Yearly Archives: 2012

Season’s Greetings!

Season’s Greetings!

SNOWBALLNGC 7662 (also known as the Blue Snowball Nebula, Snowball Nebula or Caldwell 22) is a planetary nebula located in the constellation Andromeda.

The distance to this nebula is not known with any real accuracy. According to the Skalnate Pleso Catalogue (1951) the distance of NGC 7662 is about 1,800 light years, the actual diameter about 20,000 AU. In a more recent survey of the brighter planetaries, C.R.O’Dell (1963) derived a distance of 1,740 parsecs or about 5,600 light years, increasing the actual size to 0.8 light year, or nearly 50,000 AU. It has a faint central star that is variable, with a magnitude range of 12 to 16.[4] The central star is a bluish dwarf with a continuous spectrum and a computed temperature of about 75,000K. The nuclei of the planetary nebulae are among the hottest stars known.[5]

NGC 7662 is a popular planetary nebula for casual observers. A small telescope will reveal a star-like object with slight nebulosity. A 6″ telescope with a magnification around 100x will reveal a slightly bluish disk, while telescopes with a primary mirror at least 16″ in diameter may reveal slight color and brightness variations in the interior.

Posted in Blog

Solar Activity and Winter Observing

We could be going through Solar max now: 
Latest graph:
The latest graph of sunspot count:

Latest Sunspot number prediction

SUBSIDING STORM: Last night, Nov. 13/14, Northern Lights spilled across the Canadian border into the United States during a moderately strong (Kp=6) geomagnetic storm. Spotters report naked-eye auroras just barely over Colorado. Cal is always possible so keep looking up and North. Active Astro sites prove to be the best for catching aurora posts but this NOAA page gives you a Kp map – Click on North America:


Click to images to enlarge!

This Email alert can hedge you bets for solar flares and aurorae – I use it for h-alpha:
Real Time e-mail Solar Flare Alert:  (see also )

Posted in Blog, Solar

Solar Observing Nov 4th

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

Take The Sunspot Quiz:

Solar Observing November 4th was sublime. Nice because the weather was perfect cooltemperature, clear skies and fair seeing. The Sunspot count was in the 40’s with 4 sunspot pairs – two above the solar equator – two “mirror images” below. That was too neat to see 🙂

The symmetry of the Sun’s magnetic field lines means that a sunspot pair which forms above the equator can equally likely form a mirror image below the equator – a negative ( -x , -y )  mirror image.

Sunspot generally form in pairs.
A sunspot pair can again be formed as a mirror image below the sun’s equator because of the symmetry of the sun’s magnetic field.

H-Alpha Prominences were large and notable all around the solar disk: hedge shape, spicule and branching tree shapes noted.

Folks we are a just a standard deviation from the solar cycle maximum. 

Posted in Blog, Solar

Happy Halloween

Posted in Blog

Lecture On The Sun

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 – 12:00pm
Climate Change: What’s Going On With the Sun?
SETI Institute: 189 Bernardo Avenue #100, Mountain View
Watch online: 

Dan Lubin
SETI Institute

Throughout the past century, while greenhouse gas (GHG) abundances have been steadily increasing and influencing Earth’s climate, the Sun has remained relatively bright and quiescent. Solar cycles have been steadily active, with instantaneous sunspot numbers at solar maximum exceeding 100 in every cycle since 1893 (Cycle 13). The climate warming we have experienced since the beginning of the modern industrial era cannot be attributed to the Sun. However, the recent minimum between Cycles 23 and 24, and NASA predictions of a substantially lower sunspot number at the 2013 solar maximum, suggest that the Sun’s recent bright and quiescent period may be ending. Both autocorrelation studies of recent solar cycles, and studies of solar analogs in nearby field stars, suggest a >40% chance of the Sun entering a new Maunder Minimum sometime in the Twenty First Century. During the historical Maunder Minimum (1645-1715), meteorological data from Europe and proxy records from global oceans indicate a substantially cooler climate, attributable to decreased solar irradiance. In our lifetime, we may therefore see a period of solar dimming in conjunction with increasing GHG abundances. A new Maunder Minimum would not entirely offset the projected GHG-induced warming (the GHG radiative forcing is at least three times larger than best estimates of the solar irradiance decrease). Instead, the complex interactions between radiative balance and atmospheric dynamics yield unusual regional patterns of pronounced warming versus cooling. This seminar will address the physical basis of climate change in the context of both GHG and solar variability, and will also extend the discussion to the influence of stellar variability upon habitable zones.

Posted in Anouncements, Blog

October Sun 1x Visible Sunspots

Visible Sunspots over next couple of days!

