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)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Visited Yellowstone, but had only stormy skies; Ham radio useful there and maybe on eclipse day; Astrocon 2017 opening day in Casper; Hoping weather forecast in Casper changes

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, Resident Astronomer Peggy and I have spent four wonderful days exploring Yellowstone National Park and then drove down to Casper, WY, for the four day Astrocon 2017, Totality - Feel the Shadow, conference, after which we hope to see the total solar eclipse from there.  But before gong into that discussion we should check the calendar of upcoming classes and events and some other eclipse viewing suggestions.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Packing for Wyoming for the eclipse; Exploring cataclysmic variables with edX.org astrophysics course; IBM gets to 16 qbits; Astronaut Peggy's looking out the window

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well we have been busy packing our bags for Wyoming, so not much more astronomical observing will be done this week.  I have had a chance to watch a few more of the Astrophysics: The Violent Universe free internet course at www.edX.org and thought everyone might be interested in a bit of discussion of cataclysmic variable stars.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Practicing taking photos of the eclipse; Eight more eclipse planning lessons learned; HST asks for AAVSO assistance; Tracking the sun drift with a non-tracking mount; Dilbert and quantum mechanics

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well August 21 and the eclipse is fast approaching.  This post covers a practice session to get all the bugs out the proposed eclipse observation plan using just a manually tracked camera and tripod.  Many lessons learned are presented and it was certainly a good thing to do this practice before eclipse day.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

More eclipse planning lessons learned; Measuring the attenuation of eclipse viewing glasses; Hooray, the weather finally enabled another round of Polaris movement measurements!

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

This post covers how the attenuation of solar eclipse glasses can be measured and also, how the weather finally cooperated and some additional measurements of the movement of Polaris were found.  Additionally, a couple of lessons learned about planning for the upcoming eclipse travel are presented.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Homebuilt crosshairs for astronomy with DSLR Liveview; Weather delays Polaris measurements; Planetary Protection Officer?; Quantum weirdness and shut up and calculate; Another GR textbook; DC power cable adaptation (kludge) for Ioptron mount

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, we have been anxious to get back outside and make some position observations of Polaris.  These observations are going to have to be a little more precise than the previous ones.  In order to get a little more precise in adjusting the camera pointing angles after identifying where Polaris is with respect to the north celestial pole, let's use the homebuilt crosshairs, so we can better identify the camera frame center and make adjustments from that center.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Revised Polaris movement measurement; Which direction should the telescope be moved to point directly at the north celestial pole?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well the previous post on July 28 presented the first measurement estimate of motion of Polaris about the north celestial pole.  There was some operator error (Resident Astronomer George) in doing the least squares curve fit of the data to the apparent circular motion and we show here the latest, updated, motion measurement.  Also, it became apparent that it was not obvious what direction to change the scope pointing angle so that instead of being centered on Polaris is centered on the north celestial pole (NCP) instead.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A dozen lessons learned in one day of the amateur astronomer; Measuring movement of Polaris: More rolling tripods

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, the weather forecast of yesterday was for "Good" visibility has now been changed to "Fair" for tonight.  Anyway, this was the night for action, so I decided to take the whole scope setup, mounted on the wheeley bars for easy transport outside with no setup once outside or teardown when the unit is brought back inside.  Now as many of you already know, each observing session is an opportunity for new lessons and the teaching opportunities came easily and freely on this night's observing session.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

USS Gerald R Ford commissioned; Checking out the portable chair and Ham radio communication; Remember to photograph the moon during the eclipse? Progress in studying to be an astrophysicist

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well the weather this week has been more cloudy than not and so again I have postponed taking the wheeled tripod out for a spin and observing session.  The forecast for good skies has been pushed back a couple of days now, but at least tomorrow night is supposed to be very clear.  In the meantime, we will cover some news, some preparation for the eclipse and go over some of the progress in astrophysics study groups.  So, to get started we watched on the morning news, an event that was in my previous life a source of considerable planning and work and that

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Found an eclipse viewing chair that fits in airline luggage; Solar beach tent; New dashcam on the ready for lucky seeing of meteor fireballs; Choose MUFONOC meeting or OCA Astrophysics SIG?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

We have been busy getting ready to travel to Casper for our hopeful viewing of the upcoming solar eclipse, and, oops, I misread the size of the portable chaise lounge chair listed in the previous post  and have to report that it will not fit in most airline sized luggage.  So, while we were trying to resolve this issue, we got an advertisement from Viking cruises about their upcoming 2019 ocean cruise along the coast of Norway up above the artic circle to see the northern lights, which we have seen before but so immensely enjoy seeing and enjoying, and given the uncertainty we were already under, agreed to sign up for that cruise as well.  When you are surrounded by uncertainty, bury yourself with more uncertainty and plan to do something at a certain date in 2019!

