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Quick STARt Program Experience

On September 6th I attended a 3 hour Quick STARt class taught by Dave Ittner at the Houge Park clubhouse in San Jose.  He covered many fundamental aspects of astronomy that were enlightening as well as essential for a beginner in amateur astronomy.  Topics covered were the 3 type of telescopes used by amateur astronomers as will as the impact of light gathering, magnification, and lenses design to correct color, and much more.  He covered common methods of locating heavenly objects including the use of coordinates and sky hopping using constellations.  Dave describe the various classifications of stars, galaxies, planets, comets and other celestial bodies and the relationship of size, distance, and color.  He explained what we could expect to see with amateur telescopes in terms of detail and how best to view and search for objects in the sky using different magnification of eyepieces.  He also encouraged participants to use their naked eyes and a pair of binoculars for viewing the sky.

We then went outside to view the skies with one of the club’s telescopes and saw some stars and galaxies.  The nigh sky was somewhat obscured by city lights and haze so viewing was less than optimum but for one who has never seen a galaxy that wasn’t a photo it was awe inspiring even if the galaxy was just a small smudge through the eyepiece.  I wish I could view Saturn but I understand it become visible in the sky around 4-5am.

At the end of the telescope viewing participants returned to the clubhouse where they could check out telescopes and library books to take home.

This class was very interesting and a must for beginners like me who are interested in armature astronomy but know very little.  I highly recommend any beginner enroll in this class.  I understand you must be a member of SJAA in order to enroll but it is otherwise free and well worth attending.

Frank Geefay – new member and new to amateur astronomy.

Posted in Articles, Programs

Solar Eclipse at Green Island in Australia on Nov. 14, 2012

Author: Frank Geefay

My wife and I went on a tour of Australia in November 2012 with MWT Associates, Inc. (Melita Wade Thorpe) Melitatrips Travel specializing and Astronomical tours.  This is our 4th tour with them and actually the least enjoyable because it was one of the largest tours they had ever put on and coordination had something to be desired.  Until this trip we had nothing but praise for their service.  I guess the lesson is not to take large tours.

The highlight of the trip was the eclipse of the sun on November 14, 2012 on Green Island:

  • 1st Contact 5:45am
  • 2nd Contact: 6:38am Diamond Ring begins totality (Sun will be at 14 degrees)
  • 3rd Contact: 6:40am Diamond Ring closes totality
  • 4th Contact: 7:40am

We arrived at Green Island from Cairns by ferry at about 2:ooam to find a spot and set up.  It was dark but we had all brought flashlights so we could more or less find a good spot along the narrow beach.  When we arrived the tide was out and the coral beach extended out for about 75 yards.  By the time we left around 7:50am the water was literally lapping at our feet.

Stills and video shots of the Total Eclipse of the Sun were taken from Green Island Australia on November 14, 2012. Though there were clouds in the sky the majority of the eclipse was relatively unobscured by them. We later hear that those who stayed in Cairns Australia about 25 miles from Green Island had cloudy weather that obscured the view of the eclipse. There was a 50-50% chance of cloud cover for Green Island. We lucked out. The eclipse started about 5:45am, entered totality at 6:38am, and ended at 7:40am local Green Island time.

I brought with me a Nikon D5100 SLR using a 55-300mm lens with a sun filter and a Panasonic V500 camcorder and two cheap and light weight tripods.  I really didn’t have any experience taking eclipse photos at the time.   The earlier half of the eclipse photos were taken in auto mode where the shutter speed was about 1/30 sec. so images were slightly blurred due to shaking while pressing the shutter button.   The later darker images were taken in manual mode with 1/1000 shutter speed and are much sharper.  I took about one photo every 5 min. and at totality switched to my camcorder.  The tripod movement was jerky so it was difficult to keep it steady while taking photos and videos.

I was so busy taking photos that I really didn’t get a chance to enjoy the eclipse as did my wife.  I didn’t really see how dark it got at totality though my feeling is that it was like being under a shade.  It didn’t get really dark like in some eclipse where the moon is closer to the earth.  The YouTube below is the results of all my efforts as a beginner.  You can see some of the clouds that passed by.  There was a short period that the sun was almost half obscured by clouds.

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August 4th Solar Sunday 2013

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

Counting The Spots:

Today the International Sunspot Number (SN) was 76 based on 24 stations whie NOAA’s, which always rings in higher, was 104.

