Blog Archives

FixIt Program Report Jan 2013

Author: Ed Wong

Ed Wong’s monthly report from the Telescope FixIt Program January 2013 ed.wong The FixIt program had a very successful and busy session for Jan. 2013. Thanks for those who came out to help, Dave, Phil, Dwayne, Carl (I’m sorry if I missed anybody, short term memory isn’t what it used to be) The Houge Park hall was buzzing with activity from opening to closing.

We had 2 people bring in Newtonian scopes on equatorial mounts. One needed help on learning how to use the goto function and the other one needed help assembling the scope and mount that he had bought from Orion . I helped him assemble the scope and mount and showed him how to use. I did see him bring it out to the Star Party at HP so it’s good to see him using it and helping out at the star parties.

Phil and Dave had a chance to look at the recently donated Meade LX6 SCT and confirmed the declination motor does indeed work – I believe it is the clock driven azimuth motor that does not. This old LX6 will require someone with specialized skills and the luck of obtaining parts that most likely are no longer available to be able to repair it.    Even so, I don’t think it is in the best interest of the club to expend the time and energy to do so. The front collector plate does have a haze which could possible be cleaned but is best left to the buyer to do so. As Dave has said before, what is unique and desirable about this scope is that it is a F6.3. Dave and I did a star test on the scope last Fri. night after the star party and confirmed that visually the scope is good.

We also finished putting the locking hasps on the 2 bookcases that Dave and I put together over the Christmas break. So the SJAA library is ready to go!!!

Posted in Blog, Programs

SJAA Classifieds Page

Author: Dave Ittner

SJAA is proud to announce a new benefit for it’s members.   We are now providing a listing service to assist you in selling your astro gear.

All you have to do is provide me with a picture (or pictures) of the item, a description (a lot of detail is best), a price you are asking, the terms of the sale (cash only, etc), and how you wish to be contacted.

We will then post this information up on our Member For Sale Listing page (link on the right side of this page).   Please notify me should you want to make changes or remove the item.

And don’t forget to check out the items the club is selling via the links on the right.

Clear skies,
Dave Ittner

Posted in Anouncements, Blog

Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures

The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures at FOOTHILL COLLEGE are back after a year of remodeling! Sponsored by NASA, The Astronomical Society of the Pacific, SETI and the Foothill Astro. Dept., the public gets to hear from Nobel Laureates and the top researchers of our 11 dimensional universe we now call home. To get on the mailing list for up-coming lectures follow this link:

Posted in Anouncements, Blog, Education & Reference Info

El Sol de Milo 01-13-13

ObserveThe 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

El Sol de Milo


El Sol is “stellar” right now. The sunspot group at center is 1x with solar glasses (so get your money’s worth and check it out). The discerning eye will note it does not look like a point but spread out diminishing to upper left (from a non-telescope CA  perspective}.

Here’s a earlier capture of the Sunspot using a highly affordable eyepiece projection system.  Credit: Malika Carter
Malika+(2)In h-alpha or standard filter the group is wicked with notable plage, pillage and turmoil.

Flares are kicker – the 6 O’clock is a looper – angled toward earth – so drapes onto the solar sphere from our perspective… 2 large prototypical loops are at 4 oclock and further up. Flares are all around the sun with most extending 6 white dwarf diameters (ie earth diameters) from the photosphere – the “surface” of the sun.

Taking an off axis shot with your point and shoot can giveyou better sunspot contrast & detail:

Stellar views!

Posted in Blog, Solar

Dedicated Astronomers

Dedicated Astronomers hang out till all hours of the night in freezing weather ….


A very frosty XT8 OTA at Rancho Canada del Oro Saturday January 12th.   Temperatures dropped to well below freezing.

Posted in Blog, Observing Reports

Look Back at 2012

Author: Rob Jaworski

We’re at the start of another cycle around the sun, and this is a good point in time (and space) to look back over the past cycle to see what’s been going on with the San Jose Astronomical Association.

The Quick STARt program (the former Mentoring Program) helps to ease folks into amateur astronomy. You have to admit, astronomy can look exciting from the outside, but once you scratch the surface, it can get seemingly complex in a hurry. But it doesn’t have to be that way if there’s someone to guide you and answer all your seemingly basic questions.  The Quick STARt program really took off in 2012 with the leadership and energy of Dave Ittner.  He has already helped dozens and dozens of people get their feet wet in getting out under dark skies to discover what’s out there, firsthand.  Over the year, Dave has also refined the program , adding not only easy to use Dobsonian telescopes but all the accessories any good observer needs, such as observing chairs, appropriate eyepieces, sky atlases, accessory cases, etc.  The Quick STARt program is available to SJAA members, and you can find more information, including how to contact Dave to sign up, here.

