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, August 16, 2018

Planning three tours of Arizona observatories; Photographing the Milky Way from a cruise ship? Underground liquid water lake on Mars; Star formation rate vs. redshift

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this week has been again spent mostly inside, even though the smoky skies have pretty much abated, but we have been busy scanning the astronomy news and have been busy planning for travel and packing our bags.

We attended the Distinctive Voices lecture, completely sold out, series last night at the Beckman Center and heard Alex Stone talk about "The Science of Magic and the Art of Deception."  Pretty neat, and his performance of the "Three Card Monty" card game scam was totally mind blowing in that he baffled the whole auditorium.  We were all pretty sure where the Ace was, but his clever sleight of hand always resulted in us selecting the wrong card.

Afterwards, Math Whiz Dave reminded OCA, Learning to Tango, Brian, and this Resident Astronomer to get signed up for the upcoming Mars Society Convention 2018 held in Pasadena on August 23-26.  I went to the convention last year and they do a good job of covering all aspects of first of all getting to Mars and then many sessions on how to survive and thrive on Mars and create a colony which can be self sustaining and not relying completely on resupplies from Earth.  If you want to head to Mars, or just interested in what developments are being made, then check out the details at: http://www.marssociety.org/conventions/2018/

Ok, back to the travel plans, first up, after seeing the great photos, provided last week, by Retired Superintendent Jay, showing the sites around Moana Kea observatories, we decided to accelerate our previous plans for visiting three great observatories in Arizona.  Check out the map below which shows the general location of the three observatories, all within about 2 hours drive from Tucson.  Anybody else up for making the journey?


Proposed dark sky observing tour at Mt. Graham, Mt. Lemmon and Kitt Peak Observatories (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Proposed dark sky observing tour at Mt. Graham, Mt. Lemmon and Kitt Peak Observatories (Source: Palmia Observatory)

Each of the three observatories has a visitor website for tour details.  Mt. Graham International Observatory, a division of Steward Observatory, U of Arizona, has three main instruments, including the Large Binocular Telescope and a telescope operated by the Vatican.  We don't have an opportunity for any night viewing there, and they have limited access up the mountain, but they do provide an all day tour, with lunch.  For more details, check out: http://mgio.arizona.edu/

The Mt. Lemmon Observatory has a half dozen scopes in the 0.5 to 1.5 meter size and they do offer public viewing nights on some of the 24-36 inch scopes.  You can check out the details at: https://skycenter.arizona.edu/content/programs

Kitt Peak offers DSLR and CCD imaging opportunities, and option to spend the night in the astronomers' dormitory, if you choose.  We are currently just planning to do some visual observing on one of their 1/2 night tours, including dinner.  Other amateurs might want to take advantage of the option to do all night observing, which includes a stay in the astronomers' dormitory.  For details and cost for the Kitt Peak astroimaging sessions, check out their website at: https://www.noao.edu/kpvc/

So, while we continue to sort out the logistics of that three-day, three-observatory tour, we are busy packing our bags for an ocean cruise from Athens to Egypt and beyond to Mumbai.  It should be a lot of fun and exciting to visit some of these sites.  I've been to Egypt before, but this will be the first time for Resident Astronomer, Peggy to see the pyramids and other sites.  We have a couple of days in the Red Sea, with snorkeling and touring, and it is there that I hope to have very dark skies, unless the moon gets in the way, or the cruise ship lights get in the way, to do some Milky Way photography.

I have been trying for sometime now to calculate how much light from ground based light sources can travel upward and then be back scattered to arrive in our telescope tubes, but still can't quite work out all the details.  My back of the envelope calculations indicate that about 1% of the upward bound light will be scattered in the first 10 km of the atmosphere and only a tiny fraction of this light will come back down on the right path to enter our telescope tubes, and yet that small amount might still be as large as the dim deep sky objects we are after.  I calculated that about  4% of photons reach high enough to be in the right position to have line of sight into my see into my 10mm camera lens and for any of the photons at those locations, only about 1 in a hundred billion will be scattered randomly so that the scattered photon arrives at the camera lens.  So, if these assumptions, including my assumption of about 10 kW of outside ship lighting, then only about something like less than 1 photon per pixel per second will arrive due to scattered shipboard lighting.  I hope to prepare a little summary report of all of my assumptions and calculations later on showing how all of this scattered light can affect our telescope viewing.  We will let you know how that estimate turns out and if the ship is stable enough, when away from port, in even darker skies, to make doing any astrophotography at all.

