another really pretty video of the Earth from the space station along with a bunch of auroras and thunderstorms flickering in the clouds.   Very cool, but I think they could have used some better music.
Watch it in band-width sucking HD and full screen for best effect.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael K├Ânig on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cub Scouts visit the Highlands Astro-shack Observatory

I've had a few contacts through the club website lately asking about club members that could come to a scout meeting and demonstrate or teach some things about astronomy and telescopes.  I thought it would be more fun, and a lot easier to invite the Cub Pack (or is it a Troop?) over to our backyard observatory for a viewing.  Ok, November is getting into the dangerous month for storms and rare clear skies, but at least I can show them the telescope and how it works.
A small group of local scouts came over on a field trip the other night for a tour of the sky and telescope.  Skies were clear during the day, but hazed over later around sunset (it never fails!), but the moon was out and Jupiter was just clearing the tree in the backyard.  I was able to give them a fairly good view of the moon, and as it was lost in the oncoming haze, I swung around to Jupiter and showed them the cloud bands and the 4 moons.  NASA (or is it Russia now?) was cooperative and provided a space station flyby also which I pointed out to them.
Despite lousy skies, it was a great success!  The kids had a lot of good questions (as well as the parents) and I was able to answer them as fast as I could (they had a lot of questions that were fired at me in rapid succession).  Another group of scouts are coming next week, and the parents were so pleased that they asked if I could host a few more evenings with a few more groups.  Of course I said I would do it.
(click photos to view full size)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

I'll probably hide in my basement tonight with the lights off, since I failed to get candy, and what is the point of buying a huge bag for about 7.5 kids that show up?  That stuff just isn't as good tasting as it used to be.
I saw this photo on Phil Plait's blog and liked the pumpkin, just thought I would share this one.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In Seattle, every clear night is a special night.

Finally had a break in the weather last night.  Didn't last too long, but enough for a midnight peek and get a few shots of Jupiter last night.  Skies were very stable probably about 8/10 if I can rate our skies.  Grabbed some videos of Jupiter while I could.  I was going for some more as the red spot rotated around the side of the planet, but then it all went dim on my screen.  Leaned out the door and peeked up and saw some wispy cloud gunk had gone between me and Jupiter.  Decided to quit at that time and send my data into the house for processing.
Pretty happy with the results.  This was probably the best of the few that I tried last night, but I can usually improve processing when I try it when awake - rather than at 1:45am.
Io is the moon that can be seen just to the left of the planet.
(click for bigger)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Not much change in about 40+ years.

I was at mom and dad's house this afternoon digging through dad's ties trying to find something that would possibly look good for an interview this week (already nervous about this).  I thought I would paw through some of the old slides to see what was in there.  Found a few photos of myself that were kind of fun and thought I would share them.  A little embarrassing maybe, but then I guess I'm still pretty much the same after 40 years.
The first photo is me sitting in the first officer's seat in a 747 that I got a tour of.  Dad and I were in the YMCA "Indian guides".  I wasn't wearing my feather and leather vest at this time.
The father of one of the boys in the tribe(?) was a pilot and flew this plane.  We all got a tour of it and I was totally impressed.  Funny thing I remember was that the dad had a thumb that was stubby, it was cut off in the past, but not sure how.  Still they let him fly a 747 even with a stub!
My interest in the manned space program is evident in the next photo.  This was back in about 1971, probably around the time Apollo 14 was going to the moon.  I was quite impressed with the missions and followed them closely while in my jammies sitting on the living room floor. I did have a few plastic models including the now valuable "Gulf Oil" LEM cardboard model which hung from the ceiling lamp in my bedroom.
So as you can see in this photo, I was simulating my own landing mission on the moon in the living room.  Obviously, I was the commander of the mission and my sister was lunar module pilot and lying down on the job.  I had the proper paper helmet, and a PLSS on my back ready for the EVA on the moon.  From the serious look in my face, I was probably dodging a boulder filled crater that the computer was trying to set me down in!
(Click the photos to see full size)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Expedition 31 crew photo and poster.

