Blog Archives

Perseids – Fear Not the Moon – start now

Fear Not the Moon, Perseids Always a Great Show so look for it this weak starting now.


Read more at:

Posted in Anouncements, Articles, Blog

1st Sunday August 3rd Solar

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 are *finally* past solar max. So is the Sun dead quiet? Not Quite!
Is Summer over as soon as the days get shorter? Nope – the sunshine hums along. It’s even more the case with the solar cycle. Sol Min is 5.5 years away! The sunspot count on the 1st Sunday of August was 158 (NOAA). Plus we had one spectacular prominence which stood out from the others and changed its shape over the course of the party (below are a few pics). Please do note though – as the sun does quiet down – the chance of seeing an active day on the 1st Sunday of every month will wane. So we now have a back-up date of the 2d Sunday for solar viewing. We’ll keep you tuned in through announcements!
2014-08-02Wh9 IMG_4973Ha9Above is how the sun looked over the weekend in standard and H-alpha filters. Thanks to Robert Duvall.
Again, please make a mental note. As the sun does quiet down the chance of seeing an active day on the 1st Sunday of every month will be lower. So we now have a back-up date of the 2d Sunday. We’ll keep you posted for the stellar views!
Posted in Articles, Blog, Solar

SJAA Yosemite Trip Report

Yosemite Trip A Success

We were concerned about the fire and clouds but the reality was we showed Saturn, Iridium Flares, the host of significant objects inside and outside our galaxy to folks from Europe, Africa, Oceania, the Americas and Asia.



Credit M. Packer


Credit M. Packer


Credit J. Jones


Credit: G. Chock

One highlight of the weekend was an Iridium Flare passing over during pre-star party talk. Morris Jones asked “what’s the difference between astrologers and astronomers?” Answer: “Astronomers predictions come true” Where-in Morris told audience to look up for the flare and score – the satellite passed overhead to the delight and applause of audience.


Credit M. Packer

Thanks to our SJAA volunteers. Left to Right: Morris Jones, Philip Lieu, Don Lieu, Jane Houston Jones, Jim Van Nuland, Terry Kahl, Gary Mitchell, Kenichi Miura, Paul Mancuso, Michael Packer,  Jose Marte, Greg Bradburn, Gary Chock, Rus Belikov

Other highlights of the weekend: scope views of climbers on Halfdome, M55 in a large dob, Swan and Veil (nice view Terry and Gary). Saturn of course – it rings but also it’s moons. M6, M7 and lots of planetary nebulae  in Aquila (thanks Rus). Also several shooting stars both nights along with the Crème de la crème – Pleiades “un-occulted” or rising over Half Dome in the wee hours. Below are some pics of the weekend.


Credit M. Packer


05-Yosemite_2014 06-Yosemite_201407-Yosemite_2014


   08-Yosemite_2014 09-Yosemite_2014


Credit G. Chock


Credit G. Chock

Morris snapped this shot of a grouse that stopped by:


Credit M. Jones

Posted in Articles, Blog, Trip Reports

1st Sunday July 6th Solar

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.
“1x” Solar Glasses Visiable Sunspot, Sunspot Count over 200, Plus Spectacular Prominences Equals One Great 4th July Weekend of Solar Observing
Keven Lahey, Robert Duvall, Bill O’Neil, Jeff Gose, Teruo Utsumi, Paul Mancuso and Michael Packer were just some of the folks who hung out at the 1st Sunday of month solar party and this 4th of July Weekend did not disappoint.




photo 4photo 3
Sunspots looked fantastic through solar filtered binoculars.
Don’t not look through your binoculars without proper solar filters – doing so will cause permanent eye damage!
By far the coolest aspect of the solar disc today was the sheer number of sunspots (213 NOAA). Sunspots usually come in pairs and the larger one looked like wings of a butterfly according to Robert D. – or perhaps moth wings that emulated fake eyes to detract prey (Michael P.). What ever your imagination – the detail of the umbra and penumbra was intricate as nature can be (below left image). Another neat detail to be observed was near textbook example of filamentary prominences arcing around one sunspot source. No question here. The focus of these semicircular arcs clearly were spot on the spot that caused them. Can you see which spot we’re talking about in the below right image?

The sun with Standard Solar Filter and H-Alpha (click an image to enlarge).

