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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

Comet ISON brightens up

by Akkana Peck

The big shallow-sky story in November is Comet C/2012 S1 ISON, brightening to naked-eye levels as it approaches its peak next month.

So far, ISON isn’t quite living up to some of the hype we heard earlier in the year. It may be as much as two magnitudes fainter than the early predictions had indicated. But don’t give up hope — ISON could still turn out to be a very nice comet.

It will likely be only around sixth magnitude as November opens — just barely naked-eye visible, if you go to a dark sky site like Coe or Fremont Peak — but will brighten to around second magnitude by later in the month, comparable to the stars in the Big Dipper.

Here’s the bad news (at least, it’s bad for a lot of us) — ISON is still a morning object, and will remain so for nearly its whole pass. At the beginning of November it rises at about 3:30 am, then moves to about 3 am by the second weekend. But by the 16th, it’s later again, not rising until 4 am (sunrise is around 6:50) and by a week after that, it’s so close to the sun that it’ll be tough to spot at all.

As November opens,, the comet will hang between Mars and a slim crescent moon in the dawn sky. It remains there, with the tail (whatever tail it might have by then) sweeping toward Mars, for the rest of the week, though of course the moon will move on. A nice opportunity for early rising photographers!

As the month continues, ISON should brighten steadily, but it will also rise later as it moves sunward. That means it’ll be harder to spot. But it’s worth trying — particularly on November 23 and 24, when ISON will be close not only to Saturn and Mercury, but to another comet, 2P Encke, all four of them fitting in a roughly 6-degree field along with the magnitude 2.8 star Alpha Librae (Zubenelgenubi).

Six degrees isn’t small enough to get them all in a telescope together, but wide-field binoculars should be able to fit them in. ISON should be around second magnitude by that time. (Some sites have predicted that it will be brighter than Venus by this time in November, but don’t count on it.) Encke is a much fainter magnitude 4.8 — it’s reported to have a green glow this year, though whether that will be apparent to a visual observer when it’s this close to the sun is doubtful — and Saturn and Mercury are magnitudes 0.5 and -0.5 respectively.

ISON makes its closest approach to the sun, at about 700,000 miles, on November 28. You won’t be able to see the comet’s head then — but
if it’s grown a long tail, you might be able to see the tail rising before sunrise. I vividly remember a night in 1997 at the SJAA Messier Marathon at Coe — “What’s that glow over there? Is it headlights from a car driving on a road up in the hills?” “No, there’s way too much of it!” and the amazement as we gradually realized we were watching Hale-Bopp rising, forked tail first, over the Diablo range.

But the real ISON show is expected to happen in early December. By the middle of the month the comet should be visible in both morning and evening skies, and it’s anyone’s guess how bright it will be. I’ll cover more details of its December schedule next month, but for now, cross your fingers!

Okay, so you’re sick of hearing about the comet and you don’t want to get up that early anyway. What else is there to look at?

Try Jupiter! The gas giant rises at around 8:30 and is visible for the rest of the evening.

On November 5 there’s a nice multiple shadow transit. It starts during daylight, around 3:30, with Io’s shadow. By sunset (about 5:05), Io’s shadow, just about to exit the disk, has been joined by Europa’s shadow plus Io itself. Europa’s shadow exits the disk around 6:60, just about the time that Europa enters. Then there’s a very similar Io/Europa shadow event on the 12th, starting just before 5pm with Io’s shadow, with Europa’s shadow exiting around 9:20. And there are lots of single shadow transits, as well as single shadow plus single moon events — it’s a busy month for the Galilean moons!

Venus, too, is accessible in the evening sky all month., setting a little before 8 pm, going from roughly half phase at the beginning of the month to slightly crescent by November’s end. Uranus and Neptune transit near nightfall, so you’re best off catching them early in the evening. Pluto sets around 7 pm, so it’s really too low for observing this month.

Mercury, Mars and Saturn are all in the morning sky. On November 25, a couple of days after that nice ISON/Saturn/Mercury/Encke conjunction, Saturn and Mercury have a close conjunction, only about 20 arcminutes apart. That separation is only a little bigger than Saturn’s own disk.

Posted in Articles

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

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

One Huge Beginner Class

Last Friday night, 27 Sept 2013, was another session in the regular series of the SJAA Beginner Astronomy Class.  There is usually a free, public star party happening at the same time, right outside during these classes.

