Jun 08 2014

Interview with Ray Shore of AstroPhotography-Tonight and Shore Galaxy Websites



Today’s featured interview is with Ray Shore, administrator and owner of Astrophotography-Tonight and Shore Galaxy Websites. Ray is a very good friend of mine going on six years now. We first met online through correspondence at one of his websites where I had been reading up on his CGEM review articles at the time.  Ray has two very informative websites dedicated to astrophotography.  Both sites provide a wealth of information for those who wish to learn how to image the night skies.  Ray has many articles and well written tutorials discussing a variety of topics related to astrophotography with a strong focus on the amateur astrophotographer who is new to the hobby.  He documents the steps involved in learning planetary and dso imaging quite well, with a strong emphasis on providing plenty of images and screenshots of the subject matter.


Ray Shore of Astrophotography-Tonight.com

Ray Shore of Astrophotography-Tonight.com


When did you get serious into AP and who was your mentor, and at what age were you first interested in astronomy?

During the 2003 Mars opposition. Much of what I learned initially was from my mentor’s Rex Green and Ed Henry. I also picked up a wealth of information on forums such as Cloudy Nights.  I became interested in astronomy somewhere between 8 and 11 years of old.

My family used to go to auctions every Saturday night in Belton Missouri where I grew up. My Dad liked to bid on lots containing miscellaneous items packed in corrugated boxes. We had fun discovering what was in those boxes when we got home! Most of it turned out to be typical garage sale stuff. One time though, there was a telescope in one of the boxes. It was just a small hand-held refractor probably around 50mm. At first we used it during the daytime to view things around the neighborhood. My best memory of the telescope was when I decided to look at the moon through it one night. I couldn’t believe what I saw! Numerous craters and other features that I didn’t even know were on the moon. For me, it all started with that basic telescope we got at the auction when I was a kid. My interest has never faded.

What gear did you initially start AP with? 

8″ Celestron SCT and Orion ED-80 telescope on CG5 mount. Cameras were the popular Philips ToUcam 740K for the planets and Canon Digital Rebel (300D) for deep space objects.

Any Role models in AP and Astronomy who are they and why and how they influenced you?

The person who got me started in astrophotography was a guy named Rex Green who ran the security service at my company a few years ago. I was already an amateur astronomer but he got me hooked on the imaging aspect of it. Rex was an immensely brilliant guy with an astounding grasp of astronomy, astrophotography, and all the equipment and technical stuff that goes along with it. Until I met Rex, I had always put astronomers into a couple different categories. There were those who were drawn to the science part of astronomy (stellar evolution, nebula types, planetary composition, cosmology, etc.) then there were those who loved astronomy for the gadgetry involved (telescopes, computer control, cameras, etc.).  At first, I thought Rex fit into the gadgetry department after several discussions on his plans for building everything from the tremendously challenging Stevick-Paul telescope to constructing giant binoculars with hand-made Pringle-shaped mirrors! But then I saw the other side of Rex one night at a public event at Powell Observatory in Louisburg Kansas. Rex brought his homemade telescope (which was super cool) to show off to the site visitors. Naturally, discussions about the wonders of the cosmos ensued. His answers to the many questions were beautifully articulated as if they were read straight from a college level astronomy text-book.  Later on that evening he blew my mind with an incredible long-winded explanation for a theory related to cosmology. He kept diving deeper and deeper into the intricacies of this concept drawing on his freakish knowledge of physics and space. I remember thinking, “wow, where did that come from?” I learned a lot from Rex through our many discussions in the office and out in the field doing astrophotography. I can attribute much of my involvement in astrophotography these days to his influence.

I also need to mention Ed Henry of Hay Creek Observatory in Wisconsin. He was the other most influential person in my early days of astrophotography. I found Ed through his website where he posted his many astrophotography works. His photos were among the best I had ever seen from an amateur astrophotographer. He used a 12” LX200 telescope with a SBIG dedicated CCD camera but also did some work with a digital SLR which I took much interest in. Ed became my mentor for deep space photography with the DSLR and taught me how to capture the images remotely. Ed also had one of the coolest observatories I had seen! It was a dome type observatory with a heated/air-conditioned control room!  He controlled his telescope and camera from the Lazyboy recliner in the control room!  I had the opportunity to visit Ed a few years ago. He gave me a nice deal on his 12” LX200 so I rented a van and travelled to Wisconsin to take delivery.  We had planned a night of astrophotography in the observatory so he could show me in person how he performed his magic. It was just an overnight trip and wouldn’t you know it, it poured down heavy rain all night!  At least I was able to check out the awesome observatory!  In my original tutorial for DSLR Astrophotography, I provide Ed with special recognition for all his guidance and support during my initial stages of learning DSLR astrophotography.

How did your first website come about?

