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Posted in Articles


Summer Exploratory Trip to the Pinnacles

This a report on exploratory trip to the Pinnacles last night 5/31

Last night me and (Dave I, Tom P, Gary C, Guna P, Lee H, Teruo U, Manoj K, Bharath K,) from the SJAA met down at the Pinnacles for a summer exploritory to see how viable viewing from the Pinnacles camp grounds would be. As we arrived, the campsites we had were on opposite sides of an access road. The campsites were large enough to fit all of us in one of the sites. So we decided to setup tents and gear in one of the campsites and park half of the other cars in the opposite site since there was a parking limit per site. As we were setting up it was obvious to the campers on both sides of us that we were not going to the regular campers. Needless to say the big Dobs and Big Binoculars got the attention of those around us which gave us a good opportunity to talk about the club and invite people to our website and HP. Of course the other campers wanted to have some views through our scopes too.

I guess I should list who brought what

Dave I – 17.5 inch Dobstuff Dob
Lee H – 25x150mm battle ship binoculars
Ed W- Oberwerk 28x110mm binoculars
Tom P – Televue NP101 & Astrotech AT72 refractors
Gary C- Astrotech AT72 refractor & Celestron 20×80 binoculars
Teruo U – 18 inch Obsession Dob
Manoj – 16 inch Hubble Optics Dob & 8inch? Dobstuff Dob
Guna P – Explore Scientific ED102
Bharath K – Orion ED80
Nhan N – Orion ED80

So the night started off viewing the Moon and Jupiter. I was able to spot Jupiter with the my binos during the just before sunset followed by Dave finding it with his Dob. We were able to see the bands on it and the sun was still up!!! The crowd gathered around to see views offered of the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn just as the sun had set. As a bonus we were able to see the Moon occult a bright star next to it (SAO 96786)

By 11pm some of the crowd started to dwindle down and I was able to get my first SQM reading of 20.56 (RCDO is about 20.50) There was still a lot of lights on from the nearby campers and the restrooms.

By around 1am the campers had gone to bed and the lights were out. Second SQM reading of 21.77!!! the Milky Way was blazing across the sky. If you have never viewed the Milky Way under dark skies it truly is a sight that is to behold. With my binos panning for the M8 – Lagoon Nebula through M24 -Sagittarius Star cloud to M11 – Wild Duck cluster it’s amazing how many stars are visible with the dark dust lanes in between them.

Other nice things viewed during the evening were: the Markarian Chain, M83, M104, The Leo Triplet, M31, M51, M64, M13, M92, M95, M96, M81, M82, M97, M105, M106, M108, M109. Bonus objects were the NG7000 – North American Nebula and Eastern & Western Veil Nebulas looked fantastic in the binos.

By 2:30am it was getting cold and most of us were starting to pack up for the night. Overall it was a good night. We learned things about the site that will help us for future trips, for some of the guys that went it was the first time they viewed under dark skies, we were able to give some publicity for the club.

-Ed

Posted in Articles


Results: Matching Funds For Lick – Sandy Faber Talk

Dear All,

The Thanks goes to you!

LickLick

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 sjaa.mail@gmail.com)

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!
CLICK ANY PIC IN THIS BLOG TO ENLARGE
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!

2-2014-AstroDay
3-2014-AstroDay
4-2014-AstroDay
5-2014-AstroDay
6-2014-AstroDay
Posted in Articles, Blog, Programs, Solar


My Favorite Things, Vol. 1.3 – Trek/There’s More

Star Trek

It’s amazing what this 60s TV show did. It lit up the imagination of the public and inspired the generations since to pursue science and engineering. NASA recently presented an award to William Shatner. He narrated this short Space Shuttle history video.

 

Electromagnetic Spectrum Blindness

Sometimes there’s more than “What you see is what you get.”

For the past 400 years we’ve had great improvements in telescopes. Just a look at a few images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope will convince anybody that’s true. And with that you might not even think to ask: “Is there’s more?”