During this session, we were given advance notice that two third grade classes, and their families, would be coming to both the class as well as the star party. These classes came from one of the schools that is part of Rocketship Education, a charter school system operating in less affluent areas of San Jose.

rocketship beginner classWe’re not entirely sure if we did the math beforehand or not, but if we were to take the 30 to 40 third graders, then multiply that by, say, a family of four, we would get… well, one HUGE beginner class!  And that’s exactly what showed up: Attendance estimates were up to 160 people of students, younger siblings, older siblings, moms, dads and even a grandma or two. They showed up not in individual automobiles, but a charter bus.  Yes, that’s right not a yellow school bus, but a full size, dual axle charter bus.  These families were here on a mission, a mission to get some exposure to astronomy science. And that’s exactly what we gave them.

Our regular beginner class instructor, Mark Wagner, became unavailable for personal reasons at the last minute.  That left myself and Greg Claytor, another SJAA board member, to cover for him.  Neither Greg nor I have ever led a beginner class before, but there was no way we could let these families down.  We worked together earlier in the day to develop a game plan. What we came up with was a two-fold plan to first cover the basics of looking through a telescope, and second, what was up in the fall night sky.  rocketship beginner classGreg did a great job of explaining how to approach a telescope, which end to look through and how to make sure that people were able to see something through the eyepiece.  I proceeded to hand out a printout of the September Sky, that I downloaded from the Skymaps site.

After the class was finished, the teacher instructed the families on how to proceed to the telescopes, set up outside.  He split them into two groups, the first would go straight over to the scopes, while the other group would hang out at the playground until about 30 or 45 minutes had passed. He was good enough to recognize that over 150 people lining up at only a dozen (or less! We didn’t know what the turnout would be) telescopes would not make for a pleasant experience.

The call for scopes I had put out the night before was a success. I counted at least thirteen scopes and binoculars lined up at ‘telescope row’. Though there were lines during some points that night, they were manageable and everyone seemed to have a great time.  As I had noted in the call out for scopes, there were plenty of oohs and ahhs from people who had never looked through a telescope before.  And that’s what many of these amateur astronomers like to do: We love to share the beautiful views of the night sky and the wondrous objects they contain. That makes it all worth it.

Big thanks go out to those SJAA Members and Friends who heeded the call. Without them, we would not have been able to make this evening a success.

Posted in Articles, Observing Reports, Programs

Expedition – Laguna Mountain

laguna tall tree and view

The following is my report about our visit to Laguna Mountain, in California’s Hernandez Valley, nestled between the coastal and Diablo mountain ranges. Chris Kelly, my friend Tim Berry, a TAC imager named Enrico, and I comprised the entire group that day and night on 07 September 2013.  I knew we would be going to a really remote place. My goal was to experience what it would be like to try it from a one night perspective.

Laguna Mountain, managed by United States’ Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is a long way to go, but you really get a sense of the central part of California from the drive down there, traveling through Hollister, passing by the east entrance to Pinnacles National Park on highway 25 . The location is just about exactly one hundred miles from base camp Houge Park in San Jose. It takes about two hours with no stops (as measured driving back to SJ in the very early morning).

Highway 25 is a leisurely drive, but does get a bit twisty and a little slow in certain areas. It’s well maintained and can be fast in certain stretches.  On your way to Laguna, on Highway 25, well past the Pinnacles, you come down off a hill where the road turns sharply to the right. You see a sign pointing to the left toward Laguna Mountain Access, Coalinga Road.  This road is not as well maintained, so the going is slower. The pavement is rougher, the road crosses several single lane cattle crossing grates, and low areas, dips, where bridges should be (but are not).

laguna mountain entranceAfter about 25 minutes on Coalinga Road, you start to approach BLM land, with the Short Fence Trailhead parking area.  A little while later, while noticeably gaining elevation, you pass by the Sweetwater Trailhead and campground.  A short while after that, you reach your destination, the Laguna Mountain Campground, so you make a right onto the gravel road.  It leads up to the campground and terminates at a small clearing where there is a vault toilet building, an information kiosk, and the gate.

At the camping area of Laguna Mountain, there are five sites, on seemingly fresh crushed gravel; it’s a little dusty.  There are shade structures, about 10 by 12 feet in dimension, on a concrete pad with a metal picnic table bolted, chained to the slab.  Sites are decent sized and space away from each other, providing plenty of privacy.  There is no water, so be sure to bring plenty your own. laguna campsiteThere are no trash cans, so  you have to pack your trash out.  There are fire rings but it’s hot and dry out there, I would hesitate having a campfire.  Site 5 is the best, at the top of the  hill, but it’s technically behind the gate. To use it, you would have to park in the clearing, near the gate/kiosk and haul all your stuff up the hill, about 30-50 meters around the gate, then back up again to the site.  It has good views and is relatively flat, so you could even set up your gear there and observe right at your camp. UPDATE: I’m told that this site is fully available for the asking; contact the local BLM office (links are above in this post) or the SJAA’s Rob Jaworski.

