Finally got out for a couple of hours tonight to observe!

Well I finally got a clear night out tonight.  The seeing wasn’t great but beggars cant be choosers so I’m not complaining.  I’m just glad that I could go out for a change and scan the skies.  Here I am with my telescope set up on my garage entrance slab with the imaging pieces in the scope looking at the Milky Way south:

Scanning the Skies
Scanning the Skies

I wanted to do some real imaging but decided that I would rather do some visual observing.  So off came the astro modified Canon 40D DSLR and in went my 2″ diagonal.  It has been a while since I actually did some visual observing.  It is so much more breathtaking looking at DSOs, clusters, double stars, and nebulae with your naked eye.  I almost forgot what they looked like through an eyepiece!

Well, that’s it for now.  I hope that the skies stay clear for the weekend so I can set up my imaging rig and take some more astrophotos!  I suspect it won’t because the only reason it was clear tonight is because the “almost” tropical depression moved east and pulled the dry air in.  This is what usually happens here after 3pm this time of year:

Lightning FCO
Lightning FCO

It’s fun living on top of the Everglades…

Clear Skies!

Another impact on Jupiter?

Image of suspected impact on Jupiter by Anthony Wesley

Image of suspected impact on Jupiter by Anthony Wesley

The image on the left, taken by Australian astrophotographer Anthony Wesley show what appears to be another impact similar to the the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact that occured in 1994.  The circled “dark mark” suddenly appeared between July 17th and 19th.  The mark has also been confirmed by many other observers in different parts of the world.

The dark mark is located near Jupiter’s System II longitude 210deg.  There is evidence that this was indeed cause by the impact of an asteroid or comet.  The mark’s high infrared brightness in reflected sunlight is one bit of evidence.  Leigh Fletcher twitters from the InfraRed Telescope Facility in Hawaii: “This has all the hallmarks of SL-9 in 1994 (15 years to the day!). High altitude particulates, looks nothing like weather phenom.”

If it’s really the black debris from an impact star, it will probably become spread out horizontally by jet streams in the coming days.

Source: Sky and Telescope

How to make a good thing even better…Introducing Celestron EdgeHD!

cgem11hdWith The Growing Hobby Of Astrophotography, Celestron® Offers Consumers New Technology With EdgeHD Optics To See The Universe In HD

TORRANCE, CA – (July15, 2009) – Celestron®, the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of telescopes, binoculars, spotting scopes, microscopes and related accessories, is announcing the release of its newest line of aplanatic Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, the EdgeHD Series. EdgeHD is perfect for photographing the stars.

You may have seen beautiful images of the night sky and have wondered if it’s even possible for you to take such amazing photos. It is possible and Celestron is making it easier and more affordable for the amateur astronomer or photographer looking for a new art form. After the much-anticipated release of the new CGE Pro Mount especially designed with the astrophotographer in mind; Celestron introduces its new optical line, the EdgeHD Series, with true Astrograph qualities for sharper more clear photographs giving you the clear edge.  What sets EdgeHD apart from the others? While some telescope optical designs can produce pinpoint stars across a curved focal plane, stars will appear out of focus at the edge of view when used with a flat chip sensor of a digital camera. The EdgeHD optical system is designed with a coma-free flat focal plane all the way to the edge of the field of view. EdgeHD optics produce a focal plane more than three-times flatter than a standard Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and dramatically flatter than other competing coma-free designs. The result is a visibly sharper photograph that guarantees you visibly sharp stars across some of the largest CCD chips available today.

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Imaged Jupiter this morning…

So the clouds cleared out for a couple of hours and gave me a chance to view the sky with my Orion StarBlast 6 Newtonian.  I could see the moon (of course) as well as Jupiter with all the nastiness in the air.  I was observing Jupiter when I got the crazy notion to try and image it with my Orion StarShoot Solar System Imager affixed to the StarBlast 6.  The following image is the best that I could do on such short notice and with mosquitos tearing me apart:

Jupiter 071209
Jupiter 071209

Hopefully the sky will clear out enough for me to set up my C6 on the CG-5GT or even better conditions where I can roll out my CPC1100 and do a little imaging with this.  Ah the trials and tribulations of sky imaging and observing in “sunny” Florida during the summer!

