Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Sky Tonight via Sky & Telescope

January 26, 2013

Full Moon (exact at 11:38 p.m. EST). The Moon is in dim Cancer, with Procyon shining off to its right during evening, and Pollux and Castor above it.

Algol is at its minimum brightness for a couple hours centered on 6:26 p.m. EST. Watch it gradually rebrighten though the evening.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hubble Focuses on "the Great Attractor"

A busy patch of space has been captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Scattered with many nearby stars, the field also has numerous galaxies in the background. Located on the border of Triangulum Australe (The Southern Triangle) and Norma (The Carpenter’s Square), this field covers part of the Norma Cluster (Abell 3627) as well as a dense area of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The Norma Cluster is the closest massive galaxy cluster to the Milky Way, and lies about 220 million light-years away. The enormous mass concentrated here, and the consequent gravitational attraction, mean that this region of space is known to astronomers as the Great Attractor, and it dominates our region of the Universe. The largest galaxy visible in this image is ESO 137-002, a spiral galaxy seen edge on. In this image from Hubble, we see large regions of dust across the galaxy’s bulge. What we do not see here is the tail of glowing X-rays that has been observed extending out of the galaxy — but which is invisible to an optical telescope like Hubble. Observing the Great Attractor is difficult at optical wavelengths. The plane of the Milky Way — responsible for the numerous bright stars in this image — both outshines (with stars) and obscures (with dust) many of the objects behind it. There are some tricks for seeing through this — infrared or radio observations, for instance — but the region behind the center of the Milky Way, where the dust is thickest, remains an almost complete mystery to astronomers. This image consists of exposures in blue and infrared light taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. ESA/Hubble and NASA Mission: Hubble

Remembering the Apollo 1 Crew

On Jan. 27, 1967, veteran astronaut Gus Grissom, first American spacewalker Ed White and rookie Roger Chaffee (left-to-right) were preparing for what was to be the first manned Apollo flight. The astronauts were sitting atop the launch pad for a pre-launch test when a fire broke out in their Apollo capsule. The investigation into the fatal accident led to major design and engineering changes, making the Apollo spacecraft safer for the coming journeys to the moon.

Image Credit NASA

Large Magellanic Cloud

Nearly 200,000 light-years from Earth, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, floats in space, in a long and slow dance around our galaxy. Vast clouds of gas within it slowly collapse to form new stars. In turn, these light up the gas clouds in a riot of colors, visible in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is ablaze with star-forming regions. From the Tarantula Nebula, the brightest stellar nursery in our cosmic neighborhood, to LHA 120-N 11, part of which is featured in this Hubble image, the small and irregular galaxy is scattered with glowing nebulae, the most noticeable sign that new stars are being born.

Image Credit ESA/NASA/Hubble

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Sky Tonight via Sky & Telescope

January 25, 2013

Around 10 p.m. this week (depending on how far east or west you live in your time zone), brilliant Sirius is at its highest due south.

Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky — and are you far enough south to see the second brightest, Canopus? In one of the many interesting coincidences that devoted skywatchers know about, Canopus lies almost due south of Sirius: by 36°. That's far enough south that it never appears above your horizon unless you're below latitude 37° N (southern Virginia, southern Missouri, central California). And there, you'll need a flat south horizon. Canopus transits the sky's north-south meridian just 21 minutes before Sirius does.

When to look? Canopus is at its highest point when Beta Canis Majoris — Mirzim, the star a few finger-widths to the right of Sirius — is at its highest point crossing the meridian. Look straight down from Mirzim then.

Early Dual-Pol images from Houston radar

Ok guys last update on this for now. DP data as I said has finally started flowing from the NWS Houston radar. I grabbed a few screen shots and will share them here. As I promised before, I will write another blog soon describing the advantages and disadvantages of each product! Stay Tuned!
Normal Reflectivity (Z)
Differential Reflectivity (ZDR)

Differential Phase (KDP)
Correlation Coefficient (CC)

Hydrometeor Classification (HCA)

Update: Dual-Pol Upgrade Completed!

