Observing with Street Lights

Observing with Street Lights
Dark sky sites not always necessary to see the Milky Way (This image was taken ouside of a B&B in Julian, CA)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Use of commercial spectrometer flops (mostly), need to do system analysis (before purchasing stuff), bright moon in the sky

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well the craziness of the holidays is winding down and it's time to consider some observing.  Sadly, I find the out of the normal nighttime weather so cold, and even the daytime temperatures and wind so much to interfere with solar observing, that it's hard to get up enough excitement to take the scope out.  Also Resident Astronomer Peggy and I have been so exhausted by taking Astronomer Assistant Ruby out for her hourly break from

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Observatory under attack by Astronomer Assistant Ruby, Hard times with Lie Algebra, Setup using commercial spectrometer, See you at Black Star (if we surve Ruby)

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

This Saturday night at Black Star Canyon might be our next scope night if the weather cooperates.  It's not yet clear if Resident Astronomer Peggy can attend or not because we are under attack by the cleverly hidden DNA hidden inside our recently acquired Astronomer Assistant Ruby.  I mentioned last week that our friends cleverly concealed the true nature of our new assistant and now we are facing the real Ruby.  We almost need

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Trying low cost commercial fiber optic spectrometer, full moon through the clouds, just arrived Astronomer Assistant Ruby, and Ryden's book on cosmology

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

This has been a busy week with mostly inside activities with just one quick photo shoot of the full moon.  One such activity was my decision, after much dithering, to get more involved with shooting stellar spectrograms.  As you might remember from last year's posts, I briefly tried this before with a Star Analyzer diffraction grating.  This grating could be installed in the telescope optical path, just like an optical filter, and the resulting diffraction pattern could be photographed.  But, I found I had a hard time getting good calibration of

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Holiday, Lie Algebra with Math Guru Dave, OCA general meeting about asteroseismology,

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

As we move into Thanksgiving holiday mode of structuring our time, it's been hard to schedule more time for observing.  Resident Astronomer Peggy has been busy with decorations and holiday partying preparations.  As the other resident astronomer, I have been busy completing two online courses and just finished the final exam for the Exoplanets  course and getting ready for the final exam for the climate science course and the ongoing study of Lie Algebra with

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Nightfall Festival in Borrego Springs, Large Scorpian, Always remember to take the lens cap off, M31 long exposure image and Strange Light in Sky

Greetings from Palmia Observatory,

Well as you know we have been offsite at the Nightfall astronomy festival in Borrego Springs.  The location has very dark skies and is about a 2.5 hours drive outside of Orange County.   We had three good nights of observing and it was a lot of fun and I have four photos to share.

The first shot I wanted to share is of the telescope setup area where there is plenty of concrete parking lot.  The building in the background is one of the hotel buildings so you are really close if you want to stretch out to rest.  The area to the right side is another

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Finally caught the plane in the moon and trying some photo interpretation to determine height and range

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, you probably all have tried looking for the man in the moon, but have you tried looking for the plane in the moon?  I myself don't recall actually seeing the man in the moon, but have been unsuccessfully trying, until now, to get an image of the plane in the moon.

The opportunity for this image came up last night.  Resident astronomer Peggy was off baby sitting great nephew Jackson, so I attended one of the 50th anniversary presentations for the founding of the UCI campus.  The speaker was Nobel laureate Mario Molina, who as a young post doc at UCI working with Professor Rowland, decided an interesting chemistry topic would be

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Free internet course on analyzing the universe, microlensing discussion, early morning images of conjunction of Mars, Venus and Jupiter

Well, you should know that this morning your humble servant sacrificed his sleep and put himself in harms way in the observatory parking lot to provide for you with a photo of the conjunction of planets Jupiter, Venus and Mars.  Ok, ok, it's what I like to do, but how would you like to set the alarm yourself and get up in the dark to see the early morning sky?

