hoiditthroughthegrapevine

17th Shard Astronomy Club

7 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

This is a place to talk about what you're looking at in the Night's sky (or daytime sky), share cool pictures of astronomy related things, share links to articles that are interesting, and basically just talk about the Universe and our place in it. Also, if anyone has astronomy related questions, this would be a great place to ask them.

My father in law gave me his Celestron NexStar 8se telescope a year ago. It's an 8" Cassegrain Schmidt reflector telescope with a motorized GoTo mount, and during the times of the Covid I've finally gotten around to really figuring out how to use it, and it's pretty amazing! When it's setup right, it can slew to any object in it's internal catalog, and it compensates for the rotation of the Earth.

My daughters and I have been looking at the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars a lot this summer, and my eldest daughter and I saw Venus for the first time through the telescope. It was really cool to see that Venus has phases like the moon.

Also, it's been fun to view Jupiter on successive nights and see the Jovian satellites in vastly different orbital positions, and it's always great to see the great red spot and the bands of Jupiter.

One of the other transformative and life changing decisions that I made (other than to actually figure out how to use the scope) was to purchase Sky Safari 6 Pro for my android smartphone (available for I-phone too). I can say, unequivocally, it is the best app for mobile ever made. Not only is a fully featured simulator of the night sky, including 29 million stars down to 15th magnitude, a catalog of 784,000 galaxies down to 18th magnitude, not to mention an extensive collection of Earth Satellites, Asteroids and Comets, but it really is a fully featured pocket planetarium and a time machine. Details about this amazing app are spoilered below because it's got a lot of animated gifs showing off some of the amazing features. 
 

Spoiler

You can set a custom time steps and take an animated tour of the transits of Planetary satellites (and yes, it calculates and displays the shadow passing across the planetary disk). Here is IO transiting across Jupiter, casting a shadow:

Jupiter_IoTransitShadow.gif.ecdf996bcfb7a89e54afef27cc268652.gif

This is also a time machine, you can plug in whatever custom time you want, and whatever location you want and BOOM, accurate simulation up to 10,000 years in the past or 10,000 years into the future. Sky Safari 6 pro also simulates Eclipses (Lunar and Solar), here's a view of the Lunar Eclipse that saved Columbus and his crew from starving when they were moored in Jamiaca to make repairs to their ship. Columbus used an Almanac to know that a total Lunar ecclipse was imminent, so he told the native Jamaicans that their gods were angered that they had stopped giving Columbus and his sailors supplies, and as evidence of this, thier gods were going to make the moon turn red.

ColumbusPredictedLunarEclipse.thumb.jpg.addd876a8113e33480bf0a33700d6385.jpg

So you just set the location to Kingston Jamaica, and the time to the time shown on the screenshot, and you can relive this Historic moment. So cool.

It also simulates the tails of Comets, here's an animation of the tail of Halley's comet back in 1986:

HalleysComet.gif.f0f6130a6c20dbd2b2c3c318b0b8525f.gif

It also has models and flight paths for some historic Space Missions too. I haven't figure out all of the Space missions it has models and flight paths for, but I have figured out quite a few. You can have a selected object and orbit it in 3 dimensional space, and use your time controls to flow time. Sky Safari 6 has the Apollo 11 and 13 missions (with 3D models for the different stages of the missions), and even cooler it has a 3D model for Voyager 1, and the space probes complete flight path. Here's an animation of Voyager 1 setting off from earth on September 5th, 1977 after being deployed from the Titan IIIe rocket launch vehicle:

Voyager1_LeavingEarth.gif.39bb76e3b0e8e4eab10c6af0bd2c64c0.gif

And here is Pioneer 10 on Dec 03, 1973, near it's closest approach to the planet Jupiter.

Voyager1_ClosestApproachToJupiter.gif.cac7e0a9c1005003f984124b8d534325.gif

 

Also, this program can be SO useful for planning future stargazing events. There's a Penumbral lunar eclipse that will be visible throughout most of North America on Nov 30th of this year, and to get a sense of what it's going to look like where I'm at, I just entered in the date and time info, and bam, instant simulation of what to expect from the lunar eclipse. So Cool!

PenumbralLunarEclipse.thumb.jpg.a235333e5b8d8a35615bf6b6ced1ac93.jpg

 

I have the opposite of an astrophotography setup, I use my phone to take pictures through the eyepiece, but I've gotten some cool shots and I'll post them later.

I would love to hear what you all have been looking at, and if you have an links/pictures/info to share.

Onward and Upward!

