The Lunar Eclipse

On October 8, 2014, a lunar eclipse occurred in North America, and Oceania. This eclipse is the second of four consecutive total lunar eclipses occurring in 2014-2015.

I missed the first eclipse because that night in Toronto was overcast with a thick cloud. On that night, the forecast looked bleak with clouds clearing only around 6-7 am, when the eclipse was underway. Some forecasts say that it would remain cloudy for the whole night. Despite the high probability of cloud, I decided to go and observe anyway.

I arrived at the bus depot near the Markham Fairgrounds at 5:00 am. It was completely overcast, although there was a break in the clouds at that time. In that break, I believe I saw the beginning of the eclipse at that time, but I am uncertain about that. After I captured a few shots of the Moon, the clouds covered the night sky.

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Partial Phase of the Lunar Eclipse. 5:59 AM

After waiting a while for the clouds to clear, I elected to leave that area and come back in 30 minutes, once the clouds cleared up a bit more. However, on the road back home, I saw a significant break in the clouds and I drove back to the spot. When I arrived there, the clouds opened up slightly to reveal some of the stars. In the distance, I saw a sort of divide between the clouds and what I assumed was another set of clouds. As the clouds moved eastward, I noticed that the divide was an opening between the clouds and the sky.

Eventually, the clouds moved far enough that the eclipsing moon became visible. I soon began imaging it playing around with the settings, experimenting with what created a great image and what created a flawed image. It was an amazing experience to not only capture but to view a lunar eclipse.

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Partial Lunar Eclipse Phase. 6:26 AM

As the Moon descended towards the atmosphere, I decided to get a clearer view of the horizon. I grabbed the camera and headed into the Bus Depot. There, I got a clearer view of the horizon, and the eclipse as well.

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Lunar Eclipse 6:39 AM

The eclipse lasted for many hours until sunrise. As the Moon descended deeper into totality, the sun starts to rise, which obstructed the view of the Moon in totality. At around 7:05 pm, I couldn’t see the Moon anymore. At that time, I decided to go back home.

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Lunar Eclipse in Totality 6:52 AM

Looking at the photographs, I also realized that I may have imaged Uranus as well. I compared the image I took with Starry Nights planetarium software, and I couldn’t confirm whether I imaged a star or Uranus with the reddening Moon. I then compared my image with another person’s image, and I saw that there was a blue star near the moon in a similar position to the other person’s image. There were other stars, but they were not a sky blue. I suspect it is Uranus, but I cannot be sure.

EDIT: A friend of mine confirmed that the dot is indeed Uranus. 😀

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6:26 AM with Uranus circled.

Whoever saw the eclipse, in Toronto, were lucky that the clouds cleared up. I had a great time imaging the eclipse. I invite anyone who saw the eclipse to share their experience on the comments section below.

 

Keep Looking Up!

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!

Attempt at Planetshine

On June 1, 2014, it was predicted to be a clear night. It was also predicted, by my Clear Sky Chart app, that the planets would be aligned just right so that you could see four of the five visible planets in the evening sky. Mercury would  be closest to setting, then Jupiter, then Mars, then Saturn. It would’ve made a nice image. Therefore I went to an elevated area to try and image it.

 

My telescope in the evening sky

My telescope in the evening sky

I had to go through various weeds to get to the right location. However, contrary to the Clear Sky Chart app, there were clouds in the sky blocking my view. It was disheartening to see those clouds in the sky despite a prediction of a clear sky. I stayed a bit to see if the clouds would clear, fighting off mosquitoes at the same time. However, it became apparent to me that the sky wouldn’t clear in time. I then tried to take a few four-minute exposure images of the Moon to get a few moonshine images, however, those images turned out to be a bit unclear and unfocused. That trip turned out to be quite a waste. However, I didn’t want to call it a night yet.

