Sunday, February 6, 2011

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Future Solution to Light Pollution?

Light pollution is a major problem, both for professional and backyard astronomers. It used to be that if you just went out into the countryside, you could get decent viewing. But with unshielded mercury vapor lamp street lighting all over cities, you can't do that, anymore. City glow extends for tens, even hundreds, of miles, fogging up the sky.

The Vancouver Museum in British Columbia, Canada is currently hosting an exhibit of simple, practical solutions to a variety of modern problems. One of the items on display is something called "Lunar-Resonant Street Lights":

These are street lights that are sensitive to moonlight. They are brightest during a New Moon and dimmest (even off) during a Full Moon. Their inventors say that not only could these lights save "between 80 and 90 percent of energy normally spent on street lighting" but that they could also get people back in tune with the natural rhythms of the world around them, like lunar phases and star rotations. Check it out. It's a very interesting idea. Now, if we can just get rid of those infernal mercury lights...

Friday, August 7, 2009


After the overly successful IYA2009 event #Moonwatch, the Newbury Astronomical Society had to try and run another.

Now you may be asking yourself, what is #Moonwatch? Well, in simple terms #Moonwatch was a Astro-Twitter event, where there were about 10-15 people tweeting pictures and answering questions about the moon and occasionally Saturn. These pictures were “Tweeted” live, just after they were taken someone would upload it to their Twitter account and all the others would send out a message or RT (Re-Tweet) that picture, for all to see! With this the Newbury Astronomical Society had thousands of people watching them for the next lunar images! Now 3 months later the Newbury Astronomical Society is at it again, but this time it’s called #Meteorwatch

#Meteorwatch is predicted to be one of the biggest (if not the biggest) astronomical event on Twitter ever! Now you may be wondering why chose now? Who wants to have an event in the middle of August? Well, if you know your meteor showers then you know why, the Perseids! The Perseids is one of the biggest (meaning most meteors per hour) showers of the year, so everyone has the best chance of spotting at least a few meteors in a small time, even under the most light polluted skies. So on August 11, 12, and 13th be sure to go outside and watch “the sky falling”. Then once done come inside or bring your computer outside and join the “Tweeting”.

Now you may be wondering what should I “Tweet”? or What are you “Tweeting”? Well, the answer to the first question is, you can “tweet” whatever you want, you can tell us when you saw a meteor, you can post pictures of the sky, answer/ask questions, whatever you want! Just be sure to join in on the fun! Then @NewburyAS , @ksastro , @Starrfop , @MDBenson , and many more will be tweeting LIVE images of Meteors, the moon, Jupiter, and whatever else is in their reach. In addition to these LIVE images, I (ksastro) will be hosting LIVE telescope tours of the moon, Jupiter, and some other bright objects.

So if you want to join, it’s as easy as contacting @NewburyAS or @ksastro or just send out a tweet with #Meteorwatch and we will reply. Hope you join this momentous event!

Participants list: (As of August 7, 2009 18:55 CDT)

