Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Backbone Of Night

"We are in the midst of millions and millions of suns-we are in the jewel house of the maker, and our soul mounts up, up to that wonderful creator, and we adore the hand that scattered the jewels of heaven so lavishly in this one vast region."

Edward Emerson Barnard.

There is just something about viewing our Milky Way Galaxy that invokes a sense of awe, so majestic, so huge. What can I possibly say or put into words that hasn't been already said or googled.

There are people in this world that aren't muddied by information, that don't have high speed Internet access, people such as the contemporary hunter gathers, "!Kung Bushmen", they actually believe the Milky Way holds up the sky.... if not for the Milky Way surely the stars would come crashing down to Earth, hence they call it "The Backbone Of Night", wow, to be a bushguy and enjoy stuff for just stuff, mind you they have to pray it doesn't break or they all die, but still, how magnificent it must be to be in their place under the stars, to look at the heavens so differently.

I went out with Astro-Nuts to our local astronomy club's dark site to image the night sky and to see what we could see, was lucky enough to capture a green/violet aurora along with the Milky Way, don't mean to be a braggy Bob again... well maybe a little, the image above was Editor's choice for the Sky and Telescope magazine's web site in their Reader's Photo Gallery section.
Image was taken with my Canon 40D and 10-17mm Tokina fisheye lens, 60 second exposure, ISO 3200, F3.5.

Our Milky Way is classified as a spiral galaxy with anywhere from 200-400 billion stars, the center, the bulge near the horizon, in the constellation Sagittarius has the highest concentration of stars therefore generally the brightest part of the Milky Way. Our Solar System orbit's the Galactic Center once every 220 million years.

Milky Way twirled in Photoshop.

While out that night saw a few meteors and captured the one above.

I'll leave you now with an animated version of one of my Milky Way shots.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Ever since I can remember remembering about things I've been fascinated with all things Moon. From the first time I looked up in the sky at the Moon through the telescope my Dad bought me when I was a kid to taking images like the one above, a daytime waxing gibbous Moon, waxing just means the Moon going from New Moon to Full Moon phase, gibbous means the Moon is more then half illuminated but not full.

I'm always looking for ways to rediscover it, enter "Moon" movie.

Due for limited release June 12 this awesome indie movie, directed by David Bowie's son Duncan Jones and staring Sam Rockwell takes us to the Moon where Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) is in the last days of his 3 year mission mining for Helium-3 when Sam gets into some kind of freak accident that finds Sam beside himself... literally, hint Solaris.

What is Helium-3 you might ask, well it is a very rare non-radioactive isotope sought after as a second generation fusion power source, very rare on Earth but thought to be in abundance on the Moon.

Now I have talked about Helium-3 before in one of my posts where I have purchased Lunar real estate, I stated that people were mocking me for buying property on the Moon but I would have the last laugh, well not me, I'll be dead but my great great grand kids will when NASA is negotiating with my great great grand kids for the mining rights to helium -3 on their property..... sure like NASA or the Chinese are going to be negotiating for mining rights from my descendants, that is unless my great great grand kids get there first, probably not going to happen.

A character driven movie it looks to be real good. Sam is not totally alone, he has "Gerty" a talking computer (Kevin Spacey) kind of like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The sets look very cool, they used a combination of digital special effects and real live miniature models.

Duncan Jones sums up the movie and his thoughts behind it in an interview I found, and I quote; "My generation of geeks was a big fan of films like "Outland" and "Silent Running" and the original "Alien". Those kind of science fiction movies were more about the character and sort of human qualities than about the technology. I love those films and I miss those films in some ways, and we wanted to create something which felt comfortable within the canon of those science fiction films from the sort of late seventies to early eighties." I can hardly wait. I'll leave you now with the trailer.

A little... no a lot off topic, I went to see the latest incarnation of Star Trek and thought it was too cool, I also posted a YouTube video of it, too funny, I laughed till I stopped.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Saskatchewan (Buzzard Coulee) Meteorite Search and Recovery Part II

I was able to go out once again and look for the Buzzard Coulee Meteorite, was out a month ago with the University of Calgary research team and found 3 stones, this time I found 6 meteorites........the difference being, this go round I was able to keep them, Woo triple frigging Hoo!!

