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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Jan 10, 2012 7:37:45 GMT -6
Warm January Chicago Astronomer Mini Observation Session
10 January 2012
I do not not do winter observation sessions much anymore, (such is the folly of youth), but we are experiencing an abnormally warm early start to 2012 - and that calls out for an unusual opportunity to set up scopes and catch planets and the Moon.
C.A. Bill and I will arrive at the Adler Planetarium grounds tonight. But I like to set-up before it get's dark and Sunset is at 4:30 pm this evening. I assume I'll remain on site till about 8:00pm or so - depending on temps and condition of skies.
Quite a bit to catch this session:
Moonrise is at 6:38 pm
Venus will set by 7:36pm
Jupiter is riding high
Uranus & Neptune should be readily available
The Orion Nebula will be played with as other DSOs.
I don't expect crowds for this session, but we will certainly share views with the curious and fans of the Chicago Astronomer. Hopefully the weather will suitable for some quality scope time before the forecasted snow is to arrive in a day.
Check this thread, Twitter & Facebook feeds for updates and confirmations.
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Jan 11, 2012 7:26:53 GMT -6
A Great First Chicago Astronomer Star Party for 2012....
This was a solid, (unintentional), first session the Chicago Astronomer!
Normally, I do not schedule any star parties for most of the winter months. The cold, the snow and the hassle of frigid logistics just does not make things easy for public observation sessions. But, the this lack of winter-like conditions for the Midwest has been incredible...and relished! Calling for a rather last minute gathering, we not only had many Astronomers present, but our fans came out to share the skies with us on a great clear evening.
I like to set-up equipment before sunset, during twilight, as I enjoy this time when the skies change through shades turquoise and I can set up at my leisure. During this time, people almost always walk up during the assembly stages to ask what's going on and chat astronomy - eager to take a peek. It builds anticipation for our audience and the C11 looks big and imposing. If the equipment is set-up before nightfall, I feel like I haven't lost any time and captured every available moment. (I feel rushed if I arrive at night and feels like I lost a sense of control.)
With that, I arrived on site at 5:00 pm, with C.A. Paulie already on-scene - and after assisting me with carrying the C11 ensemble, he was off with targeting Jupiter & Venus....and attending to our early visitors...
With his trusty Dob and Mountain Dew, I sent our fans to his station, as he slewed between both planets as I set-up...
Venus displayed a nice near full disk, but it was Jupiter that was the star of the show. Great banding and display of Satellites. I always start with a 40mm wide-field eyepiece to show the Jovian system and progress up through the powers, until I get to the 26mm and 2x Barlowed - offering a 215x magnification reserved for our visitors that express special attention, enthusiasm and awe.
I'm also enjoying utilizing my Android Tablet in assisting to instruct and display what we are viewing/discussing...
Using various apps, I bring up planetary detailed images, orbital mechanics and other related subject matter. (Still need to work on mounting it to the C11 for Push-to functionality.)
Arriving later, were C.A.s Bill, Tom, John and Rick enhancing the session and bringing laughs. Bill brought his new 6" fast f-ratio newt, taking astro pics, and John his go-to 5" Nexstar...
It was a constant flow of Chicago Astronomer fans and new visitors to our "Mini" gathering. Many grateful and excited to be able to view the cosmos first hand and remarked how cool to be able to see objects only seen in books and the Internet...
I put the new Crayford focuser through it's paces with excellent results. I have permanently installed on the right diagonal the Skylight Light Pollution filter, making for good contrast and helping to keep the mirror dust-free. I also brought out the Binoviewers with 25mm eyepieces, sometimes barlowed - but all that viewed through them, really enjoyed the near 3-D views of Jupiter and the Moon that they provide. Here C.A. John is digging them...
Small groups formed, discussing astronomy and optics...
Here, John and Chicago Astronomer fan Angel display the Earth-Lunar relationship - using their bodies for demonstration purposes.
And we continue....
Here, long time Chicago Astronomer fan, (since my 4.5" Reflector days), Shree and his wife joined us for the evening...
Angel arrived all the way from Indiana to join us for this session - bringing her great enthusiasm and energy...
Chicago Astronomer supporter and friend Gerry came by with laughs and yuks - and taking vids/pics...
City science promoter Tom and his wife joined us, taking pics and documenting this evening's event...
Sally and her daughter Violet have been receiving Chicago Astronomer email notices and are making regular visits to our sessions... ....
I had only intended to be here with the scopes till 8:00 pm or so...but we were constantly on the move, talking, demonstrating, welcoming and giggling...that it was 10:00 pm. The time just shot by in a flash. Temps were getting chilly, but my new Touch-screen conductive gloves kept my hands warm, yet enabled me to manipulate the tablet with ease.
