Wednesday, July 22, 2015


NASA has a spacecraft named New Horizons which has flown to the far off planet Pluto and taken thousands of images.  Its an easy google search to get all the info you want coming from New Horizons.

Below is an original "Pluto Picture of the Day" released this morning from the good people at New Horizons.  I have taken that image and processed it, then focused in on different areas.  Actually NASA encourages people to do this, and its quite fun to do.  Just download the image to your computer, then you can process it with your usual software, just like processing one of your own images.

In some of the cropped images, it appears that there are barnacle like mountains with huge holes in them.  In another image there is a massive forty mile across depression, and another shows a knife edge mountain range that runs North-south, relative to the image.

This is exciting because we are among the very first people to ever see this terrain!

Original Picture of the Day, unprocessed.

Original Picture of the Day Processed.

Large Mountain with what appears to be a hole in it.

Another huge mountain with what appears to be a hole in it.  It kind of looks like barnacle.  There are lots of these barnacle looking mountains on Pluto.

Huge depression area.

Many huge knife-edge like mountains that appear to be running generally north-south.

Monday, July 20, 2015


The Southern Hemisphere is rich in celestial objects.  One of them is the bright star Eta Carinae.  It is a double star system where the bigger star went a partial Nova twice in the 1800's.  What has been dubbed The Great Eruption happened in1838 and a lesser eruption in 1889. After the 1838 eruption, Eta Carina suddenly became the second brightest star in our sky.  In 1868 the star had dimmed so much that it became invisible.  Since then it has brightened and dimmed many times.

Whats even more interesting than the partial nova itself is the fact that the smaller companion star has an eccentric orbit which disrupts the gasses which were expelled during the eruption.

This has caught the attention of many world class astronomers and has been focused on by Hubble Space Telescope and many of the largest telescopes of the world, some of which are housed in South America.

A quick google search will reveal volumes of information on this very intriguing system and is very much worth a look for anyone interested in astronomy.

Eta Carinae image from

3D Model of the path that the smaller star makes through the gases surrounding the larger companion star.  The surrounding disruption in the gasses has astronomers very interested.

Image from scietechdaily

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Location:  Mactaquac Provincial Park, NB, Canada

Date Time:  July 17-19, 2015  

Weather:  Friday -very hot, humid and sunny through the day, clouded over just before sundown.  

Saturday - cloudy, warm some light showers through day.  Heavy rain through the night.  

Sunday - clouds and light rain. 

Many, very disappointed astronomers.  Someone said it was the first time in eleven years that both nights were clouded out.  Although, it did clear for 45 minutes early Saturday morning from 0130-0245hrs.

Attendance:  Chris C., Mike P., Mary and Peter J., Adrian B., Curt N., Paul O., Ed O., Stephen T., Junior P., Don K., Allen H., Tim D., Someone from Sackville University, plus many more who I didn't know, Carla and Myself.  Approximately fifty in total is my estimate who attended.

Equipment:  Ed and Stephen brought "Big Ass" a 20" Dobsonian, Chris C brought his 11" SCT,  Adrian B brought his 14" Dobsonian which he sold to Junior, Allen, Peter, Mike and many more people brought telescopes.  My 8" Meade LX 200 with telerad, an 80 ED/APO on Vixen Mount, 19mm, 12mm and 6mm eyepieces, 20x80 binoculars, and Canon Rebel Xsi camera.

Highlights Friday:   1630hrs - We arrived and set up the trailer.

1900hrs - Theodore R Gull from NASA gave a talk very interesting talk(in a very hot Rec Hall) on the history of Hubble Space Telescope.  He showed some of its amazing images and had a model of the Carinae Nebula that was made from a 3D printer.  He spoke of the difficulties of getting the telescope to focus properly and how difficult it was to service.  He worried that the new James Webb Telescope had a much more complicated set-up with many more moving parts.  The more parts and the more complicated the system, the harder it will be to trouble-shoot.  Of course, the trouble shooting he is talking about for HST was accomplished by Astronaut spacewalks!  

Spacewalks were done to save the HST(which orbits the Earth at approximately 300km), but, as the JWT will be too far away to service by this method. JWT will be located at Lagrange Point 2, 1.5 Million Km from earth!  JWT will actually be in its own orbit around the Sun!  Thanks Curt!

2300hrs - Acrtus, and the Summer triangle could be seen, faintly though the clouds.

0130-0245hrs - Clouds cleared late Friday night from , but the seeing was still poor.  My big scope was used on manual as batteries were forgotten at home.  Images broke down at high magnification into a reddish haze.

Observed the Milky Way, which was kind of faint but visible.  The big dark lane that approaches Cygnus could be seen. 

M13 was a smudgy cloudy fuzzball. 

M57 showed up at low power in the 19mm eyepiece as a fuzzy but bright smoke ring.  Mike P., observed it also.

Alberio showed up nicely at low and high magnification.  One of public also viewed it was impressed by how close the two stars are and their color difference.