Imagine being colorblind and able to see only green. You’d be able to read this blog (unless someone was really mean and set your computer to display any color but green), drive a car, and do any number of other things, but still…. Then if you gained full vision, you couldn’t help but see all the things you couldn’t perceive before.

Until the advent of electronics in recent decades, we were in a manner of speaking electromagnetic (EM) spectrum blind — we could see what’s in the sky through only a tiny part of the EM spectrum. Notice in the diagram below how narrow the range of visible light is compared to the entire spectrum and how much the atmosphere blocks.

some_text
[source: Wikipedia]

We’ve had radio telescopes for decades and in just the last 10 to 20 years we’ve started to get good images in the infrared, ultraviolet, X-ray, and gamma-ray. In other words we can “see” just about everything else now. Now try to imagine the excitement astronomers experienced as they were first able to observe in each of these new EM regions.

Different EM regions give different clues. Like any good detective (Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, anyone?), astronomers are putting these different clues together.

One nice example of this is shown in a recent S&T article about a specific supernova. The first frame shows radio, then infrared, then visible, then X-ray, and finally all four. (Obviously, except for visible, the images are shown in a false color since we can’t directly see them.) Each shows the same region of space but different aspects of the supernova. Read the article for details.

This type of multispectral imaging has become more prevalent over the past several years, and this trend will only continue to grow.

So what happens now that we’ve been cured of EMSB? (What an acronym!) Does this mean there are no other means to observe the universe? I’ll let you think about it until next month. You’ll see!

Till next time, Clear Skies!

Posted in Articles, My Favorite Things


Galaxy Quest at Hunting Hollow

Hi All,

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

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

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

Posted in Articles, Observing Reports


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

CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO ENLARGE

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) 

CLICK ABOVE  PICS TO ENLARGE

Posted in Anouncements, Articles, Observing Reports


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

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

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

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

Posted in Articles, Blog, My Favorite Things


April 6 Solar Sunday

Observe The Sun Safely! Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park weather permitting.
We had a nice relaxing day of observing the sun at Houge after a very successful Earth Day solar program. One killer flare extending about 200,000 miles (25 Earth diameters) from the solar disc and a sunspot count of 172 (NOAA) made the day. About 10 folks stopped by throughout the session and one member George (who Dave sent by) and I had a nice discussion on solar filters.
Standard Solar filters for refractors, SCT, Dobs, and Newtonians can be bought direct from manufacturers like Orion Telescopes, 1000 Oaks, and Baader Planetarium. The performance difference is small between these filters and there are advantages and disadvantages such as hard glass or film (which has the consistency of a plastic foil).
Cloudy Nights has some reviews on these various filters. If you have a refractor another option is a Herschel wedge. It is a right angle prism adapter that attaches to the back of your refractor. Note: A Herschel wedge is not to be used with other type telescopes. Both Lunt and Baader sell these special prism devices pictured below.
The Baader wedge (above right) has a diffuser screen on back that can help centering the sun in the eyepiece. However it is more expensive than the Lunt (left). A neutral density filter (sometimes called a moon filter) or green filter can be threaded onto the above systems or screwed on to your favorite eyepiece to help contrast. A green filter that does a better job of delivering contrast is the Narrowband Baader Continuum (below) that also attaches to back of an eyepiece or back of a threaded 2 inch to 1.25 inch adapter. It also must not be used alone but with proper solar filter. It is a true narrowband green filter featuring 10nm half-bandwidth (HBW) at the passband of 540nm while giving very good spectral transmission (See graph below). The 2-inch filter is shown below but it also comes as a 1.25. It can be used with standard solar filters that attach to front of scope or a Hershel wedge attached to the back of a refractor. It can make photosphere detail like faculae and solar granularity (solar granulation is most contrasty around 540nm) pop a bit more. I enjoy my 80mm refractor with a Hershel wedge and this continuum filter but like with all amateur astronomy – aperture rules. A 10 inch scope cracks common sunspots open along with intricate detail of penumbra webbing as well as showing faculae and solar granulation.
Narrowband Continuum Filter pictured above can help contrast. It must not be used alone but be used with a standard solar filter mounting over front aperture of scope or in conjunction with a Hershel Wedge attached to the back of a refractor.
Posted in Articles, Education & Reference Info, Solar


