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Pics of Auction Action

SJAA 34th Annual Auction

Lots of Astronomical items were bought and sold at this auction. Here are some pics of the event:


Getting Started: registration and some free astronomy books


Buyers and Sellers


Auctioneer Greg Claytorr with “Runners” Ed Wong and Lee Hoglan


Some Fine Questars!


Scope for sale: Large, Small, and Brass


Looking over the auction items


Veteran Astronomers


SJAA Main Organizer Dave Ittner (left) with Auctioneer Greg Claytor (Right)


More Auction Volunteers from left to right: Rob Jaworski (SJAA President), Teruo Utsumi (Secretary), Lee Hoglan (VP), and Michael Packer (Treasurer)

Posted in Blog

Cosmos: Spacetime Odyssey premieres Sunday March 9th !!

Called the successor to Sagan’s Cosmos – Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Comos: Spacetime Odyssey premieres Sunday March 9th.

Also – all 13 of the original episodes, which for ten years remained the most widely watched series in PBS history, will be rebroadcast this weekend. The National Geographic Channel will run a marathon from 12pm to 6pm on Saturday, March 8, and from 12pm to 7pm Sunday. That will leave devotees enough time to tuck in dinner before the new show airs at 9pm.

Posted in Anouncements, Blog

Stellar Time At Annual Meeting

Annual Meeting: Great Food – Stellar Time


It was just great to meet up, talk about the recent Supernovas (particularity the recent one  in M82), and share what scopes we use and what we’ve observed over the past club year. And it was tasty time socializing over delicious pot luck food. Thanks for all those great dishes, folks!


But of course this was SJAA’s annual Membership Meeting. We elected board members, and for the first time, presented awards to volunteers who helped make our Star Parties, Classes and Events a success.

SJAA had four board seats up for vote. Members reelected Dave Ittner, Greg Claytor, and Rob Jaworski for three of the seats.  We still have an open board seat, so if you or someone you know is interested in serving, let our board members know (board email:

The board gave recognition rewards to the following individuals for volunteer help:

Phil Chambers:

For his key participation in SJAA’s Fixit Program. Phil has constantly shown up at the Fixit sessions with his tool box in hand and ready to help. Phil brings with him years of knowledge with telescopes and the hobby and is always willing to share that knowledge.

Terry Kahl:

For her general volunteer help and help to make the new Solar Program at Houge Park a success. Terry is a veteran member of SJAA but moreover has been an “active” member attending SJAA programs and Star Parties for years. She also helps out at our school star parties.

Carl Reisinger:

For his generosity and technical support of the Solar Program. Carl is a veteran member of SJAA and an active member with SJAA and the astronomical community. Carl has contributed solar images to the newsletter and solar blog and has shared his Calcium K-line filter at solar parties for public viewing.

Bill and Susan O’Neil

For their across-the-board astronomy outreach. This past year Bill and Susan O’Neil have set up scopes at SJAA’s local star parties and outreach programs we hold at Open Space Reserves and City Festivals throughout the South Bay and beyond. And last year they became volunteer rangers sharing astronomy at our National Parks.

Frank Geefay:

For performing all the heavy lifting to move to the new SJAA website. Frank personally took it upon himself to not only help move the website content, but as a side effect, he also helped test the new site, and spent considerable time and effort formatting the data.

Richard Stone:

For his enthusiastic public star party participation and outreach efforts.
Richard is a regular contributor at our Star Parties at Houge Park as well as Rancho and other sites.  These public outreach events can’t be done without volunteers, and Richard is “the constant”.

Paul Mancuso:

For his years of being a very regular part of the regular School Star Party program.
The School Star Party program is probably the most low-key of all SJAA programs, but one of the most appreciated by its ‘customers’, local schools and educational institutions. Paul is one of the few individuals who can be counted on to be there, sharing a variety of telescopes with students, their families, and their school communities.


Bill and Susan O’Neil, above, are recognized for their outreach.


Paul Mancuso, above, is presented with a volunteer award.


Richard Stone, above, receives a recognition award.

Thanks again to all for a great Annual Meeting. See you in the field and upcoming meetings!

Posted in Articles, Blog, General Meeting

SJAA member image: Supernova In M82!

The Supernova in M82 (a galaxy that is over 11 million light years away) is now visual magnitude 11 – still bright enough for a moderate sized scopes (6-8 inches) under moderate skies.

