Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Galileoscopes Have Arrived

I am going to take a break from my China stories to bring you all an important announcement, I got my Galileoscopes in today and I gotta say I'm quite impressed. The image above was taken with my Canon 40D attached to the scope, not bad for a fifteen dollar investment.

I blogged about the scope once before here and said that to celebrate my daughter's wedding I would be giving 3 away. What I did is put the names on a piece of paper, threw them all up in the air and then just picked three off the floor at random, bet you never thought of that , if nothing else I'm original, more on the winners later.

First thing you notice about the scope is, that it is a kit , you have to put it together, lots of pieces, having said that it is not too hard to figure out, it comes with instructions even though I would have liked to have seen them more clear and detailed, like numbering all the parts at the start and then listing the number on the assembled drawing, I was left with a couple O rings that I still don't know where they fit, oh well that happens a lot to me and instructions.

This is critical... the foam enclosed objective lens, that is your main lens that fits in the front of the scope also contains your small lenses for your eyepieces. After I had put the scope together I started to put together the eyepieces and it was explaining how to assemble them but I couldn't find the lenses, looked high and low, went through all my packaging and bags then after what seemed like forever I thought I would check out the foam the objective lens came in, and sure enough they were there, they are so small and sandwiched between two pieces of thin foam taped to the side of the main objective foam that they got lost in the shuffle.

After I got the scope together which takes about fifteen minutes to a half an hour, I pointed it at the Moon, very good detail, again this only cost fifteen bucks, can't go wrong with that kind of investment, plus the learning experience you'll get while putting it together, again well worth the money and time spent.

I also pointed it at Jupiter and was able to see great detail and its four brightest moons even from my backyard. You will need to invest in a tripod, doesn't come with, I used my camera tripod to mount the telescope which worked very well. Overall a great buy and sure to increase the public's awareness and appreciation of the night sky, see what Galileo saw, he had the same type and size of scope. If you head over to the Galileoscope web site they have some cool downloads like observing and optics activity guides, bonus.

And now for the winners:

  1. A Lil Enchanted
  2. Lynda
  3. Brad
Congratulations to all the winners,I know you will enjoy and put to good use this little scope.

I'll leave you now with a instructional video on how to put the Galileoscope together, something I probably should have watched.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Darkness Falls On Shanghai

I'm back and what an experience visiting China has been. Initially I decided to go because of the Solar eclipse, it didn't take long before I was forgetting what the main focus was as well as what it was slowly becoming, a sensory delight.

Touching the Great Wall Of China, smelling incense in the Jade Buddha Temple, walking in the Forbidden City seeing up close and personal the Terra -Cotta Warriors and hearing the chatter of a thousand voices in Tiananmen Square on a Saturday. I took the above image while our tour driver was taking a shortcut down the back-roads where the common people live, shot through the window, says a lot, a part of China we never toured but through the lens I was able to capture a moment in time.

Coming into China is an eyeopener. Right off the plane you follow signs that have arrows and say baggage, they basically just guide you to numerous checkpoints where you will be asked a series of questions and asked to show your passport, oh, and walk through a temperature sensor. Not once but twice the person right in front of me was whisked away to a waiting tent and to what looked like health officials, probably checking for signs of the H1N1 virus. She was with a group of teenagers, they reassured her they would wait, I never saw the group from then on.

There are numerous guards that line "baggage lane",(as I like to call it). they're just off to the side, and everyone is wearing protective masks, very intimidating to say the least. At the final checkpoint, there was a yellow line where you had to stop before you proceeded through to be asked the same questions and once again show your passport and go through another temperature sensor, I guess I was a little over the yellow line and a security/police/army type scary guy with a mask rushes in and shouts something in Chinese and pushes me back.......well I didn't know whether to shit, salute, or go into shock, come to think of it I probably did a little of each, now don't forget I had just come off an eleven hour fight from Vancouver, I wasn't a happy camper or feeling 100%, couple that with the fact that I was one of the lucky ones to be selected for a pat down at the Vancouver International Airport Security Check-In , and I mean pat down, hands down the back and front of my pants, told to assume the position and checked again, at least he thanked me for my cooperation.

After the final checkpoint you see another baggage sign with an arrow pointing to an escalator, you take this down, not to your waiting baggage but to a train station where you wait for a train that will take you to another building to finally get your baggage, congrats you pass and don't go to quarantine.

Then there is the matter of blocked social networking sites, stuff we take for granted like blogger and twitter. Another reminder that Bob wasn't in Kansas anymore. Of course this story has a happy ending , I made it home alive and well, the planes didn't crash and burn, I no longer have a fear of flying and I had a most excellent adventure. I even got lost in Shanghai while traveling down some back roads, finally got my bearings and made it back to the hotel.... again adding to the adventure.

I have lots of stories waiting to be told. I took over 1,200 images and 6 hours of video, but for now I will leave you with a video I took of the blackness that fell on Shanghai during the Total Solar Eclipse, we didn't get to see actual totality but we did experience the premature night fall which was quite the experience in itself.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Total Solar Eclipse In Shanghai (well, not quite total)

I have heard from Bob again. He got a couple of good Partial Eclipse images before it clouded over.

