Preface

I chose the name Central Coast Observatory since this is where Lompoc is located on the California coast. Although the sky is not very light polluted the seeing conditions in this area are poor. Transparency is generally poor due to water vapor agricultural dust and other fine particles such as pollen. For example, only once since 2009 was I able to just barely see the Milky Way and then only with averted vision. Prior years were much the same. Therefore I am pleased that I was able to capture the images exhibited in this web site.

It took much work, lots of time, and required pushing the sensors and optical systems to their limit. Some image processing was required for most images. Lunar imagery is generally no problem. For the most part I feel the systems I have are very robust and thus far have performed well given the seeing conditions in the area.

The observatory is totally home made and is 11 feet in diameter and 8 feet in height. The dome is manually rotated either clockwise or counter-clockwise on twenty-one base ring rollers and 5 radial rollers. The base is 4 inch thick concrete with a cinder block dome base and the dome is constructed entirely of plywood.

The photographs in this web site were taken using two Schmidt Cassegrain Telescopes (SCT) systems. The observatory houses a Meade LX-90 GPS 12 inch system mounted in Polar mode on a Meade Ultra Wedge and Tripod. Two cameras were used, a Meade Deep Space ll CCD Camera (DSI) and a Meade Lunar Planetary CCD camera (LPI). A Compaq computer controls both cameras.

The second SCT is housed in the Solar Observatory and workshop located next to the dome. The Solar optics are shown mounted in the Alt/Azimuth mode but since March 2010 has been reconfigured to the Polar mode. It is a Meade 8 inch GPS SCT and is equipped with a Baader solar white light filter on the primary optics and the spotting scope. Piggyback to the 8 inch is a Coronado 40mm Personal Solar Telescope (PST). The PST and the 8 inch optics imagery were taken with the primary camera which is the Image Source DMK31 monochrome ccd camera. The secondary camera is a Celestron NexImage Solar System CCD Camera. A Lap Top PC controls the solar imaging cameras.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Messier 31 NGC 224 is a galaxy in the constellation of Andromeda. It is a close neighbor at 2,538,000 light years. It is estimated that it contains 1 trillion stars and its age is 9 billion years. It is a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way and contains a concentrated bulge of matter in the middle surrounded by a disk of gas, dust and stars. It is more than 260,000 light years long, more than 2.5 times as long as the Milky Way. Though Andromeda galaxy contains more than a trillion stars our galaxy is more massive because it contains more dark matter. Messier 31 is one of more than 20 galaxies comprising the Local Group of galaxies. There are 2 other Messier objects both smaller dwarf elliptical galaxies seen in the photo, M37 and M110. These are small satellite galaxies gravitationally bound to the much larger M31 galaxy. They contain from 1 to10 percent of the mass of M31 and are a factor of 10 smaller in spatial extent.  Studies have indicated that there is an eclipsing Binary star system in M31. Measurements indicate that M31 is approaching the Milky Way galaxy at 300 kilometers per second. In about 5 billion years the two galaxies will collide (talk about a big bang,Yipe!). The image of M31 was captured by my friend Dave using a Sigma 170 - 500 F5.6 telephoto lens mounted on a Celestron CGEM hypertuned mount and a Canon T3i modified DSLR camera. Frames were 20 x 120" integration time  0.7 hours. Image processed using DSS software. (click image to enlarge).

Friday, January 16, 2015

Messier 1 NGC 1952, the Crab nebula, in the constellation of Taurus is a supernova remnant. It lies at a distance of 6500 light years and has a diameter of 11 light years. It was first discovered in July1054  by Chinese astronomers with the appearance of a new star. The new start was visible during daylight hours for 23 days. It is expanding at a rate of 1500 kilometers per second. Messier 1 is part of the Perseus arm of the Milky Way galaxy. At the center of the nebula the Crab pulsar, a neutron star, has a spin rate of 30.2 times a second. It emits pulses of radiation from Gama waves to Radio waves. Supernova 1054 was also assigned the variable star designation CM Tauri. The Crab nebula is situated only 1-1/2 degrees from the Ecliptic. There are frequent conjunctions and transits of planets as well as occultations by the Moon. Image capture was with an 8 inch SCT and Canon T3/1100D (modified) DSLR CCD camera. Exposure length at 2 minutes.