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

Sunspot or active region AR 1582 is a 1x spot. And so is AR 1579 which is just barely visible. Is it to the right or left? 🙂

Over next couple of days one will still need good eyes and a good solar filter to see these (and welding glass wont cut it). Solar glasses are good, Solar Cards better.

Malika Carter: Sunspot image with her eyepiece projection system. Click photo to enlarge.

For those of you who have H-alpha scopes: Good prominences at limb particularly at ~5 O’clock refactor view – prominence drapes over the photosphere creating a sinuous filament.

Clear Magnitude -26.73 skies Michael Packer

Posted in Anouncements, Blog, Solar

Shuttle Endeavour Flyover

Lots of folks gathered at NASA Aimes for the Flyover of Space Shuttle Endeavour.
Beautiful Day  – Beautiful spaceship.

Flyover Video and Crowd Cam Here:










Great Education and Outreach Booths:


Posted in Articles, Blog, Observing Reports

Almaden Valley Art & Wine Festival

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter! 
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park weather permitting

Thousands of folks and families gathered for the 2012 Almaden Valley Art & Wine Festival sponsored by the Almaden Valley Women’s Club. And For a couple of years now SJAA has been apart of the festival.
Below are some pics of SJAA at the event starting off with Ed Wong (Left) talking with a patron.


These two girls took time out from their practice for their dance show to see the surface of sun in H-alpha. That got the whole gang to come over and take a look.


Below, woman viewing our star and Rob Jaworski who organized SJAA’s participation in the festival

MPLuntWoman Rob


Very happy girl who got too see our sun and two sunspots
 It is always a good day when there are sunspots visible and H-Alpha flares. We had two sunspots and although we had , a decent sized one plus


Michael (left) Bill


All in all a great day for SJAA outreach – thanks to all who helped!

Posted in Blog

Loaner Scope & Quick STARt Status Page

Author: Dave Ittner

SJAA offers all of it’s members the opportunity to borrow various types of loaner scopes.   The challenge with any such program is the ability to provide a current listing of scopes and their availability.

I am pleased to say that we have developed a system which will provide 100% transparency.

When you go to the SJAA main website – please select the Advanced Loaner Telescope Program menu under Programs circled below.

Loaner Menu

After clicking on Advanced Loaner Telescope Program menu – it takes you to the Loaner Scope Program status page as seen below:


Above is a screenshot of an embedded Google spreadsheet that is opened up to the Advanced Loaner Scope Status page.  This page will show you the up-to-date status of all of the clubs loaner scopes.   When you send me a request via email for a particular scope I will put your name in the “On Deck” column, when you pick it up the status will change to “Out on loan” and the due date will be noted in the Comments column.  Should the scope be out on loan already, your name will stay in the On Deck column until it becomes available and you pick it up.

Another benefit that the club offers to our new members is the ability to participate in the Quick STARt program.    To see an overview of the program please click on Quick START (QS) Program tab.  After doing so – it brings you to:


Those new SJAA members who have requested (or accepted in invitation) to attend the next session will have their names listed.  If you don’t see your name on this list please send me an email.

The QS Scopes tab lists all of the scopes dedicated to this program and their current status.



Please keep in mind that the scopes above are available to “ALL” members to borrow.   The QS  program participants get 1st priority though.   Please email me if you are interested in checking out a QS program scope and it’s related items as described in this previous post.

We also would love to hear from you on how to make this program better.  Are there any scopes or items you want the club to put into the program?

Thanks for your support.

Dave Ittner

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Programs

SJAA at Cambrian Festival 2012

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter! 
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park weather permitting

A beautiful sunny day at the Celebrate Cambrian Festival brought out lots families to learn about their local community. And the SJAA was proud to be a part of it!

Lots of kids got to see the sun starting with an eyepiece projections system, 


then moving to an amateur scope (with solar filter) to see sunspots in detail,


and then ending with views of H-Alpha flairs, prominences, in the club’s hydrogen alpha telescope.  Lots of “oohs” “aahhs” and “cool” at every station.


And lots of thanks to our volunteers: Tom Sharkey, Teruo Utsumi, Malika Carter, Rob Jaworski, Michael Packer, Bill and Susan O’Neil and Tracy Avent-Costanz. You guys made it happen!

All in all, hundreds of folks easy got to see and learn about astronomy – if not in their own back yard – very close! We hope see see a few of them at Houge Park at upcoming public star party events!

Posted in Blog

It Was Bound To Happen + Sunspots and The Spinning Sun

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter! 
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park   weather permitting

The Sun and Saturn – It Was Bound To Happen:

Over the 4th of July I got together with old friends and instead of shooting off fireworks – which btw would get you shot in the Klamath woods of the Siskiyou mountains – I offered viewing the distant fireworks of the Sun in H-Alpha. These friends for the most part were oblivious to the hobby of astronomy – some had never seen Saturn in a scope – which was on the agenda for the night.