Anyway some of the current uncertainty about where to sit was resolved, however, when I spied a little folding chair that seems to fit fairly well, at least according to its online dimension specification.  One thing I really appreciate about this chair is that, well, how to say this, well, it has no armrests between which you must fit when you sit.  It looks just right for me!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More solar eclipse preparation suggestions by OC Astronomers Yahoo Group and Astronomer Assistant Willow; Shield to keep sun off the camera; Hot shoe accessories; Sugar free martini; Bremsstrahlung radiation spectrum

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this week has been spent with more preparation work for the upcoming solar eclipse and what equipment we plan to take on our flight to Casper, WY.  Scanning the latest batch of email threads from the OC Astronomers Yahoo Group has provided some good suggestions and recommendations from some of the veteran eclipse viewers and astroimagers.  One thing that I had not really considered, but now on retrospection, seems like it could be very important, and that is

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Astrophysics: The Violent Universe; Picked up new Li-ion mount battery from OC Telescope; Picked up new Sol-Searcher and filter; Used drift method to monitor sunspot field rotation observed with a alt-az camera tripod; Double check drift assessment with actual measurements

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this week has again been a week of not much nighttime observing, with a little bit of daytime solar observing, not because of weather, but because of other commitments.  For the past half dozen months we could not observe a Black Star canyon due to weather, but now its because of other commitments this time season theater tickets.  Yes, we could exchange our tickets and find ourselves perched up in the nosebleed seats on the new date, but we chose not to do that.  Besides, I would have had to disassemble my rolling tripod assembly and pack up the scope and mount and I still haven't had a chance to go outside and try the whole thing out yet.  But, some exciting things have happened like,

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A leading scenario for forming binary black holes as seen by LIGO; Practicing for the total solar eclipse; Lessons learned with homebuilt slip on solar filter for DSLR telephoto lens; Measuring solar filter attenuation

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well it has been so hot this week that we have not wanted to be outside at all and even though the nighttime temperature is lower, the clouds have been pretty heavy.  So not much observing this week.  I did catch up on some reading and did some work on making a slip on solar filter adapter for my DSLR.  Before summarizing some of that activity we should first check the mail.  It seems the recent post on our trip to southern Illinois to scout out the solar eclipse viewing potential there elicited

Monday, July 3, 2017

Green grass, mosquitoes, lightning bugs and telescopes; Visiting southern Illinois where 2017 and 2024 total solar eclipses occur; Great textbook with loads of maps and tables of eclipse data

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this has been a busy week leading up to the 4th of July holiday.  I haven't had any time at all to take the new remounted telescope and wheeled tripod due to the Coursera Quantum Optics course which has proved to be quite difficult and taken up a lot of time.  I also got a heads up note from Searching for Gravity Waves, Dr. Gary, who alerted our gravity group of an upcoming October conference on gravitational wave astronomy and a tour of the Livingston LIGO Observatory outside of Baton Rouge, LA.  So, yes I quickly signed up on the early bird special for that conference and then Resident Astronomer Peggy and I had to prepare and pack our bags for

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Oops the tripod on wheels tips over; To engineer or not to engineer; Solar filters and glue for eclipse viewing; Planes and rockets and contrails

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Last post I described the placement of my telescope tripod on a set of wheeley bars for the purpose of simplifying the telescope setup and how this provided the opportunity that once the scope is setup to just wheel the scope outside and make some observations without the need to each time to set up the tripod, install the mount, bring out the scope, bring out the camera and battery.  So this seemed like a good labor saving invention.  But the first time I took the whole setup outside, I found the tripod was top heavy and I almost tipped the whole thing over.  As I was pushing on the assembly, one of the tripod legs lifted out and the whole thing

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Played hooky from SAS day 3; Determining and marking the cardinal direction on astro images; Three great articles received from readers; Fantastic labor saving wheely bars simplify telescope setup

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this week was supposed to include one more day of the SAS symposium, but I was so worn out that I decided to play hooky.  I will offer some comments about lessons learned at the SAS and review a great exoplanet news article, a short but informative video on dark energy and a great set of slides describing how to prepare for photographing the August total eclipse and finish up with a fantastic way of simplifying the time needed to setup the telescope for at observatory data collection sessions.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