Carl Reisinger had a beautiful duel scope setup today with one housing a Baader Herschel Wedge and green filter and the other holding Seymour front end filter. We counted the centered 4 major sunspot groups plus 17 sunspots – giving a SN of 57.

Madhusudan (Left) and Carl (Right) chatting next to his cool duel setup. It tracks the sun allowing one to up scope magnification to count sunspots and get very good views up the penumbra around sunspot centers. Nice areas of Plage (active regions) were seen today.

If we included the group at the edge (see below image) than our SN woud have been 67. If we correct this count for using a 4-inch scope and account for weather (predominately thermals) than we get a SN number nearly spot on with the International Sunspot Number. Unlike NOAA’s count, The International SN stays true to the historical data and method invented by Rudalf Wolf to log daily SN:

SN = k [10 x Total # sunspot groups + Total # of spots]

 Today’s (August 4th) Sunspots click to enlarge!

Today’s Sun in H-Alpha – click to enlarge!

Gabre Gessesse hung out with us today and as usual, we had a nice crowd of folks and families who stopped by:

Stellar Cheers!

Posted in Blog, Solar
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General Meeting – July 2013 – Movie Night

Movie Night was a hit!  Double feature, popcorn (all you can eat!), lemonade and other refreshments made for a wonderful evening.

The SJAA recently took possession of a brand new, larger, wall mounted projection screen and it was being mounted at the front of the room.  The idea was to replace the freestanding, square, smaller and 1960s vintage screen that had served well for decades.


Screen installation in process

The screen installation crew, consisting of long time SJAA’er Mark Wagner, Mr Can-Do Dave Ittner, and go-getter Jose Marte, ran into some early technical troubles. But nearly everyone in Silicon Valley being or having engineer leanings, those troubles were quickly and creatively solved so the job could be completed in time for the screen’s first light, the SJAA’s first ever Movie Night, which was this month’s manifestation of the General Meeting.



As usual, there was a board meeting scheduled before the general Meeting, which started late due to the installation’s schedule being overly optimistic (it didn’t account for pizza breaks or other such obstacles).  But with strong leadership, all the club business was addressed, decisions were made, and nearly all world problems were nearly solved. (Yes, Dave got his additional budget for the QuickSTARt program!)

Seven thirty PM arrived, and the popcorn started to pop, and the lemonade began to tart.  Teruo Utsumi, who generously donated his Denon/Klipsch sound system for the evening, solved his own technical problem of the receiver overheating. A 24″ fan was placed face down on the unit, cooling the massive heat sink for the duration of the evening. Again, engineering prowess demonstrated.

During social (half) hour, trailers from the upcoming movies were played until eight PM, the official start time of the meeting.  Prez Rob spoke a few introductory words before quickly sitting down, and the Play button was hit.  Only at a 50s-era drive in was Forbidden Planet seen on a bigger screen.  Upon the first film concluding, bio breaks were taken, more corn was popped, then Play was hit once again to bring up Star Wars IV in all its original 70s fx glory.  Han and Leia never looked so good at Houge Park.

The second feature ended around midnight, the room emptied quickly, and cleanup and gate locked by half past.  It was a fun night, we may have to do it again.

And let’s roll the credits:

A/V gear and DVD procurementTeruo Utsumi
Screen ProcurementMichael Packer
Screen InstallationDave Ittner, Jose Marte, Mark Wagner
Popcorn Rental  and ProcurementMichael Packer

Popcorn PoppingRob Jaworski
Liquid Refreshments, Procurement and Development (ie, buying, mixing the lemonade powder) – Teruo Utsumi
Getting the Kitty/Tip Jar Started and First DonationJay Freeman CleanupMichael Packer, Rob Jaworski, Teruo Utsumi
Show of Appreciation for All That SJAA Does (a Hundred Dollar On-The-Spot Donation to SJAA) – anonymous

Everyone Who Showed – Thank You!

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Grand Canyon Star Party

Sunset over Grand Canyon before the Star Party

Sunset over Grand Canyon before the Star Party

I expected that the highlight of my June trip to Arizona would be to attend two nights of the 23rd Annual Grand Canyon Star Party at the South Rim.  Just in case of clouds at the party, I packed my 10×50 binoculars, tripod, and camp stool, so I could go northern Arizona star gazing every clear night.  I also knew the moon would have a bigger impact each night.  The Star Party started at New Moon, June 8, 2013, but it lasts 8 days, so the moon would be nearly First Quarter by the time I got to the Star Party.

