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)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Caldwell Objects; Quiet Sun Image; New physicist blog sites and Palmia Observatory website statistics; More Algol observing times; See you at the 229th AAS meeting in Dallas

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

We hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and stayed in where its warm.  At least the rain let up for Christmas day.  Resident Astronomer Peggy gave me a copy of "The Caldwell Objects" by Stephen O'Meara.  The Caldwell catalog was created by legendary amateur astronomer and author, Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore, and publicized in Sky and Telescope in 1995.   The catalog has 109 deep sky objects, just as many as the Messier catalog, These 109 objects are not objects to avoid, but include other worthwhile and beautiful objects to be observed in the night sky.  Many amateurs work their way through
finding all the Messier objects and now there is another 109 objects for your viewing pleasure too.  It turns out that all of these catalog objects are already listed in the NGC and/or IC catalogs, but the book has good black and white photographs and sketches and star charts to help the amateur find them.  Check them out the next time you are out with your scope.  (I've added this nice gift book to my stack of reading materials and if nothing new shows up, I'll get to it in about three and a half years!)

Palmia Observatory gets copy of The Caldwell Objects
New Christmas gift to add to the growing stack of reading material

Although the holiday night times were cloudy, the daytime often had the sun poking through the clouds on several of those rainy days, so I set up the tripod and tried to find the sun.  Ok, ok, I know, but we all know that finding the sun can be not all that easy when you are trying to point a camera at the sun and not blind yourself.  The camera setup included an energy filter so all was safe, but the astronomer has to remember to take the lens cap off and then point towards the sun.  The problem then is trying to see the sun in the Liveview LCD screen, which I couldn't do until I pick up my hat to help shield the screen.  It was still not that easy to find the sun.  Why?  Because I hadn't taken the time to focus the camera and the sun's image was quite diffuse and hard to see in the solar glare.  I set the focal length to the widest possible view, 150mm, and then found the sun, focused and changed the focal length to 600mm for the final try.  So, I finally was able to get the shot shown below.  It's just a very quiet sun with not any observable sun spot activity.

Palmia Observatory astronomer takes energy filtered image of the sun
Solar image taken with 600mm telephoto and energy filter and 1/500 second exposure
So, back inside to stay warm and get through the growing list of reading material, I found the latest copy of APS News had an interesting article on "Physicists who Blog."  The article listed four real, professional physicists, not just physicist wannabes, who provide interesting blog sites.  The authors' offer interesting comments on ongoing physics issues and seem to concentrate on astrophysics and particle physics.  I found each of them pretty interesting:

"Backreaction" by Sabine Hossenfelder offers good commentary.  Sabine also has started a web service called Talk to a Physicist, which for $50 gives anyone 20 minutes time to ask any question.  She says she started this service after fielding a lot of calls from "cranks" who claimed to have disproven Einstein or some such thing and found that rather than ignoring these folks, she charges them to talk to her and explore their ideas.  She says it still is worthwhile to her because as wrong headed as the callers are, they really do have a love for physics and she like answering their questions and tirades.

"Starts with a Bang" by Ethan Siegel

"The physics arXiv Blog" comments on some of the many new papers that show up in the archive

"Adam Frank Blog" by Adam Frank writes from his perspective as an astrophysics professor.

I have added all of these websites and clickable URLs to the list of blogs on my blog site: www.palmiaobservatory.com

Speaking of websites, I discovered that I can track some of the traffic to my website and look at the statistics of where and how the viewers get to the site.  I suppose we all sort of knew that our actions on the web are being tracked by the big net providers.  I am not sure if I like seeing ads for items that I have previously searched for now showing up embedded in webpages and google searches that I make. I get ad requests from folks to put ads in my blog site and don't want to do that at all.  Anyway, the following screenshot shows what happened last week on my website and where and how the folks accessed the site.  These statistics don't include the emails I send out to friends and amateur associates.  Wow, even viewers from Europe and China (I hope I haven't been guilty of any illegal technical ITAR data export).

Typical Blogger website statistics for ww.Palmiaobservatory.ocm
Statistics page screenshot for www.PalmiaObservatory.com for Christmas week

Finally, we should go over the next possible observing plan for Algol if you want to plan to capture the lightcurve eclipse.  Some of the eclipse dates were found during the daytime so they are out, but the January 2, 2017 date looks really good.  The eclipse minima is at 3:52 AM PST.  Remember from our last attempt, described in the December 20 post, only got one data point and that the whole eclipse occurs over about 10 hours.  This means that if we were to start observing at say 9:00 or 10:00 PM on New Years Day, and then continued throughout the night until sunrise, we could almost get the whole 10 hour light curve.  I hope one of you amateurs will sign up to take that data?  I am not sure that I could put up with all of that observing.  This maybe is a good time to put the camera on the telescope tracking mount and use an intervelometer to take a photo every half hour or so, while I am fast asleep in my bed. 

I might see if I can get at least a few images of the light curve, but I have to be packing my bags at that time in order to fly to Dallas for the American Astronomical Society meeting.  I've been to three AAS meetings so far and find them really interesting.  I really enjoy the plenary sessions, which are aimed at a wider audience and are easier to understand than some of the more technical sessions.  I remember I have been in some sessions where the author starts with some introductory slide of recently collected data and I am still trying to understand the units on the y-axis and x-axis, when the presenter is finished and the session chair asks us to thank the speaker.  Hey, I'm still trying to decipher the first slide!  I remember many of those presentations where the chart had "objects found, or some such thing on the y-axis, and the x-axis was in terms of "thingamajibs per megaparsec per Kelvin to the fourth power per steradian per hydrogen atom or some such thing.  I just am not up to speed on those kinds of presentations.  At least each presentation of that type is only allotted about 12 minutes, so they are soon over and I get to strain to understand something else.

Check out the details for the 229th AAS meeting, January 3-7, 2017 at:  https://aas.org/meetings/aas229
See you all in Dallas,

Resident Astronomer George

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