Before getting to those images, we should review another fun topic in astrophysics.  I've been enjoying several online courses on astrophysics.  Amateur Marcelo recommended a course "Analyzing the Universe" and I've really enjoyed

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tour of Goldstone Tracking Station; Physics colloquia, free internet courses at coursera and edx, and OCA Astrophysics SIG

This week has been again mostly a study week with just one photo from the Goldstone Tracking Station tour, but first some astrophysics study topics.

The CSULB physics colloquium on matter wave interferometry was very interesting and the professor explained it in terms I could somewhat understand.  It relies on the basic quantum mechanics principle of the duality of particles and waves and that the interference pattern normally associated with waves can also be seen with

Saturday, October 10, 2015

UCI Physical Science Breakfast, Physics Colloquia, Distinctive Voices lecture, upcoming Nightfall Star Party, New members Karen and Ed, Nerd and Theatre Impressario Scott, and Danny meets BB-8

Well, this week has been more about the ongoing astrophysics and cosmology study effort than about actual observing.  I will have one picture of a new tool purchased for the observatory, but first the week in lectures and upcoming events.

Tuesday was the UCI Physical Sciences Breakfast Lecture series and the speaker and breakfast ( free, but $10 parking) were both very good. The presentation was about the new surface properties that are found with nano scale materials.  One example from nature that Professor Korn used to explain the new properties was of the very

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bad weather cancels our Mt Wilson 60 inch tour, and Black Star has poor weather (Scopenights app was right) too, just one peak at M13, but Civil Civil Engineer Marcello comes through

Well this was the week for the night of observing through the 60 inch telescope at Mt. Wilson, but it was not to be.  The bad news is that after making the reservation 9 months, as we waited for the go forward email from the observatory, the email came in that the observatory was clouded out and our session was cancelled.  Darn.  Well, the good news was that we still had time to pack up the car and

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Returned from solar power conference, Three photos of the lunar eclipse, full blood red moon with 300mm , waiting for next weeks viewing from Mt Wilson 60-inch

Well, finally back from attending the solar power and electrical energy storage conferences and eager for some astro imaging.  It was great though to get to Portland again, which I remember as a real fun town with a lot of microbreweries and such.  This time however, I was on a diet and sadly, only sampled one local brew the whole four days.  Oh well it was fun hearing about the latest battery electrochemistry and improvements in

Monday, September 14, 2015

Physics colloquia, Solar Power International Conference, Get ready for Nightfall Festival in Borrego Springs, and a couple from APOD

Well, not much to report this week since the weather has been very hot and cloudy at night and Resident Astronomer Peggy has been under the influence of stomach flu or such.  Besides I was still sort of bummed out about my last week attempt to capture an image of Andromeda Galaxy (M31).  Recall that all I could get at Black Star canyon was the glow of the galaxy core with none of the spiral arms detail.  What to do to rectify that?

The next two weeks are busy with other study activity and we don't have much opportunity for other viewing until next month.  Today, I was busy with

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Space 2015 Conference in Pasadena with the Science Squad, Sofia flying observatory takes images of Pluto for New Horizons and fun with M31 at Black Star Canyon Star Party

Well we had a great time at the Black Star canyon Saturday night but first some comments about the recent Space 2015 conference.  It was a lot of fun hearing about some of the latest space exploration plans, in situ resource utilization studies that might make Mars habitable, new planned science exploration projects and space telescopes and much more.  It was fun to wander around old town Pasadena.  It was also a great opportunity for our science squad

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Planning for AIAA conference in Pasadena, Planning for Eclipse 2017, and Sun Dog seen in Julian?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory,

Well, no deep space observing this week, what with the moon full tonight.  The moon light and perhaps a werewolf or two will not go well.  So, I'm getting ready to go to Pasadena Convention Center next week for the AIAA Space 2015 conference.  About a 1,000 participants will spend 3 days hearing from 350 presenters, plenary session speakers and exhibit hall discussions covering all

