What I’ve Been Up To

Hi Everyone,

Notwithstanding my update for June’s astronomical events, I’ve been absent for the whole month of May. That is because it’s been a busy month for me. Here’s a bit of an update of what I’ve been up to from April 22 to now.

On April 22, 2015, I delivered my presentation about my experience as an amateur astronomer that day. Throughout the presentation, I talked about the photos I took, honestly, and with a little bit of humour. It was well received by the audience.  I hope to follow that up with another presentation a few years down the line.

On April 28, 2015, I discovered the wonders of BackyardEOS. It’s a program that uses your DSLR camera like a CCD Camera. It was really effective as an imaging device, and as a focusing device. I got a few pictures like this using BackyardEOS.

Jupiter_EOS_Test_Tv1-30s_800iso_1024x688_20150428-21h23m00s_Stacked_EOS_Histo

On May 8, 2015, It was a clear night, and I felt like taking another startrails image. Therefore, I made another startrails image from my backyard. I used over 700 frames, 5”, f/4.5, ISO-800. It turned out really well.

StarStaX_IMG_0587-IMG_1333_gap_filling

From May 20-24, 2015, I had the opportunity to volunteer for the International Space Development Conference (ISDC). It was a great experience as I made met many heavyweights in the aerospace industry, gained valuable experience, and made many new friends. I had a great time. In addition, I was able to get this startrails image from the heart of downtown Toronto. I took over 1043 frames to get this image. Each frame were 3” exposure, f/5.6, ISO-1600. It was a long image, but it was worth it. Next year’s ISDC will take place in Puerto Rico. Who knows, maybe I’ll be there…

StarStaX_IMG_8100-IMG_7059_gap_filling

This image was a difficult one to capture. I needed to balance how much light I would capture, while still capturing the movement of the stars. Too much exposure captured the light pollution of the city. Too little and the stars won’t show up. That’s why I chose 3″ exposure, because it wouldn’t capture too much light, while still capture the stars. f/5.6 to reduce the amount of light pollution captured, and ISO-1600 because we need to capture enough light.

 

That is what I’ve been up to these days. Thank You for everyone’s support. Sorry for the sporadic blog posts. Keep looking up, you never know what you’ll find up there.

Imaging Orion’s Nebula: Three days of Clarity

During the month of March, I was able to take advantage of the clear skies in three different days to image Orion’s nebula.

The First Day

On March 11, 2015, I tried imaging Orion’s Nebula (M42) it was a good night. I was able to get a few shots of M42 before it went below my house. I hoped I could get more pictures of M42, but before I could, it went behind my house. I was out of luck.

I proceed to image Jupiter with my DSLR camera. I took a lot of frames, but the quality of those frames were very bad. I couldn’t stack them to get a good picture. 😦 Maybe things will turn out better next time.

IMG_4583 IMG_5160

The Second Day

On March 13, 2015, I tried to image M42 again. It was a clear night, and I took some more pictures. I set my camera to image M42 for a while. I got the pictures, but I realize that while it was taking the pictures, M42 set behind my house. The majority of my pictures were of my house in the dark. Sadly, I had to delete those pictures.

After the M42 failure, I started imaging Jupiter again, and I failed to get any good frames.

IMG_5308 IMG_5372

The Last Day

Stay tuned for my next post, where I will talk about the last day of my M42 imaging days… For Now.

Tracking Tricks that Work

On March 9th, my father and I brought the telescope out to test its tracking capabilities. We aligned it to two stars and pointed it at Jupiter. After applying some tricks, we checked back and saw that it had not moved from its position. My father was impressed by that, and we declared that “we are back on track.”

The reason why it worked is because, earlier, I read this forum post about tracking issues. It talked about how commercial grade telescopes are manufactured using spur gears rather than worm gears, which means the teeth of the gears have some space in between them. This can lead to significant drifting before the teeth mesh. The solution, according to the forum post is to slew the telescope to the right, and depending on its position, up or down (down is pre-meridian, up if post-meridian, adjust as necessary). I did that and it worked. =D

Jupiter stood straight in the center of the eyepiece, and it was beautiful. We tested it further by putting Jupiter near the edge of the eyepiece, and after a while, it didn’t move at all.