I always enjoy NASA's new sense of humor in the crew "movie posters".  Seems that the official crew photo this time has some Van Gogh in the background.
Too add a little more to the fun, I spotted a Cherokee 140 down at Boeing Field late this last summer, which also had similar artwork on it's tail. I wasn't sure at first about the logo on the vertical stabilizer  but after seeing photos from "Burning Man" I realized that this plane was a participant in the desert festival.  That could be a fun trip down there an land in the desert, but not really sure if I'm into running around naked wearing nothing but paint and cardboard covered with feathers, bubble gum and rubber bands (just made that up, but you know what I mean).  If you ask me, I think a plane like that is just asking for the dreaded FAA ramp check!

Summary of all shuttle flights.

There is a new document out to test out the ink on your color printer if you want.  I'm sure you can burn through most of your colors if you want.  NASA has published a pretty nice 300 page document in .pdf format that is free for download. It contains a summary of each of the shuttle flights in about 2 or 3 pages each.  Timelines, photos and other goodies.
|Click here to download it (36 Meg .pdf file) |

Friday, October 7, 2011

Enceladus showing off.

The fountains of Enceladus. A pretty photo from Cassini that was just released. (Click for bigger)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fly with the ISS down the West coast.

This has been all over the internet the last few days, so it's probably nothing new.  I was watching it and wondering what the ISS was flying over.  I then spotted the familiar view of the Salton Sea and Baja in Southern California and then realized it was flying down the West coast.
Backing up to the start again I saw what I was looking for - Washington State.  Easy to pick out the lights (light pollution actually) of the Seattle/Puget sound area, then a litte farther down Portland can be seen.  Very cool to see home from this view!
Notice the airglow, thunderstorms and other things as the station flies south.  Make sure you click the YouTube logo on the video and select the HD version, and go full screen for the best effect.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Familiar object just trying something different - M27

Some of the "easy" things in the sky are always tempting to try again and again.  I shot this image of M27 about a week ago.  Basically, the only thing I did different was a much longer exposure.  Took my chances, and tried to put a little more trust and confidence in my autoguiding system.  I took a few 10 minute exposures to see if I could get in deeper to this object.  Seemed to work!  You can see a little more faint details around the edges of the nebula.  Guiding errors aren't to bad either.  The Starshoot camera and PHD Guider are working pretty well now.
I'm sure I could process this better if I could remember some of the methods that Adam Black taught me when I was at Mt. Lemmon last December.  Pretty happy with the results otherwise!
This is 6 exposures at 10 minutes each, ISO800 and the 12" telescope at f/6.3.
As always, click to see bigger.

Another exploding star!

Neighbor galaxy M101 decided to show off this time since M51 blew off a couple stars in the last few years.  Ok, they aren't really neighbors, but they are both in the Big Dipper handle.  Caught an image of the new supernova last week.
It's a doozy!  I haven't tried, but I've heard it can be seen with small telescopes also these days.  Probably reached it's peak and starting to fade, but I caught it at least.  It's also the nearest supernova to Earth in the last 30 years.  Just a nearby 21 million light years away.   But don't worry, still too far away to extinquish us with a gamma ray burst!

The techie stuff:
  • Camera: Canon 350D Modified
  • Scope: Meade 12" LX200 at f/6.3
  • Guider: Orion 80ED with Starshoot camera and PHD Guider
  • Exposures: 5 x 7 minutes at ISO800

9/11/2011 - 10 years.

10 years ago the most horrible event in aviation history happened.  Don't need say much more since those visions are forever burned in our minds. 
Today I'll remember 9/11 by celebrating our continuing freedom to fly our own airplanes - by going flying!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ISS flyover tonight.

Got lucky, and managed to capture the ISS again with some fairly good images again.  It's kind of a hit and miss thing to get some good images.  For years I was using about 1/500th/second for shutter speed, and that was fine, but now that the station is done, and a lot brighter with all the panels, modules and spacecraft parked there it's a lot brighter now.  I've been experimenting with 1/1000th/second now and that seems to do the trick.  Faster shutter speed also means less motion blurred images.
(Click the image to see full size)

Monday, August 15, 2011

20 years in the sky.

When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.  -- Leonardo da Vinci

A different blog entry this time.  Yesterday 8/14, was the 20th anniversary of my first airplane solo flight.  I thought it would be fun to write up an essay summary of the last 20 years of my flight experience.

