Friday, July 27, 2018

Happy Mars Opposition Day!

This morning, I was determined to beat the next onslaught of clouds and rain.

I had all of the equipment outside and acclimated well before Mars was to cross its highest point in the sky.

The astronomy weather predictions were not good.

But, I was determined to catch an image of Mars today.  It is Opposition Day, after all.

This astronomy session turned into an exercise in perseverance.

This gorgeous image was taken with my cell phone camera.  It shows the conditions under which this week's Mars image, the Mars Opposition Image, was captured.

Pretty, but not optimum conditions for imaging,
Mars is indeed centered in the field of view.  It is in the clear patch of sky not illuminated by the almost full moon.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Not Mars, How About Mice from Deep Space Instead?

All astronomy sessions were clouded or rained out this weekend.

It's the new telescope curse!

No, I didn't get a new telescope, but a friend of mine did.  It's a large Dob and he has been wanting to upgrade for quite a while.  So, of course, he has the new telescope and the entire east coast has clouds and rain!


The weather forecast even throws next weekend's astronomy opportunities into doubt.

So, instead of a fresh new image of Mars from this weekend, here is an image taken from my backyard of another one of my favorite dim magnitude deep space objects.  This was from a observing session in April.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Not Mars, It's a Deep Space Object

Following the old adage, "waste not, want not . . ."

I took advantage of the dark moonless sky and tried to see and capture some deep space objects this weekend.

I'm particularly happy capturing this one because it is so dim and difficult to see.  Its a close grouping of galaxies known as "Stephan's Quintet."

Their magnitudes range from 13.9 to 16.7.  This image was captured with my 10 inch Dob and ZWO imager.

Mars, There is Hope

Clouds continued to roll through the sky during last night's observing session.

Mars did manage to peek through long enough for me to capture some images, though.

Giant planet encircling dust storm on Mars?  Yes.  It is still there, but there is hope.  Reports are that it may be abating.  My captures from last night seem to offer that hope.

Mars, Lost in the Clouds

Observing last night and this morning was challenging.

Banks of clouds continued to roll over the sky in the directions that I had the telescope pointed.  It seemed that Mars was especially afflicted with being obscured by clouds.

It was a dark and moonless sky so I didn't want to waste it.  I stayed out with the telescope and took advantage of the clear patches as much as I could.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Dusty Mars and Dust is Everywhere!

What a difference a few days makes!

We had a cold front come through on Friday and it drove the Summertime temperatures down by about 15 degrees (F).

I brought the telescope out at 0100 this morning to let it get acclimated for a couple of hours before I started imaging Mars.

I had to go back into the house and put on my Winter coat.  It was chilly.

While waiting for the telescope to cool down, I pointed it at a few other of my favorite deep space objects (DSO) and used SharpCap's live stacking to capture some images.

These images have at least one thing in common:  Part of their beauty comes from the existence of dust.  Interstellar dust, of course, but dust, nonetheless.

The Iris Nebula

NGC 7023, also known as the Iris Nebula, is a reflection nebula located in the constellation of Cepheus. The nebula has a young star at its center and since it is young, there is plenty of local dust surrounding the star. The starlight hits the dust and is reflected which becomes the purpleish nebula that we see.

Iris Nebula.  Purple, like its namesake, the flower.
More, after the jump break

Dusty Mars is Still a Visual Treat

I took advantage of another night of good seeing on Tuesday morning, July 3rd.  Nights of good seeing seem to be few and far between this year.  Don't want to miss any if it can be avoided.

It was still oppressively warm and humid when I brought the telescope outside.   I was thankful when the cooler air finally made it over the top of the hill upon which our house sits.  It did bring a light layer of fog along with it, coating everything with dew.  Whoever would have thought that astronomy gear needs to be waterproof!? 🙂

With my handy Celestron Zoom and Shorty Barlow, I did some visual observing of Mars.  I do have better eyepieces, but the Zoom is so easy to use;  Just rotate it left or right to dial the magnification that the seeing supports!  

Celestron Zoom, Orion Shorty Barlow, and cat fur.
Mars was a beautiful bright reddish-orange disk and while the dust storm was obscuring most of its surface features, the southern polar cap was visible. 

Yep.  The dust storm was still raging.  Marvin the Martian is going to have quite the mess to clean up when things calm down.  I hope he remembers to sweep the solar panels of the Opportunity rover

After taking in all of the visual beauty, I put the imager at prime focus and again captured many tens of thousands of video frames. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Dusty Mars, Saturn, and the Moon!

Excellent seeing conditions for planetary observing Saturday morning!

On Friday, I got an email alert from the nice people at the Clear Sky Alarm Clock letting me know that upcoming conditions were favorable for astronomy.

They were right!

I used the opportunity to capture images of dusty Mars, Saturn, and the Moon!

The Moon

First, the Moon.  It was bright.  It was 96.1% illuminated, just 10° away from Mars in the sky, and practically flooding my telescope's optical tube assembly with unwanted light while I was observing.

I suffered through it. 🙂 And, I took advantage of the good seeing; I put the 2x barlow on the imager and used it to scan the Moon's face.  I thought that this crater was interesting so I captured its image.

Crater Langrenus
Next, Saturn.  To be followed by Dusty Mars . . .

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