2010 Archives

Astrophotography Targets for October

1 October 2010

NGC 7293 Helix NebulapnAqr 22H 29.64m -20°50.22'612' × 10'Beginner
NGC 7331sgPeg 22H 37.1m +34°25'9.59.7' × 4.5'Intermediate
NGC 7479sgPeg 23H 5m +12°19'10.83.9' × 3'Intermediate
NGC 7606sgAqr 23H 19.1m -8°29'10.85.8'Intermediate
NGC 7635 Bubble NebuladnCas 23H 20.7m +61°12'1015' × 8'Intermediate
Arp 319 Stephan's QuintetcgPeg 22H 36m +33°57.9'13.611' × 8.5'Advanced
NGC 7662pnAnd 23H 23.9m +42°32.1'8.30.5' × 0.5'Advanced
Sh2-142dnCep 22H 47.3m +58°8'1030' × 30'Advanced
Sh2-155 Cave NebuladnCep 22H 56.8m +62°37'1050' × 30'Advanced

Like a bag of trick-or-treat candy, October holds a multicolor variety of sweet targets: pale blue galaxies, red and teal planetaries, and deep red nebulae.


Astrophotography Targets for September

1 September 2010

IC 5146 Cocoon NebuladnCyg 21H 53.4m +47°16'9.310' × 10'Intermediate
NGC 6888 Crescent NebuladnCyg 20H 12m +38°21'8.818' × 13'Intermediate
NGC 6946sgCep 20H 34.9m +60°9'8.811.2' × 8.8'Intermediate
NGC 6960 Western Veil NebulasnCyg 20H 45.7m +30°43'7.970' × 6'Intermediate
NGC 6992 Eastern Veil NebulasnCyg 20H 56.4m +31°43'7.560' × 8'Intermediate
NGC 7000 North America NebuladnCyg 20H 58.8m +44°20'3.8100' × 60'Intermediate
NGC 7008pnCyg 21H 0.55m +54°32.58'9.91.6' × 1.3'Intermediate
NGC 7009pnAqr 21H 4.18m -11°21.82'80.7' × 0.4'Intermediate
NGC 7023 Iris NebuladnCep 21H 1.6m +68°10'7.710' × 8'Intermediate
NGC 7129dnCep 21H 41.3m +66°6'11.57' × 7'Intermediate
IC 1396 Elephant Trunk NebuladnCep 21H 39.1m +57°30'180' × 180'Advanced
IC 5067 Pelican NebuladnCyg 20H 50.8m +44°21'60' × 60'Advanced
NGC 7027pnCyg 21H 7.03m +42°14.17'8.50.3' × 0.2'Advanced

The reign of the nebula continues in September, but the bright objects of Sagittarius give way to the fainter and subtler clouds of Cygnus.


Transcendence Screen Saver

15 August 2010

By popular request I've taken the Transcendence engine and turned it into a screen saver. Now you can watch your favorite Transcendence ships attempt to blow each other up, all while saving your monitor from dreaded burn-in.

Transcendence Screen Saver 1.0a
Download Transcendence Screen Saver
9.99 MB
14 August 2010

Astrophotography Targets for August

1 August 2010

M8 Lagoon NebuladnSgr 18H 3.8m -24°23'690' × 40'Beginner
M16 Eagle NebuladnSer 18H 18.8m -13°47'6.47'Beginner
M17dnSgr 18H 20.8m -16°11'711'Beginner
M20 Trifid NebuladnSgr 18H 2.6m -23°2'928'Beginner
M27 Dumbbell NebulapnVul 19H 59.6m +22°43'7.48' × 5.7'Beginner
M57 Ring NebulapnLyr 18H 53.6m +33°2'8.81.4' × 1'Beginner
M24 Sagittarius Star CloudmwSgr 18H 16.9m -18°29'4.690'Intermediate
NGC 6572pnOph 18H 12.1m +6°51'90.1'Advanced
NGC 6781pnAql 19H 18.5m +6°32'11.81.9' × 1.8'Advanced
NGC 6818pnSgr 19H 43.96m -14°9.18'9.30.4' × 0.3'Advanced
NGC 6826pnCyg 19H 44.8m +50°31.5'8.50.5' × 0.4'Advanced

If you ever wanted to be an astrophotographer, August is the perfect month to start. In the Northern Hemisphere, August nights are warm and generally clear, at least in many parts of the Western United States. More importantly, August has more beginner-level objects than any other month of the year.



15 July 2010


M63 is one of the first galaxies I ever captured. Now, with better equipment and some more experience I visit the Sunflower Galaxy again.

The Astrotourist: M63

Astrophotography Targets for July

1 July 2010

M13 Great Hercules ClustergcHer 16H 41.7m +36°28'5.816.6'Beginner
Abell 2151 Hercules Galaxy ClustercgHer 16H 5.3m +17°45'-Intermediate
IC 4604 Rho Ophiuchus NebuladnOph 16H 25.5m -23°27'Intermediate
NGC 6369pnOph 17H 29.35m -23°45.58'11.41' × 0.6'Advanced
NGC 6384sgOph 17H 32.4m +7°4'10.66'Advanced
NGC 6503sgDra 17H 49.4m +70°9'10.26.2'Advanced
NGC 6543 Cat's Eye NebulapnDra 17H 58.56m +66°37.98'8.10.4' × 0.3'Advanced

July's most famous jewel is the Great Hercules Cluster, also known as M13.



