Surprising Aurora Photos.

So I’m up in the 1000 Islands area in upstate NY along the St. Lawrence River. The skies up this way are fantastic. A wonderful family vacation, and I had just enough energy to sneak outside for some wide field astro-photography. Long exposures of any kind get me excited, so with Vega up in the sky, I knew Milky Way shots were just around the corner. That became my mission some wonderful wide field Milky Way Galaxy shots.

So outside I go, and set up my gear. Camera tripod, iOptron SkyTraccker and my Canon 6D. I get the rig polar aligned, and I have an excellent track going on 3 minutes. Time to target the Milky Way Galaxy area of the sky. “Let that 3 minute exposure rip, and see what you get,” I tell myself. # minutes later… what the heck? Where is all this red light coming from? Oh that is so irritating. I go looking around for a possible light source that is messing up my images. No luck….no light source. I quietly whine to myself.

Then the shot that tipped me off to the next three hours came up.

Hey…I know that green color. That only occurs in fishing lures and … … Auroras. Squeals like a school girl… “Dang, I’ve got me some Aurora coming up,” I tell myself. Wow I had no idea. Not much more to say. Check out the photos for yourself.  It just goes to show, Always get out there, and always have your gear with you!

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Fun With Jupiter – Learning To Fly!

Spent some time with my Jupiter data from last night.

Scope: Explore Scientific 127mm APO
Camera: ZWO ASI224MC
Mount: Losmandy G-11
Accessory: Televue 2x Powermate

Let me know if you want my camera settings and I can send them to you.

Ha! So here’s a new rule I just learned. I was looking at one of my images, and there was a close moon that showed up. Wow I thought this was cool (see attached image). I wonder what moon that is… Go to the S&T Jupiter Moons calculator… Hey that’s Europa. Neat…wow I just missed a transit … hmm look at my second attached image.

Monday, April 24, 2017
04:18 UT, Europa begins transit of Jupiter.
05:04 UT, Europa’s shadow begins to cross Jupiter.

NOTE: I haven’t corrected my Image orientation yet. So “emerging” things are to the right of Jupiter instead of to the left – they should be to the left.

If you look real close – at about 1:04 AM local time I started my LAST capture for the night. Yep you can see the start of the Europa Eclipse there…lol! So beyond my improving imaging capabilities – know your planetary schedule…dang…I could have had all sorts of Europa Eclipse Action going on there…gees….

So looking at my images, It was almost a VERY nice image of Jupiter. Not sure what I missed there whether it is seeing induced, focus induced, below average transparency or just being new at this. George Normandin has often said I’m getting as good as I likely will with our typical rough seeing, Jupiter rotation, calibration induced (not doing calibration frames on the color camera yet) but still not sure if that is the clarity issues I’m experiencing here. The seeing was rough enough that I couldn’t get a star to pinpoint focus, but I was able to get it good enough to capture Europa in the one image…

Lots to learn here – very fun!

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Just Add Clear Skies

Finally, after about 10 years of buying gear… I’ve completed my newbie imaging rig.  Here’s the details of my platform.

  • Losmandy G-11 mount
  • Explore Scientific 127mm APO f/7.5
  • Celestron C11 SCT (not shown)
  • ZWO ASI 1600 Monochrome Cooled Camera
  • ZWO EFW Filter Wheel
  • ZWO ASI 221 Planetary Color (not shown)
  • Canon 6D DSLR (not shown)
  • Moonlight Focuser
  • Orion Starshoot for Autoguiding

I have this all configured and working ( mostly through ASCOM) in TheSkyX Pro, and everything is integrated now running through my Surface Book.