The observing area where we set up that night was up the hill beyond the locked gate.  To get there, we had to drive about a quarter mile past the gate, for which Chris had the combination as he was also in possession of a permit. Driving up that dirt road, the biggest issue is one fairly steep section of road, maybe fifty feet in length, we had to climb with our vehicles. The 4WD vehicles had no problem but the one non-4WD sedan in our group did have problems climbing. locked gate at lagunaA second run at the hill with more momentum and using a different track, with less loose dirt and rock, proved successful.  If the surroundings are wet and muddy, this may be a significant problem as the  grade would be impassable, possibly even to 4×4’s.

At the top of a ridge, we set up right in the middle of the well graded dirt road, at N36 21.678′ W120 49.608′ (link to google map satellite view).    Being in the middle of road, if another vehicle had happened to encounter and want to pass us, it would have been impossible  unless we all broke down our equipment to let them through. Luckily and expectedly, there was no one trying to get to nowhere beyond to the mountain (or returning from it).

South wasn’t perfect, horizon was slightly obscured by the mountaintop, but IIRC, all of Scorpius’ major stars were visible.  To the north was the Hernandez Valley, and you could see the reservoir; the horizon is pretty low, the Big Dipper swung all the way down and you can easily see all the stars in Ursa Major’s famous asterism. To the northwest, there is a distinct light dome coming from either Hollister or Soledad. Most of us argued for the former while Chris suggested it was the latter. Later, looking at maps, it was apparent that Soledad was the most likely candidate, being much closer and more to the west. Another, much smaller light dome was visible closer to due north, which matches pretty well to where Hollister would be.  The hills to the east had a very faint glow coming from behind them, to which I guessed those were probably all the far off towns in the central valley blending together. To the south, there was nothing.  In the valley below us, to the west, there were only two, very faint and very far off lights coming from a ranch house or barn.  You have to stand up tall and look over the brush to see them.  You won’t even be able to point at them with most scopes, especially dobs.  Other than that, locally, there was nothing else, nothing but occasional coyotes yapping in the distance.

This is more of a site report than an observing report, but I’ll make small mentions of what we did up there in the dark.  Chris was all over the place with his C14, as usual. Enrico was imaging and showed us versions of the eagle nebula, which looked best in red, though green looked red, and so did blue. Confused? So was I; I don’t image.  I did manual searching around through the awesome Milky Way, pretending I was an eighteenth century Herschel or Messier, trying to find random things in my XT8.  For some reason, I fixated around Delphinus, and found NCG 6834 pretty easily.  A lot of my time was also just taking in the dark sky naked eye, what a fabulous place we live, our galaxy.  We weren’t disappointed with space pebbles crashing into our perfect-for-us atmosphere, many of which seemed to travel from west to east across the southern sky.  It just so happened we all saw one come straight down to the south, fiery green, smoke trail and all.  We were all using some flavor of Sky Safari all night, a bunch of silhouettes walking around in the dark with dim, red flat panels in our hands. Tim DeBenedictis does a great job of trying to obsolete paper charts, yes he does.

I had obligations the next day, so my buddy Tim and I packed it up and were on the road back to the bay area a little past midnight.  We expected to see lots of wildlife on Coalinga Road, then highway 25, but we were all alone. All we saw, the whole way back, was the fuzzy tail of a scampering mammal, as it was disappearing into the roadside brush.  I won’t mention the small number of nocturns hanging outside the just-closed social establishments of Tres Pinos; they don’t count.

Summary:  This location is good for people looking for dark skies, and imagers, who don’t mind the drive and would be willing to spend the night, driving back the next day.  It’s not well suited in its current form for any sort of organized event.  The location could handle perhaps a dozen observers, perhaps a bit more, scattered throughout the ridge and the campgrounds.  I would certainly list it as a place to go and check out with your gear. The land managers are asking for suggestions for improvements and are trying to draw more visitors to come and use their sites in this area.  If you like remote, this is the place.

sundown at laguna

Posted in Articles, Trip Reports

Binocular Stargazing at RCDO

This past Saturday night (9/7), the Binocular Stargazing Program was held for the third time this year at Rancho Canada del Oro. Using binoculars is a great way to to explore star the night sky.  You can see the “big” picture – constellations and how they move as the night progresses.  Plus you can see asterisms, open star clusters, globular star clusters, binary stars, planets (when viewable) and a galaxy or two.