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The Moon at dusk

Later that night, the sky cleared up, and I decided to take a few long exposure images of the Moon to try and get the planetshine effect on the Moon. In a crescent Moon, the the majority of the Moon is dark, due to its position relative to the sun. However, it is not completely dark. If someone aimed a camera at the moon and collect enough light, one could see the darkened side of the Moon. That is because the Earth reflects sunlight as well. The light collected from reflected light from the Earth is called Planetshine or Earthshine in the case of Earth. It can make for a unique picture of the Moon. I was able to take a few pictures of the Moon with the Earthshine visible. However, I have yet to stack the images. Here are two image I took:

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Crescent Moon

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Earthshine visible on the Moon.

 

After I got those photoes, I decided to finally call it a night. I brought all my equipment inside and got some rest. While I have been taking potentially great photoes, I have yet to co-add them and see the final result. In order to move forward, I need to find an effective way to co-add images, convert RAW image files to TIFF or JPG files, and produce phenomenal images. Once I can master that, then I can move forward. I hope I can do that one day. Until then, I will keep doing what I do. Wish me luck!

Conjunctions and Neighbours

On June 7, 2014, Mars and the Moon were in conjunction with each other being only two degrees away from each other. According to my Clear Sky Charts app, it would be clear before 1 am, therefore I decided to quickly image the conjunction using a camera with a telephoto lens.

I was able to take a lot of images of the conjunction. There was light cloud cover, but it didn’t overtly obstruct the Moon and Mars. I used a variety of exposure settings, and sensitivity settings to try and get the best image. When I found a good set of settings for the image, I took a few frames and their corresponding dark frames to stack them later on. Here are a few pictures I took:

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Moon and Mars conjunction. They are two degrees apart from each other.

 

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The Moon. It was a split-second shot. The amount of light captured was enough to see the Moon only. Mars was too dim to be captured at that setting.

I set myself up on the driveway, which meant that I attracted the attention of many onlookers driving through the neighbourhood. It was nice that people had an interest in what I was doing. However, one of the most notable moments was when my next door neighbours noticed me looking into my telescope. Two of my neighbours noticed what I was doing, and approached me. I told them about tonight’s conjunction of the Moon and Mars, and what I was doing to image it. I let them look into my telescope to see the Moon and Mars for themselves. They were quite surprised at what they saw. They asked me many questions, relating to imaging these celestial objects, the telescope quality and price, the effects of doing astronomy in the city, and other questions. It was a great conversation. It felt good to show them what I do as an amateur astronomer. After a while, they went back inside. I continued to stay outside and image the sky.

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Mars and Moon conjunction. 30 second exposure.

However, I didn’t stay out much longer. As the night went by the cloud cover become more intense, actually blocking my view of Mars. When I couldn’t see Mars anymore, that is when I decided to pack up and go back inside.

It was a really good night. I saw the conjunction of two celestial objects and I showed what I do as an amateur astronomer to my neighbours. It felt good to do that. Hopefully, I can do it again the next clear night.

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.

 

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

About Our Planet Earth

Hi everybody,

It’s an amazing thing to look into the sky and look at the other worlds that exist. However, it all starts on the planet that we know the most about: the planet Earth.

Earth from Apollo 8

Earth from Apollo 8

Earth is a rocky planet located in the Solar System. It is the third planet from the sun. It is the most dense planet in the solar system, and the only planet to support life. It has one natural satellite, The Moon, and many other artificial satellites sent up by humans. It has a mass of 5.97219E24 kg, and orbits 1 AU or 149,597,870,700 m from the Sun.

Believe it or not, Earth is the only object with a name that doesn’t originate from Greek/Roman mythological figures. If it were, it could’ve been called Tellus (not Telus!) or Gaia, using Roman or Greek names respectively.

Planet Formation

Earth was formed during the formation of the Solar System. It is 4.5 billion years old. During its formation it accreted many smaller asteroids and planetesimals to form a protoplanet. In Earth’s early history, it is conjectured that a mars-sized protoplanet collided with the Earth and released all kinds of silicates into orbit which accreted to form the Moon. When the moon formed, it was really close to the Earth. As the system orbited the Sun, the Earth and Moon exchanged angular momentum, which slowed Earth’s rotation period and pushed the moon’s orbit outwards. This resulted in today’s Earth and Moon system.