I went out with Astro-Nuts and his father, whom I have known for years through our local RASC club. We met up with a group of people who were given permission to search the landowners property. The above image is a pic of my favorite find, it has so much character. When meteors fall to the ground, this one in particular, (Buzzard Coulee) broke into thousands of tiny pieces, most of them tumble through the atmosphere before they hit the surface, the one above somehow got orientated and pointed one direction and developed flow-lines. It also has a couple cool looking thumbprints or regmaglypts, caused by vortices of hot gas burning thumbprint like impressions into the rock.(image above a domesticated meteorite, image below, what the same meteorite looks like in the wild.)

No matter how often you find these stones it's always a thrill, you are the first person on Earth to touch these rocks from space.

200x microscopic image of a flow line.

200x microscopic image of melt that occurred during entry into our atmosphere.

Search or Strewn Field.

Search Team.

Meteorite haul.

Hey there is nothing more satisfying then going to a meteorite strewn field, searching for and finding meteorites, bagging them, getting them GPSed, then taking them home to take and post pictures of for all of you, and even selling them, that's right as long as you are from Canada and you would like to purchase one I can sell them to you, but you have to be from Canada, seems the seller needs a permit if they want to sell outside Canada, odd, but once rocks from space fall in Canada they become part of our culture, go figure, another government money grab. I don't usually talk about selling stuff on this blog but if you are interested I have and have access to people with some rocks for sale at a decent price if you are so inclined.

A fun time was had by all. As I was taking microscopic images of one of my stones I also took some more polarized microscopic images of my angrite meteorite thin section and animated it for you, these extremely rare stones, some scientists believe their origin is Mercury are very cool and make as far as I'm concerned great art when crossed polarized.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shanghai, Total Solar Eclipse 2009

Just an update on my once in a lifetime trip to China to view live and in person the Total Solar Eclipse July 22 2009. A lot has transpired since I started my countdown to China a while back. First off, I now have a passport, what can I say, I don't....... or rather they don't let me out that often. Apparently you need passports to leave your home country, I've only heard speak of them before, now I have one.

To get one I first had to get a birth certificate, well I had one but under "Name" it had "Baby Boy". Plus I have gotten all my shots, I have over come my fear of needles to get all kinds of shots to protect me from God knows what, I spent over an hour listening to the travel agency nurse informing me of all the things I could get and how not to get them, turning white and getting faint as she's talking, and invariably it always happens, the statement,"Are you going to be okay, would you like a glass of water?" I hate talking about diseases, I always develop the symptoms when talking about them. I sent my passport away with my China visa application and I'm just waiting for the actual visa and passport to return, then I'm good to go.

I have done a lot of research about the weather stats over in Shanghai using sites such as NASA's Eclipse Web Site, It would kind of be sad if I went through what I went through spent what I spent to only have it cloudy the day of the eclipse, mind you a trip to China is okay cool to fall back on, so rich in history and lots to see. Shanghai is actually one of the better places to be during the eclipse. The image above shows it has the lowest average cloud cover of the sites in the eclipse's path. So here's the plan, I have found out that the Hotel... nay... Resort I will be staying at has Internet access, so I am planing , if all goes well, from the Hotel de da, to use USTREAM to broadcast live from my blog, the actual Eclipse Event!!!!!! The Total Solar Eclipse starts at 9:32 am July 22, you can find what the time is in your location by using this converter, it works out to be 9:32 pm EDT July 21.

One last thing, as part of their International Year of Astronomy 2009 celebrations, KW Telescope is having a "Photographic Celebration Of the Night sky" where they display images taken by astrophotographers from across Canada, two of mine were selected to be on display for the event, my Nuclear Moon image above and my Double Halo with Circumzenithal Arc, image below, thought it was cool to have my work half way across the country being displayed with the best, very honored.