2014 Golden State Star Party

GSSP

June 25-29, 2014

There is still time to Register for the Golden State Star Party. Go to www.goldenstatestarparty.org 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

GSSP2012

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.

particleFever_poster

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


Exploratory Trip to Henry Coe State Park – Hunting Hollow Lot

This is my report of an exploratory trip to Henry Coe – Hunting Hollow Lot. I have been interested in exploring this parking lot as a potential site that club members could visit for dark sky viewing and imaging. I came across this lot when I was out scouting for new sites to view and image from back in January and wanted to bring some members back with me to an Exploratory Trip. On Fri. May 21st. Lee Hoglan, Gary Chock and I met at this site to explore it and do some observing. First view of the lot, it is big. It is 265 feet by 171 feet. For comparison, RCDO is 146 feet by 70 feet.

We setup our gear as the sun was going down. Lee brought the “son of the beast” scope, a 16 inch Dob, Gary had his Astro72 refractor and 20×80 Celestron Binoculars and I had my Oberwerk 28×110 Binoculars. As sun went down, we started to look at the objects in the west, The Pleiades, The Orion Nebula, Double Cluster. There was a light dome in the west, the Orion Nebula in the 16” dob was very bright and impressive but, so was the sky glow behind it. I wanted to see how it would in my binoculars. I put in my DGM Optics NPB filter in the binoculars and the view was quite good, not quite as bright as the dob but, very nice. The difference was that with the filters in the binoculars, the skyglow was cut down quite a bit and the contrast and detail on the nebula really popped out.

Then we went on a galaxy hunt. In both the Dob and the 28×110 binos we had pretty good views of the Leo Triplet, M95, M96, M105, the Markarian Chain, M51, M101, M106, M108, M109, Owl Nebula, M81, M82, M64. Gary was having some nice views of the bigger star clusters like the Hyades, Beehive and Mel 111. We ended up wrapping up about 10:30pm. We all agreed it was one of the best nights of observing we have had in a long time.

As far as the site:
The Good – This site is big, all of the regular SJAA members who come out to view on a regular basis could fit in that lot with room to spare. There is no lock or gate at the entrance so it’s 7/24 hour access. You pay for use via dropping $6 into a slot in a metal pole. Easy drive within 1 hour from HP. 10 mins from Mendoza Ranch. The road ends shortly after the lot so there is not too many cars going on that road. The site is pretty dark, SQM meter reading of 21.1 around 9:30pm. Overnight camping if you want to stay overnight.

The Bad – The is no lock or gate at the entrance so it’s 7/24 hour access so, we have no control other cars driving in while we are viewing. Horizons not that low. From center of the lot, the south is about 30 degrees, east, west about 20 degrees, north is about 15 degrees. Elevation is about 600 feet so there could be fog on some nights.

The Ugly – Possible that night hikers could pull into the lot, happened to us. They had some lights on for about 15mins as they were gathering their stuff to hike into the park. This site I would say is more suited to viewing then imaging for this reason.

Overall impression of the site:
I think this is a good site for viewing. It is the darkest of the sites that club members currently go to (RCDO, Mendoza Ranch) It’s good to know that this site is available for use on a 7/24 basis. While it’s not perfect, neither are the other sites that we have access to. I think overall the good does outweigh the bad on this site.

The GPS location of the site is: 37°04’33.6″N 121°27’59.4″W

-Ed Wong

Posted in Articles, Observing Reports, Trip Reports


Announcing: SJAA Auction XXXIV

Announcing the thirty fourth annual SJAA Auction!  This year, it will be held on Sunday, 16 March 2014.  The bidding starts at noon; specific times are below.

If you are interested in picking up some used astronomy gear, this is the event for you. Likewise, if you have astronomy gear that you no longer use or want, this is a good way to find it a new home.

Volunteers have developed an online pre-registration form that sellers can use to expedite their registration on the day of the event. Get to it by clicking here: the Auction page.

