Sunday, December 11, 2011

DEC'11 Lunar Eclipse

What a great way to close out the observational year! I was very fortunate to have excellent viewing conditions and a easy to get to location to see this show - right on my driveway!

I was out the door at 4:15 a.m and I was able to spy the faint penumbrae "gray dusting" with my naked eye - easy with our very dry air conditions! Shades of gray on top of shades of grey.

First contact of the umbra is a highlight for me and right on time it shows itself kissing the lunar western frontier! Could it be because my street name is "Umbria Court" that I love this stuff so much?

As the shadow sojourned across Tom shows up to enjoy the unfolding shadow show. He joined me last year at this time for the previous total lunar eclipse. The cold and hour did not deter him from hanging out with the SUG, having some of his nitro coffee, and listening to my roaming commentary. Tom made good observes watching lunar features brighten and fade as totality came upon us. He really enjoyed the crater Tyco show that you can see in the pics!

AT 104 was the perfect scope for this outing with his sharp optics. The colors were absolutely vivid!

Here are keys to a successful early morning and very cool temperature Lunar Eclipse observe : Hot stick to your ribs SUGO Chicken Paprikash & Pasta the night before and nitro coffee! Bliss!

And of course a ruddy moon with shades of red, orange, brown and rust to color my western morning sky. By a stroke of celestial geometry I was just able to catch the end of totality on my nearby foothill with the binoculars with Luna a mere 5 degrees above the horizon shaded by morning haze in the distance. Not be left out Mrs.SUG joined me right at this minute and caught the still eclipsed moon as it kissed the western horizon. Impressed she was with this sublime view and her spouses fervor and tenacity to view all things cosmic!

Friday, December 2, 2011

End of Nov"11 Astro Stuff

I had my final session with Sierra NV Journey's Teacher's Workshop this Tuesday with our topic being Luna!

These teachers worked hard and put their hearts into everything! Modeling, observations, problem solving & presentation skills were covered. Great group to work with!

Saturday past while doing fall yard work there was a fine Sun Dog display to be enjoyed. Here is the eastern dog with arcs. The western one was hidden. I have been generally clouded out these last weeks. Wednesday eve looked promising till 80mph winds showed up!
And finally this is a book I have been wanting to read. I really like Dava Sobel's writing skills and research - amazing. I cannot recommended this read enough to shed the light of history upon events 400 years ago. Truly Science Faith Love melded together!

The last 10 pages were very moving. What was was played out is seen in the lives of the major players: devotion, heart felt dialogue and passion, nature's revelations, reverence, respect, and time as the great equalizer of everyone/everything.

Truly astronomy touches the human spirit and experience in many ways!

Monday, November 28, 2011

SNJ Teacher's Workshop Nov'11

Once again Sierra NV Journeys opened their doors to the Sidewalk Guy in the form of a teachers workshop on the Solar System. We had our first session last Tuesday.

Here are some pics of my highly involved group!

This group worked hard for the 4 hours of this first session - this after a long day in the classroom. We covered a lot of ground (and space!) in this time moving from activity to the next. They handled the Sidewalk Guy's energy & enthusiasm and are looking forward to their personal Lunar encounter this next Tuesday - 4 hours of Lunar indoctrination, hands on activities, viewing along with the Zodiac made simple!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Frosty 12.5" Observe.

We got a clearing this afternoon from the winter like squalls and clouds. Our temps even warmed a bit so out in the garage I went to do some cleaning. As I was out there 12.5"Discovery Dob kept "calling" out to me begging for a opportunity to gather some photons. A number of years back (7?) I undertook a series of Lunar observes with 12.5". Yes indeed aperture is king especially when you can stop down the scope on the moon and planets. My best views of Mars have been through this scope masked off and the lunar views are outstanding. I need to use this scope more! Even with our moon 3 days from full and our skies still somewhat hazy 12.5 was on my patio by 3 p.m with a few hours to cool down the glass.

The views were nice with 12.5"inches of mirror working for you. My viewing conditions were hazy, cold, Mag 3.5 and you had to wait for those still pockets of air. Using the aperture mask and adjustable polarizing filter, with still air provided nice minutes of viewing - but patience was required along with warm clothing! Lots of good views but the Zucchius /Schiller basin was the best. This horseshoe shaped degraded basin is over looked a lot but crater Schiller's elongated shape makes it a easy capture if you know what your looking for! I spent a good hour observing it's 2 more prominent rims and finally saw the elusive third - arrow point in the pic! Are there more? Yes but some are buried, pounded down by other impacts and just lost in the sea of crater holes lapped upon each other.