Name Twitter Name: Location Denise Wallace Starrfop Florida, USA Elias Jordan ksastro Kansas, USA Adrian West NewburyAS Newbury, UK Dr Ian O’Neill astroengine California, USA see above Discovery_Space See aboveCatherine CatherineQ Eastern, USA Dave dpbkmb Pennsilvania, USA Adam Horn adam_horn UK John K. geminijk Tenessee, USA Mike Weasner mweasnerArizona, USA Lisa Kirsch LRKirsch California, USA Gene Mikulka genejm29New Jersey, USA skipzilla Ohio, USA Philip Stobbart philipstobbart Kendal, UKTavi Greiner TaviGreiner Eastern, USA See above askyfullofstars see aboveAstroSpaceNow astrospacenow N/A Montse Montsecor Costa Rica Carolina Odman carolune N/A Marty Bishop MixfmMarty Arizona, USA N/A brechtjeNetherlands Marena sthrnynkeegrl NE, USA N/A uponschoolcloud FranceSteve Knight Steve_P_Knight Banbury, UK Michel Schep MichelSchepAmsterdam Mark Benson MDBenson Louth, UK N/A theBomber London, UKRoland Taams RolandTaams Netherlands Ruth E’Alessandro WildlifeGardenaN/A Maggie Philbin maggiephilbin London, UK Mark Zaugg Zarquil Alberta, Canada Alexandru Csete csete Denmark Jaap Meijers tjaap Netherlands Dave Pearson davepdotorg Lincolnshire, UK Tom Boulton Tommy_413 Wirral, UKEwan Bryce Space_Jockey Edinburgh, UK Louis Suarato LouisS Eastern, USAAaron Slack RevAaron Canada Diane teal64 Pennsylvania, USA Bonnie bjr70Michigan, USA Daniel Dowhan mizerock Virginia, USA Wynyard Planetariumwwp_planetarium Stockton, UK Waddell Robey XiNeutrino New Mexico, USAJane Fleming fleming77 Cambridgeshire, UK Richie Jarvis richiedeepsky Lewes, UK N/A nullsession Iowa, USA ASG the_asg Scotland Gail Griffin gailsoaresCalifornia, USA N/A NelmaAlas Portugal Jen flyingjenny KSC, Florida

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

LIVE Broadcast of the moon and Jupiter

Come see the moon and Jupiter LIVe almost everynight! The we will occasionally throw in some other objects!


Newbury Astronomical Society @NewburyAS with the International Year of Astronomy 2009 UK @astronomy2009uk, amateur astronomers and societies, will be holding a Twitter Meteorwatch on Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th of August 2009.

Everyone is welcome to join in, whether they are an astronomer or just have an interest in the night sky.

This event follows on from the popular Twitter Moonwatch held in May 2009

Use the hash tag: #Meteorwatch and get involved, ask questions, follow the event and enjoy the night sky with us. Images and other information will be tweeted as it happens. Live!

The highlight of the summer meteor showers : The Perseids, reach maximum around The 11th and 12th of August and may put on a display of aproximately 80 to 100 meteors per hour under ideal conditions. Conditions this year aren’t ideal but meteors every few minutes are still quite possible. Perseid meteors are often bright with persistent trails which can linger for a while after the meteor has burned up. Further information on the Perseid meteor shower and how to view it, will be posted closer to the time and during the Meteorwatch.

Other main objects of interest on both evenings will be: The PlanetJupiter and the Moon. The planets Mars and Venus will also be visible if you stay up to the small hours.

The Twitter Meteorwatch will start at 21.30 BST on the 11th of August and will continue through to the evening of the 12th of August. Amateur and professional astronomers from the US and other countries are invited to join in and take over from the UK, when the sun comes up here, helping make the event run for over 24 hours and be truly international. The event will close in the UK, in the early hours of the 13th of August 2009.

Live moon tours will be broadcasted too! Just go to:

Carl Sagan: The Cosmos

The Popular TV broadcasting channel, Hulu is now carrying most/all of the astronomy/space series, Cosmos.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lunar and Solar Eclipses

We had a lunar eclipse on July 7 and there's a solar eclipse on July 21. The lunar eclipse was only visible from the western U.S. and points further west into the Pacific, but the next one on August 5-6 will be visible on the east coast, as well (in the evening just after sunset). The solar eclipse will be visible in China but not in the western hemisphere.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth is directly between the sun and the moon, thus blocking any direct solar radiation. This leaves the moon illuminated only by "earthlight", which makes it glow an eery red. This is because the bouncing back and forth through atmosphere causes the shorter, bluer wavelengths to be absorbed, leaving the longer red wavelengths.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon is directly between the sun and the earth. Since the moon's orbit is not right on the ecliptic plane (the plane on which the earth revolves around the sun), this doesn't happen every month. You can guess the time of an eclipse (lunar or solar), however, by looking at a calendar that has both the date and the time of the full and new moons. A lunar eclipse only occurs during a full moon and a solar eclipse only occurs during a new moon because those are the only times when the moon crossing the ecliptic plane coincides with the earth or moon blocking the sun.

