The comet and The Pleiades

Photo: Comet C/2014 Q2 by Dave Watkins

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) with The Pleiades by Dave Watkins

Club member Dave Watkins was inspired to brave a cold night in January to try and capture a photo of Comet Lovejoy (2014 Q2/Lovejoy) but, “It was just too cold to set up the Celestron and/or mount!” Using his camera gear mounted on a tripod and employing modern techniques, Dave captured a beautiful image of the comet as it passed close to the Pleiades star cluster (M45) the night of January 14. (Click the image to see full-size.)

He reports he “really had to play with the ISO and shutter speed because of all the light pollution.”

Technical details: Canon 5D Mark II body, Canon 70-200mm lens @ 70mm, f2.8, ISO400, 5-second exposures, 245 light images, 29 dark images, 29 flat files, master bias file, calibrated, aligned, integrated, and processed in PixInsight with some help from Photoshop.

Image: Comet finder chart for January 2015 - Credit: FreeStarCharts.com

Credit: FreeStarCharts.com

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Hubble revisits iconic “Pillars of Creation” image

Photo: Iconic "Pillars of Creation" reimaged. Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team

New view of the Pillars of Creation — Visible Light. Click to Enlarge.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured many breathtaking images of the Universe, but one snapshot stands out from the rest: the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation. In 1995 Hubble’s iconic image revealed never-before-seen details in the giant columns and now the telescope is kickstarting its 25th year in orbit with an even clearer, and more stunning, image of these beautiful structures.

The three impressive towers of gas and dust captured in this image are part of the Eagle Nebula, otherwise known as Messier 16. Although such features are not uncommon in star-forming regions, the Messier 16 structures are by far the most photogenic and evocative ever captured. The Hubble image of the pillars taken in 1995 is so popular that it has appeared in film and television, on tee-shirts and pillows, and even on postage stamps.

Now Hubble has revisited the famous pillars, capturing the multi-colored glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-colored elephants’ trunks with the newer Wide Field Camera 3, installed in 2009. The visible-light image builds on one of the most iconic astronomy images ever taken and provides astronomers with an even sharper and wider view.

In addition to this new visible-light image, Hubble has also produced a bonus image. This image is taken in infrared light, which penetrates much of the obscuring dust and gas and unveils a more unfamiliar view of the pillars, transforming them into wispy silhouettes set against a background peppered with stars. Here newborn stars, hidden in the visible-light view, can be seen forming within the pillars themselves.

Photos: The Pillars of Creation, New and Old. Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team

The Pillars of Creation – New and Old

Although the original image was dubbed the “Pillars of Creation”, this new image hints that they are also pillars of destruction. The dust and gas in these pillars is seared by intense radiation from the young stars forming within them, and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars. The ghostly bluish haze around the dense edges of the pillars in the visible-light view is material that is being heated by bright young stars and evaporating away.

With these new images come better contrast and clearer views of the region. Astronomers can use these new images to study how the physical structure of the pillars is changing over time. The infrared image shows that the reason the pillars exist is because the very ends of them are dense, and they shadow the gas below them, creating the long, pillar-like structures. The gas in between the pillars has long since been blown away by the winds from a nearby star cluster.

At the top edge of the left-hand pillar, a gaseous fragment has been heated up and is flying away from the structure, highlighting the violent nature of star-forming regions.

These massive stars may be slowly destroying the pillars but they are also the reason Hubble sees the structures at all. They radiate enough ultraviolet light to illuminate the area and make the clouds of oxygen, hydrogen and sulphur glow.

Although structures like these exist throughout the Universe, the Pillars of Creation — at a distance of 6,500 light-years away — provide the best, and most dramatic, example. Now, these images have allowed us to see them more clearly than ever, proving that at 25 years of age, Hubble is still going strong.

This image and the associated results were presented today at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington, USA.

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November 10: Meeting, Elections, and Program

The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association will hold its final general meeting and program for the year on Monday, November 10, 7:30 PM at the Rocky River Nature Center. In addition to regular club business, the biennial nomination and election of club officers and at-large board members will take place.

“Archaeo-astronomy” will be the topic of the evening’s astronomy presentation. Speaker Ed Alderman will describe how early man viewed the skies and measured the motions of the stars and planets.

Attendance by guests is welcome but participation in club business and elections is restricted to current members of the club.