I also wanted to bag a few as of yet unseen Herschel objects in Cassiopeia which would be in fine position during my time out. This was not the night to go deep sky with the moon light and haze but open clusters can be done so with some warmth left in my body lets bag a few. NGC 436 is that nice knot of stars in the top right of the pic. It is nearby the way more famous and splashier NGC457 the ET Cluster or Owl Cluster. NGC457 is a Herschel Object also which I have observed in detail before but that roundish group at the top was my main interest tonight. What a wonderful small cluster it is looking like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup at medium power! I will visit this hidden stellar candy treat again next week once we are past full moon and hopefully some warm temps and clearer conditions!

While searching for other Herschel clusters I payed token visits to some very tough doubles in the area. Years ago (10?) I used 12.5 for ALL my observing; deep sky, solar system stuff, doubles and even outreach. It was my work horse scope. It even survived a bad car accident with minor dings! I have forgotten how this scope kills doubles. I really like pairs that have big magnitude differences. Sigma Cas is one of these and 12.5 split this very tough pair with ease. Nice color contrast and pin point stars - lovely lovely with another nearby faint (Mag 10.5 equal Mag pair which I never saw before! This duo of doubles was awesome!

So out on my patio 12.5" sits being now frosted over by our unusual colder, and humid weather. Frost is rare here but I think 12.5 likes it especially since it reminded it's owner this evening that a medium mirrored scope in a cardboard tube mounted on a wood mount can provide a fun observing experience! The owner needed a kick in the head and he got it!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nov '11 Astro Hodge Podge

I have a full slate of astronomy related activities for this fall month. Week 1 had excellent outreach opportunities, and quality observes from my yard. This last week has had winter like weather come in and it really killed the observational end of things. Our Sun is really putting on a show right now but my viewing options were limited to the Internet!

My backyard through the clouds Solar observe........

Even Herschel Wedge was bummed by it all. With wonderful Solar activity going on being covered by a blanket of puffy puffs there was no photon gathering for this very specialized device. The disappointment was profound!

But rays of light soon found me on Saturday with Drive By Astronomy chiming in on my face book with his very special picture of the current SUGSPOT activity! Apparently he is the only one that can do this type of Solar picture taking! For the life of me I have never seen this type of activity before! He had picture prefect conditions from his Buffalo NY digs and was bugging me all weekend with texts and phone calls about his quality observations. One thing we did do was a long distance Lunar observe via phone and Skype. I would be the navigator on this Saturday evening.
Using Alan Chu's down loadable atlas (if you want to seriously observe the moon you want this!) Mike was out in his yard with his 10" dob. Now I have been observing the moon in detail for sometime but this Chu Atlas is moving my and Mike's observing to a new level! Mike is falling in love with Luna. We had (or Mike had) the perfect evening for Domeland Luna observe! Over the course of two evenings Mike made awesome observes of hidden Lunar treasures! Hopefully he will chime in and tell you about them as it was a joy to hang with him on his excursion.

My weekend was brightened with the arrive of 'The Cambridge Atlas of Herschel Objects" to compliment my O'Meara "400 Guide"! The Cambridge was on sale @$26 (free ship too!) and could not be passed up. As soon as my weather clears 12.5 Discovery Dob will be out on the patio as I revisit and make some new celestial acquiesces! I will post my observes from time to time.

And finally a Raspberry Almond Scone on Sunday morning to ease my pain with this stormy pre winter weather! One of the best scones I have ever made enjoyed with extra bold french press coffee! I was in hog heaven doing couch astro dreaming of scopes on my patio with views to inspire!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

End Of October Astro Wrap Up '11

It has been a busy astro month for this patio observer & outreach amateur astronomer! Four outreaches over the last two weeks and numerous personal observes have filled my astronomy tank nicely. I am looking forward to Nov'11! Sept was a bust weather wise but October has been awesome with warm days, cool nights, and generally favorable conditions. My outreaches have enjoyed the warm sunshine with great Solar activity, and a SUG tan to enjoy!

The prior waning moon was a joy to behold with super edge views due to Luna's tilting action. Early morning patio views were easy to get up for due to the ultra dry air, cool temps, and outstanding views. With too many fine views to recount this pic sums it up nicely with the Pythagoras & Babbage show in the northern Lunar frontier! Oh of course Jupiter was observed with transits, occultations, eclipses , Red Spot transits observed.