On the 4th sunspot activity was good with “1x” visible sunspot group – a smear of spots in between two large spots making a of a very good “face on the Sun”. It looked like the face of a fox to some. (I’d really love to hear the conspiracy theories for this fiery crop circle). Anyway plasma was streaming off the solar limb south of this group in spectacular geometries and other prominences could be seen all around the solar disk. All-in-all it was an average H-alpha day for 2012. But to these folks who had never seen the Sun in H-Alpha it was a mind blowing wicked-sick day.  A couple could not take their eyes off the show and needed to know everything.

pNight came and it was Saturn’s turn. Its rings and moon Titan shinning brightly. Seeing was pretty fair and the best view of the planet through a TV85 was @ 150x using a 4mm Radian. Very decent power for CA.. I don’t have to explain to veterans of this hobby the impression Saturn makes to first timers. However the words did flow – “Wow, OMG, Surreal, get-the-heck-out-of-here and holly <insert expletive>.”

But then I heard it. And the comment was entirely reasonable for a 1st timer to say: “Cool but not quite as cool as the Sun.” It was bound to happen. Personally I have never heard anyone compare Saturn to another planet or DSO with any vigor: Mars, NGC4565, nope. Saturn is in a class all by itself. And to be fair, if the view of Saturn was through a Bill Burton’s 12.5″ with a binoviewer at the Florida WSP (think festoons, Encke, 500x) – well the comparison would never leave a person’s lips…

I don’t think.

The H-Alpha Sun – “it’d be happen, maad and irie mon

The Spin of the Sun – Sunspots appearing and disappearing off face:

On July 6th SJAA member Malika took two excellent shots of sunspot spinning in to and out view. Below are the cools images – which I rotated and doctored a bit to bring detail.

Click one image. When it pops up you can click on thumbnails below it to advance (go back an forth) between the two and see the sunspot appear/disappear at the top and bottom limb. Nice!!!

On_resize Off_resize
Posted in Blog, Solar

The Sun

Useful Solar Links: 

Real Time e-mail Solar Flare Alert:
Everything about the Today’s Sun at a Glance:
Today’s Space Weather with Sunspot Count:
Solar Influences Data Center – SIDC keeper of the International Sunspot Number 
Superb overview of Solar features – a must read:
NOAA Glossary of Solar Terms:
Observing the Sun in H-Alpha – Compiled by David Knisely”:

 Killer Video! – Depth Detail of Umbra & Penumbra with Surrounding Photosphere Granules

Click on image to enlarge:
Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info

Solar Observing August 5th

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park weather permitting

The are a so many objects up in the night sky for amateur astronomers to enjoy, travel to with his/her scope and learn something new. Yet it is the same way with out single star up in the day sky, The solar cycle generates new sunspots and flares of beauty, size and ominous power. Today many of us saw hands-down “thee” longest filament, prominence, h-alpha flare, projected on the solar disk we have ever seen. Winding over the disk of the sun it easily spanned 1/3 of the entire solar face. if the filament was stretched out, it would easily span 1/2 the solar disk or some 50 Earth diameters!

While all of us at Houge were viewing this and thinking about Curiosity’s Landing expected in the evening, SJAA member Malika was actually at JPL enjoying the event and showing sunspots to public. Her Sunspotter eyepiece projection system beautifully captured all 6 major sunspots:

Click on a image to enlarge. Then compare the two by clicking icons at bottom of view screen

MalSunAug1st SunAug5th
Right On!
Posted in Articles, Blog, Education & Reference Info, Solar

Quick STARt get’s an upgrade

SJAA is proud to announce an upgrade to their innovative Quick STARt (QS) program.   The QS program is for new members with little to no experience in the hobby.  It is designed to provide some basic instruction about the night sky and how to use one of the loaner scopes.

For more information about the program and to check to see if you are on the invite list, please go to: and then click on the Quick STARt (QS) tab.

Below is a nice picture of the items now provided in this program.  (click on picture to enlarge it)

Scope and Chair

Scope and chair

The recently approved upgrade consists of the following new equipment:

  • An Observers Chair.  An adjustable height chair that folds down flat for easy transport.
  • A new large accessory case with pluck foam. (replaces smaller case)
  • A new 32mm Orion Plossl eyepiece.
  • A new 8mm AstroTech Paradigm eyepiece.  (replaces Orion 10mm eyepiece)
  • A new Moon filter.
  • A new 9 LED red flashlight.  (replaces Orion mini led flashlight)
  • A Bright Star Atlas.

