Astronomical Events for June 2015

Hello everybody,

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

       Astronomical Events

  • June 1: The ISS will reach full illumination, which means Northern Hemisphere observers will be able to see it many times.
  • June 4: Io and Ganymede will cause a double-transit on Jupiter, which will occur from 4:54 to 6:13.
  • June 5: Venus reaches greatest eastern elongation for 2015. It will be at most 45 degrees from when the sun at 16:00.
  • June 10: Asteroid 424 Gratia will occult a +6.1 magnitude star. It will occur at approximately 15:10 in Northwest Australia.
  • June 15: The Moon will occult Mercury at approximately 2:26. It’s best seen at the South Indian Ocean.
  • June 15: The Moon will occult Aldebaran during the day approximately 11:33. It’s best seen in the high Arctic.
  • June 16: Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS may become visible with the naked eye.
  • June 21: The summer solstice will happen at 10:51. Northern Hemisphere observers will experience the longest day of the year.
  • June 24: Mercury reaches its greatest morning elongation at 22.5 degrees west of the sun. This will take place at 17:00.






Astronomical Events for May 2015

Hello everybody,

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

       Astronomical Events

  • May 5: The Eta Aquarids meteor shower will peak.
  • May 7: Mercury will reach its highest point at 21.2 degrees away from the sun. It will start to descend back into the sun at this point.
  • May 19: The Moon will occult Aldebaran at approximately 2:53 UTC. It is best seen in North America.
  • May 20: Comet C/2014 Q1 PANSTARRS may become visible in binoculars.
  • May 20: Io and Ganymede will cast their shadows on Jupiter in a double-transit event at  22:04 – 22:53.
  • May 21: Callisto and Europa will also cast their shadows on Jupiter in another double-transit event at 11:26 – 11:59.
  • May 23: Saturn reaches opposition at approximately 1:00.
  • May 24: Asteroid 1669 Dagmar will occult Regulus at approximately 16:47. Best seen in the Arabian Peninsula. This will be the brightest asteroid star occultation in 2015.
  • May 28: Ganymede and Io will cast their shadows again in a double-transit event at 00:01 to 2:18.
  • May 30: Comet 19/Borrelly may become visible with binoculars.





Astronomical Events for April 2015

Hello everybody,

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

       Astronomical Events

  • April 4: The third of four total lunar eclipses will occur at 12:01. It is best seen in Eastern Asia, the Pacific regions, and the Americas. Don’t miss it!
  • April 8: Mercury will pass 0.5 degrees of Uranus at approximately 11:00.
  • April 21: The Moon will occult Aldebaran. It is best seen in Northern Asia at approximately 16:57 UTC.
  • April 22: The Lyrid meteor shower will take place peaking at 24:00 (12:00 AM). It is best seen in Northern Europe.

That’s all for this month.

On April 22, 2015, at the Ontario Science Centre, in Toronto, Ontario, I will be giving a presentation about my journey as an amateur astrophotographer. If you are interested in attending, come to the Ontario Science Centre at 7:00 pm, to see the presentation. I hope to see you all there.


Have a great day, and keep looking up! You never know what you will see 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.


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.


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


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.


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:


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.


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!







Astronomical Events for September 2014

Hello everybody,

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

       Astronomical Events

  • September 5: Venus passes 0.7 degrees from Regulus.
  • September 9: The last supermoon of the year will occur that day at 1:39 UTC, 22 hours after passing its perigee.
  • September 15: Comet C/2013 V5 Oukaimeden might reach 5.5 magnitude for observers in the southern hemisphere.
  • September 20: Mercury will pass 0.5 degrees south of Spica at 21:00 UTC.
  • September 21: Mercury will reach its greatest elongation, being 26.4 degrees east of the Sun. It will shine at Magnitude 0, in the dawn sky. The best view of this will be for southern hemisphere observers.
  • September 23: The Autumnal Equinox will occur at 2:29 UTC. At this point, the Northern and Southern hemispheres will have exactly 12 hours in their day. Here is a video that shows the Earth through one year.
  • September 23: GEO Satellites eclipse seasons occur. This is when the Geosynchronous Satellites will enter the Earth’s shadow and, just like a lunar eclipse, becomes darkened for a few minutes.
  • September 28: The Moon will occult Saturn at approximately 4:25 UTC. The Moon will also occult minor planets 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta at the same day.

Enjoy and Happy Observing!