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Julian Star Party, Mendini Winery, Orchard Inn B&B, Double Star Albireo and Epsilon Lyrae and Mizar, Visible Milky Way, Mt. Laguna AFB,

Well this week we were offsite at the Star Festival in Julian.  Astronomer assistant Danny was sent to vacation with Bob in Costa Mesa.  Resident astronomer Peggy concentrated on doing binocular observation and tried using my camera tripod with tilt/pan head to support the weight of the binoculars.  Resident astronomer George tried to build on his success in alignment and last week of observing globular clusters by aligning successfully once again and observing

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fun in Julian at Julian Star Festival and first images M4, M7, M22, NGC457, and M13 and even possibly Neptune?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

This week has finally culminated in some observing success and photos after finally getting a good polar alignment.  But first, a quick reminder about the upcoming star festival in Julian this next weekend, August 13-15.  This is a great opportunity to see some stars, check out all the vendors, have some apple pie and wake up in a bed and breakfast.  Check out http://julianstarfest.com

Well, as I mentioned last time I was having a hard time getting a good alignment and finally had a breakthrough at the Black Star canyon star party.  Amateur astronomer David had put me on to some YouTube videos going over alignment and I found

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Poor weather, OCA Star Party, Julian Star Party , fantastic book by OCA author, Cresent Venus and observing bright lights outside the aircraft window

It's been poor weather for night time observing for about 3 weeks now and too hot for any solar observing.  Luckily, the OCA star party on Saturday had pretty decent weather and we had fun there.  But first before talking about that, lets first check the calendar.

Where are you going to be Saturday, July 15?  Well, be sure to check what New Horizon's spacecraft phones home about the environs of Pluto.  What will we see?

Where are you going to be August 14-15?  If you're in the neighborhood check out the Star festival in Julian.  There will lots of scopes and a couple of days of vendors and lectures.  Should be fun if

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Missed SAS conference (we were on vacation, darn!), but good times at Black Star Canyon star party

Greetings from Palmia Observatory,

Finally, we had a chance to do some astro viewing at the Black Star Canyon OCA event, but first, a few other introductory topics.  It was good after being away on vacation to pack up the scope, but I recalled I had to miss the Society of Astronomical Sciences (SAS) annual conference.  Darn it, the conference in Ontario, where hundreds of a amateurs gather to review the latest news about amateur contributions to real science, etc, just happened to be scheduled right in the middle of our vacation cruise.  I attended the conference last year and met

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Offsite observing on the Danube River and puzzling sign showing maybe? special relativity?

Well, as you know we are off site and not at the observatory, but instead are in Nurenberg, which was the final destination of our Danube river cruise, which started in Budapest.  Wow, it has been a fantastic journey with fun on the river, great history, great people, and great food, but we are ready to be home again.

We didn't do any astro observing, not because we didn't look up, but mostly because we had high clouds at night.  We were able to see Jupiter and Venus, but not a lot of other stars.  Surprisingly, there seemed to be opportunities of dark skies, but the clouds

Friday, May 29, 2015

Conference In the Year 2525, and our upcoming river cruise and a few astro images of moon and Jupiter and Saturn

Hey, we finally had a clear night for observing.  It was about time too because I was reaching the end of my tether and with a busy schedule this was the only night we were going to get until mid June.  I'm currently in Pasadena for a weekend conference "In the year 2525:  Big Science, Big History and the far future of humanity".  It should be great.  You old folks probably remember the  song, by the same title, which was a big hit when I was in college.  We'll see how these two visions differ.
> When I return, Resident Astronomer Peggy, and I will be packing up and vacationing on the Danube river cruise.  We won't have a scope, but I guess we will get to see

Monday, May 25, 2015

Poor observing weather this week, but new free courses online at Coursera

The weather has been so cloudy and even a bit rainy that observing day or night has just not been possible.  There was just a couple of early evenings before the clouds moved back in to block any stars.  So we had a lot of clouds and unfortunately hardly any rain.  On one of those early evenings, astronomer's assistant, Danny, was completing his final round of the observatory grounds, when Jupiter poked through the clouds, but by the time I returned with my camera, the clouds covered up everything.  On the next evening, I went outside a few minutes earlier and found

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Working with Astronomer Assistant Danny and looking at one paper about planet formation

Darn, the weather is just not cooperating this week.  We've had rain and both daytime solar and nighttime observing has been pretty much covered over.  The other resident astronomer, Peggy, has been out of town in San Diego this week babysitting 4 year old great nephew Jack.  I guess that means I'm in charge of the observatory?

