Archive for July, 2009

Jupiter Gets It In The Eye!

Posted in amateur astronomy, astro blogs, astronomical history, Jupiter, observing, space, urban skies with tags , , , on July 21, 2009 by bellaireastro

Many places are reporting today that yes indeed amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley discovered that Jupiter was hit by something rather large. In 1994 comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter with spectacular results. In this image by Mr. Wesley the dark spot at the top of the image isn’t normally seen. It was clearly something new and different and it turns out to be an impact.

Anthony Wesley from Canberra, Australia has captured a new impact spot on Jupiter. Credit: Anthony Wesley

Now there are professional astronomers adding more observations with more sophisticated equipment but this is the discovery of a lifetime for an amateur astronomer so congrats to Anthony Wesley of Murrumbateman Australia.

This image shows a large impact shown on the bottom left on Jupiter's south polar region captured on July 20, 2009, by NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Credit: NASA/JPL/Infrared Telescope Facility

Infrared Image of impact zone

The NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii took this image which shows not only the impact area but the debris scattered in the upper atmosphere. Check out the post over at Universe Today for more information.

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LRO Images of Apollo Landing Sites

Posted in astronomical history, IYA, Lunar Exploration, moon, NASA, observing, robotic astronomy, space, Student Astronomy with tags , , on July 18, 2009 by bellaireastro

Amateur astronomers are often asked if one can see the Apollo landing sites with their telescope and the answer is no. Even with Hubble we can’t get the needed resolution for such small scale structures. But the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is in a high orbit around the Moon as part of a series of new lunar missions and on July 17th the LRO team released a series of images of the Apollo landing sites. You can clearly see the spacecraft and the shadows they cast but the LRO is still a long way from the lowest orbit which happens in August so I suspect better resolution images will come later in the year.

Labeled LROC image of Apollo 11 landing siteLabeled LROC image of Apollo 16 landing site

Notice the proximity of the HUGE craters! Too close for comfort!

There is a lot of talk about the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing which is coming up on July 20th, 2009. Of course there are those that still believe NASA faked the entire thing. I wonder if these images will change anyone’s mind.

The image showing the Apollo 14 landing site shows what the LRO team claims are the tracks of the astronauts as they set up scientific equipment on the lunar surface. That is just incredible stuff.

Labeled LROC image of Apollo 14 landing site

Seriously… astronaut tracks. COOL!

40 Years Ago Today Apollo 11 Launched

Posted in astronomical history, IYA, Lunar Exploration, moon, NASA, space, The Big Picture with tags on July 16, 2009 by bellaireastro

Apollo 11 launched was 40 years ago today. The great photo blogging site “The Big Picture” posted a fantastic set of images documenting the entire trip.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon July 20th 1969.

There is a flash driven and quite cool site dedicated to remembering the Apollo 11 Moon landing called WeChooseTheMoon.org so check it out.

Galileoscope

Posted in astronomical history, IYA, moon, observing, space, Student Astronomy, urban skies with tags on July 15, 2009 by bellaireastro

So a few months ago I ordered a Galileoscope so I could have a new toy and also to see if the simple scope is good for my astronomy classes.

Today it showed up on my doorstep and I put it together.

First off the unboxing.

I set out all the pieces. The lenses are glass and the rest is plastic and rubber. Note the tissue paper included to avoid getting fingerprints on the lenses.

The instructions for assembling the scope were clear and simple. Note the lens needs to be inserted in a specific direction.

Putting the tube together and getting the focuser in place and installing the telescope ends was all very simple.

The eyepieces were a tad more difficult. The small lenses are hard to work with. Getting the lenses in the correct configuration and in the right spot took some fiddling and here the directions weren’t as clear. For example there is a second eyepiece that barely gets a mention in the directions and I found myself trying to remember lens optics stuff from introductory physics. Still it wasn’t too bad.

The eyepieces fit neatly into the completed tube and the simple focus-by-sliding worked very well. I got a couple of shots through the scope with my digital camera.

This is a GREAT project for families or schools. The work doesn’t really require an adult to supervise although it may make the process easier. I say go buy one now. I plan to get a classroom set if I can. The scope seems easily enough to disassemble so you can show how the thing works and how to put it together.

Completed Galileoscope

Gibbous July Moon

Posted in Lunar Exploration, moon, NASA, observing, robotic astronomy, space, Student Astronomy, urban skies with tags , , , on July 5, 2009 by bellaireastro

The moon goes through a 28-day cycle with each phase lasting 7 days. Recently I set out to catch the moon during the waxing gibbous phase just a few days before full moon. Gibbous means that more than half the surface of the Moon as seen from Earth is lit up and waxing means a bit more is lit up last night than the night before.

Waxing gibbous July Moon

Waxing gibbous July Moon

Crater Tycho

Crater Tycho

The moon is one of my favorite photographic subjects. Soon I hope to take some late-night/early-morning waning crescent images.

NASA has sent the Lunar Reconnaissance Observer with the another mission in-tow designed to smash into the Moon to aid the search for possible water-ice in lunar craters. This is one of the first images from the spacecraft showing an area near Mare Nubium (sea of clouds).

Near Mare Nubium

Near Mare Nubium

Sunspots are back!

Posted in IYA, observing, robotic astronomy, space, stellar astronomy, sun, urban skies with tags , on July 5, 2009 by bellaireastro

Yesterday while enjoying the July 4th holiday with some grilling outside I setup a borrowed Coronado PST to take a look at the sun and there was an active sunspot group!

Later I setup my 8″ Dobsonian with a solar filter and between the 2 scopes managed to get a few shots of the sun at 2 different wavelengths and the sunspot group is visible.

H-Alpha solar image 7-4-09
Visible solar image 7-4-09

Solar images 7-4-09

The SOHO instruments caught the entire thing from space in multiple wavelengths but here is just one:

from SOHO
from SOHO

from SOHO

The sun is an amazing astronomical target when it can be done safely. Our sun goes through an 11-year cycle and we have been at the minimum in terms of activity for a couple of years now. It looks like the solar minimum is finally over.