Measuring night sky brightness on Journey through the middle east and beyond (Source: Cruise ship itinerary)
Measuring night sky brightness on Journey through the middle east and beyond (Source: Cruise ship itinerary)


There has also been some exciting news about the discovery of liquid water on Mars.  This is pretty neat news and furthers the thinking that colonizing Mars is becoming more feasible.  But, how does one determine underground water on Mars from an orbiting satellite?  The diagram below shows the concept of radar reflections from the buried water layer standing out from normal waterless return signals.


How MARSIS radar data shows subsurface water layer  (Source: Anja Diez, "Science, Vol 361, 3 August 2018)
How MARSIS radar data shows subsurface water layer  (Source: Anja Diez, "Science, Vol 361, 3 August 2018)


Ok, so it at least seems possible given the MARSIS radar system orbiting Mars, but what does the actual detected signal look like?  The Science article goes on to describe what the received signal actually looked like.  Ok, if you look at the data plot below you can see that the signal reflected from the buried water (blue data curve) jumps much higher than the background surface signal (red data curve) for the track distance between 45 to 65 km.  Hmmm, I'm glad there are experts that can interpret this data and determine that that little blip indicates below surface liquid water!


Radar data showing liquid water layer (Source: R. Orosel, et al, "Science, Vol 361, 3 August 2018)
Radar data showing liquid water layer (Source: R. Orosel, et al, "Science, Vol 361, 3 August 2018)


Finally, another very interesting article showed up in Astrobites on measuring the star formation rate (SFR) in galaxies and how the rate changes during the evolution and history of the galaxy.  Now, the first thing I do when I see some strange chart in a paper is try to understand what the horizontal and vertical axes represent.  The horizontal axis in this case is pretty interesting because it has redshift, from 0 to 8, along the bottom and then the corresponding lookback time, in billions of years, across the top.  That is pretty neat!  So if you are seeing an object with redshift of say, 4, that is the same as saying that object is seen as it was 12 billion years ago.  Also we know that as redshift gets larger and larger, the lookback time approaches the age of the universe, around 13.7 billion years.  A redshift of about 1100 corresponds to the formation of the CMB, which is about 380,000 years after the big bang.

Now the vertical axis is the star formation rate in units of the logarithm of the stellar mass per year per cubic megaparsec.  So a parsec is a unit of distance equal to about 3.26 lightyears, so a megaparsec is just a million times bigger.  The Milky Way galaxy is about 30,000 parsecs in diameter, so it would easily fit in a box 30,000 parsecs on a side, so a cubic megaparsec is a volume large enough to contain something like the equivalent of 30,000 Milky Ways.

So what was the peak star formation rate and when did it occur?  Well it seems the measured curve seems to peak at -0.8, which corresponds to about 0.16 stellar mass stars per year at redshift 2, which occurred about 10 billion years ago.   By conducting these large surveys and collecting the numbers of stars at various redshifts, we get a sense of the evolution of galaxies and of how young galaxies form lots of stars and old galaxies, having tied up most of the gas, form relatively fewer stars.

Neat chart showing star formation rate, redshift and lookback time (Source: Avery Schiff, astrobites)
Neat chart showing star formation rate, redshift and lookback time (Source: Avery Schiff, astrobites)




Until next time,
Resident Astronomer George



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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Smoky skies; The value of image stacking; Moana Kea; ModRing space station; HR color index and Python code; How beauty leads physics astray?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this week we were looking forward to the monthly OCA star party, but it has been cancelled due to the many forest fires, especially the Holy fire, now raging in southern California.  But we have other, mostly indoor, topics for discussion.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Hooray, finally got a Barlow lens in focus; Jupiter's rings visible in LiveView, but not in photographs

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well, it finally happened this week, with Mars and Jupiter so bright in the night sky, I just had to try out the old Barlow lens to getter a better view.  Readers will recall that the 600mm images in the August 3 post were just fuzzy balls of light, so this week it was time to bust out the 2.5x Barlow and try to get it to work with the 80mm refractor telescope, which should result in an equivalent focal length of 1400mm.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Autoguiding discussion with PHD2 software; Acceleration mechanisms for cosmic rays; Images of Mars and Jupiter; Ruby's question about wet concrete?


Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, this week we attended a discussion on autoguiding and also found time to get some fuzzy DSLR images of Mars and Jupiter and also discuss a little bit more about cosmic ray acceleration.  But first we should describe one easy way to observe the effects of atmospheric refraction.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

How can the atmospheric refraction effects, which makes objects close to the horizon appear higher in the sky, be measured?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

We know that making astronomical observations of targets close to the horizon can be affected by atmospheric effects of reddening, extinction and refraction.  Previous posts have addressed some of these effects, and this post asks the question: How might atmospheric refraction be measured?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Gamma ray spectrum and Crab Nebula; Finally got better focus on IR camera; More photos from our SOFIA tour

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well we have been so busy this week that we have missed some of the good solar system observing opportunities, like the large gas giants, and Mars, and a total lunar eclipse.  Hope the rest of you are doing a little better.  So to make up for that, let's stay inside and do more astrophysics!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Pevatrons and other sources of cosmic rays; giga, tera, peta and beyond; Hot IR photos of observatory staff

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, we are finally back in the observatory after a week at COSPAR 2018.  Ok, ok, Pasadena is only about 60 miles away, but for me doing the traffic on the dreaded 210 freeway everyday is just not going to happen, so staying at a hotel in Pasadena is the only way to go.   So, lets now talk about more cosmic rays, including the Pevatron at the center of the Milky Way, and some IR photos from new IR camera.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Hooray, we finished with COSPAR (Day 7) and toured SOFIA in Palmdale; Neutron stars; Cosmic ray anisotropy?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Ok, we finally made it through Day 7 at COSPAR and then what would have been day 8 of the conference, Science Nerd and Theatre Impresario, Scott, and I got on a bus tour, put together by COSPAR coordinating committee, and headed to Palmdale, CA for a tour of the airborne observatory, SOFIA.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

COSPAR Day 6: Water Worlds and search for life; Resident Astronomer takes IR selfie; Planck CMB team and analysis; Inflation?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well here we are at day 6 of COSPAR and this morning's plenary session was on ocean worlds of the outer solar system and later session on other space research topics kept us busy all day long.  I am pretty tired, so I hope these comments make sense, but nonetheless still plan to hold in there until the last day and write one more COSPAR summary tomorrow.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

COSPAR 2018: Day 2 and 3; US/Russia radiation belts and history; Gaia and Astrometry; ALMA and protoplanetary disks; Beneath the clouds with Juno; Mars obliquity

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


We have just finished up with our first two full days of technical sessions and presentations at COSPAR 2018 in Pasadena, CA.  This blog post makes some comments and brief summaries of a few of the many technical issues and latest results.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Resident Astronomer finds life with first light on new camera?; Multi-messenger astronomy with neutrinos and gamma rays; Physicst wannabes at COSPAR 2018 in Pasadena

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well this week will be occupied with COSPAR 2018 in Pasadena, but in the meantime we can report on the first light through the telescope to the new camera and also report on the latest news on the multi-messenger astronomy front.

Friday, July 13, 2018

New cosmic ray course; Don Brun's measurement of light bending during the eclipse; Should the expansion of the universe make galaxies larger?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, we are back in the observatory after having a fantastic opportunity to do some imaging and viewing though the 60 inch Hale Telescope located at Mt. Wilson Observatory as described in our recent July 10 post.  First of all, given that this is Friday the 13th, we should ask if there are any superstitious astronomers or astrophysicist wannabe out there?  Nah; I didn't think so!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Hooray, first observing session at Mt. Wilson Observatory 60 inch telescope; Is an image from 60 inch brighter than 6 inch scope?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well, our opportunity to observe through the Mount Wilson Observatory (MWO) 60 inch telescope finally came to be.  We had been disappointed many times in past and had to reschedule our session due to weather several times and even forest fires when the dome could not be opened due to flying ash.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Astronomer Assistant Ruby's mother invades the observatory; Reliving college excitement about "The Fountainhead" at OCON 2018; Happy 4th of July Celebration