I was taking a Road Scholar program, an educational tour consisting of astronomy lectures by professors of Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff , field trips to Lowell Observatory and Meteor Crater, and culminating with the Grand Canyon Star Party. (I made separate blog posts for Lowell Observatory and Meteor Crater.) There were a few star gazing enthusiasts like me (one couple drove from Tennessee so they could bring their 8” telescope), but there were also folks from Manhattan and Brooklyn who said they never got to see stars, and just wanted to see some stars. The first night in Flagstaff, elevation around 7000, was cloudy. The next night in Flagstaff was very clear, and I was eager to see the view through the 24” Clark refractor at Lowell Observatory.  But I called and was told that it was so windy that they could not open the Clark dome.

I did the best I could on my own, even without a car. Flagstaff is designated an “International Dark Sky City”, but there were still lots of streetlights around the motel. It is located at the end of a street which dead ends at a little hill with no lights to the north, but lots of street lights on all other sides.  I put up the hood of my sweatshirt, pulled it out as far as I could to block the light from the sides, looked to the north through my binoculars, and, oh my goodness, so many stars!!! Even with all these street lights around me, I could just glance up and see the Coma Berenices Cluster. Walking back to the motel, I could see Scorpius shining brightly, so I decided to try to see globular cluster M4. I thought it would be futile because I was looking straight into the street lights, but I gave it a try. To my delight, with my binoculars I could see M4 very clearly. Flagstaff skies at 7000 feet are so different from Silicon Valley skies.

Then it was on to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  The Grand Canyon Star Party began as the first anniversary of Dean and Vicki Ketelsen’s honeymoon there, and telescopes set up by the Canyon proved so popular with tourists, that the event became an annual tradition as a public oriented event.  Skies are typically clear in June at the Grand Canyon whereas monsoon season typically begins later in the summer.  Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time, so skies get dark earlier in the evening at the Grand Canyon than in Silicon Valley.  The Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association hosts the Star Party on the South Rim and the Saguaro Astronomy Club based in Phoenix hosts the Star Party on the North Rim.


Mercury and Venus over Grand Canyon

I took this photo of Venus and Mercury above the Grand Canyon from Mather Point. Mercury is barely visible at a 45 degree angle to the left and above Venus. I photographed this scene over and over as the sky darkened. People asked me what I was doing, and I got to point out Mercury to many people who had never seen it before. Using Venus as a guide, everyone was eventually able to spot it.

Sitting with my binoculars at Mather Point watching the canyon darken and the stars come out was absolutely the highlight of my trip.  The moon was out, and I could see my shadow clearly, so I felt no fear that I would accidentally fall into the canyon.

Also there are big strong metal railings at Mather Point.  By all the green laser lights pointed to the sky, I could see that the Star Party had begun, but I did not want to leave the glorious vista of horizon to horizon bright stars above and the moonlit canyon below with only one small light at Phantom Ranch  It was hard to do, but eventually I pulled myself away from the canyon and walked in the moonlight and the light of my flashlight to the Star Party.  By the time I got there, the crowds had thinned, and I got to see fabulous views through the big telescopes.

 The night was very short so close to Summer Solstice, and I didn’t get up in time to see the sunrise.  The South Rim gets quite hot by midday, so I was up hiking a little ways down the Bright Angel Trail before breakfast and before the sun got very high.


Solar Viewing at Grand Canyon South Rim

Members of the Tucson AAA set up for solar viewing right on the South Rim between the shuttle bus stop and the Bright Angel Trail head.  I got to see solar prominences, but no sun spots.


View of Grand Canyon from Powell Point on Hermit Road

The weather was beautiful, and the daytime sightseeing spectacular, especially strolling along the Rim Trail and enjoying many viewpoints along Hermits Road.  Not having a car was no problem due to the excellent free shuttle buses.  Then it was time for the second night of star gazing at the Grand Canyon Star Party.


View of Canyon at sunset from Yavapai Point

A group of Road Scholars skipped the ranger talk to photograph the sunset from Yavapai Point.