The NWS office in Houston has completed their DP upgrade! Data is now flowing. I'm currently trying to get a screen pic from RadarScope, but it looks like its going to be a little while for the system to update. HGX (Houston/Galveston Weather Office) says during the next rain event a little more calibration is needed. I cant wait till then.

Here is the status update from the NWS:

Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Barnard Stares at NGC 2170

A gaze across a cosmic skyscape, this telescopic mosaic reveals the continuous beauty of things that are. The evocative scene spans some 6 degrees or 12 Full Moons in planet Earth's sky. At the left, folds of red, glowing gas are a small part of an immense, 300 light-year wide arc. Known as Barnard's loop, the structure is too faint to be seen with the eye, shaped by long gone supernova explosions and the winds from massive stars, and still traced by the light of hydrogen atoms. Barnard's loop lies about 1,500 light-years away roughly centered on the Great Orion Nebula, a stellar nursery along the edge of Orion's molecular clouds. But beyond lie other fertile star fields in the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. At the right, the long-exposure composite finds NGC 2170, a dusty complex of nebulae near a neighboring molecular cloud some 2,400 light-years distant.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My photos of the Jupiter Moon Conjunction 1-21-2013

First shot of the Moon from that night.
Ok so I went out after work, dragged out my scope and pointed it at the Moon. As I pointed out in my last post, Jupiter and the Moon were very close together in the sky. It was also a good chance to test out my new smart phone rig for my telescope. So I dragged it all outside and took in the beauty.

That night also happened to be my first astronomical observations of 2013! At first the Moon and Jupiter were not close enough for me to fit them into the view on my telescope. As you can see I went out about 748pm. Thanks to Sky and Telescope I found out the closest approach of the Moon and Jupiter would happen around 10pm. So naturally after taking a few more photos I went back in and waited patiently till 10.

Jupiter and 3 of its satellites.
Im also adding on here of a close up photo of Jupiter. Its similar to the one taken at 758pm. In the close up you can clearly see 3 of the 4 major moons of Jupiter. The fourth is hidden in the glare of the planet. The moons are, starting from top left: Ganymede, Europa (hidden), Io, and Callisto. Turning the exposure down also allowed me to view some banding features on Jupiter. They were not really noticeable in the pictures. Perhaps next time I will use a more powerful eyepiece.

The Orion smartphone adapter
Since I'm using an Iphone to take these photos they are not great. But I am always surprised at how good they actually turn out to be. What helped out was the SteadyPix Universal Telescope Photo Adapter from Orion. I used to just hold the phone up to the telescope. The results were usually hit of miss. usually miss. This was my first time getting to use the adapter. Took some getting used to but once I got it it worked great. The only draw back I found so far was that the adapter did not fit onto my 9mm eyepiece. So I was not able to get any good pics of the Jupiter cloud features. More testing needs to be done. The video I shot was spectacular! Very steady. I will post that later.

For those curious, my telescope is a Meade ETX-90. I was using a 26mm eyepiece to view the Moon and Jupiter. The phone is an Iphone 4 using the camera on the phone and an app called ProCamera. Plus the SteadyPix adapter you see in the photo. For more information on the ETX-90 plus many other helpful tips and hints visit: . Also thank you to Sky & Telescope for the heads up and their Jupiter app!

Below is what I,m calling the money shot of the night. Both Jupiter and the Moon in the same shot!
The money shot!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Close conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter

Look for a bright "star" unusually near the waxing gibbous Moon this evening. The Moon passes less than 1° from it for most of the U.S. and Canada. Think photo opportunity; use a long lens, or zoom to the max. In much of South America the Moon actually occults (covers) Jupiter.

Although they look close together, the Moon is only 1.3 light-seconds distant from Earth, while Jupiter is 1,700 times farther away at a distance of 37 light-minutes.

National Mall from Orbit

Astronauts on board the International Space Station captured this view of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area on Sunday, Jan. 20, one day before the public Inauguration of President Barack Obama.

This detailed view shows the Potomac River and its bridges at left, with National Mall at the center, stretching eastward from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument toward the Capitol building, where the inaugural ceremony will be held.

NASA has been participating in inaugural activities this weekend, culminating in the appearance of the Curiosity rover and Orion spacecraft in the Inaugural Parade on Monday, Jan. 21. See for more.