I had expected this quickly called session to be very small and primarily just for the Chicago Astronomer crew - but if you set up a telescope, they will come. I kept the people counter hanging from my counter weights as a swinging reminder to keep track...and I counted 66 visitors to this session. (C.A. support crew Barbara was not able to make it this evening to work the visitors, but has compiled our stats for our 2011 season - report soon.)
2012 will certainly be a enjoyably busy observational season for our us...end times and all... I feel that March/April will be the start to our regular observation season...
Myself, Angel, Paulie, Bill, Rick, Fred, John, Gerry and new Chicago Astronomer fan Adeep.
I can't remember ever having such a nice observing/imaging session in January! Hmmm, end times?
I purchased a used 6in f/5 newt over the holidays. I am hoping the scope to be my core imaging setup. More on the purchase in another post.
In my rush to Adler, I had forgotten my collimation tools. A must for all newt owners. Thank goodness, Paulie had a collimation cap and Joe had his handy tools.
I borrowed Joe's Meade 2in 56mm plossl for some wide field observing in the beginning of session. I was surprised to find the newt focuser did not have enough outward travel; I had to pull the eyepiece slightly out to focus. A combination of 150mm optics and 2in eyepiece gave neat richfield views of double cluster and subaru. I was also able to fit the entire Orion sword in the view. Very sweet.
Being just a day after full moon, I was pleasantly surprised with the imaging. I used an Orion SVP mount without polar finderscope and no guiding. The f/5 optics along with Chicago's skyglow allowed me to shoot photos well under 15sec.
Post by Paulie pchris00 on Jan 13, 2012 15:41:31 GMT -6
When I first saw this announced Tuesday morning, I thought it might be like our December star party. That one was more about playing with new toys, and being a little colder, was for the true astrogeeks. The more I thought about it during the day, though, I thought we might have a decent crowd on hand. I was even a little worried that street parking might be scarce. I can't recall a string of mild weather like this in January. All over the region, people were taking advantage. I almost prefer a night like Tuesday to the oppressive humidity of summer.
What a night for planetary, lunar, and bright deep sky objects. I had to go around to the shadowed area to the south of Adler to pick out M31, but I should have known Bill would find it in a matter of seconds right in the glare of the streetlights.
Jupiter looked outstanding with the bino-viewers, but I forgot to get a look at the Moon through them! Doh! The one object that could benefit most, and I totally spaced it off, pun intended.
What a fun night, though, and what a crowd, from astronomers, dedicated fans, and people just out enjoying a mild winter night along the Lake.
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Jan 13, 2012 15:50:16 GMT -6
I failed to mention your re-location around the Adler for darker views.
I was sending our visitors to you after they spent time with us up front - good to have us spread out. (This might be a good idea for future Chicago Astronomer session....)
And dig Bill's shots!
He just points and shoots, like it was nothin'. Amazing.
I have been receiving emails and calls on when our next session will be, but it being winter.....it is uncertain. Regular sessions most certainly by April, but cold weather astronomy is not a favorite - only when the weather is comfortable enough.
Next time on the Bino-viewers Paulie...always there for you to enjoy. Would they work on your Dob...?
Post by Paulie pchris00 on Jan 13, 2012 15:56:40 GMT -6
I think bino-viewers would work on my Dob. They're on my wish list, although pretty far down.
I actually relocated at the side of the building to catch the Moon earlier, but also took advantage of the darker location to hunt some DSOs before Luna got too high and bright. Was also mesmerized by Luna's glow across the water.
"Just a boy, just an ordinary boy, but he was looking to the sky." -Vanessa Carlton
That pic Tom...is probably one of the best stark kunar landscape pics I have ever seen of one of our Moonrises.
You are Major Tom to ground control.
It's was going to be a HDR merge but I encounterred two problems:
1. My computer is too slow to handle the two rather large files and it was taking a long time for each task.
2. With this technique I found that tracking may have helped.
Never thought that a 1/40 sec shutter speed would require tracking. Other than the file size being too large the HDR merge had gotten two moons in the final image so I have just merged the image manually. It was much easier that way.
Wouldn't "Astro Joe to ground control" rhyme better?
If you shrink the format of the pics, to perhaps...800x600...then do the HDR, it should have no problem converting.
No, because then I will only get an image of one size which is very small and two moons (becasue it already moved by the time the second exposure was taken). It's really easy doing a manual merge for this photo and I have a 18MP file. Most importantly, one moon.