I was busy throughout the month bagging and tagging doubles all over our sky. Aquarius, Pegasus, Aries, Cassiopeia, Perseus were places of observation. I also had a wonderful observe this past Sunday evening in the little fowl Equuleus which is galloping near Pegasus. I really enjoy the obscure and this tiny constellation is a double star hunters challenge with tight pairs. Navigating this pony required patience as most of it's "guide" stars where on the threshold of my vision with fall haze being most unwelcome! But the horse must be ridden and off I went into the celestial corral and was rewarded immensely for my efforts.

Epsilon Equ is the easiest to bag for the average observer and a wonderful treat it is with pale yellow primary and blue second!

Outreach on the driveway for Halloween evening closed out my month. Mrs.SUG/PUG/and this night DUG decided to run the show. On the phone with work related things and a call to mom she also handed out candy, astro treats, shared outstanding lunar and Perseus Double cluster views, organized the crowds, and kept me at bay.

Tonight was her night to shine as only she can doing many things at once!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Same Size Sun & Moon Street Astro

Awesome fall day here and what a opportunity to get out and share some of the universe. One thing I enjoy doing in my outreaches is to challenge my visitors to see and examine the sky delights in detail and context. This includes our Sun and Moon sharing the same angular size in our sky. With our Moon being 400x smaller than the Sun and the Sun 400x farther away provides for us one unique same size view of our Sun and Moon. A total Solar Eclipse demonstrates this very well! But with no total eclipse available we have to demonstrate this in other ways. The first challenge is picking out that 3 day smiley face Moon against the bright daytime sky.

This is where Jumbo Styro Ball comes in. With a little coaching from yours truly and with the lunar phase cycle now understood and modeled one can set out to find this thin Moon with the JSB modeling what they should see. And you know what, they will see it! The joy and glee of this self discovery never gets old. With no prior astronomy experience these 2 women out for a day in the park with the kids had 20 minutes of discovery and enlightenment!

Next we move to the Solar viewers as we compare our now discovered day light Moon and our nearby star. OMG they are the same size! Look at David's as face it tells the whole story. He was floored by this new revelation. Daye nearby quietly complicated the whole show.

Jason went through the whole of this Saturday afternoon program and made quality observations of Luna and Sol - this is the last stage. Yes they are the same size here too with the same eyepiece! The Solar limb action kept Jason glued and in the process he was able to catch a glimpse of a white light flare! Changing Lunar shadows reviled jumbo craters showing peaks over the hour he spent at the scope. His son Andrew was so well behaved as pop enjoyed the changing celestial show.

Daye came back twice during the afternoon to enjoy the changing faces of the Sun and Moon. Having some vision challenges she patiently observed and was rewarded with great views and detailed observes!

I think she really enjoyed the daytime astronomy thing!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sales Pitch For The Pemb's Astronomer......

And anyone else who will listen for that matter. Yes if you want to go deep and explore the heavens within the full potential of your scope, long term personal stamina and curiosity these two volumes in my humble opinion are a must have! My astronomy went off the scale years back when I acquired these two volumes from a die hard night sky hound who before his passing saw my appetite and fervency for all things cosmic. They are my ultimate resource. Yes I do use other atlases, maps etc but these volumes are in one word - priceless.

Wonderful overviews and look; variables galore! Easy but detailed charts break down every constellation into manageable parts. I have spent hours observing one small section of sky and getting photon loaded.

Enough double stars to keep you occupied for ?! Separations, magnitudes, colors, star types all there.

These volumes made me a double star addict! Want to learn a constellation? Do doubles!

The pics are from film shot in the 80's - 90's. But they give one a very adequate feel for what you may see depending at your scope, conditions, and viewing skill. The drawings and observing notes are incredibly accurate and well done. You will know in most cases what you are seeing without difficulty. Object detail becomes easy. Even open & globular clusters which to some all "look alike" will become individuals with their personal physical features, surroundings, highlights and charm. Yes charm!!!!!

A number of years back I started a open cluster survey out of these volumes which still inspires me today! I spent 2 years on it and have not finish it yet. Will I? Is there enough time? Those with 8"-12" scopes will have plenty to see for a long time. Smaller scope? Do not be intimidated these volumes are for you too! Doubles ,variables, clusters, dark nebula are waiting for you to discover! There are plenty of "bright" galaxies out there to hunt down. How much time do you have is the question. 4 years ago I did a Dark Nebula Observe at a high altitude site with my 12.5 Dob and a 35mm 2"eyepiece. I cannot explain the wonder of it all and yes because of these volumes.......

