Picture Day!

It had to happen sometime.  Today was the day that we are taking new photos for the firm’s web site.  I’ll post the new one once the photographer has photshopped me into greatness!  Well, maybe not greatness, just handsome like Tom Cruise, Ashton Kutcher, or Channing Tatum.  Personally, I don’t think there are enough presets in to world to make that happen.  So, to assist my makeover the lovely Renee Garafano from Glendale SalonSpa worked on me for what seemed like hours, but was actually only a couple of minute.  She is really good, so you might want to go to her spa for some special treatment.

And so it begins!

A nose job.

What have I gotten myself into!  Like Picasso preparing to paint, Renee prepares to apply…I don’t actually know what is being applied.

A break in the action while Renee refilled the make case.  I’m sure she didn’t expect to have to cover THIS much real estate.

Finishing touches, then: Lights, Camera, Action!

If you need help determining how best to protect your ideas, or know someone that can use my help (with or without makeup!), please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

Nights Under the Stars

I just got back today from a couple of nights at the observatory.  I imaged the Iris and Crescent nebulae.  The wind was a little high on Friday, but it was glorious on Saturday.  I wanted everyone to see the view I go to sleep with on nights like this.  My 11″ Celestron Fastar with an 80mm short tube Orion refractor on top for guiding and wide field imaging.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to image when I started, but a quick look through the CCDCalc (freeware with Neil Fleming’s additional images) of my setup and the available targets, and I quickly chose those two for my imaging.  As you may recall, I had an incident with the GPS unit and the real time clock in my mount fighting with each other.  Evidently, all you have to do is pull everything apart, disconnect all the batteries and power sources and put it all back together again.  Then, they will play nice with one another.  Piece of cake…NOT!  Anyway, everything is back to functioning perfectly as before.  I wish I knew what happened.  I should have the two images done this week, so I will post them when the processing is a little farther along.  So until then, I give you these two images so you can harken back to camping out and looking at the star in wonder and awe.

– Ex astris, scientia –

Until next time.  Please remember, If you have a great idea that need protection (like an unbreakable astronomy mount) or you know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.  Thanks.

I want one!

The new Sequoia supercomputer from IBM has become the world’s fastest computer. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory machine has 1.5 million processing cores and weighs the equivalent of 30 elephants.  Performing at a meager 16.3 quadrillion calculations per second.   When Sequoia is really firing on all cylinders, also sometime later this year, it will hit 20 petaflops per second. The way Livermore explains it, if every single person on earth worked nonstop on a calculator for an entire year, they could do the same number of calculations in 320 years that Sequoia cranks out in an hour.

I’m sure that I will soon be able to process all my astrophotos in about a minute, once I have my own.  I mean every astrophoto that I have ever taken.  For the past 10 years.  In about a minute.  I wonder if I can get a variance for the new rooms I’ll need to install this at my house….just wondering.

– Ex astris, scientia –


Did you ever have one of those days where nothing goes right for no apparent reason?  My whole day started out down the tubes and got worse from there.  I have no explanation.  First thing this morning I am going to work and I get trapped by a lost school bus for five minutes.  Then, while I am going to pick up Friday doughnuts for everyone, I get trapped by a semi-truck backing up on the street.  After I get the doughnuts, I am trapped by a large van and an old Lincoln that are so terrified of each other that neither of them can move (neither can I while waiting for this standoff to end).

The rest of the day went equally bad, but I thought (hoped really) that a good night of astrophotography would take the edge off.

Oooooohhhhh, was I soooooooo wrong!

My observatory mount (like the one pictured above) decided that tonight was the night that it was not going to work.  After almost a year of perfect operation, it has to pick tonight to be special.  Needless to say, after four hours of trying everything, I am giving up.

Maybe tomorrow the gremlins will leave me alone and go pick on someone else (again, hopefully NOT you).

I hope everyone else’s day went better than mine.


I See You!

Well, at least that is the hope.  Today, NASA launched the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array( NuStar) black-hole hunter into space.  As the name implies, a hunt’n for black holes we go.

NuSTAR images are expected to be “10 times crisper and a hundred times more sensitive than any we’ve had of the cosmos to date,” said Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology. “This will enable NuSTAR to study some of the hottest, densest, and most energetic phenomenon in the universe.”

“One of NuSTAR’s primary science goals is to study black holes (and) the extreme physics, the fascinating physics that occurs very close to the black hole where spacetime is severely distorted and particles are accelerated close to the speed of light,” Harrison said. “And also to understand how black holes are distributed throughout the universe.”

I think the coolest aspect is the use of the Pegasus XL rocket.  The Pegasus is launched from an aircraft, or more appropriately, dropped like a bomb.  Then, after a short delay, the booster rockets kick in and off to space they go.