After all that testing, we decided to pack up the telescope. I didn’t take any pictures because the clouds were rolling in. It was a successful night, with tracking actually working. I’m thankful that it is actually working and I can say with certainty that I’m back in business! 😀

Two Bright Planets

I finished work at 6 pm today. At that time, the sky was clear, the sun is already 6-12 degrees below the horizon and Venus and Jupiter were shining brightly. I look at both planets, located in opposite sides of the horizon, and they both appear so bright. I wondered why, and came up with an answer.

Venus is many times closer than Jupiter, but they look similar in brightness. The reason why is because Jupiter is bigger and we can see more of it. Jupiter’s mass and radius is 1.89E27 kg (317.8 Earth Masses), and 69,911 km, whereas Venus is only 4.867E24 (0.815 Earth Masses), and 6,052 km respectively. Clearly, Jupiter is the larger planet, but (at closest point) is 588 million km away. Venus is the smaller planet, but is only (at closest point) 38 million km away. This means that they look similar in brightness when compared to each other.

Here is another example:

The sun is 1.9891 × 1030 kg, and 695,500 km in mass and radius respectively. The Moon is 7.34767309 × 1022 kg large and 1,737.5 km in mass and radius respectively. The sun is (clearly) the larger of the two, but when you put them on top of each other, such as during a Solar Eclipse, they look very similar in size.

For both cases, their actual distances and diameters vary greatly, but their angular diameter is similar. The angular diameter is the diameter of an object from a certain frame of reference. For example, the Moon is 31.075 arcminutes across, and the sun is 32 arcminutes across. Very similar in angular size, but greatly varied across the cosmic distances.

The next time you see Venus and Jupiter in the sky or a solar eclipse, Look at how different they are, but how similar they look. It’s will surprise you.

 

Keep looking up. You never know what you will find up there.

 

WORKS CITED

Google Search

UniverseToday.com

Wikipedia

Jupiter Troubles

On January 23, 2015, my father and I, with clouds flying over us, decided to go to Glen Major Forest to image the Jupiter Triple-Transit event. Sadly, it was completely overcast there, which disappointed us.

We soon drove back home, where we noticed that the clouds have started to thin, and Jupiter was visible through the clouds. Therefore, my father and I quickly assembled the telescope in the backyard, as well as my laptop to image Jupiter through my CCD Camera.

We were able to get a good video footage of the Jupiter Triple-transit event. Unfortunately, I have not been able to process them yet. The program, Registax, has been giving me runtime errors, which is preventing me from processing the video footage.

After we get the video, the clouds came in and ended our astronomy session. We packed up and got back inside.

It was a successful night. We got good video footage, but we have yet to process the images. I want to get the video processed soon, and I will contact the developers for help.

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

Early Morning Conjunction

On August 18, 2014, I learned that there would a conjunction of two very bright planets, Venus, and Jupiter. Luckily, it was a clear night, and I decided to stay awake until morning to observe that event.

Around 2 am, I looked around the viewing location, but I wasn’t able to find a good place to view the conjunction. Despite that, I decided to try and observe the event.

At 4:40 am, I began to take my telescopic equipment outside and I prepared my telescope to view the conjunction. I quickly aligned to the Moon, and got it ready to observe.

Looking at the Moon, I see it is a waning crescent, past the last quarter. After that, I noticed that the Pleiades were visible, and I aimed my telescope at it. It was great to see it again with and without my telescope. This deep sky object has an interesting mythology associated with them.

In the most famous myth, there were seven daughters of Atlas and the ocean nymph Pleione: Maia, Electra, Alcyone, Taygete, Asterope, Celaeno, and Merope. They were minding their own business, when Orion the hunter saw them and started chasing them. Luckily, Zeus intervened and turned the seven sisters into stars. Unfortunately, Zeus did the same for Orion, allowing Orion to chase the seven sisters until the end of time. That is why the Pleiades are also called the seven sisters.