Timeline:
10:00AM – Registration starts for sellers
11:00AM – People not selling but interested in bidding can arrive to register, get a bidder number
11:30AM – Registration ends
11:30 to noon  – Official viewing time
12:00PM – Bidding begins
4:00PM – approximate time that bidding ends and accounting starts

Note there will be at least one break in the bidding.

As in the past, this is a full on auction.  So the following rules and guidelines will apply.
– Buyers and sellers must stay to end of auction, no cashing out until then.
– This is a cash or check -only event; no credit/debit cards.
– Auction management reserves the right to limit the number of items anyone can put up for selling
– For sellers, you can have a reserve price, but consider an opening bid amount, otherwise, opening bid will most likely be $1.
– There will be a separate form for a detailed item description to be used by the auctioneer.

Updated information will be made available on the auction page at the sjaa.net website.

Regards,
Auction Committee Volunteers
San Jose Astronomical Association

Posted in Anouncements, Articles


Stellar Time At Annual Meeting

Annual Meeting: Great Food – Stellar Time

PrezRob

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!

GreggOverviews

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: sjaa.mail@gmail.com).

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.

BillSusanONeil

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

Phil

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

Paul

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):

SN-M82-PaulColbyCrop

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


First In-Town Star Party of the Year Was a Blast

On Friday night, 03 January, I was scheduled to both open and close for the first in-town star party of the year. Being early January, the weather had been hazy all day, and though it was cold, it wasn’t arctic, so not bad enough to cancel.

I arrived at Houge Park about 15 minutes before the official start time of 7PM. It was already dark, and as expected, there were scopes already set up. As I parked and got our of my vehicle, a man and his son asked where the star party was going to be held. I pointed him to the row of scopes lined up near the tennis courts, then led the two of them over there and began introducing them to everyone. We had Paul, Richard, Gary and others already set up, pointing at Jupiter or the Pleiades.

Throughout the night, members of the public came and went. Some came with just the family and a healthy curiosity, others came with family and complete with a scope to set up. All told, we saw about seven scopes set up and perhaps 35 individuals stream through. That’s not a bad count, given the conditions and time of year.

One celestial phenomenon that repeatedly caught people’s attention was the fact that Jupiter’s four Galilean moons appeared to be moving quickly. Indeed, there were two that were approaching the gas giant from opposite sides, appearing to be ready to hit the disk at nearly the same time. A quick look at an app on my smartphone, an app called Where is Io, showed that indeed, Io and Ganymede were approaching and both would duck behind the planet’s disk.

Io winked out as expected, and since Ganymede has a longer orbital period, it took a few minutes longer for it to near the limb of the disk. As it neared the disk’s edge we were fascinated with a visual sensation that the moon was pushing into the planet, flattening it out. But as the seconds, then minutes, ticked by, we began to realize that instead of retreating behind Jupiter, the moon was moving in front of it. Either my app was incorrect, or it was simply difficult to tell in the app, with its small image on a small cell phone screen. As the Ganymede’s image pushed further into the disk of Jupiter, several of us observers detected a faint 3-D effect, where the moon stood out from the disk; apparent depth perception. We determined this must have been an artifact of the moon’s shadow being so close to the image of the moon.

Wait a minute, I thought. Didn’t the opposition of Jupiter just recently pass, perhaps in December? I turned to Sky Safari Pro, also installed on my phone, called up Jupiter for the current time, and read through the details. Opposition, it said, was scheduled for February 2015. Hmm, it must be referring to the *next* opposition. I rewound time in the app to August 2013 then looked at Jupiter’s stats once again. Aha! Opposition is predicted to be 5 January 2014, less than 36 hours of our current time! No wonder Ganymede’s shadow was so close to the moon! What we astronomers more typically see is the moon well away from its shadow, so this was certainly an unexpected treat.

Our night at Houge Park in early January again demonstrated that amateur astronomy is not some placid, dare I say, boring pastime.  Rather, it’s unyieldingly dynamic, things are always happenning, and being on the front lines at any given moment allows you to see the universe in action, even from our own little corner of the solar system, galaxy, or universe.  From happy surprises provided by local planets to unexpected releases of massive amounts of energy, local or millions of years ago, getting out under the stars, day or night, is a constantly fulfilling endeavor that never fails to amaze.  This is astronomy.

