Observing a Meteor Shower

During the late night of Saturday, May 24, 2014, a meteor shower was predicted to take place. Therefore, my dad and I decided to go observe the new meteor shower. Hearing about a RASC event earlier, we decided to go to Glen Major Park to observe the meteor shower.

Before we arrived there, we stopped at two other places. The first was a road off 16th Avenue. This area was where we had observed the skies in the past. However, for viewing the meteor shower, I didn’t think it was dark enough to view the night sky. My dad agreed with me. Therefore, we went further towards Glen Major Park. We next stopped in a field of grass. The sky was much clearer there. It made a world of difference being farther away from Markham. There, I saw a meteor flying by, and I saw another object. This object was streaking through the sky at a constant rate. It was a dim object. I believe it was a satellite. It was dim enough to be mixed into the stars, but I was able to see it. It was amazing to see it in skies that were light-polluted a few kilometres away. Despite the beautiful view, we decided to move forward to Glen Major Park.

We soon arrived in Glen Major Park in Clairmont. There, we heard the voices of other RASC members, who were enjoying the meteor shower that night. The sky was full of stars in the sky. I believe that it was dark enough to be able to clearly image the Milky Way. My dad and I, for a while, looked at the night sky to find any meteors shooting through the night sky. Then my dad pointed out that it is a darker sky and that M51 must be more visible now in the darker sky. He was right, and I decided to focus on imaging M51.

IMG_7080

I removed the DSLR Camera from the piggyback mount to the telescope using a t-adapter. We pointed it towards the handle of the big dipper. We then slewed the telescope to the area where M51 is.

We took a few images of that area. We couldn’t see it using Liveview, therefore we needed to take the long exposure images. After taking a few long exposure images, I looked at the images, and for some of those pictures, I saw two blurry objects close together. This led me to the conclusion that I had imaged M51. I was truly happy as I finally captured the most elusive Messier object I have ever seen. After capturing M51, I decided to take long exposure images of the night sky.

My dad suggested that I image Cassiopeia, which I did. The images were quite dim, but the camera was able to collect enough light to get a good image. However, unexpectedly, I saw a bright star moving fast across the sky. It was the ISS flying through the sky. It was amazing to see the ISS again moving so fast and so high across the sky. I was able to get a 30 second exposure image of it streaking through the sky. It was a beautiful sight.

IMG_7103

Eventually, it fell below the horizon and disappeared. We soon returned to imaging Cassiopeia. I was able to get four good images of Cassiopeia. It was spectacular.

Stacked_Cassiopeia

 

After those images, we noticed the rising crescent moon in the eastern sky. It was beautiful, especially when it was low in the horizon. I was able to image it, but there were too many clouds in the way. At that time of the day, the moon’s rising means that it was around 3-4 am. At that time, we decided to pack up the telescope, and head home.

IMG_7108

It was a wonderful night. We saw a lot and learned a lot more. Looking at the pictures, many turned out great, with the exception of the M51 images. I realized that they were actually stars that were warped when the camera shook during its capture. It was heartbreaking, but what could I do? The journey to find M51 still goes on. However, I was able to see many more objects in the sky with my dad. It was breathtaking and a great time.

IMG_7099

I advise anyone who is interested in viewing clear skies to go up to Glen Major Park or Long Sault Conservation Area for the best clear skies according to RASC. Good Luck and Happy Observing!

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Sudbury Skies

On Sunday, May 18, 2014, during the Victoria Day long weekend, I was up in Sudbury with my family. We were blessed with beautiful night skies, and as a result my dad and I decided to take advantage of it and observe the night sky. We went outside to a clear area in our surroundings. After setting up the scope, it was ready to align.

We saw very unusual objects. There were fast moving objects in the sky moving as a group. We thought they were UFO’s at first, but we realized that they were birds flying across the sky. It was unusual to see these birds illuminated at night, even though Sudbury is a pretty dark place. However, due to the construction around the land, there were a lot of lights pointed towards the sky. Those lights illuminated the birds quite brightly, which led to that confusion. After clearing that up, we continued on with our astronomical goals.

