My Spacelab in Space

Archive for December, 2013

Flaming Star Nebula

Flaming Star Nebula

The Flaming Star nebula and IC 410 in Auriga. Taken with the Canon T2i. The “holes” on the right side are because I didn’t do flats. 6 x 4 min subs.

M42 and the Running Man

M42 and Running Man

M42 and the Running Man Nebula. 11 x 3 min subs on the T2i with a 200mm lens at f/4.0. A line of satellites is visible through the middle. They were in every sub.

Very wide field of Orion

Extreme Wide Field Orion

Very wide field shot of Orion. The really bright object on the left is Jupiter. Lots of other constellations are visible including Gemini, Lepus and Taurus. 20 x 3 min shots with a Tokina 16mm lens with the Canon T2i.

Veil Nebulae

Veil Nebulae

Veil Nebulae in Cygnus. It’s a blueish image because I was using an LP filter. Should’ve have done that!

Auriga Wide Field

Auriga Wide Field

Wide field shot of Auriga. M37 is barely visible at the bottom, the Flaming Star nebula is in the lower right. Next to that is M36 and M38. 12 x 5 min subs with the Canon 60DA, 50mm, f/4.0 on the Astrotrac.

Cassiopeia Wide Field

Cassiopeia Wide Field

Wide field shot of Cassiopeia. Large Milky Way region. The Pac-Man nebula is in the middle right and NGC 7822 at the upper left. Lots of clusters around here, too. 12 x 5 min subs, 50mm ISO800 f/4.0 on the Astrotrac.

Flame Nebula and Horsehead Nebula

Flame and Horsehead Nebula

The Flame Nebula and the Horsehead Nebula. Taken with the Canon 60DA, 21 x 3 min subs, ISO 800.

Jellyfish Nebula region

Jellyfish Nebula Region

The Jellyfish nebula in the center, the Monkey’s Head nebula in the lower left and M35 in the lower right. 9 x 4 min subs, 200m lens, f4.0 on the Astrotrac.

Orion Wide Field

Orion Wide Field

The constellation Orion. Including M42, the Running Man, Flame and Horsehead Nebulae, M78, Barnard’s Loop and the Rosette at the lower left. Taken with my Canon 60DA, 12 x 5 min, 50mm lens f/4.0 on an Astrotrac. Click for hi-res.

Rosette Nebula

Rosette Nebula

The Rosette Nebula in Orion taken with the Canon 60DA, Astrotech refractor, 12 x 3 min subs. Stacked with DSS and processed in Photoshop.

My Harrowing Flight Home

[Note: I realize that people have crappy experiences with airlines all the time, but I just wanted to share mine as a bit of catharsis.]

I’ve had some pretty terrible Christmas flight experiences before. Usually this involves flying through Chicago, which is why avoiding it is one of the four criterion I use when selecting a flight the other three being: 1. Doesn’t leave at the butt-crack of dawn, 2. Doesn’t take an unreasonable amount of time to get to my destination, 3. Doesn’t require me to take out a loan to pay for. (In all fairness, not flying through Chicago usually fits into #2).

I’m always a procrastinator when it comes to booking my Christmas vacation flight, which means finding an acceptable flight meeting those goals is close to impossible. After shopping on Priceline for quite some time, altering departure and arrival dates, I found a flight that would meet MOST of them. The only part that breaks it is that my return flight goes through Chicago. My flight on American would leave out of Baltimore at 4:10 PM, cost about $550 (the cheapest I could find into Springfield’s tiny airport), went through Dallas AND had me in First Class for the BWI -> DFW leg. “Score!” I thought, not realizing what I was getting myself into.

For this trip, I’m hoping to take some more pretty pictures that are the usual fare of this blog. The week before, I bought an Astrotrac mount and a Canon 60DA to assist with this. As you can imagine, my bags were pretty jam packed with stuff. My checked luggage is a tall bag and besides regular stuff like clothes, was carrying a tripod and a ton of other things like counterweights and what-not. My two carry-on bags included the 60DA, a T2i, three lenses, the Astrotrac itself, a laptop and XBox, my small telescope and a finderscope. Remarkably, TSA said nothing about them. Because I was First Class out of Baltimore, they even didn’t make me pay extra or shuffle things around when my checked bag was a few pounds over 50.

I get to the gate and am waiting for them to start boarding. It’s one of those situations where another plane has just arrived at the gate right when you’re supposed to start boarding, so offloading took an eternity, and they didn’t start boarding First Class until about 10 minutes before the scheduled departure time. I had a one-hour layover in Dallas, so I was sweating it, but the pilot appeared to have requested a faster flight plan and it was looking good.