First attempt to look at the center of the Milky Way; No progress yet on identifying Marcelo's mysterious moving object; Getting ready for SAS; New 5 inch high pier should be just right

Greeting from Palmia Observatory

Well the schedule for this week has been very busy with many conflicts.  I had hoped to install the latest minor planet ephemeris and see if I could get any better indication of the mysterious moving object that our fellow OCA Astronomer, Civil, Civil-Engineer, Marcelo, managed to capture in his last observing session at Anza, as was described in our June 6, 2017 post.  But, I just ran out of time and couldn't do it, but Resident Astronomer Peggy and I did manage to make it to the OCA general meeting, but could not fit in the OCA Astrophysics SIG and OCA Black Star observing session because of the simultaneous scheduling of the Society of Astronomical Sciences Symposium (SAS)held in Ontario, CA.  This symposium draws an international crowd of many other serious amateurs (see photo below), or as many of the speakers at the symposium described themselves as "backyard astronomers."  Former OCA Secretary, now SAS president and soon to become an astronomer in Arizona, Bob Buchheim, was just calling the session to order as I was returning to my seat with a cup of caramel latte macchiato.  I found this first days session very informative and hope to report on some of the findings there, but first I want to go back to some actual astronomical observing that was

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Amateur Astronomer's takeaway points from the 230th American Astronomical Society (AAS) Meeting; Dark Suns Movie; Eclipse information website; Going Batty in Austin

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well I spent a better part of this week at the 230th meeting of the American Astronomical Society held in Austin, TX.  The AAS is a professional astronomers society where the latest results and findings can be presented, discussed and critiqued.  I have been attending this meeting for three years now and always have had a great time and learned a lot even if many of the more technical presentations are way over my head.  My plan for this blog is to offer some brief takeaways from my perspective

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Going to the 230th AAS meeting; GW170104 black hole merger event announced; Is Marcelo's Moving Mystery object an asteroid?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, my bags are packed and ready to travel to Austin, TX tomorrow for the 230th American Astronomical Society meeting and I have run out of time to do any late night observing, but no matter, I just wait for the images to come to me!  First image in is an artists conception of the just announced black hole merge event GW170104.  The second set of images and analyses is for an image of Sombrero Galaxy (M104), shared by OCA Civil civil-engineer, Marcelo, in which he has coincidentally noticed a slow moving object, possibly an asteroid.  So, lets get right to it!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Abandoned high voltage Marx generator with sparking video; "Tesla: A Radio Play" at Laguna Playhouse; Distinctive Voices and risk at California Delta lecture; New quantum optics course by Alain Aspect

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

 Well this has been a week of not many astronomical observing opportunities, but many new opportunities for new theater productions, new lectures on earthquake risks, and new courses on quantum optics.  Oh boy, I can just hear you saying!  Anyway it is all in the week of the physicist wannabe and sometimes actual astronomical observer.  First we had signed up for tickets for the production of "Tesla: A Radio Play", about a portion of the life of the brilliant, if

Friday, May 26, 2017

Wind Power 2017 conference; Will the solar eclipse cause a utility backout? Upcoming AAS and SAS conferences; Seeing the back far side of a neutron star; Amgular momentum and magnetic fields affect cloud collapse star formation; Ruby pokes her nose into general relativity

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well we missed out on what we hope was good weather at OCA Black star canyon because of vacation travel and now both of us have been ill and not filled with a lot of energy to do much of anything.  We're on the mend, but I didn't really have much desire to pack up the scope and do any observing.  My plan was to spend a couple of leisurely days just wandering

Friday, May 19, 2017

Getting past the bug; Miss USA 2017 studies science; AAS Planetary Habitability conference comments; Looking for dark matter in galaxy clusters; Looking at Chandra x-ray imaging; Funny cat video?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this has been a very trying couple of weeks since our return from our Amsterdam river cruise, in that both Resident Astronomer Peggy and I came under the influence of some bug and got ill about a day after we stepped off the airplane.  So, I had every intention of completing the attendance at the AAS Radio Observation of Planetary Habitability conference in Palm Springs, but found I had to drop out after only a coupe of days.  I just couldn't keep up the required attention span and also didn't want to infect any other attendees.  I also stayed away from the UCI Physical Sciences free breakfast speaker talking about how to weigh black holes.  Oh, well, it is just getting so busy.  So, only now do I have the energy to discuss some of what I learned there and also at one of the UCI physics colloquia events.