Formation of a Moon

Atmosphere of Earth with Moon in the background

The planet’s atmosphere is 77% Nitrogen (N2), and 21% Oxygen (O2), with traces of other gases. Earth has a lot of free N2 in the atmosphere because it couldn’t form rocks with Silicon, Calcium, Sodium, and other elements to form rock, unlike O2 which formed rocks with these elements. In addition, N2 is quite stable, even under the influence of solar radiation. It has built up over time, unlike O2, which is consistently being recycled in Earth. In the past, the atmosphere, most likely, had a lot more Carbon Dioxide (CO2) than now. This was due to Earth’s formation. However, when water was introduced in the atmosphere, the raindrops was able to lock the CO2 in carbonate rocks, absorb inside the ocean, and eventually was used in photosynthesis. Now, there are traces of CO2 and it is increasing due to industrial processes, however, these traces (before and after human pollution) help trap heat to keep the climate in check using the greenhouse effect. It is also that same reason why Venus is the hottest place in the Solar System.

Earth’s Interior

The Earth has many layers. Earth has a crust, upper mantle, lower mantle, an outer core and an inner core. We learned about these layers by using sound waves. As one goes downards to the core, it gets hotter and denser. The reason the core is so hot is because the core generates heat using radioactive decay 80% of the time, and Kelvin-Helmholtz processes 20% of the time. The heat is transferred to the top by using circulation cells in the mantle. The core and outer core are made up of heavier elements, like iron, and nickel, whereas the mantle and crust is made up of lighter silicate materials. This is because, when Earth, during its formation, accreted enough mass, the heat of collisions and radioactivity causes the Earth to melt, and then the process of chemical differentiation takes place. The heavier elements sink towards the centre, whereas the lighter elements float to the top. This occurs when planetesimals becomes protoplanets. Today, due to plate tectonics, erosion, and other processes, most of Earth’s geologic history has been erased.

Earth

As far as we are concerned, Earth is the only planet that can support life. It is predicted that Earth’s biosphere started to form 3.5 billion years ago. Once life moved into land, the biosphere became divided into different biomes. The type of biome depends on its latitude, height from sea level, and humidity of area. For example, humid lowlands at equatorial latitudes produce very diverse biomes whereas extreme latitude, high height, and extreme humidity produce different biomes. In Earth’s history, there have been five major extinction periods, with the most recent occurring 65 million years ago, killing off all the dinosaurs. Eventually, the mammals diversified and a certain ape-like species of animal evolved to stand upright, and it eventually led to the evolution of humanity. Today, humans have evolved greatly with various innovations and technological advancements. In addition, the search for life beyond our solar system is increasing at a rapid pace. Astronomers, scientists, and looking at other stars and finding exoplanets that have the potential to support life.

Stay tuned for more information about our planet Earth.

WORK CONSULTED

Images used

The Lunar Observer – Mares and Craters

On January 20, 2014, the sky cleared again just in time for the bitter cold (-20 degrees Celsius). Determined to observe the night sky, taking what I learned from my last observation into account, I decided to point my telescope at the moon.

After aligning my telescope at the moon, I looked through the eyepiece and saw the glory of the waning gibbous moon. I saw all the mares, and craters, especially the ones that were located at the terminator line, which separates the illuminated side and the dark side. It was beautiful. My mission for the night was to find six of the twelve mares and six of the twelve craters on my list for my Observer’s Certificate. Those features that are on my list are:

Mares Craters
Mare Crisium Crater Petavius
Mare Fecunditatis Crater Cleomedes
Mare Nectaris Crater Posidonius
Mare Tranquillitatis Crater Theophilus
Mare Serenitatis Crater Aristoteles
Mare Vaporum Crater Ptolemaeus
Mare Frigoris Crater Plato
Mare Imbrium Crater Tycho
Mare Nubium Crater Clavius
Sinus Iridium Crater Copernicus
Mare Humorum Crater Gassendi
Oceanus Procellarum Crater Gimaldi

For those who don’t know, mares, which translate to seas, are the dark, flat areas on the Moon. They were formed from ancient volcanic eruptions. The mares are much younger than the surrounding areas because they have fewer craters than their surroundings. This suggests that they have formed relatively recently. Interestingly, the majority of the mares on the moon are on the near side of the moon, visible from Earth. Scientists still debate why that is the case. The Observer’s Certificate requires me to find six mares for the certificate.