Setting up telescopes for Grand Canyon Star Party

The amateur astronomers set up their telescopes in the employee parking lot at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center at Mather Point. The area is several hundred feet from the rim, so there is no danger of anyone falling into the canyon. As recently as last summer they had set up their telescopes at Yavapai Point, but that had the big disadvantage that the shuttle buses came by every 15 minutes, spoiling everyone’s night vision each time.

I was very impressed with the large reflecting telescope whose mirror you can see to the right of the tall ladder.  The view of the M13 globular cluster from that telescope was fantastic!  To me it looked just like the photo of M13 in my star gazing app.


Star Party has just begun

In this photo the ranger talk was just over, the crowds were arriving, and Star Party had just begun. I took this photo with ISO 1600, exposure time 1 sec, so the scene appears light, but it was actually quite dark, and the astronomers were sharing very good views of Mercury and Saturn.  I estimate there were forty telescopes, mostly set up by amateur astronomers from Tucson, although I spoke to one who made an almost annual trip from Texas.  At first the crowds were heavy, and the lines at the telescopes were quite long, but they thinned out after 10 PM. The evening also included a bright Iridiuim flare, a very nice pass by the International Space Station, and hourly green laser Constellation Shows, all announced ahead of time by the astronomers.

I had a wonderful time, and I especially loved sitting at Mather Point watching Mercury and Venus sink while the canyon got dark and the stars appeared. One thing that I missed was watching the Milky Way rise over the canyon.  I would like to go back in the dark of the moon so I could see that.

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Meteor Crater, Winslow, AZ


Below are photos of Meteor Crater, Winslow, Arizona from my visit in June 2013.   The crater is located about 40 miles southeast of Flagstaff. It was formed when an estimated 45 meter meteorite hit about 50,000 years ago. The first photo shows the crater, nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference, and about 550 deep.


Panorama of Meteor Crater

Click to enlarge this panorama which was stitched together with Photoshop Elements.  Viewing platforms are in the foreground. Remnants of mining for the meteorite are still visible at the bottom of the crater.  The visitor center is at the far right.  Above that in the photo are the trail used for the guided Rim Tour, and a group of people taking that tour.

At first the crater was thought to be of volcanic origin.  In 1902 Daniel Moreau Barringer, a mining engineer, became convinced the crater was caused by the impact of a large iron meteorite.  He spent the rest of his life mining in the crater in an unsuccessful attempt to find it.  According to the excellent museum at the visitor center and their very informative website, he could not find it because it did not exist–it was broken up into tiny pieces:

  • Very small percentage stripped away by atmospheric friction before impact
  • Very small percentage vaporized upon impact, then recondensed into tiny fragments raining over a 7 mile radius
  • About half blasted out upon impart, landing on the rim and surrounding plain
  • About half is present in very tiny fragments beneath the crater floor to a depth of 3,000 feet

Barringer did live long enough to see the scientific community start to accept his theory that the crater was formed by a meteorite.


Meteorite found in Diablo Canyon

This piece of the meteorite is on display at the Lowell Observatory visitor center.  The sign says, “Meteorite. 535 lbs. 242.6 kg. Found in Canyon Diablo near Meteor Crater. This is a small particle of the meteor which formed Meteor Crater, about 50,000 years ago. 92% iron, 8% nickel, traces of gold, silver, platinum and diamond.”


Strata along the rim

This photo shows the strata at the rim.  Impact craters have been called “nature’s drills” because they sort of invert the strata.  Apollo astronauts trained at Meteor Crater under the guidance of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker (part of the team that discovered Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9) because Meteor Crater is so much like craters on the moon.  By recognizing impact craters on the moon, the astronauts could collect samples of rocks originally from below the surface without having to drill for them.


Distant view of Meteor Crater

Here is a distant view of the crater. The land around the crater used to be flat until the meteorite hit, creating the impact crater and depositing debris around the rim.


Its really static trip means to say historical Meteorite its 50,000 years ago i love such like precious and limited places and things.thanks allot to share your great tour here it my hobby i research and trip such places.
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Solar GSSP Tidings

Behemoth sunspot AR1785 is undergoing a metamorphasis, changing shape by the hour as it turns toward Earth. This movie from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the action on July 6-7:

And Here’s a Pic from Michael Packer 80mm Refractor + Standard Solar filter using a hand held LX5 at the Eyepiece.