20 years ago this morning....
TWENTY! Yes, it's been that long since I was first kicked out of the nest (although, I didn't take much of a kick) and flew my first solo flight in the Mighty N22677 Cessna 150 at RNT airport. 15.5 hours from first lesson to solo. I would have done it in about 14, but I remember that day, I was so excited to get James out of the plane that I flew badly at PWT, so we went over to TIW to see if I would do better. Nope. I was still hopeless. Next day I had calmed down enough to empty that right seat.
I remember that I taxiied out to the runway and hard some clanking noise. Dummy! Seatbelts should be around your waist, not bashing the paint on James' plane outside the door. Three good landings, some photos, shirt cutting, and back to BFI for my triumphant return as a real PILOT!
I finished up in October, about 44 hours total over 3 months and 1 week. Total cost was right around $3200. That would probably be around $6,000+ in today's flight training dollars. Flew every weekend after that, and later in the winter I realized I had to teach myself crosswind landings after some really embarrassing sideways, tire screeching, airplane tipping landings. This IS the license to learn as we all know - and I learned!
Solo logbook entry
Back then I was was thinking maybe I would do this kind of thing for a living. My vision at the time was a color blind, 20/400 nearsighted, blinder than a one-eyed bat with a cataract (eyes were fixed with lasers in 2003, so I'm a 20/20 hawk now that can identify a Cirrus SR22 from 5 miles). Airlines may not like me, but maybe commuter or cargo would work. Of course I'm glad I stuck with a computer type job and didn't go that way, aviation just isn't what it used to be for a job.
Moving on, I got my Instrument rating, then Commercial, and finally Flight Instructor certificate. Somewhat embarrassed to say that the last check-ride I took was my CFI. Yes...I pilot friends want me to get my CFII, keep kicking me, I'll get it! Maybe the CFI ride was so traumatic that I haven't done anything else yet. It was horrible! I barely passed the 3 hour oral and should have stopped for the day and did the flying the next day. Why? All I had to eat that day due to nerves, was a Coke and a Snickers bar (and I'm not all that fond of Snickers) after the oral part. Bad move Tom! I did get up and fly, and Chuck the FAA guy was very pleased that I was a totally different person in the plane (people that know me still say that) and he felt that I did have a chance. Still, I blew the steep turns, and came back and found that the landing gear had already come down (I forgot to set the auto disable) for landing. Then I proceded to try to forcefully retract the gear by bashing it into the runway. Pink slip.
Back the next day, I was lying on the FBO couch, tired from lack of sleep, and I think I did have a bowl of Rice Krispies that morning, so I had some food. Larry still laughs when I remind him of that day. I was lying on my back shaking, moaning and almost needed a cone around my neck to keep from chewing off my left paw. Finally, Chuck arrived and I proved I could do it - passed! Whew....I could now teach people to do this! (I've never been good at tests....math, history, social studies, blood tests...)
Begged, pleaded, tried to bribe, and finally got a job with the infamous Aviator's Flying Club at BFI as an instructor and office assistant. I was making $12/hour which was better pay than the guys at Wings Aloft with their white shirts and epaulets with stripes, but more pay and sandals and a t-shirt were my style!
The Aviator's was a fun club, worn out hanger office, dirty carpet, an IBM 8088 PC for flight planning, pool table, and there was a secret button on the coke machine on the lower right that you push with your left toe and beer would be dispensed. The FAA would visit us often, and they weren't there for lessons, but when we knew they were showing up, we would hide the Mooney at another airport for the day. It had a flammable interior that was never changed. We all had to visit the FAA in our finest most digified suit and ties once - with our logbooks. Seems that they wanted to check who had flown a plane that wasn't singed off as airworthy. Yes, I flew that one a few times. (paperwork issue, nothing with the plane). "Remedial training with an A&P licensed guy" was our punishment. We had lunch at the Museum of Flight for our "retraining" (mostly telling stories and bad mouthing the FAA) and one of our guys was an A&P who signed us off as "completed". Ha!
I could go on and on with stories, but I'll just list some of the memorable events and accomplishments.

