About Chris Joly

I am an Armenian-Canadian student. I am an amateur astronomer, amateur photographer, home winemaker, and writer. My goal is to write about my experiences, and anything of significance and to share it with the world. I hope you all enjoy what I write.

Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: The RASC Party

On January 19, 2015, RASC hosted a star party at Glen Major Forest, and since it would be my last chance at imaging the comet before starting my new job, I decided to take advantage of the party and go there.

My goal at that party would be to image the comet with its tail. When I arrived, there were many people already there. There were new members, and veteran members. More people would’ve come, but seeing as it was very cold, it was understandable.

After saying hi to everyone, and looking at the comet through a friend of mine’s binoculars, I quickly set up my telescope, and aligned it to Betelgeuse and Polaris, with the help of one of my friends.

After asking the host to show me where the comet is, I tried finding it with my telescope. After a lot of help from my friends, I eventually found it, and set my telescope to take multiple one minute exposures. The result were very shaky, but there were a few photos that turned out well.

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Comet Lovejoy 61.2″ exposure, f/10, ISO 1600

 

While the camera was capturing the photos, I went around and saw what everyone else was doing. They were all looking at very cool celestial objects. However, there were bright lights that came during the night from the North-East. It was troubling. My friends told us that it was from a nearby ski resort. Hopefully, the lights don’t ruin any future RASC events at Glen Major forest.

Soon enough, the clouds came in, and we all packed up. I was the second-last to leave, while the host left the last. It was a successful night. I was able to get a good image of the comet, but I didn’t get the tail like I wanted to. This would probably be my last chance at imaging the comet. The next day was predicted to be clear, but I have to get up early the day after for work. Thankfully, I do not let that day go to waste. See the next blog post.

Keep Looking Up. There is always something up there.

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01/23/2015 – Jupiter will experience three simultaneous total solar eclipses tonight!

There will be a rare celestial dance in the cosmic ballet tonight. In Canada, the forecast is up in the air, but nevertheless, get yourself ready for an amazing imaging and observing opportunity, TONIGHT!

Bob Moler's Ephemeris Blog

Total solar eclipses on Jupiter are nearly a daily occurrence on Jupiter.  However what we’ll see is the shadows of the moons crossing the face of the planet.  Shadows of the Jovian moons on the fave of Jupiter are difficult to see with small telescopes.  The look like tiny inky black dots.

Another way to watch the event is via Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.  The link is here.  Their event starts at 11:30 p.m. EST because Jupiter rises later there.  The email I received from them says the next triple shadow event on Jupiter won’t occur until 2032,

Here’s the schedule:  Moons:  I = Io, II = Europa, IV = Callisto; SHA = Shadow,  Tra = Transit (a moon crossing disk of Jupiter)

Moon Event UT Date hh:mm EST Date Time IV: Sha start: 24 Jan 2015 3:11 23 Jan 2015 10:11 p.m. I: Sha start: 24 Jan…

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Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: A timelapse

On January 16/17, 2015, I went to Glen Major again, and set up my telescope the same way.

I tried looking for the comet using my camera at 300 mm zoom, but to no avail. The comet was nowhere to be seen. It was frustrating for me to not see the comet, but it wasn’t meant to be. Therefore, I decided to let my camera image a number of frames of the sky and back home, I would combine them together to create a startrails image.

At this time, I wanted to try finding the comet using the wide-angle lens, but I wan’t finding it and the clouds were coming over. Therefore, I decided to pack up and go home. Just before I left, I looked up again, and saw that the sky cleared up again. It was unfortunate, but I was ready to leave.

The session was successful. I got a timelapse image, but I didn’t get image the comet like I wanted to. Hopefully, I get a second chance at it. For now, here is the image, and the videos that came from it.

Startrails_Sky_v3

139 frames: 20″, f/4, ISO 1600

 

Keep Looking Up. You never know what you will find up there.

 

Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: At Glen Major again.

On January 12, I went up to Glen Major again to try my hand at imaging the comet again.

It was cold as always, but that didn’t stop me. I quickly assembled and aligned my telescope to my two favorite stars, Betelgeuse and Polaris. Before I tried imaging the comet again, I decided to take 10 images of the Orion Nebula to stack back home. The result was not good. The images turned out to be blurry, and unfocused. It’s disappointing. In the future, I need to figure out why it is so unfocused. Maybe the telescope needs to acclimatize to the ambient temperature (-20 C :P). Maybe there is a problem with the mirrors. Whatever the case, I need to find a solution.

I then began searching for the comet using my camera. I started taking pictures of the sky to try and find the comet, but I noticed the pictures displaying signs of trailing, which meant that the mount became too cold to operate properly, which led me to pack up and go back home.

Before going home, I was able to image the cityscape on the road to Clairemont. It was beautiful, but imaging it was difficult. After that, I went back home.

