Venus transits the Pleiades

Once every eight years, as dictated by orbital mechanics, planet Venus crosses the Pleiades star cluster. The cluster is one of star clusters nearest to Earth and easy to spot: to the right and running ahead of the great Orion constellation. It’s an open cluster consisting of about 1,000 gravitationally-bound stars though only a few of them are visible to the unaided eye. Longer camera exposures reveal more and more stars in the group. The before, during, and after-transit conjunction positions of Venus and the Pleiades make for a lovely sight by eye, telescope, and a favorite target for astrophotographers. Shown below are some of the images CAA members have made of the April 2020 Venus/Pleiades combinations.

NOTE: Images will be added as new ones are received. 4/4/2020

Wide view of the transit: Canon EOS Rebel T5i – 250mm lens, ISO 800 F5.6, 8 seconds. by Jon Salontay
Alan Studt: Nikon D850, Sigma 600mm, f6.3, ISO 28000, 1/10th second, 110 shots, 25 darks stacked in DSS. Added a bit of glow in Photoshop.
Venus Glows! by John D. Burkett
Pre-transit Conjunction. Via 400mm telephoto lens. April 2, 2020. by James Guilford.
Venus and Three Sisters. View of the Venus transit through a telescope. “I wish I could have zoomed out!” says Photographer James Guilford.
Jon Salontay_trees_IMG_7735
Transit in the Trees. by Jon Salontay. Canon EOS Rebel T5i, 55mm lens, ISO 800, F/4, 8 seconds.
Venus visits the Pleiades. by Lonnie Dittrick

Give the Moon a chance

Waxing Gibbous Moon, by James Guilford. April 3, 2020.

by William Murmann, CAA President

I know the Moon is considered a nuisance by many of our members.  However, it does have many things worth looking at as it waxes and wanes during the month.  Every night presents something new to see.
Tonight {April 3, 2020} for example, we have a waxing nine-day Moon that is past first quarter.  Looking along the terminator, however, you can spot 52-mile diameter crater Tycho with its steep walls and magnificent ray system that shoots halfway across the Moon.
Farther to the Moon’s north, we have 56-mile diameter crater Copernicus with a collection of four to five thousand-foot mountain peaks in its center made by rebound energy immediately after the crater was created by its impactor.
And just below the Moon’s north polar region, we have the 61-mile diameter crater Plato, the famous “Black Lake.”  Plato is filled halfway with black lava.  On its western rim there is a 9,000-foot peak called Plato Zeta.
As the Moon wanes and the terminator from the setting Sun nears the western edge of the crater, a sharp, spiky shadow can be seen shooting about 30 miles across the crater floor just as the Sun hits Plato Zeta.  By luck, I happened to observing Plato at 4 a.m. one morning and saw the shadow at the exact moment when the setting Sun hit the peak and shot the shadow across the crater floor.
If you are up for a challenge, see if you can see Plato Zeta’s spiky shadow just as it appears.

 

March 9 Membership Meeting and a visit to Mauna Kea (by a member)

Panorama of the Mauna Kea Observatories by Frank Ravizza.
Panorama of the Mauna Kea Observatories. Photo by Frank Ravizza. Used under Creative Commons License. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons

The monthly general membership meeting of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association will take place March 9, 2020 from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. CAA Member and Vice President Tim Campbell will present his talk, “Mauna Kea: Telescopes above the Clouds!” — his visit to Hawaii’s Mauna Kea mountaintop observatories (MKO). Several major telescopes are located there at 14,000 feet above sea level. Mauna Kea is one of the most important sites in Earth-based astronomy and Campbell will take attendees on a detailed tour!

The CAA’s monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of every month except December at 7:30 p.m. in the Cleveland Metroparks’ Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio. Meeting programs are open to the public. Following the presentation and a brief social break, the club will conduct its membership business meeting.

Beautiful M42 in crystalline skies

Orion Nebula, M42, by Hayden Gill. February 2020

Hayden Gill, a member of our Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) braved a very cold but crystal-clear February night collecting image data to create this picture; it was also his very successful first effort at image stacking.

Gill wrote: “I shot it with a Nikon D7200 on a SkyWatcher EvoStar 80ED {telescope}, CGEM II mount. For guiding I have a 60mm ZWO scope and a ZWO 174 mono” guide camera. He used his Nikon for the data capture and Deep Sky Stacker to build the image. Each exposure was two minutes at ISO 800. He used 34 light images, 20 darks, 20 flats, 25 bias frames. Post processing was in Photoshop.

“This was my first attempt at astrophotography stacking. First time stacking and first time really putting all my gear to use how I have been intending to. Can’t wait to get back out!”

We will be eager to see Gill’s continued progress and images!

February 10 Membership Meeting: “Lucy in the Sky with Asteroids”

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. Credit: SwRI

On Monday, February 10, at 7:30 p.m. the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) will conduct its monthly club meeting. The meeting will feature a talk by CAA member Kai Getrost, a member of the special NASA teams that performed occultation studies in support of NASA’s New Horizon’s space probe to “Ultima Thule.” He is currently working in support of NASA’s Lucy Mission to explore Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids. The Lucy spacecraft will launch in October 2021 and, with boosts from Earth’s gravity, will complete a 12-year journey to seven different asteroids.

As part of the NASA science teams in support of the New Horizons and Lucy Missions, Getrost has traveled to South America and to Australia to help gather occultation data used to help guide the spacecraft.

The CAA’s monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of every month except December at 7:30 p.m. in the Cleveland Metroparks’ Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio. Meeting programs are open to the public. Following the presentation and a brief social break, the club will conduct its membership business meeting.

First meeting of the new decade: January 13, 2020

Photo: After sunset scopes pointed skyward and offered views of planets Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn. Photo by James Guilford.
After sunset scopes pointed skyward and offered views of planets Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn.

The first Membership Meeting of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) for 2020 will take place Monday, January 13. The meeting will feature a presentation by member Trevor Braun entitled, “Equipment for Amateur Astronomy 101.” Are you looking to buy a new, or perhaps upgrade/enhance your existing, telescope? Learn about the critical factors needed to make a decision, as well as some of the equipment and accessories you may want to consider as you begin to get ready for the 2020 observing season.

The CAA’s monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of every month except December at 7:30 p.m. in the Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio, in the Cleveland Metroparks. Meeting programs are open to the public. Following the presentation and a brief social break, the club will conduct its membership business meeting.

Europa: Improved image from Galileo mission

Galileo’s Europa Remastered. Image Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, SETI Institute, Cynthia Phillips, Marty Valenti

“Looping through the Jovian system in the late 1990s, the Galileo spacecraft recorded stunning views of Europa and uncovered evidence that the moon’s icy surface likely hides a deep, global ocean. Galileo‘s Europa image data has been remastered here, using improved new calibrations to produce a color image approximating what the human eye might see. Europa’s long curving fractures hint at the subsurface liquid water. The tidal flexing the large moon experiences in its elliptical orbit around Jupiter supplies the energy to keep the ocean liquid. But more tantalizing is the possibility that even in the absence of sunlight that process could also supply the energy to support life, making Europa one of the best places to look for life beyond Earth. What kind of life could thrive in a deep, dark, subsurface ocean?” — Via APOD: Astronomy Picture Of the Day