Thursday, July 16, 2020


Location:  Saint John, NB, Canada

Date Time:  July 15, 2020 2230-2310hrs

Weather:  Gusty winds from the NW, very cool, jacket weather, 13C, 61% humidity, party cloudy around the horizon, but mostly clear through rest of sky.

Equipment:  Canon Rebel t3 with 18-55mm and 75-300mm lenses, 20x80 binoculars.

Attendance:  Brandon, Ed from his place, and Myself.

Objective:  To view and image Comet C/2020 F3 Neowise, which as moved into the evening sky and is now circumpolar.

  • Weather forecast was calling for mostly cloudy skies.  We have had almost a month straight of foggy/cloudy weather, at night, with very few, short breaks, in places.  This has made viewing and imaging this spectacular comet very difficult up to now.  Surprisingly, according to Ed, a few hours before dark, a cool, north west wind blew through.  This cleared out what was going to be another cloudy/foggy night.
  • Went out around 2230 hrs to look for comet, which was supposed to be in the NNW sky.  After a short, naked eye scan of the low northern sky, Comet Neowise popped out easily, under the Big Dipper with it's 2 degree tail pointing in the approx. 1:30 position.  This tail direction was very different from the morning viewing of the comet on July 10, 2020, where the tail was pointing almost straight up in the 12:00 direction.  Nucleus is very bright, while the tail is much dimmmer, but very see-able.  Wasn't completely dark until almost 2300 hrs.  Comet was spectacular in binoculars!  It took up at least a half of the field of view!  Very bright central region, with striations of brightness through the tail.  Naked eye, the darker the sky got, around 2300hrs, the comet became very easy to see, even in all the light pollution from the City.  A truly wonderful thing to see!

Single shot, taken at 2238 hrs, 4 sec, f/5.6, 300mm, ISO 800.

Saint John River, Ocean Steel and the NB Museum on Douglas Ave seen in the foreground.  Single shot, taken at 2232 hrs, 3 sec, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 800.

  •  Saturn and Venus were very bright, close together and low in the southern sky during this time.
Single shot, image taken at 2040 hrs, 4 sec, f/5.6, 130mm, ISO 800.

  •  No satellites or shooting stars were seen.

Friday, July 10, 2020


Location:  Saint John to Petersville Hill on Hwy 7, NB, Canada

Date Time:  July 10, 2020 0245-0530 hrs

Weather:  Foggy most all the way from Saint John to Petersville Hill, which is about halfway between Saint John and Fredericton, NB on Hwy 7.  Fog seemed to thicken and thin on the way to Petersville Hill.  Temperature was 13C with 91% humidity, and no wind or breeze of any kind.  No movement of the air, made for perfect foggy conditions.

Attendance:  Ed O'Reilly and David McCashion.

Equipment:  Ed brought his 15x70 and camera.  I used my Canon Rebel t3 with 18-55 and 75-300mm lenses.  Images processed with PhotoShop.

Objective:  To view and image a bright, naked eye comet, which was supposed to be visible low on the eastern horizon, just before first light.

  •  There has been many sightings around the world of this comet for about the last week. However, the weather has been cloudy here in Saint John ever since the comet first started becoming visible in the morning sky.  Here is an image from Tuesday, July 7, 2020 from my first attempt to view this comet.  The mostly cloudy sky started to break up just before first light, but not enough to see the comet.

  • 0245 hrs on July 10, 2020 weather was foggy in Saint John so Ed and I met up and headed out to Petersville Hill after looking at the online weather forecast.  It was showing cloudy towards Sussex, so we thought our best chance of seeing the comet was to head inland towards Fredericton.
  • 0400 hrs, once at Petersville Hill, we got out of the car and had no trouble seeing the comet, which was surprisingly high above the eastern horizon, and about 20 degrees to the left of a very bright Venus.  The comet had to contend with a 75% illuminated, gibbous Moon also, which was high in the south eastern sky very near to a very bright Mars. (More on Mars below)
Single shot, 1/80 second, ISO 100, 300mm taken at 0442 hrs.