0215hrs - Did a search for M31, but clouds moved in and ended the observing.

One satellite and no shooting stars were seen.  Many planes flew overhead, mostly going east to west or vise versa.

 Highlights Saturday:   0900hrs - Paul O. demonstrated 'new to me' functions on the Canon Rebel Xsi, and helped set the camera up so it would focus through the small scope!  The secret was to attach spacers to place the camera in focus. Thanks Paul!

1000hrs - Paul O gave a very informative talk on Astro-photography(Rec Hall) and showed some of his own personal images.  Discussed different types of cameras used and his method of processing images.  He has produced many very high quality images of celestial objects and of atmospheric optics!  

1500hrs - Clouds and rain had taken over.  The forecast being reported was 100% chance of heavy rain for Saturday night. Everyone in the Stargazing section of the park, except for Carla and I, have packed up and left.  The heavy rains did come Saturday night!

Highlights Sunday:  1100hrs - We broke camp.  

Despite the weather it was still a great time.

A 3D printer model of the space close to the star Eta Carinae brought by Mr Gull.  This is what the smaller star does to the Gases surrounding the bigger star on closest approach!

Mr. Gull holding a model of the Carinae Nebula.

Paul Owen giving a talk on Astro-photography.

Paul O showing an image of his imaging set-up.

Paul, Junior, Elijah, Gary and Myself posing for the Camera.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Location:  Lepreau, NB, Canada

Date Time:  July 12, 2015 2130-0000hrs AST

Weather:  No wind, lots of dew, lots of mosquitoes, kind of hazy with lots of moisture in the air but no clouds 20C at 2120hrs, 10C at 0000hrs.

Attendance:  Myrtle, Ed O, Stephen T, and Myself.  All of us are members of the Saint John Astronomy Club.

Equipment:  Stephens' 20" dobsonian with 25mm and 8mm eyepieces, stepladder to reach eyepiece which was over 6 ft off the ground.  A laser pointer.

My Canadian Telescopes 80 ED/APO on an Alt Az mount with 12 and 6mm eyepieces, with a Rigel red circle finder.

Objective:  To view celestial objects through Stephens 20" telescope, known as Big Ass, then compare to images seen through my smaller scope.

Highlights:  Four double stars, four Messier objects, two Planets, one Iridium Flare, over a dozen satellites and a kind of faint Milky Way...all in a little over an hour of dark, hazy sky.  Its truly an amazing experience to observe the sky with people who have decades of observing experience and knowledge.  They just seem to know where so many things are, without having to do the exhaustive search.

Report:  The big talk on this evening was the condition of the sky for viewing.  It was less than ideal with the amount of moisture in the air.

Saturn, located west of Antares, in Scorpius, was viewed in both scopes with the rings and Titan visible in the 80 ED/APO.  Myrtle commented on how the ringed planet appeared at a strange angle in the eyepiece, compared to the big scope.  Stephen said that the two scopes invert the image differently.

The big scope, operated by Ed, had a view of Saturn that was amazing, if a little fuzzy possibly due to moisture in the atmosphere.  With the 8mm eyepiece, Ed saw the Cassini division, while I seen a storm band across the surface of the huge planet.

The double star Zubenelgenuby was viewed through the 80 ED/APO.  Myrtle commented how one star was brighter than the other.

The other bright star in Libra the Scales, was also viewed through my scope.  I see this star as green, whereas Stephen and Myrtle seen it as bluish.

I viewed Antares through my scope and was amazed at how it sparkled like three rotating red fireballs. Used Antares to locate the globular cluster M4.  Its only one circle length in the Rigel finder to the west.  It was a faint smudge in my scope, even at the highest power.  Its too low on the horizon for good, clear viewing.

Polaris was viewed in my scope, but this double star could not be split, even with the 6 mm eyepiece.

Mizar and Alcor were viewed in my scope.  There is a bunch of stars in the field of view, with one pair being very close together.  A very interesting view.

Albireo was viewed in both scopes with the signature Red and Blue stars shining hugely in Big Ass.  Always a treat to view.

Ed found M13, almost straight up at around 2330hrs.  It was massive in Big Ass.  To me it looked like a fireworks display frozen in time against a reddish backdrop.  Ed saw diamonds on black velvet.

Ed found M57 in Lyra, then showed me how to find it with a laser pointer.  Amazing detail within the smoke circle could be seen as well as the central star with the big scope.  I was able to find it on my own, with the small scope, thanks to Eds' advice .  It showed up as a faint smoke circle.

Ed also found M51, just below the end of the handle of the Big Dipper, which was in the NW at around 2340hrs.  I could see two galaxies and could faintly see hints of the spiral arms.

Over a dozen satellites were seen.  They seemed to be there every time one looked up. Many of them were heading from South to North.  One very bright iridium flare was seen by Stephen, Ed and I, flying low just over the tree tops in the SW.  It was easily brighter than Venus for a few seconds.