Before commenting about the

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Back from tulips and windmills river cruise; Physics Breakthrough prize; Atomium in Brussels; Nine pounds in nine days; See you at the AAS Planetary Habitability Conference in Palm Springs

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, we are finally back from our tulips and windmills river cruise in the Netherlands and Belgium.  Resident Astronomer Peggy and I had a great time and just a couple of photos and events will show up in this blog.  When we left Schiphol Airport and arrived at the ship, our rooms were not ready, since the departing passengers and cabins were just being released.  It was just a random stroke of luck as we all waited for our cabins, we found ourselves at a table with

Monday, April 24, 2017

Hooray, good alignment and observing, M51, M104, M3 and comet Johnson (C/2016 V2) at OCA Blackstar; Use background stars to identify where your scope is pointing; More on surface brightness measurement

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well the weather was great for observing at this month's OCA Blackstar Canyon party; finally breaking the spell of many months of bad weather, and almost 50 observers made the most of this welcome opportunity.  Resident Astronomer Peggy was there with her binoculars and until the sun went down she volunteered with the signup clipboard for email signups.  Resident Astronomer George finally got dark enough skies to complete a 2-star alignment, something not easily done with the city lights at the observatory.  It was great to see so many

Friday, April 21, 2017

Exciting videos from readers; Summary of two galaxy formation lectures; Epiphany regarding Photoshop loss of pixels; Hope for good weather at Blackstar; Packing bags for river cruise

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this has been a busy week with a couple of interesting physics colloquia and three other astronomy related meetings and lectures.  We are looking forward also to the OCA Astrophysics Sig and hopefully good observing at Blackstar.  It has also been a week where I finally had an epiphany regarding why my Photoshop processed images were not as clear as the original images on the DSLR.  It is sad to recognize that I have been doing the DSLR file format conversion for over two years now with old conversion software and have been leaving about 80% of the pixels behind.  But before getting into those details we should

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Finally got aboard USS Zumwalt; LA meteor video; More alignment lessons using the real Polaris; Consolation image of Moon; Take a wine tasting class when observing doesn't go right

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this week has been busy trying to do better alignments and taking a shipboard tour, more about that in a minute, but first we should look at some other astronomical news.  I saw this interesting video of the recent LA meteor, which was posted by OCA Astroimager, Dave Kodama.  He was lucky enough to capture the recent

Friday, April 7, 2017

Use your level to get starting alignments; Captured fuzzy image of comet 41P (maybe?); Analysis shows predicted location overlaps with image; M3 comparison image

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well the weather forecast looked promising for another attempt at trying to capture the comet 41P before it swings further away in its path around the sun.  To that end, I knew that getting a good initial alignment was going to be key to using the goto command to point toward the comet.  It turns out that 41P was not listed in the hand controller comet dictionary, so it was necessary to find the comet's RA and Dec in another application and key it in manually.  But the real issue was going to be getting a

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Climate change and ecosystems with Dr Nyssa Silbiger at Our Cosmos Meetup; Supernova light curves, time dilation and expanding or static universes? Dava Sobel talks about "The Glass Universe" at Chapman University; Resident Astronomer wins blue rhino

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

This week I attended a couple of meetings brought to my attention by Our Cosmos Meetup group and if you are interested in exploring scientific fields with public events you should consider joining up and getting announcements for many upcoming, usually free, events. The first event this week for me was a lecture by Dr. Nyssa Silbiger, UCI postdoc, on "Climate change effects on ecosystems.  The lecture was held at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center located on the back bay in Newport Beach.

It's a beautiful location with walking paths across the

Monday, April 3, 2017

Failed attempt at capturing comet 41P; Observe at night, but observe the sun in the daytime too; More progress in identifying neon lamp spectral calibration lines

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

This week I had every intention to try to find and photograph the nearby comet 41P.  I planned to use the observatory back patio because from there Polaris is visible to the naked eye and comet 41P, which with declination of +64 degrees, is located in the northerly skies, circling the north pole, with visible magnitude 6.6, too dim to see without a scope.  So, the 80mm refractor was setup outside and as luck would have it, too many interfering factors made it impossible to get

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dava Sobel part of Distinguished Lecture series at Chapman University, April 3

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well just in case you are not on the "Our Cosmos" meetup site, I've posted the reference and some of the details for this upcoming lecture, which you might want to consider, by Dava Sobel at Chapman University on April 3, 2017 at 7:00PM.  If you follow some of Dana's books you will be familiar with "Longitude" (The story of time keeping and finding longitude at sea), "Galileo's Daughter" (Historical memoir from Galileo's daughter), and "The Glass Universe" (How the ladies of Harvard Observatory took the measure of the stars) and other popular descriptions of scientific topics.  She always tells a pretty good and informative story of these historic scientific discoverers and events.

