Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Coast To Coast Lunar Observe

  • I have been busy surveying the Moon over the last few nights and really enjoying it to say the least. I am feeling like a kid again at the telescope. What makes it even better is if you could share these times with other folks that are as excited about it all as you are. I set up my scope about 7 p.m. and was immediately captivated by the sights. Needless to say I could not contain myself and sent a quick email to my blog buddie Drive By Astronomy. What ensued was a several hour email chat with me at the scope and Drive By on the floor of his family room with Moon charts and a Blackberry connected to who knows what and the both of us ranting about our wonderful Luna! He was blocked by a western N.Y. t-storm from actually being able to see the Moon. I would send him a LNF (lunar News Flash) of what I was observing along the shifting shadow line and he would comment on it or direct me to another target. Loads of fun. Here's a little snippet of the sights Drive By and I explored:
  • It all begin in the north with the light of a new lunar day falling on the Lunar Alps. In particular sunrise on the lone rim peak Mons Piton was breathtaking with the floor of Imbrium still in shadow.
  • Sunrise on crater Cassini and the Lunar Caucaus, this folks is never a boring sight! Cassini is a very interesting sight - one of my favorite floored craters with lots of "character".
  • North Polar region crater Bond with it's "hey I'm really here find me if you can " look of a rubble covered floor and degraded walls.
  • One of the best sights of all was sunrise on crater Archimedes - watching the first rays of light touching the eastern rim and lighting up the near by Apollo 15 landing sight on the base of the Lunar Apenninus. This in the pic above.
  • Mare Vaporum in the Lunar center was puttin it out out. I just love the various textures, shades of surface color, scouring features that are here along with its famous rille features which look like delicate rivers meandering across it's expanse. The pic I posted with this shows this very region in the center - check out bright crater Manilius right of center next to the lunar "Finger Lakes" region to it's right. One of my favorite sights!
  • Let's move south and see the first rays of light just touching the extreme eastern edge of crater Ptolemaeus - but the real show stopper was crater Albategnius/Klein. Central peak shadows on the crater floors and lots of detail in the walls.
  • Sunrise on crater Werner with it's central peak lit up like a star in the darkness with just a touch of dawn light on it's western rim - a wonderful sight.
Being in different time zones it was getting late for Drive By so he had to sign off. He had the uncanny ability to know just when light of a new day would be hitting a particular lunar feature. Just how he was able to do this was kept hidden from me and he seemed to be having a blast with his virtual lunar observe.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Short Lunar Excursion Turned To A Long Lunar Excursion

What can I say - I had a total lunar melt down yesterday. One simple benign look in the late afternoon sent me on a foray across the lunar surface scavenging until 9:30 pm. I am not totally sure what came over me but it was like I never saw the moon before. Moon Fever? The Moon never ceases to amaze, and fill my life with a sense of wonder - it is an incredibly simple observation to make requiring only simple tools to do it well. What started this afternoon and evening track across our nearest neighbor in space - here's just a part of the fun:

  • It started by viewing an incredible sunrise on the crater Theophilus with it's western edge all aglow and the central peak mountain looking like a star in the middle of a dark cave. I have seen this effect before but today's was awesome.
  • Across the way are the Pyrenaeus Mtn in stark detail.
  • Sunrise on the Altai Scrap - lots of shadows and relief.
  • Janssen crater complex with it's degraded northern wall spilling the crater's guts outward.
  • Mare Australe with it's ponding effect.
  • Out on the extreme edge crater Humbolt with it's lite and dark flooring and bright central Mtns.
  • Mare Marginis with kitty face. Just north of Marginis is crater Al-Biruni with it's flooded dark floor and rim all lighted up looking like a annular eclipse against the mare. There is a wonderful blanket of very bright material on the northern rim of the crater. I have never seen this before - really cool!
  • Let's look at the rim of Crisium. The canyons and ejecta scouring are awesome in the north western section.
  • N.E. section of the Moon's north pole is awash with subtle detail of great events - I do not find this part of the Moon boring!
  • Sunrise on Mortis Lacus/Lacus Somniorum - could spend a bunch of time here.
  • Back down to the Nectaris Basin and to the little mentioned Sinus Asperitatis. The sun is now showing off the ejecta blanket of Theophilus and the 2 boarding peninsula's are fun to meander through. This is the gateway to Mare Tranquillitatis, so much here to enjoy.
  • Sunrise on eastern Serentatis - just like you see in the picture I posted: Serpentine Ridge snakes it's way across the Mare, floor fractures of Posidonis, the Taurus Mtns and the Apollo 17 site, sunrise on crater Plinius.
I think you get the idea, it was loads of fun. Along the way I was sending emails to my outreach buddy Mike A (Drive By Astronomy) in Buffalo N.Y. as he was occupied with a graduation party for a niece and nephew. I really just wanted to share the fun with someone!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Backyard PJ Pants Top To Bottom And Side to Side Constellation Survey