No Shooting stars were seen.

Images:  No images taken on this evening.  It was all about locating, viewing and discussing celestial objects with fellow astronomy enthusiasts.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Location:  West Saint John, NB, Canada

Date Time:  July 2nd, 2015 2230hrs to 2300hrs.

Weather:  Slight breeze, partly cloudy to very cloudy, 14C not much dew and not many bugs.

Attendance:  Ed O and Myself.

Equipment:  Eds' 15x70 binoculars and tripod mounted digital camera.  My Canon Rebel DSLR with 18-55mm and 75-300mm lenses and tripod.

Objective:  To view and image the Venus/Jupiter conjunction.  They are now separating after their closest encounter on June 30.

The conjunction was clear and bright enough to stand out and be seen as I was driving to Eds house around 2225hrs.  From 2230hrs to 2300hrs Ed and I moved around to continue observing as it was getting low and into trees and houses.  The Moons of Jupiter were hard to see on this evening.

First thing done was to measure the separation between the two planets.  This was done with a finger held out at arms distance.  Ed thought it was 70% the width of his finger and I figured it to be 80% the width of mine(holding the finger up to the conjunction and measuring how much of the finger was between the two planets).  So in two nights, they have moved about 0.5 Degrees apart.  For comparison, later on, we determined that the Full Moon was about a half a finger width!

Not many clouds were in the sky at 2230hrs, especially in the west.  By 2300hrs the sky was mostly covered in clouds.

Mizar, the naked eye double star in Ursa Major was imaged, with most of the big constellation covered in clouds.

A 'Full Buck' Moon was shining brightly, until clouds started moving in around 2300hrs.  At that point, it still could be seen through the thin clouds, but most other stars were washed out.

No shooting stars or satellites were seen.


Mizar and Alcor imaged with Canon Rebel Xsi and 300mm lens.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Location:  West Saint John, NB, Canada

Date Time:  June 30, 2015 2115hrs-2345hrs.

Weather:  Some clouds, many con-trails to mostly cloudy.  Cool 13C, lots of dew, lots of mosquitoes and spiders.  Light to no breeze.

Attendance:  Ed O, a neighbor named Bob, two passerby's and myself.

Equipment:  Eds' 15x70 binos and 8" Dobsonian.  My 80 ED/APO on a vixen alt az mount with 6mm, 12mm and 32mm eyepieces.  Canon Rebel DSLR with 18-55mm and 75-300mm lenses.

Objective:  To view and image the Venus Jupiter conjunction that was suppose to occur on this date.  They were reportedly going to get within .3 of a degree apart.

Highlights:  Were very lucky to have clear skies for this evenings conjunction.  It was suppose to be foggy, with a bank of clouds very close to Saint John, but as luck would have it, it remained clear enough for some observing and imaging.  Only about an hour, though, of the conjunction, before a cloud bank rolled in from the west, shortly before the two planets went below a neighbors house.

Venus was a very bright Crescent Moon shape in the small telescope.  Jupiter was easily in the same field of view even at the highest magnification with the 6 mm eyepiece.  Three of Jupiter's moons could be seen and its Storm cloud bands seemed to fade into and out of view.  Atmospheric disturbance perhaps?

Mizar and Alcor, the naked eye double star in Ursa Major was viewed in the small telescope.  There were clearly three stars in the field of view, although it is said that this is a quadruple star system.  Very nice sight in telescope!

Saturn and its rings were very nice and bright, even with the nearly full moon nearby.  Titan could also be seen.

Zubeneschamali, in Libra was viewed by naked eye and I thought it looked kind of green.

Zubenelgenubi, also in Libra looked white to me and it went behind a big tree before the scope could be trained on it.  It is a famous double star system.

Antares was simply amazing in Eds' binoculars.  It literally sparkled like it was on fire, brilliantly reddish orange.  It didn't sparkle near as much in the telescope for some reason.

The Moon was very bright and rose above the house by 2300 hrs.  Tycho and Mare Crism showed up very well, as well as some craters along the terminator.

We located Albireo in Cygnus, then trained Eds big scope on it.  It showed up very nicely as a double star.  The star on the right whitish blue, the star on the left whitish red.

No shooting stars were seen, but one iridium flare showed up much brighter than Venus for about 2 seconds then faded, then disappeared behind some clouds.

Venus and Jupiter at around 2200 hrs.  About 1/3 degree separation is about the same width of the Moon.

With big camera and 300mm lens.  You can see three of Jupiters Moons if you look closely.

With cellphone camera held up to 12 mm eyepiece.  Venus in Crescent Moon phase, three of Jupiter's Moons visible.
This taken just before a cloud bank moved in and ended the Conjunction show.

Ed checking out a nearly full Moon around 2300hrs.

Nearly Full Moon was very bright after 2300hrs.

These two Moon images taken with cellphone camera.  Mare Crism and Tyco showed up very nice in small telescope and Eds binoculars.


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