In addition, I need to find six Craters. Surrounding the Mare are the highlands, which are the lighter features on the Moon that are riddled with craters. Craters are circular formations of varying depth, size, and albedo on the moon. They were formed as a result of collisions with asteroids. Depending on the size, those asteroids could leave a large crater over many km long in diameter like Crater Ptolemaeus at 153 km, or it can leave a small dent like Crater Grace at 1 km. Craters are best viewed at the terminator line, where the mixture of darkness and light give it a very interesting appearance. The image below is the Lunar surface up close with Mares and Craters visible.

Moon Closeup 2

The top-right of Image shows a Mare. Note the many craters in the image.

Looking at the moon, I saw a lot of flat surfaces, and craters, and white areas. At the beginning, I didn’t know where to start. It felt (actually, it was) like looking at another world. I soon decided to start my search at the terminator line. I saw a mare there, but I couldn’t identify it. I also saw a crater right at the terminator line. Eventually, I saw an intense, white crater in the western portion of the moon. Luckily I found a map to refer to, which led me to discover that it is the Crater Copernicus. That discovery gave me a reference point to search for the other features.

Looking at the map, I conjectured that the mare near the terminator line was Mare Crisium. It was very circular, and it connected to the mare beside it. However, I wasn’t certain. I decided to hold off on checking it off my list. Looking around, I found, to the west of Copernicus, a large mare that covered a large portion of the moon. I found that to be the Oceanus Procellarum. I checked it off my list. Soon enough, I decided to return to the unknown mare at the terminator line. I still couldn’t figure out what mare it is. I looked at the same mare on the map, but both images didn’t add up. I suspected that it wasn’t Mare Crisium after all. However, something caught my eye. It was the crater at the terminator line. After looking at my telescope and at the map again, I confirmed that what I saw was Crater Posidonus. This was significant not only because I checked off another object off my list, but I found the terminator line on the map. From that I realized that Mare Crisium is in the shadowed part of the moon, and that the Mare adjacent to Crater Poseidonus was Mare Serenitatis. It propelled me forward in my mission becauase I was able to know, on the map what to look for and what not to look for. I soon continued on my mission.

Soon enough, I found Mare Imbrium located beside Mare Serenitatis. I also realized that another mare near the terminator line was actually Sinus Medii, which was not on my list. Moving forward, I struggled to find more objects for a while. However, I realized that the orientation of the image of the moon on my telescope was confusing me. It prevented me from finding the right lunar features. Therefore, I decided to look at the image a different way. As a result, I was able to find Mare Frigoris, Mare Vaproum, and Mare Nubium. I was also able to find Mare Cognitum before Mare Nubium, but it was not on my list. In between finding those Mares, I was able to find, Crater Grimaldi at the very edge of the moon; Crater Ptolemaeus, which is close to Mare Nubium and Sinus Medii; Crater Plato, near Mare Frigoris, and Mare Imbrium; and after a lot of searching, I finally found Crater Gassendi.

It took me two hours to find those twelve objects. I even had to change the batteries of my telescope before I found Crater Gassendi. However, it was worth it. After that, I decided to call it a night and bring everything back inside to warm up after a cold night.

It was a productive night, which gave me valuable knowledge of the Moon. I hope to keep doing that in the future when the moon is more illuminated.