By Paul Colby with Marion Barker (photo credit: Paul Colby and Marion Barker):


I’m up at 3:00 after a super pot luck at SJAA Houge Park! We had a chance to show our picture of the recent super nova in M82. We took the data on 01/25/2014 at RCDO from about 10:30-10:50. Our setup was a Orion Sirius EQ mount, Celestron C8 and Canon T3i SLR back and no auto guiding. We’ve been evolving our technique which now includes operating the camera from our Mac iBook Air using a USB cable and the free Canon camera software utility. Controlling the camera from a laptop was a big step forward for us. Finding the right camera scope connection was the hardest bit. There is a lot of things we tried that didn’t work. We settled on a T-ring/Cannon adapter ring connected to the SLR back with a short celestron 1-1/4 inch t-ring adapter found with the help of an SJAA star party neighbor who loaned us one to try. We took about 15 shots mostly at ISO of 800 using 30 sec exposure time. A couple ISO 6400 shots were also taken. I used about 12 images (JPEGS) stacked with FIGI (ImageJ on my iMac) which is free. ImageJ has an interface that is kind of like talking to space aliens but worth the effort to figure out (might make a nice SJAA class). It also allows you to create the label art like seen in the photo.

Posted in Articles, Blog, Observing Reports

Sol Saturday @ Campbell Park

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
Some SJAA solar folks decided to share some solar views on Saturday July 25th at a new spot – Campbell Park. The beautiful park is not only located near bustling Campbell Ave, it lies along the Los Gatos Creek Trail and so gets a steady stream of passers-by. Not unexpectedly parking is a bit harder to find but we had a good 75 kids and adults stop by and take a look.
It’s hard to tell but Terry Kahl is behind that hat showing the sun in her highly portable H-Alpha
20140125_142912       The above pic is where we staked our spot. Terry’s looking at the camera and Michael Packer is taking a look through her scope. Kevin Lahey can’t often observe on Sunday so this was a treat for him and the public to look through his 10-inch canon of a scope equipped with a filter:
KevThis scope details sunspots something wicked and the number of active regions on Saturday did not disappoint with 150 total (NOAA):
These spots were definitiviely interesting in a grab and go scope such as Bill O’Neil’s C5 (below). Much thanks goes to Bill for also bringing an excellent NASA poster of sun mounted to an easle. This really helped the public/kids get what they were viewing in all the scopes.
BillKev Though parking was a bit of an issue at Campbell Park, sharing the views with trail and park goers more than made up for the little extra work and we’re open to observe here again. Stellar cheers and mag. -26.74.
Posted in Blog, Solar

Woman Astronomer Leavitt bio’d in Local Play

For your edification and pleasure:

Astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt is portrayed in Mountain View play “Silent Sky” which runs through Feb 7th:

Astronomy theme and local-arts play – what could be better?

Posted in Anouncements

Jan 5th 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.
Two Thumbs Up!
Solar Observing January 5th
SJAA and Public checking out the Sun.
Thanks to Terry Kahl, Bill O’Neil, and Teruo Utsumi for setting up gear.  It was also nice to meet up with folks from The Villages Astronomy Club, recent member Ashref, also Mark Farley, Mikhail, Alena and the some 50 plus public/astro folks who stopped by.
There was a huge Sunspot on El Sol this Sunday visible with just a pair of Solar Glasses. Under the telescope it was exposed as a huge network of spots around 2 massive spots – each showing intricate penumbral detail:
This Sunspot group is the origin of the recent flare reports or CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) reports that have made the news. H-Alpha View did not disappoint as seen here by pic from Robert Duvall. Look at the huge vortex flow around the largest sunspot. Prominences or H-Alpha flares emanating from this region can be seen in the image as filaments or cloudy looking wisps:
Two thumbs up indeed! Clear  Mag -26.74 New Year Skies.
Posted in Articles, Blog, Solar

Last Sun 2013 – Stellar!

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.

And it should look stellar on the 1st of 2014 too!

No solar scope? Join us Sunday Jan 5th at Houge Park 2-4PM!

Beautiful splatter of Sunspots – larger ones with webs of penumbra (SN 93 NOAA), plage and faculae. And H-alpha highlight was massive detached prominence – 20 Earth diam long 15 high! 

Click Image to Enlarge: Left –; Right – M. Packer LX5 250sec, f/2.0, ISO 125 color shifted and sharpened to look neat.


Posted in Blog, Solar

Steve’s Adventures In Deep Space

Adventures In Deep Space

is a blog site maintained by Steve Gottlieb

Ray Cash, Mark Wagner, Mimi Wagner, Jim Shields and Steve Gottlieb – Photo by Marsha Robinson

[Steve Gottlieb]“is one of the world’s foremost visual observers, bay area amateur astronomer and all around great guy.”

Posted in Blog, Local Blogs

1st Sunday Solar Observing + ISON Is Dust

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.

Knowing the Sun just sucked in Comet ISON, chewed it into a Thanksgiving gravy of dirty ice melt clods and spat it out into a field of dust offered a little more respectable view of the El Sol than usual. And the Sun did deliver. Click images to enlarge:


ISON gravitationally sucked in and spat out into 100’s of thousands of miles of dust.