2014-07-06Wh9 IMG_4785Ha9

Here are more images of the day:


photo 2


Jul6-Solar-05 Jul6-Solar-04






Posted in Blog, Solar

Happy Fourth All

I took this pic at shoreline park and it reminded me too much of the crab nebula so here it is:




Posted in Articles

In Memory to Dr. Armstrong

Write up by Mark Wagner
In Memory
Dr. Robert F. Armstrong
July 22, 1938 – June 17, 2014
Los Gatos, California 

The SJAA and amateur astronomy have lost a dear friend with the passing of Dr. Robert Armstrong.  It was an unexpected and sad loss for all who knew him, and the many who benefited from his quiet generosity.

Robert was known to many simply as Dr. A.  He had a keen love for astronomy, regularly taking his 20″ telescope to Fremont Peak, was a fixture each year at the CalStar dark sky star party, and traveled the world to experience numerous  total solar eclipses.  He served on the SJAA Board of Directors for many years, handling the officer duties of Treasurer.  Always gentle, kind and positive, he embodied the club as an open and welcoming organization, supporting and promoting new ideas for making amateur astronomy more accessible to the public, and members of the SJAA.

Professionally, Dr. Armstrong was an infectious diseases specialist, practicing in Los Gatos.  Several members of the SJAA, and their families, owe their lives and those of their family members to Dr. A’s expertise and advice.  All who knew him saw his deep caring for people, in how he connected on a very personal and human level.

Dr. A. had a fine, quiet, and playful sense of humor, and a great understanding of human nature.  Never heard raising his voice in anger, he was one of those people, who are really few, who could always be counted on.  Robert set a great example for all.

With the SJAA, his dreams were for the club to have a first rate solar telescope, and to acquire land at a dark site so amateur astronomers could have a place of their own to enjoy their hobby.  He recently helped guide the club in acquiring a wonderful solar telescope which now is used monthly for public viewing.  It is an appropriate legacy he leaves the SJAA, as none shined so brightly as Dr. A, at the SJAA.

Dr. Armstrong will long be missed by the SJAA, his friends, and those whose lives he touched.

Posted in Anouncements, Articles, Blog

Indie SiFi To Play in San Jose

For those not going to GSSP, COHERENCE might satiate at least a need for intriguing Sci-Fi.

! Plus mark the date for SJAA SCI-FI Night: Saturday August 9th !


Camera 12 on June 27th



More The X-Files than Star Wars

“On the night of an astronomical anomaly, eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of reality bending events. Part cerebral sci-fi and part relationship drama, COHERENCE is a tightly focused, intimately shot film that quickly ratchets up with tension and mystery.”

Official Website:

Camera 12 showing:

Posted in Anouncements, Blog

1st Sunday June 1st Solar

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.

Holy Solar H-Flares!

It was a warm day under the sun but the H-Alpha Solar flares did not disappoint. Here are two exposures taken with a LX5 point and shoot held at the eyepiece:

Click Any Image To Enlarge

 01sunpromSolar   02sunpromsSolar

The H-Flare on the right was a good 200,000 thousand miles high. Sunspot count was in the 50’s.

Terry had her portable H-Alpha and Bill had his C5 along with the club’s scope. Michael brought his 80mm with Herschel Wedge and Narrow Band Green.  Below are two people shots of the day. About a 12 folks stopped by to take a gander.





Posted in Blog, Solar

Astronomy + Memorial Day Potluck, South Bay Hills invite

Hi All,  if you don’t have Monday afternoon plans join the The Villages Astronomy club for pot luck dinner and guest speaker Brian Day from NASA

The event kicks off at 4:30 with some folks from the San Jose Astronomy Association and their Solar Telescopes (ie at least me, Michael, with my own solar scope and Hershel wedged refactor) to view a very active sun. Bring your solar, night scope or just yourself/family. The Villagers are very nice folk that join our Houge events every so often. Here are the details:
 The Villages Astronomy club will host a pot luck dinner and provide complementary grilled burgers and hot dogs.  Join in and bring your favorite dish! 

After solar viewing and food there will be a talk titled: “Exploring the Moon with NASA.”  Brian Day will overview NASA LUNAR activities with a focus on the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission. Bring your laptop or smart phone and he will show you some steps to do your own exploration. WiFi on site.

As evening falls, several telescopes (bring yours), partnered with knowledgeable Villager astronomy members  – will share views, check out NGCs and take any requests.