There are many solar and lunar eclipse calculators online. NASA has a good one:

Solar Eclipse:

And this one comes from the Naval Oceanography Portal:

Lunar Eclipse:

As a rule, partial eclipses are more common than total eclipses and lunar eclipses are more common than solar eclipses. I've seen several total lunar eclipses, but only two partial solar eclipses (I would have seen a third one when I was a kid, but heavy cloud cover hid it).

In addition to total and partial lunar eclipses, there are also "penumbral" eclipses, in which the moon darkens a little from the earth's shadow but not much as in a partial/total eclipse. Both this month and next month's eclipses are penumbral.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mars and Venus and Jupiter oh my!

—I set the alarm for 03:30 this morning to do some sky watching at a different time. One of my first goals, early in my astronomical career, is to view all the other 7 planets as soon as possible. With only Saturn under my belt, there was much to accomplish!
—So the alarm went off and like any normal work morning, I drug my butt into the bathroom and splashed water on my face. Then I put in my contacts, donned my shoes, and went out for an early morning stroll to my viewing area. To my delight, not only was Jupiter shining down from high above, but both Venus and Mars were up in the East! So off to the house I ran to grab my scope and case.
—There were some seriously disturbing sounds coming from further down the hill from my observation area that I have yet to determine what they were. It sounded like the noise upset squirrels make, on an amp, and echoing. AND there were two of them talking to one another. Fortunately for all involved, the noises did not come closer and I was left happily alone.
—Note on the weather. It was in the lower 60’s, low humidity (YAY!) and a slight breeze. It was cool enough, I put on a long sleeve shirt.
—Scope set up, lens cap off and eye piece in, what to look at first? I go with Jupiter which is high in the sky. Jupiter was spectacular through my 26 mm EP, seems like I could see two moons? Curious as I am I can’t linger and so I then point the scope over to the Eastern horizon and gander at Mars, which proves to be a disappointment overall. Then down a little a little to Venus which a: was plainly visible to me standing up, but was hiding amongst the tops of the 6 foot tall grass in my field, and B: had a huge diffraction spike. GGrrrr. I could see enough to tell there was a little more than half of it visible.
—So out with the 26mm and in with the 6mm and back to Jupiter. This time I could distinctly see two bands on Jupiter. I hovered over it quite a bit trying to fine tune the focuser (Which I have determined I hate). Truly a grand site Jupiter is!
—Then back to Mars which again even in the 6mm EP was nothing more than a tiny orange-ish disk. Wondering to myself if I will be able to make it bigger with a 12″ scope? Or is it because Mars is so far away right now? So many questions.
—Then back to Venus! The diffraction spikes were even worse in the 6mm EP, but at least it had cleared the grass and it was a sharp spiky object lol. I’d like to see it high in the sky. Unsure how long it will be until it is higher again.
—After Venus through the 6mm EP I wanted another peep at Jupiter. To my dismay it was now behind the tip top of a tree to the South even though I could see it clearly standing up. Dang it anyway! So now I know that the first concrete pad I poured is a bit to close to the tree to the South. Going to have to pour another pad soon…
—I then pulled out the 17mm EP and took a look at a blurry spot just to the east of Mars. Turned out to be a spectacular open star cluster. Anyone know what one I was looking at right before sunrise? While staring at that heavenly body, Sol decided to start peeping above the horizon. My my 90 mins went by fast! Then I noticed that Mercury had risen! Could I have first light on 4 planets in the same night? Nope, no way. It was way down in the grass, and I couldn’t begin to get to it with the scope. Going to go weed that grass today, wish me luck…
—I decided then to pack it up and head back to bed. I got first light on three planets and one star cluster. All in all a very productive 90 mins in the wee hours of the morning!

—Things I learned

1: I need my lap top there with me so I can have Stellarium at my finger tips. This is going to require a portable power supply or 200 feet of extention cords…

2: My focuser is awful. Anyone suggest a good 1.25 focuser?

