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, 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. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Messier 51 NGC 5194 the Whirlpool Galaxy with a Seyfert ll active galactic nucleus in the constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs) is estimated to be 24,000 light years distant from our Milky Way galaxy. With the advent of radio astronomy and subsequent radio images of M51 demonstrated that M51 and its companion galaxy are interacting. Its bright disk is estimated to be 43,000 light years in diameter and contains about 160 billion stars. The center of the galaxy appears to be undergoing advanced star formation. Three supernovas have been detected in past years. A type ll supernova was detected in 2011 that exhibited a spectrum much bluer than average. The progenitor was probably a yellow giant rather than the usual red or blue supergiant. Image capture was with an 8 inch scope.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Messier 15 NGC 7078 in the constellation of Pegasus is one of the oldest known globular clusters estimated to be 12 billion years old.  It is 33,600 light years distant and 175 light years in diameter. M15 is one of the most densely packed globular clusters in the Milky Way galaxy. It is experiencing "Core Collapse" and has an enormous number of stars in the core. It has 112 variable stars and 8 pulsars including one double neutron star system. It also contains "Pease 1" the first planetary nebula discovered within a globular cluster. There are also two bright X-ray sources in the cluster. The cluster is approaching Earth at 107 Km/sec. Image capture was with a Meade 8" SCT and a Canon T3/1100D DSLR. 10 raw frames and 3 dark frames each of 30 seconds duration were stacked, combined and processed using Deep Sky Stacker and PSP software.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Messier 3 NGC 5272 a globular cluster in the Northern constellation of Canes Venatici (Hunting Dogs) is one of the largest and brightest globular clusters and is made up of some 500,000 stars. It is estimated to be 8 billion years old and lies at a distance of 33,900 light years from Earth. It contains 274 known variable stars by far the highest number found in any globular cluster. It include 133 RR Lyrae variables of which a third display the "Blazhko Effect" of long period modulation. It is a prototype for the Oosterhoff type 1 cluster which is, for a globular cluster, considered "Metal rich". It also has an abundance of heavier elements. Its linear extension is 180 light years and gravitationally dominates a spherical volume of 760 light years. M3 contains a relatively large number of "Blue Stragglers", blue main sequence stars which appear to be rather young compared to the rest of the globular stellar population would suggest. Image capture was using a Meade 8"SCT and Canon T3/1100D DSLR. 8 raw frames at 30 seconds per frame and 2 dark frames were stacked and combined using Deep Sky Stacker (DSS) and PSP-9.
Messier 5 NGC 5904 globular cluster in the constellation of Serpens is one of the oldest globular clusters associated with the Milky Way Galaxy and is about 24,500 light years from Earth. It contains greater than 100,00 stars. It has a gravitational influence of 200 light years. There are 105 stars known to be variables 97 of which are RR Lyrae type. They are somewhat similar to Cepheid  type variables and can be used to measure distance since the relation between their luminosities and periods are well known. A dwarf Nova  has been noticed in this cluster. M5 is one of the oldest globular clusters and is estimated to be 13 billion years old. Image capture was with a Meade 8 inch SCT and Canon T3/1100D modified DSLR. 8 raw frames at 30 seconds per frame and 2 dark frames were stacked and combined using Deep Sky Stacker software and PSP-9.

Messier 53 NGC5024 Globular cluster is in the constellation of Coma Berenices. It lies at a distance of 58,000 light years from the solar system. The apparent angular diameter of 13' corresponds to a linear diameter of 220 light years. It is approaching us at a velocity of 112 Km/sec. When compared to other globular clusters its stars are not very concentrated toward the center. As in all globular clusters the stars are metal poor containing only little quantities of elements heavier than helium. It contains a respectable number of 47 known RR Lyrae variables some of which have changed their periods irreversibly with time. Image capture was with a Meade 8 inch SCT and Canon T3/1100D DSLR. 8 frames at 30 seconds each and 2 Dark frames were processed with Deep Sky Stacker (DSS) and PSP-9