Comet K2

Comet K2
Comet C/2017 K2 Panstarr next to Globular Cluster M10

M10 is left of center; K2 is a little lower and on the right side. This picture was taken 14 Jul 2022, just about the comet’s nearest approach to Earth.

I took the picture under desperate circumstances; high fog was crashing my party, and I only had about a half hour to collect these photons. Even worse, the telescope was having trouble pointing (something I will need to troubleshoot when I’m not under time pressure).

It’s a standard weather pattern for this time of year — beautifully clear during the day, with high fog / low clouds developing as the night cools down. It has been like this for a couple of weeks.

NGC4565, the Needle Galaxy


There are at least three other galaxies visible in this picture. IC3571 was a dim, dim smudge on the left side of NGC4565 that I tried hard to preserve as I processed the image. But alas, it did not survive the harsh contrast enhancement steps.

Here is an annotated full frame. Some of the other galaxies in the region are visible.

Annotated full-frame view
Annotated full frame

On another topic, yesterday I took possession of hearing aids for the first time. (As I type this, I hear keyboard clicks — I didn’t notice them before.)

It turns out that I have insurance coverage for hearing aids, so I got good ones — Bluetooth enabled, with extensive customization controlled via a smartphone app. They work quite well as music earbuds, at least for certain types of music. Solo guitar sounds fantastic. Noise-canceling features I haven’t explored yet. I can’t get over how loud everything is, especially the coffee grinder. Persimmon the Parrotlet is a terror now — I used to think she (it?) was a quiet bird, but now I know the volume was in the high frequencies.

Here’s Persimmon chewing on a chicken bone:

Persimmon eating a chicken leg
Persimmon gnawing on a chicken bone

We thought she would be interested in the watermelon scraps.



M102 is a difficult object for my setup and conditions. It is, apparently, known as the “Spindle Galaxy”.

A five or six times blowup of the above image does manage to show the “spindle”, barely:

This Hubble image gives a better idea of how it got the name.

Another M101


I am slowly accumulating more time on M101. This image is over 8 hours total exposure, under generally poor conditions — not quite double the previous version. It’s a good thing the telescope mostly runs unattended.

The blurred spot in the lower right corner is NGC 5474, a true physical companion of M101 that is classified as a “peculiar dwarf galaxy”.

The above image is without noise reduction processing.

Here’s a version with PixInsight’s “Multiscale Linear Transform” noise reduction:

M101 with PixInsight noise reduction

And here it is with Gimp’s noise reduction algorithm:

M101 with Gimp noise reduction

It is hard to tell the difference. A large-screen monitor is probably helpful.

[Edit: I tried looking at this post on my phone. The experience is just not the same as on my desktop monitor. Well, duh.]

Heroes of another kind

Posted on wall at Castle Wertheim
Posted on the walls of Castle Wertheim, high above the town of Wertheim

April Fools is a widespread tradition, so I am suspicious of this placard posted on the walls of Castle Wertheim.

Oh Dear, NGC3718 yet again

Well, I managed to collect a few more photons from NGC3718, and the result is marginally better. Marginally: the black of space is a bit smoother:

NGC 3718 with more light

I can skip over to Google and find a hundred images of this object with more color and detail, but the process of collecting light in the cold dark yourself makes it all real.

Black Eye galaxy

M64 -- the "Black Eye Galaxy"
M64 – The Black Eye Galaxy

Here is a small target for my telescope. The “black eye” is discernible, but only on close examination can any other structure be seen. It’s sometimes called the “Evil Eye” galaxy; this Hubble View makes that case very well. The idea that there are two counter-rotating stellar populations is mind-boggling.

Memories of Big Red

In my early 20s, I purchased a used car from a friend for $300, a red ’59 Chevrolet Impala with faded paint and many dents that he had named “Big Red”. Big Red ran well, and gas was cheap back then.

Big Red served me well, but one day it wouldn’t start, and instead of paying for a repair, I bought another cheap car. Big Red sat unnoticed on a Stanford parking lot while I moved a couple of times, traveled some, and got a job at a Pizza Parlor in Palo Alto.

It was part of a chain, “Straw Hat Pizza” — we wore styrofoam versions of a traditional boater straw hat as part of our uniform. As of this moment, Straw Hat is still in business, with, according to Google, 23 outlets. I haven’t been in one for maybe 35 years.

The kitchen was in the northwest corner, with large windows on either face. During the day, we could watch the parking lot and the street while we made pizzas. At night the glare from the interior lights blocked the view, and only passing headlights were discernible from inside.

Some nights we played old silent movies with a jangly piano soundtrack — mainly Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. We saw them a thousand times, and the soundtrack became a low-grade annoyance of the job.

One evening the parlor was quiet; everything was clean, there were no to-go orders, the dining area was empty. The movies were off.

Through the window, I watched a pair of car headlights circle the parking lot and come to a stop. The entrance door flew open. Two young men rushed to the counter, where my co-worker leaned on the cash register.

But they were, as it turned out, looking for ME.

Brief introductions, then one of the young men asks:

“Do you own a red ’59 Chevrolet Impala”?

Images of unpaid parking tickets, towing charges, and other potential liabilities flooded my brain. But it’s public record; I couldn’t lie.


The Stanford Police, it seems, caught him late at night removing parts from Big Red. Taking parts from a parked car is illegal unless you own the vehicle. Hence, if he didn’t want to go to jail, he had to produce evidence of ownership, even though it was currently registered to me. A bill of sale would do.

He pulled out a bill of sale form and placed it on the counter.

“You want to buy my car??”

“Yes. How much do you want for it?”

He was at my mercy. But also, he was relieving me of a tedious burden. I thought for a minute.


Relief flooded his face. “Deal!”

I never saw Big Red again.