My very first website was a project for an upper level course in Technology while attending Washburn University. The assignment by one of the professor’s was to build a website and post our final research paper on it. The concept was to make the paper available for the world to see. Unfortunately, there was no instruction on how to build a website!  Good thing my young daughter knew how and helped me get started! It was on a free site called GeoCities.

How did you learn or when did you learn to build websites?


As mentioned previously, it was for my college course with help from my daughter. I took a liking to the web design thing and decided to build one for my astronomy / astrophotography pastime. Since I had experience with the freebie on GeoCities, I built it there. I called it “Ray’s Space Place”. When I got into astrophotography, I started posting my images there along with a few images from my friends. Since it was a free site, it had advertisements popping up all over the place which were a bit annoying. I did some research and saw that I could get reasonably priced web hosting with Bluehost. My two main astrophotography websites (www.astrophotography-tonight and older site www.astro.shoregalaxy.com) are still being hosted by Bluehost.

What inspired you to build websites you have?

My passion for astrophotography and sharing my work.  Also, I enjoyed developing tutorials on how I achieved results in AP so I could share with others.  I use WordPress for AstroPhotography Tonight website since it’s a very capable blogging platform.


 What was your first image? Your favorite and most memorable?

The Moon taken afocally with a digital camera. The very first photos were taken by holding the camera up to the eyepiece and snapping the photos. Then I graduated to an Orion mount to hold the camera to the scope. It didn’t take long before moving to prime focus astrophotography!

Horsehead/Flame Nebula since it represented what I considered my best work based on years of learning and fine-tuning my methods. For this project, I collected data over several nights at different exposure settings.


Some of Ray’s Images, Click on image to see larger view:


Horsehead and Flame Nebula.  © Ray Shore

Horsehead and Flame Nebula. © Ray Shore of Astrophotography-Tonight.com

APtonight m42

M42 and Running Man                 © Ray Shore of Astrophotography-Tonight.com


Lunar Image           © Ray Shore of Astrophotography-Tonight.com

















Permanent link to this article: http://www.daltonskygazer.com/interview-ray-shore-astrophotography.html

Jun 06 2014

IRAS 14568-6304 & Circinus Molecular Cloud

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA Acknowledgements: R. Sahai, NASA JPL/ Serge Meunier

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA Acknowledgements: R. Sahai, NASA JPL/ Serge Meunier


This Hubble image features the young star IRAS 14568-6304 and the Circinus molecular cloud(dark portion of image), whose mass is estimated to be 250,000 times greater than our Sun. A protostellar jet is seen just beneath the young star.  The protostellar jet is the dust and gas leftover from the star formation being ejected into space at supersonic speeds.  This Hubble image gives us great insight into the processes involved after star formation.



Permanent link to this article: http://www.daltonskygazer.com/iras-14568-6304-circinus-molecular-cloud.html

May 23 2014

Camleopardalids Meteor Shower Best Viewable 23/24 May 2014 from United States and Southern Canada

Tonight and early Saturday 24th of May 2014, sky-watchers across the U.S. and southern Canada should be looking for a new meteor shower the”Camelopardalids “.  This meteor shower has the potential for rates of 200 meteors per hour with some predictions as high as 400 meteors per hour.   The shower will radiate from the constellation Camelopardalis “The Giraffe”, which is located near the north celestial pole.  The meteor shower could begin late tonight 23 May 2014 and is expected to peak around 3am Eastern Time on the 24th of May 2014.  The shower has potential of producing bright fireballs and could possibly be the best meteor shower of the year.

Camelopardalis "The Giraffe"
Camelopardalis “The Giraffe” Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® Starry Night Pro Plus 7 / Simulation Curriculum Corp.

The Camelopardalids meteor shower is caused by the Earth entering the debris field of Comet 209P/LINEAR which is currently visible in the night sky with larger amateur telescopes.  Comet 209P/LINEAR was first discovered in February of 2004, it’s journey back around the Sun happens approximately every five years.  Comet 209 P/LINEAR is currently at magnitude 10.7.  Up to date information on Comet 209P/LINEAR can be found at the Live Comet Data website.

Meteor Shower Direction
Area of sky which the meteor shower will appear to radiate from. Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® Starry Night Pro Plus 7 / Simulation Curriculum Corp.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.daltonskygazer.com/camleopardalids-meteor-shower-best-viewable-2324-may-2014-from-united-states-and-southern-canada.html

Apr 02 2014

Starry Night Pro Plus 7 Released

Starry Night Pro Plus 7

Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® Curriculum Corp.(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp.







Simulation Curriculum Corporation announced the release of the long anticipated update to it’s Starry Night software product line today.  Starry Night Pro Plus 7 has been released and is available at a great discounted price to current owners of the software.  Many new features have been added to the popular planetarium program which is geared towards educators and amateur astronomers alike. I have been fortunate to have hands on experience working with the new product in advance of it’s release today. Look for a full review coming soon to DaltonSkyGazer.com.