In 20 years, here are some numbers, events and brief comments on things I remember.
Between 8/14/91 and 8/14/11.
  • Total flight time - 2,259.4 (just over 94 days off the ground!)
  • Landings (including the dreaded 'arrivals' and night) - 5,420
  • Takeoffs - 5,420 (notice it does match the above figure)
  • Pilot in command - 2,116.6
  • Flight instruction given - 1,949.9 (as you can see, I let other people pay for my addiction)
  • Glider time - 20
  • Most flying in a year - over 350+ hours
  • Least flying in a year - 30 (I've had my burnout years)
  • Aircraft (including gliders) flown - 29 different types.
  • Students soloed - probably around 40+
  • Students completed - around 15 (yes, what they say about student dropout is true)
  • Times CFI has expired - 0 ZERO! There have been years that I never taught, but I'd NEVER let this thing expire (read above)
  • Most rewarding student solo - 85 hours. Student had been lead along by bad instructors. I believed in her, and got her out there alone. She moved before finishing, but I hear from her now and then and she still thanks me for it!
  • Shortest solo - 11 hours. He had glider experience (and got me into it)
  • Farthest away from home plane rental - New York City. Flew around Manhattan and the WTC - 1999 when they were still there)
  • Farthest flight in a Cessna 150 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin. If you want to test out your butt and headset, try it.
  • Countries flown to - Canada. This was back when it was easy.
  • Landed at wrong airport - 1 time at night
  • NASA forms filled out - 3. Flew through TIW Class D while talking to OLM once. Fell 400 feet out of a hold at OLM, set off alarms at RNT when too low on an NDB approach. Never hurts to cover your ass if you feel guilty about something!
  • Airplanes destroyed - ZERO! (some have been lost after I flew them - not my fault)
  • Airplanes damaged - dented a wing, cracked wheel pants, dragged a wingtip trough bushes (just stained it), fortunately nothing too expensive. Even old rentals, I treat with respect.
  • Damage while next to plane - one night a fuel truck backed into an aileron destroying it, I had to drop to the ground to avoid getting hit by the tail as it swung over my head. Student and I changed planes.....fuel guy changed jobs.
  • Thunderstorms flown through - zero, but I did fly under one once briefly.
  • Thunderstorms chased - 1. Tried t chase one once with a video camera, but it got away from me. Faster than a screaming Cessna 150.
  • Biggest crosswind - about 90 degrees gusting to 25 knots at Auburn
  • Fastest in a single engine - 200 mph. I was well over red-line and it was by accident. Descending from a skydiver drop and wasn't watching speed until - whoops!
  • Most dangerous job - flying skydivers. It was a lot of fun though! Duct tape does hold planes together, and people don't jump from perfectly good airplanes.
  • Worst paying - Skydiver driver - $10/hour Tach. Came to abut $7/hour for flying 10+ hours to 12,500 feet dump the load and go back for more.
  • Highest in a single - got up to 13,000 feet with skydivers once, it was a 95 degree day too in Shelton. Didn't want to come down either. It was cool up there.
  • Lowest altitude flown - Slightly below ground - no more comments. ;-)
  • Farm sprinkler flown through - 1
  • Loops in airplane - 2. Again, another no comment item.
  • Student crash plane - 0 zero.
  • Students lost while I was on board – many!
  • Student crying – Yes. One overshot RNT completely, another was just having a bad time learning and wanted to give up since she could never get the landings right.
  • Student reassuring hugs given – Several. (they were girls, not guys!)
  • Gender of students with biggest ego – Male students. Guys, don't fool me. If you suck, just admit it. I can tell, and we'll work on that.
  • Smallest ego – Female students. They get emotional at times, need a hug, but they will always admit when something isn't right. I do find female students easier to teach at times than guys. Again, can't hide it from me!
  • Youngest student – 11 years old. This was back before kids were on video games, and his parents made him work hard for his lessons. Good kid. He later did get a license and I'm sure he's working in the aviation industry now.
  • Student fuel discount – I was flying with a guy once who worked at Galvin as a 'ramp rat'. He got a good discount on 100LL so he would fuel his car with it. Only car that I ever knew that smelled like and airplane....and I wondered at first why he shouted “Clear!” before starting his car.
  • Student I could never solo – nice guy, but he never got it. I tried over and over to get him to do emergency procedures right. I wold pull the throttle and say “now what?” He would go through stuff and as the last step he would undo his seatbelt. “Why are you doing that?”, I asked. “So I can get out quickly after we land in the field!”. I always told him he would get out quickly for sure – through the windshield and propeller if the panel didn't stop him first!
  • Student emergency landing - 1. Cessna had a carburetor problem where if you pushed it in too fast, it would sputter for a bit before full power. Student did that on takeoff once, got scared, and put it back down. Ran off runway, took out a taxiway light, tore off brake and popped a tire. He did keep flying though!
  • Multitasking – in a plane, I can talk to a student, watch airspace, listen to ATC, look for traffic and toss in a smart-ass funny remark all at the same time. But if I'm in the kitchen, don't talk to me while I'm on the the phone with someone else, I'll tend to lock up! :-|
  • Lost in airplane - 2 times. Landed at wrong airport once, and almost landed at Auburn while aiming at RNT (Eric still laughs about that one)
  • Engine failures - zero. I'll keep knocking on that wood.
  • Engine problems - several. Mostly rough running due to some minor problem.
