The Observer

First light #2

From the new (partial) Celestron 14″/Paramount MX+ rig, this is a single unguided, manually focused, un-flat-corrected, 60-second image of the Dumbbell Nebula, Messier 27, from my backyard observatory last Friday night, with hazy skies and substantial wind.

Not sure how much detail you can see in this 420×280 scale-down of the original 3072×2048 image. There’s perhaps a trace of coma, but that won’t be sure until the polar alignment and guiding are set. Already the whole-sky pointing RMS is down to 13 arcseconds. Pretty good for 3 hours after bolting all the pieces together, and it promises to be plenty good for variable-star photometry.

Quick image of Messier 27

Getting my ancient Celestron 11″ rig up and running after it sat for years in various boxes. Here’s the Dumbbell Nebula, Messier 27, in a single 60-second guided image taken through a clear filter from my Bois d’Arc Observatory. First Light in Kansas!

First light C11 in Kansas -- Messier 27

OK, not the most glorious image. But at least the guiding and image calibration etc are working. And in any case this old rig will be dedicated to variable-star photometry, where sharp, perfectly round stars are not quite as important as in aesthetic astrophotography.

Good timing for this year’s Persied shower

taken about 4:00 AM CDT

The night of August 12th (and morning of the 13th) should be a great time to view the Perseids from Farpoint Observatory. Every year at roughly the same day the earth moves through the dusty tail of comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseid meteor shower usually produces about 50 -60 meteors per hour and at peak can deliver near 100/hour. This year the peak happens when the radiant is as high as it gets about 3:00 AM August 13th. The moon is completely out of the way too, being just a day or so of new. I plan to be there all night and I invite everyone to join in. Bring your sleeping bag or lawn chair preferably one that folds back horizontally, warmer clothes than you might think for mid August, bug spray, and if so inclined a camera (particularly with a wide field lens). All night restroom, coffee, etc will be available. It’ll be many years before we get another chance for an optimal Perseid shower.
The general public is also invited to join in, but please leave those bright white flashlights at home. Dark adaptation is key for meteor shower enjoyment..

Comet Lovejoy

C2014 Q2 Comet Lovejoy should reach near naked-eye visibility in early January. The tail actually extends much farther than this image shows. Current location is in Lepus just below Orion.

C/2014 Q2

Do scientific research from your own home!

In a matter of minutes, you can do science and report it from your home computer or mobile device. NEKAAL is encouraging as many people as possible to participate in the Globe At Night program.
During a specified time period, just look at a certain part of the sky and match against a group of charts. Enter information and you’ve just contributed to science!

There’s one observing window each month. The next reporting period begins on September 15. For information on how to participate, go to the Globe At Night website here:

Harvest Moon/ Hunter Moon Switch

The Harvest Moon isn’t always in October, and this is one of those years.

A Harvest Moon is defined as the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. This is the full moon of October about 75% of the time. This year’s autumnal equinox occurs on September 22. That means that the full moon on September 8 is a few days closer than the full moon of October 8. So in 2014 the full moon names flip, with the Harvest Moon in September and the Hunter’s Moon in October.

As to the “Supermoon”–this term began with astrologer Roger Nolle in 1979; it’s not an astronomical term. Since the moon’s orbit is an ellipse, its distance from the earth varies. Its furthest point is called “apogee”, and it’s farthest point is called “perigee”. Consequently, a full moon at perigee is up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than one at its farthest point.

Even though “supermoon” isn’t technically correct astronomically, at least the media coverage has gotten people to go out and look at the night sky, and that’s a good thing!

The Road is Open!

Construction had been completed on 89th Street! It’s now a direct route to Farpoint Observatory.

Sandlot Observatory Lightning

Sandlot Storms

Alternate Route to Farpoint

89th street will be closed for several weeks. To reach Farpoint, most routes lead through the town of Dover.

There are several ways to get to Dover:

1. Use I-70 West and follow the K-4 detour signs, which take you to Valencia Rd (exit 350), then back to K-4. Stay on K-4 until Dover shows up then follow the Dover to Farpoint directions below.
2. Take I-70 west to Carlson Rd (exit 346) and go South to K-4 highway. Jog left on K-4 a short distance to Dover, then follow the Dover to Farpoint directions below.
3. (Dirt roads involved) Take Auburn Rd South to 37th, turn West and drive to Hays Rd. Follow that North to K-4 and take K-4 West to Dover, then follow the Dover to Farpoint directions below.
4. Take I-70 West to Keene-Eskridge Rd (exit 342) the South to K-4. Take K-4 West (turn right on K-4) until you reach Mission Valley Rd, where there is a big Mission Valley sign. Take Mission Valley Rd East to Bodark Rd, then North to Farpoint.

From Dover to Farpoint

From Dover go south on Docking Rd which winds around and eventually reaches 89th, aka Harveyville Rd. Drive west on 89th a couple of miles where 89th curves South. Follow a couple more miles to Mission Valley Rd, then West to Bodark and North to Farpoint.

GRB in M31 May 27th

GRB in M31 May 27th

May 27th, 21:24:27 UT NASA’s Swift spacecraft detected a new bright x-ray source. Thought to be an GRB (GAMMA RAY BURSTER) The object was associated with M31 (Andromeda Galaxy).
I took an image as soon as it was available to us (albeit nearly 10 hours after the signal was received). M31 was very low at the time. It was only 30 degrees above the North-East horizon. The image shows a 15th magnitude star just lower left of center (marked). The source was just a few seconds of arc north of that star. The image has the central bulge of the Andromeda galaxy just off the lower right.
Current thought is the object is not as strong as a normal GRB and is labeled as a Soft-Ray Burster (SRB)
A SRB is heavy with soft X-rays and high energy Ultra-Violet but not a huge amount of Gamma…