Oops, I remember now my clear directions.  It's not that I'm now in charge of the observatory, but that I'm in charge of looking after Astronomer Helper, Danny.  Yes, that's right my first and most important assignment is to

Monday, May 11, 2015

Dynamic Astronomy Conference at Caltech and first successful H-alpha scope solar image

Well, I spent last week at Caltech for the Dynamic Astronomy conference and hoped that the weather would eventually improve so we could get some observing time in at the weekend.  The conference was a bit over my head, so I used some of my waiting time to look up in my textbook, "Planetary Science" some of the words and concepts that the speakers used in their presentations.  Dave recommended this book, and I really like it.  Thanks Dave.  I actually learned a lot about what was going on in that fashion.  Several of the presenters kept referring to the book, "Solar System Dynamics" by Murray and Dermott, as the gold standard when it comes to the dynamics theory.  Carl Murray was actually one of the next speakers, so afterwards I asked him about

Monday, May 4, 2015

Met with friends in northern california and tried out new scope

We just returned from our fantastic road trip to Northern California.  We had a good time visiting with our great friends Carroll and Tom.  It had been way too long since we had a chance to sit down together and so it was great when we could finally get together at their wonderful farm.  We wined and dined and had a delightful time experiencing the quiet and restful Lower Lake Farms on the outskirts of Placerville and even eventually found

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Physics colloquia and travel containers for new scope and mount

This week the weather has not cooperated for night observing or solar observing during the day.  So, I spent the week at physics colloquia at CSULB and preparing for our upcoming road trip to Northern California.

The colloquia included one discussion on CIB (Cosmic Infrared Background) and the other was on metamorphosis of Cooper pairs in superconducting materials adjacent to ferromagnetic materials.  The CIB study, as you might of guessed dealt with the observations made like that of CMB with WMAP and Planck satellites, but in the infrared, and you would be right.  It was very neat to see the other spectral observations and how they all

Friday, April 17, 2015

American Physical Society Meeting in Baltimore, met Dr Gary, fellow traveller on the physicist wannabe path, and success with 2X Barlow to fix solar scope focusing issue

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, I'm finally back to the observatory after a wild week of indulging in physics lectures at the American Physical Society general meeting in Baltimore.  It was neat being surrounded by over 1000 physicists where we had presentations and discussions on astrophysics, dark matter, dark energy, inflation, cosmology and the 100th anniversary of Einstein's general relativity.

Although a lot of the topics were way beyond my current understanding, there were many that were right on.  I summarized the presentations that I attended and forwarded my comments back to the other members of "science squad" of

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Poor weather for observing, travelling to Baltimore for APS meeting, and Mike Brown's Solar System (Free) Course

Greetings from Palmia Observatory,

Well, this has been another tough week to get any astro images.  We had a little rain and clouds , but I spent a couple of days trying to focus my hydrogen alpha scope and had to relearn all over again that I can't get the camera mounted close enough to get a good focus.  So, I've been out on the Internet and calling Mike and my other experts to see what to do.  Also, I've been trying to align the new finder scope so that the view through the finder scope is aligned up with the view through the main scope.  The finder scope is aligned with

Thursday, April 2, 2015

More poor weather whining, need new finder scope or break my back, and Caltech Mike Brown(free) Coursera course

Greetings from Palmia Observatory,

Well, it's been a hard week to get any observing in.  Can I just whine a little bit about all of the interruptions that can attend the amateur astronomer?  Maybe you have already gone through these travails, but I'm suffering through them this week.

