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)

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
the book and some of the concepts.  He was very friendly and helpful and when I said I had ordered the book on Amazon, he joked "thanks,  and remember there is no money back guarantee".  Now that I have the book, I can see that the text is going to be very difficult and yes, I guess I was warned.

The topic of planetary migration, so clearly necessary to explain the solar system as it is, is still hard to understand what physical force causes the planets to move inward in their orbits and then move outwards latter.  New theories like the Nice theory and the Grand Tack theory do a pretty good job of explaining why migration is needed so the predictions meet the observations, but not how it is accomplished.  A lot of extrasolar planets the size of Jupiter are being discovered in orbits not much father than the Earth is from the Sun and this finding provided extra evidence that planets probably formed in one orbit and then moved around until finally arriving at a stable location and remained there.

If you're interested in digging more into planetary migration and the astrophysics behind it, I found this technical paper which can be downloaded here http://arxiv.org/pdf/1004.4137v1.pdf

One speaker that I met, and we ended up having dinner together, was a retired particle physics professor and he was going to make a presentation on the Fermi Bubbles that have been observed at the center of the Milky Way and several other galaxies.   I was looking forward to this presentation, but my excitement soon disappeared when he started.  It quickly became obvious that his presentation was pure BS.  He went off the deep end and used his time to lay out a fanciful daydream that got rid of dark energy and dark matter and replaced it all with a heavy photon.  He hardly spoke about the Fermi bubbles shown in his presentation title at all.  The rest of the audience showed no emotion and gave polite applause at the end.

> I was disappointed obviously, but saddened too.  Is this the fate that could descend on any of us as we age?  The speaker's son also attended the conference and now his earlier comment about the family's fear that the father was losing it seems to be well founded.  So sad.

Anyway, after getting back from Pasadena, we went to dinner with some other folks that were also going to the
Friday night OCA General meeting.  During the dinner conversation it turns out one of the guests happened to be an engineer I worked with almost 20 years ago at Unocal.  Small world.  Anyway, it was great to see you, Mike.  l remember my time at the oil research center as the best and most fun in my engineering career.

The meeting had a great speaker, who was a professor at U of Colorado and she described the New Horizons mission to Pluto, which after years of travel will arrive in July.  Stay tuned and see what they find.  I had a daydream that when they get there they find a sign of a Plutonian flipping off Mike Brown and saying, yes we actually do live on a planet!  Ok, ok, I know it can't really be a planet anymore, but it was fun considering it so.

Alright, it's time to talk about getting some observing time in so we planned to go to the OCA star party
on Saturday night.  But the weather was refusing to clear up.  So over dinner with friends, Amateurs and Ham Radio Folks, Marty and Bonnie, we got the news that the star party had been cancelled.  Darn, no observing that night.  So we left the scopes packed up and used some of the time to go over the operation of my new ham DSTAR radio.  Marty was very familiar with its operation and helped me through some features.  Thanks Marty.

Wow, now I'm going through some form of withdrawal and need to find a scope.  I'm not used to being cooped up in the lecture hall all week.  The forecast was still mostly for clouds at night for the next week, so what to do?  I wanted to mount my new red dot finder and get the big scope out, but Hey, it's
Monday noon and the Sun is out and no clouds.  So, since during the last month I finally learned how to get the focusing right by adding the 2x Barlow lens and having learned that I had overexposed most of my previous solar photos, it was finally time to get out the hydrogen alpha scope and take a look.

First light with hydrogen alpha telescope (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Finally got solar scope to focus on sunspots (Source: Palmia Observatory)

Hooray, it seems all the trials and practicing and learning, as each problem finally gets resolved, is starting to pay off.  I decreased the exposure time from 1/250 to 1/1000 and now things are starting to look good.  The photo below has at least 7 sunspots.  I adjusted the color s bit, which for hydrogen alpha is only in red, to bring out the sunspots. My next learning curve is how to adjust the hydrogen alpha filter bandwidth to better bring out the solar prominences and Doppler shifted portions and such.

Until next time,

Resident Astronomer George

If you are interested in things astronomical or in astrophysics and cosmology
Check out this blog at www.palmiaobservatory.com

No comments:

Post a Comment