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.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Trifid Tripple Threat: The massive star factory known as the Trifid Nebula, which gets its name from the dark dust bands that trisect the glowing heart is a rare combination of three nebula types. The bluish patch is a reflection nebula where dusty gas scatters the light from the nearby Trifid born stars. Below the pink redish area is typical of emission nebula caused by the gas at the Trifid's core being heated by hundreds of scorching young stars until it glows in the red light typical of hydrogen. The gas and dust that criscross the Trifid nebula makes up the third kind of nebula in the cosmic cloud known as dark nebula because of their light obscuring effects.
Image captured by my friend Gary on May 29th 2011 with an AT8RC and Hypercams modified Canon 500D riding on an auto guided hyper tuned Celestron CGEM mount. A total of 4 x 10 minute frames @ ISO800 were dark frame calibrated in Image Plus and after initial adjustments transferred to CS2 for final tweaks. (Click on image to enlarge.)