First, the weather didn't cooperate and high clouds were an issue even though there were a couple of hours here and there that would have been good.

Second, I had to wait for the finder scope to arrive in the mail.  So, my first attempt at using that last night didn't go too well.  My new Explore Scientific telescope is much longer than my other reflecting scope, so when I first try to use

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Poor weather for observing, Bob Buchheim book "The Sky is your limit", adn the big bang "lithium problem"

Greetings from Palmia Observatory,

Well, it's been a week and no photos.  The weather has not been cooperating.  It's been warm and clear during the day and then cloudy at night.  Some observatory location we have here.  Should have gone to Anza.  Yes, I could have gone out for some solar observing, but I'm still dithering about the focus problem.  I'm now of the opinion for solar images, I should set the camera to display only red pixels, not black and white.  Remember last time I could get better focus with black and white on the camera LCD.  But, it seems that since the original camera image can only have red wavelengths, I should be ahead by. Only using red pixels and not rely on whatever the camera does when it converts to black,and white.  We will see.

Meanwhile my friend Gene, is trying to analyze my previous sunspot images, taken one day apart, to see if we can calculate the rotational speed of the sun.  It should be straight forward, but having trouble getting the required contrast on some of the images.  By the way, if you are interested in doing science from your backyard check out "The sky is your Limit" by Robert Buchheim.  Bob is the secretary for our OCA and is Really an accomplished amateur astronomer.  He has a second book coming out in August.  He describes how amateurs, with just their little scopes and a camera can do some interesting and valuable science in your backyard.

The sunspots are darker than the rest of the sun because they are cooler.  Sunspots are about 2000-4000 K, while the main sun surface is 5700 K.  Yeah, just a little bit cooler.

So, I've had to get by and get my astronomy fix at CSU Long Beach Physics Colloquium.  It's nice to get back on campus and the speaker from UCSD talked about the "lithium problem".  No, not the problem that you crazies from the 60's are remembering,  but how the modern measurement of lithium in the universe is about 5 times less than the predicted level based on Big Bang nucleosynthesis calculations.  The professor hopes to resolve the problem by measuring the amount of lithium in very old brown dwarfs.  It turns out that the leading theory of the discrepancy is that lithium is destroyed in stars by their internal nuclear reactions.  But old brown dwarfs never get high enough temperature for fusion to occur and so the amount of lithium there is projected to better represent the lithium levels present just after the Big Bang.  That sounds great.  The main problem is that brown dwarfs, since they have no fusion going on, are very dim.  Brown dwarf temperatures are just in hundreds of degrees, rather than the thousands of degrees for regular stars.  The professor has got approval for 8 hours on the Hawaii Keck telescope in a couple of months to find out.  I hope he doesn't get clouded out.

In addition it sure is nice to get back on campus.  It reminded me when I was a young student.  Now, I'm just an old student, so the illusion didn't last long.  I can confirm though, and this is no illusion, that short shorts are still in fashion.

By the way, the next colloquium is this Monday, March 23, and is on the latest cosmic microwave background data taken by Planck satellite.  Several folks from my quantum and Gravity study groups will be there and we will

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

First Light with new 127 mm refractor and solar image

Well, we had a successful first light image with the new scope, but first a meeting announcement especially for those folks in OC.  This Friday the 13th meeting of OCA will have Dr. Gorjian, CalTech, speaking on Lifting the Cosmic Vale:  Spitzer observations from our own backyard to the edge of the universe.  It should be great if you dare to be out and about on Friday 13

By the way if any folks want to meet for dinner, Resident Astronomer Peggy and I have been trying various restaurants arund the Orange Circle.   This time we will be at

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Well, the old 8 inch Celestron scope has been traded in and I'm still waiting to pick up my new 127 mm Explore Scientific scope.  In the meantime, I switched from optical observing to radio observing and assembled my radio "eggbeater" antenna that promises to ease the pain of trying to point my Yagi antenna at a satellite and track its path while twiddling my receiver knobs for the best reception.  This alternate antenna design is more

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Where are you going to be in August 2017? Start your eclipse planning, see you in Casper at Astrocon 2017, some videos in lieu of photos (poor weather)

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

So, where are you going to be in August 2017?