I may have not captured any good image that day, but on January 14th, I was able to image a close approach of Venus and Mercury from my bedroom. Here is the picture below. Venus is snuggling beside the tree, and Mercury is a step away from the tree.

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Venus and Mercury between a tree: 20″, f/5.6, ISO 1600

Keep Looking Up. You never know what you will find.

 

Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: Up on Cold Creek

On January 10, 2015, New Eyes Old Skies hosted an event at the Cold Creek Conservation Park. DDO Defenders astronomers and Ian Shelton and Tuba Koktay, in a heated building, presented to all the participants an overview of what to expect in the night sky during the month of January, and it was interesting. This month featured a visible Jupiter moving up the night sky; Venus, and Mercury coming close to each other; and a bright comet called Comet Lovejoy flying through the sky, getting better and better until the Moon comes back. The presentation successfully piqued the interest of many participants.

Before I arrived at Cold Creek Conservation Park, I drove up a hill in Markham where all of Markham was visible. There, I was able to image Venus and Mercury, although not in the same frame.

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Venus after Sunset. 1/125″ exp, f/10, ISO 1600

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Mercury after sunset. 1/15″ exp, f/10, ISO 1600

Coming into the park, it was completely overcast. By the end of Ian’s presentation, the sky cleared up enough to reveal the night sky. There were a few scattered clouds in the sky, but they quickly moved out of our way. Since the temperature was -9 C, I had to set up and image very quickly lest the telescope freezes again. Taking what I learned from my previous astronomy session in Glen Major Forest, I aligned my telescope to Betelgeuse and Polaris using the Two Star Alignment method. When it was ready, I let everyone know inside, and many came out to see me image the night sky.

That night, I got lucky with good images of Comet Lovejoy.

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Comet Lovejoy: 75mm focal length: 10″ exp, f/4, ISO 1600

I had taken 10 x 30 second exposure images to stack, but when I checked them, only one was good enough to share. The rest suffered from camera shake. Here it is below:

IMG_1093

Comet Lovejoy: 255mm focal length: 30″ exposure, f/5.6, and ISO 1600.

I wanted to find the comet using my telescope, but my battery was low on energy and finally died. Disappointed, but satisfied with my work, I packed up my scope and made my way home. It was a successful night. I got the chance to image the comet again, and get better pictures. I didn’t get the tail like I wanted, but I guess there is always next time.

Thank You for reading everyone. I hope you are all enjoying these stories. I wanted to mention that the presenters, Ian and Tuba offer a number of classes for the general public, most notably their “Introduction to Astrophotography” class. The courses are full of useful information, and are very well presented. I have taken these courses, and I learned a lot from them. I recommended them to everyone interested in astrophotography. The link is here.  They also have a lecture series called, ‘Search for Extraterrestrials: Life Originating Elsewhere in the Universe.’ The link is here. Keep looking up! You never know what you will find up there.

 

Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: Failure at Glen Major

On January 9/10, 2015, my father and I decided to go to Glen Major Forest to image the comet.

It was -13 C that night, with windchill making it worse. Within a few minutes of arriving, we started setting up the telescope outside. We quickly aligned the telescope to the Moon, and we saw the majesty of the Moon up close. We tested the mount’s tracking capabilites by letting the telescope track the Moon, and it was successful. We decided to move towards Jupiter next, and we stayed there. However, it started to drift greatly. This gave us the theory that the planetary alignment is only good as long as the telescope doesn’t move around. It was a revelation. We then begin to realign using the Two Star Alignment method.

We aligned the scope to Betelgeuse, and Polaris, but the mount started to slow down at top speed. Having been exposed to the cold for over an hour, the motor started to freeze, and soon enough froze all together. Luckily, we brought two telescope mounts with us, and we debated whether to switch out the mounts. Eventually we did, but when it came time to align the telescope, the mount did not respond to my commands. It was heartbreaking for me. Our second chance at imaging the night sky failed for some reason.

After that, I took a few random pictures, and then we quickly packed up and left. That session went really badly. I didn’t get any good pictures that night. The only thing I took away from that night is that Solar System Alignment is only good for planetary observing. The next time I go outside, I will not make that mistake again.

Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: From my backyard

This new year gifted us with many great opportunities to see something truly unique. It’s called C/2014 Q2, also known as, Comet Lovejoy.

Comet Lovejoy was first discovered by Terry Lovejoy in Australia in August 2014. Ever since that time, it has brightened significantly, and has now crossed the celestial equator becoming visible for the Northern Hemisphere. Since the start of the new year, I’ve been trying to image the comet. The next few posts will chronicle my attempts to image the comet.

