Welcome to DeepSkyAstro.com, featuring written articles and astrophotography by Jay McNeil. Many of the images included in the galleries to the left were taken from my backyard observatory, Muscadine Ridge Observatory, located on family property near the small town of Hollandale, Mississippi. Although recently, a growing number of them have been taken from my suburban frontyard near Paducah, Kentucky.

   I have owned and operated telescopes ranging from a simple 2-inch refractor to a monstrous 17.5-inch Newtonian reflector. However, the vast majority of my imaging is executed using several homemade astrographs (telescopes designed and built primarily for use with a camera) in the 8 to 10-inch range. The "camera" that I use for astro-imaging is actually a thermo-electrically cooled research-grade CCD, formally known as the STL-11000M by Santa Barbara Instruments Group. This device contains a large-format imaging chip that allows me to capture the wonders of the universe in splendid detail from my very own backyard. The mount that I currently use for imaging is an Astrophysics 1200 Quartz Micro Drive model, which is computer-controlled and capable of handling well over 100 lbs of equipment with great tracking accuracy and stability.

   Contrary to popular belief, the ability to capture images rivaling those taken by professional observatories just decades ago does not replace the feeling that one gets from hunting down deep sky quarry with an eyepiece and telescope. As far as visual observing is concerned, you simply cannot replace the benefits of a high quality, large aperture Dobsonian. Therefore, my custom built 13.1-inch reflector resides in the shed out back ready to go at all times. On a good clear night, the skies from my backyard will often reveal stars as faint as 5th magnitude to the unaided eye. This is, of course, not ideal for visual deep sky observing. However, brighter deep sky targets such as those belonging to the Messier catalogue can still be seen with ease with even a modest telescope.

   As you stroll through the various topics and galleries to the left, be aware that each individual thumbnail may be clicked on to reveal a larger size image and a detailed description of what we are actually seeing in the picture. This larger image can furthermore be clicked onto in order to see a large scale image in which one can often spot tiny background galaxies and lesser known faint-fuzzies that have literally never before been seen with a human eye! Often times, diligent research is required to fully grasp the physical processes that determine what we see in a particular scene. I take great pride in such research, and I can only hope that you find these images and their corresponding articles as entertaining and educational as I did during their procurement.

   In January of 2004, I discovered an object in the night sky that had never before been identified. The object, affectionately named McNeil's Nebula, was quickly found to be a quite unusual phenomenon of which only a very few had ever been witnessed. If you would like to learn more about this discovery and the results of many professional astronomers' research, please click here.

   Please take a moment to calibrate your monitor in order to view astronomical images at their best! If you are unfamiliar with the concept of monitor calibration, just turn your monitor contrast to near its maximum setting. Then, using the chart below, simply adjust your monitors brightness setting so that blocks numbered 1 through 19 are visible and distinctively seperate from one another. This is by no means a true method of such calibration, however, it generally works well for viewing dark astronomical images. At the appropriate setting, block #19 (along with the background sky in many of my images) should be just barely visible above the pure black background (represented by #20). Thankyou, and enjoy!





















Email me at: jay_mcneil(at)deepskyastro(dot)com
Notice: Unless otherwise noted, all articles and images are copyright ©1999-2007 Julian W McNeil II
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