And here is an H-alpha shot from Robert Duvall from Houge Park – Home of SJAA:

Click to enlarge!

This pic was taken near Adin CA and in other words:

The Golden Gate Star Party 2013 Has Started!

1 comment:

Bilal YounasJuly 10, 2013 at 3:18 AM

really great and informative post movie which you describe it very very important Nasa always Great .
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Posted in Blog, Solar

Lowell Observatory, Mars Hill, Flagstaff, Arizona

Below are photos of the historic telescopes of Lowell Observatory , Mars Hill, Flagstaff, Arizona, elevation 7,200 feet, from my visit in June 2013.  The first photo is of the Clark Telescope , a 24” refractor, which Percival Lowell had built in 1896 so that he could study the “canals” on Mars.  The lens was designed by Alvan Clark, the last lens he designed before he retired.

Clark Dome

Observe the non-spherical shape of the Clark Dome.  It was built of locally grown ponderosa pine by the Sykes Brothers, bicycle mechanics, who advertised themselves as “Makers and Menders of Anything”.Mars Hill is an easily accessible hill about one mile west of downtown of Flagstaff.


Clark 24″ Refractor Telescope

The Clark Telescope is now used only for public outreach.  It is open for daytime tours and, if weather conditions allow, nighttime viewing until 10 PM every summer evening.   The dome rotates on tires, obtained from the Ford Motor Company and installed in 1957, most including hubcaps, replacing the original worn out metal wheels.

Inside of Clark Dome

The dome is composed of flat planes of wood instead of today’s spherical surfaces.  The roof doors are flat panels that open outward, and turn into sails in high winds, so cannot be opened if the wind exceeds 15 mph.  I did not get to view through the telescope due to the wind.  The lens cover of the large finderscope on the left is a skillet stolen from a good cook’s kitchen.


Dome of Pluto Discovery Telescope

Lowell started searching for “Planet X” in 1905 because he thought an unknown planet changed the orbit of Neptune and Uranus, and he continued this search until his death in 1916.  Once his estate was finally settled, Lowell’s younger brother, A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard University, provided funds to construct the dome and telescope used to continue the search.  It was completed in 1929.


Pluto Discovery Telescope

Clyde Tombaugh, a Kansas farm boy who got a job at the Lowell Observatory based on the sketches of planets that he had sent, used this astrograph to find Pluto.  The “Pluto Discovery Telescope” has three 13” lenses and 14” x 17” glass photographic plates.  Clyde took one hour exposures of a portion of the sky, then photographed the same portion six days later, and compared the plates.

The tour guide told us that Clyde used the smaller telescope mounted below the astrograph to manually monitor that the astrograph was accurately tracking the stars during the one hour exposure, and manually nudged the astrograph if it was getting off track.  Clyde had to endure cold temperatures because he captured the view of Pluto in January, the dome was unheated, and the elevation of Mars Hill is 7,200 feet.

Pluto Discovery Plates

Clyde used the “Zeiss blink comparator” which switches the view between plates for comparison.  Here are replicas of the plates that he used to discover the new planet in his office on February 18, 1930.  It was subsequently named Pluto in homage to Percival Lowell whose initials P.L. are the first two letters in Pluto.  Our tour guide told us, I think tongue in cheek, that in Flagstaff, Pluto is still a planet.

The Lowell Observatory is a non-profit research institution, and it runs several other telescopes which are outside the Flagstaff city limits, including the new $53 million, 4.3 meter Discovery Channel Telescope located 40 miles southeast of Flagstaff.

Even though the “canals” Lowell was observing were optical illusions and not signs of life of Mars and even though later evidence showed that no planet was disturbing the orbits of Neptune and Uranus, he made a substantial contribution to astronomy:

  • He was the first to build an observatory on a remote site to take advantage of optimal viewing, and now this is standard.
  • His enthusiasm about life on Mars spurred public imagination and inspired science fiction writers.
  • In 1912 – 1914 Vesto Slipher used a spectrograph attached to the Clark Telescope to determine the red shift in most galaxies which means the galaxies are moving away.  Edwin Hubble used this information with his own research to conclude that the universe is expanding.
  • Initial work in the discovery of Pluto.
  • The Clark telescope was used to map the moon for the Apollo missions.
  • His enthusiasm for public outreach continues.  The visitor center at Mars Hill hosts over 80,000 visitors a years, and also hosts “Uncle Percy’s” summer day camps for children from age 3 through 6th grade.


