Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sidewalk Astronomy at The Mall

The mall I work at participated in Earth Hour by turning off all non-essential lighting between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm Saturday March 28th. I was approached by our local Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Centre, which btw I am a proud member of, to see if they could set up some scopes at the mall during Earth Hour.

I thought to myself, what a great idea, celebrate 2 things at once, Earth Hour and the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

It is the goal of the IYA 2009 to show 10 million people their first look through an astronomical telescope, they figure if 100,000 amateur observers each show 100 people their first look at the heavens through an astronomical telescope, they will make their goal. What better way to reach my 100 then a trip to the mall with my scope.

Well the response was more then we could have hoped for, from the time we set our scopes up at 8:20 pm to the time we shut down at 9:40 pm, it was non stop action. We had 3 scopes set up, 2 further down from me showing the beautiful crescent moon, and me at the main entrance showing Saturn. The thrill of seeing people's reaction at their first view of Saturn through a telescope never gets old. Words like "unbelievable", "cool", "unreal" were spoken by everyone.

A dad was lifting his son up to the eyepiece to look at Saturn, when the kid saw it he shouted and kicked his dad in the leg, well not exactly, but close to, if you get my meaning, the father almost dropped the kid, good thing he didn't, man that had lawsuit written all over it.

This whole experience got me thinking, watching the line build, people, after viewing Saturn yelling to the people at the end of the line,"It's worth the wait", over hearing people talking to other people in person and on their cells about the experience they just had and to come and see for themselves, it made me think , there is a real interest in the night sky, maybe one of these kids will go on to be an astronomer or science guy, not because of what I personally did, but the fact that a scope was there at the right time.

I know the effect the first look through a telescope had on me, except for one person that night, it was every one's first time. My hat goes off to our local RASC , taking time out of their busy schedules to do this on a regular basis.

The security team had one of our security cameras pointed at the main entrance way, never can be too secure, just in case someone was to knock me out and steal my 82 lb scope and tripod and run through the dark parking lot and try to squeeze it into their car, hey better safe then sorry.

Anyways I copied a little bit of that time to give you an idea what it looked like, mind you it is kind of dark being no lights and all.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Family Talents and Earth Hour 2009

I thought I'd do something special this post and showcase some of the many talents of my family. My upcoming trip to China has not only made me think of my own mortality, with my obsession with plane crashes and dying but also the mortality of the ones I hold dear. Sometimes I think we all take for granted the ones closest to us, this is just a way of paying tribute to and showing how much I appreciate them and what they have accomplished.

The image above is an Icon my wife is working on. It is called "The Holy Trinity" based on the Icon written by Andrei Rublev in the early 1400's. Right now it is in the "chaos stage" with some of the garments having the first highlight applied. When this icon is completed Cathy will have spent several hundred hours of work on it.

My oldest daughter Amanda, photographed what I like to call "Mediterranean Moon". This image was taken in Barcelona a few years ago. Amanda is a talented photographer who still loves using actual film, although she now owns and uses a Nikon D200, the above image was taken with a Nikon FA. The composition is great, I love how the Moonlight reflects off the Mediterranean Sea, plus it has palm tress in it, I love palm trees.

Last but not least is a work done by my youngest daughter Lindsay, the one that is getting married June 20th of this year. It is a Wolf done using the technique of Scratchboard. Using sharp tools you carve into a layer of white china coated with black India ink, very cool.

This coming Saturday March 28 at 8:30-9:30 pm local time is this year's "Earth Hour". On March 28 you can vote Earth by switching off your lights for one hour, or you can vote for global warming by not, your choice, let your voice be heard, vote Earth.

One billion votes is the goal this year, the vote will be presented at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen December of this year. The meeting will determine official government policies to take action against global warming, this agreement will replace the Kyoto Accord, the most significant international agreement to control green house emissions as the Kyoto Accord expires in 2012.

I will be voting Earth as well as the mall I work at. We are turning off, for that hour all non-essential lighting, actually our local Astronomy club, weather permitting will be setting up some scopes outside one of the mall entrances, kind of grouping Earth Hour and The International Year of Astronomy together for the hour, I will be taking pics and posting on a later post.

I'll leave you now with an animated "Mediterranean Moon". I like this animation so much I am going to place it on my sidebar, actually I will be posting another from one of my readers, so if you have anything you would like to animate and post on my sidebar, send it in to me. I will be rotating the spot for the readers regularly, so send one in.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book Review, " The Hunt For Planet X, New Worlds And The Fate Of Pluto"

I don't usually do book reviews, actually this is the first post I've done with "Book Review" in the title, but every once in a while a book comes along that I think my readers , who might not be in the market for a book about space would enjoy.

What caught my attention about this book, besides the freaky cool eye on the cover and the fact that the words "Planet X" and "Pluto" are in the same title, is, as I was reading it that it is very accessible to the average person on the street, it is a bunch of little stories personalizing our solar system in easy to understand language. It is a book about how our solar system came to be, how astronomers and planetary scientists go about discovering the next new planet. It has drama, complete with the human factor, egos, personalities, foul play even thievery come into play in the rush to be the first discoverer of the next "Planet X", the next yet undiscovered planet.

