Well here we are still stuck in our burrows, but there are hints of opening up more and more and maybe sit down openings at restaurants. In the meantime we have the upcoming Crewed Dragon launch and trying to capture the comet SWAN C/2020 F8 and will offer some comments on Memorial Day.
First up is the scheduled launch on May 27 of the manned return to space with the launch of the Falcon 9 with crewed Dragon Spacecraft. Hope all goes well! Other SpaceX launches and test hop of SN4 from Boca Chica and launch of the next batch of Starlink satellites seem to be placed on hold until after the manned launch from Kennedy Space Center.
|Upcoming light back into space for US with Falcon 9 and Crewed Dragon Spacecraft (Source: Kennedy Space Center)|
The was some news from Boca Chica that the 2nd static test firing of the SN4 Starship resulted in some after burning and fire which damaged some wiring or something in the rocket. But, as you can see work is continuing and we don't have any official announcement from SpaceX but interested followers of activity report that the test hop will be imminent in the next week or so.
|Starship SN4 repairs and test hop after fire after static burn delayed till after crewed Dragon (Source: @BocalChicaGal)|
By the way if you miss going out to local star parties, here is another chance to attend a virtual star party. Curiosity Peak Observatory in Julian is planning to host a virtual star party this Wednesday, May 27. We have visited Curiosity Peak during a recent visit to Julian and Doug graciously showed us around the facility. Check out the details about how to join the virtual fun. Thanks for offering that, Doug!
Ok, in other local astronomy club news, we got a note from the Ventura County Astronomical Society (VCAS) about a slim chance, but at least a chance, of seeing the comet SWAN C/2020 F8, while it is in close proximity to the sun. At visual magnitude, 6.0, it should prove to be a good DSLR object, and maybe even a good binocular object. The trouble is that it is only visible just after sundown or just before dawn. When I reviewed the options, I elected to try for early morning observation, say between 4:20 and 4:40 am.
|Might just barely see SWAN comet before sunrise (Source: GoSkyWatch iPhone app)|
So, it is up early in the morning, with the dreaded alarm clock, which I had hoped had been banished, but the needs of early morning observing opportunity, has brought it back! Anyway, I set up where the lowest possible elevation above the horizon was possible, without having to drive an hour way, and used the smart phone compass to get the azimuth position. Then, after focusing on Venus, which was still visible, it was only having to wait and take a few exposures. Here you can see the typical exposure, with roof tops and distant mountains in the background.
|First failed attempt at capturing SWAN C/2020 F8 comet, 75 mm, 10 seconds, 4:27 am (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
So, we were lucky that just as astronomical night was coming to an end, we could see many dim stars in the background, but no comet. What happened? Was the comet to low at the horizon to visible or what? Well, it turned out that my azimuth pointing angle was off by about 15 degrees. Check out the astrometry for the above image. Remember that the predicted location for the comet was at RA = 04 09 51 and Dec = +45 50 48. When I looked up the RA and Dec for objects in the image like, NGC 1708 and NGC 1624, my camera pointing angle in azimuth was off by about 15 degrees. What happened? Maybe my iPhone compass app was not set to true north rather than magnetic north, but when I checked the app, it seems I can't make that correction automatically anymore. At least the elevation of those NGC objects showed that the comet should have at least been high enough above the horizon.
|Hopeful comet image astrometry shows image was off by about 15 deg azimuth (Source: www.astrometry.net)|
So, we are still stuck in our burrows, and couldn't make it out to any live Memorial Day celebrations, but did have a chance to hear the low rumble of a couple of WWII era planes flying overhead. The vintage airplanes were flying as part of remembrance of that time. By the time, I got outside and got my phone out, the plane was quite a way off. Darn, anyway it was nice to hear the rumble of the old piston engine planes.
|Heard the rumble of WWII era plane high overhead on Memorial Day(Source: Palmia Observatory)|
As part of my remembering Memorial Day, which I also often lump together with Veteran's Day, we pause to remember all of those who have died in order that the rest of us may live in freedom. My father was a pilot in the Army Air Force in WWII and, fortunately, made it home safely, or else I wouldn't have been here. He was already a pilot when the war broke out, so he served first as a flight instructor training other pilots. He wanted to be a bomber pilot, but he was too old; he was 25. Later after the Army had enough pilots, he worked in India and China flying over the Himalayas, or "the Hump" as they said at that time. He flew C-46, C-54 and C-109 multi-engine aircraft. He told the stories many times of flying over the hump and how, without GPS at that time, he knew he was on the right course because they could spot the burned out wreckage of previous flights along the path that had not made it over the hump. We made a tribute of for him using an aviation arts poster and combined it with his photo and a section from his flight log book. The entries in the book mention how "#2 engine quit, abandoned takeoff" or "#4 engine quit, turned back from the hump." Anyway, thanks Dad for everything and thanks to all the others that made what we have today possible.
|Thinking of my dad flying the hump in WWII (Source: Palmia Observaory)|
Ok, it is now the day after Memorial Day, and another attempt is made to capture the comet SWAN C/2020 F8. Check out the 75 mm, DSLR, 10 second exposure below. It was taken at 4:43 am and and at the right azimuth. Based on astrometry of the image, he star at the bottom right is 48 Per. It is just a few degrees above the predicted location of the comet. Unfortunately, it seems to be behind the local mountain and you can see the sun starting to rise in the notch to the left of the star. Darn! The comet is just rising with the sun and my available location, unfortunately has a mountain in the wrong place. Oh well, it was fun to try!
|Search for comet SWAN ends with it below 48 Per and behind mountain as sun rises in notch (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Until next time, here from our burrow, stay safe, but it's time to recover more of our freedom,
Resident Astronomer George
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