  1.   darkmuzikJune 27, 2013 at 7:40 AM
    pretty cool history stories.
  2.   SaraSmithJuly 10, 2013 at 3:18 AM
    very impressive post historic telescopes of Lowell Observatory, Mars Hill, Flagstaff, Arizona, elevation 7,200 feet, visit in june 2013 and its a good step to share your views with others via any way as you share it via this post.
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El Sol

El Sol on Fathers Day


Posted in Blog, Solar

Solar Row + Cal K

Solar Scope Row and Calcium K!
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

Lots of Solar Scopes lined up today at Houge Park and with superb variety! We were treated to live screen captures of the sun in Calcium K band by Carl Reisinger. And Robert Duvall (baseball cap below pic) brought his Standard Filtered Dob stacked with an H-Alpha finder (yuk yuk). High resolution shots of the above are below so read on.

Click Photo to Enlarge

Next to Robert in the above pic is a bloke visiting from Malaysia. He spent the whole afternoon looking through this row of high tech equipment and was gobsmacked. In his home country, he has two telescopes and is well known for his efforts to share the wonders of the sky.

Two fine solar scopes: Coronado PST and JMI Binocular.
Below is today’s sun at a glance courtesy of Robert Duvall. 2 Large Sunspot groups and two smaller active regions resulted in a sunspot count of 60. The Largest group had a fantastic Penumbra network surrounding the inner umbra. Paul’s 8 inch SCT which he set up later showed this network beautifully as did Michael Swartz’s 100mm Stellarvue with green continuum filter and Binocular. And here is Robert’s images through his equipment. Make sure you see the large rendition by clicking on image.
Click Photo to Enlarge
And below is a pic of Carl Reisinger and Calcium K Setup. The image to the left is a totally raw image. Note the extensive and hot plage (white) network that this filter easily picks up. This plage is actually a better indicator of how active the sun is and can point to areas where sunspots may form. Click the Pic!
  Click Photo to Enlarge
Below pic of Michael Swartz at his cool duel refactor setup. Both refractors have binoviewers making this setup one of the best observing stations on the row. The binoculars radically improve the noted resolution (as you are using both eyes). The continuum filtered view compares well with Paul’s filtered 8-inch SCT while Michael’s bino H-Alpha yields 3D like views. Both images seen through this duel setup are crazy beautiful.
Below is a pic of Bill O’Niel looking through Michael’s setup. Bill brought his 5-inch SCT which is a very portable scope that gives very satisfying details of larger spots like we had today. Aperture rules when viewing sunspots and so, unless you have a bino’ed refactor, you will want at least a 5-inch scope to see penumbra network detail.

Stellar Cheers and Mag -26.74 skies, Michael Packer

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Jupiter Venus Mercury

 Planet Conjunction May 26th — at Houge Park

Jupiter Venus Mercury

DSC_0165cNikon D3s ISO 250, 1/5 sec f/11 230mm

Posted in Blog, Observing Reports
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Second Peak!

Today’s Sun Spot Count 212 (NOAA

Today’s Sunspot Number beats the peak average at the last cycle. And it is a must check out! Even in an 80mm with standard solar filter. Note that the last Solar Max was a double peak and our current Max is also a double peak. See graph below. Also lots of CME’s right now see last report at bottom of this blog.

Click Image To Enlarge

Solar Viewing at Houge Park on Sunday 5/5, by Michael Swartz 

I really didn’t like the way the sky looked. I was temped to not go. But as I saw the sun peak through now and then, I just couldn’t resist. So I finished up my honey-do’s and made it to the park. Michael Packer was already there, all alone. I backed in next to his car, got out, had a couple views though his set up, and figured I might as well get set up my gear too. Before I was finished we had attracted a crowd of 8-10 people.

He got into a really interesting discussion about super novas with some people while I was helping a father and son get some quick views.

The sky was pretty cloudy but as the clouds slowly moved across the sky the sun would peak through for a few minutes here and there. We mostly sat and talked. However, the views we did get now and then were really good, and even though it was fairly windy, the scopes performed pretty well. There was a large gnarley spot group, plenty of surface activity, lots of dramatic swirly flows of plasma, nice filaments, some pretty prominences.

I had hoped for better weather but I am glad I went. I think we had a good time.

