Looking out the window

Photo: Craters on the Moon's Terminator. An iPhone photo taken through a telescope at 600X. Converted to monochrome.  Photo Credit: Lowan Laws.

Craters on the Moon’s Terminator. An iPhone photo taken through a telescope at 600X. Converted to monochrome. Photo Credit: Lowan Laws.

CAA member Lowan Laws was using his eight-inch Meade Dobsonian telescope at our Letha House Park observing site one very clear night this July. Pointing his scope at the Moon, he marveled at how sharp the image was. He said the atmosphere was so clear and steady — the seeing extraordinary — that he kept increasing the magnification to see how far he could go. Finally, at 600X, he snapped this image using his Apple iPhone at the telescope eyepiece (afocal method). It’s almost like looking out the window of a spaceship in lunar orbit.

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2018 Perseids meteor shower

Photo: Perseids Composite: Images combined to show 22 meteors viewed from Salt Fork State Park, Ohio. Photo Credit: Frank Shoemaker.

Perseids Composite: Images combined to show 22 meteors and radiant direction, viewed from Salt Fork State Park, Ohio. Photo Credit: Frank Shoemaker.

Note: This post will be updated with additional photos and narrative as provided by CAA members.

The 2018 occurrence of the annual Perseids meteor shower was not particularly outstanding but among sky watchers the event’s timing offered some promise; it peaked on a weekend and Earth’s Moon offered no interference! Overall, members enjoyed the experience but were not impressed by the Perseids’ performance!

A few intrepid members of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) spent late nights into early mornings at darker sites around the area ranging from Observatory Park in Geauga County, to Letha House Park in Medina County, Findley State Park in Lorain County, and Salt Fork State Park in Guernsey County.

Photo: The night wasn't stellar Saturday for the 2018 Perseids Meteor Shower as viewed from Letha House Park West, Medina County. This fisheye view of observers leaving at 12:35 AM. Photo Credit: James Guilford.

The night wasn’t stellar Saturday for the 2018 Perseids Meteor Shower as viewed from Letha House Park West, Medina County, as clouds and light pollution hindered observations. This fisheye view of observers leaving at 12:35 AM. Photo Credit: James Guilford.

Saturday night observers were largely frustrated by clouds moving over the Northern Ohio area though some did report seeing meteors. The passing clouds were illuminated not only by city light pollution but also by flashes of lightning from thunderstorms over Lake Erie!

Member Lonnie Dittrick, out Saturday night, reported, “Spent about 2.5 hours out near Wellington and snagged 23 meteors (about 1 every 9.6 minutes). Conditions fair with lots of high clouds and a cloud-out for 30 minutes. Reoccurring lighting north over the lake. Three very bright shooters that left trails. 11:10 to 1:40 AM.”

Joining the crowd at Observatory Park, Nancy Whisler wrote, “We counted 34 up until midnight, then we left because it was getting so cloudy and moist. We had a great time!

Some folks tried watching from their own back yards. “Stayed home in Brunswick on my backyard patio Saturday night and Sunday,” wrote Jon Salontay. “Saturday started out with promising skies and weather but the sky got very hazy and smoky early and cloudy later. Saw only one sporadic meteor around midnight and didn’t catch any with my camera. Limiting magnitude was at best 3rd magnitude, probably 2nd. Sunday night saw better conditions; much darker and clearer.”

“Saw only two Perseids though: one early at 11:30 PM, and another around 4 AM, in an early and later session. Three meteors, in two days, in five hours observing.” Reflecting the feelings of many observers, Salontay concluded, “I’ve had better nights.”

Watching from his home’s deck in Brunswick Hills, Matt Franduto wrote, “The last two nights (2 – 3:00 AM) have been awful. Zero on Friday. Three (Saturday) night.”

Sunday night, inconvenient for many due to Monday work schedules, offered better skies and a nice selection of fireballs (exceptionally bright meteors) in addition to more ordinary “shooting stars.”

Watching the sky from “the lovely skies of North Olmsted,” was Steve Korylak. “I took about 200 15-second exposures covering Cygnus and Cassiopeia starting at 1:30 AM and caught not 0ne. However the next half-hour I saw three Perseids and four sporadics. Some shower, more like a drizzle!”

Photo: Sword of Mars: A Perseid fireball meteor streaks past the brilliant planet Mars in the skies over Findley State Park, Wellington, August 12, 2018, 1:03 AM. Photo Credit: James Guilford.

Sword of Mars: A Perseid fireball meteor streaks past the brilliant planet Mars in the skies over Findley State Park, Wellington, August 12, 2018, 1:03 AM. Photo Credit: James Guilford.

From Findley State Park, James Guilford watched and photographed from twilight until 1:30 AM Saturday to Sunday. He did not keep count as photography was his main interest. “I saw a few dim Perseids and several fireballs and captured one as it passed Mars,” he wrote. “The main problem became dew; one after another the camera lenses fogged up and I had to keep swapping them out. The camera and tripod were dripping wet by the time I had to call it quits!”

