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)

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 the weather forecasts indicate higher probability of clouds than in Wyoming.

So, see you in Wyoming.  Or if you really want to see an eclipse you can travel to Bali in 2016.  Hey, maybe we should do both of them?  Ok, ok, maybe just the smaller adventure, which will include a visit to Yellowstone Park, is probably more to our way of thinking.  I grew up around cowboys and ranches, and didn't have much experience of islands with bikini clad beach goers, but I guess I can have fun with just the stars and western skies again.  How about you?  If you choose to still be in OC you will have only 60% obscuration.

Secondly, we reviewed the observatory capital budget and after consulting with the executive committee, we agreed on an upgrade to the main observatory telescope.  So, last weekend I packed up the 8 inch scope and headed up to OC Telescope to meet with Mike who offered a great trade in allowance for the purchase of a new ExploreScientific 127 mm scope better suited for astrophotography and scientific measurements.  The scope has 2 inch, rather than 1.25 inch optical adapter to the camera and is more robust and has room for a small telescope as a star finder and mounting brackets for an auto star tracker/guider that corrects for tracking errors and automatically keeps the scope pointing exactly at the target.  I'll use my more accurate heavy duty VX mount with the scope.  The  VX is a polar aligned mount, which provides better tracking and long image exposures don't suffer from field rotation as the Earth rotates .  On my old mount, the Earth's rotation was compensated for, but the camera image frame suffered from frame rotation.  Setting up a polar scope will require a bit of experience compared with the old alt/azimuth scope, but should enable higher quality and much longer exposure times with multiple exposures over longer periods of time.

Anyway, it's time for some photos.   This post should include a photo, but how about a couple of interesting videos this time, because after all I don't have the scope anymore?  While researching how our small satellite team could deploy instruments from a small satellite, I found these short, 4 minute videos on the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS)  mission website to study magnetic reconnection phenomena.  It turns out that when magnetic flux lines are broken and reconnected, that huge amounts of kinetic energy are released.  This is apparently happening all the time on the sun and around the Earth, but it's not well understood.  As the solar wind passes the Earth, the magnetic field is protrcting us but it gets distorted and eventually breaks and then reconnect.  I remember that in electrical engineering, the breaking of electrical currents happens all the time, but I don't remember anything about the breaking of magnetic flux lines and circuits.

Maybe someone of you can explain how a magnetic field circuit can be broken and how all the magnetic energy is converted to kinetic energy?  It must involve the plasma and Maxwell equations an converting magnetic fields back and forth to electric fields,  Since I'm more of a physicist now, rather than an engineer, I'll choose to study it as a physics problem instead of an engineering problem.

The first video is a high level look at magnetic reconnection and the second video show how the mission will use four satellites, moving In formation through the magnetosphere to measure the effects of reconnection.  It's pretty neat to see how the four satellites will be released and all of the onboard sensors unfold and are deployed.  The MMS mission is supposed to launch in about 11 days.

I hope to have a photo from the new scope next week if it arrives on time and if the weather cooperates and if I can figure out how to operate it..

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