Can’t wait for first light… Just add clear skies.  It is Borg, resistance is futile…

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Trip To Cherry Springs State Park’s Dark Skies

Ok lots of good stuff to share after an awesome night at Cherry Springs State Park in PA on 10/11/2015.  Fantastic! A gathering of hardcore astronomers. Great clear skies. The temps went down to 40F … a bit chilly, and only meant for those who are ready for it! You can check out my camp and observing setup.  All set for a great night.   Just fantastic foliage all around us and on the  drive there – nature is just stunning!  I was joined by five members of my club, the Kopernik Astronomical Society (http://www.kopernikastro.org).  I observed visually nearly 40ish objects through my New Moon Telescopes 16″ f/4 Dob – love that scope!.  Below are some rookieish but ever improving wide field photos (barely processed.  It was a great night out for a last hurrah before the rougher weather kicks in.
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2015 Harvest Moon Lunar Eclipse Shot

OK a week later, I’m done licking my wounds, BUT I TRIED! So I was on my way home from family vacation, and I was all ready to go. I had my camera, I had my cool lenses, I had my tripod, and I couldn’t find the little piece that mates the camera to the tripod. Darn it! Many folks may not realize it, but a tripod is a must for astro-imaging of any kind – especially dark stuff like a lunar eclipse. SO here was my best. Using the side of a hotel as stabilization with the shutter release in my mouth and an ISO of 4000. Well 10 years ago I would have been a god. The price for this one, the hotel lobby lady was really getting whigged out over my strange behavior and language. About 40 exposures and then I threw my arms up in the air. There’s just nothing like a good tripod (or even a bad one!). It’s not half bad, BUT it could have been sooo much more!

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A Beauty Site To Come Home To…

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Wow when we left for vacation this was all green.  What a pretty sight to come home to.  What an amazingly beautiful time of year.

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Stellafane 2014 Report


What a great weekend at Stellafane 2014.  Just four weeks before, I attended a fantastic Cherry Springs Star Party, and was fortunate enough to get 3 solid nights of observing put in.  The forecast for this year’s Stellafane really looked morbid one week before the convention.  It looked like a crockpot of humidity during the days, and then wet rain at night.  Luckily as the calendar approached, that weather forecast improved infinitely.

I arrived with most of my group early on Thursday, and the weather was mostly pleasant.  Upon arriving at 3:20 or so, I immediately picked out my spot for my scope, and began unpacking the car.  Two hours later, my 16” Dob was mostly assembled, my tent was up, and everything mostly settled in. One thing I can say about going to a star party – BE ORGANIZED.  It makes a huge difference, and gets you to that Zen like state much faster.

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Standing with my 16″ f/4 New Moon Telescope. A fantastic Dob, and the best gear I have ever purchased!

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The small tent city we were setup in. My tent is the brown tent, third one in on left side.

Here’s a quick video showing a time lapse of me and my neighbors getting ready for a night of observing.

Of course the best thing about Stellafane is that it isn’t really intended to be a serious star party. There will be headlights, there will be lots of noise, there will be parties here and there.  So it is a very casual and fun environment defined by the jolly go lucky attendees that decide to come.  While observing is a big part of the event, having a relaxing time enjoying the company of amateur astronomers and telescope makers is really the focus.

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First Time In A Long Time

This winter has been fairly tough on the amateur astronomers of upstate-NY. It has been cold, and I mean the “near dangerous to be observing” kind of cold. With that in mind, not much of my gear has been used this year. It was so nice to just get out there in tolerable temperatures, and to get some fresh air out in nature. I just grabbed my grab and go rig, and setup. A 5” Explore Scientific Triplet Refractor on a Vixen Porta-Mount. The scope is a bit too heavy to get a great balance on the mount, but it just barely works for a quick setup.

Credit: Niccoló Bonfadini — This is how my driveway felt most of the winter of 2014. These photos are actually from Finland, click on the image for the originating source…amazing photos – these are trees in subzero weather

A really amazing two hours of observing tonight. Nice to not have it be horrifically cold out there. Soon the sessions can be longer as the spring nights warm up! So tonight I spent a good amount of time hopping around the constellation Orion, and lots of time on the Orion Nebula. A really amazing view using the Lumicon OIII filter attached to a Televue 6” Delos eyepiece. There were lots of wispy, nebulous features to be seen tonight. I then shifted over to the Pleiades, it was close to the moon, so there were no detections of nebulosity there, but still great to observe Atlantia as it hit just above the tree line. Then panned and scanned through the constellation Auriga, admiring many of the brightly colored stars in its open star clusters.