  • Comet's tail was approximately 3 degrees long, and is the first thing we noticed, naked eye.  It appeared, out of the corner of my eye, as a line in the sky, going straight up and down and was the first thing that caught our eye, below Capella and Menkalinan.  
Single shot, 8 sec, ISO 6400, f/5.4, 18mm, image cropped and enhanced.  Star magnitudes are included to show brightness of comet.  It was approximately magnitude 2, imo.

  • Menkalinan, also known as Beta Aurigae, according to Richard Hinckley Allen, in his book, Star Names Their Lore and Meaning is a 2.1 magnitude star which is "lucid yellow'".  Menkalinan means 'the Shoulder of the Rein-holder.'  Also from Star Names Their Meaning and Lore, Auriga the Charioteer, is a large constellation, stretching northward across the Milky Way from Taurus to Camelopardalis.  Capella, also known as Alpha Aurigae, a 0.3 magnitude, white star.  Capella means 'the Little She-goat'.
  • The comet was spectacular in 15x70 binoculars!  A very bright central nucleus, with a wide tail that seemed brighter on one side, with striations.  Took much of the field of view in the binoculars.  Took many images of varying focal lengths and different settings.  Ed and I agree that this is the brightest comet since comet Holmes in 2007.

8 second, ISO 6400, 55mm taken at 0403hrs

8 second, ISO 6400, 300mm, f/5.6, image taken at 0408 hrs.

2 second, ISO 1600, 75mm, f/5.6, image taken at 0437 hrs.

  •  A very bright Venus was near Aldebaran in Taurus, along the eastern horizon, about 20 degrees to the right of the comet.  Venus was a very bright -4.4 magnitude, very close to as bright as it gets.
4 second, ISO 1600, 75mm, image taken at 0416 hrs.

  • Mars, which was high in the SE sky, is much closer to Earth this year, which happens every other year due to the two planets being on the same side of the Sun in their respective orbits.  This makes it possible to view features on Mars with smaller sized telescopes.  It's disk, in the telescope eyepiece, is going to be very much bigger/easier to see this summer.
  • One satellite was seen, passing through binocular field of view, while viewing the comet.  No shooting stars were seen.  On the trip home, fog remained all the way back to Saint John, and stayed cloudy/foggy for most of the morning, well past sun-up.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020


Location:  Prince of Wales, NB, Canada

Date Time:  June 15, 2020 2145-0030hrs

Weather:  Partly cloudy to mostly clear, hazy, no wind, some ground fog later covering much of the sky except for due south, no dew, 8C, and almost no bugs.  Ed mentioned how it's rare to have the southern sky so perfectly clear, with the northern sky hazy/cloudy.  It's usually the other way around.

Attendance:  Edward O'Reilly, David McCashion

Equipment:  Ed's 15x70 binoculars, 80 ED/APO telescope, 19mm eyepiece, Canon t3 with 18-55mm lens and using telescope at prime focus. used to help find comet and Photoshop to process images.

Objective:  To locate and view Comet C/2017 T2 Panstarrs which was reported to be approx. one degree from Phecda, one of the bowl stars in Ursa Major.

  • Set up telescope before 2200 hrs, but it didn't get completely dark until just before 2300hrs.
  • Leo was low in the western sky at first dark.  Aligned scope on Regulus and Denebola.  Imaged the Leo Triplet, which is located about two degrees below Chertan.
  • Ursa Major was located high in the NW sky, almost perfect location for evening observing.  Imaged and observed with binoculars and telescope.  We noticed nebulosity around the big dipper asterism star Phacda, and could see something very near where the comet was located, but we could not confirm a visual sighting with the telescope or binoculars.  Phacda, according to Richard Hinckley Allen in his book Star Names Their Lore and Meaning, is magnitude 2.5, topaz yellow.  The star name derives from the Arabic word for thigh, Al Falidh.  Image reveals comet is slightly brighter than magnitude 10.6, bared spiral galaxy M109.

Single shot 20 second image with 18-55mm lens.

Single shot image, 30 second, ISO 6400.