We first aligned the telescope with Mars. Looking at Mars, it was a beautiful red dot that shined brightly in the sky. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make out any details on it. Looking at the sky, we also found Saturn and Jupiter in the sky. Saturn was moving upwards away from the horizon, and Jupiter was moving towards the horizon. From the locations of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, I drew a line between them to see where the ecliptic was. The ecliptic is the path the sun takes when it rises and sets every day. I was able to estimate the location of the ecliptic, because all the planets orbit close to the plane of the sun, thus we see the rising and setting of planets near the same location as the ecliptic. It is quite interesting. After realizing that, we soon decided to slew to Saturn.

After slewing to Saturn we saw a brilliant planet surrounded with beautiful rings. It was a sight to see, especially up in the Sudbury sky. Looking around for another target, we saw a star that was flickering in the atmosphere between different colours. It was intriguing to my dad and me. I thought it was a variable star. However, my dad believed it was a star that was so low in the atmosphere that the atmosphere was dispersing the light. I’m not certain, but it could be it. We slewed to it and saw the fluttering star. However, at midnight, the clouds started to come in and block the starlight. With that, we decided to pack the telescope back into the truck and return inside.

Back in Action

I had telescope troubles earlier this year. As a result, I was out of commission for a large part of the year. Earlier, this week, my dad was able to resolve one of those troubles, and On Friday, May 16, 2014, I took the newly resolved telescope on a test run.

Once I brought everything out, I decided to align my telescope to Mars. My biggest worry in the repairs is that the tracking ability of my telescope would not work. After aligning it to Mars, I left it pointed at Mars for a while. When I returned to Mars, it hadn’t drifted from its position. This is a good sign that tracking is still working in the fixed scope.

After checking it a few times, it had drifted but not enough that tracking failed completely. I was happy with the results I was seeing. To see if tracking works away from the alignment object, I slewed my telescope to a random star. Leaving it for a while, the star did drift, but not far enough to conclude that tracking is not working. As far as I am concerned, tracking was working. I was really happy with the results I was seeing.

My next test took place in the opposite part of the sky. There was a dim star in the Western part of the sky, which I pointed my scope at. I looked at it for a while. I had to readjust my scope a couple of times, but it didn’t drift fast enough to conclude that tracking was failing. I was really impressed with the great job my dad did in resolving the issues in my telescope.

Lastly, aligned to Mars, I decided to point my scope at Saturn. There, it drifted a great distance, which concerned me. If it didn’t track with Saturn, then what is the problem? Has the gear burnt out? Has the software failed? Luckily, there was no problem. Saturn was able to stay inside the field of view of my telescope for a long time after readjusting it back to the center of my field of view. This confirmed the results that I had received, that my telescope troubles were over at last.

Happy with the results of my test run, I decided to pack up my telescope, and bring it inside. However, I wasn’t done. Before packing, I saw the rising of the moon through dense trees. This gave me the idea of watching the Moon rise. Therefore, after packing up and bringing all my equipment inside, I decided to head to a dark spot where the moon can be easily observed. Sadly, the moon had already risen, but it was no less beautiful. With my tripod and camera, I was able to compose a number of images of the scene with the moon in the background. It was very nice. A short while later, when it started to get too cold. I packed up and headed home. I was very happy with the results of that night, and with my telescope troubles officially over, I can continue to observe and image in the near future.

 

Sunspots and Solar Flares

On Tuesday, May 5, 2014, as part of astronomy week, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) hosted a solar observation event at the Ontario Science Centre. I was able to attend this event and observe the sun with a variety of telescopes. Most telescopes are using Baader film, which makes the sun look white, and hides the solar flare and prominences, but clearly shows the sunspots on the sun.

Another telescope called the Coronado PST uses a hydrogen-alpha filter. All the light, except the hydrogen-alpha light are filtered out and the sun glows red. The image projected shows the sun, but the sunspots are unclear. However, the solar flares and prominences are visible.

