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, October 27, 2010

On 25 Oct sunspot NOAA AR1117 was growing in size. Each of the primary dark areas is fully as wide as Earth. The sun spots magnetic field is crackling with B and C class solar flares. A solar flare is what usually happens when energy stored in twisted magnetic fields, usually above the sun spot, is suddenly released. The flare produces a burst of radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves to X-rays and Gamma rays. Solar flares are classified according to their X-ray brightness in the wavelength range 1 to 8 Angstromes. Three categories are: X-Class flares are big events and can cause planet wide radio blackouts and long lasting radiation storms. M-class flares are medium sized and can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earths Polar regions. Minor radiation storms sometimes follow an M-Class flare. C-Class flares are small with few noticeable consequences.
The images below were captured in Hydrogen-Alpha and in White light spectrums. Seeing conditions at the time were not favorable. Some image processing was required.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On 10 Oct 2010 periodic Comet 103P/Hartley 2 was near the double cluster in the constallation of Perseus. Scientists say that comet Hartley 2 is one of the most active comets they've seen, with copious outgassing from jets in the nucleus. The comet was revealed recently because before 1986 the comet had not been in an orbital path that would bring it near Earth. Close encounters with the planet Jupiter in 1947,1971 and 1982 transfered the comets orbit. The comet will make its closest encounter on 20 Oct 2010 (11 million miles)and should be visible near the star Capella pre dawn. Hartley's nucleus is small, less than a mile in diameter. Its surface offgasses at a higher rate than it's neucleus. The green color comes from the gasses that make up its Jupiter-sized atmosphere. The jets spewing from the comets nucleus contain cyanogen (CN) a poisonous gas and diatomic carbon (C2). Both substances glow green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum of space.

The second image was taken by NASA's Deep Impact Spacecraft which was within 435 miles of the Comet. The comet is somewhat Peanut shaped and is a cold, solid mass made of rock, space dust and frozen gasses.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The icy Planet Uranus is a smaller version of Jupiter and not a small rocky body like Earth. It has faint rings and 27 moons, the five largest moons are Miranda, Titania, Oberon, Umbriel and Ariel. It is the third largest planet in the solar system with a diameter of 32,000 miles. Uranus takes some 84 years to orbit the sun. It rotates on its side so half the time one pole is toward the sun and then the other making each of four seasons last approximately 20 years. It also spins backward compared to most other planets. The atmosphere is composed of approx. 83% Hydrogen, 15% Helium and 2% Methane and there are also traces of water and Ammonia. The faint bluish color is because the Methane gas in the atmosphere absorbs red light and reflects blue light. At the time of image capture, 23 September 2010, Uranus and Jupiter were only a few degrees apart. I made a composite image of the two planets. Instrument is a 12 inch SCT and Image Source DMK31 CCD camera. Total exposure time
was 15 seconds. Seeing conditions were fair. Some image processing was required.