Image credit: ched cheddles on Flickr via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Posted in Articles, Observing Reports


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
SolJAN5Sunday
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:
SunJan5Standard
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:
HalphJan5
Two thumbs up indeed! Clear  Mag -26.74 New Year Skies.
Posted in Articles, Blog, Solar


Second Exploratory Trip to the Pinnacles

This a report on my second exploratory trip to the Pinnacles. (Please see the earlier blog post on the first trip for some of the details on the Pinnacles itself)

On Sunday 12-1, me and 4 others from the SJAA met down at the Pinnacles (Nhan Nguyen, Guna Purushothaman, Sanjaya Srivastava and Srinivas P) For me, this was a second exploratory trip. On the first trip I did some imaging, but on this trip my goal was to see how good the viewing could be at this dark location. Guna, and Srinivas were imaging and the rest of us were viewing.

I brought my 6 inch scope to see what could be seen with a modest size scope under the dark skies. As the sun went down, the Milky Way and other stars began to light up the night sky. Venus again was so bright it was casting a glow over southwest. As Venus set, I started to do some observing on some of the objects I have never been able to see from RCDO with my 12′ SCT. Here is a list of some of the objects.

NGC6960 – The Veil Nebula, Using a OIII filter and my 40mm 72 degree eyepiece both east and west sides of the Veil Nebula easily seen with shape and detail.

NGC7000 – The North American Nebula, Using a nebula filter and my 40mm 72 degree eyepiece this nebula was easily visible, showing the shape and some detail to it. I’ve tried many times from RCDO with the 12″ to see this but, never was able to, so I was quite happy to see it this time.

IC1396 – Elephant Trunk Nebula, Using a nebula filter and my 40mm 72 degree eyepiece I could barely make out some outline of the object. Need bigger scope for this one.

IC1318 – Gamma Cygni Nebula, Using a nebula filter and my 40mm 72 degree eyepiece I could barely make out some outline of the object. Need bigger scope for this one.

IC1805 – The Heart Nebula, Using a nebula filter and my 40mm 72 degree eyepiece I could make out outline of the object. A bigger scope is needed to see more detail of it

M74 – A nice face on galaxy Mag 9.39, Using my 14mm 100 degree eyepiece, I could easily see the object and the spiral arms. I’ve tried many times from RCDO with the 12″ to see this but, never was able to, so I was quite happy to see it this time.

M33 – Another nice galaxy, Using my 14mm 100 degree eyepiece, I could easily see the object and the spiral arms. I’ve tried many times from RCDO with the 12″ I could see a smudge, but never was able to see the spiral arms, so I was quite happy to see them this time.

IC342 – A nice face on galaxy Mag 8.39, Using my 14mm 100 degree eyepiece, for some reason, I could not see this one, even though it’s supposed to be brighter then M74. Might need a bigger scope to see this one.

Overall, we had a good time on this trip, I did learn that dark skies really do make a difference as far as what is visible to you in your scope. Kudos again to Nhan Nguyen for finding this site. I think there is a possibility for this location for club members who want to view at a dark site within 2 hours of home base. I’m planning to go back again when I have the opportunity. If you would like to go view at this site with others, let us know hopefully we can get a group of people to go again.

-Ed Wong

Posted in Articles, Observing Reports, Trip Reports


SJAA’s first official new moon viewing/imaging night at Mendoza Ranch

This is my report on the SJAA’s first official new moon viewing/imaging night at Mendoza Ranch. Mendoza Ranch is a new location that the SJAA has been granted access by the Santa Clara County Parks to use on the new moon Saturday night. Access to the ranch requires one of the permit holders to be present, currently Ed Wong or Dave Ittner. The nights it will be opened are the new moon nights on the SJAA calendar which coincide the Henry Coe nights which will give people an option on different darker sites they can go to view or image at.