Here is part of the email he wrote to me -

"Colin it has been amazing here. So many stories to tell and pics to show but internet time is hard to get and I'm very busy and of course I can't get blogger here. At least we weren't totally blocked out with clouds and was able to get some partial eclipse pics before it totally clouded over, very super cool, and the sky went black like night for 5 minutes. Had people lined up to see my images and then thanking me. Chinese people are very polite, met lots of interesting people during the eclipse. I got a super video of the darkness and the reaction of the people around me when it happened which I will post when I get home."

Bob made the CNN website. He was a contact person in Shanghai and called them every 30 minutes or so to let them know how it was going. Here is a link to the CNN article. The CNN producer saw his website and emailed him to see if he'd be interested in doing an interview. How could he refuse?

"I have lots of stories and images to share when I get back, an experience of a lifetime! Bob"

On behalf of Bob, take care everyone, Astro-Nuts

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bob has landed in China

Hi everyone.  My name is Colin (better known as Astro-Nuts).  Bob and I try to get out with our cameras frequently. We went meteorite hunting as well. Anyway, enough about me. After all, this is Bob's blog. Bob asked me to post for him as he is unable to from China. I will try to keep you updated as I hear from him. Here is part of an email he sent me yesterday -

"I can't do posting, things we take for granted like social networking can't do in china, can't even bring up my blog. Had to pinch myself to see if i was dreaming when walking on the Great Wall. I took a video of a small walk through which I will post when I get back, so much to see and do, only had a couple hours sleep since I arrived. The whole reason i came to China was for the Total Solar Eclipse....that has now become secondary, sure I hope it is clear skies, but the whole experience of being in China is really quite remarkable and worth the trip in itself.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

New Sun Spots and New National Geographic Channel Premier, "Living On The Moon"

Finally our sun seems to be coming back to life. The sun goes through an 11 year cycle where it waxes and wanes with solar activity. The sun has been stuck in the waning phase for an extended period and up until a month or so ago solar physicists didn't really know why.

Seems a slower then usual moving solar jet stream associated with sunspot production thousands of miles below the sun's surface has finally reached a critical 22 degree latitude of the sun and with it new cycle sunspots.

Got a call from Spaceweather PHONE last Sunday, July 5 informing me of a huge Sunspot taking place and got lucky with a break in the clouds to capture some of the solar action.

The image above is active region 1024 starting to disappear by July 6. They expect upwards of 90 sunspots to occur daily at solar maximum sometime in 2013.

National Geographic Channel is celebrating the 40 th. anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing with a new premier,
"Living On The Moon". The show will be aired Sunday July 19, 9 pm EDT, a day before the actual anniversary of July 20.

See inside NASA's Constellation program which will take 4 astronauts to the Moon's south pole as early as 2020, only this time round our long term goal is to stay and set up base.

Using 3D animations you'll watch as the initial lonely outpost expands to a lunar city by 2050 and a tourist resort by the middle of the twenty first century.

To be able to survive and flourish on the moon we'll have to harness the lunar resources from turning moon rock into water to eventually exporting lunar produced solar energy to our earth, very interesting concepts and one of NGC's best premiers.

This will be my last post before I leave for China next Wednesday. I will post if I am able, if not see you when I get back July 28. I'll leave you now with a video of the Constellation program from launch to splashdown.

Friday, July 3, 2009

UFO In China

A funny thing happened to me on the way to my daughter's wedding, well the morning there of to be more precise. I was out at 3:00 am June 20 to try and capture a Lunar, Venus and Mars conjunction, of course as usual clouds got in the way, but I got the coolest looking lens flare I'd ever seen, looked like a UFO. Think of the possibilities!!

Voila..... using photoshop's blending feature and a few keystrokes you have a distant alien planet with a UFO appearing out of the glare of one of it's Suns, at least that's what I see. I've been keeping myself amused doing different combos with some of my existing images and my new favorite UFO pic, doesn't take much for me to be amused.

Brings me to my next point, you know I'll be leaving for China a week from this coming Wednesday and you can bet there will be some cool combos to be had, how bout a UFO over the Great Wall, or a UFO in Tiananmen Square, where will it show up?

Email me where you believe it will show up and if you are right or the closest to the first combo I publish, you will get one of the Galileoscopes I will be giving away, ( I won't look at the emails till after I publish my combo). If you enter this email contest and don't win, no worries, your name will still be put in the draw for one of the other two I will be giving away.

Eleven days and twenty one hours as of this writing to my leaving on a jet plane to China to view the Total Solar Eclipse of July 22 2009. It is getting more official, I just got my tour package in the mail, and....and...... I got a cool name tag, always wanted one of them.

I will probably post one more time before I leave and then while I am there I will try to post as often as possible just to prove I'm actually there, believe it or not I'm still getting the odd naysayer that asks me if I'm really going or if I have chickened out yet.

I have been doing a lot of research on the weather conditions over in China right now and came across the above Satellite image through NASA's Earth Observatory, if you are concerned with global climate change you should check it out. It's mission, "To share with the public the images, stories and discoveries about climate and the environment that emerge from NASA's research, including it's satellite missions, in the field research and climate models". The image above shows a major tropical storm that occurred last week off mainland China producing 8 casualties and 11 people missing. Other then that it has been mostly sunny and hot in Shanghai, where I will be viewing the eclipse from, here's hoping it stays that way.

I'll leave you now with one of my UFO combos animated, hey I got a million of them, even got a cool combo with a UFO over my cat's head.