You can check the details at the Chapman University website for their Distinguished Lecture in Arts series or just signup for getting similar early notices of many other similar events by going to the Meetup site https://www.meetup.com/Our-Cosmos/

See you there
Until next time


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

OCA Blackstar clouded out again; Irvine Valley College Astrophysics; Lawrence Krauss signs new book; Quality with Deming; More analysis of LISA solar spectrum

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

A review of this week's edition (25 March 2017) of New Scientist magazine had an interesting article, "Normal Matter ruled early galaxies."  Recall from your own study or earlier posts describing how initial observations of rotational velocities of galaxies seemed to be going faster than could be explained by just the amount of normal visible matter estimated to be in the galaxies. Vera Rubin who just passed away, made many of these observations, which later resulted in proposing some form of dark matter to explain the high velocities.  As we know, dark matter is now well accepted as the explanation, even while the search for the elusive dark matter particle continues without finding any evidence.  So, it was interesting to read

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Summary from the IEEE Techignite conference in San Francisco; The Woz and Booch; Are you ready to attempt the Messier Marathon? Great new "big history" book; First, not great, attempt at doing indoors LISA solar spectrum using ISIS

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well part of this week has been spent offsite at the IEEE TechIgnite 2017 conference in San Francisco, so not much nighttime sky observing got done and besides the weather has not been the best.  So, I want to provide a few comments about the conference, then recommend a couple of books to keep you busy while staying dry inside and then end up with some of the first light analysis for the indoor solar spectrum acquired last week with the LISA spectrograph.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Maybe able to see a black hole? Two Fantastic astronomical videos; Symmetry, gauge invariance and learning physics and getting exercise at the same time; First light with LISA Spectrograph

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, we're back from the PCGM in Santa Barbara and finally decided to begin learning how to set up the spectrograph and take spectra of stellar objects.  I first started this task over a year ago and finally overcame all my reluctance and procrastination and finally started to do the work, but before getting into that let's look at an exciting announcement and other email news.  First up, is

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Missed USS Zumwalt tour; Summary of some topics from 33rd PCGM at UCSB; Twin Prime Conjecture; Some fuzzy images of M1 in city lights; Upcoming OCA Astrophysics SIG and Blackstar canyon; Upcoming IEEE TechIgnite conference in San Francisco

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, this has been a busy week with some night sky observing getting done, but most of the weekend was spent at the 33rd Pacific Coast Gravity Meeting (PCGM) at University of California in Santa Barbara.  Now as luck would have it, I really wanted to take a tour of the USS Zumwalt (DDG1000) in San Diego.  When I was "officially" working, I spent many years working on electric propulsion systems and really wanted to

Saturday, March 4, 2017

First light with the new telescope and connector binding problems; Nobel laureate Art McDonald lectures; Images of 47 Tuc; Exploring primordial black holes as dark matter; The Pacific Coast Gravity Meeting

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this week has found a few cloud free nights to try out the new 80mm refractor and look at the first light through that device, but first we should cover the recent lectures by Nobel Laureate, Art McDonald, and take a look at the mail.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Brian Greene lecture at Soka; Art McDonald neutrino lecture; AIP4WIN software for photometry; Globular star clusters and Dr Ben; CSULB Physics Colloquia; Finally, setting up the LISA spectrometer

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, not much nighttime observing got done here this week, but we did have a great time at the Brian Greene lecture on "Weird Science" at Soka University.  He is a very dynamic speaker and even though we were quite familiar with his message, he was very interesting.  It was nice to have an early dinner on campus with

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Rain cancels Black Star observing; Discovered hidden gem:Mascarpone's Ristorante; Discovery of black hole in globular cluster 47 Tucanae; Check out Brian Greene lecture at Soka University; Listen to The Great Courses CDs while driving there

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this has turned out to be a very rainy week and we expected the OCA event at Black Star Canyon to be cancelled and sure enough we just received official notice of the cancellation.  Thanks for the notification and see you all next time and thanks to Black Star Past Host, Steve, and New Black Star Host, Steve!  This makes the third month we have missed some dark sky observing, but we were still planning on attending the OCA Astrophysics SIG, but again the rain interfered with that too. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ongoing saga of trying to see the Crab Nebula in city lights; Hooray, at least its location is in the camera frame; Inflation conference at UCI; Happy Valentine's day