*EDIT*

I just found out that NASA has a new solar system viewer that shows all the currently operational spacecraft in the solar system (and near solar system). The models for the 3D spacecraft are amazingly detailed, and you can see in real time what is happening in our Solar System, sweet! This works great on mobile too:

https://eyes.nasa.gov/apps/orrery/#/sc_perseverance

The above link starts you off looking at Perseverance at its current location on it's trip to Mars, but you can very easily select any other Solar System object of interest. You can also view HD maps of some of the solar system objects, and it's pretty freaking sweet. Spoilered below is a view of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter over the HD rendered surface of mars.

Spoiler

JPL_NASAeyes.thumb.jpg.d1c81a0cc1e470077783b436ce02b0ee.jpg

Also, if you want a bit more control, you can download the JPL desktop NASA's eyes app. It doesn't support HD resolution maps for the solar system objects but you do have time flow controls, and there are some curated tours of different missions that are pretty cool (Cassini, New Horizons, Voyager, Juno, Dawn, Curiosity Entry and Descent Landing).

https://eyes.nasa.gov/

Here's a view of the Trace Gas Orbiter orbiting Mars, it's so fun to set the time flow controls to slightly greater than real time, set the view to Ride-along view, and watch the red orb of mars spin beneath the orbital path of your selected Spacecraft. Rad indeed.

Spoiler

NASA_eyes_DesktopApp.thumb.jpg.24b511e4d5013f78f3f8f6279437b2ca.jpg

If you do get the Desktop app or look at the link above, try and find the Asteroid Arrokoth. It's a Keiper Belt object that the New Horizons spacecraft flew by and imaged in January of 2019, and it seriously looks like a space turd.

If you want to just jump to the point where the New Horizons space probe is at it's closest approach to Arrokoth, select the New Horizon's spacecraft, and manual enter in the time shown in the Spoilered screenshot below:

Spoiler

NewHorizons_ClosestApproachToArrokoth.thumb.jpg.177e0607fd704db3ed360597f6d11bfa.jpg

The Date and Time (In Universal Time) are: 2019 JAN 01 5:33:01.0

Last Update about the JPL NASA's eyes app, it turns out all of the controls in Advanced mode have sub controls that are super amazing, here's a screenshot of the Advanced Control sub controls spoilered below:

Spoiler

NASAeyes_AdvancedControls.thumb.jpg.8639804523f901abb733b66891864de0.jpg

You can easily pick any solar system object in the catalog (Like the Mercury MESSENGER observer) and click to a curated moment in it's mission flight. The screenshot above was from the 2nd Flyby of Venus. Also what's displayed is completely customizable too.

I don't know what range of dates the simulation is valid from, but if you are interested in exploring our solar system or are interested in unmanned space exploration, this is the app to use!

 

*EDIT #2*

NASA has some amazing free to print 11x17 posters of the Planets, major Moons, major Asteroids and Comets in our Solar System. Some of them are breathtakingly beautiful:

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/resources/925/solar-system-and-beyond-poster-set/

At Costco, you can get a 12x18 print for 3.99, so you could get posters of all the planets (including pluto), the moon, and 4 other of your favorite solar system Objects for $60! 

The form factor is a little off, so I'm going to make custom 12x18 versions that include information about the solar system object (orbital distance, diameter, mass, orbital period, rotational period, gravity, weight of a 100lb person on the surface (I have kids so that is a fun way to show gravity) and a solar system diagram ( or if a moon a planetary orbit diagram).

I'm going to get the full planet set, the moon, Enceladus, Ganymede, Europe, and the Beyond Our Solar System Eagle nebula one.

If anyone is interested I'll post a download link to the full printable collection with my modifications when they're done.

*EDIT 3*

Office Depot does self service 11x17 color printing @ $1.18/print, and you can get glossy card stock @ $.29/sheet, so you could print out a set of 15 NASA solar system posters without modifications for the ridiculously cheap price of $22.05.

Edited by hoiditthroughthegrapevine
Added some links to the Awesome NASA's eyes simulators, and links to Solar System poster prints.
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Ahhh! I'm so happy this exists! You're so storming lucky to have a NexStar! I've always wanted one of those!!! 

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Wow. I wish I had one of those! That's so cool.

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@Scarletfox, what kind of telescope do you have? What have you been looking at lately?

It's not the best conditions right now with the moon at about 90% full, but my daughter and I were looking at Jupiter and Saturn last night. My poor astrophotography setup of shakily holding my phone in front of the telescope eyepiecex dogesn't get the best pictures, but using the 25 mm eyepiece (magnificatiin 80x, with an apparent field of view of .65° of the sky), I got a good enough picture to show the nearly aligned orbital positions of Ganymede and Io.

20200905_070916.jpg.e1344e5e50575e7a767786f39d6f8718.jpg

Here's what Jupiter and its moons looked like in Sky Safari:

5f539e212ee1a_Screenshot_20200904-232554_SkySafari6Pro.thumb.jpg.121b511a77ec85baad91ee3523503b03.jpg

Celestron makes a pretty sweet phone holder for imaging through telescopes, binoculars or microscopes. It's adjustable along tge x, y and z axes, and it's on my Christmas list, might be able to finally get some decent shots.

https://www.amazon.com/Celestron-3-Axis-Universal-Smartphone-Adapter/dp/B07D7V3B8M

Here's one thing that I learned pretty recently that's useful to know, you can figure out the magnification of your telescope with different eyepieces doing some easy math.