Dark skies matter when it comes to spotting meteors. Member Frank Shoemaker, who went to Salt Fork, reported, “My daughter and I went down to Salt Fork state park and were out from 11:30 PM to 4:30 AM on Sunday night/Monday morning. The clouds completely cleared out about 1:30 AM and we eventually lost count of Perseids in the 70s. I think we saw at least 80 of them.” That was a good night! See his composite photo at top of this story.

Photo: Singular Streak: A close-up view of a Perseid as it passed through constellation Cassiopeia Sunday morning. Photo Credit: John D. Burkett.

Singular Streak: A close-up view of a Perseid as it passed through constellation Cassiopeia Sunday morning. Photo Credit: John D. Burkett.

Member John Burkett took a different approach in making his meteoric image: as an experiment he attached cameras to a CGEM which tracked with background stars. The image above was produced from a Nikon D810, Nikon 35mm f/1.4 @ f/4, ISO-200, single-frame 76-Seconds, cropped. It was just below and to the right of the big “W”. He was three miles out of Seville, time stamp is 5:29 AM.

 

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At Monday, August 13 meeting: Crewed American space missions: 2018

The program for the August 13 General Membership Meeting will cover American Crewed Space Missions: 2018. The talk will be delivered by Tom Benson, a retired NASA aerospace engineer.

SpaceX Falcon 9 - Credit: SpaceX

On July 8, 2011, the final Space Shuttle mission was launched from Cape Canaveral.

For the last six years, the United States has paid the Russian Space Agency to deliver crew members to the International Space Station (ISS). That process is about to end as Americans will once again ride on American spacecraft launched from U.S. soil!

The Commercial Crew Program of NASA has contracted with SpaceX and Boeing to each develop a spacecraft which can deliver and return astronauts to the ISS. The first flights are scheduled for this year. Tom Benson, retired from NASA Glenn Research Center, will report on these missions and share with us any breaking news from the “high frontier!”

The CAA’s monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of every month (except December) at 7:30 PM at the Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio, in the Cleveland Metroparks.

Following the presentation and a brief social break, the club will conduct its membership business meeting.

Illustration: Falcon 9 booster with Dragon crewed spacecraft. Credit: SpaceX

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Monday, July 9: A quick trip to Alpha Centauri, and CAA’s Monthly General Membership Meeting

Photo: This wide-field view of the sky around the bright star Alpha Centauri was created from photographic images forming part of the Digitized Sky Survey 2. The star appears so big just because of the scattering of light by the telescope's optics as well as in the photographic emulsion. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to the Solar System.

This wide-field view of the sky around the bright star Alpha Centauri was created from photographic images forming part of the Digitized Sky Survey 2. The star appears so big just because of the scattering of light by the telescope’s optics as well as in the photographic emulsion. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to the Solar System. Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2
Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin

Coming up on Monday, July 9 is the monthly meeting of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA). The evening’s speaker will be Jay Reynolds, club member, research astronomer at Cleveland State University, and host of WKYC’s “In The Sky.” Jay will discuss how scientists are working now on a project to send high-speed probes to our Sun’s nearest neighboring star, with data results in less than 40 years of launch!

The CAA’s monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of every month (except December) at 7:30 PM at the Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio, in the Cleveland Metroparks.

Following the presentation and a brief social break, the club will conduct its membership business meeting.

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ESO Announcement: First confirmed image of a newborn exoplanet

Image: This spectacular image from the SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope is the first clear image of a planet caught in the very act of formation around the dwarf star PDS 70. The planet stands clearly out, visible as a bright point to the right of the centre of the image, which is blacked out by the coronagraph mask used to block the blinding light of the central star. Credit: ESO/A. Müller et al.

This spectacular image from the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope is the first clear image of a planet caught in the very act of formation around the dwarf star PDS 70. The planet stands clearly out, visible as a bright point to the right of the center of the image, which is blacked out by the coronagraph mask used to block the blinding light of the central star. Credit: ESO/A. Müller et al.

Astronomers led by a group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany have captured a spectacular snapshot of planetary formation around the young dwarf star PDS 70. By using the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) — one of the most powerful planet-hunting instruments in existence — the international team has made the first robust detection of a young planet, named PDS 70b, cleaving a path through the planet-forming material surrounding the young star.

The SPHERE instrument also enabled the team to measure the brightness of the planet at different wavelengths, which allowed properties of its atmosphere to be deduced.

The planet stands out very clearly in the new observations, visible as a bright point to the right of the blackened center of the image. It is located roughly three billion kilometers from the central star, roughly equivalent to the distance between Uranus and the Sun. The analysis shows that PDS 70b is a giant gas planet with a mass a few times that of Jupiter. The planet’s surface has a temperature of around 1000°C, making it much hotter than any planet in our own Solar System.

The dark region at the center of the image is due to a coronagraph, a mask which blocks the blinding light of the central star and allows astronomers to detect its much fainter disc and planetary companion. Without this mask, the faint light from the planet would be utterly overwhelmed by the intense brightness of PDS 70.

