Starlit North Chagrin Nature Center

North Chagrin Nature Center, Willoughby, Ohio by Alan Studt
North Chagrin Nature Center, Willoughby, Ohio by Alan Studt. Click to enlarge!

The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) has several skilled photographers amongst its membership. Taking advantage of a clear, starry night February 6, CAA member Alan Studt spent some time with his camera making this wonderful image. Creating an image as beautiful as this nighttime landscape isn’t as simple as simply pressing the shutter release, even on an advanced DSLR. Here are Alan’s notes concerning this photograph:

The image is a combination of a few shots to get the various dynamic ranges involved.

Camera – Nikon D600 with 14mm Rokinon lens, producing three shots processed in Adobe Lightroom CC, and layer blended in Adobe Photoshop CC:

  • Sky – ISO 1250, 15 seconds, f/2.8
  • Land/Lights – ISO 6400, 15 seconds, f/22
  • Lake/Boardwalk – ISO 1000, 15 seconds, f/2.8

Constellations and objects seen in this image include: Canis Major & Minor, Orion, Lepus, Taurus, The Pleiades, and the lower part of Gemini in the upper left corner.

Close encounter with Jupiter

Photo: Jupiter with moons, by David Watkins.
Near opposition: Jupiter along with Europa, Ganymede, and Io. On a frigid February night, CAA member David Watkins used his 5X Powermate on his 8-inch Celestron to view the Jupiter atmosphere as he had never seen it before! From Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

by Dr. Tony Phillips

February 6, 2015 — Every 13 months, Earth and Jupiter have a close encounter. Astronomers call it an “opposition” because Jupiter is opposite the Sun in the sky. Our solar system’s largest gas planet rises in the east at sunset, and soars overhead at midnight, shining brighter than any star in the night sky.

This year’s opposition of Jupiter occurs on Feb. 6. It isn’t an ordinary close encounter with Earth (approximately 640 million kilometers), but in Feb. 2015, Jupiter is edge on to the Sun.

Jupiter’s opposition on Feb. 6 coincides almost perfectly with its equinox on Feb. 5 when the Sun crosses Jupiter’s equatorial plane. It is an edge-on apparition of the giant planet that sets the stage for a remarkable series of events. For the next couple of months, backyard sky watchers can see the moons of Jupiter executing a complex series of mutual eclipses and transits.

The eclipses have already started. On Jan. 24, for example, three of Jupiter’s moon’s, Io, Europa, and Callisto, cast their inky-black shadows on Jupiter’s swirling cloudtops. The “triple shadow transit” happened while Jupiter was high in the sky over North America, and many backyard astronomers watched the event.

As Earth’s crosses the plane of Jupiter’s equator in the weeks and months ahead, there will be many mutual events. For instance, on Feb. 5, volcanic Io will cast its shadow on Mercury-sized Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. On Feb. 7, icy Europa, home to what may be the solar system’s largest underground ocean, will cast its shadow on Io. Events like these will continue, off and on, until July 2015.

During the last edge-on apparition in 2009, some observers managed to obtain the first resolved time-lapse videos of mutual phenomena. Experienced amateur astronomers recorded satellites ducking in and out of one another’s shadows, moons in partial and total eclipse, and multiple shadows playing across the face of Jupiter. Backyard telescopes have come a long way in the past six years, so even better movies can be expected this time.

You don’t have to be an experienced astronomer to experience Jupiter’s opposition. Anyone can see the bright planet rising in the east at sunset. It outshines by far anything else in its patch of sky. Point a small telescope at the bright light and, voila!–there are Jupiter’s cloud belts and storms, and the pinprick lights of the Galilean satellites circling the gas giant below.

Try it; 640 million kilometers won’t seem so far away at all.

Credit: Science@NASA

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.

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