After I got my imaging telescope (AstroTech AT6-RC), I started targeting deep-sky targets. It took a while to get the whole process dialed in properly. Things like proper load balancing, polar alignment, calibration, getting all the cables hooked up, calibrating the guider, setting the focus (quite a complicated task when you cannot see your target through the viewfinder or LiveView), finding your target, framing, determining each frame parameter (e.g. required exposure length, ISO), and then hoping no clouds come in and ruin it all. Then there’s the additional task of making sure you have a library of dark and flat frames built up for processing. And processing itself is quite lengthy. The initial calibration and stacking of the frames is a pretty automated process but can take anywhere from 2-6 hours, depending on the amount of data. Then comes the actual processing, which requires painstaking attention to each part of the final image. But when you realize that the final product is of an object thousands or millions of light-years away in space, it’s all worth it.
Got out to hike a bit more in the “backyard” a bit more in the summer of 2012. A relatively light load at work meant I was able to sneak away for a few hours during the week. This was great for two reasons: first because it meant little or no crowds, and second because it meant I could go longer than on weekends when we’d go out as a family with our 5-year old who cannot go as far.
After a week of work in London, I extended my stay over the weekend and visited Dubrovnik since I’d always heard a lot of good things about it. Arrived on Saturday afternoon. The bus ride from the airport, above the cliffs dropping down to the deep blue sea gave a tantalizing glimpse of what lay ahead. A walled fortress city set against an azure sky under a bright blue sky. Dubrovnik Old Town really does look like something out of a fairy tale, beginning with the imposing stone walls that encircle it.
I really lucked out in working on a project with colleagues based in La Spezia, Italy, next to Cinque Terre. My last trip there had been in the winter, when things were quite dead. So I was excited when the chance came to go back in the summer. I arrived in Lerici on a Saturday, leaving Sunday free for exploring. Given the gorgeous weather, my colleague and I decided to take the boat from Lerici to Portovenere across the Gulf of Poets.
While I’d been to Mexico a few times before for work, never for vacation. We usually try to take a warm weather trip in the spring to escape the long mountain winters, so this time we settled on Cancun. I was a bit leery, given the image of drunken spring breakers. I planned to not take any vacation, so we splurged and stayed right on the beach for quick/easy access. We planned to stay in the Zona Hotelera — yes it is the touristy Americanized part of Cancun, but given that our plan involved sitting on the beach, that seemed okay.