 

My First Attempt

On January 6, 2015, I started my journey on my front yard, freezing myself in sub-zero temperatures. I opted to use my tripod instead of my telescope. I started taking pictures of the full moon. It was magnificent!

IMG_0300

The Full Moon

After capturing a number of good images, I went on to image the Orion Nebula. That took more effort, but it was all for naught, as my images were not focused enough. It was heartbreaking but there was no point sulking on it.

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Orion Nebula Out of Focus

 

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Cropped_Orion_Nebula

I then decided to try my hand at imaging the comet, and I was dealt a good hand. Using my father’s telephoto lens, I was able to image the comet near Orion. I took a number of two second exposures of the image, adjusting the image to get the comet at the center of the frame each time until it was just right. I was able to stack them together to reduce the noise. The final image was dim, but I have, indeed, caught a comet.

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Comet Lovejoy – Highlighted

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Comet_Cropped

My camera’s memory was filling up, and I decided to end the session with a few images of the Pleiades. Those were one of the best images I had captured that night. The seven sisters were shining beautifully that night with all their grace.

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M45/The Pleiades

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The Pleiades_Cropped

That night was a successful night. I was able to image many celestial objects. It served as the start of my journey to image the comet, and other Deep Sky Objects. I continued my journey in the next few days.

 

End of Inner Planet Missions

Another year, another set of missions to monitor, and launch. However, we will be bidding adieu to two missions currently orbiting the inner planets Venus, and Mercury.

 

Venus Express needs a gas station

For those who don’t know, the Venus Express is a mission sent by the European Space Agency (ESA). The mission was sent to study the atmosphere, clouds, the plasma environment and the surface of Venus from orbit.

The mission was designed to last for 500 days, but the mission was extended 3 times.It lasted for eight years in orbit, completed all its scientific goals, and performed a dangerous aerobraking maneuver, which gradually brought the orbiter down 130 km above the surface. Unfortunately, On November 28, 2014, things took a turn for the bad as the ESA lost contact with the craft.

They did regain contact with the craft, but are receiving only little bits of information. Sadly, they discovered that it most likely ran out of fuel. On December 16, 2014, the ESA ended the mission leaving the probe to kiss the atmosphere until it burns up. That is expected to happen early January.This spacecraft provided a lot of information from its actions, and discoveries, which will be applied to the next generation of spacecrafts. The same fate is also going to happen to another inner planet mission, but unlike Venus Express, it got more time than expected.

 

MESSENGER propelled by coolant.

For those who don’t know, MESSENGER is a spacecraft sent to Mercury by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It was launched into space on August 3, 2004. This mission is unique, because it is the second spacecraft to fly-by Mercury, and the first to orbit Mercury! It started collecting data on April 11, 2011, and finished its main goals in March 17, 2012. It completed its mapping of Mercury on March 6, 2013, and also completed its two extended missions.

After 10 years of being in space, travelling over 8 billion miles, taking over 255,858+ images, and completing 3,308 orbits of Mercury, its fuel is finally exhausted and is poised to impact Mercury early this year. Luckily, some engineering ingenuity gave it more time.

All its propellant is used up, and will eventually collide with Mercury, but its helium supply, used to pressurize the propellant, can be used to adjust its trajectory, delaying its fate by over a month. Despite its fate, it revealed to us many topics of interest.

Water ice was found in some of Mercury’s permanently shadowed craters. The atmosphere and weak magnetic field lines are influenced by the Sun. There is a lot more to discover, and that will be the job of future missions.

 

These missions have worked hard to provide data for us back on Earth, but with the conclusion of these missions means that the inner planets will no longer have any active orbiters present in their vicinity. The inner planets will not be monitored up close anymore. Hopefully, NASA, ESA, or any other space agency will soon launch another mission to Venus or Mercury to collect more data, and make more discoveries on these planets.

 

Keep Looking Up!

 

WORKS CITED

http://sci.esa.int/venus-express/55141-venus-express-goes-gently-into-the-night/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_Express

http://blogs.esa.int/rocketscience/2014/05/16/surfing-an-alien-atmosphere/

http://www.universetoday.com/117312/venus-express-out-of-gas-mission-concludes-spacecraft-on-death-watch/

http://space.io9.com/venus-express-isnt-dead-yet-1607083367

http://sci.esa.int/venus-express/54915-venturing-into-the-upper-atmosphere-of-venus/

http://www.universetoday.com/117737/mercury-spacecrafts-2015-death-watch-could-go-one-more-month/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MESSENGER

http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasa-s-messenger-spacecraft-10-years-in-space/#.VKZXzSvF98E

 

 

WORKS CONSULTED

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA

http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/#.VKZVrivF98E

 

Astronomical Events for January 2015

Hello everybody,

Happy New Year!

