Working On The Details

The perigee moon of November 2016 once again found me out with a camera. I took frames to make this image at Spencer Smith Park in Burlington, Ontario. 

I was very pleased that SkyNews Magazine selected this as their Image of the Week coming out of the Perigee Moon event. 

In the coming days I intend to post a detailed “how this was done” column. 


Hail and Farewell Geoff Gaherty

Astronomy in Canada has lost one of its most interesting voices. Dr. Geoff Gaherty, of Coldwater, Ontario, passed away on Thursday 7 July 2016 of complications following surgery.

I’d known Geoff since about 1992. During my post-doctoral work at the University of Kent at Canterbury, England, I was invited to come to Canada and consider taking up the post of Executive Director and Curator of the Centre for Endangered Reptiles. This was a non-profit conservation breeding and research centre founded by Geoff. He was a many of many interests. In my time with the CER from 1993 to 1995, he was always helpful, interested, and a lot of fun to talk to. A true gentleman with a lot of interests and skills.

As an amateur astronomer Geoff was extremely active in the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. He wrote for the highly-regarded RASC Observer’s Handbook, and he maintained his own blog and social media outlets for information for astronomers.

I’m very saddened by Geoff’s passing and wish the very best to his wife Louise and son David. Ad Astra, my friend.

Planning my 2015 Calendar

It’s still just in the concept stage, but I’m thinking of producing a calendar form 2015 of photos of the moon that I’ve taken over the past several years. Other things would be in there too. I’ve done my own calendars of other photographic subjects in 2012 and 2013, and in 2014 two of my photos were selected for inclusion in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomer’s calendar. I think I have enough material for an interesting moon calendar this year! Here’s a concept for the cover.



Copyright © 2014 David Allan Galbraith



A Newsletter Article on the Sierra Stars Observatory Network

Included in the January 2014 issue of Event Horizon, the newsletter of the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers, is a short article I wrote on my experiences in 2013 with the Sierra Stars Observatory Network (

You can download the PDF newsletter here:

Back issues of Event Horizon are available here:

I was very happy with the article, and that the editor chose to use one of my photos (of Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS)) as the masthead for the issue.


Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) imaged with the Sierra Stars Observatory Network. The image is described below.

The above image of Comet C2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) was taken with the Schulman 0.81 m Mt. Lemmon SkyCentre telescope in southern Arizona early on the morning of 19 June 2013, on-line with the Sierra Stars Observatory Network. This was a simple stack of four images (one each, L, R, G, B) of 90 seconds each. The default setting for the camera is a 2×2 binning.

The Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter 0.81 meter is an f/7 Ritchey–Chrétien equipped with an SBIG STX KAF-16803 camera. The image covers 22.5 x 22.5 arc minutes: a bit more than a third of a degree across the sky (for comparison, the disk of the full moon covers about a half a degree, or around 30 arc minutes).

Copyright © 2014 David Allan Galbraith

Thanks for a Great First Blogging Year!

A year ago I launched the “Pine River Observatory” blog as an outlet for my interests in astronomy and photography of the night sky. Inspired by summer nights with lovely dark skies along the shores of Lake Huron, I named the virtual observatory after the Pine River, a small river south of the town of Kincardine.

I’ve been very excited with the response to the blog so far. As of today (1 January 2013) my pages have had a total of 8,528 views from readers in 101 countries! Thank you so much for your interest and support! I’m looking forward to making more blog entries in 2014!


Distribution of viewers of this blog in the first year, a screen capture from the stats page provided by WordPress, on 1 January 2014. Users have looked at the blog from a total of 101 countries; only the top 21 or so are listed by country.

Copyright © 2014 David Allan Galbraith

“Wave at Saturn” today at 5:27 Eastern Daylight Time!

This was received today via the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada:

Today (Friday 19 July 2013) at 5:27pm Eastern Daylight Time, the Cassini space probe in orbit around Saturn will take a picture of Saturn’s rings, backlit by the Sun. The Sun will be hidden behind Saturn, but Earth won’t be. If you want to wave at Saturn as this picture is taken, be outside at 5:27pm. It will be daylight in Ontario, but Saturn will be above the horizon. It will be about a quarter of the way up the sky, and roughly South-South East. For more information, check out

Pine River Observatory’s note: Earth will be 1.44 billion kilometers from Saturn when the photo is taken. Don’t expect your face to be too clearly visible in the photo.


One Day, If We Not Destroy Ourselves…

… we will venture to the stars. A still more glorious dawn awaits, not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise. The rising of the Milky Way.

The sky calls to us indeed.

These words are from the musical composition “A More Glorious Dawn” featuring the worlds of Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking, arranged by melodysheep, AKA John D. Boswell. In his series of compositions entitled “Symphony of Science,” Boswell has certainly struck a chord with me. The tune runs through my head, like many an ear-worm. Over the past couple of weeks, however, it’s been running particularly deep.

At the end of May 2013 I had the privilege of spending a week or so in Arizona. The past six or eight months have been a time of rediscovery for me in several ways. I guess it all started with getting an old, dusty box out of storage in the fall. You see, my father was an engineer, and a very gentle man, and was fascinated with astronomy, and aircraft, and boats, and photography, and so many other things, too.

When I was little Dad bought what was for the time a quite good home telescope – a 4.5″ reflector marketed under the brand name Tasco. It had rather wobbly wooden legs, and the finish on the German equatorial mount wasn’t terribly impressive, and it only had little 0.95″ eyepieces. But it worked. It worked well to show the brighter planets and the moon to whomever wanted to take a look.

Although he never joined an astronomy club, my father loved to introduce people to our neighbours in the solar system with this white 4.5 incher. He was especially fond of taking the telescope up to the family cottage and showing the neighbours around. Today, nearly 20 years after his death, and likely 30 years after he had the ‘scope out of its box, friends at the cottage still talk with me about my Dad and his telescope.

I pulled the old ‘scope out of storage last fall. It had been sitting around its Styrofoam and cardboard carrier for a long time. Something seemed to grab me when I took it out of the box and set it up. I’ve now used the old ‘scope a few times, and have even coaxed it into taking a few photos… something I dreamed of years ago but never accomplished.

It touched off something, putting the telescope together, re-familiarizing myself with the mount and all of its details. It prompted me to start looking up again. And, it fueled the flaring passion for the sky that has resulted in several things. For one thing, this blog was borne out of that renewed passion. For another, I now have quite a fleet of home telescopes, something I fear needs a bit of trimming, actually. Too much of a good thing?

And all of this led me, last week, to a remote inn south of Benson, Arizona. Sitting down in a chair out in the desert, I looked up at the sky, and started taking images of the stars with a camera and tripod. And I listened again to “A More Glorious Dawn” on with my iPhone. I was feeling a bit lonely. I listened to Carl Sagan’s wonderful voice and powerful words. And I wondered once more what it’s all for.

And then I remembered the words in the film Cosmos, based on Sagan’s first-contact novel. In the story an alien that projects itself the image of the protagonist’s father states that in all of their exploration of the galaxy, the only thing that makes it all bearable is each other.

Thanks Carl. Thanks Dad.

Copyright © 2013 David Allan Galbraith