3: To much tall grass around my viewing area. Can you say weedeater?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chasing the New Moon

For about six months now, I've been trying to catch the first day that you can see the crescent moon in the first quarter of its cycle. I never seem able to get closer than the second day. Have caught the second day before the New Moon, maybe even the last day, but not right afterward.

Monday was the New Moon and I tried to catch it yesterday. But despite a half-clear sky, what clouds there were seemed to congregate over the setting sun (I suspect there's an actual metereological reason for this involving the concentration of solar heat in the west at that time of day, but haven't worked out what just yet). So, I didn't see it until tonight, when it was a bit more than a sliver.

Due to the usage of the lunar cycles in many religious calendars, astronomical observation is actually a critical matter of good religious observance. Yes, for all of the denigration of religion in some quarters as antiscience, religious calendars are in fact heavily based on science, especially astronomy.

For example, there was considerable dispute over when to start Ramadan among Muslims until easy and quick reporting from Mecca became available. It doesn't seem like much to non-Muslims, but for Muslims, Ramadan is a holy month. If you start and end it too early, you're doing the wrong thing. If you don't start it once the moon reappears in the sky, you're doing the wrong thing. Think of it as if Christmas were based on the lunar calendar: you would want to know the exact date, but the date would be partially dependent on good astronomical observation--and weather.

Passover and Easter are also regulated by a lunar calendar--or, they were originally. Because they are so strongly connected to the spring (i.e. a solar/seasonal calendar), the lunar part of their calculation is restricted to a period in spring of about two months. This is why both float around the spring months of the calendar each year. And because the Christian aspect of Easter was originally a Passover festival, the two festivals not-infrequently fall on the same date.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

First Light!

As my wife described it, I was like a kid in a candy store. I had everything set out early and waited patiently (or maybe not so) for the sun to set. With each passing minute I scanned the sky for the first twinkling star. Up and down the hill I went while helping the wife cook on the grill.

—Finally there it was… Vega! Down the hill I ran and uncapped the scope. Turned on the view finder, centered the dot and presto, there was nothing there. Instantly I worried about my collimation, was it any good? Would this be a fruitless evening trying to achieve first light? In and out I turned the focuser and presto, there was a star. Very faint it was, and not Vega at all, but a sharp, well focused star.

—So up the hill I went to get the wife and tell her my collimation was successful! All I had to do now was adjust my view finder so I could start scanning the heavens. Sadly there were no planets to view or moon to use as a focus point. I had to hope that I could match the star in my view finder and the one in my eye piece. For the next two hours I struggled with it, and guess what? No success at all. I decided to focus on the Mizar/Alcor double star in Ursa Major. I could put the red dot right on it, but never find it in the scope.

—So ‘First Light’ was a mixture of highs and lows. punctuated by another upset buck white tail dear and my two labs that wouldn’t get out from underfoot. I did mix in some yummy burgers on the grill in the middle of it all. Not to mention I did see the HIP 91919A/91926C Binary system, which was really cool.

—All in all a successful evening I hope to do again next week. I hope you enjoyed my account and would love some feedback on how everyone is enjoying my blogs..

Friday, June 19, 2009

KAGUYA's last pictures

Just before her impact on the Moon surface, the Japanese Lunar Probe, KAGUYA, sent the final pictures taken with her High Definition camera. Las picture in the sequence was taken 1 minute before impact.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Astrocation 2009

Have you ever wanted to know what it is like to be at some of the biggest and coolest observatories in the world? Well now you can, starting today! I will be touring New Mexico, Arizona, and California looking for all places/things astronomy related. I will be giving full coverage via, video, blog, pictures, and Twitter. So here is how you can follow along:

Twitter: for the fast and up to date observing, traveling and random experiences.

Flickr: Be the first to see all of my astrocation photos, be it astrophotography or just some observatory shots I will post all of them here. (Videos too!)

My Blog: Long stories, interviews and experiences will be posted!

So tune in and dont be shy submit questions, comments, and tell me what to observe/Image! Untill then!

Elias Jordan

You are not the Center of the Universe

Thanks to Edwin Hubble on the XX Century, we have learned that our place in the Universe is not as priviledged as we used to think.

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