We had everything - perfect clear skies, dry clear air, no wind - and no students. This was a 2 1/2 hour drive, and it was an optional trip, and in the end - it was just me, Chris Angelos, and Chris Kitting - really, the instructor and already-expert astrophotography volunteers. Oh well, still made the best of a great night and got some nice images. I was up from dusk till dawn. Chris Angelos assisted till about midnight before getting some sleep until just before dawn began. For my images below, I used the 8" f/4 LXD75 scope. The night was very warm, and the chip temperature was -13C all night.

Chris, Jupiter and Venus in twilight

Comet A1 McNaught- was just above Venus and only about 7 degrees above the horizon during the last of these exposures, so the stars are pretty fuzzy. Note the widely forked faint double tail

NGC 6712 and IC 1295. An evaporating globular and blue planetary nebula in Scutum. Several airplanes passed through the field to the upper right.

The Elephant Trunk Nebula in IC1396 in Cepheus. This is a 8x10min stack using the 10min dark frame at T=-13C for each. 3 stars were used in Registax for multipoint stacking. No cropping, but lots of other polishing in Photoshop CS2.

Same session, I tried combining 3x30min images. I did not have a 30min dark frame so I co-added 3 10minute darks to make a 30min equivalent. The final color is quite a bit redder than the image at left, and I've determined it's not because of the dark frame. Unknown why at this point.

NGC 7380 in Cepheus. This faint nebula got an hour of exposure total, but this is only a 3x10 minute stack. I also did a 30 min single frame, but it is quite a bit redder and I don't know why. Seems the ST4000 color balance is sensitive to how long the exposure is?

The Jellyfish Nebula in Gemini. 3x15min stack. The red giant Mu Geminorum is at bottom. All the usual tricks applied.

The Orion Nebula. I shot this almost as an afterthought, while dawn had begun. It's a single 5min self-guided shot. sRGB+gamma, saturation, cropped, the usual 'astronomy tools' actions. The background sky was bright so the nebula above sky wasn't deep.


As the 9% cresent moon rises and dawn begins, I take one last 5 minute shot - of the Orion Nebula.

Chris examines the Orion Nebula. Mercury shines under the tripod - it was quite bright in the dawn light.

I cooked up some eggs as we enjoyed first light on the Little Panoche Valley

Beautiful vistas from this place, in all directions.

Chris Kitting got slowed down by a bent rocker arm in the engine of his '72 El Camino on the trip down. But he bent it back into shape and made it to within 1/8 mile of us, in the dark.

He tested out some new photo gear, and hoped to share some of his recent NASA mission adventures with my students.

Ever the gear freak, Chris's camera collection has evolved to the point that this once-venerable Canon DSLR is now relegated to a new life - as a counterweight.