Photo Trip to Coast Rd Reservoir - Nov 3, 2007

Jessica G and I got together on this perfectly dry and clear night so she could learn more about astrophotography, and just to enjoy a night under the Fall Milky Way away from the city. First stop was Trader Joe's for some 3-seed sourdough, French cheese, kiwi juice, and chocolate. Then, on up the coast. We stopped briefly at 3-mile beach to watch the sunset and look for the green flash. It wasn't a great green flash, but the last little bit of setting sun did turn greenish. Instead of building a scalloped pyrimid, like you see on the best "green flash" nights, the sun just pancaked. Oh well; onward, to Coast Road Reservoir. We watched the twilight fade and the stars come out from our beach chairs on the brushy hillside just down from the reservoir, with the panoramic view of the ocean. Then, I'd brought the 8" f/4 Meade with ST2000xcm for astrophotography. Jessica did the honors, operating the equipment at my laptop while I relaxed and carved up hors d'oevres - a steady supply of of cheese on red pepper/garlic tapinade on sourdough. Quite nice! And it succeeded in powering us through.

Jess - in full control

You can't quite make it out, but her stunning image of the Pelican Nebula is on that computer screen. Behind, Capella and the Plieades star cluster rise above the little pump house below the dam.


Before take-down, we needed a hero shot.

The following week, we'll get together and I'll help her use CCDOPS, Registax, and Photoshop to process the images. For now, I couldn't wait to do my own stack of the comet's inner and outer detail. Comet Holmes is moving down and to the left in these images, and the Earth is moving in the same general direction as the comet (which is out in the general area of the asteroid belt but above it). The result is that the comet is almost stationary among the stars - very rare for such a bright comet - and great for us astrophotographers who can now take long exposures and not worry about star trailing.

Comet Holmes Nov 4 @10:16pm PDT. A 3x5min stack. No range adjustment within CCDOPS. sRGB+gamma color processing. Photoshop CS2+Astronomy Tools: 'make stars smaller', 2x 'space noise reduction', severe "levels" to bring gray almost to the lowest levels to bring out faintest isophots. NO color saturation adjustment or cropping. The C2 molecular emission green cloud is still expanding faster than the dust cloud, and a very forshortened tail is beginning to be visible, in blue (gas) and brown (dust) at upper right.

Comet Holmes Nov 4 9:47pm PDT. A 10x5-sec set of exposures stacked. The trick here was to adjust the "range" while still within CCDOPS before rendering the color. This brought out the detail within the coma. With a stack (aligning on the comet nucleus) of 10, the image stood up well to heavy processing: CCDOPS: range, sRGB+gamma single shot color. Photoshop CS2 and Astronomy Tools v1.4: 3x 'make stars smaller', 'space noise reduction', 'deep space noise reduction', crop, curves, saturation enhance, brightness/contrast, and jpg'd. Jessica will do her own stack, with a much wider array of photos, soon!

The Pelican Nebula Nov 4 8pm - 5x5min Stack. Complete with bill full of fish and brightly H-alpha'd neck. This is my own version.


The Pelican Nebula. Same 5x5min stack, but this is Jessica's version - a bolder artistic statement! And quite beautiful - excellent work, JG - You're a very quick student of astrophotography!