After observing that deep sky object, I started to look for the spot where the conjunction will rise. Looking at at the horizon, and comparing it to the image on my phone, I realized that the conjunction will not be visible from where I was. I looked at another location, and I saw both planets rising above the horizon, through the trees. I quickly brought my telescope to that location and looked around for the planets. After a lot of fidgeting, trying to find it through the trees, I saw two dots in my telescope. I took a picture of it, but I wasn’t sure if it was the conjunction. Moving the telescope around, I was able to see both dots clear enough to reveal one of the dots moons. This confirmed that I was, in fact, seeing the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter.

Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. The planet with the Moons is Jupiter.

It felt great to be able to see a unique event such as this meeting of two planets. I took many pictures of that event using my point and shoot camera. If anyone wants to see a conjunction as well, it’s not too late. There will be two more conjunctions, and both conjunctions will feature three celestial objects.

On August 23, 5:30 am, it will be the best time to see the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon. Here is an image of what it should like provided you have a clear view of the horizon. VJM conjunction Aug 23 2014

One week later, on August 31, at 9:20 pm, Saturn, Mars and the Moon will also meet up really close to each other. Here is an image of what it should like provided you have a clear view of the horizon. SMM Conjunction Aug 31, 2014

It is definitely worth viewing, especially if you can view the sun at the horizon. After I finished imaging the conjunction, I decided to pack up my scope and bring it inside. Once that was done, I decided to stay up and watch the sunrise.

With a foldable chair in hand, I went to a small cliff near my house, where there was a clearer view of the conjunction, and the night sky. It was beautiful. The factories beyond the cliff were covered in fog, and the rest of the cliff had a stream of fog surrounding it. It felt surreal. I spent an hour there watching the fog come and go, watching the planets hide behind a brightening sky, and watching the sun rise. It was worth staying up to see. After watching the sun rise, I went back home and soon after went to bed.photo 2

photo 4photo 5It was a wonderful night. I was able to see the late night Moon, a mythical set of stars, and the close encounter of two notable and bright planets. As a bonus, I saw the sun rise above the horizon, and bring an end to the night. I encourage anyone that wants to try and observe these night sky objects and events to do so. If you have any questions for me, please let me know in the contact form at: https://jolyastronomy.com/contact-me/

Good Luck and Happy Observing!

Return of the Observer

Hi Everybody,

These past months have been somewhat difficult. My telescope was experiencing technical difficulties. However, I was able to resolve the issues, and I can continue observing now. Here is my recollection of my latest observations:

During the night of Saturday March 8, 2014 the skies were clear. Before that, an old Newtonian was discovered in my family’s closet. It’s a cheap one with only 30x magnification, but works nonetheless. That night, I looked at the moon with it. It definitely projects an image, but not a clear image. It looked very dusty. The image is not as good as my 8″ SCT (Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope). After observing the moon, I decided to take my SCT outside the driveway to find Jupiter.

Because of my issues with my telescope, I had to recalibrate my finderscope with my Telescope. Luckily, the Moon was above the horizon. I was able to find the moon after some struggle, and calibrate my equipment with it. It was satisfying to see the moon up close since my telescope developed problems. Pointing away from the light side of the moon I saw, without light interference, how the dark side of moon and the darkness of the sky look compared to each other. It was intriguing.

Sketch of the Moon meshing with space.

Sketch of the Moon meshing with space.

After that, I decided to find and look at Jupiter. It was easy to find Jupiter, falling to the horizon on the western Sky. Looking at it through my 25 mm eyepiece, it looked the same as always. In addition, three of its four moons are visible. It was lovely. However, I had an idea. The newtonian telescope that my family found has a 20 mm eyepiece. I know that when you divide the focal length of the telescope with the focal length of the eyepiece, you get the magnification of the telescope. A 2032 mm telescope with a 25 mm eyepiece will yield 80x magnification. Knowing that, I decided to put the 20 mm eyepiece from the newtonian onto the SCT. If the math is right, then my telescope should have 101.6x magnification and, as a result, Jupiter should appear larger. I put on the eyepiece, and then my put my eye on the eyepiece, and I saw a slightly bigger Jupiter. It was beautiful. If the math continues to hold, then I plan on getting smaller eye piece to get closer to Jupiter. It was a step forward in my astronomical journey.

