First try at the Horsehead Nebula

shot of horsehead nebula - horsehead-red-a
The Horsehead Nebula in Orion, just Northwest of the Orion Nebula, at the lower end of the belt.  Stack of 22 15-sec exposures at ISO 3200

The Horsehead Nebula is a difficult object for purely visual observation, and I have never managed to actually see it.  But amateur astronomy has advanced tremendously over the 30 years since my first telescope, especially astrophotography.  This photo only shows the faintest blurry image of the Horsehead, but, as you can verify from the screenshot below, it’s the real deal!

Below is a view from Stellarium (free planetarium software) of the same area.  I’ve rotated and scaled the image to match the photo.

Interestingly, an inch or so to the left of the star Alnitak below is another fairly bright orange star.  It is much dimmer in the photograph above than in the graphic below.  It is, in fact, the variable star V1197 Ori.  Apparently I caught it on a lower brightness phase.

screenshot of stellarium view of horsehead - horse-stell-1-a

Another shot of the Orion Nebula

Original color image — 15 second exposure at ISO 3200, 61mm Radian Raptor telescope, motorized mount, and an Olympus 4/3 camera:

Orion Nebula - kc-em100164a-
Photo of the Orion Nebula - kc-em100164b-
2021-02-06 — same image cropped a bit more, and converted to B&W — shows the detail a bit better, I think.

The typical weather pattern lately has been very clear days with clouds rolling in at night.  I was going to take a bunch of 15 second exposures and try stacking them, but I only got 4 before the view was obliterated.  I may try stacking them later, just to see if there is any improvement, but no matter — this is pretty good for a 15 second exposure with a very small telescope.

Applicatio in C Major, BWV 994, by JS Bach

This is the first piece in “Introduction to the Performance of Bach”, by Rosalyn Tureck. I’ve worked on it for years — only blew one trill. After a decent short pause the recording transitions to “Cat on the Keyboard” improvisation, and continues for a couple more minutes.

Play the Music

I should note that there is a youtube video of Tureck playing this (just the Bach), to which you should by all means listen.

The Great Conjunction of 2020

I have a little telescope:

Celestron 5 inch telescope

As astronomical telescopes go, it’s pretty small: a Celestron NexStar 5 SE.  If the seeing is extremely good, I can see the rings of Saturn with it.  Unfortunately, where I live the seeing is almost never very good.  I tried my best to get pictures of Jupiter and Saturn as they danced close to each other.

Jupiter and Saturn on Dec 18 - kc-pc186049a
December 18
kc-pc196328a - Jupiter and Saturn on Dec 19
December 19
pc206338a December 20
December 20 was the night with the best seeing; through the eyepiece I could see the rings clearly, but I couldn’t capture it on camera.
pc206337a Jupiter and Saturn Dec 20
December 20.  If I try hard, I can imagine that there is a hint of banding in the disk of Jupiter…

December 21 was the night of closest approach.  Unfortunately the air wasn’t very clear; drifting clouds sometimes blocked the view entirely.

em130198a A regular camera with a telephoto lens.
Dec 21 — a photo taken with my regular camera and a telephoto lens.
pc210005b - Dec 21
Dec 21 Through the telescope, again.

On December 22 I tried again:

pc220027a Dec 22, now drifting apart
Final image — they are drifting apart.

In passing I sometimes tried to get pictures of the Andromeda Galaxy, but I had difficulty with the targeting:

Off-center photo of the Andromeda Galaxy - pc186052a
Andromeda Galaxy in the upper left. The telescope really isn’t set up for long exposure deep sky images…

100th Birthday

Christina and Mom
Nyan-Nyan at 100, through a window with a reflection of Christina.

2020-12-09.  Wednesday. Christina’s Mom died this morning at 0310.  There was a 100th birthday celebration for her a little while ago, on 2020-11-28. “Celebration” in quotes — socially distanced masked small groups from different family units took turns standing in front of the lobby window waving to her. She was in her wheelchair, eyes almost closed.

Two days ago she tested positive for COVID.

Birthday celebration
Celebration in front of the Nursing Home.

I didn’t get pictures of everyone — there were 30 some people all together.

Great Grand Children
Great-grand children

Old Coffee (2)

I have a love/can’t-stand relationship with coffee.  I bought a new bag of Peet’s “Major Dickason’s Blend” beans at my local Peet’s a few days ago that fell firmly into the can’t-stand bin.  I’ve consumed many bags of the Major’s blend in the past, and generally considered it OK, so this is an unexplained change.

Do I have crypto-covid with the only symptom being deranged taste buds? No, that can’t be, because toast tastes the same.  More likely, I think, is that Covid has affected the Peet’s delivery chain, and the beans that were supposedly roasted on 2020-11-02 were actually very old. In any case, the flavor was virtually identical to the year-old beans I wrote about yesterday.  Eeew de old boot.

Today I am trying a bag of Peet’s ‘Espresso Blend’, which, while not great, at least isn’t foul…

Old Coffee Beans

A couple of days ago I found a 12 oz bag of Peet’s ‘Cafe Domingo’ beans by the coffee grinder.  I assumed that daughter Sara bought them, opened the bag, and dumped them in the hopper.

Later I asked her. She said no, she found them in the kitchen cabinet along with some other beans.  She showed me — there was also a bag of ‘Major Dickason’s Blend’. Both bags were almost a year old.  In the spirit of inquiry, I made a cup for me (espresso) and a cup for CF (Aeropress).

In all honesty, I cannot recommend it, and, despite being averse to waste, I am seriously contemplating dumping the beans.  (CF, on the other hand, said “I like it.” But she is famous for drinking almost anything, coffeewise.)

It is drinkable in the strictly literal sense, but the flavor has one note: harsh.  No coffee aroma.  Sad.