Astronomy & Observing:

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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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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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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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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2012 Venus Transit – What Great Luck!

NOTE: this is a cross posted article I wrote for kopernikastro.org.

Of the worst ways to start an astronomical visual observing blog entry is with, “It was a cold and rainy evening.”  I was the primary support person at the observatory tonight, and I have to say I wasn’t in much of a hurry to get to the observatory.  Due to the cloudy and rainy forecast and current weather conditions, I didn’t think many people would come to the observatory, and definitely didn’t consider rushing to a small crowd watching NASA TV a high priority.

Considering the “Just in Case” scenario, when I arrived at the observatory, I placed the Baader Herschel Wedge into the 6” Astrophysics F/12 Refractor with a 40mm eyepiece.  Turned the scope on, and placed it roughly where Sol would be if the dreaded upstate NY cloud cover wasn’t there.  It looked hopeless out there, but it looked good to the crowd that was amassing, and it gave me something to do other than wallow in my sol-less pity.  I even prepped the dome for rapid opening in the weird chance of a clearing.  But the clear sky clock said something like “keep dreaming” across the Kopernik Observatory banner (I think I saw that there).

To my surprise, and delight, there were about 225 eager enthusiasts amassing at the observatory to learn some about the Venus Transit, the Sun, and the importance of this event.  I was “wow’d” given the horrific weather we had.  I can’t believe that this many folks came all the way up to see our solar observing equipment and watch part of the transit on NASA TV.  Fantastic!  An awesome outreach reflection.

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My Planning for the 2012 Messier Marathon

Planning is underway for the 2012 KAS Messier Marathon.  This is a great opportunity to view all the objects catalogued by Charles Messier 1771 – 1773 that took him 24 years to observe.  Messier catalogued objects that he originally thought were comets, but could not confirm them as such.  Basically these objects appeared to him as “faint fuzzies” but unlike comets, they never moved.  Basically, his list of 110 objects were considered a hinderance by him.

Messier Object Chart

Today, this list of objects are the most accessible and easiest to view objects in and around our galaxy.  About 10 of them can be spotted with the naked eye, and the rest are al findable with even a fairly modest telescope.  Every year during the new moon dark window in March, all but a few of these great objects is observable in just one night.  The window this year runs roughly between March 19th and March 28th.  It takes the entire night to see them all, and we here in the upstate NY area can see all but 1-2 objects that rest on the extreme southern skyline.

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Check Out Mars As It Makes Its Close Approach

Note: I originally posted this article on www.kopernikastro.org on 2/20/2012

Coming up: check out the view of Mars, the reddish-orange object, just below the constellation Leo.  Mars will be making its close approach between February 24th thru about March 9th or so.

Daily observing of the 2012 Mars close approach will occur at Kopernik Observatory & Science Center, clear skies permitting.  Check out the event info here.

For those of you advanced astronomers with high end equipment, check out this challenge by Astroguys.com to spot the Martian Moons Phobos and Deimos – http://bit.ly/wDbUai.

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A Target for Galaxy Season – NGC 2403

Coming out of winter, my astronomy observing bug begins to kick in. Getting all excited about the fair weather season coming up and I start to build my galaxy season target list. This one caught my eye as I was reading in both Sky and Telescope/Astronomy magazines about the upcoming galaxy spring season.

NGC 2403 is located in the constellation Camelopardalis. Don’t be confused by this constellation name, as this represents a giraffe, rather than what your first intuition probably suggested. This wonderful galaxy is held in a remote piece of space, and it has very few companion objects around it. It’s considered by many as being one of the closest galaxies to our local group of galaxies. It is estimated to be about 8.9 million light years away (there are more conservative estimates at 10.5 million light years away). It belongs to the same group of galaxies as the more well known M81 and M82 in Ursa Major.

Sky map to locate NGC 2403 - click to enlarge

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