Sunday, August 28, 2011

Comet Garradd

As a follow up to the previous post on white light observing with the 4 inch f/11 achromat, I observed and sketched Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd tonight.  There was a bit of dust and smoke in the atmosphere all day and I think that the transparency was impacted tonight.  Contrast in the scope is excellent, and I do believe that I was seeing a broad and faint tail extending in an easterly direction from the nucleus.

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Sketch was completed at 0325 UT under average skies, using a 10mm Pentax XW (110X).  The comet has an estimated magnitude of 8.1

Sunspots in white light ~ 28 August, 2011

Recently I acquired a longer focal length achromat, an Astro-telescopes 102mm f/11 refractor.  It is a fairly inexpensive telescope given the quality of the objective lens and I intend to write up a review of it soon. While I have not yet used it enough to complete a quality write up, I did want to evaluate it during white light observation of the Sun.   To observe the Sun in white light I use a Lunt Solar Systems Herschel Prism, along with a zoom eyepiece and a polarizing filter that allows me to quickly zoom in and out on individual spots, facula and granulation as the seeing permits.  Below are a couple of photographs of the telescope mounted in my observatory this morning.

While a longer review of the scope will follow soon enough (forecast for tonight is CLEAR!!), I was extremely happy with the performance of this telescope.  The view of the sun is slightly off-white as compared to my TEC 140mm APO, however, the chromatic aberration (de-focused purple light) that I have noticed at night was much less obvious in this solar configuration.  Perhaps it was the steady atmosphere, perhaps it has something to with the solar prism and polarizing filter- either way the view was exquisite.  This scope will likely become my main instrument for white light observation of the sun.  It provides almost as much detail as the TEC 140, yet it is much lighter and there is something comforting about not having the TEC pointing at the sun for extended periods of time.

Click to enlarge
The sketch at left was completed this morning at 1527 UT, under steady skies.  There was a slight amount of high level cirrus that may have lent itself to the impressive image.  You can see that spot region 11279 contains two very dark spots and three small spots surrounded by a large penumbra.  Just outside this group to the east are 4 small spots.  Region 11277 contains two large spots within an oval penumbra.  Spot region 11275 near the Sun's meridian contains 4 very small spots.  In addition to the numbered regions, there is a large group of spots that have rotated into view on the southeast limb.  This region has extensive facula that can bee seen within the limb darkening.  Similarly, there is some bright facula on the northwest limb where region 11271 is rotating out of view.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Solar Sketch August 27, 2011

The predicted high temperature for today at the Lost Pleiad Observatory is 108 Degrees F, and we are well on our way with temperatures hovering at 101 at 12:45 PM.  If we hit this temperature, it will be four of the last seven days that we have tied or broken the record high temperature for a given date.  The nice part about this, is that we still have a monsoon moisture pattern in the vicinity and the daily heating jump starts some serious thunderstorms that bring relief...if one is lucky enough to be in the storm's path.  Speaking of storm paths, a shout out to those family and friends on the east coast who are getting hit by hurricane Irene.  Take cover, and bring your scopes indoors!

This morning I observed the sun and made a sketch of several of the numbered active regions facing the earth.  The atmosphere was not great as I had to make the sketch early (7:30-7:55 MST) and the image at the eyepiece was not as steady as I would have liked.  Typically, the best window to observe the sun is right around 2 to 3 hours after sunrise.  In addition, the transparency was average due, I think, to high levels of humidity.

Below left is my sketch of the sun at 1455 UT, and Below right is an image from the solar observatory at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, part of the National Solar Observatory.  The Mauna Loa image is from about 4 hours following my observation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Desert Speaks (not the TV show!)

Work has been all too stressful these last couple weeks, and with the monsoon weather pattern retaining its death grip on Tucson I am really feeling the need for an astronomical observing fix. Observational astronomy feeds my soul and sitting under the stars always offers me time for reflection and rejuvenation. I had planned on heading down to the dark skies of Portal, AZ for the coming new moon weekend, but there is too much rain in the forecast to make the trip worth the gas money.

Tonight I ended up driving home from work just before sunset and through a drenching monsoon rain.  There were numerous showers throughout the Tucson valley and the sky lighting had a very unique color to it.  Being that I live on the far east side of town the sun was at my back and I was treated to a beautiful rainbow.  As soon as I pulled into my driveway I ran inside and grabbed my point and shoot camera to capture this image of the rainbows and the interesting yellow-grey sky color.  Of course the picture does not capture how beautiful it was.

Between the fresh smell of rain and creosote (if you have lived in the desert during a rain storm you know exactly the smell I am describing), the cool breeze blowing across my face, the sound of rolling thunder, and the sight of the rainbow(s), my work stress was quickly put in perspective and at least for a night, I am again in touch with the natural wonders of the sky .

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cool stuff

In preparing to lead a program tonight at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, my colleague Adam Block shared this video with me.  It is an animated rendering of ALL the asteroids discovered from 1980 to is really quite amazing and beautiful. I'd highly recommend enlarging it to full screen and making sure your volume is on as the music is fitting as well.