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A View of Orion

IMG_1138.JPG

This image of the Orion Nebula (M42) was recorded from the CAA Letha House observing site. Member Christopher Christie wrote that he made the image “during the September new moon with a 65mm refractor and DSLR. As for all the details, I forget most. But it was a Canon T3, 1600 ISO with my AT65EDQ, about 3 hours of subs, stacked and processed in Pixinsight.”

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The Beautiful “Elephant Trunk”

IC 1396 - The "Elephant Trunk" Nebula in Cepheus, by Joe Golias

IC 1396 – The “Elephant Trunk” Nebula in Cepheus

by Joe Golias

We were fortunate enough to have clear skies this past weekend and I managed to do some narrowband imaging from my back yard in Granger, Ohio. I’d like to share with everyone one of my latest CCD images taken of the Elephant trunk nebula IC 1396 located in the constellation of Cepheus. I often wonder why I bother traveling great distances to dark sky sites like Texas and Florida when I can get results like this from my back yard in Ohio!

Imaging details: Telescope: Takahashi TOA 150 Refractor. Camera: SBIG ST8300M with self-guiding filter wheel. Mount: Losmandy: G-11. Exposure times in narrowband: 4 hours SII filter with 20-min. sub exposures, 4 hours OIII filter with 20-min. sub exposures, 4 hours HA filter with 20-min. sub exposures. Location: Granger, Ohio. Processed in MaxIm DL, Images Plus, Pixinsight, and Photoshop. Final RGB combination was converted using the Hubble color palette, HST.

CAA Member Joe Golias is (obviously) an expert astro-imager and is owner of Astrozap, a Cleveland-area company that produces astronomy accessories.

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Partial solar eclipse gets great exposure, reviews

Photo: Solar eclipse sequence by Stan Honda.

Solar Eclipse Sequence from Voinovich Park, by Stan Honda

Members of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) were present across the Greater Cleveland Area both hosting and participating in observation of the October 23 partial solar eclipse. The club hosted an event at Voinovich Park in Downtown Cleveland, assisted with an event at Gordon Park with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and observed from the Chapel Hill Mall parking lot (Cuyahoga Falls), Mapleside Farms (Brunswick), Bradstreet Landing (Rocky River), and the Avon Lake Boat Launch. Members watched and, in some cases, imaged the sunset eclipse.

Photo: Partial Solar Eclipse, October 23, 2014, by Dave Watkins.

Note the Large Sunspot Group Near Center, Long Filament Near Top – Image by Dave Watkins

Member and event organizer Jay Reynolds wrote, “At Voinovich Park, I had so many compliments about the quality of the event and the generous members ‘letting us use their equipment’ and ‘sharing with us’. Six people commented ‘how nice everyone was’, ‘What a great group to do this’, ‘We are so lucky to have such a proactive group’, ‘They really connected us with something special, I had no idea’, and ‘This was great’.”

Photo: Observers at Voinovich Park, by Jay Reynolds.

Observers at Voinovich Park, Cleveland, by Jay Reynolds

The eclipse and the CAA received widespread media coverage, according to Reynolds, including pieces on WTAM, Fox 8, WKYC, and others. Channels 3, 8, and 19, during their evening news broadcasts, credited the club with the event. Reynolds also learned that WKYC (Channel 3) was streaming the event live via the Internet and recorded more than 1,000 viewers.

Photo: Partial Solar Eclipse. Photo by Dave Nuti.

Eclipse Image Through the Eyepiece – Christopher Christie’s Telescope, Photo by Dave Nuti

Carl Kudrna: “I can report a nice turnout at Bradstreet’s Landing too. I had about 20 folks/children at my scope, and using the transit viewing filter too. We had a good view all the way to maximum then the sun started hiding behind trees along the cliffs. We had great views of the huge sunspot area at low center. Couldn’t see the sunset but we watched there till around 7:00. One young lady and her daughter had the only other scope there – a nice scope from the ’70s – a 60mm Unitron with a handsome wooden tripod. Due to the absence of a filter for it, they used the projection method of viewing the sun…. It was a great time.”

Dave Watkins: “I ended up at the north west corner of the parking lot at Chapel Hill Mall in Cuyahoga Falls. There were about 10 people there. Somebody called security on us, so we got a visit by the mall security. They said they got a call about a large group of people behaving strangely.”

