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Back To Basics

A few nights ago I set up my lxd75 with the 8″ SCT in the backyard to show my wife and a friend of ours a tour of the heavens.  Neither one of them had ever really had any experience looking through a telescope.  I was so excited to show them some of my favorite objects when disaster happened.   Having not set up the telescope in almost 2 years, I assembled the mount in my living room to test if everything was still working.   All was well, the mount slewed and even connected to my laptop so I could run it with my version of The Sky.  After setting up last night, I was having trouble finding my way around to polar align my mount.  I used to living in a darker location where Polaris was easily found.  I moved to a more urban area where the skies are really not great.  I thought I had found Polaris but it was way off from where my compass said north was.  Now I know that North and Polaris are not exactly the same, but they are pretty close.  Once I located what I thought was Polaris in the polar scope of my mount, I realized that the illuminated polar scope battery was dead making it impossible to figure out where to get the exact alignment.  I figured it would not really matter since it was a non imaging night.  As long as I was relatively north all would be well right?  I powered up the telescope, entered time and dated, and began the 2 star alignment process that meade has for finding objects.  This is where my “hell” of a night began.  Not only was the alignment way off from star it was trying to find, I did not have my finding scope on the telescope.   Using an 8″ f/10 SCT with no finding scope to center a star is near IMPOSSIBLE, especially on an GEM.  I powered down and tried the whole process over again to no avail.  As it got later, powering down a third time, I was was beginning to think that there would be nothing to look at tonight.  My wife and our friend didn’t have a problem, but I was frustrated and felt it was a waste of time.  I could not get it aligned so before breaking down I manually slewed to Mars and Jupiter.  I eventually found them in the eyepiece.  Mars was pretty low in the sky, in the muck of light pollution and very thin hazy clouds that were now moving in.  We were able to just see some dark shadowy details on the planet, but nothing was sharp.  Jupiter was a much more enjoyable view than Mars.  We were able to see some banding on the planet and 4 moons in an interesting pattern.  My wife and our friend were amazed at the view of Jupiter.  To me it sort of made the night worth it at this point.  I had forgotten what the experience of seeing an object for the first time is.  So I figured it was a good time to get back to basics.

 

Some things to do before the next time I set up:

  1. Binoculars – located the exact Polaris location in the backyard
  2. Set up the scope in the day time and train the drives on the LXD75
  3. Attach my Telerad finder and align it with the scope
  4. Create a list of objects that would be enjoyable in my heavily light polluted location

Gear and site upgrades

I will be making updates to this site and trying to be more active with the hobby.  Started by updating some gear on the equipment page.  Future plans include putting together an outreach program to expose astronomy to the community.  Cheers!

Alien Fossil UPDATE

NASA has made an official response to Dr. Hoovers claim that alien life has been discovered on this meteorite CI1 carbonaceous chondrites.

“NASA is a scientific and technical agency committed to a culture of openness with the media and public. While we value the free exchange of ideas, data, and information as part of scientific and technical inquiry, NASA cannot stand behind or support a scientific claim unless it has been peer-reviewed or thoroughly examined by other qualified experts. This paper was submitted in 2007 to the International Journal of Astrobiology. However, the peer review process was not completed for that submission. NASA also was unaware of the recent submission of the paper to the Journal of Cosmology or of the paper’s subsequent publication. Additional questions should be directed to the author of the paper.” Paul Hertz, chief scientist of NASA’s science mission directorate, Washington.

The following response from Dwayne Brown, NASA, was received by NASA Watch in quick response to questions asked this afternoon:

Did Hoover fill out NASA Standard Form 1676 or get internal review or permission at NASA MSFC to publish this paper? Answer: No. A SF-1676 was not submitted before submission of the paper to the Journal of Cosmology. Submission of a SF-1676 is standard. The SF-1676 on file is for a revised version of the 2007 article that was submitted to the International Journal of Astrobiology. The SF-1676 was approved by Marshall’s science management chain for re-submission of the revised article to the International Journal of Astrobiology. Hoover took the advice from a colleague in the astrobiology field to submit the paper to the Journal of Cosmology. No SF-1676 was submitted to or approved by MSFC management for submission of the revised article to the Journal of Cosmology. NASA policies state that papers on topics of this magnitude should be published in scientific journals that conduct rigorous peer review prior to publication.

