Reprocessing reprocessing…

I’ve purchased a new plugin for PixInsight, called “BlurXTerminator” (BXT). It uses AI trained on astronomical data to sharpen stars, and the edges of nebula.  It seems to work pretty well.

Here is a reprocessed version of the “Cygnus Wall” (part of NGC7000, the North American Nebula):

The "Cygnus Wall", an irregular band of nebulosity in the North American Nebula.

BXT actually works. This image is significantly sharper and more detailed than my previous version (though you have to look close). I worry if the new detail is “real” or manufactured? Is this picture a more accurate representation of reality?

Here is a reprocessed version of M81 and M82. The data for this image was collected back in February.

M81 and M82, neighboring galaxies

The major problem with this image is the overexposure of the central region of M81. One of these days I will work out the technique for fixing that, but for now, this isn’t bad. Once again, if you look closely, the enhanced fine delicate detail is apparent.

On a completely different topic, I started reading “A Tale of Two Cities” recently. Man, it’s so clear that Dickens was being paid by the word…

Grammar Gripe

There is a rule about punctuation I can’t bring myself to follow: “In the United States, commas and periods go inside the quotation marks”. I just broke it there.

The rule I follow is that everything inside the quotation marks is part of the quote:

Here is a quoted fragment of text: “a quoted fragment of text:”.

The “:” inside the quotes is part of what is quoted. The “.” defines the sentence structure.

Or consider:

A. The final “word”.


B. The final “word.”

B looks strange to me — the period is part of the sentence structure, not part of the quoted text, so B is a sentence without its final period. It should be

B. The final “word.”.

if you want to quote


What about even stranger cases:

Brian flew to a place in the clouds where punctuation marks included  “%$^&”.

I think like this because of long exposure to computer languages, where the syntax rules are much more regular. You can always distinguish between the syntactically live use of punctuation and syntactically lifeless punctuation inside quotes. Any text can be unambiguously quoted.

English usage is like a woodland path — it is where it is because that’s where people walked. For many years I walked somewhere else, and I’m very comfortable there.


A colorful mosaic; an extreme magnification of an image of space at the edge of a galaxy. Two prominent stars, some bright spots that are probably just defects in the sensor, or maybe where a cosmic ray hit and produced a single bright flash. Mostly, this is just visual noise. Noise

Here’s a different version, where the individual pixels have been smoothed:


A prettified instantaneous snapshot of the quantum noise roiling across the sensor. Perhaps if I could make a movie, these would be tiny agitated multicolored ripples. But the two stars would remain, hard reminders of a real world, and the brightness at the right edge would also remain, testifying to that galaxy — M108, I’ve heard — off-screen to the right.

Edit: I’ve since discovered that one of those stars must be an image-processing artifact. So much for reality.


I recently acquired a monochrome astro camera with somewhat higher resolution.  Here are a few attempts:

M42 - Orion Nebula
The tight cluster of 4 stars at dead center is known as the “Trapezium Cluster”. It’s barely resolved in this image.
M33 in Triangulum
M33. Low surface brightness, but if you look closely, there is a lot of detail.
Horsehead-Flame nebulae
Horsehead Nebula — I like this image. The Horsehead is an object I find intrinsically beautiful.
The Heart Nebula
The Heart Nebula. Upside down from the usual view.
Wide view of Orion, processed for low brightness
Fairly dim view of the Orion Nebula. Looks like a landing bird, or maybe a falling angel. The Trapezium is discernible on zooming in.
The Pleiades
The Pleiades. Light reflecting off a dust cloud, usually a beautiful blue.


The Orion Nebula
Originally a color shot, but it looked better in black and white.


The Horsehead
Alnitak is the bright star a little lower right of center.

Orion is back… Interestingly enough, at this angle the Horsehead Nebula is a decoration on the back of a much larger horse running off to the lower right.  At least it looks that way to me.

My first recognizable photo of the Horsehead was taken about a year ago.  It is amazing what better equipment and tools will do.


The cocoon nebula — IC5146

“My precious…”


Miscellaneous projects

A number of pictures taken over the past few days of rare clear sky.

Nebula in Cepheus
Nebula in Cepheus
IC63 — small nebula illuminated by a nearby star
NGC7741 — Barely resolved barred spiral in Pegasus
bubble nebula
The Bubble Nebula, again. Next to Cassiopeia “salt and pepper” cluster.
Another try on the Iris Nebula
The Pleiades. Usually the nebulosity is blue.
Dragonfly cluster, also known as the Owl cluster
Pacman Nebula
Flaming Star Nebula

Not Neptune…

My plan was simple — over a period of number of days, take a picture of the sky where my telescope thought Neptune would be, stack the images, and find a line of dots against the fixed stars.  Didn’t work.

There are 4 sub-images (“subs”, in the lingo), taken on 09/15, 09/21, 10/03, and 10/10.  25 days.

Here’s the partially processed stack, straight from the computer. Note that you select one of the subs as a reference, then try to fit the others on top.  This is a full frame, 3.5×2.5 degrees in the sky:

I find this image aesthetically pleasing, though it is disconcerting that the 4 subs were so far from alignment.  Somehow I thought the tracking software in my rig would do a better job.  But in any case… Neptune takes 165 years to make a trip around the sun — 360 degrees in 165 years, or about 2.2 degrees a year.  That’s about .006 degrees a day, or around 20″/day, on average, or an arcminute every 3 days.  So, maybe 6-7 minutes over 25 days?  A little less than half a cm on my screen, that would be.

But, averages.

Because of Earth’s motion around the sun, Neptune stops, then goes retrograde for a while, every year, and I don’t know where we are in this cycle.  So maybe it didn’t move at all.  I could probably get Stellarium to show me, but for the time being I’ll chalk it up as a failed experiment that gave me a pretty picture.