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this has been another busy week at the observatory, what with some house guests, and our observing session on Mt. Wilson 60 inch scope now just a week away, and me off to another 3 days of a 5 day conference in Newport Beach.  There is not much we can do about the Mt. Wilson trip, but to hope for clear weather.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Yep, you can see how polar alignment solves field rotation problem; AIAA Planetary Defense Mini-conference; Falcon rocket comparisons

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well, the weather prediction finally showed one night without June gloom coming in with clouds.  So, we went out to gather some images of Jupiter's Moons' orbital plane to verify the benefits of a polar aligned mount to overcome field rotation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Trimble Fest: A celebration of UCI Professor Virginia Trimble's 50th anniversity of PhD from Caltech and her approaching 75th birthday

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this week I had hoped to do some astronomical observing of how the orbital plane of the moons of Jupiter appears to change as the planet moves across the sky, but this darn June gloom always puts an end to that around 8:30 in the evening.  So if the weather does not improve my next event will be at the AIAA mini-conference on Planetary Defense on June 30.  But, for now we can report on the fantastic Trimble Fest, where

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Society for Astronomical Science Annual Meeting in Ontario; Eta Carinae story; Accretion disks and light curves and solid models; TESS; Arecibo; Three blind mice?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, this week I'm at Society for Astronomical Sciences 37th annual symposium on Telescope Science in Ontario, CA.  This is a great event with presentations mostly by amateur astronomers, and professional with small telescopes, who are doing some really neat science type research projects.  This post focuses on just one broad topic, that of light curve analysis, and how astronomers are trying to determine and model the physical processes which generate these light curves.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Evans Visiting Scholar Lecture at UCI in Astrophysics by Alex Drlika-Wagner; Dark Matter and Tiny Faint Galaxies and how to find them; Do your own astrophysics calculations with this old book

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well we didn't get any observing done this week because we were over scheduled and didn't attend the OCA Star Party, but we did attend the inaugural Evans Visiting Scholar in Astrophysics lecture on Dark Matter and Tiny Galaxies at UCI.  More about that fantastic presentation shortly, but first

Friday, June 8, 2018

Get your Astrobites; Some final comments on the 232nd AAS meeting; Why does a solar telescope need 4 meter aperture?; How does Gaia actually work?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well, the great time at the 232nd AAS meeting has come to an end and it is time to get back to reality.  In this post, I'll go over just a couple of key topics that really grabbed my attention and refer you to a great website that provides a lot of reviews and other astronomical comments.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Hey, that's the Big Dipper; Some summary comments about Gaia DR2 impact and other topics from Day 2 of the 232nd AAS Denver meeting

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, day 2 at the 232nd AAS meeting in Denver is done and I can attempt a brief summary of some of the topics.  But first, since we all like astroimages, and I didn't bring a scope to Denver, but I did have my cell phone during my earlier dark sky visit with Searching for Gravity Waves, Dr. Gary.  So, I can offer this one image of the Big Dipper, which I was quite surprised to see because I hardly ever am able to see it in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Planetary Radio; Visiting with Searching for Gravity Waves, Dr. Gary; Findings at 232nd AAS meeting in Denver

Greetings from Palmia Observatory,


Well I'm offsite this week in Colorado for the 232nd American Astronomical Society (AAS) summer meeting in Denver.  So I will make a few summary comments about what was going on at the AAS meeting, but first there is some old business from the ISDC meeting in Los Angeles and my chance to get together again with Searching for Gravity Waves, Dr. Gary, at his home about an hour outside Denver.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Highlights from Los Angeles at the International Space Development Conference; See you next week at the AAS summer meeting in Denver; Space can bring us a new vision