Here are the links for the maps that I used. They were very useful in identifying and getting acquainted with the Lunar features:

http://www.oarval.org/MoonMapen.htm

http://www.scientificpsychic.com/etc/moonmap/moon-map.html

Before we conclude this post, I have a few announcements:

  1. For those who have any questions about astronomy, I will be setting up a facebook page where you can ask those questions. There are no stupid questions here. If you have a question, I will do my best to answer it.
  2. In addition to my posts, I will regularly post a blog entry talking about a specific topic, such as Formation of Planets, Why the rings of Saturn have gaps, or how stars are born.
  3. In addition to my regular posts, I will post every month an update on astronomical events for the month.

Thank you for following me and I hope you continue to enjoy what you read here.

WORKS CONSULTED

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

Coursera Class – Introduction to Astronomy.

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

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptolemaeus_%28lunar_crater%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_%28lunar_crater%29

Light Pollution

Four days ago, after a series of cloudy and rainy nights, the sky finally cleared for a rare view of the night sky. Taking advantage of that, I decided to take my telescope out for the night and use my piggyback mount.

A piggyback mount is an attachment for telescopes that allows a camera to be attached on top of it. Using the tracking feature of the telescope, one could take long exposure images of the sky for a long time and avoid sky trails, which occurs when a camera takes a long-exposure image of the stars without compensating for the Earth’s rotation. Below is an example of star trails:

IMG_0161During that night, my goal for the night was to take a long exposure shot of the sky using my piggyback mount. However, I failed to realize that the light pollution in my backyard and the moonlight in the sky would obstruct the view of the stars in the sky, and that seeing conditions for the stars would not be optimal.

When I was taking the pictures of the sky, I was expecting to see crisp black images with stars shining brightly. Instead I got an image with dim stars and a bright background blocking the stars. This is due to the light in the sky blocking the stars. The light is coming from the Moon and from the light pollution.

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An image of Jupiter on a brightly illuminated sky

Light pollution is when artificial light shines at the sky and obstructs the view of the stars. It can come from the car lights, lights from buildings, and especially from streetlights to name a few. Light pollution is most prevalent in urban areas, such as Downtown Toronto, New York, Yerevan, and many other major cities. However, light pollution declines as you move away from the urban centres.

For example, if one was in an urban centre like Downtown Toronto, or Yerevan, and you looked up into the sky, you would likely only see the Moon, the planets, and the odd star. Far out of the city, like in Algonquin park, there is very little artificial light, which will give you an excellent view of the sky, and maybe even the Milky Way.

Light Pollution is a major problem in many cities. However, there are organizations who are committed to reducing the amount of light pollution in our cities. One such cause is: Light-Pollution Abatement Committee operated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. This committee was formed to work with the municipal, provincial, and federal governments as well as with concerned citizens to reduce light pollution and create darker skies for all to enjoy. They encourage people, organizations and governments, to advise each group of the situation at hand and talk to each other and find solutions.

If you want to help as well, iOS users can download two apps that can help one find clearer skies, and help identify light polluted areas. The first one is “Dark Sky Finder”, which is a map of North America, Europe and Australasia that charts out the level of light pollution in certain areas, like Toronto, New York, Sydney, and other cities. The other app is the “Dark Sky Meter”. It allows one to measure the night sky and see how dark it is compared to total darkness. In addition, users can submit the data that they find to the Save Our Stars (SOS) program, which will assist the SOS program in their efforts to chart light pollution in our skies. The links are:

http://www.jshine.net/astronomy/dark_sky/

http://www.darkskymeter.com/

After some time, I decided to call it a night, and brought my telescope into my house.

A few days later, I was thinking about what my priorities should be during this period of the Full Moon. Knowing that the moon and the surrounding light will obstruct my view of the stars, I decided to recommit myself to observing the Moon when it is visible in the sky. When the next clear night comes, I will be there to see the Moon.

Today, I processed a number of images that I took and I achieved this result:

IMG_0198

The night sky post-processed.

IMG_0212

Jupiter through a DSLR Camera. Post-processed

WORKS CONSULTED

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

http://www.rasc.ca/lpa

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