Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tycho crater up close.

If you have seen the moon - that bright annoying that that always seems to come out on the clear nights chasing us deep-sky guys back indoors - you are probably familiar with Tycho crater.  It's that crater that has the huge ray system that splatters across the face of the moon.
Here is a shot of it that I took during a total eclipse a few years back, easy to see Tycho just to the right and center of the Earth's shadow.
The crater name comes from Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe who is probably remembered mostly for his replacement gold nose which replaced his fleshy snout that was chopped off in a fight!
It's always fun to see familiar places that appear so small and far away, zoomed in really close by some of our spacecraft.  Yesterday this amazing photo was released of the central peak of Tycho crater taken by the LRO spacecraft from probably about 30 miles up.   The peak in the crater is about 2 miles high, and if you zoom in, you'll even see there is a very large boulder sitting on the top.  That big rock would probably fit nicely into the football field of Quest field in Seattle with room around the edges for people to sill sit and admire the big rock.
Pretty amazing photo of the peak with lots of details.  Click the image (or any others) for a full sized view.  It would make a nice desktop background photo too if you are looking for something new to  stack your icons on.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Three galaxies in a Dragon.

Another clear night, this last weekend.   Sometimes we do get them around here, we know it's summer when we have 1 good night a week rather than on a bi-monthly basis.   I found that I've had good luck with going 8 minutes on exposures, so I gave this little cluster of dim fuzzies another attempt.  Sometimes things just work out right and the telescope autoguider will behave for the whole evening.  The stars in this image are fairly round indicating that things were tracking fine in 8 minute increments.  That does pull in more small details too, and the dust lanes in the spiral galaxy on the left can be seen as well as a line through the edge-on galaxy.  Almost like a very small distant version of NGC 891.
As always, click the image for the full size view.  Technical details below also.

NGC 5985 in Draco
June 26, 2011 - midnight
  • Camera - Canon 350D (with modification)
  • Scope - Meade 12" LX200 Classic at f/6.3
  • Exposures - 9 x 8 minutes at ISO 800
  • Guide scope - Orion 80ED piggyback
  • Guider - Starshoot autoguider with PHD Guider

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Moon conjunction with Jupiter.

    Sure, but not our moon this time.  Every now and then the moon will be perfectly aligned in the sky for a conjunction of another planet or even a total occultation of the distant planet where the moon will pass in front.  We don't see these here in Seattle too often since rare events are usually cursed by bad weather.
    Here is a unique view of Mars' moon Phobos passing in front of Jupiter viewed from the European's Mars Express spacecraft a few days ago.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    ....and now the video of the ISS/Shuttle

    More photos keep coming out of this.  Some of these will have to end up in the NASA top 10 coolest photos along with the Apollo 11 "Refection" or "Phoenix landing" (my favorite).
    Here is the video.  Don't waste your time on small screen click it and go to full HD for the full effect.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Finally! The ultimate ISS photos are out.

    The Russians finally got their slow act together (maybe their Internet upload speeds to Houston are kind of slow?) and released the photos we have been waiting a couple weeks for.   Endeavour's final visit to the ISS in all her glory docked at the station.
    I'll have to make a large print of one of these photos, frame it, and put it on my wall with my other shuttle stuff.   I think this is my favorite shot, seems to have the best angle of the shuttle.
    (Thanks to Robert Pearlman for the nice display on CollectSpace)

    (click photo for bigger)

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Super - Nova!

    Able to wipe out good and evil, destroy an entire solar system, and spray gamma rays in all directions for billions of miles.  What is this horrible creature?  No, not the Death Star or La Nina, but it's - SUPER NOVA!
    Now available on a t-shirt.   So geeky and fun, I may have to order one of these for myself.

    California got our spring weather this weekend.

    A fancy looking swirl of clouds, almost looks like my galaxy photo from last night!  But the only reason I could get a shot at the galaxy and supernova is because the lousy spring weather we have had has hit California this time.
    Here is a photo that I captured from my basement satellite station of the storm.  Seems that it's very unusual for this to happen down there according to Cliff Mass, but this year hasn't been normal at all for weather, so it's probably no surprise.
    (click the image to see full size)

    Long time ago in a galaxy far, far away - a star blew up.

    Finally, a decent night for some imaging!  Stability of the sky could have been better, the twinkling of the stars may be pretty for some people, but lousy for astronomy.  But I have to take what I can this year with the screwed up La Nina stuff we have been dealing with.
    So, here is a thought for the day to think about and make that little corner of your brain go "ping!".  Approximately 37 million years ago, this star blew up in the M51 galaxy.  We finally found out just 2 days ago this happened. 
    • Scope: Meade LX200 Classic 12 inch with f/6.3 reducer.
    • Camera: Canon 350D (with IR mod) and CLS filter
    • Exposures: 11 between 5 and 8 minutes
    • ISO: 800
    • Guiding: Orion 80ED piggyback 
    (Click photo for full size)

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    Final launch of Endeavour - videos.

    Once the boosters are back and all cameras are collected, it's always fun to see these videos of the launch highlights.  Look for the thermal image of the ET getting filled, never seen that before!

    ...and here is another view never seen before.  This was made from 6 cameras shooting at 250 frames per second, for a total of over 20,000 images combined for this video.   Almost an HDR effect, but you can really see some nice details in the SRB exhaust in this.  But still, it can't give any idea of how bright these are.  I don't think a photo will ever appear that can give an idea of how bright the launch is, just those of us who have seen it in person will ever know!

    Thursday, June 2, 2011