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The Hualapai Valley Observatory is named after the valley it is located in (the Hualapai Valley). It is located in northwestern Arizona approx 22 miles north of Kingman and about 40 miles south of Meadview. It is a private dark sky site for astronomical observations and, based on the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, is located in an area that can be classified somewhere between a 2 and a 3. Some minor skyglow from the lights of Las Vegas can be seen on the northeast horizon up to about 10 degrees and even less of a skyglow on the southern horizon from Kingman.
What to do when you have limited time...January 2, 2012 @ 11:01 PST

I only had one night to image this outing due to weather, so I decided to make the most of it with the brightest object that I could find that still was worth shooting. I ended up with M42 (the Orion Nebula).

The Orion Nebula (also known as Messier 42, M42, or NGC 1976) is a diffuse nebula situated south of Orion's Belt. It is one of the brightest nebulae, and is visible to the naked eye in the night sky. M42 is located at a distance of 1,344 ± 20 light years and is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth. The M42 nebula is estimated to be 24 light years across. It has a mass of about 2000 times the mass of the Sun. Older texts frequently referred to the Orion Nebula as the Great Nebula in Orion or the Great Orion Nebula. The Nebula is in fact part of a much larger nebula that is known as the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex.

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All I want for Christmas is ... The Triangulum Galaxy?December 26, 2011 @ 10:51 PST

I decided to spend the weekend taking some images since the weather was so nice. The image of the Triangulam Galaxy is the result of about 17 - 10 minute sub-exposures using red, green and blue filters. The image of the "Christmas Tree Cluster" is the result of about 14 red, 14 green and 17 blue 10 minute sub exposures.

The Triangulum Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 3 million light years (ly) from Earth in the constellation Triangulum. It is catalogued as Messier 33 or NGC 598, and is sometimes informally referred to as the Pinwheel Galaxy, a nickname it shares with Messier 101. The Triangulum Galaxy is the third-largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way Galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy and about 30 other smaller galaxies. It is one of the most distant permanent objects that can be viewed with the naked eye.

NGC 2264 is sometimes referred to as the Christmas Tree Cluster and the Cone Nebula. However, the designation of NGC 2264 in the New General Catalogue refers to both objects and not the cluster alone.

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First actual Narrowband imageNovember 6, 2011 @ 08:59 PST

I recently got a couple of new narrowband filters for my camera, and spent the last weekend trying them out. For a first try its not bad but I think I can do much better with more time (not just integration time, but learning). This was also the first real image I took with my new telescope and mount. I recently got an AT106 ED Triplet and a Celestron CGE mount for my second pier. It took me a bit to get figured out, but once I got 'north' figured out, and configured the mount for the dual saddle adapter, things just started working. Much better then my CPC800 mount.

Anyway, the image I took was of the central region of IC1805 (commonly refered to as the Heart Nebula). This image consisted of 3 different filters; Hydrogen-Alpha, SII, and OIII. The image consists of 270 minutes of Ha, 300 minutes of SII, and 180 minutes of OII (I had a few clouds roll in on the last night). So a total of about 12 1/2 hours of total exposure time. The constructed image depicts red light from hydrogen atoms as green, red light from sulfur ions (sulfur atoms with one electron removed) as red, and green light from doubly-ionized oxygen (oxygen atoms with two electrons missing) as blue. These color reassignments enhance the level of detail visible in the image, because otherwise the red light from hydrogen and that from sulfur would be hard to tell apart.

IC 1805 (The Heart Nebula or Sh2-190), lies some 7500 light years away from Earth and is located in the Perseus Arm of the Galaxy in the constellation Cassiopeia. This is an emission nebula showing glowing gas and darker dust lanes. The nebula is formed by plasma of ionized hydrogen and free electrons.

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Moonlit nights make for good adjustmentsSeptember 20, 2010 @ 08:30 PST

Even with the moon out in full force this weekend the weather was good so decided to go out and do some adjustments and test out the full force of the Hydrogen-Alpha (Ha) filter.

The first image I took was NGC281 (The Pacman Nebula). I wanted to see how far I could push the system as it currently was. This image consists of about 6 hours of 15 min exposures. I can spot issues in it (focus, collimation, guiding), but it actually turned out very well. In fact, I was using about 2 min guide exposures as well (only readjusting the mount every two minutes).

The next night I spent the first few hours readjusting my polar alignment and the mounts PEC (Periodic Error Correction). This is the best that I have ever had the polar alignment (at least according to the drift registered in the software). I then took a 5 minute unguided image of a sparse star field and the star trails were very minor (I could live with them in a short focal length scope of 600mm, but not at 2000mm). Then I spent the rest of the night taking 2 min images of NGC7635 (The Bubble Nebula). The plan was to go back and redo the same target as before, but I did not have that much time to for 15 min subs again (could have got about 4 hours, but really wanted to get more individual subs to start looking at the focus issues).

All in all, a good outing. Hopefully the new adjustments will be as good during a moonless dark night .. but with my luck they won't.

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Great skies, bad alignmentAugust 12, 2010 @ 06:38 PST

Not a great night. The skies were clear enough, but I had all sorts of issues with guiding. It all seems to come down to the polar alignment. Each time I change out equipment I have to re-balance, and that seems to throw the polar alignment off. I need to figure out a better way. Anyway, I only had a few hours of actual imaging time, so I split it up into to "trial" targets to see what they might look like. The first one is NGC-891 (an edge-on unbarred spiral galaxy about 30 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda). The second one is NGC-7023 (the Iris Nebula, a bright reflection nebula in the constellation Cepheus).

The images here did not turn out very well, but that is due to the number of sub images for each one (2 ea L, R, G, B @ 5min). They both deserve a lot more integration time, and I will probable got back to The Iris Nebula tonight.
   

Want some Hydrogen Alpha with those photons?August 11, 2010 @ 06:55 PST

Got some Ha images to go with the RGB image last night. This one was taken with the CCD camera. This represents 38 subs @ 10min each. I really like the result so far.

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Moonless Nights / Clear SkysAugust 10, 2010 @ 15:10 PST

I was finally able to get some good weather and a moonless night, so have started taking images. I plan on taking a few widefield images using the AT66 refractor and the DSLR, and some with the long focal length of the 8" SCT. The *" is a bit tough becuase I have to use an off axis guider and the small field of view makes it a bit hard with the autoguider.

Here is a shot of NGC700 (the North American Nebula) with the AT66. This totals about 5 hrs of image time (60 - 5min subs). I want to try to get some Ha images as well.
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Observatory (mostly) Complete & OperationalJuly 14, 2010 @ 16:33 PST

The observatory was completed (mostly) and is fully operational. Here is the first light photo I took. Still have some adjustments to make to the telescope and the alignment, but it looks good. Hopefuly the weather will allow me to use the setup some time soon. When the moon was bright and full there were no clouds and the nightly temperature was in the 60's. Within a week (during the last new moon) the clouds have rolled in and teh temperature is HOT .. 100's during the day, and 80's at night. :(

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Observatory ConstructionJan 16, 2010 @ 13:43 PST
I am in the process of constructing a 16' x 24' observatory at this location that will contain two permanent telescope piers and a climate controlled control room.  It will take awhile to complete, but it will give me the opportunity to get some very long exposure images of some great astronomical objects.  You can follow the progress here.

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