“This is Our Planet” video by Tomislav Safundžić

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
http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/Videos/CrewEarthObservationsVideos/
Music: The XX – Intro
Enjoy

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!

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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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Gebel Kamil and Mundrabilla Meteorite Additions.

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.

Gebel Kamil

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.

Gebel Kamil 220.1g

Photo Credit: Suzanne Morrison/Geoff Notkin/Aerolite Meteorites

220.1g Gebel Kamil Meteorite

Photo Credit: Suzanne Morrison/Geoff Notkin/Aerolite Meteorites


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My 2011 Kopernik AstroFest 2011 Experience

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.

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March 2011 – Deep Sky Target List

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.

201103-MarchTargetList

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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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Space Flight and the Nature of Things…

A few weeks ago I was giving a presentation on the future of US space flight.  It was a pretty good presentation, if I do say so myself, and I had lots of fun making it and presenting it.  It was a small crowd of about 30 – 40 folks, which is strange for a clear night at Kopernik Observatory, and somewhere during the presentation, one of those rare moments of inspiration arose, and I just had to share it here on the blog.

Faster Than Light Travel (credit: NASA)

At the very end of the presentation, I presented a slide covering various technology and efforts which I  hadn’t gone over in the presentation.  I was only summarizing and providing a list of things to research for those interested.  After all, we have to keep the presentations down to 45 minutes to allow folks to observe the heavens.  However, I hit a moment where it was really just myself in the room despite all the others, and was able to block everyone else out. I absolutely long for moments like that, when everything became clarity, and time seemed to stop outside that moment.   For a brief time, I had found a Zen like state to exist in, and it couldn’t have been interrupted by a better question…

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A Beginner’s Guide to Observing from the Armchair

Volunteering at Kopernik Observatory in public outreach activities, I have never seen a member of the public not be amazed at what we show them through our telescopes.  People, no matter what their background are always amazed at what the heavens have to show us.  There is a good reason for this, it is just simply amazing to observe and ponder the vastness of space, and to come to the realization that the wonders which surround us here on Earth are just one small part of the cosmic equation.

Some Screenshots of Computer Resources

I have only been active in the local astronomy community for about five years now, but I have been “observing” in one fashion or another for most of my life.  Furthermore, I have only owned my own telescopes for about five years.  Before I purchased my first telescope, I spent many years “observing from the armchair.”  Well more specifically, from my computer chair since the mid 1990’s.  There is a wealth of information, images, computer software, and groups of people one can interact with without leaving the home.

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