Jamie Ferrell's 2008 6th Grade Science Project

My buddy Rick Ferrell's daughter wanted to do another space science project for this year's science fair, and I was quite happy to help. The project - measuring the expansion of Comet Holmes' dust cloud. It's been a pretty wet winter and the first chance to get a photo in a moonless sky was Jan 30. I got the ST2000xcm mounted on the GM8 mount, with the Zuiko 100mm lens (the comet's too large to photograph with a telescope now) and computer connected.... and then the clouds came in. We grabbed a couple of shots of the Orion Nebula area before the clouds swallowed that area too, and got Jamie practiced in how to operate CCDOPS to take photos. I was about to pack it in and wait for a clear night - a storm was due the next day and clouds were due to come in at 11pm according to ClearSkyClocks. So, maybe they came in a couple hours early. And then... it cleared! We got it refocused, and then did a series of 2 minute pictures; 5 of them. Jamie operated the computer for most of the pictures. We then went indoors and I showed her how to turn the raw pictures into color using various options, and then use Registax 4 (Jamie picked the alignment stars across the image) to stack them into a single image. Then Photoshop CS2 to tweek the contrast, tighten up the stars, reduce space noise.

Very nice. but... let's go for an action shot...

Using CCDOPS to capture the comet

5x2min stack w/o IR+UV filter, so stars are a little bloated. This shot is cropped. That's Algol on the left. The sky was quite dark at the Ferrell's so you can see the comet's cloud has faded quite a bit and its boundary is getting very hard to pick out of the night background. But you GO girl - you can DO it!