Greetings from Palmia Observatory
Well, here we are in a new year and plan and hope for more successful, saner and safe and happy new year! Our end of year activity was busy trying to complete the measurement of Titan's orbit around Saturn and do some physics while sometimes getting sidetracked into armchair virology as we navigate our way through the pandemic.
But first we should share a great composite photo of the Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction. This composite brought together images using different exposures and processing so that the dim moons and the bright planets can all be seen together. It is great to see Saturn's rings, Jupiter's bands and all the dim moons in the same image. Thanks for sharing the photo, OCA Astro Bill!
|Great composite photo of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction (Source: OCA Astro Bill)|
If you want to see more of Bill's astrophotography you can check out his website at:
In previous posts we commented on at home COVID test kits and now we got a note from our Palos Verdes Martini Man, Dr. Ken, who was thoughtful enough to forward one of his favorite at home tests for the COVID-19. This New Test Developed in Sonoma County is explained in a video. Thanks for thinking of our health, Ken! The video is listed at:
|At home COVID-19 Test (Source: Dr. Ken from ???)|
Ok, ok, that was just for fun, but it does reflect the reality of one of the reported symptoms of COVID-19 and this test does not hurt at all. Well, maybe a little bit the next morning!
But getting COVID is not a joke. We just received some sad news that our "niece" and her kids were all infected. Fortunately they are all on the mend and recovering. Stay well, Heidi!
In sadder news we received word that Chef Javier of one of our favorite restaurants had contracted COVID and died of complications. So, sad, our hearts go out to Chef Javier and family.
One other comment about COVID, my armchair amateur study of the topic has resulted in my nomination of Dr. Michael Mina, as the person of the year. Previous posts have reviewed how he was one of the first to argue for rapid, low cost, and at home testing. He argues that the over regulation of testing as a medical device interferes with its applicability as a public health device. We all have an incentive to not infect others if we are contagious and one of the best ways is to know immediately, or say within 15 minutes, if you are contagious or not. Mina has been arguing for almost a year now, that we need rapid testing. Currently available tests take days or those for use at home require a government approved proctor to witness that you actually took the test. The approved tests cost hundreds of dollars, even though free to the participants, paid for by society, while the alternative, not approved, not quite as accurate, and without anyone else knowing the outcome of the test, cost only a few dollars. The current government controlled approach has made it difficult for individuals to be more active in their own health care to identify if they are contagious. Many folks just want to know if they are contagious so that they can take precautions, rather than wait in long lines for a test approved by the government regulators. I agree with the conjecture that the over regulated government control of health testing is responsible for the massive damage to personal freedom and economic damage. Anyway, we are where we are!
In other observational news, we found some daytime observing opportunities in that the sun now has several visible sunspots. This photo was taken on Tuesday, December 29.
|Hey, the sun has a few spots, DSLR, 300mm (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Ok, let's finally get back to making some more progress on following the observed path of Titan as it orbits around Saturn. The moon is very dim and it shows up mostly as just a little smudge of light in my DSLR camera images. You really could benefit by using a tracking mount, but I'm still the lazy astronomer wannabe, and going out to a darker sky location, but again I'm still the lazy astronomer wannabe, so you get what you can get.
There is the additional complication for trying to photograph Titan in city lights locations is that by the sky gets dark enough, just after sunset, Saturn is going down below the horizon and with rooftops to contend with its like getting squeezed from both directions.
|Jupiter and Saturn are racing towards the horizon, DSLR, 150mm|
Here is another example as we try to capture Jupiter and its moons and Saturn at the same time, while trying to dodge all of those surrounding trees and rooftops.
|Jupiter with moons and Saturn, near horizon, DSLR, 600mm, seconds (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Even when we have a clear view of Saturn, we are constrained between the time it is dark sky enough to be able to observe dim Titan, before Saturn goes below the horizon. Even then, you can just barely make out dim Titan as a little smudge of light. Maybe other observers with longer focal length and tracking mounts can get longer exposures to clearly show where Titan is at the time. But, here we just barely make out Titan to the left of Saturn.
|Titan, just barely visible in bright night skies (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Finally, there was one other opportunity on New Years Eve, to catch Saturn just before it dropped below the tree line. This 150mm lens setting shows both Jupiter and moons and Saturn at the bottom.
|Couldn't wait any longer for Saturn in bright night skies (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Ok, so, we were just barely able to see Titan on that night and we have maybe one more opportunity on New Years Eve. In the meantime, while we wait for that and hope for clear weather, we couldn't resist taking a look at the moon, just one day passed full moon.
|Just past full moon, DSLR, 300mm, 1/1000 second (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
So, it is finally New Years Eve, and between sips of champagne, the clouds were mostly gone, so one last viewing opportunity was available to see where Titan was in its orbit around Saturn. To get this image, I had to move the tripod a bit so that Saturn showed up in a notch between the trees. The sky was still quite bright, but this was the best chance to get Titan.
|Saturn just above horizon at 5:57 pm, DSLR, 600mm. 4 seconds (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Titan, was just barely visible in the photo, and was mostly just a smudge of light that was just a bit brighter than the background sky. So, when that final measurement of Titan's apparent position with respect to Saturn, we can plot all of our previous measurements on the following chart. The gaps in data occurred when the clouds got in the way of making any observations on that set of days. So, you can sort of see some elliptical pattern, while at the same time, there seems to be some potential errors in measurement. Maybe some of those earlier measurements were stars and not the dim Titan? But anyway, this completes our little chore of trying to observe the path of Titan around Saturn. Further observational opportunities are pretty much gone for this year.
|Plot of apparent position of Titan in orbit around Saturn (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Finally, Resident Astronomer Peggy and I want to toast to everyone for a happy and enjoyable new year! Yeah!
|Happy New Year to night people (and day people every ware)! (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Again happy new year! Until next time, here from our burrow, stay safe, as we recover more of our freedom,