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!