Photo: Partial Solar Eclipse with airplane. By Matt Franduto

Lucky Catch – See Airplane Near Bottom of This Image! – by Matt Franduto

Matt Franduto, observing from Mapleside Farms with another club member, wrote of his photo (above), “It was late, Carl and I were getting a little frustrated with the clouds and I was having a little trouble keeping the sun centered for my imaging.  I snapped off a few shots, not really expecting much.  Then I got home and saw the {airplane}.” He believes this may be a “once in a lifetime shot!”

Astronomy enthusiasts often complain about Northeast Ohio’s often less-than-perfect skies (being polite here) but one man disagreed with that assessment.

Photo: Suzie Dills and Stan Honda, by Jay Reynolds

CAA Member Suzie Dills with New York City Visitor Stan Honda, by Jay Reynolds

“A special guest, Stan Honda, came all the way from New York City in an 8-hour drive to see the eclipse and to take photos at Voinovich Park,” reported CAA President William Murmann. “Stan is in a club that has star parties in New York’s Central Park, where he said they basically can just see the Moon and a few bright objects. Stan emailed me earlier this month about coming to Cleveland to see the eclipse. It was great to meet him!”

Photo: Eclipse Viewers in Avon Lake. Photo by James Guilford.

Eclipse Viewers at Avon Lake Boat Launch’s Fishing Pier. Photo by James Guilford.

Steve Korylak and James Guilford viewed and photographed from the Avon Lake Boat Launch fishing pier along Lake Erie. A good-sized crowd of perhaps 100 gathered there and the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, Bay Village, led public viewing.

Streaks of Cloud and a Giant Sunspot Group Cross Sun's Face - Photo by James Guilford

Streaks of Cloud and a Giant Sunspot Group Cross Sun’s Face – Photo by James Guilford

Lakefront viewers were hoping for a colorful sunset with the eclipsing Sun sinking into the waters of Lake Erie. That didn’t happen. Instead, as the eclipse progressed, it descended into a bank of Lake Clouds streaking, at first, the brilliant crescent-shaped Sun, then covering it entirely. The clouds made for a dramatic and mysterious view, memorable in its own way.

Photo: Eclipsing Sun sinks into Lake Clouds. Photo by James Guilford.

Eclipse Ends in Clouds, by James Guilford

 

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Late-day eclipse to be a challenging view

Image: Oct 23 eclipse begins.

Simulation: Just after the eclipse begins, about 7 degrees above horizon.

UPDATE: There will be two public viewing events taking place along Cleveland’s lakeshore beginning by 5:30 PM: Voinovich Park on the lake at East 9th Street, and Gordon Park on the lake at East 72nd Street and the Shoreway. Both events will provide telescopic views of the eclipse, and both are free of charge. There is, however, a parking fee for those driving to Voinovich Park. — 10/21/2014

The evening of Thursday, October 23, a partial solar eclipse will be visible from Northeastern Ohio, fleetingly, however. The weather forecast looked promising at this writing but the Sun/Moon position will be a big issue.

The eclipse will begin locally at 5:42 PM EDT as Moon begins its passage between Sun and Earth, blocking a portion of the light. Sun’s image (viewed through solar-safe filters or in webcasts via the Internet) will show a steadily-increasing “bite” missing from its bright disk. Because this will be a partial, rather than total eclipse, no-one will see Sun fully-covered by Moon. All the while, the Sun-Moon combo will be sinking towards Sun-Moonset. Viewing will be difficult requiring the most distant horizons available to local observers.

The event will begin with first contact (on Sun’s right-hand limb) and the eclipse just a bit more than 8 degrees above a clear horizon! That’s really low! The eclipse will reach its maximum coverage (50+ percent, for us) during local sunset, which is around 6:30 PM. The low elevations put the eclipse into a region of the low sky filled with obstructions such as trees, buildings, hills, etc. and the thickest, murkiest portion of the atmosphere.

Image: Oct. 23 eclipse at sunset.

The Oct. 23 partial solar eclipse will reach maximum during sunset.

Still, we don’t see that many solar eclipse opportunities for viewing locally. Sunset could be a dramatic event during this eclipse. If you have the chance to safely watch, please do!

WARNING: Viewing the Sun is potentially dangerous to your vision! You MUST use proper filters to prevent permanent eye damage when looking at the Sun, eclipsed or not! Sunglasses are not safe for eclipse viewing, nor are exposed film, compact discs, polarizing filters, or other such gadgets. Read this article.

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