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well I've spent these last 4 days, May 24 - 27, at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) 2018 held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel near LAX in Los Angeles, CA.  In this post, I will present a summary of some of the highlights that caught my attention, but first we should mention the upcoming 232nd AAS summer meeting in Denver, June 3-7, 2018.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hooray, finally visited the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico; Losing the Nobel Prize by Brian Keating

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Last post we talked about how after learning more about radio astronomy at our OCA Astrophysics SIG, we decided on our goal of visiting the Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Observatory in New Mexico and in this post we can provide a brief summary of our visit there.  But first we should review some of the mail and comments received from our readers.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Quantum Computing - State of Play, by Dr. Justin Dressel at the ACM chapter meeting

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, yesterday I attended the local Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) meeting in Irvine, CA, where the presenter, Dr. Justin Dressel, Chapman University, spoke to 150 attendees  about “Quantum Computing – State of Play.”  This was an excellent presentation and since I have been trying to “study” how quantum mechanics is used to do computing for a couple of years now, I wanted to summarize some of the takeaway points from my “student” perspective. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sean Carroll's great intro to cosmology lectures; Great time for planetary observing; Improvements with Gaia; Looking for when the first stars turned on; Why is the solar corona so hot?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well the weather again has been alternating between almost letting the nighttime clouds go away and trying to rain and just being overcast, so it has been mostly a time of spending the nights inside reading some of the stacks of magazines that have arrived.  So first some comments about the recent OCA general meeting and recommendation for a new series of lectures on an introduction to cosmology.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Hidden Unity; Beautiful account of Galileo's discovery; It from Bit; Measuring the Universe; Stirling Engine Demo

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well the observing weather is getting a little better now but earlier in the week we stayed mostly indoors and caught up on some of our incoming emails and some neat new books for reading.  So, let's go over the incoming traffic first.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Studying radio astronomy; Attempting to photograph quasar 3c273 with DSLR; Old dreams of fuel cells and fusion power; Wannabe Dejection?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well this week I've been busy reading up on radio astronomy and just by chance reading that the brightest radio galaxy ever observed, 3c273, is also optically bright enough to be seen in just an amateur telescope.  So, this became my goal, but before going into the sad news about that attempt, and being reminded of other old dreams that did not come to pass, we should cover some of the upcoming events.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

How distance to black hole mergers is determined;How fast does the eclipse go dark? How many camera pixels to a star? Using 21cm radiation to trace back to the first stars ever

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well this week we have some comments on how 21cm radiation is being used to search for the very first stars, but first we need to go over some other fruitful discussions with other astronomers, physicists and wannabes.  So, let's begin with

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Hooray, particle tracks observed in teeny weeny cloud chamber; William Phillips speaks at CSUB 39th Nobel Laureate lecture on laser cooling; Where is the coldest place in the universe

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well now that we are back to reality and have left behind the cruise ship mentality, we need to pick up some loose ends that have been left unfinished, such as setting up the teeny weeny cloud chamber, which we can report some initial images of streaks caused by nuclear particles.  But first, let's

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Hooray, used teeny Iphone telephoto lens to get Jupiter and moon, But will the accessory be useful?; Upcoming ISDC conference with Jeff Bezos

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

This post covers some of the new success with the teeny weeny telephoto lens accessory for the IPhone.  We overcame the issue of getting longer exposure time and shutter release delay timer so that the IPhone is not vibrating due to pushing the camera shutter button.  Before getting into that success story though we should look at one upcoming event on the calendar.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Wine tasting and Douro River cruise in Spain and Portugal; Dark skies but too cloudy for star gazing; Sampling the food, cork hats, ABC's and remembering the discoveries; Funicular physics

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, we are finally back from our touring and river cruising in Spain and Portugal.  The weather was pretty cloudy and rainy so we didn't have much opportunity to take advantage of many of the very dark sky sites along the Douro River.  So rather than turning this astronomical blog into a travel blog, I will make just show a few photos and some comments about our journey and include a physics problem at the end.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Hooray, finally got an image of Mercury after the clouds disappeared; First attempt at astrophotography with IPhone Telephoto Attachment; Fun in Lisboa and Sunrise on the Douro River