The event was held on Saturday, November 30th. We had a pretty good turn out, ten people total. For eight of those, it was their first time at Mendoza Ranch. We started at 6pm, there was about an equal mix of people viewing and imaging, five and five. As the sun was setting, I was able to get my mount aligned to do some imaging. I noticed that I was able to see the handle of the Big Dipper in the north. Mendoza Ranch has pretty low horizons. About 10 degrees in the north and the east, approx 12 degrees in the south and west. Overall the total visibility of the entire night sky is the best of all the places I have been able to view from so far.

As it got dark, the north, east and south views were pretty dark. The west had some glow from Gilroy and Morgan Hill but, Mendoza Ranch has some hills on the west blocking some of it, so it’s not that bad as some other sites I’ve been too. By 8pm the sky seemed pretty dark so I took a SQM meter reading using my app on my phone. It read 21.2 for comparison to other sites SJAA uses around the Bay Area, RCDO is 20.5. Pinnacles is 21.7.

Overall, it was a pretty good night, people seemed happy to be able to get out to view and image. I heard people say they like the site and were planning to come back. I think it was a successful first night. The next planned opening of Mendoza Ranch will be Saturday, January 4th, 2014. Come out and join us!

-Ed Wong

Posted in Articles, Observing Reports


Exploratory Trip to Pinnacles National Park

This is my report of a trip to Pinnacles National Park. I have been interested in exploring this park as a potential site that club members could visit for dark sky viewing and imaging. My friend Nhan Nguyen had told me about the location since he has been there a few times for imaging.

On Sun 11/24 Nhan, Bill & Susan O’Neil and I met at the Pinnacles to explore the location and do some imaging and viewing. The Pinnacles is location in a fairly remote location south of Paicines on Hwy 25. From my place in the south bay, the drive was pleasant no remote or off road excursions needed and no excessive winding mountain roads. It took me 1 hour to get there. From the club’s home base at Houge Park, it should take about 1.5 to 1.7 hours to get there depending on traffic. The city of Hollister is about halfway and has gas and other stores if need to get food or other stuff on your way down.

As, I drove around the park, I noticed there are a lot of mountains and trees so the horizons are somewhat limited. On my way to the visitor’s center to meet the others, I noticed an somewhat open area with pretty good horizons. After meeting the others, we talked with the Rangers about having access to that location which is a overflow camping area which also includes an flushable toilet.

As we were setting up, I noticed there were some cars leaving the park on a road next to the campground. Nhan had said once it got dark, that really would not be a problem and it was not. Once it got dark there were no cars after we were set up. I was amazed at how quickly it got dark once the sun had gone down. I had my mount polar aligned and ready to go by 6pm.

This was my first time to a true dark site and it was a new experience. Venus was so bright in the night sky in the west, it was almost seemed like the moon was up on that side of the sky!! But, as Venus went down it did get dark, really dark. I was able to see the Milky Way in detail naked like I had never seen before from RCDO or Coyote Lake. I could easily see all the stars in the little dipper naked eye. The Andromeda Galaxy, Double Cluster, M33 Pinwheel galaxy visible naked eye. The view of the Double Cluster in my 20×80 binoculars were spectacular!!! so much more detail and contrast.

For those into imaging, I was imaging IC342 with a F7 scope. I was able to shoot 12min. sub frames at ISO1600 with no light pollution filter with no skyglow.

I did take some measurements of the location. Most of the horizon are between 15-18 degrees high except for the north which is slightly lower. I took some SQM meter readings with my iPhone app and the readings taken several times through the night were 21.6-21.8 and the highest rating. For comparison RCDO is 20.5. I’ve been told by TAC observers Lake San Antonio is about 21.5. Granted, my iPhone app most likely is not as accurate as a dedicated meter but, it does give a rough reference point.

I enjoyed my time at the Pinnacles with Nhan, Bill and Susan. I think there is a possibility for this location for club members who want to view at a dark site within 2 hours of home base. I’m planning to go back again when I have the opportunity.

-Ed Wong

Posted in Articles, Trip Reports