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Recall that the last post on February 10, asked the question if we are able to see the Crab Nebula (M1) in city polluted lights?  Well, the attempt at that time to photograph M1 did not go well and my star hopping procedure to go from relatively bright and observable stars to the dim, not visible M1, missed the target by a couple of degrees.  Well, that is just the life of an amateur astronomer and good intentioned plans often go awry and we are given another chance to learn and do better.  Luckily, the weather last night was very good and clear, but before looking at

Friday, February 10, 2017

Better camera and red dot finder mounting; Can you see Crab Nebula in the city? Using Dark Sky Meter and Surface Brightness comparison and not so great star hopping in first attempt

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this week has included some great physics colloquia discussions on dark matter and astrophysical constraints on the currently unknown dark matter particle characteristics.  Also, I received a little six-inch machined bar, costing about $10/inch (I don't know why these little telescope accessories costs so much) so that I can more easily mount my camera/telephoto lens combination and the red dot finder all at the same time on my lightweight, non-tracking tripod.  As you recall, this setup can be easily moved and installed with just one hand and I can make some "science" type measurements very easily without a lot of setup time.   This time I am investigating whether I can see M1, The Crab Nebula, in city lights. But first

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Measuring and imaging the background stars at night today that will be the same background stars during the daytime solar eclipse in August 2017; Champagne toasting whichever team wins the Super Bowl

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well last week was filled with indoor study and this week I hoped to collect some preliminary data for the upcoming total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.  The observing plan for this week is to get images of the background stars that will be visible during the total eclipse.  This data gathering was the same type of thing that Eddington had to do when he planned to photograph the 1919 solar eclipse as a test verification of Einstein general theory of relativity. You need to know the position of the background stars without the sun present and then take an image during the solar eclipse and see how much those star positions have shifted due to the gravitation of the sun which bends the star light. When will those background stars be visible during the night you ask?  Well if we know the sky location of where the total solar eclipse will occur, which will of course be in the daytime, we can see those same stars in the nighttime six months prior to the eclipse.  So the observing plan for

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Some comments on the April APS meeting; Gravity wave vs rubber ruler epiphany, thanks to Dr. Gary; The generalized 2nd law of cosmology (and thermodynamics)

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well I was offsite this weekend attending the American Physical Society "April" meeting in Washington, DC.  The "April" meeting is one of the two main APS annual meetings and it is at this meeting where particle physics, gravitation, astrophysics, cosmology and nuclear physics are the main topics being presented.  It just turns out this year, due to

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hooray! Finally got some Algol images for eclipse light curve study and it seems to show the beginning of the eclipse; Travelling to the APS April meeting

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Hooray! We finally gathered five light curve data points as part of our ongoing Algol eclipse study.  You will recall that several of the recent posts have outlined the nature of the Algol eclipse and of our various attempts to prepare and gather data.  Well finally, it all came together; or at least we have five data points just as the light from Algol went from normal magnitude to just about eclipse minima.  Some of the details of collecting this data and analysis tools will now be discussed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Algol eclipse practice observing sessions; Lightweight camera/tripod makes setup easy; Follow the rain with MegaDoppler7000 app; Disk full error complicates analysis of Algol light curves (maybe?); OCA Astrophysics SIG and Bok Gobules

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this post covers the planned observation of one of the recurring Algol eclipses and whether or not the weather would cooperate.  The weather certainly interfered with my planned practice sessions and I only had one chance to practice since my last feeble attempts to find an opening in the night clouds to even see any stars.

Remember the plan was just to use the camera and tripod to take images for light curve analysis.  The camera/tripod combination is easy to carry outside and it only takes 5-10 minutes to setup, identify Algol's position on the night sky, take one or two images at different exposure settings and go back inside to get warm, and it has been really cold outside now.

Remember also, since I am just using star hopping to find my way around the night sky, it is necessary to be able to point the camera at Algol and use a wide enough field of view so that even with inevitable pointing errors, Algol will still be found in the image.  To that end, I changed from using my 150-600mm telephoto lens to the smaller 75-300mm lens.  The picture below shows what this setup, with the red dot finder also attached to the camera.