  • Asked for 'souls on board' and do you need equipment? - 1. Coming back in to BFI with a sick sounding 172. It was running, and there wasn't question about landing.
  • Flight without transponder - one day. Skydiving plane had broken junk. Had to fly with a wingman jump plane in formation to stay near his transponder. ATC approved it.
  • Wake turbulence in air - a few times. Hit wake from SEA traffic overhead while in the pattern at BFI. That WILL wake you up!
  • Wake turbulence on final - one. Followed a little too close behind a 757 landing on the other runway at BFI. Not a fun thing. Pucker factor goes to about 9.5.
  • Near miss - 1. Confusion and lot of traffic found me too close on final with a Cherokee once. When you hear "multiple targets" LOOK OUTSIDE!
  • Near planned - about 10 feet in formation with a friend.
  • Steepest bank - 59.9 degrees. HA!!! :-)
  • Coolest plane(s) flown - T-34 Mentor/PT-19/Cirrus SR22
  • Coolest plane "flown" - Boeing 777 simulator
  • Coolest plane yet to be flown - Boeing B-17 (NEED B-17 in my logbook sometime!)
  • Glass cockpit - half hour flying a Cirrus SR22. Sweet ride....but I'll never be renting one of those. I'm too cheap.
  • Vomit in plane - 1. Student barfed.
  • Vomit in plane visible - 0 Zero. Student above who barfed - swallowed it.
  • Vomit on ramp - 1. Above student opened door just off runway and made a puddle of sick on the ramp.
  • Vomit after flight – 1. Maia held it until reaching my lawn at home, then planted carrots.
  • Myself sick - 1. Backseat of 310 on way to OSH. Didn't admit it, but later did when friend back there with me was also sick. No barf, just feeling really icky.
  • Outrun bad storm - 1. It was Easter one year where a windstorm was supposed to arrive that evening. Heading to TIW the tower said "sorry no wind reading, that instrument just blew away". Turned around and landed at RNT. 50 knot gust hit 5 minutes after we tied the plane down.
  • Last to see pilot before death - 1. Talked to a guy I knew at flying club as he was getting into plane with 2 friends. Took off, went into thunderstorm, hit mountain. All killed. That was a freaky experience. But it was his "gotta get there-itis" that killed him. Textbook example.
  • Court witness - 1. Went to court as a witness for that. Had to testify that the weather was bad that day. It was.
  • Progress on becoming an Ace - 3 kills 2 more to go! Chopped a Canadian goose in half on takeoff one night. Another night hit a bat with the windshield. Recently hit a bird and didn't realize it until later when someone reported a dent and guts on the wing. Must have been a tiny hummingbird not to hear it.
  • Strangest plane flown - Ercoupe. A proper model with no rudder pedals, just a brake. I enjoyed flying checkouts in that and looking at the face of the guy flying. They always looked slightly scared, but happy in that plane. So foolproof and easy to fly. Fly with window open and elbow on the sill. :-)
  • Most rewarding day - This was recently. I was giving rides for women and girls for their first ride in a plane for Women in Aviation 100th anniversary. Took up 33 girls on 11 flights that day. Everyone was excited and came back thrilled and smiling. I'm doing this every year now!
  • Future rewarding fights - I finally joined Angel Flight. Still need to do orientation, but then I can fly cancer patients and sick kids for treatment. Tax write off for this flying and good too help those who need a ride.
  • Friends I encouraged to learn - 1. Hard to convince friends to get into this due to cost and the "little planes are dangerous" misconception. Did act as mentor for a coworker friend and helped her get her license. (Good job EV, proud of you!)
  • Did the kid know something? - One afternoon, Eric and I were going to go up for a flight, and take his son Tristan along.  Every time we installed the kid in the backseat, he would start screaming loudly, crying and wouldn't shut up until we took him out.  After 3 tries, we decided to abort the flight since he was freaking us out with his behaviour and figured maybe it was some kind of warning.
  • Worst student experience - Flew with these two Arab guys. They didn't speak English, they only showed up half the time for lessons, the were always sweaty (and I had to touch the throttle after they did), smelled sweaty, and had a bad day once teaching one how to land. "When you get close to the runway, pull back gently" So at 5 feet he YANKS it hard! I'm pushing, he's pulling and we rollercoster down the runway, fortunately not touching the ground. Around again, "No, don't pull that hard!" Next time around he PUSHES toward the ground. I'm now pulling, he's pushing and we rollercoaster down the runway again. This was pre-9/11 but I assure you, these guys were no threat to national security.
  • Who's flying the plane moment - Was out playing with another CFI between students. We were playing "watch this!" and doing landings. We came around this one time and pancaked the plane into the runway - BAM, BOUNCE, SKID! I looked over at him and said "That REALLY sucked!" the then told me "Oh, I though you were flying the plane?!" We laughed all the way back to the tie-down as we taxied the remains of the plane across the ramp.
  • Blown tire - 1. Didn't notice until about the 3rd landing. Was playing a safer version of "watch this!" with Eric. Doing soft field landings. Let the nose touch and things started shaking all over the place as the nose looked lower than normal. Both of us were pulling back to keep the prop off the ground (there was plenty of clearance though) and taxied off the runway. I leaned out the door and saw the flat tire. "I have an idea!" I told Eric. Tower cleared me for a high speed taxi down the ramp, and I simply did wheelie down to the parking area keeping the nose in the air. Took all our strength to push that thing into parking though!