Looking at the sun using those telescopes was very intriguing. In my previous blog post, I talked about how the magnetic field of the sun works to form sunspots, prominences, and other solar activity. Going to RASC’s solar observing event gave me the opportunity to observe what I wrote about. I was able to see the sunspots. They were close enough to look like an arc was there. On the Coronado PST, there was a prominence or a flare visible from the top right of the image. It was an amazing feeling to see the sun so alive and so active.

The Sun through Hydrogen-alpha filter via Coronado PST.

I encourage anyone living in Toronto to come to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada`s events. You can go to their website at: rascto.ca

To learn about solar activity, go to: https://jolyastronomy.com/2014/05/05/magnetic-fields-from-the-sun/

 

 

Magnetic Fields: From the Sun

It’s not just the planets that have magnetic fields. The Sun also has a very large and dynamic magnetic field.

The sun’s magnetic field is formed much like on Earth and Jupiter. There are convection cells that bring heat from the sun’s heat sources to the surface. These convection cells, and the sun’s rotation period of 25.4 Earth days produce the sun’s magnetic fields. However, there are many notable differences.

These granules on the sun are convection cells.

The sun is over 12,000 times larger than the Earth, which means that its magnetic fields are larger as well. It’s so large, it extends past the orbit of Pluto. However, it isn’t a solid object, like Earth. The sun’s material is mostly plasma, which works like a gas; like Jupiter. This means that the sun experiences differential rotation, where the equator rotates faster than the poles. On the sun, its Equator rotates every 25.4 days, but its poles rotate every 29 days. This video will demonstrate what that does to the sun.
When the sun rotates, the equator stretchs the magnetic field lines towards the sun’s direction of rotation, and it will keep stretching it until they snap like rubber bands. When they snap, they release the energy in the magnetic field and the magnetic field lines pop out of the sun. These magnetic field lines cause the charged particles from the surface to become trapped along the magnetic field lines. Those trapped particles are called prominences. In addition, Sunspots are formed where the magnetic field lines poke out and in, when the charged particles are lifted from its surface. That is why sunspots are common during periods of high solar activity, like the Solar Maximum.

Eventually, the magnetic field lines will reconnect with each other, and release a lot of energy, leading to large solar flares, and coronal mass ejections. At the same time, the polarity of the magnetic fields will reverse. When the flip is complete, the sun’s magnetic field will drop to zero, reappear in its reversed polarity, and start the process again. This process occurs every 11 years and after each cycle, the poles reverse.

Today, there is evidence that the Sun’s magnetic field is in the process of flipping after a chaotic solar maximum. Once the flip is complete, the process starts again.

Here is a video that talks about the sun and its solar cycle by NASA:

 

 

Thank you for reading! For my next topic, I want to hear from you. What do you want me to write about next time? You can respond by going to the contact form at: http://www.jolyastronomy.com/contact-me/  Thank You.

WORKS CITED

Coursera Lecture 6.6

http://www.windows2universe.org/sun/activity/sun_mag_field_rotate_tangle.html

http://www.windows2universe.org/sun/solar_activity.html

http://www.windows2universe.org/sun/activity/sunspot_cycle.html

http://www.windows2universe.org/sun/activity/solar_cycle.html

http://www.windows2universe.org/sun/sun_magnetic_field.html

http://www.windows2universe.org/sun/atmosphere/solar_flares.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/01/06/sun-magnetic-field-polarity-reverse/4306845/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/08/130807-sun-magnetic-field-reversal-space-weather/

http://www.space.com/23551-sun-magnetic-field-flip-video.html

 

IMAGES USED

 

VIDEO USED

Astronomical Events for May 2014

Hello everybody,

Here are the astronomical events occurring in the month of May: (All times are given in UTC format)

