Astrophotography in Central Mass 

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Maple Observatory Construction

Published on 2015-10-30, by

ATWB Pic of the Day (Oct. 27, 2015)

Published on 2015-10-29, by

I posted a few days ago about my favorite online astronomy forum Astromart and about Anacortes Telescope & Wild Bird (ATWB)‘s customer gallery.  They’ve just launched a new site with enhanced gallery functionality that incorporates a social media integrated theme.  I love the idea that people can comment on photos I’ve taken and vice versa gaining feedback and building community. Here’s a screenshot from the Astromart forums with my latest Orion Nebula as pic of the day in their sidebar:

ATWB Pic of the Day (Oct. 27, 2015)

ATWB Pic of the Day (Oct. 27, 2015)


Hunter’s Moon

Published on 2015-10-27, by

Last night the full moon dominated the sky from dusk until dawn. The temperature dropped below freezing and the grass and leaves were covered in frost. I used the night to fine tune the alignment of my optics.  I’m not entirely convinced the secondary mirror is at the ideal/correct placement and orientation.  The laser collimator was used to ensure the secondary is in correct relation to the primary, which I center-spotted.

For the previous many nights, I had noticed that stars on the left side of the camera frame had more coma or perhaps astigmatism (elongation).  I rotated the secondary mirror ever so slightly, readjusted the collimation of everything using the laser and stars, and now I perceive that the stars stretch towards the edges of the frame evenly on both sides now.  I’m still very new to all of this and so lots of experimentation is required.

After allowing the primary mirror to cool to equilibrium, which seemed to take a long time, I decided to snap a few shots of the moon.  Lunar astrophotography (can we call it that?) has the opposite challenge of deep space astrophotography.  The moon is incredibly bright and instead of long exposures, tracking the object as accurately as possible, I reverted to the shortest exposure my camera would allow without any tracking.  Any other targets were a loss with all of the light from the moon and the poor atmospheric conditions.  I found an interesting article this morning which describes last night’s moon as the last supermoon of the year and also a bit of history around this full moon’s moniker, The Hunter’s Moon.  You learn something new every day! ;-)

I sharpened this image every so slightly.  It’s possible to sharpen it up and increase the contrast so that all of the subtle craters pop out and yet I felt that the moon looked rather artificial when enhanced to that degree.

Hunter’s Moon 2015


Aldrich Observatory Construction

Published on 2015-10-26, by

Full Moon Selfie

Published on 2015-10-25, by



When the moon is full, astrophotographers often have less than an enthusiastic response.  It tends to dominate the sky and wash out any hope of observing deep sky objects.  I used the beginnings of tonight to try out my new folding table–a  big step up from setting things on a Rubbermaid tub.  I figured another good use for the bright full moon was to illuminate myself and telescope for a selfie. I tried to hold pretty still for 3 minutes while the exposure unfolded.  The hope was to catch the star trails as they seem to revolve around Polaris (made more obvious with software enhanced diffraction spikes).

Full Moon Selfie

A man and his telescope


Full Moon Negative

Published on 2015-10-25, by

The color negative of the full moon looks very similar to the moon during a total lunar eclipse.  This exposure (below) was taken with my 10″ f/4.5 Newtonian with a primary mirror figured and coated by Optic Wave Labs (OWL). I did very little in the way of processing the RAW file.  I ran the Noise Ninja plugin to cut down on the color noise inherent in DSLRs and to sharpen things up slightly.  Then I used Photoshop’s builtin color negative effect to invert everything.




ATWB Pic of the Day (Oct. 25, 2015)

Published on 2015-10-25, by

My favorite online astronomy forum is Astromart, operated seemingly by Anacortes Telescope & Wild Bird (ATWB).  In the beginning, that is not long after getting a telescope in December, I spent countless hours scrolling through the images uploaded by members and finding inspiration in the “picture of the day.”  In February, I took a photo of the quarter moon and uploaded it on a whim.  Sure enough it became the pic of the day.  Ever since I’ve made it a habit to upload my favorite bird, wildlife, and astrophotography.  Today, I logged into the forums and was delighted to see my best yet Andromeda galaxy photo.  It’s fun for an amateur to get a little recognition… a boost to keep on learning and experimenting… Here’s a screenshot:
ATWB Picture of the Day (Oct. 25, 2015)


Glimpsing the Orion Nebula

Published on 2015-10-25, by

Since acquiring a telescope in January, I’ve been fascinated with online images of the Orion Nebula and wanted to see it for myself.  A few months ago, I viewed it for the first time through my 10″ telescope with an OIII filter in place while it was low above the horizon one morning.  It’s truly a wondrous object with inherent captivating beauty.

The trees in my yard have been a major obstacle blocking clear views of objects rising in the southeast and setting in the southwest. The night before last, Orion passed through a gap between two trees at just the right height for me to take some photos. In the end, 13 of them were suitable to be combined into a single image. I think it came out really well, all things considered.  The moon was bright and the sky wasn’t very transparent.  I pushed the Canon EOS 6D camera’s ISO about midway at 6400 and used the long exposure and high ISO noise reduction features.

What do you think?  Use the contact form to send feedback.

M42 - Orion Nebula

M42 – Orion Nebula


My GoFundMe Library Telescope Campaign

Published on 2015-10-22, by

I’m a member of the Aldrich Astronomical Society , a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Massachusetts. When I joined in January, I became fascinated with the club’s efforts to put a telescope in every library in the state that wants one.

As it says on the club website, “The goal of the Library Telescope Program is to help foster scientific literacy, stimulate an interest in astronomy, and provide people who have never looked through a telescope the chance
to experience the excitement that comes from discovery. Placing the telescopes in local public libraries allows a greater general access to the telescope since they are intended to be checked out of the library just as a book.” My club, guided by our program coordinator John Root, has successfully deployed close to 50 telescopes state-wide.

I know this program works and changes the lives of young and old for the better.  My new friend Jared and his daughter came to the club via a library telescope and our daughters have become fast friends.  At our annual StarFest our daughters took their interest to another level as they launched rockets, met an astronaut who piloted a space shuttle, and watched a presentation on the New Horizons mission to Pluto.

I want to donate a library telescope, preferably to Quinsigamond Community College . I recently aquired the exact model of telescope from the Goodwill Auction website. I need funds to cover the remaining cost for accessories and modification that make the library telescope user-friendly.  A plaque will dedicate the telescope to my partner who has a rare form of vasculitis known as Buerger’s disease (thromboangiitis obliterans).


(above shows the various pieces I already have towards the completed library telescope)

Click the widget below to donate! Thank you!



Charlie’s best astrophotos of 2015

Published on 2015-10-20, by
© 2015 Charles Kelley Stevenson