“These discs around young stars are the birthplaces of planets, but so far only a handful of observations have detected hints of baby planets in them,” explains Miriam Keppler, who lead the team behind the discovery of PDS 70’s still-forming planet. “The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc.”

The discovery of PDS 70’s young companion is an exciting scientific result that has already merited further investigation. A second team, involving many of the same astronomers as the discovery team, including Keppler, has in the past months followed up the initial observations to investigate PDS 70’s fledgling planetary companion in more detail.
They not only made the spectacularly clear image of the planet shown here, but were even able to obtain a spectrum of the planet. Analysis of this spectrum indicated that its atmosphere is cloudy.

Image: This chart shows the southern constellation of Centaurus and marks most of the stars visible to the unaided eye on a clear dark night.  The dwarf star PDS 70 is marked with a red circle. Credit: ESO, IAU and Sky & Telescope

This chart shows the southern constellation of Centaurus and marks most of the stars visible to the unaided eye on a clear dark night.  The dwarf star PDS 70 is marked with a red circle. Credit: ESO, IAU and Sky & Telescope

PDS 70’s planetary companion has sculpted a transition disc — a protoplanetary disc with a giant “hole” in the center. These inner gaps have been known about for decades and it has been speculated that they were produced by disc-planet interaction. Now we can see the planet for the first time.

“Keppler’s results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution,” comments André Müller, leader of the second team to investigate the young planet. “We needed to observe a planet in a young star’s disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation.” By determining the planet’s atmospheric and physical properties, the astronomers are able to test theoretical models of planet formation.

This glimpse of the dust-shrouded birth of a planet was only possible thanks to the impressive technological capabilities of ESO’s SPHERE instrument, which studies exoplanets and discs around nearby stars using a technique known as high-contrast imaging — a challenging feat. Even when blocking the light from a star with a coronagraph, SPHERE still has to use cleverly devised observing strategies and data processing techniques to filter out the signal of the faint planetary companions around bright young stars at multiple wavelengths and epochs.

Thomas Henning, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and leader of the teams, summarizes the scientific adventure: “After more than a decade of enormous efforts to build this high-tech machine, now SPHERE enables us to reap the harvest with the discovery of baby planets!”

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CAA at Lakewood Summer Solstice Celebration

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. Lakewood Solstice Celebration 2016. Credit: James Guilford.

The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) will, once again, be a major activity at the city of Lakewood’s annual Summer Solstice Celebration. The event takes place in Lakewood Park and on the park’s lakefront Solstice Steps feature on Thursday, June 21 from 6:00 to 10:30 PM.

Operating within the constraints of sunlight and twilight viewing conditions, club members will set up their telescopes and offer public viewing of Sun, Moon, and planets. Planets Venus and Jupiter will be readily visible, given clear skies, as will be the Waxing Gibbous Moon. Some fainter objects may be viewed later.

CAA member Jay Reynolds is coordinating the club’s participation with organizers of the very popular celebration.

An event flyer is available here: Lakewood Summer Solstice Celebration

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June 11’s monthly meeting and upcoming programs

Coming up on Monday, June 11 is the monthly meeting of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA). The evening’s program will feature several members showing their favorite telescopes and what they appreciate about them and is appropriately entitled, “Telescope Show and Tell.”

The CAA’s monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of every month (except December) at 7:30 PM at the Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio, in the Cleveland Metroparks.

Following the presentation and a brief social break, the club will conduct its membership business meeting.

Here is a list of programs scheduled to take place at upcoming meetings of the CAA:

June 11, 2018
“Telescope Show and Tell”
Speaker: Members of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association
Tonight, various club members will display their favorite telescopes and explain why, how, and how much!”

July 9, 2018
“Journey to Another Solar System”
Speaker: Jay Reynolds, Club member and Research Astronomer at Cleveland State University
Research astronomer and host of WKYC’s “In The Sky,” Jay Reynolds will discuss how scientists are working now on a project to send high-speed probes to our nearest neighboring star, with data results in less than 40 years of launch! (This is a make-up talk originally scheduled for January that did not take place due to illness!)

August 13, 2018
“American Crewed Space Missions: 2018”
Speaker: Tom Benson, Retired NASA Aerospace Engineer
On July 8, 2011 the last Space Shuttle mission was launched from Cape Canaveral. For the last six years, the United States has paid the Russian Space Agency to deliver crew members to the International Space Station (ISS). That process is about to end as Americans will once again ride on American spacecraft launched from American soil! The Commercial Crew Program of NASA has contracted with Space-X and Boeing to each develop spacecraft that can deliver and return astronauts to the ISS. The first flights are scheduled for this year. Tom Benson, retired from NASA Glenn, will report on these missions and share with us any breaking news from the high frontier!

September 10, 2018
“Moon Bases”
Speaker: Bryan A. Paleszewski, NASA Engineer
NASA Engineer Bryan Palaszewski will bring us close to home and discuss plans and ideas for humans to “live off the land,” i.e. establish a permanent base on the surface of our nearest solar system neighbor, the Moon!

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