Existing items still in the package are:

  • an Orion XT6 or XT8 scope
  • a 25mm Orion Plossl eyepiece.
  • a 2X Barlow lens.
  • a Discover the Stars book (introduction to the hobby)
  • a Planisphere
  • a Moon Map

Here is a closer look at the accessory case:  (click on picture to enlarge it)

Accessories and start guide

Accessories and star guide

The Quick STARt sessions are made available to all newly approved SJAA members.  These sessions are by invite only.   To request an invite please email

Clear skies,
Dave Ittne

Posted in Anouncements, Blog, Programs

Daytime Jupiter and Solar Observing July 1st

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park   weather permitting

First I must say hats off and a thanks for Teruo spotting Jupiter in his 8 inch SC scope this afternoon in broad daylight. That was cool.

Second I have to say solar observing is not all H alpha by a long shot. One sunspot group was just visible naked eye and Malika’s “Sunspoter” (eyepiece projection system) beautifully captured the 5 major groups today. The Sunspot count was in the 90’s and two sunspots showed exquisite umbra – penumbra detail.

Third – ok prominences today were pretty darn cool with 5 equal branching plumes looking like a row of  central valley olive trees at 10 O’clock (left-right flipped refactor view). A prominence at ~12 O’clock had part of its structure projected on photosphere giving a 3d like feel to the sun.

This image below show today’s sunspots. I crudely drew in the prominences.
Click Image to Enlarge

Great day and another hats off to Dave Ittner for taking care of a lot of folks at the Telescope Tune-up. Way to go.

Posted in Blog, Solar

An Open Source Satellite You Can Operate!

Hey Amateur Astronomers & Imagers
(also DIY’ers, hackers, and in general those interested in space)

Did you know that there is now a standard (10cm x 10cm x 10cm) satellite called CubeSat that any cash deprived university or small businesses can build or buy and put into space with their own equipment or experiment? Here’s a pic of one:

Picture of a typical CubeSat satellite that can be piggybackedp
on to many launch vehicles across the world

 Well now Team ArduSat shacked-up at NASA is raising funds to buy the parts, buy the launch time BUT allowing amateurs astronomers, students, the public (you!) to decide all the experiments/images the satellite will run over its time in space.

Here is a YouTube Video explaining this “open source” mission.

And here is the ArduSat Website where you can learn more about it, and become a participant, and backer. Be sure to check out the FAQ way at the bottom of the webpage. It answers a lot of questions you might have.

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info

1x sunspot group for Fri June 15th

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

There’s been a nice 1X power sunspot group visible the last coupe days. It doesn’t look quite round and that’s because there are indeed two large spots in proximity. Below this (scope view) there is a chance to see a new sunspot group still forming. Yesterday the 5 sunspot specs were darkening  – today they’re more obvious. All this should prove good viewing tomorrow. BTW Excellent h-flares south of that. One, a broken toroide or slinky, arcing several degrees along the sun’s limb.

Posted in Anouncements, Blog, Solar

Venus Transit: Interview + Time Lapse Video

 SJAA member Dan Wright with his great eyepiece projection system is interviewed on Venus Transit.

Transit of Venus Over Course of the Day!
Here’s a nice YouTube video from Malika Carter’s Sunspotter

Posted in Blog, Solar

Venus Transit 2012

Click Photo To Enlarge
Posted in Blog, Solar

Venus Transit (SJAA at Houge Park)

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

San Jose CA: Clouds did not prove to be a problem today for this rare event to see Venus cross the Sun. Lots of Folks at Houge Park.

Click Photo to Enlarge
Lee at Scope
Click Photo to Enlarge
Front guide-Mirror Scope
Click Photo to Enlarge

Jim’s Eyepiece Projection Box
Click Photo to Enlarge

 Wicked View through Jim’s Box
Click Photo to Enlarge

Hand-made Solar Card
Click Photo to Enlarge

Another form of Eyepiece Projection
Click Photo to Enlarge

Mother, Daughter – or is that Daughter, Mother
Click Photo to Enlarge

SJAA’s 100mm H-Alpha Scope
Click Photo to Enlarge

Venus Transit – “The Wagner Effect”

1 comment:

  MSwartz-AstronomyJune 7, 2012 at 2:19 PM

Wow, that was a great day. I read up on the history of the watching of the transit of Venus by scientists and astronomers in the past. I not only enjoyed the spectical of seeing it but felt a special sense of history as I thought of those who had watched and measured it so carefully during transits past. And wow, what they would think if they could see what we can do today! Some of the pictures, especially the ones from satellite, and the time lapse photos that people are putting together are just amazing /p>

It was a fun day at Houge Park and I’m glad I was able to be there for the end of it. There was an impressive row of equipment and a very enthusiastic and appreciative crowd. The weather was nice… it was just perfect.

Michael Swartz

Posted in Blog, Solar