  •  Imaged the Whirlpool Galaxy/Messier 51, a bright spiral which is located below the handle of the big dipper.

Single shot 30 second image.  Cropped.

  •  After midnight, Jupiter and Saturn started to rise, just above the treeline, in the East.  A spectacular sight.  We could see three moons of Jupiter, two to the left, and one to the right,in binoculars.  We tried for Saturn rings, but all we could see was a hint of ovalness.

Single shot, 20 second image.

  •  Ed and I both viewed, with binos, M4, a startlingly huge globular in Scorpius.  We also viewed another very bright globular cluster in Sagittarius, M22.  We also viewed, with binos, M25, which is just above M22, and M8 and M21, which are located right in the bright central part of the milkyway, located to the west of the teapot astersism.  Ed also got M13, in Hercules, which was almost straight overhead.
  • Ed seen one meteor.  We both seen many satellites, with a train of them passing, just to the south of Ursa Major around midnight.

Thursday, May 28, 2020


Location:  St. Martins, NB, Canada

Date Time:  May 23/2020 2130-2230

Weather:  Clear, no wind, cool 7C, no dew or bugs.

Equipment:  Canon T3 with 75-300 lens on tripod.

Attendance:  Myself

Objective:  To view and image the close pairing of Mercury and Venus that has been occurring around this time of evening for the last number of  days.  They came as close as under 2 degrees a few days before this.

  • Weather was perfect, but planets, especially Venus dropped in the sky shortly before it darkened.  Nice pairing to view, it has been many years since I last seen Mercury.

Focal length 230mm, 1/4 second, ISO 100.
  • Many satellites were seen including the International Space Station.  The increase in satellite traffic is noticeable.

Thursday, April 30, 2020


Jupiter and Saturn on either side of the Galactic Center, last summer.  Location of galactic center (Sag A star) is my estimation of where it's located. . Single shot, 20 second, ISO 6400.  Image processed with Photoshop.

There is a very advanced observatory that is located in the high desert of northern Chile that has studied Sagittarius A star, also known as the center of the Milky-way galaxy, systematically for 16 years.  They started in 1992 and used infrared detectors to see through inter-galactic dust to the region where it is thought to be the center of our galaxy.  It is believed that at the galactic center is a black hole.  This, not often mentioned, amazing project is noteworthy, imo, so I decided to do a blog post on it.

The infrared detectors, over 16 years were able to track up to 28 stars moving around a central location, with one star making a complete orbit.  They have also imaged a gas cloud being 'spaghettified' by the black hole.

A poor quality image from my cellphone of sunlight on the wall, being broken into its spectrum by two differently angled windows in my house.  Note blues on the left, reds on the right.  Infrared is invisible to the human eye, and it occurs, on the light spectrum, to the right of where we see red.  If you were to place your hand to the right of where the red is, you might feel some heat on your hand.  This heat would be infrared heat.

 After studying the video of stars orbiting around a central spot, I wondered if this was an actual animation of stars over a period of time, or was it some form of altered representation?  Thought of this because of the fact that a visual viewing cannot be done due to inter-galactic dust.  What did the actual data image look like?  So I looked up a contact email at the ESO website, sent an email asking that question, and received this answer from Dr. Steffen Mieske. I very much appreciate Dr. Mieske taking the time to promptly respond.

"The data taken with NACO are actual images that can peer through the intragalactic dust, in the infra-red.

The movie itself is then an accurate reproduction of the measured stellar motions over ~two decades. The raw images of NACO look ‘uglier’ but essentially trace the objects in a similar fashion."

"Actually, looking at the time-lapse, I have to be more specific – this is not only an accurate reproduction. This is a composite of slightly cleaned actual NACO images. You can see the artifacts of bright stars at the top left after a few seconds, looking like a wave pattern. Those are from the actual images. Not an artist impression." 

Dr. Steffen Mieske
Head of Paranal Science Operations
European Southern Observatory, Chile

I think the YouTube video above is the one that Dr. Mieske is referring to when he mentions the artifacts of bright stars in the top left.

