Imaging Orion’s Nebula: Long Sault

March 16-19 was RASC’s Dark Sky Party window. On March 17, RASC called a NO GO for the party due to the heavy winds. It was clear, but the winds were HEAVY! I was hoping that March 18 would have a GO call, because my schedule was well placed, and I could go to that event.

 

March 18, 5 pm:

I got RASC’s call, and it was a GO. The Star Party will take place that night. When I got home, I packed my car with all my telescope equipment, and drove off to Long Sault Conservation park (Long Sault).

Driving to Long Sault or Glen Major forest feels like a road trip. One passes through many small hamlets on the road to your destination, and you see how people live beyond Toronto. Homes are more open, commercial services are scarcer, and speed limits are higher. To drive to Long Sault takes 45 minutes to 1 hour, and I arrive at Long Sault at 9 pm.

 

March 18, 9 pm:

When I get there, a lot of interested astronomers, guests, and astrophotographers were already there imaging and observing the night sky. Looking up, the sky is very different from home, and from Glen Major Forest. The sky is clearer, and constellations are more visible from here.

I meet some of the other guests and members there. Some were observing Jupiter, others were imaging various Deep Sky Objects (DSO’s), and some were observing other objects in the night sky. Soon after, I start to assemble my telescope, which didn’t take a lot of time.

I aligned my telescope to two stars. Usually, my selection of stars is limited at home due to location, and visibility of stars. Out in Long Sault, the limitations of my selection of stars are what’s in the telescope’s computer. After aligning my telescope to the stars, I pointed my telescope to Orion’s Nebula, and I set my telescope to image M42 for 75 frames. Some frames that I took looked like this:

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1 frame of M42; 14․7″ exposure, f/10, ISO-1600

 

While my telescope was doing its work. I was meeting other fellow amateur astronomers. I did meet a fellow amateur astrophotographer I was corresponding with on the Yahoo e-mail list. I saw his set-up, equipment, and images. They were spectacular.

Once the camera was finished imaging M42, I put the telescope cover on, and started taking dark frames, so I could subtract the noise from the image.

My feet beccame very cold, and I had to get into my car many times to warm up. I couldn’t turn on the car, because the exhaust would interfere with my telescope. At 11 pm, most of the astronomers packed up and have started their journey home. At that time, I also started packing up my equipment. I finished what I wanted to do, and I was ready to go home. It took me 10 minutes to pack and to make sure I didn’t forget anything. When I was ready, I started driving home.

I got home at 1:30 am, taking a break between my driving to rest and think about what I imaged that night. Unfortunately, I have not been able to process all the images yet, as I am having trouble with the Deep Sky Stacker, and Registax.

Thank You everyone for reading. Let me know if you have any questions or comments. Keep looking up, you never know what you will find up there.

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A light polluted timelapse.

On January 20, 2015, the sky was clear. RASC had a plan for a star party at Long Sault Conservation park, but I had to get up early the next morning. Therefore, I had to miss it. Thankfully, I did not let the night go to waste. I took my camera and my father’s wide-angle lens and set the intervalometer to make a timelapse image. I would later make it into a star trails image.

Since my home is in a light polluted area, I had to expose for a shorter amount of time to compensate for the amount of light there is. I set the exposure for 5 seconds, at f/4, and ISO 1600. I left it out there for two hours and obtained over 719 frames for my image. The resulting image turned out to be a major success. The lines were crisp and clear, there were a few satellites and airplanes, and a beautiful set of stars trailing along the houses.

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Startrails Image: 693 frames 5″ exposure, f/5, ISO 1600

That was the only thing I did that night unfortunately. Nevertheless, I will continue exploring and imaging the night sky.

 

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.

Star Party in the City

On Monday, June 9, 2014, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) hosted its monthly City Star Party. This star party took place at Bayview Village Park, where many RASC members came to view the Moon and the planets and any stars that were visible in the night sky.

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RASC Members setting up telescopes.

I arrived at Bayview Village Park at 9 pm. By then, many RASC members and visitors were setting up their telescopes. There were a few Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, a couple of Newtonian telescopes, some Dobsonian telescopes, and a fair amount of refractor telescopes. One member brought a refractor telescope that he restored using 60 year old optics handmade from Japan. It was quite amazing to see such an optic being used again after all these years. It was very interesting.

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A RASC Member setting up his newly restored telescope. Used with permission.

When I was there, it was quite cloudy. So much so that it casted doubt as to whether the sky would clear. However, half-an-hour later, it cleared up very nicely. We were lucky that we were blessed with a clear night to view the planets.

Once I saw that the sky has cleared, I decided to set up my telescope. It took a few minutes, but I got it up and running. While I was operating it, a few people came to my telescope and looked through it. I was able to answer any questions they had about astronomy and imaging the night sky.

