Summer 2016

Summer 2016
Summer in Tsukahara

Spring in Tsukahara

gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888)

The Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888) is formed by a special type of star which is extremely hot and massive (Wolf-Rayet). As the star sheds its outer layers, a bubble has formed. That’s what you are looking at. Eventually, the bubble will pop in an incredible supernova explosion. Maybe it has already exploded, but we won’t know for another 5000 years. It’s far away and it takes light that long to reach the Earth. The light blue shroud covering the nebula is made of oxygen atoms. The red clouds are composed of hydrogen and sulfur is also present.

Integration time was 600 minutes in Ha, OIII, and SII. Stacking was done in PixInsight and post processing was done using Star Tools. The learning curve for Star Tools was a lot less than PixInsight. However, I prefer the freedom to dial in the different processes that PixInsight has to offer. Star Tools is another tool to help bring images together. At this stage with my limited processing knowledge, I can use all the help I can get!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Stairwell

The stairwell is finished except for some trim. The project took about three months to complete. The walls and existing trim were painted first. This was easier said than done. I had to make a platform so that I could safely work above the stairs. I often tell Erika that I don’t like painting. Painting requires a lot of preparation. There is no way around it. The final coat will show all of the defects that were missed during preparation…I learned that many times the hard way. Once the painting was done, I could go ahead and work on the stairs. I needed to add 23mm plywood to each step to raise them to the height of the finished upstairs floor. I then cut the laminate flooring to size and added a stainless steel nosepiece to each step. This is to prevent anyone from slipping on the stairs. All that’s left to do is add some trim pieces to give the stairs a finished look. 

Here's the after and before pictures. The walls were a boring white and the stairs had an adhesive-backed grey felt pad. The area needed to be spruced up a bit. 

The lights were moved to a different location and new globe lights were installed. The small pieces of blue tape were a reminder of what colors the walls were to be painted. Some of our students enjoyed reading the different colors...I think the parents did too. 

My least favorite thing to do is painting. Unfortunately, remodeling is all about painting. 

Standing on the platform above the stairs was a little nerve racking. I was glad when the stairwell was painted. And now for a brief pause...

Well, since I didn't have any pecans I used walnuts instead. It tasted fantastic. Now, back to the remodel. 

Cutting and fitting the laminate flooring required the use of a lot of templates. The laminate flooring was left over from the master bedroom remodel. The flooring was purchased in the U.S. in 2011. Time for another break...  

Erika created this masterpiece. We call it, "Apple Custard Cream Blizzard Cake." 

Wow! It tasted great. It's an experiment for one of the Christmas parties we will be hosting. BTW, most of the items we bake are given away. As I grow older, my taste for sweets has become less. Although, I will never turn down a box of chocolates. Back to work...  

The stairs are almost finished. The rubber on top of the nose pieces need to be installed. 

 Whew, I'm glad this project is done. 

Yes, the walls are green, yellow and blue. Just around the corner, a very large wall is painted adobe red. I'll save that picture for another post.

It's time for another break...maybe apple crisp pie? 
Up next, the second floor remodel will begin. I'll be posting a picture of the Crescent Nebula using a different process called "Star Tools." Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Elephant Trunk Nebula

The star forming region is about 2400 light years away. The rim of the Elephant Trunk is a cloud of dust and gas which glows because of a very bright and large star.

The integration time is about 8 hours in Ha, OIII, and SII. PixInsight's "Pixel Math" did a wonderful job of maintaining the star color. I used the Hubble pallet (SHO) for color. The diffraction spikes are a result of using Optec's Fast Focus with the split wiring. I really like the effect.

I'm still collecting photons of the Wizard, Pacman, and California Nebula. We're expecting snow tonight.      George

Optec's Fast Focus System

During the rainy season (summer), I was able to install Optec’s Fast Focus System. I was having reliability issues with the FeatherTouch focuser. The focuser often slipped even though the camera is under the weight limit of five pounds. Technical support was helpful, but the focuser could not reliably compensate for filter offsets or temperature compensation because of the annoying slippage. Due to the limited backfocus on the Edge HD, I decided to give the Fast Focus system a try. It’s a very robust system and designed to give reliable and repeatable focus. Installation took a couple of hours. I was able to perform collimation to within 1.5 (CCDAP) with the use of the easy-to-use push/ pull screws.

I like diffraction spikes around the larger stars so, I installed the split cable. It's simple to change the cable from the focuser to the controller to remove the diffraction spikes. 

The controller works very well with FocusMax. As soon as I’m confident with the operation of the focuser, I will install Optec’s Lacerta and the FocusLock system. Lacerta is designed to work with a Lodestar X2 autoguider. The FocusLock system is designed to constantly monitor focusing via a focused guide star. I haven't read any reviews of the system. I'll post my experience with the system as soon as I can. It's wise to install and test one new component at a time. 

The Feathertouch focuser is now being used as a spacer. The clutch is locked and shouldn't cause anymore problems.