The magnification is equal to the focal length of your telescope (let's say it's 1000 mm) ÷ by the focal length of your eyepiece (let's say it's 25 mm). 

To get the magnification of the setup above you have 1000 mm/25mm=40x magnification.

Here's a pretty useful article on telescope magnification:

https://www.telescope.com/mobileProduct/Telescope-Power-Magnification/99813.uts

Also, if you know the Apparent Field of View of an eyepiece (usually specified by the manufacturer) you can figure out the true field of view for that eyepiece for your scope, which is basically the amount of sky you see through your scope in angular measure. From horizon to horizon is 180°, what you see through your scope (the true field of view) is going to depend on the magnification of your scope (focal length of scope ÷ focal length of your eyepiece) and the apparent field of view of your eyepiece. True Field of View = Apparent Field of View ÷ magnification.

Here's an example, my Plossl eyepiece with a focal length of 25 mm has an apparent field of view of 52°, when attached to my scope which has a focal lengtg of 2000 mm, the magnification is 2000 mm ÷ 25 mm = 80x magnification. The true field of view is 52°/80 = .65° of the sky. The full moon has an angular size of about .5 °, so with this scope setup I'll be able to see the entirety of the moon.

As another example, if I were to use my 8 mm plossl eyepiece, the magnifaction would be 2000 mm ÷ 8 mm = 250x. The apprent field of view is 52°, so the true field of view for this eyepiece on my scope would be 52° ÷ 250 = .208° of the the sky. Less than half the diameter of the full moon would be visible through my scope, and I would see less than a third of the portion of sky visible through the 25 mm eyepiece.

Simple math, but very cool stuff.

@Experience thanks, it's a super nice telescope, but you can use binoculars and a tripod to see most of the same stuff you can see with a telescope. I have a pair of binoculars that have a magnificationof 8.5x, and I saw 3 of the Jovian moons with them the other night. The first telescope that Galileo used to look at the same stars and planets that we look at was a refracting telescope with a magnification of 8x, easily beatable by almost any pair of binoculars out there. He eventually developed a telescope capable of 10x magnification, but again most binoculars have much higher magnification than that. If you don't have binoculars they are pretty easy to find at thrift stores and are usually pretty cheap ($10-$15 bucks). The tripod I use with my binoculars was $3 at a thrift store.

In other news, the moon is going to be at last quarter this coming Thursday, so moonrise is going to get later and later, and it's going to be  darker sky for observing. And the September Perseid meteor shower peaks this tuesday, with at peak 5 meteors per hour (nothing as spectacular as the Perseid's August peak with 50 meteors per hour, but still nice to know about).

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3 hours ago, hoiditthroughthegrapevine said:

@Scarletfox, what kind of telescope do you have? What have you been looking at lately?

It's an AOMEKIE travel telescope. I can't seem to find the specs on it, however.. Also, the telescope's name is Allen. (sorry I never responded to your Nightblood comment) The biggest problem I have with the telescope is getting the finderscope to line up correctly. I've never really gotten it to work properly on this telescope. My old one was perfectly lined up, but this one... just so storming troublesome.

Spoiler

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I sadly have not been able to go out for a very long time, although the last time I went I got a fairly decent shot of Jupiter and it's moons. If I looked really close, I could see the lines on Jupiter, so that was pretty awesome. I bought a real star chart from the thrift store the other day, so I'm pretty excited to use that. (I gave up a long time ago trying to look at star charts in books while stargazing. It was just too much hassle, so I ended up just going with the 'choose a white pinpoint in the sky and go for it' strategy.) 

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13 hours ago, Scarletfox said:

It's an AOMEKIE travel telescope. I can't seem to find the specs on it, however.. Also, the telescope's name is Allen. (sorry I never responded to your Nightblood comment) The biggest problem I have with the telescope is getting the finderscope to line up correctly. I've never really gotten it to work properly on this telescope. My old one was perfectly lined up, but this one... just so storming troublesome.

Alien, hahaha, that's a great mame!

The best way to align your finderscope is to do the alignment in the daytime. Pick an object that's pretty far away like the top of a tree, a neighbors chimney, etc, get it lined up in your scope and then adjust the finderscope's altitude / azimuth knobs until the finder scope is targeting the same thing as your scope.

You can do it at night using the moon or jupiter, but the earth is rotating so whatever you have lined up drifts out of view.