Another program that was conceived just before 2012 but has really taken off is the Solar Observing program. Early in 2012 the club took receipt of a Lunt h-alpha 100mm solar telescope.  Since then, it’s been the star (!) of the party at every daytime event.  The core of the Solar Observing program is the monthly observing sessions at San Jose’s Houge Park.  On the first Sunday of every month, from 2 to 4PM PT, SJAA members set up the club’s Lunt for the public to come view our nearest star. Additionally, members bring their own solar telescopes, such as Coronado PSTs to projection systems, with which to compare views. Of course, sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate and the session is canceled, but in those oftentimes when we do set up, the sun provides an amazing show. In fact, the sun is approaching the solar maximum, which means lots to see on and near the sun.  Michael Packer runs the Solar Observing program and has proven a dedicated sun watcher!  (Remember: NEVER observe the sun without proper eye protection! You can go blind!)

A program that is entirely new for 2012 was the Fix It session, sometimes called the Tune Up or the Telescope Fix It program.  This is a real simple service the SJAA offers to members of the community, though it’s priceless.  The Fix It session provides a place for people to come with their telescope or other astronomy gear problems.  Every first Sunday of the month, from 2 to 4PM (coinciding with the Solar Observing sessions), several SJAA members make themselves available at Houge Park for people to come with their scopes to get help with their gear. It can be any type of issue, such as broken scopes whose owners need advice, help with collimation, or even a quick session on how to use it. Weather doesn’t slow this program down, so even if it’s windy, cold and rainy outside, Fix It day goes on.  Big thanks to go Ed Wong and Phil Chambers for being the gear experts who faithfully make themselves available at Fix It day!

Another new program that debuted in 2012 is the Astro Imaging Special Interest Group (SIG).  This was spearheaded by Harsh Kaushikkar and has a mission of bringing together people who have an interest in astronomy imaging, or put more simply, taking pictures of the night sky.  The Imaging SIG meets roughly every other month at Houge Park to discuss topics about imaging, as well as in the field, usually at Rancho Cañada del Oro (more on that site later). The SIG is open to people with absolutely no experience but want to learn what it’s all about, but experienced imagers are also more than welcome, indeed, encouraged to participate.  The best way to get involved is to review the postings on the SJAA AstroImaging mail list in Google Groups. Here’s the link.

The SJAA has been working with the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority (sometimes called simply the OSA) to make one of their sites available to astronomers.  The OSA’s Rancho Cañada del Oro (sometimes called RCDO, or Rancho) site is made available more and more with the dedicated work of SJAA members Chris Kelly and Dave Ittner. Both are also docents with the OSA, which really makes the partnership between the two organizations that much more cohesive.  If you are interested in experiencing a fairly dark site that’s not too far from home, consider coming out to Rancho when it’s announced it will be open. Located just south of Calero County Park, between San Jose and Morgan Hill, Rancho gets surprisingly dark for being so close to an urban area.  Keep an eye out on the SJAA Announce mail list for notifications of when it will be available.

There were many more accomplishments during the year for the SJAA, and this post could go on and on about them. But before we get too long winded, let me make a few, more brief acknowledgments.

  • Teruo Itsumi developed and hosted the first Messier Half Marathon at Henry Coe State Park in October
  • SJAA members gathered to view the Venus Transit, the annular eclipse, and the last shuttle flyby.
  • The SJAA again participated in two community events, the Cambrian Festival and the Almaden Art and Wine Festival.
  • The City of San Jose provided a grant of $500 to the SJAA to help offset the cost of insurance for the school star party program.
  • Jim Van Nuland continues to be the heart and soul of the school star party program.
  • The telescope loaner program was revamped, with its inventory cleaned up. And the auction was a success, in which the club divested itself of many older scopes from the loaner program bringing in some much needed funds to help with the revamp of the loaner program.
  • The general meetings now have a social time beforehand, allowing members to mingle.
  • The SJAA produced a video of one of the monthly talks, which was broadcast on cable TV.
  • The website was overhauled, and looking great.
  • The club newsletter continues to be consistently produced every month, in large part due to Paul Kohlmiller’s effort, and the montly column my Akkana Peck.
  • And membership has increased by 10%!

There is more, indeed, but these many items are the highlights. The board and the active volunteers have plans to make 2013 just as active, lively and fun. I hope that if you haven’t been getting involved, you will consider doing it soon!  Come to Houge Park, or contact any of the board members to participate!

Happy New Orbit!
Rob Jaworski

Posted in Anouncements, Articles, Blog

Items for sale

Author: Dave Ittner

SJAA has accumulated a lot of scopes and accessories over the years.   We now have too many items and too little room so it’s time to offer them up for sale.

I found it best to break them out into one of three categories – Telescopes, Eyepieces, or Misc Items and put them on their own separate page here on this blog. The links to these pages can be found to the right of this post.

These items are offered up as is and on a first come first serve basis.  Should an item not yet be priced it will be shown as $TBD.   Feel free to offer a price for us to review and then either accept or counter.

I would be glad to answer any questions you have and or show you the item of interest by setting up a time to meet at Houge Park.

Please check back periodically as we have many more items to list (will be added to the bottom of each post).

Dave Ittner

Posted in Anouncements, Blog

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

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