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, here we, Resident Astronomer Peggy and I, in Lisbon, for vacation and some remote location observing with the little, teeny, weeny telephoto lens accessory that just clamps on to the IPhone.  But before getting into how that new accessory works, or in this case, didn’t work, let’s report on the successful detection of Mercury, just after sundown.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Why is the solar corona hotter than the surface and non-stationary statistics? Trying to photo Mercury just after sunset; Fantastic new teeny telephoto lens accessory for Iphone

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well, ever since OCA and Griffiths Observatory Artist, Chris Butler told us at the OCA general meeting, in the What's UP segment, about Mercury going to be observable just after sunset this month, I was really excited and started preparing my observing plan to finally get an image of Mercury.  I had previously seen Mercury during the earlier solar transit, as described in the post of May 9, 2016, but had never photographed Mercury itself.  Well, the clouds have been so heavy this week, so before talking about the disappointing Mercury saga, let me first mention the news from the last CSULB physics colloquium.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

After Orange County Science Fair, Resident Astronomer does more study of cosmic rays; Have fun with your own cloud chamber

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well last week I was lucky enough to be one of multiple judges at the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair in Costa Mesa.  Check out the March 14 post for more details.  This was my first time as a judge and I probably learned more from the middle school students than they learned from me.  In fact, one of the students, who had built her own cloud chamber and did observations of cosmic rays, so excited me, that I just had to do some more research in that area.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Detectability of planetary radio leakage; OC Science Fair and here comes da judge; We'll miss you Stephen Hawking!

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well the clouds are out in full force this week and it rains every now and then so nighttime astronomical observing is pretty much not going to happen.  So, get out your meteorology study books or just stay inside or in this case I can refer to some comments received by readers regarding the detection of leakage radio emissions as part of the SETI program.  In addition, it was time for the OC Science Fair and a new judge on the circuit, and finally remembering Stephen Hawking.  First up

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sirius Airy Ring Analysis; Brief summary of APS March meeting in Los Angeles; LIGO Nobel Laureates Thorne and Barish speak at UCI and APS; OCA general meeting on SETI; Curious cats?


Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this week and upcoming forecast shows just clouds and clouds and more clouds with some rain, so keep your scopes indoors and dry.  Luckily, I have been at the American Physical Society March meeting for most of this week.  So this post covers some follow up analysis of Airy rings, summary comments from APS March meeting and UCI Physical Sciences lecture by Kip Thorne and a warning for Astronomer Assistant Willow.  So,

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Using the lightweight Skywatcher to look for Airy rings; Quantum Studies workshop at Chapman University; Aharonov-Bohm effect and now Weak Measurements; American Physical Society March meeting

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, I've been packing my bags for the APS March 2018 meeting, but wanted to try observing Airy Rings, so when the clouds parted this lazy astronomer, without a permanent observing dome, grabbed the lightweight tripod with Skywatcher polar tracking mount and found

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Another Vandenberg Falcon 9 launch and photos; Summary comments from UCLA Dark Matter 2018 Conference; HIdden Figures in Julain; Say it ain't so, Lawrence Krauss

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, I just got back from the Dark Matter 2018 conference at UCLA and can offer a few comments on that topic.  But first, ever since we flew to Florida to see the launch of the Falcon Heavy, the idea of seeing another launch has been a top priority.  It turns out that a launch was scheduled

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

New calendar of meetings and conferences; Spooky action at a distance; Prof. Craig Roberts explains why the Higgs should RIP; More physics of gas cloud collapse

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

This post introduces a new feature on the blog page and then provides a review of a book and a distinguished physics lecture and concludes with some additional follow up discussion on the constraints on the collapse of molecular clouds into protostars or proto-galaxies.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Falcon 9 Vandenberg launch delayed; Lawrence Krauss at LogicaLA 2018; Kip Thorne at the Skeptics Science Salon; Forming supermassive black holes might need a partner galaxy?