We taxi out toward the runway, and then wait about five minutes before the pilot comes on and says, “Uhhhhh, folks” (they always start with that), “we can’t get our radio to work, so we’re going to have to go back to the gate and see what’s up”. After crawling back to the gate, the mechanics farted around for 20 minutes or so when the pilot comes back on and says, “Uhhhhh, folks, they can’t get the radio working, so this aircraft is being decommissioned.” They de-board us and tell us that they’ll work on getting a new plane, but that it will probably be after 9 PM.

They de-board us and I call up American to see what my options are for getting home as I will definitely miss my connecting flight. I’m told that the next available flight to Springfield from Dallas is at 7:45 PM the next night. I decide to try to fly to Tulsa instead, hoping to just rent a car (more on this later).

The airline was nice enough to give us some food vouchers, but unfortunately, the only restaurant I wanted to eat at in that terminal was the Rams Head. I hesitate to say “unfortunately” because I usually love their food, but the service here was downright atrocious. I stood at the podium for about five minutes and finally got someone to come over to seat me by waving my arms. He joked that it looked like I was dancing. I ordered my food from one guy, another guy (who I think was supposed to be my waiter) brought it out and then proceeded to ignore me except when I asked the first guy for a refill and when I asked for the check at the end. I usually tip well, but this is one of the few times I undertipped.

Anyway, they were able to courier a new part for the plane from Washington DC and fix our original plane, so it ended up leaving around 8 PM. One nice thing was that the guy who was originally next to me in First Class was no longer there, so I had a crap-ton of room. They also pamper you in first class (the good kind of pampering).┬áIn-flight, I paid way too much for 90 minutes of slow Wi-Fi so I could book my hotel. I know the airline would’ve done it and probably paid for it, but I was worried that I might not get a room with the entire plane needing a room.

The plane lands and I’m one of the first to the gate counter to see if any of my options have gotten better. It turned out that there was a Springfield flight at 9:15 the next morning and they could get me a confirmed seat on it! “Count me in”, I said. When I got to the baggage claim, it turns out it would’ve probably taken forever to get my bag for the night, so I had to go rustic for the hotel. I did get toiletries from them, but my clothes might smell a little funny today.

Being from the East Coast and typically having to wake up early meant I was awake around 5:30 AM. I hobbled around for a bit then hopped into the shower. As I got out, I checked the flight status on my phone. CANCELLED!

I head to the airport and get on the phone for American on the way. They book me on a 10 AM flight into Tulsa. I was planning to rent a car again. When I got to the airport, I went to the ticket counter and got my new boarding pass and tried to get my luggage on the same plane. It took forever for them to get it input into the system, but he claimed to get it through to them.

While waiting for the plane to leave, I call Enterprise to try to rent a car. They tell me I can do a one-way rental, but it will require a credit card. I only have debit cards, though (there’s an SNL skit about not buying stuff you can’t afford), so they told me I had no real options. I called my parents in a panic and convinced them to drive to Tulsa to pick me up (about three hours). They had just left when, in the airport, the parents of someone I went to high school and know from my parent’s church saw me and said they would give me a ride from Tulsa. They were in the same boat as me, having been on the cancelled flight. I’m still thanking the big man upstairs for that one.

Anyway, we land in Tulsa, aaaaaaaaaaandd, wait for it, neither of our bags were there.

I speak to the lady at the AA baggage center who is incredibly unhelpful and suggests I call their baggage hotline. I first tried to enter my record locator on their website which refused to work, so I called the number. First, I was told it was a 20 minute wait. 30 minutes go by and the call gets DROPPED! I call a second time and this time choose the option to leave a callback number and have them call me. 20 minutes go by, I get a call and am promptly sent to the original line where I’m told it’s another 10 minute wait, then I’m dropped again. I call their regular customer service number, wait 10 minutes and tell them how mad I am. They proceed to apologize profusely…and send me back to the baggage number, which says there’s a 15-20 minute wait. 30 minutes go by and I’m dropped again! I wait a little while and call back and give them my number again. This time, I FINALLY speak to a human, who tells me my bag was just scanned into Springfield. I’d point out that by this time, we were almost to the Springfield airport, so I spend most of the 3 hour drive there trying to get through to a human.

There’s no way the flight back could be anywhere near this bad…knock on wood.