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NASA Ames 1st open house in 17 years

NASA Ames Open House

Saturday October 18

Check our Martian Landscape area, wind tunnels, labs….

Perhaps a SJAA Group Trip? Post us a note below…

More Details here:


Posted in Anouncements, Articles, Blog, Education & Reference Info

April 6 Solar Sunday

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

Poor Man’s Binocular Mount

Click Pic To Learn How To Make It

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info

Seeing Double – Double stars that is!

Double star observing is fun, easy and best of all, it can be done under less than ideal conditions of light pollution, moon light and even telescope size.  Below is a fun list (with a challenge or two) to get you started.  Make it even more fun and hone your observing skills by drawing what you see in a simple double star observing log.  Just note the name of the double star system, the constellation, coordinates, the conditions, date, time, telescope used and within a small circle, place two dots on what you see through your telescope (or even binoculars).

One form that you can use is found at:

alpha1, alpha2 Capricorni (alpha1, magnitudes 4.2 and 9.2, separation 45.4 arcseconds; alpha2, mags 3.6 and 9.3, sep 154.6”) The magnitude 4.2 (alpha1) and 3.6 (alpha2) stars form a naked eye pair separated by 376”.  A 3-inch scope will capture their 9th magnitude companions.
20h 18m 10.5s
-12° 28′ 49″

gamma Delphini (mags 4.5 and 5.5, sep 9.6”) The Dolphin’s “snout.” One of the finest double stars for small-aperture telescopes. Can you detect the pair’s subtle yellow and blue colors? If you would like a bit of a challenge, can you find n the same field, ¼ degree to the southwest, is the delicate little pair Struve 2725 (mags 7.6 and 8.4, sep 5.8”)
20h 47m 05.1s
+16° 09′ 16″

61 Cygni (mags 5.2 and 6.0, sep 30.5”) This binary pair is historically important as the first star whose distance was accurately determined (Bessel – 1838). Both stars appear golden yellow.
21h 07m 20.1s
+38° 46′ 59″

Struve 2816 and Struve 2819 Cephei (Struve 2816, mags 5.6, 7.7, and 7.8, sep 11.7” and 19.9”; Struve 2819, mags 7.5 and 8.5, sep 12.4”) A triple star and double star in the same low-power field. This is a very interesting and wonderful sight.
21h 39m 13.0s
+57° 31′ 54″

epsilon Pegasi (mags 2.4 and 8.4, sep 142.5”) An optical, or line-of-sight, double. What makes this pair so interesting is the apparent pendulum-like motion of the fainter star when the telescope is gently rocked in a direction perpendicular to a line connecting the two stars.
21h 44m 38.6s
+09° 54′ 56″

zeta aquarii (mags 4.3 and 4.5, sep 2.2”) A beautiful twin binary that is slowly widening from a minimum separation of 1.7” in 1977. Use at least 100X for a comfortable split.
22h 29m 18.6s
+00° 01′ 35″

sigma Cassiopeiae (mags 5.0 and 7.1, sep 3.0”) A tough “split” for small scopes, because of the two-magnitude difference in magnitude of the component stars. Just one degree north is the remarkably rich open star cluster NGC 7789.
23h 59m 27.3s
+55° 48′ 18″

eta Cassiopeiae (mags 3.4 and 7.5, sep 13.0”) What makes this slow-moving binary pair (period = 480 years) noteworthy is its color scheme – yellow for the primary star, red for the companion. Marginally visible in small instruments, the colors really stand out in a 6-inch scope.  It is a favorite.
00h 49m 37.8s
+57° 51′ 50″

alpha Ursae Minoris (mags 2.0 and 9.0, sep 18.4”) Polaris, the North Star. This is a classic light test for the common 60mm refractor. The 9th magnitude companion is hard to spot in the glare of the bright primary star. Easy in a 6-inch scope; shows yellow and blue colors.
02h 41m 24.8s
+89° 18′ 23″

gamma Arietis (mags 4.8 and 4.8, sep 7.8”) A grand “twin” pair, both white. Their telescopic appearance look like a pair of glowing eyes.
01h 54m 01.9s
+19° 20′ 29″


Authored by Stacy Jo McDermott.