    My shorts were louder than a C-150 at full power. 

So there are some of the good, scary, and fun memories of the last 20 years. I sometimes wonder what I would be doing now if I went home to "think about it more" after that intro lesson at Flight Tech in June 1991. But I just wrote a check for $500 to start and said "ok, I want to do this. Let's schedule some lessons!". I'm sure it was a life changing thing. I'd probably be living in a different house, doing a totally different job, would definitely have done something different in school. I did quit my job once and went back to school to learn Avionics Tech, but that was a bad experience after all. One thing I know, if I didn't do it back then, I would have certainly done it later. If not, I would have still been interested in airplanes and would have looked up and thought "I wish I had learned to do that". That would have been sad.

"There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots"
Fly safely and always keep the greasy side down!


Landing 4,478 (just a guess)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Comet, nebula and full moon imaging.

Comet Garradd is in the eastern sky these days.  Last week it floated past the M15 globular cluster for some nice pretty views of the comet.  Kind of a near and far object in the same small chunk of sky.
At the time, this comet was about magnitude 8 when I took this.  It may go up to about 6th from what I read.  Dark sky visual target for sure.
This is just a single 4 minute image, I took about 12 of them, but still trying to figure out how to stack the comet and stars so neither of them are streaked.

The next object is the Iris nebula.  Nicely located almost straight up these days.  I took a bunch of 7 minute exposures of this one.  I always make the mistake of doing some quick processing at 2am when I come back in, I have to see what I captured! The next morning, I look at my processing and it looks terrible and work on it more - after a night's sleep.  This time they both have their good qualities I think.  I like the color in the fast process, but the "next day" processing is less noisy.  Comments?
Finally, last night was the dreaded nearly full moon (Aug. 13 is full) but the Clear Sky chart showed very nice skies.  I put on the H-Alpha filter and gave that another try.  I haven't used it a whole lot and still need practice on making things look right, but it sure is nice how it cuts through natural and man-made light pollution and pulls out small details.
This is the Eastern half of the Veil nebula.  Six frames, ISO 800, at 7 minutes each.  Dark subtracted to reduce hot pixels, but always seems to be more background crud in these.  Maybe I need to change some color balance on the camera to the red side rather than centered?
Kind of nice details in it that don't show up in visible light though.
(click on the images to see a larger view)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Atlantis re-entry seen from ISS.


