Monthly Archives: April 2014

Galaxy Quest at Hunting Hollow

Hi All,

This is my observing report from Sat. 4/19 at Hunting Hollow Lot. On Sat 4/19 was the Starry Nights event at RCDO. With the event growing in popularity, the turn out for the event has been overwhelming to the point that there have been not been enough parking spaces for astronomers or the public. In an effort not to have to turn away astronomers coming to support the event we provided an overflow at Hunting Hollow Lot last night in order to give astronomers an opportunity to view there to minimize over crowding at RCDO.Last night we had 7 people at Hunting Hollow. I arrived by 8pm at there were people who were setup and ready to go. We had a pretty good assortment of scopes there a 14’ dob, several nice refractors, and binoculars. I was on a quest to find galaxies so I brought my 12” SCT

The evening started with most of us starting looking at Jupiter. I could see Europa just peeking around the left side of Jupiter which was pretty cool. As it got dark by 9:30pm I started to look for the galaxies. First up was the Leo Triplet. Had a great view of M65, M66 in the view. NGC3628 was out of the field of view. The long focal length of the SCT only provides .92 degee field of view with a 40mm 72 degree eyepiece. From there I went to another nice triple in Leo M105, NGC 3371, NGC 3373 this time all 3 galaxies in the FOV. M95, M96 was just over slightly so I look at the pair too.Next up was the fabulous Markarian Chain in Virgo which includes M84, M86. Moving over to it, it was fantastic! 5 galaxies in the same FOV. This object has 13 galaxies in it. I was to see about 7 of the 13 galaxies moving around that area.

Other galaxies view were M51, nice view including the companion and the spiral arms visible. M64 fantastic view showing the spiral clouds off of the galaxies. M63, M81, M82, M94, M101, M106, M108 M109. One other bonus object to mention, I also seen the C/2012 K1 (Panstarrs) comet (mag 8.9), it was in the constellation of Bootes. The best SQM meter reading of the night was 20.93. We packed it up by 11:30 as it the conditions started to get bad and clouds were on the way from the west. Overall it was the most galaxies I have viewed in one night.Thanks,

Posted in Articles, Observing Reports

Save Lick – How You Can Help

How You Can Help?

SJAA Will Match Your Donation At Sandra Faber’s Talk!

Lick-BanerThinThe best way you can help save Lick is to get the word out and make a tax deductible donation here:

But you can double that donation at Sandra Faber’s SJAA talk. The SJAA board approved matching funds and so will match total contributions during Sandra Faber’s talk of up to $1500. If you give $10, SJAA will match that and make it $20. If you donate $100 SJAA will match that and give or add a year to your new or continuing membership. Or for of $100 or more well give you the 2014 Royal Astronomical Handbook ($25 value) while supply lasts.

Posted in Anouncements

At SJAA: Dr. Sandra Faber Talk!

Dr. Sandra Faber On Lick May 10th

World Renowned Astrophysicist Dr. Sandra Faber, Director Of UC Observatories, Will Talk On The Research And Vision Of Lick Observatory Saturday May 10 At Houge Park!


photo credit

Some of you may have heard that Lick Observatory may close due to funding issues. Sandra Faber and other astronomers throughout California and beyond are working to save Lick for the simple reason that research there is now, and in the future, viable. Vital in fact. Join Sandra at our monthly program as she talks on the future of Lick Observatory. The observatory the South Bay sees from its own backyard.

Sandra Faber speaks at:
Houge Park 
Saturday May 10 
7:30 PM Social
8:00 PM Talk

Help Save Lick – How You Can Help! Read more ›

Posted in Anouncements, Blog, General Meeting

April 2014 Lunar Eclipse Photos

Did some of your eclipse shots look turquoise?

The source of the turquoise is ozone. Prof. Richard Keen, an atmospheric scientist from the University of Colorado explains: “During a lunar eclipse, most of the light illuminating the Moon passes through the stratosphere, and is reddened by scattering. However, light passing through the upper stratosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light and actually makes the passing light ray bluer!” This can be seen, he says, as a turquoise fringe around the red.