Stacy Jo McDermott is an amateur astronomer living in Oakland, CA surrounded by street lights.  She’s been enjoying the hobby of astronomy since 1999.  Double stars have been providing the bulk of the party at the eye piece.  Questions and suggestions on turning off street lights can be sent to


Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info
Tags: ,

Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures

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

Posted in Anouncements, Blog, Education & Reference Info

Loaner Scope & Quick STARt Status Page

Author: Dave Ittner

SJAA offers all of it’s members the opportunity to borrow various types of loaner scopes.   The challenge with any such program is the ability to provide a current listing of scopes and their availability.

I am pleased to say that we have developed a system which will provide 100% transparency.

When you go to the SJAA main website – please select the Advanced Loaner Telescope Program menu under Programs circled below.

Loaner Menu

After clicking on Advanced Loaner Telescope Program menu – it takes you to the Loaner Scope Program status page as seen below:


Above is a screenshot of an embedded Google spreadsheet that is opened up to the Advanced Loaner Scope Status page.  This page will show you the up-to-date status of all of the clubs loaner scopes.   When you send me a request via email for a particular scope I will put your name in the “On Deck” column, when you pick it up the status will change to “Out on loan” and the due date will be noted in the Comments column.  Should the scope be out on loan already, your name will stay in the On Deck column until it becomes available and you pick it up.

Another benefit that the club offers to our new members is the ability to participate in the Quick STARt program.    To see an overview of the program please click on Quick START (QS) Program tab.  After doing so – it brings you to:


Those new SJAA members who have requested (or accepted in invitation) to attend the next session will have their names listed.  If you don’t see your name on this list please send me an email.

The QS Scopes tab lists all of the scopes dedicated to this program and their current status.



Please keep in mind that the scopes above are available to “ALL” members to borrow.   The QS  program participants get 1st priority though.   Please email me if you are interested in checking out a QS program scope and it’s related items as described in this previous post.

We also would love to hear from you on how to make this program better.  Are there any scopes or items you want the club to put into the program?

Thanks for your support.

Dave Ittner

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Programs

The Sun

Useful Solar Links: 

Real Time e-mail Solar Flare Alert:
Everything about the Today’s Sun at a Glance:
Today’s Space Weather with Sunspot Count:
Solar Influences Data Center – SIDC keeper of the International Sunspot Number 
Superb overview of Solar features – a must read:
NOAA Glossary of Solar Terms:
Observing the Sun in H-Alpha – Compiled by David Knisely”:

 Killer Video! – Depth Detail of Umbra & Penumbra with Surrounding Photosphere Granules

Click on image to enlarge:
Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info

Solar Observing August 5th

Observe The Sun SafelyNever look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park weather permitting

The are a so many objects up in the night sky for amateur astronomers to enjoy, travel to with his/her scope and learn something new. Yet it is the same way with out single star up in the day sky, The solar cycle generates new sunspots and flares of beauty, size and ominous power. Today many of us saw hands-down “thee” longest filament, prominence, h-alpha flare, projected on the solar disk we have ever seen. Winding over the disk of the sun it easily spanned 1/3 of the entire solar face. if the filament was stretched out, it would easily span 1/2 the solar disk or some 50 Earth diameters!

While all of us at Houge were viewing this and thinking about Curiosity’s Landing expected in the evening, SJAA member Malika was actually at JPL enjoying the event and showing sunspots to public. Her Sunspotter eyepiece projection system beautifully captured all 6 major sunspots:

Click on a image to enlarge. Then compare the two by clicking icons at bottom of view screen

MalSunAug1st SunAug5th
Right On!
Posted in Articles, Blog, Education & Reference Info, Solar

An Open Source Satellite You Can Operate!