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

       Astronomical Events

  • January 1: Comet C/2012 Q2 Lovejoy might reach naked eye visibility.
  • January 3: The Quadrantid Meteor shower will peak at 2:00. Favours Northern Europe.
  • January 4: Earth reaches perihelion at approximately 8:00. The sun will look its biggest and be at its closest.
  • January 14: Mercury reaches 18.9 degrees East of the sun at approximately 16:00.
  • January 17: Moons of Io and Europa are expected to cast a double shadow eclipse on Jupiter from 3:53 – 4:58.
  • January 20: Mars passes 0.2 degrees from Neptune at approx 20:00.
  • January 23-24: A triple-transit event on Jupiter. This one is particularly unique because Callisto will Eclipse Io, which means two of the shadows will merge for a short period of time at 5:48 UTC. EST people will see it at 12:48 am. It won’t last long, so be ready for it.!
  • January 29: The Moon will occult Aldebaran at approximately 17:31 UTC for the Arctic. This will be the first occultation by the Moon in 2015.

Since this is the New Year, I was thinking we could go through the Top 10 events according to SkyNews:

  1. March 24: The Moon will pass close to Aldebaran throughout 2015. However, this time, the Moon will pass close to the Hyades star cluster.
  2. April 4: The tetrad of total lunar eclipses will continue again. This will take place before the dawn. This is best seen in Western Canada. In Toronto, the Moon will set during the initial partial phase. Totality will last five minutes only.
  3. April 21: Mercury will appear its best, with Mars close by. Nearby will be Venus and a crescent Moon. Venus will reach its greatest angle from the Sun on June 6.
  4. June 30: Venus and Jupiter will reach close conjunction, just 20 arc minutes apart. They will be close enough to see in the telescope in the same eyepiece. On June 19, the waxing Moon will be close to Venus and Jupiter to make a triple conjunction.
  5. September 5: Aldebaran will be occulted by the Moon. It will be visible in southern Ontario and farther east. Moon will rise and soon after, from midnight to 2 am, and occult Aldebaran. Western Canada will be able to see the Moon occult Aldebaran on November 26, from 2 – 4 am. It will be on the full phase.
  6. September 27: The last total eclipse in the Tetrad. Won’t happen again for a long time. This will happen in the early evening and is visible across all of Canada. From the west coast, The Moon rises just before totality begins. The Moon will reach its closest to Earth for 2015, less than one hour before totality. It will last for 72 minutes. Coastal areas will also see higher tides.
  7. October 8: Moon will get into a close conjunction with Venus, Regulus, and nearby will be Mars, Jupiter, and Mercury. This will be best morning appearance for 2015 for Canada. On October 11, a crescent Moon will appear 2 degrees before Mercury.
  8. October 23: Mercury will shine below a close conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and Mars. Mars and Jupiter will be 1/2 degree apart on October 17, and 18 and on October 25, Venus and Jupiter will pass 1 degree within each other. On October 28, the Mars, Venus and Jupiter will get close to each other again in the morning sky.
  9. November 7: Moon will get close of Venus, Mars and Jupiter. Moon will get close to Venus by 1.5 degrees. Mars will be nearby as well. Earlier in the week, Venus will pass 3/4 degree from Mars on the mornings of November 2 and 3. This will be a second chance for those who miss the februrary 20 event, (see honourable mentions)
  10. December 7: Venus and Moon will get into close conjunction and then occult. Venus and Moon will get close to each other. They are in a long line across the sky. As time goes on, the Moon will get closer to Venus, until the Moon passes in front of Venus during the day. It will be visible across all of Canada.

Honourable Mentions:

  • February 20: A triple conjunction will take place. The waxing crescent Moon, Mars and Venus will get very close to each other.
  • January 19: For those with telescopes, this will be a good chance for amateurs to get a glimpse of Neptune as Mars will pass very close to Neptune. It will be a full 13 arc minutes away.

 

 

 

WORK CITED

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

rascto.ca

 

WORKS CONSULTED

http://www.cita.utoronto.ca/

One year ago…

Last year, I was given the idea by my parents to start writing a blog about my experiences with astronomy. I took that idea and created “Joly Astronomy.” Throughout this year I kept writing about my experiences, all the good and the bad. Four days ago was my blog’s first anniversary, and this year has given me many opportunities to observe and explore the night sky, image celestial objects, and stand in awe of the universe. I saw and imaged:

  • The Lunar Eclipse.
  • M42.
  • A meteor shower.
  • ISS flying in the sky.
  • The Sun and its sunspots.
  • Conjunctions.
  • The beauty of Long Sault Conservation Park’s and Glen Major’s dark skies.
  • Star trails in dark skies.
  • and many more objects in the night sky.

Thank You to everyone who comes and reads my blog. You are all awesome. Keep coming back, and keep looking up. You never know what you might find up there.