I'll leave you now with an animation of my Nuclear Moon.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Review, "Celestron FirstScope"

Well, Celestron has gone and done it, made the heavens available to the average person on the street with their inexpensive, easy to use, well built scope.

Got mine yesterday, at just $49.99 US or $62.49 CAD, you just can't go wrong.

Look at the family on the box, they are frigging thrilled, probably because when they pulled the scope out of the box it was already assembled.

Just had to put the eyepiece in the eyepiece holder, total time 2 minutes, and that's with me popping nearly all the bubbles in the bubble wrap.

So what do you get for your money? You get the scope and 2 eyepieces giving you 15x and 75x magnification and you get to show people you have over for casual events to your humble abode awesome views of the Moon, Saturn, Mars, Venus as well as bright deep sky objects like star clusters from your light polluted backyard, who do you know that can say that?

Very portable, and as far as storage, store it in plain sight, you can see from above image how cute, yet professional it looks, you'll be the talk of your friends, family and neighbors. So it is inexpensive, comes assembled, can store it anywhere, looks cute, but what's it got under the hood?..... well's not a car....duh. But what is does have is the ability to grab'n'go, no fancy set up time required, hey that makes a big difference, could be the difference between using it or not, and this is coming from someone, moi, that has had literally a gazillion scopes... well maybe not literally, but have had lots. I unpacked, assembled and was outside with the scope on my car trunk looking at the Moon, and...and imaging with my wife's little camera pointed at the eyepiece,(image below) total elapsed time, around 4 minutes!!

FirstScope First Image, 15x

FirstScope Second Image 75x

FirstScope and Canon 40D

I have not been approached by Celestron to do a review, all me, I thought I should tell anyone and everyone I can about this little guy, if you are looking for your first scope but don't want to spend a lot of money, this is the scope for you, I was very happy with the quality of the views of various heavenly bodies I pointed the scope at, including Saturn (which by the way is worth the price of admission alone). Astro-Nuts was with me trying it out as well, he liked it so much he went and ordered one.

Also available for this scope is an accessory kit which comes with 2 more eyepieces giving you 24x and 50x, a Moon filter, which allows for better imaging and viewing during a Full Moon, could have used that last night, a carrying case for your scope, a 5x24 finder scope and a CD ROM filling you in on the basics of astronomy, familiarizing you with stars, planets and constellations and gives you the ability to print off star charts, for only $24.94 CAD. Even though I still have a gazillion scopes, I chose this one for a quick Photon Phix and to take it with me in the car when going out of town, again grab'n'go, very cool, definitely 5 out of 5 stars.

I'll leave you with a little video of the FirstScope.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lunar, Pleiades and Mercury Conjunction

My last post I discussed the Mercury, Pleiades conjunction, well on April 26 the Moon joined the gathering.

What a beautiful sight. Each of the celestial objects took their turns being covered and then breaking through the clouds to allow me to be able to capture the trio.

Lunar , Pleiades Conjunction April 26 2009.

Mercury, Pleiades Conjunction April 24 2009.

This was like a super dooper 3 part conjunction. First you had Mercury and the Pleiades, then the Moon arrives for part II, then the Moon leaves for part III. Since I don't get to image Mercury that often and the fact I love the Pleiades I made it my week long project to capture the part III conjunction to show Mercury drawing closer to the Pleiades, kind of cool, the way they move through the sky.

Mercury, Pleiades Conjunction April 26 2009

Mercury, Pleiades Conjunction April 27 2009.

Mercury, Pleiades Conjunction April 28 2009.

Mercury, Pleiades Conjunction April 29 2009

Mercury, Pleiades Conjunction May 1 2009.

Mercury, Pleiades Conjunction May 2 2009.

Finally I'd like to mention about a cool new website that was just launched; " Portal To The Universe". It is another cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. It's an easy to navigate web 2.0 based astronomy site. Like a supermarket of websites, one stop shopping where you can go see the latest space images , listen to pod watch vodcasts, read about the latest happenings in space, see the current locations of the ISS or Hubble, and more. If you like space news and the such, check it out.

I'll leave you now with an animation of one of my Lunar, Pleiades and Mercury Conjunction