Well, we asked the same question and Peggy recommended, and I agreed, we should be at Astrocon 2017 in Casper, Wyoming.  Why you ask?  Well, the astronomy conference coincides with a total solar eclipse and it sounds like fun to do both.  The eclipse path, with 100% obscuration, is a swath across the U.S., including Casper, with the best viewing in southern Illinois and Kentucky.  We could show up at Peggy's brothers home in southern Illinois, but that is a long drive and

Monday, February 23, 2015

Packed up for travel to Death Valley for Las Vegas Astronomy Club star party, visitors astonished by chance to see the moon in the viewer

Well, this week we packed up a lot of astronomical equipment and headed off to Death Valley for a star party at Furnace Creek.  It was a lot of fun.  We caravanned with friends, Marty and Bonnie, who are also fellow astronomers and hams.  Having the radios along provided a lot of fun and versatility for observing the stars and the sights of Death Valley.  I hadn't been To Death Valley for over 30 years and it was a lot fun to be there again.

The star party sponsored by the Las Vegas Astronomy club was attended by 30-40 telescope operators, about 1/2 from the LV club, others from all over the U.S.  The event was open to the public and hundreds of visitors

Thursday, February 12, 2015

OCA meeting to talk about how smallest galaxies form, saw the less than interesting movie "The Principle", and still trying to resolve solar scope focusing problems

Greetings from Palmia Observatory,
 First, a couple of announcements.  For those of you in Orange County, the
 OCA General meeting is tomorrow, Friday, and a professor from UCI will be
 talking about:  How do the smallest galaxies form?  It should be great.  See
 some of you there.

 Second, I saw an interesting cosmology documentary at the movie theater
 today titled "The Principle".  I was a little worried about it initially
because the author/producers are advocates of geocentrism, which says the
earth is at

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Free moons course at futurelearn and trying to capture plane in front of moon

Well, still not ready to follow up on getting a picture of Lovejoy.  I did make some progress on taking solar hydrogen alpha pictures though.  I found by reading the telescope manual (drats, yes I went back and did it) that there was a few extra millimeters of play in the draw tube assembly.  I retrieved those 3-4 mm, but it still wasn't enough to get

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Answer to Quiz and trying to capture a triple transit of Jupiter

Well, there was a big response for last week's quiz.  I guess most of you passed.  Maybe the quiz was too easy.  Should we have included some astrophysics too?  Anyway, my general comment about the responses is that it seems most of you weren't observing the stars late at night, but instead were watching the late night comedians on TV.  Yeah, just keep your day jobs, if you still have one.

My solar observing yesterday was successful for focusing the eyepiece and we could see a sun spot.  Resident Astronomer Peggy then informed me that there were

Friday, January 23, 2015

Free online cosmology course and photo to quiz your own understanding

This is just a quick and perhaps late reminder to check out the triple moon transit tonight, Friday about 8 PM PST onward, on Jupiter.  This does not happen very often and should be great (unless the Santa Ana's really pick up).

Also having just completed the

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lick Observatory and photographing geostationary satellites

Yesterday I removed the ham satellite antenna from the mount and put the hydrogen alpha scope  back on.  I had high hopes of seeing the sun, but life events interfered.  It seems the gardeners wanted to use the parking lot for a staging area for raking and blowing and such.  So, after hours of delay, I decided to wait for night and make another attempt at catching some geostationary satellites.  While waiting I got an email from a long time OC Astronomer.  Bob sent a fantastic web list of photos of old and abandoned astronomical observatories.  Thank you Bob.  See the web page post below.  One of the abandoned sites is