It is a book rich in history, for example you'll learn of a German astronomer being the son of a convicted witch, if you happen to know who this astronomer is, the first person commenting with the name of gets a free pair of Hanna Montana/Miley Cyrus 3D glasses.

It also has a very high PTPR, or as I like to call, Picture To Print Ratio, meaning it has lots of pictures, I like pictures, this book has it's fair share, also it has glossy pages, now that might not be a criteria for you when buying a book, but the glossiness brings out the beautiful illustrations nicely and makes you feel like you're holding a quality book.

You'll also read about the theory how "Planet X" may have a part in the 2012 destruction of our planet as well as a possible "Death Star", a companion Red dwarf star to our Sun in the far reaches of our solar system chucking mass extinction comets at us every 26 million years or so.

Pluto, I have always thought the demotion of Pluto from planet status to whatever it is called now a farce. The book goes into the whys and wherefores of the decision to demote, but in the end, in Bobland it will always be a planet.

In one week back in August 2006 the IAU went from 9 to 12 then down to 8 planets, just goes to show you the uncertainty of what to do with little Pluto.

I say, you know what, Pluto may not meet all the new criteria developed by the intellectual elite for remaining a planet, but Damn the torpedoes, let's make an exception to the new rules and keep Pluto with full planetary status, has the science of astronomy become totally void of emotion and compassion?

At least we have the state of Illinois, they have restored Pluto's planetary status, at least for the their "Pluto Day". If you want to make your voice heard you can head over to The Pluto Petition web site and cast your vote.

Overall, freelance astronomy writer Govert Schilling did a great job of bringing the solar system to the masses in well written easy to understand shorts packed full of adventure and intrigue.

I'll leave you now with my latest Lunar image animated.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nuclear Moon

At -49c with windchill, .......(you know I'm just going to drop the windchill thing, it is always windy here in Saskatchewan, especially on the bald prairie where I take my images from), I really , really didn't want to go outside to take a pic of the March Full Moon, but I thought with the cold temps I may get some wacky images of the Moon.

When the warm less dense upper atmosphere meets the colder dense atmosphere, that is -49c for example, the place where they meet acts as a refracting lens and it inverts the bottom of the Moon, what you get is the real Moon setting on a fake mirage Moon, kind of cool, at one point, the Moon looks like a mushroom cloud.

At least with the Moon I know exactly how long it takes to set so I can sit in my car until the last possible minute before jumping out and snapping the pics. Because of the Earth's daily rotation the Moon appears to travel through the sky it's own diameter , or roughly .5 degree every 5 minutes, so if I want to shoot a 10 minute real time movie clip I pop out of my car when it is around 2 Moon lengths from setting. Also just for trivia sake, because the Moon orbits the Earth in the same direction as the Earth spins on its axis, the Moon appears to travel backwards, or along with us in the sky it's own diameter, or .5 degree every hour, over a 24 hour period that's 12 degrees, multiply that by 30, the average amount of days in a month and you get....TA DA.. 360 degrees or a complete Lunar orbit of the Earth....just so you know.

To take the movie clip below I had to stand outside in the frigging cold -49c weather and count down 5 seconds to take each image, let me tell you it was hard enough concentrating not to freeze and die let alone count down the 5 seconds, but in the end it was worth it.

At around 56 seconds into the clip notice the fake Moon rise to meet the real Moon. Actually because the atmosphere itself acts like a refracting lens, the Moon we see sitting on the horizon is actually a fake Moon, the real Moon is just below the horizon, the atmosphere refracts the real Moon up to what we actually see, so in essence what you are watching is the fake fake Moon rising as the fake Moon is setting, we don't really ever see the real Moon. I know this is a lot of technical stuff but I find it interesting, maybe some of you can follow, if not, you can just look at the pretty images, at least I think they're pretty and call it a day, anyways hope you enjoy the video.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I'm Going To China!!!!

Wednesday July 22 at 9:30 am Shanghai time the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth casting it's tiny shadow on to the Earth in a small corridor that includes Shanghai, and I will be there live and in person to witness and image the fantastic event we call a Total Solar Eclipse! I have placed a countdown timer on the top right of my site to remind you and me of when I leave on a plane to this event.

The above image shows the path of the total solar eclipse.

I will be on an 11 day tour so not only will I be witnessing the Total Solar Eclipse I will also be visiting the Great Wall Of China.

The unbelievable TerraCotta Warriors, Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven, a boat ride across the Kunming Lake, and a visit to the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, frigging awesome stuff.

The only down thing about my whole adventure are the plane flights, I am terrified of flying. When getting my passport the person processing me said she just went to China as well and that she is also afraid of flying, she suggested lots of knock out drugs and head phones. Anybody out there that has any suggestions I'd like to hear from you, also anyone who has been to China I'd be interested on hearing from you as well about suggestions or things to look for.

I'll be taking 1,000's of images and have already bought more memory cards, so expect lots of pics. Hopefully they have Internet connections in the Hotels. I will post images of the eclipse as soon as I am able after the event. To see a live Total Solar Eclipse has been a lifelong dream of mine... soon to be realized.