Hey Amateur Astronomers & Imagers
(also DIY’ers, hackers, and in general those interested in space)

Did you know that there is now a standard (10cm x 10cm x 10cm) satellite called CubeSat that any cash deprived university or small businesses can build or buy and put into space with their own equipment or experiment? Here’s a pic of one:

Picture of a typical CubeSat satellite that can be piggybackedp
on to many launch vehicles across the world

 Well now Team ArduSat shacked-up at NASA is raising funds to buy the parts, buy the launch time BUT allowing amateurs astronomers, students, the public (you!) to decide all the experiments/images the satellite will run over its time in space.

Here is a YouTube Video explaining this “open source” mission.

And here is the ArduSat Website where you can learn more about it, and become a participant, and backer. Be sure to check out the FAQ way at the bottom of the webpage. It answers a lot of questions you might have.

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info

Size of stars

Here is an amazing video showing how the planets of our solar system compare to each other and to our own Sun and then just how small our Sun is compared to some really big giants out there.

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info

4 minute Transit of Venus Movie

Here’s a 4 minute movie on the upcoming transit of Venus. Join SJAA for the Transit of Venus on Tuesday June 5th. Details at The  transit starts around 3PM and will still be in front of the Sun as it sets after 7PM.

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

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Solar

Log your own Sunspot Number Part 2 of 2 Plus a graph showing Solar Max expected in early 2013

Like observing the planets in our solar system, observing the sun on a daily or weekly basis gives one an intimate knowledge on its workings and beauty. I have enjoyed watching the storm clouds on Jupiter and the Great Red Spot change over time. But watching the sunspots on the surface of our sun and their effect on space weather throughout our solar system is quite cool, dare I say scorching!!! Especially as we approach solar maximum.

By regularly counting sunspots you can determine for yourself if solar activity is increasing or decreasing and might even catch a solar flare. In Part 1 I introduced the formula for calculating your own sunspot number:

R  =  k (10g+s)

R is the sunspot number; g is the number of sunspot groups on the solar disk; s is the total number of individual spots in all the groups; and k is a variable scaling factor that accounts for observing conditions and the type of telescope used.

You don’t need to know your personal scaling factor “k” to log your own sunspot number. Just set it equal to 1. However

k = Rp/ISN

Where k is your personal scaling factor, Rp is your sunspot count (Rp = 10g+s) and ISN is International Sunspot Number as calculated by the The Solar Influences Data Analysis Center (SIDC).

At the end of everyday SIDC publishes a Provisional ISN that you can use as the ISN. It is within 5% of final value so you don’t have to wait until the end of the calendar month to get the Definitive ISN. You can get the daily Provisional ISN here along with an Estimated ISN for the upcoming day (and use estimated if provisional is not reported). This data can be e-mailed to you once a day by signing up here.

SIDC has calculated the average sunspot number for past months and came up with this nice graph showing is change over several years with a prediction of when the next solar maximum will be (early 2013).

SunspotGRAPH Click for Full Size

Don’t wait for the solar max to start observing. As you can see by this graph there are months, let alone individual days, that the sunspot number can “flare” into the 100’s. In fact flares don’t depend on a lot a sunspots to happen – one big sunspot group is enough.

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Solar

Solar Viewing

Author: Rob Jaworski

As a local, community based astronomy club, the San Jose Astronomical Association mainly focuses on night time activities. After all, this is when the stars are out and viewing celestial objects is best.

There are, however, opportunities to conduct astronomical viewing during the day.  Some people challenge themselves by trying to view brighter planets during the day.  Or they see if they can view or even photograph the International Space Station against a blue daytime sky.  But there is one huge object that sometimes doesn’t get its due when it comes to amateur astronomy, that being our own star that powers us all, the Sun.

A post this week by alerted readers to a huge sunspot that recently developed.  The alert noted that “[o]ne of the biggest sunspot groups in many years has just emerged over the sun’s eastern limb.  The sunspot’s magnetic canopy is crackling with M-class (medium-sized) solar flares and seems poised to launch even stronger X-class eruptions. The sunspot, named AR1339, is not yet directly facing Earth but it will be turning toward our planet in the days ahead.”  After a long time with little solar activity, it seems that the Sun is starting to wake up again, and sun spots and prominences will again be regular events viewable from the surface of the earth by amateur astronomers.