Saturday, December 6, 2014

Messier 22 NGC 6656 is an elliptical globular cluster in the constellation of Sagittarius near the galactic bulge region. It is one of the nearest globular clusters to Earth at a distance of 10,600 light years. It spans 32 minutes of arc translating to a spatial diameter of approx. 99 light years. Thirty two  variable stars have been recorded in the cluster. It is a metal poor cluster and its light is limited by dust extinction. M22 is very unusual in that it is one of only four clusters that are known to contain a planetary nebula. The nebula, designated as GJJC1, is estimated to be a mere 6000 years old. Two black holes of approximately 10 to 20 solar masses have been discovered in the cluster. Interaction between the stars and the black holes could explain the unusually large core diameter. Image capture was with an 8 inch SCT and Canon T3/1100D DSLR. 14 x 1 minute exposures were processed using DSS. (click to enlarge).

Friday, December 5, 2014

Messier 17 NGC 6618 the Omega nebula is an emission nebula approximately 5000 to 6000 light years distant in the Sagittarius-Carina arm of the Milky Way galaxy. It is a region of star formation and shines by excited emission from high energy radiation of young stars. The nebula contains a large amount of dark obscuring material. The mass of gas is estimated to be about 800 times that of our Sun. The total gaseous cloud seems to extend some 40 light years and has a mass of 30,000 solar masses. An open cluster of 35 stars lies embedded in the nebulosity and is the cause of the gases of the nebula to shine. There are up to 800 stars in the nebula, 100 of spectral type earlier than B9 and 9 of spectral type O. It is one of the youngest clusters known with an age of just 1 million years. Image capture was with an 8 inch SCT and Canon T3/1100D (modified), 10 x 2minute exposures were processed using DSS and PSP9. (click to enlarge).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Messier 16 NGC 6611, the Eagle Nebula, is an emission nebula in the constellation of Serpens and lies at a distance of approximately 7000 light years. It is a region of active star formation. The tower of gas coming off of the nebula is about 9.5 light years or about 90 trillion kilometers long. The hottest stars within the nebula star cluster are 10,000 times brighter than our Sun. The giant pillars of gas and dust are 2-3 light years long and the entire nebula is 20 light years across. Hot new born stars illuminate the gas. The pillars of creation, dense molecular hydrogen and dust within the nebula is slowly evaporating under the glare of intense radiation from the massive stars that were recently born nearby. Image capture was with an 8 inch SCT and Canon T3/1100D DSLR. 8 raw frames and 3 dark frames were image processed using Deep Space Stacker. (click to enlarge)

 

 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Messier 104 NGC 4994 is a Galaxy in Virgo. It is as bright as an 8th magnitude star and is as large as 6 by 2 minutes of arc.  It lies at a distance of 29.6 million light years. Its common name is the Sombrero Galaxy because of its central bulge and dark dust lanes of obscuring gas. The dust lane is actually a symetrical ring that encloses the bulge of the Galaxy. Most of the cold atomic hydrogen gas and dust lies within this ring. Infrared spectroscopy indicates the ring is the primary site of star formation within the Galaxy.  The image was captured using an 8 inch scope.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Messier 46 NGC 2437 is an open cluster in the constellation of Puppis. It is 5400 light years distant with an estimated age of 100 million years. The planetary nebula NGC 2438 appears to lie within the cluster near the Northern edge but it is most likely unrelated since it does not have the same radial velocity as the cluster. It is a rich cluster with 150 stars of magnitude 10-13. The cluster population is over 500 stars. The brightest of the stars are of spectral class A0 and each about 100 times more luminous than our Sun.  The cluster distance is 5400 light years and is receding from us at 41.4 Km/second. The nebula is  receding at 77 Km/second. The planetary is only about 2900 light years from the cluster  which means the planetary is a foreground object.  Planetary nebulas are only visible for a short time and fade quickly; only visible for a few 10,000 years before the material has dissipated into surrounding space. Image capture was with a Meade 8 inch SCT and Canon T3/1100D DSLR. 12 raw frames and 3 dark frames were converted stacked and combined using Deep Space Stacker software.