Dr. Mieske also referred me to Stefan Gillessen, a researcher with Max-Planck-Gessellschaft, who is directly involved with this research.  I asked Sefan Gillessen how the original, raw data looked, before any kind of processing took place, and how they decided on where to look for the galactic center.  This was his reply;

"The raw frames pretty much look like any CCD raw frame, a mono-color frame, with still many artifacts. As an amateur astronomer, you sure know how these frames look like." 

"The center of the Milky Way was first determined via the 3D distribution of globular clusters, and further by infrared observations, looking at the stellar density  and gas and stellar velocity dispersion - before the massive black hole was found, which nowadays is usually considered to be the "exact" center."

I then asked him if he was still working on imaging the galactic center now, and asked if he could describe how it works.  His reply was;

"...yes, I am working on that. And this is by no means done automatically, for example the telescope time needs to be requested in a competitive process for this science project. The data taking is largely automatically, still we often go to the VLT to assist the observations. We typically go there once a month, and then spend roughly a week or a bit more there."

 Stefan Gillessen

 I want to thank both Dr. Steffen Mieske and Stefan Gillessen for their contribution to this blog post.

Below are some videos from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft websites that help show and explain their fascinating and inspired work.  There is also contributions from researchers at UCLA in California, who are doing similar research.

This is astronomy done with some of humanities most advanced instruments and methods.  It's always very interesting, in my opinion, to see the current cutting edge of professional astronomy.

This infrared image of the galactic center is from the ESO led Herschel Space Observatory.

The field of view of the galactic center, being studied, showing the stars orbiting a single spot is .05", whereas, the sized of the full moon in our sky is 20".  This gives an idea of the size of area in the sky that is being studied, from our point of view.   

At W.M. Keck Observatory, on Maunakea, Hawaii there is similar research going on.  Dr. Andrea Ghez gives a great lecture on black holes and she references this similar research many times, including at around the 22 minute and the 34 minute mark of her 1 hr and 11 minute lecture.  At approx. the 50 minute mark she begins to take questions from the audience.  Some great questions were asked, which yielded some very informative answers.

Last summer, on Aug 19, 2019 astronomer Tuan Do, of UCLA was observing Sag A and detected a massive brightness.

Stay tuned for news from the center of our home galaxy.  It seems to be a busy place.

Sunday, April 26, 2020


Location:  Prince of Wales, NB, Canada

Date Time:  April 25, 2020 2030-2330hrs

Weather:  No wind, mostly clear with some haziness and a few passing clouds.  Cool enough to keep the bugs down, except for one moth.  Temperature went from 6C down to 3C.  Frost on the car windows the next morning.

Equipment:  Canadian telescopes 80 ed/apo with Canon rebel t3 attached at prime focus.  Images processed with Photoshop.

Attendance:  David McCashion

Objective:  To observe and image a thin crescent Moon closely approach epsilon Tauri, one of the Taurus the Bulls eyes.  Also to observe a Starlink train of satellites passing over at 2135hrs according to, and to image three different comets in Camelopardalis.

  • Nice pairing of Venus and a very thin crescent Moon before sky darkened.  Sky didn't darken till after 2100hrs.

Image over-exposed to show Moons location in Taurus.  Note M45 in the lower right.  The Starlink satellites first appeared in between the Moon and M45 at approx. 2135hrs.  It showed up as a surreal, red light train of stars moving together, in unison towards the SE, passing almost straight overhead.  Once they got higher in the sky, they turned from red to white.

  • While imaging the Moons approach towards Epsilon Tauri, aka "Ain and Oculus Borealis, both of which mean “the eye.”", at 2135hrs, a train of satellites appeared out of the north western sky, to the right of the Moon.  Absolutely spectacular!  Wasn't prepared for imaging the amazing sight, but after fumbling with the camera to take a long exposure image, I realized that that would only produce a streak in the image.  In my opinion, the best way to image this amazing thing is to video it.  My cellphone camera couldn't pick up the faint satellites, that were approximately Betelgeuse brightness, and were in close formation, showing differing reddish colors when lower, close to the horizon, then turned white as they passed overhead.  Would estimate approx 50 satellites that disappeared long before they got to the south eastern horizon.  Another group of about 25 satellites appeared about 15 minutes later.  Called my wife and a friend in Saint John to tell them to look for the train and my wife went outside and seen the satellites pass overhead.