So, as I suspected, this study is most likely going to go no where.  I also read on another blog about a dispute whether or not Richard Hoover actually has a PhD.  I wonder if someday there will be real evidence for extraterrestrial life.  In one of my favorite movies, Contact, the question whether there is life out there in the universe is answered, “If we are alone in the Universe, it sure seems like an awful waste of space.”  Personally, I feel that there is other life out there.  Maybe in a form of life that we can or even can’t see.  But that is a question for a totally different blog post.

Aliens…again

Dr. Riccardo Guerrero / Journal of Cosmology

S0 this is what alien life looks like….

Once again there has been a new claim of alien life found on a meteorite.  Some of the information regarding this discovery has been made public but the full paper will be published in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology.  The research by Dr. Richard Hoover basically says that this biological fossil is not native to earth.  He states that the process for making the discovery was “a very simple process.”  What Dr. Hoover did cut the rare meteorite in a sterile environment, then he found the biological remains using a scanning electron microscope.  He feels very confident of his discovery stating, “if someone can explain how it is possible to have a biological remain that has no nitrogen, or nitrogen below the detect ability limits that I have, in a time period as short as 150 years, then I would be very interested in hearing that.”

ALH-84001

Claims like this have been made in the past.  Some of you may remember ALH-84001, the martian meteorite where in 1996 scientists thought that it contained nanobacterial fossils.  At the time the found fossils were smaller than any known single celled life.  This discovery went all the way to the White House where President Bill Clinton made a global announcement that ET has been found.  Could this newly found biological remain found on the meteorite CI1 carbonaceous chondrites be announced by our current Commander and Chief?  I don’t think so.  Unless the evidence is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is real.  In response to the discovery Seth Shostak from SETI stated, “Maybe life was seeded on earth–it developed on comets for example, and just landed here when these things were hitting the very early Earth.  It would suggest, well, life didn’t really begin on the Earth, it began as the solar system was forming.”  I am curious as to the future of this discovery and will blog about it when I find out more.

RAC Dinner

Tonight I attended the Rockland Astronomy Club’s annual dinner up in new york.  The night started off with some great appetizers and a disaronno on the rocks from Frank the bartender.  It was great meeting some new friends at the table I sat in.  The conversations moved from astronomy, to what everyone did for a living, and especially debates about the ridiculous national budget cuts for science research in America and the destruction of the manned space program in NASA (something that I was quite upset about when it happened late last year.)  The night transitioned to a warm welcome from the staff of RAC and announcements for the upcoming NEAF 2011 (20th year!)  For dinner we had clams, chicken marsala, Swedish meatballs, potatoes, and calimari…not the healthiest, but it was a special event.   After dinner was time for the door prizes.  I didn’t win anything this year, but winning a 12mm Naglar last year was enough for a while.   :)

The highlight of the evening was a lecture by Charles Liu from the Hayden Planetarium in NYC.  His lecture was entitled “Galaxies and Our Cosmic Future.”  The talk was filled with humor and even singing!  “Black holes don’t suck!  If you fall into one you have a new home..”  or something like that…  He spoke in depth on galaxy luminosity functions and about the Cosmos project that he is involved in.  I enjoyed his lecture because of how simple he made these theories sound, especially to a non physicist.  Some coffee, more laughs, and chocolate cake ended the night.  I am very much looking forward to NEAF and the imaging conference coming up.  The Rockland Astronomy Club always outdoes itself with their events!

The night was an inspiration to me especially considering how little I have been able to sit under the stars the last few months.  Cold weather combined with lots of music rehearsals/productions has not allowed me to get out.  I also want to keep this blog updated a little more often than I have been.  Going to try to post a blog at least once per week on something related to astronomy.