4/14/81 - 7/21/11



"Hey thanks, Butch, great words, great words," Ferguson said. "You know, the space shuttle has changed the way we view the world and it's changed the way we view our universe. There are a lot of emotions today, but one things indisputable -- America's not going to stop exploring.
"Thank you Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour and our ship, Atlantis. Thank you for protecting us and bringing this program to such a fitting end. God bless all of you, God bless the United States of America."  
 -- STS-135 commander, Chris Ferguson

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Final Ascent video STS-135

Beautiful video, beautiful ship on her last flight.

Final shuttle departure from the ISS.

Atlantis and the shuttle program leave the ISS forever.    The final fly-around.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Caution wake turbulence.

I just came across one of the more interesting angles of a shuttle launch from last week.
Photo was taken from the Shuttle training aircraft just after Atlantis passed by.
Here is the view looking directly down the fresh SRB plume.  I wonder if the Shuttle leaves wingtip vorticies like an airplane does on takeoff?
...and a nice shockwave shot looking right up Atlantis' tailpipe.  Almost the opposite angle of the plume photo.  Great stuff!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Drop in astrophotography interest? (and a view of M-16)

Some interesting information showed up in my email recently.  I guess there is a drop in activity on the astrophotography forums.  People are posting less photos and there seems to be a decline in the interest.
I got this info in the AIC (Astro Imaging Conference) newsletter in my email.   A quote from the letter:
The study found overall interest, as represented by forum posts, declined over 66% between 2005 and 2009. 2010 saw an up tick in activity but 2011, based on the first four months of submissions, is projected to fall short of both the 2010 and 2009 totals indicating an ongoing erosion in participant enthusiasm.
...Overwhelming, poor weather was the single greatest reason for spending less time taking astronomical images. This was followed by time requirements of job related responsibilities. While other hobbies or interests accounted for the third most frequently cited reason.
So it appears that probably weather is a huge factor, which is my main problem here also.  So I'm not the only one suffering this last year due to clouds!  Next is job related responsibilities (economic indicator I would assume) and finally other hobbies.  I can see that, when the skies aren't there, other things will take over.

I'm still at it though, when I can.  Clear skies are rarer then ever over the last few years.  Seems to get worse all the time, and other than the natural frustration involved with this hobby, I still make an attempt to take some photos any time the skies are clear.  Here is my latest image of M-16 Eagle Nebula. 
Technical stuff....
Exposures: 14 at ISO 800
Time: 7 minutes each
Scope: Meade LX200 Classic 12" at f/6.3
Camera: Canon 350D (with IR mod)
Guider: Orion 80ED (with Starshoot autoguider and PHD Guider software)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Final shuttle "nose art" cancelled.

From this morning:
Update | July 6, 2011: Due to the logo being inadvertently applied to the door upside down, Atlantis will fly without its nose art. A plain black door was installed instead.
The final flight was originally going to have the shuttle program logo on the tank, but it was printed wrong so it won't fly on the final mission.
Kind of sad if you ask me, almost like flying the American flag upside down as in distress.  Although, with the state of the space program after this flight, I guess it's kind of appropriate!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Infographic: Shuttle history.

Another nice graphic of the shuttle program. Why does all this great stuff come out when the program is ending?!  (Click for full size)

Shuttle sound.

I came across a very nice Youtube recording of a launch.  Just view it in HD mode, and turn up your subwoofer.

UPDATE:  Looking at the video there was another suggested video on the list.  Again, enough subwoofer boost to scare the cats out of the room and knock the shampoo bottle down in the shower (yes, I've done this!) is required for proper effect.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

STS-135 press kit

The press kit for STS-135 is available for free download now.  It's 172 pages long and has a lot of information about the entire 30 year shuttle program.  It's a 172 page .pdf file, so save your ink and print it (discretely) on your printer at the office!

Discovery in February....and now with wings clipped.

I guess I didn't post this one before, but here it is.  This is just a compilation of some of my best photos from the Discovery STS-133 launch in February.  I did a little processing of the images and put them together in a sequence.
(as always click the image to see in it's full size glory!)
Now where is Discovery?  She is sitting in the OPF at KSC getting torn apart, cleaned and prepared for transport to the Smithsonian Udvar Hazy museum at Dulles Airport.  There was a day recently where special media guests were invited inside - yes - INSIDE, the shuttle to look around and take photos.
(Photo: Ben Cooper)
A couple of my space shuttle acquaintances were invited, Robert Pearlman and Ben Cooper.   If I could go inside the shuttle like that, I would have to wear a diaper.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tycho crater up close.