These Sunday afternoon solar viewing gatherings at Houge Park are fun. I usually bring my kids who enjoy the playgrounds in the park, ride their ripsticks or play ball. Maybe next time I’ll bring some picnic stuff and stay longer.

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

INFO FROM SIDC – RWC BELGIUM 2013 May 17 12:57:52 Two M-class flares in past 24h, both from NOAA AR 1748. The first one occurred on May 16 at 21:53 UT, with intensity M1.3. The second flare was an M3.2 and peaked at 08:57 UT on May 17. This AR has still potential for producing X class flares. It maintains its beta-gamma-delta magnetic configuration, even though some fragmentation is seen in the trailing region and there are some indications that polarities are separating within the delta spot penumbra. The M3.2 flare of today was related to radio bursts and a CME. SWAP detected clear dimmings and an EIT wave around NOAA AR1748. There are no LACO data available yet, but a CME is indeed seen in STEREO COR2 data, it can be Earth directed. The speed in COR2-B is calculated to be 1300 km/s, making a possible arrival to the Earth on May 19 around noon. Protons levels (10MeV) are still above threshold, stable around 3 protons/cm2-s-sr.Geomagnetic conditions have been unsettled to active, due to long lasting periods of slow solar wind with sustained mild negative Bz (around -5nT). These are not related to the arrival of the CME of May 15, which is still not visible in ACE data, and may still arrive later today and produce storm levels (estimated max K = 6). As a reminder, this series of CMEs related to AR 1748 had a source region within 30 degrees of the solar limb, which reduces their possibility of arrival to the Earth to around 30%.

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Hellacious Sun

May 1st Sun


The Sun kicked off May (and its surface) a hellacious sized flair. Several active regions and a very dark sunspot are aimed at a planet just found to have a core temp 1000 degrees hotter than previously measured. Here’s a solar pic taken with my LX5 @ the eyepiece:

Join SJJA for a Cinco De Mayo Solar Party This May 5th Sunday!Details at

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

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Astronomy Day at SJ MLK Public Library

Nice day for sunspots, solar flares, and Astronomy Day at the San Jose Martin Luther King Public Library. The volunteers Isaac, Teruo, Keith, Michael and Kevin made this event a success so thanks to all! But a huge thanks to the Library and staffers Deborah and Judith who helped make this stellar educational day happen! Thanks! Stargazers often say if we get one person hooked on astronomy then that makes any observing session worth it. SJAA did more than that with the 70 folks who stopped by. There were lots of “oohs” “aahs” and “wows” today and one person said he is going home and becoming a member of the San Jose Astronomy club now! Check out the Pics:

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

SJAA 2013 Astronomy Day

Club’s H-Alpha Scope and Teruo’s SCT


Today’s Sun below:

AR1726 is the fastest-growing Sunspot and, so far, the most active. It is crackling with C-class flares


At the Booth – Teruo center, Keith Right


Beautiful day to do some Solar Astro chillin’


Kevin and Michael – Michael’s looking through Kevin’s 10″ Sunspot killer. Any spot on the Sun is revealed in detail.


Isaac (left) brought Solar Binoculars and a H-Alph Pronto to share with folks


Clear Skies !

1 comment:

thanks for share..

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Cupertino’s Earth Day

Cloudy Day At Earth Day Still Saw The Sun

From 11 to 3:30 we had about four 10-20 minute viewing sessions where we offered the public good views of a very active Sun. With Isaac and Hiedi’s H-alpha/Standard solar setups, Bill’s scope and SJAA’s we got a lot of people their first look ever at a massive sun spot plus several smaller ones and above average prominences (prototypical looper) around the solar disk. We had lines of people during these sunshine times. I probably got ~40 people views in 10 minutes ~ 15 seconds per person. During the time of clouds we talked to numerous interested folks or with interested kids the perfect age 9+/- and handed out all of our brochures. We also handed out a decent number of pamphlets on preserving our starry night sky from the International Dark-Sky Association.

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

Isaac showing our nearest star to folks with his duel scope set-up
 Michael Showing H-Alpha Sun with the camera crew taking notice
  How the sun looked: Standard Filter and H-Alpha
Click to Enlarge!
 Cloudy bouts allowed for great astro conversations
 Young and old got great views when the sun was out
 Great shot of SJJA’s dedicated volunteer Bill O‘Neil
 Volunteers Michael Heidi Bill and Isaac – Thanks All!
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Polar Solar Weekend!