And for the first stage of alignment you're going to want to use your lowest magnification eyepiece ( 25 mm, 20mm whatever has the largest focal length) because you're going to have a wider field of view.

13 hours ago, Scarletfox said:

I sadly have not been able to go out for a very long time, although the last time I went I got a fairly decent shot of Jupiter and it's moons. If I looked really close, I could see the lines on Jupiter, so that was pretty awesome.

Jupiter is so cool! The Jovian day is just a little under 10 hours, so if you were looking at it over a 2 hour period it will have rotated 1/5th the way around or 72°! 

There's a free version of Sky Safari that let's you zoom in on the planets from earth, and shows the orbital positions of the moons too, so you can figure out what you're looking at. If you can see the bands of jupiter with your scope, you can probably see Saturn's rings and probably Saturn's moon Titan too.

13 hours ago, Scarletfox said:

I bought a real star chart from the thrift store the other day, so I'm pretty excited to use that. (I gave up a long time ago trying to look at star charts in books while stargazing. It was just too much hassle, so I ended up just going with the 'choose a white pinpoint in the sky and go for it' strategy.) 

Yeah, I have the Peterson field guide (solid info) and The Whitney's Star Finder, with the skymap with the rotatable disc which is very cool. 

One of the easiest ways to get your bearings and figure out what you're looking it during summer is to look for the Summer Triangle asterism formed by three of the brightest stars in the summer sky, Altair in the constellation aquila, Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, and Vega in the constellation Lyra.

5f5525cae1a6e_Screenshot_20200906-110857_SkySafari6Pro.thumb.jpg.5f38f0aa90b877df968a5097dcbd3908.jpg

The red triangle is the Asterism Summer Triangle, the red cross is the Asterism The Northern Cross in the constellation Cygnus.

The relative positions of the stars (with few exceptions) is fixed for our lifetime, so once you recognize some of these patterns it easy to figure out where something else in relation to a known star, constellation or asterism.

Another thing that is cool is that the three brightest stars in the head of Aquila, Alshain, Altair and Tarazed form a line that points right towards Vega. 

5f552b6073ab2_Screenshot_20200906-111309_SkySafari6Pro.thumb.jpg.bbdb9ef3a08e87a44b73c6899c510e9e.jpg

Also, just a little over 1° of sky away from Vega is a double star that should easily be imageable in your scope. The brighter is magnitide 4.7, and the dimmer is magnitude 6.2.

Spoiler

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The cool thing about this double star system is that if you have the magnification power and your telescope collects enough light you can see that each star in this double system is also a binary star. So it's really two binary star systems!

5f552a64a1d25_Screenshot_20200906-112729_SkySafari6Pro.thumb.jpg.717e395963b957d3ef68bb94a1f132f3.jpg

Edited by hoiditthroughthegrapevine
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Sorry, I know this is a double post, but this is freaking amazing!

So I went to Office Depot, and printed out 3 of my favorite posters from the NASA Solar System and Beyond poster page, and they look ridiculously amazing! It was $1.18 for each of the 11x17 color prints and $.29 extra for the 11x17 card stock, so for $4.41 I got 3 of the prettiest posters of 3 of the coolest planets/moons in our solar system!

Here are all 3 posters:

20200914_110102.jpg.e62c33b860a47aae8d192171c5e2725e.jpg

 

And here is a better shot of the Mars poster, such amazing detail!

20200914_110130.thumb.jpg.2f8be114177adf14b2c70847feef0428.jpg

 

And here's a better shot of arguably the coolest moon in our solar system, Saturn's moon Enceladus:

20200914_110221.thumb.jpg.1990195cfe67f6c251fa5e229ab46815.jpg

 

And here's a better shot of the beautiful high resolution Moon poster:

20200914_110321.thumb.jpg.0628f70dfa88fc8bf28db50eb31dbe84.jpg

 

In other news, I'm also reading "The Discovery of Our Galaxy" by Charles Whitney (the Harvard professor of Astronomy who also made the Whitney's star finder). It covers the history of our evolving understanding of the Universe and our place in it from Copernicus through the early 1970's, and since it details the progress of knowledge about the components of the night sky, it's also a great resource for figuring out what interesting stellar objects are accessible to amateur astronomers with binoculars or small objective telescopes. You can pick it up at AbeBooks.com for as little as $3.70!

It has great illustrations too, like this view of Tycho Brahe's observatory built on the Danish island Hven:

20200909_131759.jpg.73add8cbb00e4254ec23306bbe8c2070.jpg

And Kepler's garden sculpture that represented the orbital distances of the 6 innermost planets as the platonic solids circumscribed in spheres. By an extreme coincidence the ratios of the radiuses of the spheres corresponds pretty closely to the ratios of the radiuses of the planets' orbits around the sun.

20200909_132936.jpg.9a51b077fd4457ef21b98718889c60c7.jpg

It's a great book!

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