If you have seen the moon - that bright annoying that that always seems to come out on the clear nights chasing us deep-sky guys back indoors - you are probably familiar with Tycho crater.  It's that crater that has the huge ray system that splatters across the face of the moon.
Here is a shot of it that I took during a total eclipse a few years back, easy to see Tycho just to the right and center of the Earth's shadow.
The crater name comes from Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe who is probably remembered mostly for his replacement gold nose which replaced his fleshy snout that was chopped off in a fight!
It's always fun to see familiar places that appear so small and far away, zoomed in really close by some of our spacecraft.  Yesterday this amazing photo was released of the central peak of Tycho crater taken by the LRO spacecraft from probably about 30 miles up.   The peak in the crater is about 2 miles high, and if you zoom in, you'll even see there is a very large boulder sitting on the top.  That big rock would probably fit nicely into the football field of Quest field in Seattle with room around the edges for people to sill sit and admire the big rock.
Pretty amazing photo of the peak with lots of details.  Click the image (or any others) for a full sized view.  It would make a nice desktop background photo too if you are looking for something new to  stack your icons on.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Three galaxies in a Dragon.

Another clear night, this last weekend.   Sometimes we do get them around here, we know it's summer when we have 1 good night a week rather than on a bi-monthly basis.   I found that I've had good luck with going 8 minutes on exposures, so I gave this little cluster of dim fuzzies another attempt.  Sometimes things just work out right and the telescope autoguider will behave for the whole evening.  The stars in this image are fairly round indicating that things were tracking fine in 8 minute increments.  That does pull in more small details too, and the dust lanes in the spiral galaxy on the left can be seen as well as a line through the edge-on galaxy.  Almost like a very small distant version of NGC 891.
As always, click the image for the full size view.  Technical details below also.

NGC 5985 in Draco
June 26, 2011 - midnight
  • Camera - Canon 350D (with modification)
  • Scope - Meade 12" LX200 Classic at f/6.3
  • Exposures - 9 x 8 minutes at ISO 800
  • Guide scope - Orion 80ED piggyback
  • Guider - Starshoot autoguider with PHD Guider

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Moon conjunction with Jupiter.

    Sure, but not our moon this time.  Every now and then the moon will be perfectly aligned in the sky for a conjunction of another planet or even a total occultation of the distant planet where the moon will pass in front.  We don't see these here in Seattle too often since rare events are usually cursed by bad weather.
    Here is a unique view of Mars' moon Phobos passing in front of Jupiter viewed from the European's Mars Express spacecraft a few days ago.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    ....and now the video of the ISS/Shuttle

    More photos keep coming out of this.  Some of these will have to end up in the NASA top 10 coolest photos along with the Apollo 11 "Refection" or "Phoenix landing" (my favorite).
    Here is the video.  Don't waste your time on small screen click it and go to full HD for the full effect.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Finally! The ultimate ISS photos are out.

    The Russians finally got their slow act together (maybe their Internet upload speeds to Houston are kind of slow?) and released the photos we have been waiting a couple weeks for.   Endeavour's final visit to the ISS in all her glory docked at the station.
    I'll have to make a large print of one of these photos, frame it, and put it on my wall with my other shuttle stuff.   I think this is my favorite shot, seems to have the best angle of the shuttle.
    (Thanks to Robert Pearlman for the nice display on CollectSpace)

    (click photo for bigger)

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Super - Nova!

    Able to wipe out good and evil, destroy an entire solar system, and spray gamma rays in all directions for billions of miles.  What is this horrible creature?  No, not the Death Star or La Nina, but it's - SUPER NOVA!
    Now available on a t-shirt.   So geeky and fun, I may have to order one of these for myself.

    California got our spring weather this weekend.

    A fancy looking swirl of clouds, almost looks like my galaxy photo from last night!  But the only reason I could get a shot at the galaxy and supernova is because the lousy spring weather we have had has hit California this time.
    Here is a photo that I captured from my basement satellite station of the storm.  Seems that it's very unusual for this to happen down there according to Cliff Mass, but this year hasn't been normal at all for weather, so it's probably no surprise.
    (click the image to see full size)