Public Solar Viewing Saturday & Sunday April 6th & 7th:

Sat 11 – 3PM: Cupertino’s Earth Day @ Cupertino Civic Center
Sun  2 – 4PM : SJAA’s H+Alpha Day @ Houge Park

POLAR FILAMENT ERUPTION: Not every eruption requires a sunspot. On April 1st (no fooling) a magnetic filament snaking some 800,000 km around the sun’s north pole rose up and erupted, hurling part of itself into space. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recorded the event; 7 O’Clock on the solar dial:

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SJAA Solar Picnic

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

SJAA Solar Picnic – Fun Under the Sun!

Double Trouble: Michael Swartz’s H-Alpha and Standard Filter duel scope setup 1

  Today’s Sunspots: small but with good distribution. Solar proms: Numerous and LargeClip_4

Relaxing Solar Picnic was the note of the day! 3

Bill O’Neil (Left) Sunspots views using 18Ga aluminum and powder coated white or
 “Baader” type white solar filter  2

Michael Packer checking out H-Alpha emission 4

 Next Solar Party is Sunday March 3rd
Volunteers with scopes and SJAA members get free hydration (water and soft drinks)

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YES PANSTARRS is Still Visible In Silicon Valley!
Use Binoculars Use a smart phone astroapp if you got one.
MEDIA CONTACT: Michael Packer at

How to view L4 PANSTARRS

PanSTARRS is high enough to see in Silicon Valley. Folks have seen it around the South Bay at Shoreline and at the March 15th SJAA Beginner Class. Kids got a 30 minute view at Houge Park before it set. Use Binoculars! It is now a superb small telescope object at places like Fremont Peak.

Where in Sky
 Click to EnlargePanstarrs-March-16vUT-chart

Seek out a good Western horizon and start looking with binoculars in the evening ~ hour after sunset. The comet is still just visible without using binoculars but is hard to find without them. And binoculars will let you see detail like the tail.


IMAGE OF COMET LEFT OF MOON FROM SKYLINE BLVD MARCH 12th Comet_L4_Pan-STARRS-CAbove image was taken by Michael Packer on March 12, 2013 Nikon D3s, 230mm, f6.0, ISO1000, 3/4s exposure.

Comet L4 PANSTARRS click image to enlarge

“The above image was taken by Ignacio Diaz Bobillo on Feb 15th through a telescope, I’m sure you will agree this is a wonderful capture and full of potential for nice show on the weeks ahead. The green colour around the coma (comet’s head) is the gas/ion envelope around the comet’s nucleus and the white/gold colour is the dust tail reflecting light from the sun. L4 Panstarrs sports a very high abundance of dust which indicates a fairly large and very active nucleus which should continue to brighten every day as solar heating and pressure increases.”

Comet PanSTARRS is named after the person or group that discovered it. In this case, the University of Hawaii’s Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System Pan-STARRS which is an innovative wide-field imaging facility developed for astronomy. It’s full name C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS is a non-periodic comet discovered in June 2011 that is expected to be visible to the naked eye when it is near perihelion in March 2013.


Most beaches along PCH close at sunset. Do you know of any places that are open late?



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Solar Sunday Report Feb 10th

Solar Sunday Report February 10th,  2013

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

A beautiful California day provided a good crowd and fun viewing of the solar disk. Malika’s projector showed the major sunspots. And Michael Swartz’s dual refractor set up (Neutral density and H-alpha – both with binoculars simultaneously displayed the sunspot and prominences in great detail.

Photo courtesy of Jag Sonti

With the Rotation of a new spot into field of view the Sunspot Count Jumped to the 40’s and solar viewers got to see the Wilson Effect – See below images.

Click Image For Larger View!


We have another Solar Observing Day this month on Feb 24th and as usual 1st Sunday March 3.  Come on out. (Folks with solar setups and scopes are provided with water.)

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Solar Peak

The Sun’s Hot Right Now!

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!

Sun Spot Number Graph
Last Updated 25 Jan 2013 13:03 UT

Graph of Sunspot Numbers
Plus Two Great Shot of Sun From SJAA Member Robert Devall

Click These Photos To Enlarge ! !

Observer Regularly And Enjoy

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