  • Viewed, with unaided eye, and imaged the Moons approach to Taurus the bulls eye.  As it got darker out, it was easier to see the close pairing of the Moon and Epsilon Tauri.  The Moon was very close to the star, but I didn't witness it eclipsing the star, which it was supposed to do.


  • Orion is sliding in behind the sun for the summer, like it normally does.  Just before dark Orion's belt could be seen through the trees on the southwest horizon.  Betelgeuse appears to be brightening from its recent dimming phase.

  • Located and imaged three comets in Camelopardalis, all between Capella and the western tip of Cassiopeia. First time for me to image three comets so close together in the sky. Beautifully located in the north western sky, this would, no doubt, capture much more attention, if they were brighter.  All three images consist of the same settings; 60 second exposures, ISO 6400.  Only processing was adding text and reducing image size for sharing purposes.  No cropping or other enhancements.  Did this to show the brightness and size differences.  Obviously, Atlas Y1 is 2nd biggest and the brightest, with  Panstarrs T2 being second brightest and the smallest.  Comet Atlas Y4, which is falling apart and dimming, is dimmest and seems to be largest, but has a grayish color, where the other comets are showing green in images.  Comet Atlas Y1 and Comet Panstarrs T2 also have bright nucleus's, whereas, Comet Atlas Y4 has no bright central region.  Another interesting fact, according to, is that they are all about 1 AU from Earth, with Panstarrs being about 1.7AU from Earth.

A cropped and collage version of the three comet images below.

  • Many birds were nearby, chirping quacking, and squawking, long after dark.  An American Woodcock flew past my setup, just before total dark.  Three fast, faint shooting stars were seen with another unconfirmed one out of the corner of my eye.  Many dozens of satellites were seen going in either north south direction, or west to east.

Saturday, February 29, 2020


Location:  Front Yard, Little Lepreau, NB, Canada

Date Time:  February 28, 2020 1800-2100 hrs

Weather:  Windy and mostly clear, -1C at 1800hrs to no wind and mostly cloudy from 1900-2100, -3C and 56% humidity.

Equipment:  Canon Rebel t3 attached to 80mm ED/APO at prime focus.  Images processed with Photoshop.

Attendance:  David McCashion, Edward O from SJ.

Objective:  To image Comet C/2019 Y1 ATLAS which was in Pegasus, low in the west at sundown.

  • A nice pairing of a slender waxing crescent Moon and Venus in the evening sky.

  • By the time it got dark, around 1944 hrs, a thin layer of clouds started moving in, and Comet Atlas had moved below the treeline, in the western sky.  Took one image and stars could be seen through the thin clouds, but the comet did not stand out.

  • Shortly after the Comet Atlas search, clouds took over most of the sky.  Tried for Comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS, but clouds moved into that part of the sky too.  Went inside for about an hour, then tried again just before 2100hrs.  There was a short break in the clouds, in the NW sky, where T2 Panstarrs was located.  Took a few images, then clouds moved back in.  Comet was located near the W of Cassiopeia on the Perseus side.  Ed noted that this comet appears to be mostly white, where most comets appear greenish in images, with a lesser percentage being blue.  Two thin tails appear to be radiating from the 11 o'clock positions and the 10 o'clock positions.  Comet is now heading in the direction of Ursa Major, where it should brighten even further by May of this year.

    Image cropped and over-exposed to better show coma and tail.  Single shot, 30 second, ISO 6400.

    Uncropped and over-exposed.  Single shot, 30 second, ISO 3200.  Large circular camera aberration in upper right.

    • Due to fast moving clouds, had to rush focusing camera, and this resulted in slightly out of focus images.  There was simply no time to fine tune the focus.  Also, a high thin layer of clouds also affected image quality.
    • Seen one south to north, bright satellite, and no shooting stars.


Blog Archive