       Astronomical Events

  • May 3: For viewers in North-West Brazil and Peru, at approximately 9:17 am, asteroid 105 Artemis will occult a +7.7 magnitude star.
  • May 4: For viewers in Peru and Ecuador, at approximately ~10:12, asteroid 34 Circe will occult a +7.4 Magnitude star.
  • May 6: The closest lunar apogee will occur at 10:23 with the moon being 404,318 km distant from Earth.
  • May 5-7: The Eta Aquarid meteor shower will peak. This meteor shower started at April 19, and end on May 28, but the most meteorites you will see will be on May 5-7. This meteor shower is made up of the remains of Halley’s comet. The first quarter moon will be present at the beginning of the night, but after 12 pm, it will set and the sky will become dark enough to view the meteor shower. While, they can come from anywhere, their origin will usually be from one point, and in this case, it is from the Aquarius constellation. Comets will leave gas behind when it ejects gas. That dust is scattered about its orbit, and when the Earth intersects with the comet’s orbit, then more of the comet dust will enter the atmosphere, and form a meteor shower. Since they are orbiting the same direction, it appears to all come from one point in the sky. That is called the radiant. This dust is how meteor showers occur.
  • May 7: For Australia and Indonesia, asteroid 206 Hersilia occults a +7.5 magnitude star at approximately 17:49.
  • May 10: Saturn reaches opposition. It is shining with a magnitude of +0.1. It’s rings are tipped over a maximum of 23 degrees into our line of sight on February 11th, and will widen overall in 2014.
  • May 13: A double transit event will take place on Jupiter from 9:20 – 9:32 visible from North-west North America.
  • May 14: The moon will occult Saturn on approximately 12:18. This will be visible in Australia and New Zealand.
  • May 24: A meteor shower may occur here thanks to Comet 209P LINEAR.
  • May 24: For South America, Asteroid 33 Polyhymnia occults a +5.5 magnitude at approximately 8:30.
  • May 25: Mercury reaches maximum dusk elongation, 22.7 degrees east of the sun. This is Mercury’s best evening apparition for 2014 for northern hemisphere viewers.

         RASC Toronto Centre Events (These times will be written as EST or EDT)

  • May 3-4: the AstroCATS will take place. It is a trade show that features seminars, guest lecturers, exhibitions, and many other events. There is also a special hotel accomodation for the guests. It’s going to be fun.
  • May 5 – 8: RASC will be hosting a city star party at either Bayview Village Park or at High Park. These parties are dependent on the weather, and a window is set for the party. If a night is clear, RASC gives the GO call and the party will take place that day. If a NO GO call is given, the party is postponed until the next day when another GO/NO GO Call is given. If all the days in the window were given a NO GO call, then the party is cancelled for the month, and will try again next month. If a GO call is given, guests start setting up their telescope at around 7:30 pm. Go to rascto.ca for more information and for the GO/NO GO call. It’s free to attend for the whole public.
  • Wednesday, May 7: Marshall L. McCall, who works at York University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy will talk about the arrangement of galaxies all around us and how that affects us. It will take place at the Ontario Science Centre. It is free to attend, and everyone can attend.
  • May 21: It is RASC’s Recreational Astronomy Night. It will take place at the Ontario Science Centre from 7-10 pm. Parking is free after 6 pm. There will be four speakers: Francois van Heerden will discuss the sky this month. Jason Toliopoulos will discuss Astronomy for dummies… by dummies. Francois van Heerden will give an update by the RASC board of directors. Lastly, Paul Mortfield will give tips to help us bring astronomy to people at star parties. It is free to attend, and anyone can attend.
  • May 24-25: Members have the opportunity to work at the E.C. Carr Observatory. This is the Carr Observatory Spring Work Party. It’ll allow you to get hands on experience in working at an observatory. There is room for everyone there. It is for members only, but members can attend for free. It is at Blue Mountain. Go to rascto.ca for more details.
  • On May 26-29: RASC will be hosting a Dark Sky Party at the Sault Lake Conservation Area. At this party, it will be dark enough to view the faintest objects in the sky, such as M51, Andromeda Galaxy, and many other Deep Sky Objects (DSO’s). This event is weather dependent, therefore go to rascto.ca for the GO/NO GO call. It is free to attend, and everyone can attend. Telescopes not mandatory.
  • Go to http://www.rascto.ca for more information. Thank You!

 

 

WORK CITED

http://www.universetoday.com/107259/101-astronomical-events-for-2014/

Coursera lecture 5.12

http://www.iflscience.com/space/skywatching-events-not-miss-2014

rascto.ca