Cruising around Taurus, checking out the normal targets, I wanted to hunt down a challenge object. Awed at the Pleades and Hyades clusters (both naked eye and through a 4” f/9 refractor)m and then barely squeaking in a peak at M1, visible, but more of my imagination was needed. I thought there had to be an object in this region that I could view with an 8” SCT, and yet had a bit of a challenge factor to it.
A fuzzy snowball was in order. Being a fan of the spent matter from a star that didn’t have the “stuff” to go super nova is always intriguing to me. A quick reference to the SkyX, resulted in quite a few targets. The first ones were listed as planetary nebulae of unknown magnitudes, and I know what that normally means…not with an 8” SCT ☺.
On December 9th, NASA will launch the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) aboard a Delta II rocket. WISE brings with it the most sensitive Infrared detection capability that has ever been used. Infrared detection will allow us to see objects which have very low amounts of visible light, and the WISE craft will survey the entire sky in IR over a six month time, which is something that has never been done before.
The craft houses a 16″ telescope with four IR cameras on board to survey the sky in four different IR wavelengths.
It is believed that WISE will uncover hundreds of thousands of asteroids (hundreds of them being Near Earth Objects), possibly hundreds of thousands of brown dwarf stars, some of the most luminous ancient galaxies, and with a little luck stars which have planetary discs around them.
Also, who knows what unexpected things will appear as we view the universe in a whole new way!
Follow the WISE mission at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/WISE/main/index.html
One of the more intriguing aspects of this mission, is that the craft must be kept super cooled so as to minimize its own IR emissions. If left at normal temperatures, it would be like shining a flashlight into the barrel of a telescope. Therefore, the craft is cooled by frozen hydrogen, which slowly evaporates away over a period of about 10 months.
This mission is going to be “cool”, and i for one am very excited about this NASA Science mission!
The Augustine Report was released this month, and there isn’t much good news for those of us who want to see NASA accomplish all of its goals in human space flight. The choices are all tough, many folks employment future at NASA has been placed in uncertainty, and no tangible results will be reached until nearly 2020 under the best of options. One Twitter Spacetweep said it best, “I guess we are all bogged down in trivia, and don’t have the same curiosity and excitement anymore.” Therein lies the problem with human space flight…it doesn’t carry with it the excitement anymore.
I woke up this morning, turned on my MacBook Pro (which I love!) as part of my start of day ritual. I walked outside to get the newspaper, and looked over at my family’s cars. Went into the garage, sat down in my foldout chair, lit up a cigarette, and started to drink my morning coffee out of my spectacular Starbuck’s coffee mug. A familiar theme started to resound in my head. The only things in this morning ritual (including my bathrobe and clothes) that were made in America that I noticed were my newspaper, my cigarette, and my coffee. Everything else was made somewhere else. Of course both the newspaper and cigarette are sunset industries for their own marketplace reasons. The coffee itself will be a thriving business for sometime to come, but the mugs in which it is consumed are not. Therein lies the rub.
We all experience this in each of our daily lives. And I think we all reflect upon it from time to time. It is hard not to. I think we all do this because deep inside, each and every one of us knows what a bad thing our dependency on the rest of the World is. Or at least it feels that way. This morning though, it dawned on me just how bad this condition is becoming for us.
STS-128 Discovery Liftoff (Photo Credits: NASA)
The Perseid Meteor Shower came and went last week. The peak was occurring between Tuesday August 11th and Friday August 14th. I always get excited about the Perseids. A few years back, I was observing on a rather explosive night of shooting stars, and ever since then, this has been my favorite meteor shower to observe. Living in Upstate NY, it is also one of the few Meteor showers to observe in shorts, under the warm August nights.
As far as amateur astronomers go, I am about as fortunate as it comes. The list of fortunes I have going for me is endless, and I am so grateful for what I have and what I have access to. First, at the very top of the list is my involvement in the Kopernik Observatory and Space Education Center and the Kopernik Astronomical Society (KAS). Located in the foothills of the town of Vestal, near Binghamton, NY, is this beautiful educational facility equipped with top notch astro-equipment, top notch staff, and of course the involvement of the top notch KAS. The equipment list of this facility is staggering, including three fully functional domes, three high quality telescopes (including an OGS 20” RC).
Next on the list, is my local neighborhood. Although I am still in the suburbs, I have fairly dark skies for being the heart of the burbs. My next door neighbor is a huge astronomy enthusiast, and my own personal collection of equipment is slightly above average.
Next on the list, probably the darkest accessible skies in the northeast are only 3 hours away in Cherry Springs State Park, PA. To pack up and go to this awesome attraction is a pretty convenient thing, especially for the quality of skies that can be had there.
Despite all of my access to the needed tools of the hobby, I still crave building my own observatory. This is the start of a long journey to get to that point, and I am going to try and record each and every detail here to share my discoveries with others.
Starting out Thursday very early morning, George, Art and I met at a parking lot to move forth into the potential stargazing heavens in Cherry Springs State Park near Coudersport, PA. When we met in the morning, it was raining in Johnson City, and we hoped we would not see the same weather when we arrived at our destination three hours away. The forecast was not looking good.
The long haul went off without a hitch, and we made it to Cherry Springs without any problems. It rained the whole way there, but when we showed up at Cherry Springs, it let up suddenly. After we selected our camping spot, it was time to set up base camp. Luckily, we were able to get the central easy up canopy tent up before the rain started to drizzle again (thanks so much to George for purchasing this perfect structure). We then started to stand up each other’s individual sleeping tents. Before we knew we were settled in.
On a cold and brisk January day in Vestal, NY, the skies uncharacteristically clear for January, and a group of ametuer astronomers couldn’t think of anything better to do than hold a star party. The temperatures reached 0 degrees by the time all was said and done, but that didn’t scare off astronomy enthusiasts nor the curious public.
I manned the C-14 dome, which houses a Celestron C-14 Schmidt Cassegrain telescope mounted on a Celestron CGE mount. A great piece of equipment. The C-14 is a vintage Celestron scope from around the mid 1980’s and has superb optics. We just recently renovated the dome by installing a new CGE mount donated by my good friend Erik. I brought my high end eye piece collection to support the event since it was such a beautiful day and night.