15 June 2010


Active galaxy M106 is one of my favorite targets.

The Astrotourist: M106

Astrophotography Targets for June

1 June 2010

M101sgUMa 14H 3.2m +54°21'7.928.8' × 26.9'Intermediate
NGC 5746sgVir 14H 44.9m +1°57'9.38.1' × 1.4'Intermediate
NGC 5866lgDra 15H 6.5m +55°46'9.96.5' × 3.1'Intermediate
Arp 271pgVir 14H 3.42m -6°3'125.5'Advanced
Arp 286sgVir 14H 20.25m +3°57'11.511'Advanced
Arp 297sgBoö 14H 45.17m +38°45'14.511'Advanced
NGC 5529sgBoö 14H 15.6m +36°13'135.9' × 1'Advanced
NGC 5775sgVir 14H 54m +3°33'11.44.3'Advanced
NGC 5850sgVir 15H 7.1m +1°33'114.3' × 3.9'Advanced
NGC 5907sgDra 15H 15.9m +56°19'10.412.3' × 1'Advanced
NGC 5921sgSer 15H 21.9m +5°4'10.84.9'Advanced
NGC 5982 Draco GroupcgDra 15H 38.7m +59°21'Advanced
NGC 6015sgDra 15H 51.4m +62°19'11.25.4'Advanced

The month of May got all the good ones, but June still has some beautiful galaxies, including gigantic M101.


NGC 4216

15 May 2010

NGC 4216

Beautiful NGC 4216 is flanked by two smaller companions: NGC 4222 (left) and NGC 4206 (right).

The Astrotourist: NGC 4216

Astrophotography Targets for May

1 May 2010

M51 Whirlpool GalaxysgCVn 13H 29.9m +47°12'8.411' × 7'Beginner
NGC 4565sgCom 12H 36.3m +25°59'9.616.2' × 2.3'Beginner
M63 Sunflower GalaxysgCVn 13H 15.8m +42°2'8.610' × 6'Intermediate
M64 Black-Eye GalaxysgCom 12H 56.7m +21°41'8.59.3' × 5.4'Intermediate
M83sgHya 13H 37m -29°52'7.611' × 10'Intermediate
M87egVir 12H 30.8m +12°24'8.68.3' × 6.6'Intermediate
M94sgCVn 12H 50.9m +41°7'8.27' × 3'Intermediate
M104 Sombrero GalaxysgVir 12H 40m -11°37'89' × 4'Intermediate
M106sgCVn 12H 19m +47°18'8.419' × 8'Intermediate
NGC 4631 Whale GalaxysgCVn 12H 42.1m +32°32'9.214.7' × 3.5'Intermediate
Abell 1656 Coma Galaxy ClustercgCom 12H 59.82m +27°58.83'Intermediate
M58sgVir 12H 37.7m +11°49'9.75.5' × 4.5'Intermediate
M61sgVir 12H 21.9m +4°28'9.76' × 5.5'Intermediate
M88sgCom 12H 32m +14°25'9.67' × 4'Intermediate
M90sgVir 12H 36.8m +13°10'9.59.5' × 4.5'Intermediate
M91sgCom 12H 35.4m +14°30'10.25.4' × 4.4'Intermediate
M98sgCom 12H 13.8m +14°54'10.19.5' × 3.2'Intermediate
M99sgCom 12H 18.8m +14°25'9.95.4' × 4.8'Intermediate
M100sgCom 12H 22.9m +15°49'9.37' × 6'Intermediate
NGC 4216sgVir 12H 15.9m +13°9'107.9' × 1.7'Intermediate
NGC 4236sgDra 12H 16.7m +69°27.8'9.619.6' × 7.6'Intermediate
NGC 4361pnCrv 12H 24.51m -18°47.08'10.21.9' × 1.9'Intermediate
NGC 4449pgCVn 12H 28.2m +44°6'9.65.4' × 4.2'Intermediate
NGC 4490pgCVn 12H 30.6m +41°39'9.55.6' × 2.8'Intermediate
NGC 4535sgVir 12H 34.3m +8°12'9.86.8'Intermediate
NGC 4559sgCom 12H 36m +27°58'1011.3' × 5'Intermediate
NGC 4725sgCom 12H 50.4m +25°30'9.210.5' × 8.1'Intermediate
NGC 5005sgCVn 13H 10.9m +37°3'9.85.6' × 2.9'Intermediate
Arp 244 The AntennaepgCrv 12H 1m -18°51'1118' × 6'Advanced
NGC 4030sgVir 12H 0.4m -1°6'124.3'Advanced
NGC 4244sgCVn 12H 17.5m +37°48'10.415.8' × 1.7'Advanced
NGC 4656pgCVn 12H 44m +32°10'10.518.8' × 3.2'Advanced
NGC 4699sgVir 12H 49m -8°40'9.53.1' × 2.5'Advanced
NGC 5033sgCVn 13H 13.4m +36°36'10.110.5'Advanced
NGC 5248sgBoö 13H 37.5m +8°53'10.36.1' × 4.6'Advanced
NGC 5364sgVir 13H 56.2m +5°1'10.47.1'Advanced

May is officially recognized by every self-respecting international organization as Galaxy Month. You can see from this giant list of targets that some of the best galaxies are out this month, including M51, NGC 4565, M63, and M104.