The tutorials are excellent. With practice you will be observing at a high level even with a small scope.

The first volume has a whole section called "Comprehending Our Fascinating Universe" which will give one a wonderful overview of the contents of our universe. Good solid science which is not meant to read in one seating but easy to understand. The section on variables was outstanding with so much to digest and ponder. You will understand what you are seeing! I still resource these sections often!

These volumes are bulky and require a table to use - they are not hand held as mine with broken bindings will attest. Some folks use these as a at home reference; mine I use at home and in the field which in most cases is the same haha! When in the field ( patio for me ) I place a red cellophane in a cardboard border over the pages which cuts down on the glare saves my night vision. I also plan ahead what i want to see before I go out to observe as the amount of stuff here is prodigious and you have to go back and forth between pages at times.

Oh did I mention great info on each sky pattern with attention to interesting stars, objects, spellings, names, history?

This is a serious resource.

Are you a dedicated observer -want a lifetime investment into your astro passion? Want to go to the next level?

Newbie? No problem! Take it bit by bit and you will be fine!

I am not a good reviewer and writing in detail is laborious and difficult for me. But I hope this pitch encourages you to consider these volumes and turn off your computer. In my mind there is nothing like flipping through a well made book with my scope under the skies or on the couch on a lazy weekend day. There are lots of quality observing guides out there. I really like Sue French's, O Meara's , Harrington's guides. But these have found a place in my heart and soul.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Getting Back Into Astronomy Mode And Loving It

Does your astronomy passion wax and wane like the lunar cycle - all full or barely there? Mine sure has over the months (for various reasons) but the Sidewalk /Patio Universe Guy aka SUG/PUG is back and is doing his observing and outreach thing. This weekend provided a full slate of astronomy for the this NV sky guy and the public being exposed to his astronomy resource table and telescope.

I did 2 events at the Marina sharing the wonders of the Sun and our daytime waning moon. Many where lassoed in without the SUG having to say a word: just show up, set up, and dress it up ( be prepared with lots of hands on stuff to involve one and all) I like to say! Yes they will gravitate toward the pull of astronomy made simple. Zuzana and Michael encountered the SUG on Saturday afternoon. Michael had his first telescope views which left him spellbound. Seeing the daytime moon and solar plasma surface ignited his science oriented mind and a super youngster to work with! Zuzana was able to catch our fast setting moon and model its phase with the Jumbo Styro Ball, enjoyed scope views, and did the Same Size Sun&Moon activity, along zodiac basics! These things will add to her current interest in Exo Biology and things cryptic concerning our universe. I had about 60 visitors over my 2 outings, got a suntan on my face and arms and enjoyed myself immensely.

The Patio Universe Guy was getting into personal observing mode also. Last week CR150/pier was set up in my concrete jungle yard and busy pulling in solar, comet, double star, winter sky objects, waning moon, Jupiter, Mars, and Uranus, Neptune views. Did I mention the Orionids Meteor Shower too which was observed in between eyepiece views? Total enjoyment and bliss out in the cool fall mornings!

Drive By Astronomy joined me on the phone for two extreme lunar limb observes ! FUN FUN! We explored the far northern and southern regions - he was on the computer , PUG on the scope. All this along with silly banter, good french press coffee as two adults are kids under our sky doing astronomy over three time zones.

I love this scope as the views never disappoint. But it is a commitment to set up and take down so once it is set up it stays up for awhile with the OTA removed and secured. Kinda funny looking at the pier and mount throughout the day on the patio with sparrows roosting on the mount! I wonder how it would look on the front lawn as a part of a water feature!

Lots of possibilities!

Winter Skies In The Fall Mornings

Oh how I love this time of year on the Eastern Sierra foothills with it's warm days and cool evenings. But it's the wee hours of the morning that I get really excited about. Nice dry, cool, still air which makes for fun viewing at our 4300 ft elevation. The next two months I hope will be astro bliss for this suburban backyard astronomy guy.

What is on the docket to observe....well lots! Jupiter will soon be at opposition with it's parading moons and atmospheric show. We have several early morning comets which will require 12.5" dob to be set up and challenge the PUG's observing skills see them at all as they are faint and relatively low in my sky. Plus in keeping with my habit of "observing one season ahead" all our fabulous winter deep sky stuff. Watch out Mr.Unicorn your treasures will be explored soon from this patio setting!

Also I received a request from Sierra NV Journeys last week to work with two different groups of grade school teachers in Nov/Dec. This is a good opportunity to invest in our educators and then all the youngsters. Looking forward to this.