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well, the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg has been delayed again so we didn't get out for any image collection.  I can't try for the now scheduled launch this Wednesday either because I will be on the dreaded 405 Fwy driving to the Dark Matter conference at UCLA at that time. Maybe you can grab a photo, but if you are not on the signup list to get last minute notices of launch delays, the following screen shot shows what the typical announcement looks like, and you might want to know if it gets delayed again:

Friday, February 16, 2018

Upcoming Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg now rescheduled for Sunday, February 18, 6:16 am, should be visible in SoCal

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

This post is primarily for all of you Falcon 9 launch fans who reside in southern California and includes the latest launch information for the several times rescheduled flight, now for Sunday, February 18 from Vandenberg Airforce Base.  The exhaust plume is expected to be visible across a big part of SoCal, assuming that the clouds to not get in the way.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Amateur astronomer sees red Tesla Roadster in orbit; Great Falcon Heavy launch video; NASA ephemerides tool; Estimating the altitude of aircraft

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


We are still resting up from our trip to Kennedy Space Center to view the first launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket and our first close up experience of a rocket launch.  The February 8 post presented some images taken during the launch and a guess that it was not likely that an amateur astronomer would be able to see the red Tesla Roadster, which was placed into orbit during that launch.  Well,

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hooray, we experienced the Falcon Heavy launch at KSC; Keplerian Two Line Elements for Tesla Roadster; Fun in Cocoa Beach, but watch for gators!

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, we got our tickets for the "closer viewing site" at the Kennedy Space Center for the launch of the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy.  We were too late to get tickets for the "feel the burn" site or the "closest viewing site", but all eventually went well and we have some photos to share.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Tracking aircraft as practice for photographing Spacex Falcon Heavy launch at KSC; A toast to Superbowl winners, losers, runner ups, ...

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this has been a busy week, most of which I had hoped to do some more spectroscopic analysis of the star images taken last week.  But other things came up.  First was the UCI physics colloquium where Marina Brozovic, Caltech/JPL, spoke on radar imaging of asteroids,  and radar images are displayed, not in terms, of  y vs. x plane locations, but in terms of radar range (distance) vs. Doppler shift.  It's going to take some more time to think through how to make sense of that, but the more important thing right now is preparing and practicing for the trip to KSC to experience the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy at Kennedy Space Center.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Hooray, good viewing for Lunar Eclipse imaging; Coyote 1, Bunny 0; Multi-star spectra from one observation of Orion's Belt; Oh-oh, delays in Falcon Heavy launch

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Ok, the day of the total lunar eclipse has finally arrived, and hooray, the weather was perfect this morning.  This post has images of the eclipse and an image of the near full moon from the night before and some images that indicate that,  yes, we can collect multi-star spectra from one observation.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Wakefield technology offers 1000 times acceleration? Tesla in Falcon Heavy payload section; Resident Astronomers dither (and decide) on attending launch; Doing spectroscopy of Sirius, Sun and Moon with Star Analyzer 100

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this has been a busy week after attending the CSULB physics colloquia and learning about Plasma Wakefield Acceleration and then finalizing our decision about attending the Falcon Heavy launch and even getting finally to make some star spectra observations, while still planning to get up early and observe the total lunar eclipse Wednesday morning.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Feel the heat from the upcoming Falcon Heavy launch! A schedule of some upcoming conferences for physicist and astronomer wannabes!

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well we are just waiting for the total lunar eclipse on January 31.  In the meantime, several folks asked about upcoming astronomy conferences and meetings.  So, this post lists some upcoming meetings that I have tentatively put on my schedule.  Some meetings like those of the OCA and local college and university colloquia, but others, primarily for professionals in the field, have entrance fees.  More conferences in the news as we go forward, but let's look for what we know now.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Hooray, Sky-Watcher success at OCA Star Party; Use your cell phone for daytime polar alignment; Calling all citizen scientists, get your astro data!