Web Site Launches to Save Stuck Mars Rover


Free Spirit! Web Site Launches to Save Stuck Mars Rover

By Tariq Malik
Senior Editor
posted: 26 June 2009
07:14 pm ET

The plucky Mars rover Spirit has a whole team of NASA engineers on Earth trying to find an escape route out of the Martian sand dune that has snared the robot for weeks, and now it has a Web site.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., launched the Web site “Free Spirit” ( this week to chronicle the space agency’s efforts to rescue Spirit from its sandy Martian prison. It comes complete with a dramatic logo.

“People really like the whole ‘free Spirit,’ idea and we thought we should make it really easy for people to find updates,” said Veronica McGregor, a NASA spokesperson at JPL. “In a way, we’re trying to make it a campaign that everyone can get involved in.”

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NASA Selects Nine New Astronauts

NASA Selects Nine New Astronauts for Future Space Exploration

HOUSTON — After reviewing more than 3,500 applications, NASA has selected nine people for the 2009 astronaut candidate class. They will begin training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston this August.

“This is a very talented and diverse group we’ve selected,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “They will join our current astronauts and play very important roles for NASA in the future. In addition to flying in space, astronauts participate in every aspect of human spaceflight, sharing their expertise with engineers and managers across the country. We look forward to working with them as we transcend from the shuttle to our future exploration of space, and continue the important engineering and scientific discoveries aboard the International Space Station.”

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Texas-Sized Computer Finds Most Massive Black Hole

960Texas-Sized Computer Finds Most Massive Black Hole — 6.4 Billion Solar Masses

Astronomers Karl Gebhardt of The University of Texas at Austin and Jens Thomas of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics have used new computer modeling techniques to discover that the black hole at the heart of M87, one the largest nearby giant galaxies, is two to three times more massive than previously thought.

Weighing in at 6.4 billion times the Sun’s mass, it is the most massive black hole yet measured with a robust technique, and suggests that the accepted black hole masses in nearby large galaxies may be off by similar amounts. This has consequences for theories of how galaxies form and grow, and might even solve a long-standing astronomical paradox.

To try to understand how galaxies form and grow, astronomers start with basic census information about today’s galaxies. What are they made of? How big are they? How much do they weigh? Astronomers measure this last category, galaxy mass, by clocking the speed of stars orbiting within the galaxy.

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NASA Returns to the Moon…

958NASA Returns to the Moon for the First Time in a Decade

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter launched on Thursday June 18, 2009 aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellite will relay more information about the lunar environment than any other previous mission to the moon.

The orbiter, known as LRO, separated from the Atlas V rocket carrying it and a companion mission, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and immediately began powering up the components necessary to control the spacecraft. The flight operations team established communication with LRO and commanded the successful deployment of the solar array. The operations team continues to check out the spacecraft subsystems and prepare for the first mid-course correction maneuver.

“This is a very important day for NASA,” said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington, which designed and developed both the LRO and LCROSS missions. “We look forward to an extraordinary period of discovery at the moon and the information LRO will give us for future exploration missions.”

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Hello astro-world!

Hello and welcome to my blog.  This blog with document the adventures (and misadventures) of my backyard observatory.  I am in the process of planning my observatory and am getting ready to build it along with a concrete pier.  In the coming weeks I will be posting updates as I start construction.

A night of observing/imaging.  CPC1100, APT Astro Wedge, on a scopebuggy with my golf cart to power the scope and laptop
A night of observing/imaging. CPC1100, APT Astro Wedge, on a scopebuggy with my golf cart to power the scope and laptop
Celestron CPC1100 on top of an APT Astro wedge
Celestron CPC1100 on top of an APT Astro wedge