Doing that, I was also talking to a friend of mine, who also has an interest in Astronomy. I told her about the city star party. At the same time, the International Space Station (ISS) appeared streaking across the night sky. It was very beautiful but not as bright as when I was in Glen Major Park during the May 24th meteor shower. Since I had my telescope, I decided to slew and try to capture the ISS on my telescope. It took a while, but I was able to see the ISS on my telescope zipping by very quickly in the field of view of the scope. From what I saw, I felt like I would be able to make out the shape of the ISS from the telescope. Wouldn’t that be a sight!

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ISS flying through the sky.

After viewing the ISS, I went on to view the planets and the Moon. I first slewed to Mars. Like all the other times I viewed Mars, the surface features weren’t clear to me. I then slewed to Saturn, and saw its majestic rings. A few people came to my telescope and checked out Saturn. They were awestruck by its beauty.

I then returned to Mars, but I wanted to zoom closer to it. I borrowed a friend of mine’s 10 mm eyepiece, which will zoom in further towards the planet. However, I had a lot of trouble finding it. One issue I am experiencing is that my finderscope’s base is quite wobbly. It made it hard to find any celestial objects, because the finderscope wasn’t calibrated to my scope for long. I decided to slew back to the moon and calibrate my scope there. After doing that, I slewed back to Mars, and using my friend’s 10 mm eyepiece, I finally found Mars. It was slightly bigger, but no more detailed than before. I soon returned his eyepiece, and continued to observe the night sky.

I then slewed to the Moon for another visitor, and a visitor was amazed by the beauty of the Moon. For the night, I felt like there was a lag on my telescope. I now know that there is a 1 second-long lag on my telescope. I suspect it is because of the Azimuth gear broke down again. It was confirmed by another RASC member, with the same type of scope, who recently joined RASC. As a result, after looking around a bit more, I decided to pack up my scope for the night.

I brought all my equipment to the car, and made sure I didn’t leave anything behind. After I packed everything up, I came back to look at other people’s telescopes. I saw a variety of objects. I saw Jupiter through my friend’s restored refractor. It did a good job magnifying Jupiter. It was beautiful.

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RASC City Star Party underway.

I then went to someone who had a circular telescope. It looked like a beaker. The owner told me it was an Astroscan telescope. Another RASC member came up and talked to the owner of the telescope. It was interesting to hear that this telescope was built in the 1970’s. Looking through it, when it was slewed to the Moon, it magnified it, but compared to my scope, the image was very small, but the quality was really good. I was impressed.

I soon went to another RASC member’s Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (SCT). He had attached a binocular adapter to his telescope. He let me look into it, and I saw Saturn, but with both my eyes. With most scopes, you need to close one eye to see through the telescope. However, with the binocular adapter, you can use both eyes to see the night sky. It was interesting to use both eyes to view an object. It might be something worth investing in the future.

I then went to another RASC member’s telescope, and I was introduced to the Double Double, also know as Epsilon Lyrae. It is a multiple star system located in the Lyra constellation. We saw two binary star pairs in orbit with each other. This image of HD 98800 is a good approximation of what it looks like from an up close vantage point:

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c7/HD_98800.jpg/750px-HD_98800.jpg

Artist depiction of HD 98800, a double star system.

When I saw that, I was intrigued by it. It is the first double star system I saw. Hopefully I will see more, and try to image them in the near future.

I then went to another telescope operated by another RASC member. He showed a group of listeners how you can visually tell the star’s temperature by slightly defocusing the image. It was quite interesting. Here is an image: (The blue star is hotter than the yellow star)

IMG_7917

Two stars that have been defocused. The lighter coloured star is cooler than the blue star.

It was very interesting to know that. This means I can look at the stars, and get a good idea of how hot a particular star is. Hopefully I can put it to good use.

I then went to another member’s refractor telescope that was pointed to the ring nebula. I was excited to see the ring nebula in its beauty. Earlier in my hobby, one RASC member told me that we shouldn’t expect much from Deep Sky Objects when observing them visually. I finally understand why. What I saw was the Ring Nebula, but it was barely visible. I was able to see a grey indentation of the ring nebula behind a black sky, but nothing more. I suspect light pollution played a big part in blocking a large portion of this Messier object. Hopefully I get a chance to look at the ring nebula in darker skies.

At that time, the ISS finished an orbit and came back up the night sky again, albeit at a lower elevation than before. It was really nice to see the ISS again. Unfortunately, I couldn’t image it again with my scope as it was packed away.

Near the end of the night, I saw a RASC member with a CGEM EdgeHD Celestron Telescope. It is the top of the line telescope, with excellent optics to view the night sky with. I was able to learn about polar alignment with their mount. There is a recticle there which shows a circle with a smaller circle at the edge of the bigger circle. You put Polaris inside the smaller circle and you get a good approximation of where the North Celestial Pole is. It was interesting to see how polar alignment works in the CGEM Mount. They then slewed to Mars. I hoped they would slew to Mars to test whether their scope has better detail of Mars than my own scope. Unfortunately, it didn’t look much different than my own scope. Maybe it is because of the seeing, or multiple frames need to be stacked before getting any detail. Whatever the reason, Mars is tricky to see and image properly. Before Mars goes behind the sun, I hope I can get a good image of it.