Right now, I'm having issues with curvature on the corners my images. I believe the problem will be resolved after I adjust the backfocus. Backfocus should be 146.0 from the end of the reducer to the face of the imaging sensor (not including filter thickness), but I'm measuring 150.6. Removing a spacer should do the trick. The problem started after I changed the filter wheel from a 5 to an 8 position. Currently, my collimation is 1.7 and the tilt is under 6. Curvature is a whopping 32! FWHM improved from 3.2 on average to 2.4. I'm thrilled with that! Maybe, I can go even lower after I adjust the backfocus. Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Feels like winter

Burrrrrr. It’s beginning to feel like winter in Tsukahara. It snowed for the first time this season. The temperature this morning was -2C with a high of 5C. The doggies were huddled by the fire. This is the best time of year…the Christmas tree is up, the house is decorated with twinkling lights, and the house is filled with the aroma of fresh baked breads, cookies, and cakes. One of the nice things about living in the Japan countryside is that the media (TV and radio) isn’t filled with holiday commercials. Right about now in the U.S., it’s holiday commercials one after another. I don’t miss that at all! Cheers

French Vanilla cake with asian pear filling

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Stained glass shop, firewood, and bread

My favorite season in Tsukahara is autumn. The days are cool, clear, and no insects…perfect for working outdoors. One of the projects I’ve been wanting to complete is the stained glass shop. I made some extra room in the garage by adding a storage area in the rafters. Next, I made two work benches for stained glass and intarsia. I then added wiring for lights and outlets. All I needed was a view of the mountains. Inagakisan helped with the measurements and I did all the cutting. Thank you, Inagakisan! The windows were part of my original plans to build an observatory with a roll-off roof. Those plans were cancelled and I purchased a ScopeDome instead…yeah!! Instead of wasting the brand new windows, I decided to use them for the stained glass shop. The windows look great and they let in all kinds of light. Plus, I now have a great view to daydream as I work on some stained glass projects I have planned in the near future (more on those projects in a future post).

We’re all ready for a cold winter. Erika sawed, split, and stacked all the wood. She’s amazing! 

It’s been a while since I baked a loaf of sourdough French bread. I decided to use a different recipe since I’m using an oven. The oven has a dough proofing setting and a setting just for baking loaves of bread. As you can see, the bread was a success! The sourdough starter is over a hundred years old and was given to me from a friend (Debbie) as a going away present. The starter originally came from Alaska. The bread is delicious and the texture is light and airy with plenty of air pockets (crumb). What really makes this bread special is the crust. The oven pulses heat from above and below the loaf as it bakes. This created a crust that is crunchy, flaky, and golden brown…yummmm. 

I'll end this post by writing that the weather has been clear (mostly) and that means...imaging! I'll be posting a narrowband image of the Elephant Trunk Nebula soon. I've also been collecting photons of the Pacman Nebula, Wizard Nebula, and the Crescent Nebula. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Kumamoto: Fun with the doggies.

We finally had a chance to take a couple of days off to do some sightseeing. We decided to go to Kumamoto with the doggies. Namichan and her dog (King) along with her mom and dad also joined us. They were in a van ahead of us so that we wouldn’t get lost. Thank you, Namichan! Erika reserved the hotels about four months ago. Hotels for dogs are hard to come by and they are often booked many months in advance. We had a hard time deciding if we would go because of the recent typhoons. The hillsides were already saturated from previous storms and we were afraid of landslides. In the end, we decided to go and take our chances. We were very glad that we did. The weather on Friday was beautiful. We did get some rain on Saturday and Sunday, but it wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be. The first hotel (Ogasawara) has a swimming pool, onsen (bath), beds, food, shampoo, dog run…the whole works for the doggies. The cabin was very clean and comfortable. We were allowed to take the dogs everywhere including the lobby and restaurant.   

It was hard to believe that the second hotel (Kunosato) allowed dogs. It was very luxurious. The large bedroom allowed access to a large outdoor onsen with a private yard. There are too many luxuries to list, but the one feature that stood out the most was the food. The photos include some of the food that we ate, but the amazing thing is that it is all-you-can-eat. That’s right…if you liked what you ordered, just order it again for free. The food was beautifully presented and it tasted delicious. The doggies had lots to eat also. Dinner and breakfast were outstanding and I highly recommend both hotels if you want to go on vacation with your beloved companions.

Kunosato Hotel posted Lucky, Kiley, and King's pictures on their blog . Yep, we have the cutest doggies!

Here's some pics of the food and trip: 

This was a surprise birthday "cake"? I was too full to eat any of it.

Two of these, please.

Breakfast was also amazing.

Ahh, my favorite. Chocolate!!

 It looks like Namichan had a good time.

Erika's favorite dish...chestnut soup. She asked to have it served for breakfast the next day. She loved it!!

Lucky and Kiley had plenty to eat, too.

King enjoyed the nice weather.

Lucky had front row seats and...

Kiley had lots of pillows, but...

too much of a good thing made him sleepy.

Kiley enjoyed the new sights and smells.

Where's Erika?

There she is.

Lucky asked, "Can you scratch my belly?"

Aso shrine was severely damaged during the earthquake.

It's hard to believe they are going to put it back together. That's a huge project!

Pics of the first hotel...

dog pool...

and dog run.

Dog bath and...

drying area.

Lots of places to walk doggies

We'll plan other trips in the future, but for now it's time to get back to work on the house. It's hard for us to visit other places because we live in such a beautiful area. I often found myself comparing where we live to where we were visiting. Each time I came to the same conclusion: There's no place I'd rather be than Home Sweet Home. Cheers!