Monday, April 30, 2012

Moon Dance

Last night I went out to the observatory and really had no plan other than to use my TEC 140 to observe Saturn and the Moon.  I decided to check out Saturn first and inserted an 8mm eyepiece.  The seeing conditions (atmospheric stability) were incredible, and I decided to go for broke immediately.  I inserted my Pentax XW 3.5mm eyepiece for a magnification of 280x and was rewarded with no image breakdown.  I was so impressed with being able to easily discern the delicate inner C ring around Saturn that I ran inside to bring Ian out to take a look.  He was pretty impressed as well and thought that we should try and take some pictures of Saturn and the Moon.  Of course, I am not an imager, so we grabbed our little Canon point and shoot camera (The Elph!) and held it up to the eyepiece.  It was hard to hold the camera steady for Saturn as you can see at right, but even with the blurry image, you can see the C ring just inside the main rings.  It helps to click on the image to see it full size.

The main show was the moon- Ian's favorite target.  We had a bit more success taking hand-held shots of the moon through the telescope...actually, pretty impressive if I must say so myself!  Click the images to enlarge them.

Finally, this morning I was outside cutting up some tree branches and noticed two rather large lizards playing a game of tag...the game went on for well over an hour as I worked, and clearly the lizards were so engrossed in the game, that they really did not care about me or the noisy chainsaw I was using.  Finally the chase ended in the oldest of all moon dances...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

See Spot(s) on the Sun

Today is a very exciting day at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter as we will be formally dedicating the 32-inch Schulman Telescope later this afternoon.  The weather today is stunningly clear and warm and fortunately I had enough free time this morning to make a sketch of the Sun in white light.

Using my 102mm doublet achromatic refractor with a focal length of 1100mm (f/11), a Lunt Solar System Herschel Prism, and a 16mm eyepiece I observed the sun for about 30 minutes, completing my sketch at exactly 1600 UT (9 AM local MST).  To the right of my sketch is an image captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory this morning not long after my sketch.

North is up and west is to the left.  For those of you who may not know, the Sun rotates from east to west.  In other words, the large dark spot just inside the southeast limb (which is as of yet an unnumbered region) has just rotated into view.  Besides the complex spot regions, the facula surrounding departing region 11465 in the southwest was quite bright.
Click to enlarge

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mars Drawing

Today was a strange day at work...too many people not getting along with each other; a colleague who had a death in the family; and our department saddened by the suicide of a student.  It was one of those days where I felt that "I'd like to buy the world a coke"...Maybe I am showing my age with that little jingle, but certainly everyone needs to take a deep breath and look up at the night sky we are so fortunate to have here in Arizona.

And, while I never thought I would say something like this, a big shout out to the Governor of AZ for vetoing the electronic billboard legislation!  Our legislature quickly passed this asinine bill at the urging of Clear Channel Communications, and fortunately the Governor had a rare moment of clarity and realized that not only was the multi-million dollar astronomy related industry threatened, but these electronic billboards are safety hazards as well.  But I digress...back to the night skies...

While it is nearly full moon, I opened up my observatory and spent a little time observing Mars again this evening.  Using my 12" LX200 SCT I was treated to a night of exceptionally good seeing.  Using an 8mm eyepiece I was observing Mars at a magnification of 380X without any image breakdown.  I did try a 5mm eyepiece (608X), however, there was nothing visible at that power that I could not see much sharper at 380X.  Below left is my sketch, and at right a simulated view courtesy of CalSky.

Mars is currently 12.11 arcseconds in diameter and still shining at magnitude -0.6.  Mars is .773 astronomical units from Earth, or 6 minutes 25.6 seconds in light time.  My sketch was completed this evening at 8:44 PM MST (0344 UT, April 6th).  At the top is the North Polar Cap, and there was quite a bit of haze in the southern polar region.