Archive for July, 2007

M3 Globular cluster

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Globular cluster, Photo on July 25, 2007 by Andrew

Last Friday night while out with the scope trying to get a glimpse of Comet C/2006 VZ13,came across M03.This was quite unexpected even though I knew that I was in the right vicinity to view and image it.Since the comet isn’t in the library of my Meade autostar,I ended up slewing manually using the coordinates provided by   Heavensabove and even downloaded a star map to help with the visual.I have had really good luck with Heavens Above in the past but,at no fault of theirs I was still unable to locate it.I lay the complete blame on the murky skies.One moment the sky would be quite clear and the next moment seemed as if I were trying to observe through a dirty fish tank.The current local forcast is calling for Hazy but clear skies in the next 2 days and rain for the weekend.This type of weather pattern is very frustrating for me because,I have to be up before sunrise to ready myself for work which makes it tough to grab any residual ambition to observe and 4am comes early!.

The image below was shot using a Pentax ist DS dslr.It was actually a much shorter exposure of 40 seconds rather than the normal 60seconds+ due to the fact that high clouds were almost obscuring the glob and I didn’t think I would get a worth while shot.Post processing with PS elements was used to enhance the image.I normally like to crop and resize my images just to get as much detail as I can.Lately,I have been trying to stay away from that practice.I want people to see what I see as if they were looking through the lens on my scope.

Located in the constellation Canes venatici at a distance of about 33,900 light years, M3 is further away than the center of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, but still shines at magnitude 6.2, as its absolute magnitude is about -8.93, corresponding to a luminosity of about 300,000 times that of our sun. M3 is thus visible to the naked eye under very good conditions – and a superb object with the slightest optical aid.

Information courtesy of SEDS

Images credit:Andrew

This day in history

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Moon, Photo, Uncategorized on July 20, 2007 by Andrew

On this day,July 20,1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon.Launched from the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A,on July 16,1968 a powerful Saturn V rocket carrying Neil Armstrong,Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin on a 195hr,38min,21sec adventure to “Perform a manned lunar landing and return”.At 4:17:40 p.m. EDT July 20,1969 Lunar module named “Eagle” officially landed at the designated site “Mare Tranquilitatis or Sea of Tranquility”.

Apollo11 landing site

Immediately after landing on the Moon, Armstrong and Aldrin prepared the LM for liftoff as a contingency measure. Following the meal, a scheduled sleep period was postponed at the astronauts’ request, and the astronauts began preparations for descent to the lunar surface.After almost 6.5 hours on the surface,Astronaut Armstrong emerged from the spacecraft first. While descending, he released the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) on which the surface television camera was stowed, and the camera recorded humankind’s first step on the Moon.After uttering these famous words “This is one small step for man (static) one giant leap for mankind”,Neil Armstrong took his first step on the lunar surface shortly followed by Buzz Adldrin.Before any exploration would begin,a sample of lunar surface material was collected and stowed to assure that, if a contingency required an early end to the planned surface activities, samples of lunar surface material would be returned to Earth.
The astronauts carried out the planned sequence of activities that included deployment of a Solar Wind Composition (SWC) experiment, collection of a larger sample of lunar material, panoramic photographs of the region near the landing site and the lunar horizon, closeup photographs of in place lunar surface material, deployment of a Laser-Ranging Retroreflector (LRRR) and a Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP), and collection of two core-tube samples of the lunar surface.Before the departure of the lunar surface,the astronauts left a plaque signed by then president Richard Nixon,Neil Armstrong,Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins with the inscription”HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH
JULY 1969 A.D.
Approximately 2.25hrs after descending to the surface, the astronauts began preparations to reenter the LM, after which the astronauts slept. The ascent from the lunar surface to the command module began 21 hours and 36 minutes after the lunar landing.Finally,after more than 195 hours and approximately 480,000 miles,the command module entered the Earths atmosphehere and touched down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24,1969 and were picked up by the USS Hornet.
subsequently,the newly famous astronauts were held in quarantine in case they brought back space germs!.
Information courtesy of the Smithsonian National Space and Air Museum

Image credit:Andrew

Sunspot 963

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Photo, Solar on July 13, 2007 by Andrew

A new train of sunpots have appeared on the eastern limb over the last few days.Soho has designated the main spot as #963.I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to see the new sunspot because of the heat/ humidity which usually lead to late day thunderstorms (see the previous post).Well, for the moment the crappy skies have cleaned up and the dew point is at a refreshing 55 degrees F and humidity is 44%.I wish I could send the more comfortable weather to the fire fighters out west!!!!.Good luck guys!.

Here is the solar report issued by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA,
Space Environment Center and the U.S. Air Force.

Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity
SDF Number 193 Issued at 2200Z on 12 Jul 2007

IA.  Analysis of Solar Active Regions and Activity from  11/2100Z
to 12/2100Z:  Solar activity was very low.  No significant flares
occurred during the past 24 hours.

IB.  Solar Activity Forecast:  Solar activity is expected to be very
low, with a slight chance for an isolated C-class flare from Region
963 (S05E15).

IIA.  Geophysical Activity Summary 11/2100Z to 12/2100Z:
The geomagnetic field was quiet to unsettled.  Solar wind speed at
ACE has steadily declined to around 485 km/s at forecast issue time.

IIB.  Geophysical Activity Forecast:  The geomagnetic field is
expected to be quiet to unsettled for the next three days (13-15
July).  Isolated active periods are possible on 14-15 July due to a
recurrent coronal hole.

The image below was taken with a Pentax ist DS DSLR at prime focus.Photoshop Elements was used to crop and sharpen the image.