For a change I spent a good amount of time on the moon. The seeing was very stable, and I was able to push a lot of magnification on the craters there. The quarter moon terminator ran just perfect to really show off the 3-D nature of the many interesting and diverse craters. Not being a student of the moon, I can’t name all that I saw tonight, but there were many interesting features that almost lead me to spend some time learning all the craters I was looking at tonight.

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IO is shown just to the right of Jupiter, notice IO’s shadow just above the Great Red Spot! Image captured from Sky & Telescope’s iPad app ‘Jupiter’s Moons’

After taking a warm-up break, I went back out and brought Jupiter into view. Wow, was the seeing really great tonight, which is not common for upstate NY. I was able to push a 4.7mm eyepiece with perfect clarity on the Jovian giant. I was delighted to see the Great Red Spot just to the side of center. At first I saw three moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto. I admired the the Great Red Spot and the detailed features of the stripes, wisps and shadows in the gassy atmosphere. I had thought IO was behind the planet, and then I thought I saw it birth. All of a sudden there it was…just barely visible off the disc of Jupiter. Then the thought occurred to me, hey maybe it was in front of the great gas giant. I immediately looked back into the eyepiece, and sure enough, there was IO’s shadow hanging just above the Great Red Spot. Wow! Such detail tonight using a refractor – really makes me wish we had steadier skies every night here in the Northeast US.

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Implications of China’s Space Program

So China is possibly within 24 hours of sending a rover to the moon. Maybe a bit longer, but imminent. Now if you read this article, and there are many analysts who agree, China is likely to have humans on the moon in 10 years, and possibly a base/mining operations in 15 years.  You can check out the BBC News article below for details

The Moon could be a “beautiful” source of minerals and energy, a top Chinese scientist has told the BBC…

Now reflect on this: Yesterday, millions of American went out into the world to go shopping on Black Friday. Probably 92.7% of all goods purchased were manufactured in China. That’s right folks, we are the ones funding efforts like this.

It just seems to be our culture to pay someone else to do things for us…why not pay the Chinese to do our space program for us? I mean after all they stock up Walmart, and they get a space program…seems fair? 😐 Most things, cost way less in the long run if you do them yourself. The power gain for getting a foothold in space is a price we are going to regret in the future, if we give it up.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wish no ill will toward the Chinese space program, I think what they have accomplished in the past 20 years is staggering.  Much of the technology was likely “imported,” to get them started, but so was ours back in the WWII days.  I think it’s impressive the premium and priority their culture is placing on a space program.

However, I’m fairly disappointed in the directions the American space program has taken over the past 30 – 40 years.  I believe we are starting to get on a decent path forward again, assuming our economics and declining culture will support it. But this new path will only work if our economics and culture place a premium on it. These next adventures into space could easily be the beginnings of the United States’ next epic journey which defines our future and ushers in a new golden age. However, that won’t be the case if we aren’t the ones willing to step forward. But don’t fret, we can easily watch the Chinese do it on our behalf (on TV’s they made for us).

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2013 KAS Trip To NEAF

Credit: Rockland Astronomy Club

On April 20th – 21st, The Northeast Astronomy Forum and Telescope Show will be held.  There is a lot of buzz going around related to the event.  So far, about 10 KAS members have committed to going.  Some KAS members go down for two days, and others for one day or the other.

This year should be especially great, as the KAS has many NEAF activities planned.  For the third year in a row, the KAS will have a table at the event.  Once again this year we will be on the showroom floor, and sharing a booth with the great folks from the Adirondack Public Observatory.  Everything is all set…stop by the KAS booth for a chance to win a Kopernik AstroFest T-Shirt.

Also, members of the KAS are considering volunteering some of their valuable NEAF time and equipment to help the legendary Barlow Bob with the NEAF Solar Star Party (NSSP).

Many KAS members will also be participating in the 4th annual NEAF Posse Tweetup.  Throughout NEAF, members of Twitter attending NEAF meet up in various locations of the conference to hang out with one another in person.  Also on the Saturday night, there will be the annual NEAF Posse Takeover of Applebees and an exclusive  tour of the Lower Hudson Valley Challenger Center. For information regarding this event check out this page: http://www.kreegan99.org/2013neafposse/

Please feel free to contact kas’at’kopernikastro.org if you are interested in joining us in our venture to NEAF 2013.


 

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