I'll leave you now with an animation of my latest Sunset image complete with a Green Flash.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Meteorite Winner and Celestron's FirstScope

To celebrate my oldest daughter Amanda's upcoming birthday this Wednesday I did up a " If it's your birthday or around your birthday or any one's birthday you know and you are first to send in a celestial image you get a meteorite" contest, congratulations Genie for being the first to send in the above super celestial Lunar image, love the title "Happy Birthday Bob's Daughter!" as well.

I just had to post the above Genie image, just because I think it is too cool, so original, again well done Genie.

People, if you are thinking of buying a telescope but are afraid you'll waste your hard earned money because you're afraid you may only use it a couple times, and you don't really have anywhere to put it.......... boy, have a got a scope for you. I am on Celestron's mailing list for new products and such, when I received the info on this little guy I just had to share it with you.

Celestron's FirstScope, small and compact, and at only $49.99 US or $62.49 CAD, can't really go wrong. Talk about a grab and go scope, more like a grab and hug scope, it's so cute. Got the sudden urge to look at the stars, no prob, just pull it out of it's small storage space, run outside to the patio table and you're good to go, it's that simple of a setup.

Don't let it's looks and size fool you, with a 3" mirror you'll be able to see the Moon, planets, and bright deep sky objects with it, even from the city. Objects like star clusters, some nebulae and brighter galaxies, like Andromeda will now be within your grasp. They won't be shipped out until May, I put my preorder in and will be talking about it further after I've had a chance to actually use it.

It comes with a couple eyepieces as well, a 20 mm gives you 15x magnification, as well as a 4mm giving you 75x magnification. It is named official product of the International Year Of Astronomy 2009.

I'll leave you now with one of my Lunar, Venus conjunctions animated.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Birthday Meteorite

So my oldest daughter text messaged my wife and I a few weeks ago reminding us it was going to be her birthday soon and to get our present ideas ready, and that she's expecting big things from us.

So I thought to myself, wow, what about a meteorite? Everybody wants a meteorite.....rite? wrong, when I messaged her back about how she would feel about a meteorite she asked if it was a trick question, and that maybe I should let mom decide..ouch.

I sometimes forget not everybody is enthusiastic about things from space as I am. To Celebrate my daughters birthday and to see if there is anyone else out there that likes stuff from space I decided to give away a meteorite here on Black holes.

If you or someone you know is having a birthday, or if you just had yours and I forgot, Happy Birthday, (sorry I forgot but I don't remember any invites coming my way), you have a chance of getting a meteorite, your very own space rock.

All you have to do is comment here it is or was somebodies birthday... and... and, you have to submit a celestial image taken from this time forward to my email address, no contest, just the first one through, I suck at judging. I will post your image and link back to you. If you want to know about the meteorite I'll be giving away,(image below), just click on the Sikhote-Alin meteorite video on my sidebar, it is the best video ever made on how they look for and document a meteorite fall, classic B&W in Russian, with subtitles, love it.

The meteorite at the top of this post is the Pallasite meteorite "Brenham". Your classic looking what people think meteorites should look like meteorite, very pretty.

It is classified as a stony iron meteorite and originates from the mantel/ core boundary of an asteroid. Some of the minerals it contains are Troilite, Chromite, Olivine and Peridot, (the gem quality of Olivine) in a Nickel/Iron matrix.

To date there have been around 50,000 meteorite finds, Pallisites account for only around 60.

The above image was taken with my Celestron LCD Digital Microscope at 100x, shows some of the beautiful Peridot this meteorite contains. Peridot is my birthstone, August, and apparently has some healing properties. It is known as the healer's stone. It is used to clean your auras,regulate your life cycle and emits a friendly energy, too cool to think this one came from space.

I'll leave you with an animation of the above image, it looks like a cave opening on a river when it is animated.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Lunar Pleiades Occultation

Lunar Pleiades Occultation March 3 2009 2:01 am

Oh...... what a beautiful sight. The clouds broke for me once again last night for the awesome gathering of the Moon and Pleiades star cluster. The Occultation started with the Moon covering the star Electra at exactly 2:01 am March 3.

Had my doubts throughout the day as the weather channel was going between clear skies and snow,but in the end clear skies prevailed and allowed me to view and image the gathering. The image above was taken at 9:30 pm cst.

As the night got older the Moon drew closer to the cluster. Due to the relative motions of the Earth and the Moon, the Moon appears to go backwards or retrograde when compared to the starry background, why you see in these images, the Moon getting closer to the cluster,to finally occult, or cover some of it's members.

Getting closer,

And closer,

Closer still,

Finally occultation.

Just off to the left, Orion the Mighty Hunter was setting as well, kind of leaves a guy speechless. To be alone under the stars that night was just too much for me to even begin to put into words, so I won't.

Next gathering of these two will be April 26. Look to the west just after Sunset. This time Mercury joins the grouping. Do yourself a favor and get some binoculars, to see the Moon, Pleiades and Mercury in close proximity with binocs will be something you will not soon forget.

I'll leave you now with one of my first images animated, it was cool how the clouds opened just for a minute to allow the Pleiades to peek through.