Join us for the full event or feel free to pop in for a specific area of interest! There is also a radio telescope HAM base.
Where and when:
Monday, May 26th, Vineyard Center
Solar Viewing 4:30 – 5:30
BBQ and Pot Luck:  5:30 – 6:30

Please RSVP, to plan accordingly for complimentary BBQ and seating for our Guest Speaker.
RSVP  Trish: 408-384-1043 trishmb AT yahoo DOT com
trishhmb@… <mailto:trishhmb@…
From 101 take the Yerba Buena exit 
• Drive east on Yerba Buena to San Felipe (2.3 miles)
• Turn right on San Felipe Road
• Make a left turn at Villages Parkway continue to the entrance gate
• After you enter the Villages, continue on the Villages Parkway to Fairway Drive
• The Vineyard Center is at this intersection on Fairway Drive
• You can either cross the street into the parking lot, or park on the street

Mag 7 and -26.74 Packer

Posted in Anouncements, Blog

Results: Matching Funds For Lick – Sandy Faber Talk

Dear All,

The Thanks goes to you!


Lick received $1582 in donations from Sandy Faber’s Talk

Based on this preliminary number, SJAA will write a check to Lick for at least $3082. We had a few IOUs and we hope to see those funds come in to ensure we max out. So please send to our address below.

From support of our Solar , Quick STARTt and Advance Loaner program, Library and now the support the Lick Observatory, SJAA is freakin’ proud to be apart of this community.

Check out this page in a week or bit more for final update. Thanks again all and thank you Sandy.

Clear Skies,

San Jose Astronomical Association

San Jose Astronomical Association
PO Box 28243
San Jose, CA 95159-8243

(ps Bob Fles please send your email ATTN membership to

Posted in Anouncements, Articles, Blog, General Meeting, Programs

Astronomy Day at MKL Library

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.
Astronomy Day A Visual Rock Concert!
1-2014-AstroDayWith A Sunspot number of 123 (NOAA) and several active regions, notably AR2055, 2056 and 2057, El Sol was a plasma rock on a roll during National Astronomy Day 2014.
2014-05-10Wh9 SunSpotcloseup 2014-05-10-3860Ha9
Photo credit Robert Duvall – Thanks Robert!
Click the May 10th Sun images above to enlarge. The H-Alpha Flares – solar prominences – were also putting on a great show. All in all we shared astronomy with about 75 patrons of the library and SJSU Campus.

Enjoy the below pics and much thanks to MLK Library support from Ashour Benjamin, Reed Duong, and Deborah Estreicher. You guys Rocked! And to SJAA Volunteers Marion Barker, Paul Colby, Terry Kahl, Kevin Lahey, Bill ONeil, Michael Packer, and Teruo Utsumi – you all jammed!

Posted in Articles, Blog, Programs, Solar

1st Sunday May 4 Solar

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.

Wafty | Delicate | Detached prominences today surrounded the solar disc along with one lone stout double helix. And on the solar disc, a plethora of sunspots, 120 NOAA, filled the view.


RobertDuvallMay4SolarRobert Duvall (foreground below) took the above shots with his duel telescope setup. Nice capture – thanks Robert!

An SJAA solar crew of 6 scopes were right on these features with 3 photosphere/sunspot scopes: 127mm SCT, 204mm SCT, 204mm Dobsonian and 3 chromosphere prominence scopes: 40mm, 80mm, 100mm tuned refractors. 
Throughout the observing session we had about 20 people stop by to take a look. All in all a truly stellar California Spring day.
Clear Mag -26.74 Skies  Next weekend, Saturday May 10th, SJAA Solar Scopes will be at the downtown San Jose MLK Public Library from 11:00AM to 2:00PM. Stop on by!
Posted in Blog, Solar

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

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

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

2014 Golden State Star Party


June 25-29, 2014

There is still time to Register for the Golden State Star Party. Go to and sign up today!

A dozen or more SJAA members were there last year and over 400 Astronomers from up and down the coast. Great BBQ! And last year we had some of the darkest skies on record. Did we mention great BBQ! We’ll see you there June 25-29, Frosty Acres Ranch for another fun and memorable GSSP experience!GSSP_resize


Posted in Anouncements, Articles, Blog

Particle Fever @ Camera 12

Particle Fever @ San Jose’s Camera 12 and The Del Mar, Santa Cruz

– A friend wanted to clap and cheer throughout the flick –

A particularly timely work given the Nobel Prizes for Physics just announced for two of its central figures, Particle Fever succeeds on every level, but none more important than in making the normally intimidating and arcane world of genius-level physics at least conceptually comprehensible and even friendly to the lay viewer.


As they seek to unravel the mysteries of the universe, 10,000 scientists from more 100 countries joined forces in pursuit of a single goal: to recreate conditions that existed just moments after the Big Bang and find the Higgs boson, potentially explaining the origin of all matter. But our heroes confront an even bigger challenge: Have we reached our limit in understanding why we exist?

Posted in Articles, Blog