Lunar Eclipse 2010

On December 21, 2010 at 5:27 UTC  a lunar eclipse occurred coinciding with the Winter Solstice for the northern hemisphere.  The last time this event occurred was in 1638 and is the second to happen in the entire common era.  The next time this event happens is 2092, I hope to be around for it!   The night was cold, 12:30am my time.  I gathered with about 70 people at the meadowlands environmental center’s observatory to view the eclipse.  There was hot chocolate and moonpies for everyone!  The 24″ telescope was open to the public and there were many other smaller telescopes set up in the parking lot.   I brought my 80mm refractor, dlsr, and a tripod to image this rare event.  I am so thankful to Dr. Sloan at the observatory for supplying me with a freshly charged battery for my Canon XS as mine decided to die halfway through the eclipse.  The following photo was taken between the hours of 1:17am and 3:17 am EST.

m27 Round II

Here is the final results of my second run with M27.  I have had some practice and wow, there is a difference between the first time I shot this object.  This time I used Bias/Dark frames.  This shot was 6*360 sec, 2*600 sec with my unmodded Canon XS with a CLS clip filter.  Scope used was the AT80 on the lxd75 (unmodded) guided using a DSI/finderscope in PHD.  Stacking done in DSS and processed in CS4 using Carboni’s Astronomy Tools.

Revisit the moon

I was looking through some old pictures that I took with the meade LPI.  With the imaging scope (AT80) I was not able to get the entire moon in the FOV.  The ccd chip was just not big enough.  No problem here though, for I was able to mosaic a couple different spots to complete a full moon picture.  Here is my results, completely done in photoshop CS4 for mac.  Only little problem is on the eastern edge, the data was slightly cut off.  The end result is still eye pleasing though.  Enjoy!

M27

Last night’s weather was “iffy.”  The humidity was high, seeing was little below average, but it was a comfortable 68 degrees.  I tried using Maxim DL for the first time.  I was able to get the DSLR and the guide cam to work, but guiding using this program was still confusing to me.  I decided to figure out and learn the program another night.  Back to running PHD.  This was the second night out using the guiding program.  The process was a lot easier to use the second time.  I did run into some computer errors, mostly due to forgetting to shut down the power shut down mode on my laptop.  I finally was able to get some longer exposures.  Started with 5min exposures, and the longest for tonight was 8min.  I am sure that I could have gotten more than 10min, which I am really impressed about.  Here is the shot of M27 that I did.  I used 4 shots at 5min each, 1 at 8min, and 1 at 2min.  I did 3 sets of 5min, 1 8min, and 1 2min darks.  No bias shots, because I forgot about them.  I stacked the imaged in DSS and did the post processing in Photoshop CS4 using Carboni’s Astronomy Tools Actions Set.

First Night Autoguiding

Well my guidescope project is done! I recently installed windows xp sp2 on my new macbook pro. Only reason for doing this is the desire to run certain astronomy applications that do not run under Mac OS (I hope these companies realize the superiority of mac’s and develop mac os versions). I am running PHD with the meade DSI pro as a camera on the lxd75 mount. Setting everything up was simple. First I polar aligned, then did a 2 star alignment for the autostar computer, slewed to Vega to focus the canon xs, and the DSI.

I had no idea what to expect using the PHD program.  I didn’t look at any instructions, I just hit buttons with what made logical sense.  The title of the program “Push Here Dummy” is pretty self explanatory.  On the provided graph, I noticed that the DEC was going way south.  I changed the exposure time from 1sec to 0.5sec on the camera, thinking that would solve the problem; it did not.  I pressed the little brain button and changed the Max Dec Duration from 150ms to 210ms.  This fixed my problem and the DEC/RA was running pretty stable.  Before packing it in I did a 6min exposure of NGC 6997, a mag 10 open cluster in the middle of the North American Nebula (NGC 7000).

I was looking at The Sky software and found that there are mag 14 stars in this image of NGC6997.  I am very happy considering I took these from my home, 25 miles outside NYC.