Members, send us one of you lunar eclipse photos (m dot packer at yahoo dot com) and we’ll post here. People shots welcome too


Michael Eclipse TrioAbove Michael Packer Moon Spica Mars

PackerElcipseMoonEAbove Michael Packer Full Eclipse At Maximum

Mark StriebeckEclipse1bAbove Mark Striebeck: Lunar Eclipse with Spica

Mark StriebeckEclipse2bAbove Mark Striebeck Image of Near Full Eclipse with Spica

EDeclipseBEd Wong Full Eclipse

TerryEclipseBAbove Terry Kahl Eclipse Shot

TerryEclipse2BAbove Terry Kahl Eclipse Enhanced

Marilyn Perry12-06Marilyn Perry Partial Eclipse 12:06AM

Marilyn Perry1-01Marilyn Perry Full Eclipse 1:01 AM

Paul SummersPaul Summers: Eclipsed Moon with star Spica and planet Mars at upper right

Hemant AgrawalHemant Agrawal Full Eclipse

PjmahanyPaul Mahany: Full Eclipse using 6″ @ F 4.85 ISO 400, 15sec

Chris AngelosChris Angelos Lunar Totality

Mark ScrivenerMark Scrivener: Eclipse with Spica. 80mm F/7 refractor, no tracking.

MarionMarion Barker & Paul Colby: Canon 3Ti 4sec ISO400 & SCT 1sec ISO 800.

PaulK1Paul Kohlmiller: Eclipse and Spica

PaulK2Paul Kohlmiller: Eclipse, Spica, and Mars

Bob Taylor: 5DIII at 560mm (200-400 1.4x Canon) 


Posted in Anouncements, Articles, Observing Reports

My Favorite Things: Vol 1.2 – Hubble DVD Course for $10

I wasn’t planning to put out the next post until next month, but just found a really good deal.

Great Courses is offering their DVD Course on Hubble Space Telescope pictures for only $10 (+S&H)! Look for “Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe”. Other courses are on sale, too.

We’ve shown a couple sessions over the past couple years at Houge Park and I have it myself. This one’s a STEAL!

Posted in Articles, Blog, My Favorite Things

April 6 Solar Sunday

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.
We had a nice relaxing day of observing the sun at Houge after a very successful Earth Day solar program. One killer flare extending about 200,000 miles (25 Earth diameters) from the solar disc and a sunspot count of 172 (NOAA) made the day. About 10 folks stopped by throughout the session and one member George (who Dave sent by) and I had a nice discussion on solar filters.
Standard Solar filters for refractors, SCT, Dobs, and Newtonians can be bought direct from manufacturers like Orion Telescopes, 1000 Oaks, and Baader Planetarium. The performance difference is small between these filters and there are advantages and disadvantages such as hard glass or film (which has the consistency of a plastic foil).
Cloudy Nights has some reviews on these various filters. If you have a refractor another option is a Herschel wedge. It is a right angle prism adapter that attaches to the back of your refractor. Note: A Herschel wedge is not to be used with other type telescopes. Both Lunt and Baader sell these special prism devices pictured below.
The Baader wedge (above right) has a diffuser screen on back that can help centering the sun in the eyepiece. However it is more expensive than the Lunt (left). A neutral density filter (sometimes called a moon filter) or green filter can be threaded onto the above systems or screwed on to your favorite eyepiece to help contrast. A green filter that does a better job of delivering contrast is the Narrowband Baader Continuum (below) that also attaches to back of an eyepiece or back of a threaded 2 inch to 1.25 inch adapter. It also must not be used alone but with proper solar filter. It is a true narrowband green filter featuring 10nm half-bandwidth (HBW) at the passband of 540nm while giving very good spectral transmission (See graph below). The 2-inch filter is shown below but it also comes as a 1.25. It can be used with standard solar filters that attach to front of scope or a Hershel wedge attached to the back of a refractor. It can make photosphere detail like faculae and solar granularity (solar granulation is most contrasty around 540nm) pop a bit more. I enjoy my 80mm refractor with a Hershel wedge and this continuum filter but like with all amateur astronomy – aperture rules. A 10 inch scope cracks common sunspots open along with intricate detail of penumbra webbing as well as showing faculae and solar granulation.
Narrowband Continuum Filter pictured above can help contrast. It must not be used alone but be used with a standard solar filter mounting over front aperture of scope or in conjunction with a Hershel Wedge attached to the back of a refractor.
Posted in Articles, Education & Reference Info, Solar

Poor Man’s Binocular Mount

Click Pic To Learn How To Make It

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info

My Favorite Things: First blog

My Favorite Things

Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens!

“Sound of Music” is one of my favorite movies. My baritone voice is nothing like Julie Andrew’s, but I digress!