My next object I wanted to observer were the galaxies located at opposite sides of Benetnasch, which is part of the Big Dipper. It took a while to set up. I had to dig out an area of snow in the backyard to place my telescope. After a while, I was able to safely move my equipment to the dug out area, where I set up my equipment. I went about aligning my telescope to the limited about of stars visible. The first time failed for some reason. However, the second time was a success. I pointed my telescope towards the big dipper scanning for that object. However, I failed to find anything. During my search, I stumbled upon a star that had a clear halo around it. It was quite amazing to see such a star like that. I was thinking it was a deep sky object. However, I didn’t know. But it did look like this:

The star halo I saw was a bit more pronounced than the image.

Looking at my clock, I realized it was three in the morning. Daylight Saving Time had already come into affect, which means it was actually four in the morning. Knowing that, and that the cold is starting to get to me, I decided to pack it in for the night bringing all my equipment inside safely.

Overall, It was a successful observation. I saw the beauty of the moon, Jupiter, and an intriguing star. When I was doing research and talking to experts, I learned that it might be a deep sky object with only the heart visible, either M51 or the Ring Nebula. It’s interesting that a galaxy could look like that to my eye. However, I can’t be sure; not until I see it again and image it. I have taken many steps forward in my astronomical observations. I hope to continue that in the coming days.

IMAGES USED

Deep Sky Observer – The Orion Nebula

On January 21, 2014, the sky was clear again. Therefore, I decided to take my telescope out once more. Outside was a temperature of -18 oC. It was not that windy. I set up on my driveway, which had a great view of the constellation Orion. My goal for this session was to find the Orion Nebula once more and properly image it.

When everything is set up, I align my telescope to two stars: Betelgeuse, and Mirfak. It was a successful alignment. After alignment, I slewed to M42. I looked at it through my eyepiece, and I saw the glorius green cloud of the Orion Nebula, also known as M42. Since I already tried taking an image with the DSLR, I tried to image it using the CCD Camera.

For those who don’t know, A CCD Camera is a camera that uses a chip to collect the light and create an image from it. CCD stands for Charged-Coupled Device. It is a major advancement in digital imaging technology. It is used not only for light detection, but when high-quality images are needed. The first images I took, such as my triple-transit Jupiter image, or my Saturn image, were with a CCD camera.

After fiddling with the telescope, eye piece and CCD camera, I was able to find an image of three stars. I don’t know if that was M42, however, I was happy to be able to image far away stars from my CCD camera, designed for planetary imaging. Unfortunately, after processing the video footage, I realized it was not M42, but were three stars that were poorly focused. After filming the stars for a few minutes, I decided to stop CCD imaging the stars. I was determined to find M42 though.

Orion Nebula Stars captured using CCD Camera

Orion Nebula Stars captured using CCD Camera

Therefore, I decided to use the DSLR Camera again. I eventually found M42, and took a few long exposure images of it. Looking at them now, it is much clearer this time around, but not at the level that I want it to be at. I believe there might be a focusing issue on my telescope. I’ll need to look into that. Below is the image of the Orion Nebula:

The Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula

During my imaging attempts of M42, I went to the side of my house, and I saw the Big Dipper, clear as night, between my house and my neighbour’s house. Seeing it at its position inspired me to image it, but at a later time, after Jupiter.

After imaging M42, I set my sight to CCD image Jupiter. However, before I could do that, I see my computer has restarted and repairing itself. Waiting for it, I realize that the computer is on a cycle that prevents the operating system from booting. I don’t know why, but I believe it was because of the intense cold prevented the proper functioning of my computer. Therefore, I decided to take my computer inside to warm up. With my computer out of order, I decided to focus my attention on capturing that image of the Big Dipper.

I relocated my set up to the dark area between my house and my neighbour’s. I set the camera on top of my piggyback mount. I then set the telescope to capture many long exposure images of the sky. They turned out beautifully.

Wide Angle View of Stars

Wide Angle View of Stars

The Big Dipper Between Two Houses

The Big Dipper Between Two Houses

Stars with Jupiter in the sky

Stars with Jupiter in the sky

Note that on the center-bottom portion of the images, my telescope was visible.