Lately, the SJAA Board of Directors has been discussing acquiring a solar telescope for the club’s use.  While it would not be slated as part of the Loaner Program fleet of telescopes, it would be available for club use during events such as school star parties, swap meets, auctions and other events.  The board has a committee made up of Rich N. and Robert A. that is reviewing the options of solar scopes currently on the market.  As always, the board welcomes input from SJAA members, so if you have suggestions, ideas or questions related to our solar scope acquisition effort, please reach out and contact the board in general or any individual member.  Here’s where to do that:
Contact Us
It’s your club, so we hope to hear from you!

Now that the sun is starting to show some activity, the SJAA aims to bring our closest stellar neighbor into our focal plane, in addition to the fabulous sights of the night time sky.

See you in the dark (and maybe sunlight)!
Rob Jaworski
Secretary, San Jose Astronomical Association

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Programs, Solar

SkyTools Offer from SJAA

Author: Rob Jaworski

Hello SJAA members and friends,

The San Jose Astronomical Association is a non profit 510(c)3 educational organization, bringing the science and wonderment of the science of astronomy and the night sky to the public.  We encourage people to go out at night to observe firsthand the many amazing features that are visible and readily available from not just dark locations, away from the city lights, but also many from our own back yards.

It’s not uncommon for people to use a set of tools when they go out at night, from the basic gear such as binoculars and telescopes, to sky charts, red lights, green lasers and even astronomy software.  The SJAA is proud of the loaner program that has been operating for many, many years.
Advanced Loaner Telescope Program
It’s a great way for beginners to try out and become familiar with telescopes, or to try something new.

Observing software is also very useful to help plan observing sessions and make the most of your time.  To that end, the SJAA will be coordinating a group purchase of SkyTools 3, “a complete suite of software tools designed specifically for astronomical observing.”  Learn more about it here:
And be sure to watch the demo, here:

The SJAA will be accepting orders for SkyTools 3, either the Standard or the Professional edition, between now and end of September.  The cost will be either $50.78 for standard or $90.79 for pro version.  To take advantage of this opportunity, please send a check made payable to “SJAA” and send it to:

San Jose Astronomical Association
P.O. Box 28243
San Jose, CA 95159-8243

Please be sure to write SkyTools in the memo line of your check.

This offer will be limited to 25 orders and made available only to SJAA members.  If we do not reach that level of orders, checks will either be returned or destroyed.  If you are not a member of the SJAA, this is a perfect opportunity and reason to join!  Memberships start at only $20 (tax deductible) annually and you can send the membership application and fee in the same envelope.  Forms are available on the last page of the print version of the Ephemeris, our monthly newsletter, and you can find it here:
SJAA Newsletter Ephemeris

Remember, orders will be accepted up to September 30, 2011 and you must be a current SJAA member.  The software will be distributed at a general meeting or other public event after we receive the shipment.

Thanks, and let me know of any questions.

See you in the dark,
Rob Jaworski
Secretary, San Jose Astronomical Association

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Programs

Public Star Party and Astronomy Class Friday, 24 June 2011

Rob Jaworski

Hello SJAA Members and Friends,

Happy Summer Solstice!  The San Jose Astronomical Association will be holding a public star party this Friday, June 24 at Houge Park from about 9:30PM to midnight.

Saturn and showy objects of the summer sky will be featured.

The weather has been great, but there might be some increasing cloudiness, but it should not deter us!  Keep an eye on it here:…

ALSO: We will hold a beginners astronomy class that same night, starting at 8:30PM.  The topic will be about gear: Eyepieces, filters, finders and accessories. Perfect timing, to help you get ready for GSSP next week!

Bring your friends, family and neighbors, it’s fun and it’s free!

Directions to Houge Park are on the website, we set up near the tennis courts.
Coordinates: 37.2575,-121.9423

See you in the dark!
Rob Jaworski
San Jose Astronomical Association

twitter: sj_astronomy

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Observing Reports, Programs