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Last post of January 19 we described how we were seeking a more lightweight way and easier way to set up some sort of tracking mount so that we could just take the camera and tripod outside and collect some quick spectra or light curve data.  We elected to tryout the Sky-Watcher as a means to get longer exposure times with just a camera and tripod.  Luckily, the OCA star party was just coming up so we decided to brave the cold and tryout the setup.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Trying out the Sky-Watcher; New books from AAS 231 meeting; Water, Ice, Symmetry and the Higgs; Marty Cooper, what have you wrought? You too can attend the AAS 232 meeting

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well this has been a week of evaluating a new lightweight star tracking accessory for wide field of view astrophotography and unpacking some of the books picked up at the recent AAS 231st meeting.  Trying this new device called Sky-Tracker might be an option at the upcoming January 20 OCA star party at the new Blackstar location at Bob Swenson Field.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Get ready for the lunar eclipse on January 31; Example of AAVSO supernova discovery announcement, light curves, equipment and spectra

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well you have just two weeks now to get ready for the upcoming lunar eclipse.  If you are anything like me, you have to start training now to get up early enough in the morning to see the whole thing from start to finish.  Anyway we will see when I actually get started.  Additionally, let' go over an example of another amateur capable discovery of a supernova and look at the data analysis so far as made in a American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) alert, which was sent out on January 15, so that others could point their telescopes to the blazing object.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Final comments from AAS 231st meeting; Radio Astronomy; On going back to Venus; Dim Dwarfs and Stellar flows; Whence came the water? The cocoon out of GW170817

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well, we are back in California after spending a wonderful week at the American Astronomical Society 231st meeting outside Washington, DC. I found it too exhausting to try to post some comments every day and I couldn't do the topics the just review that they deserved, but still wanted to give now a brief summary of, say, 5 of the more interesting topics that struck my fancy.  Of course, I already commented on one of the most interesting in the last post, regarding the tension between the two best estimates of Hubble constant ( km / sec / Mpc) , now found to be 66.9 +/- 0.6 by the CMB method and to be 73.24 +/- 1.74 by the supernova standard candle method.  This post covers a brief summary of five more topics:

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Some more comments and photos in the exhibit hall at the AAS 231st winter meeting; More past and future eclipse activity

Greetings from Palmia Observatory


Well this is my 4th day at the winter AAS meeting and can share a few comments, this time mostly from my wandering around the exhibit hall and one special award announcement for an amateur astronomer.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Some summary comments from the American Astronomical Society 231st meeting in Washington, DC; Pan-STARRS; Juno; Tidal Disruption Events; Riess and Hubble constant tension

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well this has been the first full day of plenary sessions at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).  There has already been some really interesting presentations and I find I'm having a harder time to summarize what I heard, but here goes.  The AAS 231 was held outside of Washington DC, actually at National Harbor in Maryland.  There were way too many sessions to choose from, but my approach was to attend all of the plenary sessions and one special session dealing with Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii and how its publicly available data is being used and can be accessed by the public and citizen scientists and a short summary of those sessions will be presented.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Hooray, trip to 2019 eclipse in Chile arranged! Some comments on the first two days of Python and Astropy pre-meetings at the American Astronomical Society 231st meeting in Washington, DC

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

We are currently offsite at the American Astronomical Society 231st meeting in Washington, DC.  So, this blog post does not have any telescopic observations or images, but does have a few comments about the pre-meeting workshops and some good news about the upcoming eclipse trip to Chile in 2019.

Friday, January 5, 2018

What to do when the clouds come in? Well, study clouds! HDF size comparison; See you at the 231st AAS meeting in Washington, DC; Bayesain models for astrophysics

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well again we are just waiting for the cloudy weather to go away or rain, whatever.  So the first part of this post covers some images of the sky and clouds and does some analysis to measure sky brightness compared to the clouds.  The second part of the post covers the upcoming American Astronomical Society 231st meeting in Washington, DC, and some of the Python and Bayesian programming workshops that I hope to attend.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Quiet sun on Jan 1; Lunar occultation of Regulus not visble in OC; Erik Verlinde lecture at PI on emergence of gravity from quantum information

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well here we are in the new year (Happy New Year Everyone!) and two astronomical opportunities showed up right away.  First, we took a look at our sun and to see what is happening there on this New Years Day. Also readers will remember our previous posts about various possible occultation, between stars and planets and moons and asteroids, and now we see in latest issue of Sky and Telescope the upcoming occultation of Regulus by the Moon.  Let's review these activities and finally comment on a great video lecture by Erik Verlinde.