This was the 31st launch of a Pegasus XL rocket.  Overall, Pegasus rockets have launched more than 70 satellites since 1990, with 27 successful missions in a row over the past 15 years.  They aren’t telling us what happened to the unsuccessful missions, but I am sure we can all guess:


Sometimes, I understand why NASCAR is so popular.

– Ex astris, scientia –


Remember, If you have a great idea that need protection or you know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.  Thanks.


Ray Bradbury

I know I should have written about the passing of one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury.  I can’t tell you how many times I read the Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 and others.  He, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein and Issac Assimov were my favorite male author’s growing up.  I have favorite female authors that I’ll put in another post.  When I heard the news of Ray’s death, I pulled out some old, worn paperbacks and started to read them again.  Considering that I read almost everything electronically these days, I thought it was fitting.  Many people say you can’t go back and re-live your childhood, but I beg to differ.  This trip back in time had me reliving those summer days I spent outside reading in the shade between mad dashes of play and frivolity and all the places I dreamed of reading these books.  Alas, I am older now, but my memories are strong.  I urge everyone to revisit a good book from your past and remember all the good times associated with it.

– Ex astris, scientia –

JPL Open House 2012

WOW! I just got back from a day at JPL. I’ve heard from some of the volunteer’s that this year’s was the biggest event yet.  I will have some pictures as soon as I get them all into one place.  I had to use a variety of device (three in fact) to take all the pictures that I could.  I was only able to get about half way through all the exhibits and missed some of the ones that I wanted to see due to the amount of people.  It was like going to Disney or Magic Mountain.  The stuff I did get to enjoy was fantastic.  A big thank you to all the JPL volunteers that put this event on, you were outstanding!

I’ll have a more detailed report for you once I have rested awhile. It was 99 degrees F when I got back in my car.  Note to self, next year come earlier and wear a hat.

Love, love, loved this event.  If you ever get the chance I would plan on spending both days viewing all the exhibits.  Some people we talked to in line were coming back for their third trip to view the exhibits.  I must admit that I was tempted on a couple to get back in line and go around again.

Next year promises to be even better!  I can’t wait.


– Ex astris, scientia –



Image of the Venus Transit

Here are the results of my first (and last) Venus transit photos.  I had a terrible time with equipment.  None of my Canon cameras wanted to download an image.  Finally, I used Images Plus and was able to capture Live View video of the event and then stack them.  It seems, after some investigation, that the USB ports on my laptop do not supply power while it is one batteries.  So the Canon’s could not download images without power.  It would have been nice if I could control this “feature” and decide if I want the batteries to power the USB or not.  Come on man!  Anyway, the color isn’t the best, but I need to calibrate my monitor to get better color and I have not had a chance to do that yet.  Hopefully this weekend will give me the time to work on the images more.  You can view, or download the full size images here.

– Ex astris, scientia –



JPL Open House

The 2012 annual Open House at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.,  Saturday, June 9th & Sunday, June 10th from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.  This year’s theme is “Great Journeys,” inviting visitors to share in the wonders of space through high-definition and 3-D videos, live demonstrations, interactions with scientists and engineers, and a first look at JPL’s new Earth Science Center.

The following items are not permitted at this NASA/JPL Event: weapons, explosives, incendiary devices, dangerous instruments, alcohol, illegal drugs, pets, segways, and all types of skates including skateboards. No bags, backpacks or ice chests are allowed, with the exception of small purses and diaper bags.
JPL is located at 4800 Oak Grove Drive in Pasadena, off the 210 (Foothill) Freeway at the Berkshire Avenue/Oak Grove Drive exit. Parking is available near the Oak Grove main gate and the eastern boundary of JPL, accessible from Windsor Avenue via the Arroyo Boulevard exit off the 210 Freeway.

This is a great event for adults and kids alike.  If you have never been to JPL or any NASA facility you are in for a treat.  I highly recommend attending.

– Ex astris, scientia –

Venus Transit

Well, today was the big day and I got some great pictures from the event as you can see.  I spent the afternoon with K-8 kids showing them the sun and the transit.  My sun gun traveled to St. Andrews Catholic School where a fellow attorney’s child attends.  They asked if I would be willing to show these youngsters the event and, well, I can’t say no to any request like that.  I love help kids understand about the universe outside their windows. Luckily today there were also A LOT of sunspots making the display even better.  I was only able to snap a couple of photos with my smartphone during the lulls, but I must say it worked pretty well.  I was also able to get some images from home (thank the weather gods for a sunny day) so I will process them and, if any of them are good, I will post the results here for you to see.  So did anyone try for the contest from Southern Stars?  I would love to seen any pictures that you might have taken. I am exhausted, so its off to bed for me.  A couple of hundred kids and an afternoon in the hot sun has done me in.  Enjoy the photos.

– Ex astris, scientia –