Monthly Archives: February 2012

New Solar Observing Program

As mentioned in the blog post looking back at 2011, the Board of the San Jose Astronomical Association, after long and thoughtful discussion, decided to move forward with the idea of initiating the SJAA Solar Observing Program.

The cornerstone of this program is the club’s acquisition of a telescope that is suitable for viewing the sun in a rich and meaningful way, as well as a mount that is up to the task of handling public events.  We recently took delivery of a Lunt Visual Package and conducted the first solar observing session yesterday, 5 Feb 2012 on the grounds of San Jose’s Houge Park.

Our newest board member, Michael Packer, is running the solar program.  His plan is to have a solar day at Houge Park on the first Sunday of every month.  The exact dates of the solar program will be made available once they are assembled, so please keep an eye out for the schedule on the SJAA’s website.

Here is Michael’s report from the first solar day:

The 1st Solar Program was a success especially for those who stayed through Superbowl kick-off time, when the clouds opened up.  About 20 people strolled by and many stayed the distance. In addition to SJAA’s new H-alpha solar scope, we had solar-filter-equipped scopes and binoculars set up to safely view the sun along with a beautiful eyepiece projection system.

Before 3:30pm we were able to observe, through the cloud layer, 3 Sunspot groups (1 complex) plus several faculae. 3:30 onwards we could bump the magnification up to 100x and see prominences all around the sun with the largest on the opposite side to the sunspot region. The 100mm aperture views of these emissions in H-alpha was just spectacular.

SJAA Solar Programs will now be held on the 1st Sunday of every month 2:00-4:00 PM. The next program is March 4th. As with this 1st program, we will hand out material on how to observe, sketch and record sunspot activity. You can also visit The Astronomical League webpage at

Virtually all commercial scopes can be equipped with a solar filter to safely view the Sun as it approaches Solar Maximum over the next several years. Drop by our program to see for yourself. You don’t need a H-alpha scope to follow this progression. However H-alpha observing allows one too see the solar flares and plasma eruptions that in size, dwarf the Earth. And SJAA now has a H-alpha scope for all of us to see these events!

Congratulations to the membership of the SJAA, as well as the public in general, for the addition of this valuable new program!

Posted in Anouncements, Blog, Programs

SJAA’s Mentoring Program

I mentioned it in a previous post, but now I’d like to formally announce the San Jose Astronomical Association’s new Mentoring Program – An Introduction to Observational Astronomy.   This program, available to SJAA members, has a prime objective of pairing up people new to the hobby with others who have experience to share and can make themselves available to help get the new folks up to speed in a safe and personal environment.

This program covers the following areas:

  • how the night sky works,
  • the types of objects you can see,
  • the types of scopes available to use,
  • how how to find objects,
  • and many additional topics.

Taking place monthly, the mentoring program provides a crash course designed to get you up to speed in two nights.  The first night, held at San Jose’s Houge Park on a Friday night, is a hands on personal tour of the gear and the tools so that you know what you’re doing. The second night, held at a local, semi dark site, will be spent under the stars, getting some hands on experience practicing chart reading and star hopping skills.  You’ll be there with someone to guide you and let you ask those seemingly stupid questions (disclaimer: there’s no such thing).  After the two nights, you should be self sufficient to take it from there, though of course, as an alum, you will always have someone to turn to with questions.

Like I mentioned, this program is available to SJAA members (basic annual membership is only $20), and the SJAA also has a fantastic telescope loaning program in the event you don’t have your own scope yet because you don’t where to start.  It’s the perfect combination and a heck of a deal!

Dave Ittner is the brains and the brawn behind this program. He’s also the main mentor who’s sharing his skills.  Members are encouraged to participate, as either a mentee (someone who could use the personal guidance) or a mentor (if you would like to reap the rewards of giving newbies an initial, confidence building boost). For additional information or to join the program please contact Dave Ittner at sjaamentor <at>

Speaking for the SJAA, I am proud to share this new and valuable program to help achieve the organization’s mission of educating the public in science and astronomy.

Rob Jaworski
San Jose Astronomical Association

Posted in Anouncements, Blog, Programs