Sudbury Observing

From August 1 until August 20, I will be observing the night sky in Sudbury, Ontario. There, I hope to be able to do more astronomy and see more celestial object there.

On Friday, August 1, 2014, late at night, it was a clear night in Sudbury, and I decided to take my scope out that night. In Sudbury, the sky was much clearer than at my house. It was much clearer than the sky back home. For the first part of the session, my dad was with me.

While we were beginning to set up our telescope, we saw an artificial satellite high in the sky at 11 pm. It was bright enough that it looks like one of the stars. Probably at magnitude 2-3. It was moving from the Southwest towards the North. I couldn’t figure out what the satellite is, but I do know it is not the ISS. After researching the night sky on a program called, Starry Nights, I suspect it is a satellite called, Cosmos 1536, but I can’t be sure. Cosmos 1536 is a Soviet satellite that was put into orbit in February 8, 1984. It’s perigee is 557.8 km and its apogee is 576.0 km. It takes 95.9 minutes for the satellite to make one orbit. It was used as an ELINT (Electronic and Signals Intelligence) satellite to intercept signals that are not commonly used for communication.

Starry Nights

The night sky at 11 PM EDT simulated by Starry Nights ™. Ecliptic is displayed in green dashed line. Cosmos 1536’s path in the night sky is the blue line.

After it disappeared in the night sky, we decided to continue setting up the telescope. Once it was set up and aligned, we pointed it to Saturn. It was beautiful as always, with its rings shining prominently. As we looked at Saturn, my dad decided to call it a night. He went inside to sleep, as he had an early morning that night.

I then continued to look for other celestial objects to look at. Since I was in darker skies, I decided to look for Deep Sky Objects (DSO’s). However, that didn’t work out as I was not able to see any DSO’s. I tried to look for M51, Cassiopeia A, and other objects, but that didn’t work out. Looking at a light pollution chart a few days later, I realized that Sudbury’s level of light pollution blocks out most of the DSO’s in the night sky which was disappointing.

After realizing that there are no DSO’s that I could see, I decided to call it a night. That night was quite successful. I saw an artificial satellite that was not the ISS, and I saw Saturn. It was unfortunate that I wasn’t able to see any DSO’s. Hopefully I can find them another time. Happy Observing!

Astronomy with Araz

It was a semi-cloudy night on Friday, July 25, 2014. That night, I met my friend, Araz Boghossian, who is a photographer, electrical engineer, and amateur astronomer, in King City. Using his vehicle, we went to a lake near his house. Before we parked, a man that was there questioned why we were there at this location. We explained to him why we were there, and was all right with it.

We quickly unpacked all our equipment and got it assembled. It was a good location, but since it was near a lake, it was infested with large mosquitoes, hungry for human blood. I had a mosquito repellent clip-on, but it didn’t work (I later learned I didn’t set it up right.) There, I was able to use my new equipment, such as my new flip mirror, which allows me to connect two devices into my telescope, such as an eyepiece or a camera; and my DC adapter, which lets me connect the telescope to a car adapter to run the telescope off its power supply.

We did a lot of astronomy there. We first aimed at Mars. Since it is moving away from opposition, it didn’t give us much detail, and we quickly moved onto Saturn, swatting mosquitoes at the same time. Once we had Saturn in view, we had a look at the beautiful, ringed Saturn. When Araz saw Saturn, he was awestruck by its beauty. We kept looking at it, and we noticed three of its moons glowing dimly in the telescope. It was quite amazing and surprising that we were able to see three of its moons.

Using Araz’s camera, we decided to take a few pictures of Saturn. Araz, fighting the bugs around him, quickly got his Nikon DSLR camera, switched his lens with his T-ring so that he can put it in my telescope. Once it was firmly attached, I flipped the mirror. Initially, there was no image, however, we quickly realized that it wasn’t focused properly to the camera. The eyepiece and the camera require different focusing, which meant we couldn’t see using the eyepiece and the camera at the same time. Fortunately, we were able to get Saturn in view of the camera. Once Saturn was centered in the camera, we were able to take many photos. The first few were relatively blurry, but as we played with the focusing, the clarity improved. Eventually, we were able to get a great set of images of Saturn, which clearly showed the gap between the planet and the ring. It was beautiful.

After a good imaging session, we decided to move onto M51, a galaxy I have yet to find. After, unsuccessfully, trying to find it among a sea of stars, we decided to try taking some images of the night sky itself. Therefore, Araz removed his camera from my telescope, replaced the T-Ring with his 18 mm lens, and left the shutter open for a long time. He was able to take some star trail images, which meant that the camera wasn’t moving with the Earth’s rotation, as a result, it captured the movement of the stars in the night sky. He showed me the pictures, and the images were well captured. At the same time, I was still looking at Saturn, and it was still shining beautifully.

After his long exposure images, we decided to try and take a long exposure image on my telescope’s piggyback mount. We tried to take a picture of the Big Dipper, which didn’t turn out as we hoped. The image we took was more of a star trail image than an image of the Big Dipper. This meant that my telescope wasn’t properly tracking the night sky. I would need to get my telescope repaired.

After that, we decided to call it a night. We packed up our equipment and headed back home. It was a great night. The sky was clear enough to view the planets and the stars with. Waking up the next day, I was covered in mosquito bites. Nevertheless, it was a great experience. Hopefully, the next time Araz and I meet, we will have more targets to search for, and my equipment will finally begin to work better.

Until then, happy observing!

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.

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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.

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.