Tag Archives: Coronado

CNYO Observing Log: Clark Reservation And Baltimore Woods, 18 July 2015

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Bob Piekiel and I have continued to make the most of the Summer for hosting observing sessions. While the Sun is good anytime, the Summer Nighttime Sky certainly makes for a worthy complement to our Winter sessions. Instead of crisp, clear (and cold!) conditions and close-ups of some of the most impressive objects in the Nighttime Sky (everything in Orion alone is worth dressing up for), we trade boots for sandals (or less), slap on the bug spray, and scour into the heart of the Milky Way for a host of fine objects to our zenith and points south. As Summer weather is also easier to brave for most, we enjoy larger turnouts and introducing others to the greater outdoors.

Clark Reservation, 18 July 2015, 1 to 3 p.m.

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The Sun from Saturday, 18 July 2015 (from NASA/SOHO)

While the Sun is always busy, those phenomena which causes us to spend beaucoup bucks on equipment were in short supply on the surface that afternoon, with tiny-ish sunspot 2386 the only significant feature to scout around. The presence of Bob’s Coronado H-alpha, He, and CaK scopes did noticeably open up the feature window for some of the more subtle objects.

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Bob and attendees at along his observing array.

The whole session ran a hot two hours. About 15 people made rounds to the scopes, with a few people making second rounds (some to see again, others returning after some of the clouds had moved on for their first viewing). As a true testament to Syracuse weather conditions, we went from blue sky to heavy cloud cover to a quick sprinkle and back to blue sky in a 10 minute window at 2:30.

Baltimore Woods, 18 July 2015, 9 to 11:30 p.m.

Unfavorable conditions Friday night made for a Saturday observing double-feature. We had some hold-over from a Baltimore Woods concert (featuring Joanne Perry and the Unstoppables) that ended at 8:00 p.m. (while it was still far too bright to do any observing. Even the Moon was a tough catch) and a patient wait for, um, one person’s mirror to warm up after a heavily A/C’ed drive from downtown Syracuse.

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Venus and the Moon caught just at the tree line. The elongated view of Venus is not an exposure artifact (1/200th second at that), but is because Venus was, at that time, a medium-thin crescent. Click for a larger view.

The evening turned out excellent for Public Viewing. Venus and the Moon (see above) were an early, close catch due to the high summer tree line (Jupiter was too far below the tree line by the time it was dark enough to be interesting in a scope, although Bob did get one quick view of it earlier after aligning his Celestron Nexstar), after which Saturn, Antares, and Arcturus were the next catches.

Despite a band of slow-moving clouds to the South early on that threatened quite a bit of celestial real estate, the skies cleared nicely for a full 2.5 hours of observing. With a healthy variety of kids and adults in attendance, there was as much discussion as their was observing. A few of the kids in attendance knew just enough to know what they wanted to see, making for a fun game of “stump the scope owner.” My observing list through my New Moon Telescope 12.5 Dob was as follows:

* Saturn – Several times for several waves of attendees, and the Summer and Fall’s highlight planet.

* Albireo in Cygnus – Part 1 of a “test your retinal cones” survey, with everyone able to get at least a little orange and a little blue out of this binary.

* Zubeneschamali in Libra – Part 2 of a “test your retinal cones” survey. Bob, er, found a way to get 100% agreement on the apparent green-ness of this star (a much better percentage than at our Green Lakes session), courtesy of a particular screw-on filter.

* Herschel’s Garnet Star in Cepheus – Part 3 of a “test your retinal cones” survey. The Garnet Star has become a favorite for 2015 viewers, as the dark amber/red color jumps out to everyone (no subtlety, or filters, to be found).

* Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major – A binaried binary, with one binary itself binary of binaries. Not only do you get to stare at six gravitationally-bound stars, but you get to explain the differences between optical, true, and spectroscopic binaries with a single shining example.

* M57, The Ring Nebula in Lyra – Old amateur astronomers pride themselves in being able to discern all kinds of detail from dim, fuzzy objects. I tend to talk down the impressiveness of some objects to make sure new viewers spend a little extra time pulling detail out (we’re not Hubble, after all). Everyone present for the Ring saw the donut easily at low magnification and were happy to spend extra time giving another, even fainter look at high power (which made for a great part of the whole session in my book).

* M13, The Globular Cluster in Hercules – Second only to Saturn in “woah” moments, M13 never disappoints visually. After you add a little bit about its size and history, several people insisted on taking another, more informed look at it.

* M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (but just-just off the handle of the Big Dipper in Ursa Major) – Just off the last handle star of the Big Dipper. I had one request to see something outside of the Milky Way. With the Andromeda Galaxy in the direction of Marcellus and Syracuse (and the night already getting long for many of the kids in attendance), I tested some eyesights (and imagination) on this faint pair of galactic cores in collision.