After I was satisfied in the quality and number of images taken, I decided to refocus my attention on Jupiter. I went back inside to obtain my laptop. At the same time I also went to swap out the batteries. To conserve used batteries, I reused a set of old batteries having warmed up to room temperature, thus allowing any extra charge to be used up. I went outside and replaced the batteries.

I set it up and I set the telescope to realign itself to Jupiter. However, the telescope was starting to give me a No Response 17 code. That means that my hand controller lost contact with the Altitude motor, which means I had no up or down capabilities. I conjectured it to being exposed to the cold for so long. However, I also read that it could be due to the used batteries having been completely drained. Regardless of why, I decided to call it a night. I brought all my equipment back in, and got warm.

That night was not only quite successful, but has been the busiest I had ever been. I ran back into my house to get equipment more times than any other time. I got a better image of M42 despite it not being at the quality I desire it to be. I was able to image a farway star using CCD. I was also able to get a lot of long-exposure images of the big dipper and the night sky. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to image Jupiter. The next time I observe, I will image Jupiter. I also discovered focusing issues when I use my DSLR camera. It will have to be resolved if I want to get better images. It has been a great learning experience, and I hope to do it again.

Before I conclude the post, I have one announcement to make:

  • The Facebook page is officially live. If anybody has any questions, feel free to ask them there. The link is: https://www.facebook.com/jolyastronomy

Thank You for following my blog. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Observing!

WORK CITED

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge-coupled_device

http://www.celestron.com/c3/support3/index.php?_m=knowledgebase&_a=viewarticle&kbarticleid=2434

The Old Moon in the New Moon’s Cradle

Hi everyone,

Happy New Year to everyone and Merry Armenian Christmas (January 6th) to all my Armenian friends.

On January 3rd, as the sun set, I noticed in the navy blue sky, that a thin crescent moon was visible in the sky. Therefore, I decided to take my telescope out and take images of the moon.

For Christmas, I got nice additions to my telescope: a new T-Ring and T-adapter for use with DSLR cameras. Therefore, I decided to take the photos using my brother’s DSLR camera, which was a Canon EOS D60.

I took my telescope out in the bitter cold night at -16 degrees celsus, and quickly got it set up aligning it to the crescent moon. Looking at the crescent moon, I saw a small portion of a mare, and many craters on the lower part of the crescent. It was beautiful. Since I was using a DSLR camera, I could take long exposure images, which I could not do using my CCD imager. With that feature, I have the ability to obtain different kinds of pictures of the different bodies of the solar system. I quickly went about taking the photo.

I experimented with the exposure setting, and tried to figure out how to eliminate the wobble that I created by pressing the shutter button. Eventually, I found the right setting for the image and captured a fair number of images of the moon. The moon captured in my images were two second exposure photos with the other settings set to auto. It showed the lit portion of the moon completely white due to the collection of light from the moon, and the dark portion dimly lit. The reason that happened is because the Earth also reflects the sunlight that it receives from the Sun. The reflected sunlight travels to all different directions, and a certain amount of the sunlight hits the moon. This phenomenon is called Planetshine, and it creates this photographic phenomenon called, “The Old Moon in the New Moon’s Cradle.” It is a unique sight for those who know how to find and capture it.

Below is a comparison of the crescent moon and the Old Moon in the New Moon’s Cradle.

Image

The Crescent Moon

Image

The Old Moon in the New Moon’s Cradle

After the Moon set below a row of houses, out of my sight, I decided to focus my attention on Jupiter. It would be reaching opposition the next day, which means it would begin moving backwards relative to the Celestial Sphere, it orbits closest to the Earth, which makes it seem closer than it actually is, and it is visible all night, much like a Full Moon. Since the next day was predicted to be cloudy, I decided to look at it now.

Looking at Jupiter through the DSLR camera was a different (no, difficult!) experience than through the eye piece. Jupiter looked quite over-exposed. Any attempt to take a long exposure image of Jupiter failed as the camera wobbled too much and my telescope tracking feature was not doing a good job at keeping the image still. I didn’t have enough technique to take a good image at that time.

