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.
Standing with my 16″ f/4 New Moon Telescope. A fantastic Dob, and the best gear I have ever purchased!
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.
Now the truth is, as an amateur astronomer, I spend a lot of time looking up in the sky just to catch a glimpse of some faint point of light. A faint point of light that could be bursting with some form of energy transfer or with life. Maybe that faint light is already gone, and I’m mesmerizing at some distant historical event, that I can barely tell one way or the other. Then videos like this one come along, and show me that my home is just some faint point of light on the landscape of this blueish planet. And I long to go here…to see this with my own eyes, and look down.
This is Our Planet from Tomislav Safundžić on Vimeo.
Image courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center
Music: The XX – Intro
Today a friend of mine asked me why if we have so many problems here on Earth, why should we spend the money looking away from the Earth. My answer was simple, we need to both. They are NOT mutually exclusive events. Human beings will likely always have similar problems as we have today, it’s part of what makes us get out of bed in the morning. However, someday, this delicate blue planet may be destroyed, it may become uninhabitable, we might chew through most of its natural resources, or it might just get too darned crowded. My answer to this person was, my goal, along with many other people, is to see that humanity needs to struggle with problems on both this planet, and maybe another. Then those of us here on Earth can watch a video similar to this one for another planet far, far away!
From time to time, I stumble upon Meteorite Specimen that I just can’t walk by. These rocks from space often times grip me in ways that are hard to explain, and I often feel compelled to purchase them. Sometimes it’s from a significant fall, sometimes it’s due to a fascinating shape or color, and sometimes it just fulfills the compulsion of the moment. This time around, I’ve chosen two specimens to add to the collection.
This is a beautiful acquisition. This rock is relatively flat with only about 21mm thickness. It has this really cool snakeskin texture on the one side, and an amazing sheen over a dark brown patina on the front side. The regmaglypts (thumbprint shapes) are teeny structures that measure smaller than a single millimeter. There are a variety of melting indicators, fractures, and bends on the rocks’ edges. These features indicate that the sample is a shrapnel from a larger event.
Photo Credit: Suzanne Morrison/Geoff Notkin/Aerolite Meteorites
Photo Credit: Suzanne Morrison/Geoff Notkin/Aerolite Meteorites
This year at Kopernik AstroFest 2011, the skies were just down right mean to us. It never really rained (as far as I can remember) but we were socked in with clouds for 49 of the total possible 54 hours of AstroFest from Friday September 30th until Sunday October 2. We’ve come to expect this living in upstate, NY. That’s why our fantastic leadership team booked so many great speakers and guests to present and attend AstroFest 2011.
With this in mind, I first point to the time I spent with Barlow Bob. I have to admit, I was a bit leery about what magic Barlow Bob would pull out of the van with such dismal daytime skies. I’ve attended Barlow Bob’s NEAF Solar Star Party to observe “Bob’s Only Star he cares about.” And I know he has a VERY amazing inventory of solar observing equipment. When I previewed the weather forecast, I was a bit bummed out that I would not be able to play with these wonderful solar observing toys.
But as I’ve come to expect from Barlow Bob’s reputation – I wouldn’t be disappointed. We spent the better part of Friday and Saturday playing with different spectrascopes and spectragraphs. We observed a variety of different gases contained in small light bulbs that emitted different types of spectra. We observed everything from some elements similar to those in our sun to the ever-puzzling spectra produced by Iodine.
I have posted my March/April 2011 target list for your perusal (as exported from Astro Planner). The list shows about 1800+ deep sky objects in the easy to intermediate skill range. A variety of types, sizes, rise/set times, and other variables as well. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions and/or comments. The file linked here is an Excel file, let me know if you would rather a raw csv file.
Just walking by my back deck today, saw this crazy little guy. I have seen moon moths that are weird glowing green, dark green and even white before, but never have I seen a brown one. He is pretty cool!
Then he up and flew away shortly after. Neat to look at while he was there!
So what do a bunch of up state New York Amateur Astronomers do in the heart of winter? Well they throw an outdoor astronomical observing party for the public. I mean why not? What’s a little cold anyway? Ok so we aren’t talking 40 degrees F out there, but rather something more like, well ok, 10 degrees F. But hey we are a hearty bunch right?
The day started out at around 4 PM, when we began the event with a special family workshop to build a small telescope. The gist of the program was to accomplish two goals. First, to teach families about how telescopes work, and then to also get them to look through the scopes. We had 19 families, for a total of about 60-70 people including moms, dads, children, and other family members.
In my latest observing session, I had setup my C-11 on the Losmandy mount, and it was a nice, clear brisk night. A little transparency and seeing issues but that just pushed me to check out some deep space objects. However, on this night, I had no plan in mind, and had to “get creative“ on the fly.
NGC 7331 & Company - Credit: Vicent Peris, Calar Alto Observatora, Spain
I really wanted to observe some far off galaxy to get my imagination into things. I guess I wanted to look at some very distant land, thinking that maybe someone or something was observing me right back. Seeing nothing but a fuzzy object with little definition and a bit of structure, my mind drifted to the orientation at which they would be observing the Milky Way Galaxy. The three dimensionality of space and our orientation in the Milky Way has always intrigued me. I long for a three dimensional model of the universe to ask such questions of.
I had never looked at NGC 7331 visually, just observations from the armchair admiring other’s photographic efforts. Hey Pegasus was up in the sky, so why not observe what many people refer to as the Milky Way’s Twin. Looking at TheSkyX, I noticed that there are other more faint galaxies in the that region of space. Maybe I would get lucky, and see some of these more faint galaxies as well. So be it, syncing the Losmandy to the stars Sheat and Matar in Pegasus, I then punched in NGC 7331. The scope did its job, and there was a faint fuzzy in my 55 mm EP.
Here is an email I sent out to a group of friends related to the following article:
Is there an endless supply of oil? – by Russ Vaughn
Now I am not schooled enough either way, but had a little fun, and possibly poked a few holes in the idea…
This was my response to the email thread going on about this among my friends:
Hmmmm…i feel a bit puzzled after reading the article. I had always been taught the deep crust theories. However, the truth probably lies somewhere between the two. The argument for running out, I had thought, was always based on what we can cheaply get at? I guess i had never considered that the deep crust activities could be flowing up to the top re-plenishing at the rate of what we are consuming. Of course the author/theory stops short of making that claim.