* To that list we added one decent shooting star, just enough of the 300 billion other stars in the Milky Way to make out its cloudy band through Cygnus and down to Sagittarius, and one timed Iridium Flare (see below).

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An 11:09 p.m. Iridium Flare caught below the bright star Arcturus (for the record, caught at its brighest first, so the satellite is going from the left to the right in the image). Click for a larger view.

August has rapidly become a busy month for observing, with several sessions planned around the Perseid Meteor Shower. Keep track of the website for whether/weather announcements. We hope you can join us!

Bob Piekiel Lectures On Solar Telescopes For Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society, 11 February 2015

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

A quick head’s up for interested parties. Our friends (and, for a few of us, fellow members) at Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society (MVAS) will be hosting a lecture at 7:30 p.m. on February 11th at Clark Mills Senior Center (map below).

Those interested in some solar observing should keep track of Bob’s upcoming sessions at Green Lakes (on Saturday, February 21st) and Baltimore Woods on Saturday, February 28th).

Detail below from Bob:

Solar telescope design (H-a, Ca-K, etc.) is one of the most closely-guarded secrets in the astronomy world, partially because manufacturers don’t want people attempting to build their own or modify existing designs (due to safety), but many people still do, and quite successfully.

I’ll be covering details on filter construction and operation, spectral pass-bands, tuning methods, hows-and-whys, alternative filter suppliers (for those that need to build from scratch or upgrade an existing scope), as well as what to expect from commercial equipment.

I’ll have hands-on displays and show-and-tell of large Coronado scopes, all completely disassembled, to satisfy the curiosity of everyone who has wondered “exactly what is inside those things…”

And, because it never hurts to state it again, here’s a quick solar lesson from Bob at one of his Baltimore Woods Solar Sessions.

CNYO Observing Log: Baltimore Woods Solar Session, 22 February 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

After a rather unimpressive nighttime session the night before (because of cloud cover, that it), Bob Piekiel’s Saturday afternoon Solar Session at Baltimore Woods most definitely impressed the +20 attending observers. Bob brought the proverbial “kitchen sink” of personal solar equipment, including a Coronado SolarMax 90 CaK Solar Telescope, a SolarMax II 90 H-alpha Telescope, and a small refractor with a clip-on Baader filter.

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Observers around the Coronado scopes. Click for a larger view.

As discussed in the CNYO brochure A Guide For Solar Observing, we have to use filters to observe the Sun safely. Anyone who’s looked directly at the Sun can attest to the fact that it is very difficult on the eyes (and unless you need to sneeze, why would you do that anyway?). Under magnification, this major discomfort turns into instant and permanent damage to your retina as that very bright light is concentrated in the optics into a sharp beam of considerable burning power. A video of Bob demonstrating this at the previous Solar Observing Session in August is included below.

The three scopes make the Sun observable either by reflecting nearly all of the light (Baader) or by only letting a small amount of a very specific (or narrow) wavelength in (CaK, H-alpha). The views you get through the three different filters are shown below.

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The Sun in Baader, CaK, and H-alpha filters.

Baader – knocks down the Sun’s brightness by +99.99% across all wavelengths, making it excellent for looking at Sunspots (which are slightly darker than the rest of the surface normally, so dimming the brightness uniformly reveals them as dark spots).

CaK – lets through a very specific line in the calcium spectrum. You only observe the light from the relatively few calcium ions in the Sun’s atmosphere, providing you excellent surface detail (much more than the Baader filters do, but at the cost of less definition in the sunspot features because of all of the additional detail).

H-alpha – lets through a very specific line in the spectrum of the most abundant element in the Sun – Hydrogen. These filters provide surface detail, but are prized more for their ability to observe prominences along the Sun’s edge.

The views on this very clear day were all excellent despite the wind gusts that scattered the Sun blocks around. In the downtime between attendees, I managed to capture two images with my iPhone. The first (less interesting) one is of a prominence in the bottom of the eyepiece in a very over-exposed image:

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The Sun in H-alpha through a Coronado with an iPhone. Click for a larger view.

The second one is much more interesting. The image of the Sun through the CaK filter is a rich aqua blue. Something about either the glass or the detector in the iPhone produced the light pink/purple image below, which shows all of the detail one might observe in the Baader filter (but missing any additional surface detail that the CaK filter provides to someone observing without a smartphone).

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The Sun in CaK through a Coronado with an iPhone (better). Click for a larger view.

If you’ve not had the chance to observe our closest star in detail, consider attending a future solar session!