Astronomy is such a diverse field. I think most people normally think of astronomy as science, but to me, and I think you’ll agree, it’s SO much more. Astronomy is also art (paintings like Van Gogh’s “Starry, Starry Night”), poetry and music (LOTS of examples of those), photography (which is arguably also art), history, mythology, and even astrology (in a historical context, I mean). And for those who ask “Why?” one can also add philosophy to the list! But all of that is for naught if not for the personal “Wow!” factor we all experience.

My hope is that this is the start of a monthly blog about astronomy (duh!) that I think SJAAers will find interesting.  I’ve been a science buff since I was little, so most of what you’ll find on “MFT” will be science but on topics that I think has a “coolness” factor and that will catch the eye of the general public.

LADEE to Bite the Dustee
NASA’s LADEE lunar probe has completed its primary objectives and is scheduled to impact the moon around April 21.  You can enter their contest to guess when the actual impact will occur (deadline is April 11).  The NASA article and the link to the contest are here.

Incidentally our July speaker will present on LADEE!

Sky Safari 4.0 for Android — On sale!
The latest version of our favorite astronomy app is now available on Android and is half off until April 21.  Observers should get either the “Plus” or “Pro” version.  At half off the Pro version is just $20!  [Note 4.0 is a completely different app from the previous version, so there’s no discount upgrade path.]

For details on their iOS, Android, and Mac OS products, see here.

Till next time, Clear Skies! (And of course comments are always welcome!)

Posted in My Favorite Things

Cupertino Earth Day a Big Success

Cupertino Earth Day a Big Success

Terrific weather, super sunspots, fabulous H-Alpha flares and a great crowd made the Cupertino Earth Day an outreach success for SJAA. We showed views of the sun and talked about astronomy to some 200 – 300 people both large and small. It would not of happened if we did not have a stellar volunteer crew. See below pics which tell the story of the day!


Above are shots of veteran sun lover Terry Kahl. In the middle image you see her front side with the club’s 100mm H-Alpha and an 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain in the back – providing real time views of the sun via a video camera set up. Just to the right of Terry you see her highly portable (and more affordable) H-Alpha scope; the far right image shows a girl looking through the it.


Above, Bill O’Neil is in the foreground with his nicely portable 5-inch scope and Marion Barker is in background showing what folks are seeing and how we amateur astronomers view the sun.


Above Teruo Utsumi explains to kids prominences (solar flares) at the club’s 100m H-Alpha scope.


Kevin Lahey at his 10-inch dobsonian sunspot killer. A scope this size shows the intricate penumbra webbing of sunspots in stunning detail. See below image at left. You can click the image for higher resolution image.


Above is what the sun looked like today with a standard filter (left) showing photosphere with sunspots and H-Alpha filter (right) showing prominences or h-alpha flares. With the number of sunspots today at 174 (NOAA) we had a very active sun to show the public! Again, you can click image for higher resolution image.


Paul Colby above left, is showing his video views of the sun along with Marion Barker. This allows them to better point out and explain features of the Sun along side the public.


Above astronomers…Just kidding! Above is a beautiful Eastern dance shared on this Earth Day from the south bay community. Earth Day is about celebrating and protecting our planet – the coolest planet in the solar system! 


Electric bicycles go a long way in protecting our planet and keeping us healthy.


Marion above showing and explaining live video image of sun – how easy and cool is that?


Above, nice shot of Bill talking with a visitor at our booth.


Kevin at is scope. It looks like he showing the trees with the reflection off his huge solar filter but rest assured that person is getting a killer view of the over 170 sunspots on the solar disc.


At night, astronomers sometimes have a run in with mountain lions but this one is at peace – really at peace as it is a display (not alive) to talk to USA’s future adults about protecting these magnificent cats of the night.


Above, learning how to make your own greeting cards form materials you likely already have at home.


Above, kid art!


Above, Teruo manning the SJAA solar scope.


Another shot of Bill O’Niel


Kevin at scope talking with a family.

Earth Day Festival, Cupertino, SJAA Solar Viewing, 2014/04/05

Above foreground is yours truly Michael Packer – SJAA Solar Program coordinator and lover of everything sun! Thanks to all the volunteers above for a stellar SJAA outreach day. We handed out over 80 SJAA brochures and over 30 International Dark Sky Association brochures – info on protecting our night skies!

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.
Posted in Blog, Solar