Sunspots Dec 2d 2013 - note spot at left edge

Sunspots Dec 2d 2013 – note spot at left edge

The Sunspot count was 104 (NOAA) in a smashing array with a large lone one at the edge exhibiting the Wilson Effect (the spot appears as a slight depression or cavity). The seeing was particularly fair this session and my personal 80mm Refractor with a Hershel Wedge and Continuum Filter showed the solar granularity beautifully as well as plage and faculae. Solar Prominences or H-Alpha Flares were particularly nice with a not-to-often seen Helix Prominence.

We had a small but dedicated crowd for this solar party – impressive because of the “Black Friday”-Thanksgiving-Football-Weekend. Susan and Bill O’Neil showed up with their C5 scope. New member Paul Summers showed up and took some images, along with member Dwight Shackelford, and Santa Cruz Astronomy Club President Jeff Gose. And of course we had members of the public deliberately stop by – or stroll up on their visit to Houge Park. Finally Solar veteran Terry Kahl stopped by for the fix it day. She reported a huge 1x power sunspot and huge prom just a few days ago. A perfect example of why El Sol is so dynamically hot to check out everyday now.


Bill and Susan Showing the Sun with a Standard Filter on a C5


Paul Summers Showing Sun in H-Alpha


Paul had a knack for showing sun to children

Clear Mag -27.64 Skies!

Posted in Blog, Solar


Here is where to look for comet ISON for Friday Morning November 22. On Wednesday, Thursday ISON will be a bit higher in sky and Saturday a bit lower than shown. So look for it any of these days. The comet is best viewed with a small scope although you should see it with a pair a binoculars as faint blue smudge. Here is a link for a live sky of ISON:


Posted in Anouncements, Blog

1X Sunspot

Nice But hard to see 1x Power Sunspot

through weekend for those who still have their eclipse or Venus Transit Solar Glasses

– Never look @ Sun without approved filter –

In a small scope with filter be prepared for WOW!

as this image shows



Posted in Articles, Blog, Solar

The RASC Observer Handbooks Are Here!

The RASC Observer Handbooks Are Here and For Sale at all Houge Park Events
The 2014 Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Observers Handbook is the best annual astronomy resource in print.
Even In today’s tech world, amateur astronomers make the most out of any night in the field with just this book, a basic astronomy app and the optics of their choice.

Click Image to Enlarge

352 Pages. SJAA Price with no shipping is $25 flat – compare with net! In this paperback book you get

  • The Sky Month by Month;
  • Deep Sky Gems and Deep Sky Object Challenge (45 objects this year)
  • Location of dwarf, minor and major planets;
  • Lunar Occultations;
  • Planetary Occultations;
  • Variable Star Data (observe/learn the way stars vary in brightness);
  • Positions, Transits and Shadow transits of the bright moons of Jupiter and Saturn;
  • The 2014 Opposition of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn…;
  • Comets of 2014: location, brightness, background information;
  • Superb writeup (so says our Michael Packer) on observing the Sun with labeled diagram of sunspot features;
  • Superb articles for 2014 by noted Authors such as David Levy (Amateur Astronomer and Author), Fred Espenak (NASA), Syuichi Nakano (Sumoto Japan, 2014 comets) and “our” Derek Briet (Morgan Hill CA on Planetary Occultations).

SJAA ordered 40 of these books for our 300+ membership. We expect to be sold out by January. Now Available at All Houge Park Events

Posted in Anouncements, Blog

Comet ISON

C/2012 S1 also known as Comet ISON or Comet Nevski–Novichonok can be seen right now below the constellation LEO (and below the planet Mars). It is a very hard to find binocular object and a hard to find object in a small refractor in fairly dark urban skies. A 6-inch or larger scope is best. Apps such as Sky Safari have the position of ISON right on the mark. It will help to have stars plotted (visible) to magnitude 8.  Best time to look is  5:00-5:30AM. It is not a “wow” comet to-date but a good comet for folks who love the thrill of the hunt. Lots of good images of comet are at ( such as this one by Mike Broussard on November 3, 2013 Maurice, Louisiana:


Posted in Articles

Sundog Sun!

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.

November First Sunday Solar Observing

Sun Dogs and Prominences – WOW!

Seeing prominences (H-Alpha flares) and sun-dogs (ie not a rainbow but an ice-crystal-bow) on the same day is very California. It’s like skiing and hitting the beach on the same day! I didn’t bother to check the weather for Solar Observing Sunday and that turned out to be a good thing!

