Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I hate people that live in places with no atmosphere.

The latest image from Anthony Wesley.  He's the guy in Australia the discovered the Jupiter impact last year, and saw another one a couple months ago about a year after the first one.  Oh, then Jupiter was whacked by something again just last week! "On a scale of 1 to 10, the seeing was a 12," says Wesley." (from spaceweather.com)
Anthony is one of those fortunate people that have no atmosphere above their observatory. Just look at this photo he took of Jupiter.  I don't need to say anything else, the photo says it all.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A little peek at a globular.

Nearly full moon, clouds forming, and finicky autoguiding.  But did get one image last night of M92.  Info on the image - 7 exposures at 3 minutes each, ISO 800, 12" LX 200 at f/6.3, Canon 350D with CLS filter.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lost the lottery

NASA is doing the new "sign in and we'll  pick your name" method for shuttle launch viewing tickets for that last few times that US Astronauts leave Earth in our own spacecraft.  Our next generation spacecraft will fly in......oh, never mind.
I got this reply from NASA in my email:
Thank you for registering for the opportunity to purchase viewing tickets for the launch of STS-133 space shuttle Discovery. Unfortunately, your entry was not selected for this ticket purchase opportunity.

Of course there are always the Gator Tours, but I'll have to think about that.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another brief peek of clearing.

Got a couple nights of clear skies this week.  There was also the Table Mountain Star Party last weekend that was finally a great success with clear skies.  This year we avoided the severe chill, dew and frost that made the last 2 years totally miserable.  This year we did have some pretty windy conditions on Thursday night.  I ended up just lying on my back staring at the sky and Milky Way without using the scope.  The skies were just too unstable to get any good views with the telescope.
The next 2 nights were nearly perfect.  No clouds, wind died down, and I did bring my warm fuzzy pants and snow suit this year, so I was warm enough most of the night.  We did get some good views of a lot of Persied meteors also.  Including a few shadow casting big ones - they always seemed to show up when I was looking down at my foot or some other stupid direction and suddenly saw a shadow!
It was clear, hot and 90+ degrees when I got home, so it was a perfect night to stay out late and try some imaging in the backyard.  Here are a couple shots that I took.
...meanwhile, back to the clouds again.

Crescent Nebula in Cygnus

M27 Dumbell Nebula

Table Mountain view toward the center of our galaxy

Just another one of those views....

....that make us feel really small.  If you could look out the window from the Messenger spacecraft the other day, you would have seen a bright "star" in the sky.   It ends up that what you were looking at was the home of the spacecraft from 114 million miles away.  That little dot next to it is the moon - the farthest distance any human has been from Earth.  So you look at the little bright spot (I assume it would appear blue in person) and realize that everyone you know, all of history, wars, discoveries, inventions, web pages, travels, exploration, jobs, worries, animals, every little tiny bit of human history......all happened right there on that tiny bright spot.
If that doesn't make your brain go "ping!" nothing will.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The gloom and sun of Washington state star parties

For the third year in a row I've organized our yearly star part up at Bowman Bay at Deception Pass state park.  This was also the third year in a row that we have been clouded out - and second year with rain.  The day starts out well with sun (see left photo) then turns to this (right photo).
I'm starting to wonder if I'm the one that is cursed or it's just unfortunate bad luck?  So this year we have our star party and the big Table Mountain star party just a week later.  Forecast was for an ugly weekend again, but then flipped and it's now going to be a hot summer weekend in the 90s!  I find that this summer has been like a roller-coaster of weather, and there are times that I just need to yell "Stop!  I need to throw up!
So here we are a week later with Table Mountain tonight.  Now the Clear Sky clock is showing very promising skies, and it will be nice to be 6,300 feet up on a mountain above a lot of the hotter weather too.  As a bonus, the Perseid shower is tonight and it's supposed (uh...forecast!) to be a good one.
It's easy to see the economic impact on star parties also.  It used to be that I would save my money until Table Mountain if there was a part that I wanted.  I could then spend the day shopping between vendors for the best deal.  Now there are maybe 3 vendors - one selling the scope stuff, our favorite t-shirt guy, and the tripod shop.  The 700 people limit hasn't been sold out either, and you can still drive up and get in at the gate without reservations.  Kind of sad, and I hope the economic forecast improves along with the weather.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A sham shuttle for Seattle?

As most of us who keep track of space news know already, there is a fierce competition between the best aviation and space museums in the country these days to qualify (and afford) a space shuttle once they retire next year.  NASA should have made a decision this last July, but it's now August and as expected there has been a delay in saying who gets what shuttle.  The shuttle won't retire this year, and Atlantis could very possibly get one more chance to spread her wings before retiring to the yet unmentioned location.
So, the news on CollectSpace.com comes out with this little blurb about Seattle getting a full size wingless training mockup of a shuttle.  This isn't even Enterprise, but rather a big toy!  Is this what the Muesuem of Flight had a big groundbreaking for a new building to house a shuttle for - a big model?!  Is it worth it?  What happened?  Are we getting this thing as a bonus since we have the finest museum on the West coast, and still in the running for a real shuttle? 
My friend Dave came up with his own prediction of what he thinks might happen:
My prediction (2010-08-03):
Discovery: Smithsonian Uvdar Hazy building (already determined)
Endeavour: Johnson Space Center (Next to the new Saturn V building)
Atlantis: Kennedy Space Center (Close to the ocean, where a ship called "Atlantis" should be.)
Enterprise: A toss up ... Huntsville US Space & Rocket Center /or/ Dryden Test Facility (displayed on the 747 loader stand)
(leaning toward Dryden, since it's close to Edwards where Enterprise was used for the approach/landing tests)
--Dave the "Psychic Shuttle Location Predictor"
So if Dave's predictions do come true, maybe we should feel privileged if we are the only non-NASA facility to even get something at all?  Comments anyone?