This image was taken using A-focal projection.A 14mm eye piece was used and processing was with PS Elements.Image was sharpened and contrast was increased a bit.

The image below was taken with A-focal projection using a 14mm Meade ultrawide lens and a 2x barlow.Processing was with PS Elements.I also pasted a image of Earth on the main sunspot to give a idea of how large this spot is.The Earth size is only the approximate size!.

Earth looks small!


Image credit: Andrew

Yet another lightning storm

Posted in Lightning, Photo on July 11, 2007 by Andrew

As you can tell,observing the night sky has been reduced to observing our atmosphere.Instead of observing DSO’s and objects in our solar neighborhood I have found an outlet for when the weather turns nasty.Not too long ago,I reported on the crazy weather that we have been experiencing and the great light shows that have been created when two weather fronts clash.Lately,our weather has been rather wild.In fact so wild,that if one didn’t know it he or she would think that they were living in Florida and not in NewHampshire.If I heard the news correctly.NewHampshire had almost 18,000 lightning strikes in a 7 hour period.One of the guys at work said “their were so many flashes from lightning,I thought that a cop had pulled over a car in front of my house”.Other reports had lightning strikes and golfball size hail accompanied by high winds.Needless to say,I didn’t recieve a whole lot of sleep due to the thunder which resulted with me being tired and cranky the next day.As I write this post,I have just heard the forcast and it appears that we may have another set of thunderstorms in the next few hours.

Perhaps I will have more lightning images to share in the near future?!.

On a side note.Another set of sunspots have appeared n the suns eastern limb and are VERY impressive looking!.

Below is a cloud to cloud bolt that appeared right over my house….


Lightning in the distance….

M17 The Swan Nebula

Posted in astrophotography, Nebula, Photo on July 8, 2007 by Andrew

Once upon a time,when the skies were clear and the seeing was good,I was able to take my scope out and enjoy the night.Unfortunately,mother nature has had other plans and decided to cover us with a blanket of haze and clouds.I guess this is a welcome to summer here in NewHampshire?!.Other amateur astronomers from other parts of the world are reporting pretty much the same conditions,so I guess I am not the only one who feels like they are being picked on. Mark from the UK has been dealing with heavy rain and floods.I am pretty sure that Peter has been dealing with the same weather that I have been having.Add the haze and clouds to the light pollution of NYC and you have a formula for staying home,drinking a few adult beverages and watching a good movie.Oh well,better skies have got to arrive sooner or later….right?.

One of the last real nice nights that I had the scope out (over a month ago),I had the pleasure of seeing and imaging the emission nebula M17 a.k.a  the Swan nebula located in the constellation Sagittarius some 5000 ly’s distant.This is a nebula that is VERY easy to see because,it is nearly as bright as the Orion nebula!.The color of the Omega Nebula is reddish, with some graduation to pink. This color comes from the hot hydrogen gas which is excited to shine by the hottest stars which have just formed within the nebula. However, the brightest region is actually of white color, not overexposed as one might think. This phenomenon is apparently a result of a mixture of emission light from the hottest gas, together with reflections of the bright star light from the dust in this region. The nebula contains a large amount of dark obscuring material, which is obvious in its remarkable features. This matter has been heated by the hidden young stars, and shines brightly in infrared light.If you have the clear and clean skies,I would suggest making this neb a object to look for!.Oh and before I forget.For those of you that may be interested.As of this morning a new set of sunspots have just come into view on the suns limb.Soho has yet to assign a number to them,so I will call them sunspot#962-3.


Imaging credit:Me


Sunspot 961

Posted in astronomy, Photo, Solar on July 2, 2007 by Andrew

A new and rather large sunspot has appeared on the limb.Actually,at the time of this post it is now face on and still large.I meant to post this on Friday but,I suddenly became lazy….oh well,better late than never!!!.My interest in the new spot started last Tuesday as a bright glow and arc that formed above the solar surface.As the time wore on the glow became much brighter,until finally it appeared on Wednesday.Knowing that I wouldn’t have a chance to get any shots due to the terrible skies I opted for Friday afternoon.We had a cold front come through on Wednesday evening(as you will note my previous entry) and new that Thursday would be a transition day for the cleaner skies.It was a good call as Friday was a great day for imaging.Well…..much better than we have had in a while.

Here is the current solar forecast issued by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA,
Space Environment Center and the U.S. Air Force.
Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity
SDF Number 183 Issued at 2200Z on 02 Jul 2007

IA.  Analysis of Solar Active Regions and Activity from  01/2100Z
to 02/2100Z:  Solar activity was very low.

IB.  Solar Activity Forecast:  Solar activity is expected to be very

IIA.  Geophysical Activity Summary 01/2100Z to 02/2100Z:
The geomagnetic field was quiet.

IIB.  Geophysical Activity Forecast:  The geomagnetic field is
expected to be quiet to unsettled 03 – 04 July and abating to quiet
for 05 July.
Again as of the time of this entry the spot is still quite large,perhaps the size of 2 Earths but,seems to diminishing in size.

If you have the proper solar filters I would suggest taking a peek at this spot and please remember to never look directly at the sun without protection!.

Below are some images that I took on Friday afternoon and for a really really nice shot check out Verns image.All I can say is WOW!.Good job Vern!.

Sunspot 961 full view

I decided to get a bit creative with this shot.I wanted to see if I could get a glimpse of the corona so,I used a nearby building as a man made occular.I don’t think I did but regardless,I think it has that surreal medieval look to it.

Medieval times

Information credit:Space Environment Center

Image credit:Andrew

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