It’s California after all and El Sol is cookin’ right now.  Any any chance to see the Sun’s atmospheric layers and its dynamics during this max is time well spent. I have to remind myself that, prior to the H-Alpha Scope, folks traveled the world to catch a ~3 minute total eclipse glimpse at prominences. Needless to say I was the only scope at Houge Park but not the only observer.  We had a couple Parent-kids show up and SJAA members Mikhail, Alena and Chris.

To be frank most of the 1st hour was poor viewing. We did see the current major sunspots groups every so often through the cloud layer and through H-Alpha filter  – which is not the best instrument to observe sunspots.


We then managed to pick out a few nice prominences around the solar disc. But around 2:45 as the cloud layer lifted just a bit more, we got a fantastic Sun-dog show complete with left – right dogs and connecting icebow. Mikhail took a photo of it and here it is:

Click Image To EnlargeMiks-Sundog

You can search Wikipedia for Sun-dogs but here is a nice pic of the effect by Thompson Higher Ed:

Sundog Graphic

Posted in Blog, Solar

Sun October 6th

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.

Got Sun?

Anne at Carl's scope

When the wisps of clouds were not in the way – which was not often – we saw some great H-Alpha Flares (prominences), Sunspots, Filaments, Plage, and solar granularity today. In fact the flares were better than average prompting some folks, like Anne pictured above at Carl’s scope to take some photos of the sun in our club’s 100mm Lunt. It was the first time I’ve seen a nice H-flare show up in an smart phone camera.

Below – Today’s Sun in H-Alpha (rotated and flipped to match view in eyepiece). Credit –


There were lots of birthdays at Houge today so we called those parties over to the scope. Terry from Santa Clara’s Open Space Reserve also stopped by with a small entourage:


Mag -26.74 Skies,


Posted in Articles, Blog, Solar

Sun September 1

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.

I expected a less than average turnout this Labor Day weekend. Yet we had 4 Solar Scope Setups and a nice crowd of folks (thanks to all for coming out) that kept the event going past 4:00 o’clock.

Click Image to Enlarge
Four Scope Setups were rewarded with a very active view of the Sun. Thanks to Gary Chock for photo.

Jenny at 100mm H-Alpha scope checking out the “Bic lighter” prominence.

And speaking of that O’clock we noted superb H-Alpha flares (quiescent prominences) at 7, 9 and  12, refactor view, and one “Bic lighter” H-Alpha active flare (surge prominence) at 8 o’clock on the solar dial. The quiescent flares extended some 40,000 miles from the Sun and extended along the Sun 70-80 thousand miles.  The narrow surge prominence extended some 80,0000 miles form the surface before we saw it’s upper region dissipate.
Prominence classes – the word flare is a nebulous term. Some prominences are flares in heliophysics sense and generally they all are. Educating kids, I use the word H-Alpha flare instead of the abstract term prominence. This helps young viewers understand what they are looking for while identifying it in the H-Alpha or Chromosphere layer of Sun.

Prominence classes – the word flare is a nebulous term. Some prominences are flares in heliophysics sense and generally they all are. Educating kids, I use the word H-Alpha flare instead of the abstract term prominence. This helps young viewers understand what they are looking for while identifying it in the H-Alpha or Chromosphere layer of Sun.

At it’s peak the solar dynamo is sizzling and dazzling. In Keven Lahey’s 10 inch scope we counted 28 sunspots in 4 groups giving a sunspot count of 68. Actually I incorrectly counted four groups instead of three. Had I not done that my estimate would have agreed with the ISN, International Sunpot Number of 58. Below is an image of the Sun for September 1st.

Three Sunspot Groups and a total Number of 28 sunspots gives Sunspot Number (SN = G+N) of 58.

Look forward to seeing everyone next Solar Meetup at Houge October 6th!

Posted in Blog, Solar

Mark’s Deep Sky Observing

Mark Wagner

Mark Wagner

Deep Sky Observing is a blog site maintained by Mark Wagner one of our distinguished past presidents.

It is an archive of what fun it is to get out and enjoy the aesthetics of amateur astronomy. The sights are beautiful, inspiring, and fire the curiosity in the sciences, theology and philosophy. It is a mind expanding experience.

The night sky away from the brightness of an urban setting is a sight of natural beauty… a resource to protect, like our parks and waters. Just as viewing the Grand Canyon never disappoints – so does the night sky – its is humbling and awe inspiring, and truly the grandest canyon of all…

This blog is suitable for both new aspiring amateur astronomers as well as advanced amateur astronomers. There are a wealth of articles, photos and illustrations.

Posted in Blog, Local Blogs

Study The Moon

Studying the Moon

Michael Packer’s site on Studying The Moon has dates and times to observe some of the best features on the lunar surface including ancient shield volcanoes and lava flows:

Posted in Blog, Local Blogs