Some very powerful new features have been added to the new release.  The new user interface has a sharp, yet minimalistic look.  The powerful tools I grew to love are all still there along with many new ones. The new interface just makes it much easier to get around the program while minimizing screen clutter at the same time.  The user has an astonishing amount of data and viewing options to select from.  Planning your next imaging run or creating your nightly viewing list is an extremely fun and easy task to accomplish with Starry Night Pro Plus 7.

System Requirements:

Windows 8/7/Vista or Macintosh OS X 10.7 or higher. 1GHz or higher processor, 1 GB RAM and 12 GB of hard disk space. 128 MB OpenGL 1.4 capable graphics card.


Tour the cosmos like never before with all New Advanced Features.


Starry Night Pro Plus 7 makes it easier than ever to access professional grade features and databases, and control your telescope. Engineered for precision, designed for research, and continually evolving for the astronomer who expects the very best in-class planetarium experience.

A few screen captures of the New Starry Night Pro Plus 7 below, followed by the features list. You can click on each image to see a large view. 

Close  up view Lagoon Region with outlines enabled Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® Curriculum Corp.(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp. Click on Image to See Full Size Version
Close up view Lagoon Region with outlines enabled
Graphics courtesy of Starry Night®
Curriculum Corp.(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation
Curriculum Corp.
Click on Image to See Full Size Version
Asteroid and Comet list for viewable objects current year.   Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® Curriculum Corp.(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp. Click on Image for Full Size Image
Asteroid and Comet list for viewable objects current year.
Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® Curriculum Corp.(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp.
Click on Image for Full Size Image






Screenshot Fov indicator on.   Graphics courtesy of Starry Night® (Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation Curriculum Corp. Click on Image to See Full Size Version
Screenshot Fov indicator on.
Graphics courtesy of Starry Night®
(Starry Night Pro Plus) (7) / Simulation
Curriculum Corp.
Click on Image to See Full Size Version

Tons of New Features Included in the All New Version 7 as listed at the Starry Night Store!


  • Planetary Texture Collection offers up to 100 planet and moon maps showing rock and element locations, mineral composition, chemical distribution, gravity, magnetic field, notable topographic features, and much more
  • All Sky Survey Images from Planck, IRAS-COBE and 2 Micron reveal a dramatically different view of our sky and let you explore the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang.
  • Improved Telescope Support.
  • Expanded asteroid catalog with highlighted/highlightable families and groups.
  • Updated Equipment List includes the latest telescopes, eyepieces, and accessories.
  • Analemma can now be drawn on a planets surface
  • Exclusive Extragalactic 3D Database includes over 200,000 galaxies encompassing over 1 billion lights years of space
  • New Photorealistc Horizon Panoramas make you feel like you are there.
  • All known exoplanets as 3D bodies with proper location, size, orbit and planetary texture
  • Stunning new user interface with Universal Search, locates sky objects, favourite files, SkyGuide pages, options, events, and more.
  • New highly detailed surface textures of planets and major moons
  • All stars accurately rendered as 3-dimensional bodies with classification-appropriate color, texture and relative radii.
  • Expanded set of “Space Missions” including 30 new detailed and accurate 3D models of spacecraft and their trajectories. Updates to new/ongoing missions.
  • The most precise planetary positions available (using Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL-DE-422 ephemerides.)
  • 3500 unique object text descriptions for stars, planets, moons, satellites, exoplanets, space missions, deep sky objects and, more.
  • Restyled SkyGuide with updated tours and media
  • Advanced Planet Rendering for terrain shadows, specular reflections on water, and city night lights on dark side (Earth only).
  • Updated Messier catalog with new visually stunning images for star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.


Other Features found within Starry Night Pro Plus 7:

  • Zoom in on the first-ever color All Sky CCD mosaic of the entire sky, to magnitude of 14-15
  • Connect to MaxIm DL to take pictures with your telescope and camera and import them into Starry Night*
  • Observational Planner
  • Ephemeris Generator
  • Graph Tool
  • Improved Telescope Control
  • Equipment List
  • FOV Indicators
  • Image Editor
  • Hertzsprung-Russell-Diagram
  • 180 degrees field of view
  • Advanced Guides (hour Angle, Precession, Galactic/Extra-Galactic)
  • Path Options (Celestial and Local Paths)
  • Orbit Editor
  • Night Vision
  • Advanced Light Pollution Settings
  • Location Markers and Surface Feature Outlines
  • 12 Milky Way Spectrums
  • Travel in time from 99,999 BCE to 99,999 ACE
  • Millions of DeepSky Object Databases
  • Explore 16 million stars
  • Celestial Event Finder


  • Starry Night Companion, a 192-page illustrated astronomy book PDF (embedded within the program)
  • New, comprehensive 146-page User’s Guide PDF (embedded within the program)


The Starry Night Pro Plus 7 software is now available at the Starry Night Online Store.



Permanent link to this article: http://www.daltonskygazer.com/starry-night-pro-plus-7-released.html

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