What is this all about? It is about renewing some old relationships and discovering some new ones - remember these sky thingies are my friends! I have done numerous surveys before scouting out objects of a particular class across the sky but only one constellation specific survey of double stars several years back which occupied 2 years of observations and hundreds of doubles observed! The key question here is going to be how detailed do I want to get. Each constellation is chock full of goodies - if you are not just after the "eye candy" which is my term for obvious wow objects. What is going to happen when I survey constellations along the Milky Way which are loaded down with fun things? I decided to not get bogged down in the details and just see where this celestial buffet takes me - this will be a "lite" calorie survey. Each random constellation will be observed top to bottom and side to side with the help of my trusty Coulter 10" with the plumbing piece focuser, along with my old Collins Star Guide, and The Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner. I will post the things that strike my fancy as I move down the buffet line - I can't eat it all but I will devour plate fulls along the way! Each observe will last about 1.5 hours. I will be wearing my blue/gray pj pants NSG!
Each time I observe I will start with a naked eye survey of the bright outline stars of each constellation with the Collins guide. Then I will move on to the telescope and survey a specific section of the constellation with the Observer's Guide and see what happens. Let's make some music together and start with the compact harp in the sky Lyra!

  • There is a lot here after you see the wonderful M57 Ring Nebula, M56 Globular Cluster surrounded by foreground Milky Way star fields, and Epsilon Lyr Double Double.
  • Beta Lyr was is stunning multiple system cream and blue primaries.
  • Delta Lyr is a wide double embedded in a fun little star cluster Stephenson 1. Neat star colors here. This is a little treasure trove.
  • Zeta Lyr fun creamy white headlight double star system.
  • R-13 Lyr wonderful orange variable which appeared to be close to minimum.
  • OS 525 double near M57 of a delicate blue and red color combo- better than Albiero folks.
  • Eta-20 Lyr blue and creamy white wide double against a nice starry backdrop.
  • Theta-21 Lyr Orange and blue double with neat magnitude difference and subtle colors that grow more intense as you collect photons.
Stand by there is more of Lyra to come............... And here it is as of 6/27
  • NGC 6791 is the only other open cluster of note and it is a tough one in suburban sky with haze. Hard to pick out from the background star fields. Haze tonight did not help with this!
  • XY Lyr is a wonderful copper colored variable 1 degree north of Vega-check it out!
  • Lyra is a double star hunting ground on the south side of town. These are worth your effort: Sturve 2352, 2372, 2390, 2349.
  • 17 Lyr is a stunner! Wide double of yellow and blue hues. Near by just east of it is a very intense orange star which I was not able to locate on any chart of mine.
  • My ''Challenge Object" for this brief survey was planetary nebula PK64-15.1 S.W. of M57 it is a toughie - not a show piece but finding it is rewarding - use a filter once the star field is located.
This has been a fun little foray. Lyra is a wonderful compact constellation with 1 showboat object but many fun doubles most with excellent color for anyone with a 6-10" scope. They surround the main outline stars of this constellation like a wreath north, south, east, and west. You can see a bunch of stuff in a short amount of time with Lyra. Up next will be the swooping eagle Aquila - in bits and pieces mind you, it is a big bird to swallow!

Friday, June 19, 2009

6-18,19-09 Pajama Pants Totally Random Hit and Run Backyard Astronomy

After 3 weeks of unusual stormy, cool, El Nino inspired weather the skies cleared yesterday and left the Sidewalk Guy with a dilemma - go and do a public program or grab some photons for himself? The personal photon foray won out. I was inspired several weeks back by Nitesky Girl's pj pants and sweat shirt observing outfit. My ensemble is comprised of my favorite old Tilly Hat along with a Yerkes Observatory T-shirt, a pair of red/black flannel pj pants and flipflops not seen. Normally when I go pull out the old photon collectors I have an observing program in mind and take my time with my quarry of choice - this could include time on my son's lap top doing research on the objects or reading in a book. I will usually plan out what I want to study - be it double stars, galaxies, globbies, dark nebula etc. Or maybe I will study one constellation and dissect it end to end. Not tonight; in the words of my son "be totally random" and I was. This was hit and run astronomy with the scope pointing in all directions at different things with no continuity at all. My only guide was a well used Orion DeepSky 600 Astronomy Road Map. What did I see in 3 hours time? Here's the tally:
  • 38 double or multiple star systems
  • 20 globular clusters
  • 17 open clusters
  • 5 galaxies - not good seeing for these
  • 5 planetary nebula - only big and bright ones tonight
  • 7 diffuse nebula - again sky conditions
  • 6 red variables
  • 3 carbon stars
  • 3 planets of our solar system
  • 9 moons of these planets including another sighting of Neptune's Triton!
  • Mars and Venus preceding Luna in the predawn sky.
This not the complete tally: in many of the clusters there were various doubles and multiple star systems embedded which where not counted................who cares! This was a hit and run activity that helped to fill my depleted photon tank. Today I feel like an addict who is coming down from a runner - is there a support group out there? I got my fix - when can I get another?