As a result, I decided to pack it in for the night. I took all my equipment inside and got warm by the fire. It would usually be over for the night, but the sky was still clear, and I felt the need to take my telescope out once more. Therefore, I did just that.

Stay tuned for the rest of this blog post.

WORKS CONSULTED

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposition_%28planets%29

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

A Cold Christmas Night

Last night, three days after the Toronto Ice Storm, Santa brought us astronomers a Christmas gift: Clear Skies! Therefore, I decided to take advantage of it.

My goal for this session was to view a rare astronomical event: the occulation (blockage) of a star by an asteroid. The star was a 10.4 magnitude star (not very bright). The asteroid was a 15.4 magnitude asteroid (dimmer than the star). To see it is a slim to nil chance, but I tried.

At 10:50 pm, I took my telescope out in the bitter cold and got it ready to view the stars in the snow. For the first time, I was able to align the telescope using the SkyAlign feature. In previous sessions, I failed to align the telescope using the SkyAlign feature. Yesterday, I succeeded in that. After aligning the telescope, I got the coordinates for the star in Ra/Dec and Alt/Az coordinates. When the telescope slewed to it, it was behind the trees. I had to readjust the telescope to view it away from the trees. When it came time, I looked into the telescope and I saw small stars. However, I don’t think I saw the star that was to be occulted. It was disappointing, but I wasn’t surprised. I was not prepared or experienced enough to find such a small and unknown object. I decided to move on to other objects on my list.

I first slewed to the bright object in the sky, Jupiter. I saw the beautiful stripes, and its 4 beautiful moons. It’s always a sight to see Jupiter. I can check it off my list now.

The next object I saw is Sirius. One fact about Sirius is that it is a double star system, with a star 2 times the size of the sun, and a white dwarf that already died. Looking at it myself, I saw the star, and I think I saw a bulge from one side of the star, which is probably Sirius B. I can’t be sure until I view it closer. I can now cross the constellation Canis Major off my list.

The next objects I observed are the two brightest stars of Orion: Betelgeuse, and Rigel. I first slewed to Betelgeuse, the bright red supergiant. It was magnificent. I next slewed to Rigel. I had to move my telescope a bit, but I was able to find it. It wasn’t as bright as Betelgeuse though. I was able to cross of Orion off my list of constellations.

I looked into the sky and saw a small cluster of stars, and I saw M45 also known as the Pleades, or the Seven Sisters. It is a star cluster that is visible to the naked eye, and is made up of 7 stars. I decided to  look at it through the telescope. Doing that, I saw the magnificence of the 7 sisters in its formation. It was awe-inspiring. I crossed it off my list under the Deep Sky Objects Category.

Remembering my previous session where I could not see the horsehead nebula due to the battery dying on my telescope, I decided to slew towards Orion’s sword, a collection of three stars that represent the sword of the mythological hunter, Orion. The vicinity of those stars are quite interesting. I see dim stars close together and in interesting patterns that one can’t see without a telescope. The most notable one that I saw was at the middle star. There I saw a dim green-tinted cloud of sorts in the sky. I have never seen that before, but I learned about it in the first few lecture videos in my Astronomy class. I believe I saw M42, otherwise known as the Orion Nebula. This was my first sighting of a nebula. I was very excited, and will explore further in the future.

Image

The Orion Nebula through my telescope imaged using an iPhone 5s.

Continuing my journey, my telescope started to become sluggish and unresponsive, which lead me to conclude that the batteries died once more. With that, I decided to call it a day… but not before manually moving my telescope to the rising Waning Gibbous Moon through the trees. It was a very nice sight and another addition to my list.

After that, I packed up my telescope and decided to call it a night.

Overall, it was a very eye-opening experience. I tried to find a unique star event, however, I failed to find it. I was able to observe Jupiter, Sirius, Betelgeuse, Rigel, The Pleiades, the Orion Nebula, and the Waning Gibbous Moon. It was truly an interesting and productive night, which took me a step further in my astronomy adventure. I hope you will come with me.

WORK CONSULTED

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

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_%28constellation%29

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