A Darker View

A frame filled with stars beyond counting while looking into a small part of the core of our Milky Way galaxy. This area of the sky is endlessly entrancing as you see the immensity of our galaxy demonstrated in a very dramatic fashion.

At the center is the small star cluster NGC6520 and the dark nebula B86. These two create one of my favorite showpiece views when viewing from a dark site with a large telescope. Even many people who have done a fair amount of observing have never looked at a dark nebula before. A great object to select when other telescopes are showing the usual stuff.

The photo is the sum of five separate five minute exposures with the Canon 20Da and a TV-76mm telescope. Taken from my driveway in Waikoloa the image is about two degrees (four times the width of the full Moon) from top to bottom.

The Inkblot

The cluster NGC6520 and the dark nebula B86 lost in the immensity of Baade’s Window

Rain Gauge

A hand made rain gauge

Desert dwellers take rain seriously. Living much of my life in the Sonoran Desert has instilled a reverence for rain. Waikoloa is little different, the driest area of the island, we typically get around 10-15 inches of rain each year.

The original gauge was a cheap plastic unit that was starting to crack. It had served many years, repairs to the lanai required its removal. The board it was fastened to was beginning to rot and needed to be replaced. The plumeria were overrunning its location as well, blocking the rain.

A glass tube rain gauge ordered on eBay was the starting point. The cheap stamped aluminum base just begged to be replaced with something better. A few minutes of thought and an idea was formed. Off to the garage with the tube of glass, rummaging through the stash of supplies commenced.

The holder was assembled with the same skills and tools I use for constructing and repairing electronic devices. Copper wire and solder, with thin brass alloy used for the leaves.

A couple hours bending and twisting the wire, soldering each joint as I went. A section of one inch copper pipe stood in for the fragile glass tube during forming. Twisted wire and little metal leaves… Much classier than the stamped aluminum base supplied with the gauge.

Who says engineers are not artistic!

Keck 2 Stitched

Keck 2 seen in three frames with a 14mm wide angle lens stitched together for a full view

The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of another star has been confirmed by observations with both the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini Observatory. The initial discovery, made by the Kepler Space Telescope, is one of a handful of smaller planets found by Kepler and verified using large ground-based telescopes.


The artist’s concept depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone. Credit NASA AMES/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech

“What makes this finding particularly compelling is that this Earth-sized planet, one of five orbiting this star, which is cooler than the Sun, resides in a temperate region where water could exist in liquid form,” says Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center who led the paper published in the current issue of the journal Science. The region in which this planet orbits its star is called the habitable zone, as it is thought that life would most likely form on planets with liquid water.

Steve Howell, Kepler’s Project Scientist and a co-author on the paper, adds that neither Kepler (nor any telescope) is currently able to directly spot an exoplanet of this size and proximity to its host star. “However, what we can do is eliminate essentially all other possibilities so that the validity of these planets is really the only viable option.”

With such a small host star, the team employed a technique that eliminated the possibility that either a background star or a stellar companion could be mimicking what Kepler detected. To do this, the team obtained extremely high spatial resolution observations from the eight-meter Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawai`i using a technique called speckle imaging, as well as adaptive optics (AO) observations from the ten-meter Keck II telescope, Gemini’s neighbor on Mauna Kea. Together, these data allowed the team to rule out sources close enough to the star’s line-of-sight to confound the Kepler evidence, and conclude that Kepler’s detected signal has to be from a small planet transiting its host star.

Continue reading First Potentially Habitable Earth-Sized Planet Confirmed by Keck and Gemini Observatories…

Just a little bit jealous… My friend Pete shot a beautiful photo of a tinker’s butterflyfish…

Tinker's Butterflyfish

Tinker’s butterflyfish (Chaetodon tinkeri), photo by Pete Tucker

A wet winter and spring has brought changes to the Waikoloa area… Green pastures and hills around the village, an enormous crop of weeds in the yard, uncountable cockroaches and gnats, and these guys… Giant African snails.

They are everywhere I look in the yard, in the corners and under any debris. They get caught out by the sun to roast on the driveway, or crunch beneath vehicle tires. The compost pile is snail city, with dozens visible and more underneath the detritus. They get big too, the specimen photographed below was nearly six inches long when crawling along.

I understand that folks in some parts of the world eat these guys. I jokingly brought a handful to my wife one day and let her know I had dinner planned. She did not think the idea was a good dining choice. I have to agree with her, I am not really tempted.

Giant African Snail

A rather large giant African snail (Achatina fulica) in the garden

Total Lunar Eclipse and Mars

The eclipsed Moon south of the planet Mars just a week after opposition, Canon 6D and 105mm f/4 lens

Total Lunar Eclipse 14Apr2014

The total lunar eclipse on Apr 14, 2014, Canon 6D on 90mm f/12 APO


A showy orchid in the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden

Full Moon

Full Moon taken 27Aug2007, 90mm f/12 APO and Canon 20Da

Full Moon will occur today at 21:42HST.

A total lunar eclipse will occur on this particular full Moon, visible across the western hemisphere.

Continue reading Full Moon…