By midnight, many people left with only a few people still observing. I also decided to leave the party at that time, and head home. That Star Party had been a very interesting experience. I saw a lot of new and interesting celestial objects. I also learned a lot about telescopes, and how to use them better. I saw the ISS twice tonight, and I met a lot of new people. Hopefully, the sky for the Dark Sky Star Party is clear and the turnout is as much as the City Star party. Good night and happy observing!

 

WORKS CONSULTED

http://observing.skyhound.com/archives/jul/HR_7051.html

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

 

IMAGES USED

Family Night at the Observatory

On Saturday, May 31, 2014, the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) hosted a family night where families could come and tour the DDO, learn about astronomy, and have a great time. As a member of RASC, I went to this event as a volunteer.

The DDO Big Dome

The event started at 9 pm. I was assigned to work at the DDO Big Dome with two other people. My assignment was to explain how the star finder worked, and what each image was on the wall. During the event, I was able to explain to visitors how the star finder worked, and talked to them about the exhibits that were on the observatory’s wall, and was able to answer any astronomy-related questions.

One of the most fulfilling moments during my time there was when I talked to a guest and the group of kids about what’s the best scope to use, and answered questions about the planets, movement of the stars, and other questions. It felt good to help them get interested in astronomy.

After the family night ended, the RASC members were invited to look at the planets with the big telescope. We saw Mars and Saturn using that scope. It was incredible to see planets on a telescope that has been used in a variety of research projects during its 79 year lifetime. Note that the images taken are not the same as when you actually look through it.

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Mars through the Big Scope

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturn through the Big Scope

 

After looking at the telescope, I decided to call it a night. Before I left, I looked at another RASC member’s telescope. It was a refactor with 330x zoom. Looking at Saturn, it was so close compared to my telescope. I was astounded by the zoom of his telescope.

IMG_7500

It was a great night, but it’s not going to be the only Family Night that RASC will host. RASC will host another one on June 14, 2014. Hopefully, you will all be there.

Astronomical Events for June 2014

Hello everybody,

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

       Astronomical Events

  • June 3: There will be a triple transit event on Jupiter from 18:05 – 19:44. It will be visible in Eastern Europe and Africa.
  • June 7: The Moon and Mars will be in Conjunction. That means there will be two degrees of separation between them. The Moon will shine at magnitude -12.8, and Mars will shine at magnitude -0.8. They will be both visible until 6 hours after sunset.
  • June 10: The Moon will occult Saturn at approximately 18:48. It will be visible in the Indian Ocean.
  • June 13: The Moon reaches its full phase.
  • June 21: The Earth reaches Summer Solstice at approximately 10:51.
  • June 22: The ISS will be completely illuminated near the Summer Solstice. This means that the Northern Hemisphere will be best placed to view the ISS many times.
  • June 24: The waning crescent Moon will pass within a degree of Venus. Great time to spot Venus.
  • June 26: The Moon occults Mercury 20 hours before the New Moon. It’s visible in Southeast US and Venezuela just before sunrise.
  • June 27; 20 hours later: The Moon reaches its new phase.
  • June 27: The June Bootid Meteor Shower will peak at approximately 15:00. It will be most visible in the Central Pacific.

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

  • June 9 – 12: There will be a City Star Party, where people can look at the stars and planets without going outside of Toronto. A telescope is not necessary to attend. This event is free for the public. It will be located at either Bayview Village Park or at High Park. Go to http://www.rascto.ca for the GO/NO GO call.
  • June 14 and June 21: The David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) is hosting a family night for families to come and tour the observatory. It is a great way to start learning about astronomy. They require tickets to be purchased in advance. This event is not weather-dependent. However, children under 7 are not allowed in the Big Dome. Anyone can attend. It is $8.00 for a ticket. Go to http://rascto.ca/content/ddo-family-night-0 for more information.
  • June 23: This is the window for RASC’s Dark Sky Party that will take place at the Long Sault Conservation Area. It will start at 8 pm. This event is free and open to the public. Telescope are not necessary to attend. Go to http://rascto.ca/content/dark-skies-observing-16 for the GO/NO GO calls.
  • June 25: In shores of Strait of Juan de Fuca, in Victoria, BC, there will be RASC’s 54th annual General Assembly. It is a great educational event with great opportunities at meeting people.
  • Go to http://www.rascto.ca for more information. Thank You!

 

 

 

 

 

WORK CITED

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

http://www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-current.html

rascto.ca

https://www.rasc.ca/events/home

 

Astronomical Events for May 2014

Hello everybody,

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

       Astronomical Events

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

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

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

 

 

WORK CITED

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

Coursera lecture 5.12

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

rascto.ca