Archive for the IYA Category

Awesome Mars Express view of Phobos and Deimos together – The Planetary Society Blog | The Planetary Society

Posted in astro blogs, astronomy eduction, IYA, Mars, NASA, observing, Planetary Society, robotic astronomy, space, Student Astronomy with tags , , , on December 13, 2009 by bellaireastro

Awesome Mars Express view of Phobos and Deimos together – The Planetary Society Blog | The Planetary Society.

Phobos and Deimos mutual event from Mars Express

Phobos & Deimos


How has the internet changed amateur astronomy?

Posted in amateur astronomy, astro blogs, IYA, observing, podcasts, Social Networking, Student Astronomy with tags , , , , on December 1, 2009 by bellaireastro

When someone becomes interested in astronomy those of us that are more experienced generally have some advice:

1) Don’t buy too little or too much telescope meaning make sure you get a good quality but get something you will actually use and you don’t have to break the bank!

2) Find a local club to join where you can learn and ask questions and be a part of a community of other astronomy enthusiasts.

But what it means to be a part of an astronomy community has been transformed by social networks, blogs, virtual observatories, and a the rapid way that information is spread online.

Social networking seems to be changing lots of things about the way people communicate and access information. Astronomy is no different. In fact it seems social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have had a big impact on the way amateurs connect with one another. Face-to-face clubs aren’t going away, but the experience of being a part of a community of people with a common interest can also happen online.

Twitter – the 140 character limit requirement makes astronomy tweets short and sweet. Here are a few ways that Twitter is changing amateur astronomy:

  • Instant access to professional and amateurs from everywhere
  • New community of astronomers with a different dynamic
  • Information is disseminated rapidly about astro events and news

140 characters at a time

Facebook – you can connect with millions of like-minded astronomy fans, coordinate groups and events, and even post photo albums using Facebook. Here are a few ways Facebook is changing amateur astronomy:

  • Networking with astronomers of all stripes
  • Can be used by individuals and clubs for communication and event coordination
  • Can post images & links

Facebook can manage events

Connect with millions of astronomy peeps

Blogs – If you take a look at the blog roll on this site you can see just a sampling of the kinds of astronomy blogs that are out there. From professional astronomers and science writers and space agencies, to astronomy educators, to observation logs, to astronomy news, to podcasts you can really see the wide variety and quality of astronomy material available in blog form.

  • As a reader you can get ALL the news out there for all astronomy topics sooner than the print stuff
  • Many publications are using blogs and other online content to entice readers or reward subscribers
  • As a blogger you can help spread news and contribute yourself and be a part of astronomy blogging community

Forums– When you are looking for help with astronomy equipment or astrophotography or need reviews and advice on what to buy or sell or if you want to exchange ideas with other astronomers you can probably find a forum.

  • is the best place to get reviews and ask questions about equipment as well as to find a thriving marketplace for used stuff.
  • is a serious place for the armchair astronaut. You can keep up with the latest on robotic spacecraft or rovers and share in the excitement as new images are plucked from obscure web servers and open for discussion.

Virtual Observatories – anyone can access professional-quality equipment and access real research data with these tools.

  • Galaxy Zoo lets anyone be a part of the science using robotically collected data. Users categorize galaxies and mergers better than any software.
  • Tzec Maun Foundation is non-profit group that gives access to telescopes and clear dark skies for education and research purposes.

Tips for Viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower | Universe Today

Posted in amateur astronomy, astro blogs, IYA, meteor shower, observing, sidewalk astronomy, space, Student Astronomy, Universe Today, urban skies with tags , , on November 26, 2009 by bellaireastro

Tips for Viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower | Universe Today

Here are some tips for viewing the upcoming Geminid meteor shower from Sean Welton from Universe Today

Geminids 2009

Occurring every year in mid-December, the Geminid meteor shower is commonly referred to as the most reliable meteor shower of the year. That is, it almost always puts on a great show!

The Geminid meteor shower is sure to be a stunning show this year, as the Moon will not be visible at night, so its glow will not impede your meteor viewing ability. In addition, the Geminids’ radiant is favorably positioned for most viewers at this time of year. In order to see the most meteors, I suggest the following tips:

  • The Geminid meteor shower has a very broad maximum peak. Because of this, the night on which you view the meteors isn’t critical. You will of course, see more meteors on the peak nights. This year the Geminid meteor shower’s peak is the night of December 13th-14th, 2009.
  • The best time to view a meteor shower is in the late night to early morning hours. The best time to view a meteor shower typically begins around 2 AM. This is because as the Earth rotates toward dawn, the forward velocity of the planet adds to the linear velocity of the surface and atmosphere. This has the effect of “sweeping up” more meteors.
  • If you’re not normally awake at 2 AM, like many people, simply go to sleep very early and set an alarm clock to wake you up to view the meteor shower. Trust me on this point, it is definitely worth it.
  • The Geminid meteor shower’s radiant is right near the twin bright stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Click the image at top right to see a map (thanks to Stellarium). The trick, however, isn’t to look towards the radiant, but to keep your eyes on the whole sky. While it’s impossible to look at the whole sky, just keep your eyes scanning and alert. This increases your chances of seeing a fleeting meteor or one out of the corner of your eye.
  • Darkness is key to proper meteor shower viewing. If you live in a city or other light polluted area, try going to a dark sky site to truly experience a meteor shower. You might be surprised how close a dark sky site is to you! Here are some tips on finding a dark sky near you.


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 so check it out.


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

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.