Here is a awesome group of outdoor educators that I had the privilege to inspire in August of this year with SNJ! They were a very studious group and will be very successful in their astro efforts to the younger generations.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

New Sidewalk Universe Guy Outreach Effort

I am considering starting up my outreach again with our summer nearing a end and the promise of cooler temps in September. Solar System objects usually rule in my efforts; Sun, Moon, Planets and once in a while deep sky stuff when conditions and lighting permit as per location.

Last night while I was doing a causal lunar observe from my patio when my neighbor Edi with his daughter Rachel, and her friend Julie stopped over to enjoy the moon and Delta Scorpio show; a wide graze here but a pleasant view with both our eyes and through C8. Julie was really enjoying it all and her excitement got me thinking about outreach again.

Drive By Astronomy keeps encouraging me to try new things so it's about time I spiced things up a bit and get out of the normal routine. Time to be creative, engaging, novel, and push the boundaries of outreach education. Lets meet the needs of a astronomy deprived, and hungry public. I like to say "there's a cosmic object 0f choice for everyone & a dog of some variety for everyone!" Really!

Some people respond to the Moon. Others the Sun. And the planets have a way of getting everyone's attention! So how about a variety of dogs and sausages to cater to the multitudinous tastes out there. Both carnivore & vege alike. I can see it now - this cart, scope and table set up in areas where people mingle and walk! Oh the bliss of photons dancing in the eyes of my visitors with the competition for attention coming from tasty meats, veges, sauces and toppings on their taste buds and sweet, savory aromas in the olfactory pathways!

Is this sensory overload for the average person? Can the Sidewalk Universe Guy with white coat and white Spy Sunglasses (borrowed from his 20 something son) handle the traffic generated by this? Will SUG hog the scope and eat all the dogs? Will the ASP keep me as a NightSky Network site? What about the health and parks department? Will this create such a stir that the police will shut me down and drive me out of town?

Only time will tell!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Spending Time At the Beach

With the scope out on the patio from last nights comet treat and Solar activity to enjoy I just had to grab a view this morning.

I am a pretty simple person in my approach to life. I do not need expensive trips or vacations to relax; just a day trip here and there to the beach is a great rejuvenatory thing for me.

Solar Beaches ( those bright webby things surrounding active regions also called Faculae which are ionized gas hotter than the surroundings held aloft by magnetic field lines!) seem to have the same effect. With the wedge these just seem to jump off the Solar disk and are so striking!

Enlarge the image and see that group on the left edge - awesome!!!! My morning on the beach found me stuck behind the eyepiece for an hour taking in all the Solar limb was showing! With patient and black towel shrouded observations these Solar Beaches wax and wane in intensity over minutes with new extensions popping into view! FUN!!!!!

I did use plenty of sun screen too......

Out With C2009 P1 Garradd

I have always enjoyed comets. These solar system interlopers always have a air of mystery and wonder surrounding them. One of my favorite things in my astronomy passion is watching these guys wax/wane in size and intensity, and to follow their movement amongst the starry background both over hours and days.

This cosmic iceberg is so conveniently placed right now that it begged for a look. Our local weather has been warmer than normal and that brings in moisture off the Pacific; when that air hits our mountains we get haze so that has kept me sidelined from bagging this comet sooner.

I searched around and found this pic which I feel best represents last nights view with the AT106 apo and the viewing conditions. In this size scope the typical blue/green/grayish comet glow was easy to see and movement was detected just after 15 minutes! The tails what about the and out at best. Sometimes I imagine seeing them and then they vanish. So......

Tonight we will bring out more aperture. I must have my tail fix!!!!!!!

Friday, August 5, 2011


AT106 with Solar Wedge is just biting at the bit waiting for Old Sol to crest my neighbors roof top. He spent the night out on the patio recouping from a evening lunar survey the night before.

Our mornings as of late have been very cool so the views should be good. So much activity with fun giant Sunspot groups to enjoy along with some french press swill, fruit, and almond butter toast!

Pembs Astronomer has a great blog page and he has inspired me to........

Imitate him!

And here's the SUG trying to do a Pembrokes Astronomer Solar pic! Yes that fuzzy green orb is our sun through the AT106 and wedge combo. I can see & hear all the smirks and laughter now along with some other choice things but I NEVER said I can capture good pictures of any kind. Please refer to the questionable pic quality seen here from time to time!

Seriously the Solar view with the wedge is outstanding - super sharp, detailed and the photosphere features take on a almost 3D appearance.

Trust me!