Palmia Observatory Resident Astronomer selects setup for Algol eclipse light curve measurement
DSLR camera with 75-150mm telephoto lens and red dot finder mounted on lightweight tripod
On the one rain and cloud free night earlier in the week, this image of Algol was made with 75mm lens setting.  This setting is just 1/2 of the previously used 150mm focal length setting so that the wider field of view will increase the chances of finding Algol in the collected image.  I move the camera pointing angle so that the red dot finder points right at the selected location.  Knowing where to point is still somewhat problematic because Algol at its minimum magnitude will be hard to see with all of the light pollution here at the observatory.  Anyway, the following test image was made for Algol when it is at its maximum magnitude of 2.1.  Verification that the identified star is indeed Algol was made with analysis provided by uploading the image to Astrometry.net, where the camera frame center of field of view was determined to be pointing at RA = 03 01 05 and Dec = +44 11 52, and catalog position of Algol is reported at RA = 03 08 10 and Dec = +40 57 20.  The camera field of view at that focal length covers 11 x 16.5 degrees. So, luckily for me, the selected camera field of view was wide enough that Algol was still in the frame.  Whew!  I still need to work on improving my pointing accuracy.

Algol image after processing with AIP4WIN
75mm focal length, 2 second exposure, Image enlarged 800%

Note that the total light collected in the all the pixels around the star image is, Star - Sky = 99,893, and the maximum pixel value of over 15,000 indicates that at least one pixel is saturated with too much light. T Look at the star profile and note that most of the pixels are not saturated.  What we do learn from this test image though is that 2 seconds is too long of exposure for the 75mm lens setting.  A better compromise for the upcoming eclipse data collection will be to use a 1 second exposure setting.

So, while waiting for the rain to go away for the next practice session, Astronomer Assistants Ruby and Danny were complaining about having to walk around on the observatory grounds with all of the rain.  To help meet their needs, I discovered a great app that displays the rainfall in your area as measured by the KABC Doppler 7000 radar.  See a typical image of rain pattern below.

KABC Magadoplper 7000 app gets full approval from Astronomer Assistants Ruby and Danny
The screen is updated every 5 minutes and I could watch the edge of the rainfall slowly move by and could almost predict when to get the Assistants ready to go outside.  You can zoom in and see street by street view of the edge of the rainfall.  Pretty neat free app!

So, now we are all good to go with the eclipse data collection plan, which was going to start at about 7:00PM on January 24 and go on past the eclipse minimum time expected at 2:24 AM on January 25.  Well the weather was not cooperating and from around 7:00PM to 9:00PM the clouds were just not going to go away.  I gave up!  Another observing plan bites the dust!  But, a little bit later, when I was out with Astronomer Assistants Ruby and Danny on the final tour around the observatory grounds, I noticed I could see Orion, high overhead and all major stars were quite visible.  Then with my trusty IPhone goSkyWatch app, and the thinning clouds, I could locate where Algol should be and yes, there was a dim star visible there, offset to the left from my guidepost stars, Capella and Mirphak.

So, I dutifully grabbed the tripod and went outside every hour from 10:00 to 1:00AM to take images of Algol.  It was so cold outside and I was only outside about 10 minutes for each exposure. I wore my gloves, with the finger tips cut off, so that I could work the touch sensitive camera screen.  It was still very, very cold.  Also, when I came back inside, I was at risk of falling asleep and decided that I might have to set an alarm to go off every hour to keep me going.   From about midnight on, it was becoming more difficult to spot Algol.  At 1:00AM I could not see it at all and just had to just where to point the camera in relation to the line between Capella and Mirphak.  Then the clouds came back and I could not see any reference stars and decided it was time to call it quits, for the second time, and that was the last image taken.

Then, as all amateurs know very well, another complication often turns up and when I tried to download the camera images to the PC for further processing.  The PC complained that there was no disk space available for download.  How can a PC with 115 GB of disk space and only about 15 GB of pictures, be out of diskspace.  Well, it turns out that Windows itself takes up a lot of space, but the real culprit seems to be something called "OneDrive", which took over 50GB.  OneDrive is some sort of disk backup tool and I'm not quite sure yet what can be deleted and what it is best not to delete.  Anyway, now I have to spend time to resolve what to do about this new problem.  Amateurs will realize that this is just the lot we are faced with.  Always some new lesson to learn so that these gotcha don't get you down!

So, until I get my PC disk space issue resolved, I won't be able to do the light curve analysis and see if we can see the beginning of the eclipse.  I'm also busy packing my bags to fly to Washington, DC this week to attend the American Physical Society "April" meeting.  This time the April meeting just happens to take place in January, for some unknown scheduling reason.  I always like to get to DC, but really, in the winter?.  At least, I will have the chance to meet up again with Searching for Gravity Waves, Dr. Gary.  See you there Gary!