We encourage folks to bring binoculars, a comfortable chair, warm clothes, and a red lens flashlight.   As the sky darkens we explain how to read an all sky map ( that is provided to participants.  I take a few minutes to explain the advantages of using binoculars and how to select them.  We point out the brighter stars and constellations. Using Polaris (the North Star) we show how the sky rotates around it.  As the night progresses we point out and explain many of the night sky wonders.

There have been between 25 to 35 folks showing up on average. With quite a few that have returned. Many people stay after the session ends to spend time viewing additional objects and to ask questions. This program is a great way for those who are just starting out to explore star gazing.

Ed Wong

Posted in Articles

Rancho’s Fireball

Last night (Sunday 9/8) I opened up Rancho Canada del Oro so folks can do some observing under semi dark moonless skies.   We had perfect weather – warm and no wind.  The lot filled up by 8:30 as we had 15 scopes set up.   There were a couple of families that came out and set up their scopes to show their kids the night sky.   Rancho continues to attract beginners as folks find out that all of us are very receptive and helpful.   Everyone comments on how nice it is to see the band of the Milky Way.

One of the highlights last night was the huge blue-green fireball that streaked across the sky around 11:30 pm.  It looked like it had a NE to SW path that took it just above Capricorn.  One person commented that it probably was space debris of some type since it was moving so slow.

A number of folks made comments throughout the night that they were seeing some nice meteor streaks.  I saw 4 good ones and a few brief flashes.   To my knowledge the next major meteor shower is the Draconids with a peak scheduled to happen October 7th-8th.

We finally wrapped up around Midnight.   Overall it was a darn good turnout for a Sunday night!

A big thanks to all who showed up – a lot of new friends were made and all had a good time.

Clear skies,

Dave Ittner

Posted in Articles, Observing Reports

Quick STARt Program Experience

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

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

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

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

Frank Geefay – new member and new to amateur astronomy.

Posted in Articles, Programs

Coyote Lake County Park

Hi folks,

Last night I joined Ed W, Bharath K, and Nham N out at Coyote Lake.  Those guys were doing some imaging while I was playing around with some recently purchased used equipment (Orion Deluxe 100mm Refractor and a William Optics EZ Touch Alt Az head and tripod).   We all set up at the end of the road down by the dam.   It was a very nice night – no wind, temperature was just right. 

But what is interesting is that the light by the boat ramp continues to be off.   So this appears to be a potential spot to start using again.   Ed did get a phone # for the main office to call.   He hopes to get the story on the light. 
It is my suggestion to start using Coyote Lake on nights that Rancho is not open.   Please set up at the boat ramp paved lot and let us know about your experience.
Here are the directions:
Take 101 South
Take the Masten Ave exit and turn left going back up and over the freeway
Turn Right onto Center Ave
Turn Left onto Rucker Ave
Turn Right onto New Ave
Turn Left onto Roop Road
stay on Roop Road for many miles as it twists and winds up into the hills
then Turn left onto Coyote Lake Road and follow it to the Ranger station, pull in on the right to the pay booth.
Pay $6 and then continue on to the Boat Ramp or to the Dam.
Dave Ittner
Posted in Articles, Blog, Trip Reports

Second Peak!

Today’s Sun Spot Count 212 (NOAA

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

Click Image To Enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter! 
 Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park   weather permitting

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

Posted in Articles, Blog, Solar
Tags: , , , , ,


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

How to view L4 PANSTARRS

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

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

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


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

Comet L4 PANSTARRS click image to enlarge

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

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


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



Posted in Articles, Blog
Tags: , , , ,

Solar Peak

The Sun’s Hot Right Now!

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

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

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

Click These Photos To Enlarge ! !

Observer Regularly And Enjoy

Posted in Articles, Blog, Solar

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

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

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

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Now that the year has come to a close and another has already begun its limited engagement, on behalf of the SJAA, I would like to take a look back at the year now done and recap the accomplishments of the club.

In January, our loaner program took a much needed revamp as we took receipt of seven new Orion Dobs, all of the XT Classic variety, ranging from a six inch to a ten inch model.  Once those scopes were assembled and made available for loan, they were all quickly snatched up by members eager to give them a try. They all have been out on continuous loan since.  I’d like to give a big Thank You to Dr. Lee Hoglan for continuing to run our valuable loaner program and ensuring that these new units are available to our members.

