A Night at Cabrillo Observatory

Apr 9, 2015

Austin, Becky and I decided that tonight would be a great night for an imaging session at Cabrillo Observatory. I could help them learn how to operate independently the 12" SCT and ST2000xcm CCD camera and start auto-guided imaging, and we could all enjoy some good food and company. I had baked the canister desiccant for the ST2000xcm camera all night the previous night, and wanted to make sure the imaging chip's chamber was indeed ready for our next Astro 8A session on Tuesday, as well as test a new adapter for a power plug for the Losmandy computer for the GM8. Austin and I attended the Santa Cruz Astronomy Club meeting and listened to emeritus professor John Faulkner reminisce about the amazing discoveries he and colleagues accomplished in the 1950's-'70's in England, including John's calculations which first showed the primordial helium abundance from the Big Bang was roughly 30%, something not previously known. We wished we could stay to the end, but after 90 minutes, we had to tear ourselves away, as Becky and Ezra were waiting for us at the gate to Cabrillo Observatory 8 miles away.

Little Ezra was ecstatic to see me and Austin and knew he'd have an adventurous night in the wilds. It seems he'd just had a late afternoon nap, so his batteries were FULLY charged. Becky had thought carefully about a target to photograph - "the Eyes", in the Virgo Cluster, and Austin wanted to do the famed edge-on spiral NGC 4565 in Coma Berenices. So, that was our plan, executed quite well as it turned out.

Austin was first up to bat, using the Gemini software to control the mount and CCDOPs to autoguide and get our images

The first 300 sec exposure comes up - it's a winner!

Ezra had plenty of energy to burn off, and our spin-able chair provided the means...

He totally RED-LINED his engines, spinning himself till he was just a blur, going at Pulsar speeds and relativisticly frame-dragging the whole room it seemed

Afterwards he rolled off onto the floor and just stared at the ceiling till his sense of balance came back, and he popped up to see Austin working on another computer polishing his images, while mom (Becky) worked at getting her shots of the core of the Virgo Cluster

I'd just put up a crude ladder to access this top space, used by a visiting professor the previous night, who was in town for a conference. And, Ezra saw the access and begged me to hoist him up there, to his total delight

Yep, he definitely didn't need any sleep even though it was now 11pm. Wow, was his hot chocolate spiked with 5-hr Energy??

Austin photographed NGC 4565 in Coma Berenices, an edge-on late type spiral. 3 x 5min shots, each converted to a colored .TIF file in CCDOPS, stacked in Registax, and then polished in Photoshop. I did a little more on it, to reduce mercury vapor sky light pollution, and sharpen up the stars, before posting it here. Austin's version is posted on his own site, here. Nice work!