Backup Appreciation Day

24 April 2010

This Sony VAIO replaced my ill-fated Dell M1330.

I was taking my laptop out of its travel case on Friday night when my tired hands slipped and the laptop flopped out of its case and crashed corner-first to the floor. Though at first the damage seemed minor, a scratchy whine from the hard disk and an ominous black screen on boot convinced me the fall had been fatal.

I had almost everything on that laptop: the latest source code to Transcendence; six months worth of raw  astrophotos; specs and presentations for work (though no source code); and of course, gigabytes of music and photos. It was the perfect opportunity for another episode of Backup Awareness Day. But holding my battered laptop in my hands, trying once more to see if maybe this time it would turn on, I did not fear data loss because I had been religiously following a backup plan. In the event, I lost only about a hour's worth of work that I had been doing on the plane. Everything else was backed up.

I have two different backup strategies. For work I use a Live Mesh folder to store specs and other documents that I'm working on. Live Mesh synchronizes all those files across all my work machines and also keeps a copy in the sky (though the latter is limited to 5 GB). A few months ago, because of an experiment gone awry, I lost the BitLocker keys to my work laptop (which is essentially the same thing as losing the whole hard disk). But to recover, all I had to do was repave the machine and rejoin my mesh. All my files were automatically synchronized.

For Transcendence and other personal projects (including music and photos), I have an even simpler strategy: Every night a 3:30 AM a batch file runs that copies all modified files from my laptop to a terrabyte drive on my home network. Later, a second batch file will copy that backup drive to a second terrabyte drive.

On Saturday I bought a new laptop (an envy-inducing Sony VAIO—I might as well make the best of the disaster, right?) and by Saturday afternoon I had most of my applications reinstalled and all of my files restored. Ironically, the one thing that I did not back up was the batch file that did the backups and saved my data, an oversight that I have now corrected.

Transcendence Update

11 April 2010

Since the release of Transcendence 1.0 last month, the attention the game has gotten has been great! Derek Yu (of Spelunky fame) wrote about it on TIGSource, and Reddit picked it up, neatly spiking my traffic to crazy levels.

All in all, more than 10,000 people have download the game (which means that the number of people who've reached Heretic without resurrect has probably increased by one or two).

Of course, new releases always come with new bugs, and this one is no exception. With the help of the community, I've fixed a handful of important bugs and put together a 1.01 release. The full version history is here.

Looking forward, I expect to work on the following things:

  • Changing ships: Some of my plans for 2.0 will require this, but I want to get in the support for it sooner rather than later. Although the capability will not yet be used, the support will be there for mods to take advantage of it. This will probably show up in version 1.1.
  • Game stats: One feature of sandbox games that I want to add to Transcendence is a more detailed set of statistics. For example, the game should track things like the amount of profit the player has made in trading; the number of slaves rescued; perhaps even the number of civilians killed. At the end of the game, the player can get a listing and compare their performance against others. This will probably show up in version 1.1.
  • Transcendence server: Ultimately, people should be able to share their stats with others. The Transcendence game server would keep game records in a central place so that players can share their stats. I would also use this server to automatically capture crash information (Debug.log) and game-play information (e.g., how many people reach St. Katharine's star?). This probably will not show up until 1.2 or beyond.
  • 2.0: Finally, I plan on spending a lot of time designing the post-Heretic game. I already have a lot of ideas, but I can always use more. Sometime in the 1.1 time-frame I will begin sharing some of my plans on the forums. I can't wait for your feedback!

As always, thanks for your support!

Makayev Manufacturing Plant

NGC 2903

24 March 2010

NGC 2903

After all the El Niño-spawned clouds this winter it was nice to have some clear nights again. This is an image of NGC 2903, one of the galaxies of Leo.

The Astrotourist: NGC 2903

Transcendence 1.0

12 March 2010

Transcendence 1.0

After years of work, dozens of intermediate releases, and thousands of suggestions and ideas from the loyal community, Transcendence 1.0 is finally done! To everyone who has ever played the game, and especially to those who have patiently stuck with me for release after release, I offer my most heartfelt thanks. This truly could not have happened without you.

When I released Transcendence version 0.7 back in November 2003 I was confident that I could finish a 1.0 release in a couple of years at most. Even as recently as late 2008, I thought 1.0 would appear in early 2009. While I clearly haven't learned much about predicting my own development cycle, I have learned quite a lot in creating this game. In honor of this release I'd love to share some of what I've learned in hopes that it might be of use to some of you who are engaged in your own game projects.