In the fall, the board took up the discussion again about the club acquiring a solar scope, with an intention of creating a Solar Observing program.  A solar scope committee was formed, and after thoughtful deliberation, the decision was made to put in an order for a 100mm Lunt Visual Package.  This telescope will be the keystone of the new Solar Observing Program, which is being spearheaded by SJAA member Michael Packer.  More information will soon be on the Announce mail list, but let me give a preview by saying that the solar scope will be set up for public viewing on a roughly monthly basis at a regular location, most likely at our base of operations, Houge Park.  We will also bring it to outreach events such as art and wine festivals and other community events to further our educational mission.

Speaking of Michael Packer, he is not only a member of the club, but he is now the newest member of the SJAA Board of Directors.  At the December board meeting, Michael joined the board in a special vote to fill a vacancy left by departing board member Gordon Reade.

Also speaking of outreach activities, we have been trying to raise the visibility of the SJAA in the local San Jose and south bay community.  In 2010, we manned a booth at the Celebrate Cambrian festival, an event put on by the City of San Jose to bring residents closer to local business and community organizations.  In 2011, we did it again at the same event, with an estimated 700 people stopping by to take a peek at the sun through a properly fitted solar filtered telescope.  We had so much interest that this past September, for the first time and on very short notice, we were provided with a chance to have a booth at the Almaden Art and Wine Festival in San Jose. A call was put out to the SJAA members, and a very generous handful of individuals stepped up to work a couple of hours at the booth, again, providing information about the SJAA and nice late summer views of the sun.

This year, the SJAA has developed a Mentoring Program to help members who are new to astronomy get into the hobby.  Dave Ittner is driving the effort and making himself available as the charter mentor, and is looking for people who are interested in being mentored as well as more experienced people who can play the mentor role.  More information will be forthcoming to both the Announce mail list as well as the website about the Mentor Program, but if you can’t wait, please contact Dave directly.

On another outreach front, the SJAA is working with the Santa Clara County Open Space District to support their Starry Nights program.  The program is the brainchild of SJAA member Chris Kelly, a docent at the Open Space District, and involves providing the public a chance to view the night sky from a relatively dark site in the south bay area, the District’s Rancho Cañada del Oro preserve.  Beyond Chris, the SJAA has been represented there at least three times throughout the course of the year, and we are working on making this site available, under certain conditions, to the SJAA.  If you are not familiar with the Open Space District, please visit their website and plan a trip to their preserves, and be sure to keep a watch for the next Starry Nights event at Rancho Cañada del Oro.

What also needs mentioning is the school star party program.  Almost every weeknight of the school year, dedicated volunteers with the SJAA, led by long time member and two time Gregory Award winner Jim Van Nuland, are out at a local south bay area schools, showing the night sky with a variety of telescopes.  What keeps them going are the Oohs and Aahhs coming from the students, teachers and parents as they see, for the first time, Saturn’s rings or the craters of Earth’s moon or the Galilean satellites of Jupiter.

The Dr. A. B. Gregory Award is the formal SJAA recognition of a member of the local amateur astronomy community who has demonstrated “Outstanding Contributions of Time and Effort to Others in Amateur Astronomy”.  In 2011, the award was presented to Rick Morales, a long time ranger at Fremont Peak State Park who was instrumental in helping to establish the Fremont Peak Observatory. A very well deserved congratulations to Rick!

Finally, the club has continued to support its mission to provide educational opportunities to the public by organizing and hosting beginner astronomy classes and monthly speakers.  We have had a fantastic line up of speakers come throughout the year; the list of past speakers and their topics can be found at this link. We have a good pipeline of speakers for 2012 already, and leading the pack at January’s General Meeting, which is coming this Saturday, 7 January, is the very engaging and entertaining Dr. Alex Filippenko.  This is a lecture not to be missed, and I expect we will have a full house!

Of course, the SJAA will continue its tradition of hosting Friday night public star parties at Houge Park.  The 2012 calendar (not available) has been developed and is available for review, which includes not just our Friday night events but the General Meetings, our annual auction and swap meet, and all of our regular events.

Be sure that you are signed up for the SJAA Announce mail list, or at least check the website regularly for upcoming events.  Looking back at 2011 makes it obvious that the SJAA is a vibrant and engaged organization that meets its educational mission in a variety of ways.  And there are more ways and other ideas too!  If you have an inkling to get involved and be an active part of the SJAA, we would love to help you get started! Don’t hesitate to contact me, Rob Jaworski, or any member of the board.  Or, drop by any of the SJAA Board meetings, which are held at the same location and about 90 minutes before the start of the monthly General Meetings.

Have a great 2012, and we look forward to seeing you in the dark!

Posted in Articles, Blog, Programs