But, one final thing for this post, I wanted to mention an interesting celestial object that was mentioned during the video lectures at the OCA Astrophysics SIG meeting.  Likes to Hike, But doesn't bring a telescope and SIG leader, Robert, showed two video lectures, one lecture, "The Star Factory: Inside the Eagle Nebula", by Professor David Meyer, in which the dark clouds, called Bok Gobules, were discussed.  They are dark clouds that obscure any star light from behind them and are close enough to Earth that there are hardly any stars in front of them.  Now we all like to observe other clouds of gas, such as planetary nebula and supernova remnants, which are glowing after being excited by nearby stars.  But the Bok Gobules do not include star forming regions and appear very dark.  I had not heard of these clouds before and wonder if any are visible to amateurs, without access to the Hubble.  The gobules are quite close by as indicated by the lack of stars in front of them.  Thank you Robert!

Resident Astronomer explores issue.  Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bok_globule
Dark Bok Gobules show up in this Hubble image
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bok_globule
So, that is enough for now.  My plan is to resolve the PC out of disk space issue and then tackle the analysis of the four additional camera images, which hopefully will contain Algol, and thereby get our first light curve showing the early beginning of the Algol eclipse.

Until next time,

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Rainy weather fosters indoor activity and probably clouds out Algol observations; Sigma Xi dinner meeting and history of OCA club; New textbook and spectra pressure broadening in stars; Don't need no stinking badges

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this has been another week made for meteorologists, not astronomers.  I haven't been able to practice at all for finding Algol in anticipation for our scheduled eclipse light curve measurement on Jan 24-25.  The forecast for that time does not look very good either.  Yes, bad week for observing, in fact, we just received the email from OCA President, Steve, that the Black Star party has been cancelled also.  Luckily, we had good weather for the

Friday, January 13, 2017

Upcoming UCI and OCA activities; See you at the OCA banquet; Upcoming Algol eclipse observing opportunities; Luminosity functions and do the deep field studies point to just an average, ordinary place in the sky?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, this week has been one of raining weather and inside activity.  Earlier in the week I attended the UCI Physical Science Breakfast Lecture series where we heard from a UCI earth sciences professor describe his work at the UN, where the intersection between science and politics occurred when finalizing the climate change report.  Pretty neat to hear about the interaction and push back between oftentimes opposing viewpoints, but how in the end

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Final Day 4 comments on the AAS meeting and flying back to OC; Remember the UCI Physical Scences (free) breakfast

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, the AAS meeting is into its 4th day and I left a little after lunch for a flight back to OC.  I had a great time, even though a little exhausting too, what with having to pay strict attention all day long, something I'm not accustomed to anymore.  On the flight back, just by chance, I sat next to one of the other attendees and also one of the presenters, who is a PhD student at UCI, and this made for a more pleasant flight.  So, PhD To Be, Ben, was

Friday, January 6, 2017

Day 3 at the American Astronomical Society 229th Meeting

Greetings from Palmia Observatory
Well, we are offset again at the AAS 229th meeting, just outside Dallas in Grapevine, Tx.  The weather turned really cold today, especially given my California expectations, and it actually snowed a bit.  I went out briefly on the convention floor 3rd floor outside balcony and could barely stand it for only

Thursday, January 5, 2017

More summaries from the AAS meeting; Author signs my new textbook; New Cubesat activity; Attempt to summarize Sean's presentation

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this is day 2 at the AAS 229th meeting in Grapevine, Tx.  This is the 2nd day of the meeting and I'll try to summarize again some of the discussions in the plenary sessions.  First though I wanted to pass on an interesting article, passed on to me by Resident Astronomer Peggy, which describes how apparently for the first time, a fast radio burst has been identified and associated with a visible object.  This pretty neat stuff and I  guess a first.  When I foun

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Some social and technical comments from the plenary sessions at the American Astronomical Society 229th meeting in Grapevine, Tx

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, this week we are offsite at the American Astronomical Society 229th annual meeting in Grapevine, Tx.  This is my third AAS meeting and I'm looking forward to the week and at the same time I think I will be really wiped out after trying to pay attention for that long.  I don't have the same energy level, but at least they have some great barbeque here and great martinis and margaritas so all is well.  Anyway, I wanted to summarize a couple of the plenary sessions I attended.  I found