Archive for February 2023

Canopus From Western North Carolina @ +35º 18′: Also An Image From Naples, Florida, And A Sighting From Fremont California

February 27, 2023

The following is a rough field sketch using chalk on “gray” cardstock, rather than “black” to better illustrate light pollution. Canopus is just visible in a distant tree line.

Canopus is located in the constellation Carina, and is the second brightest star in the sky. It has an absolute magnitude of -5.71 and with the following coordinates:

Right ascension of 06h 23min with a declination of -52º 41

In the early 90’s, astronomer, Tom English, promoted an event called “The Great Canopus Chase” in our local astronomy club. It was unknown at that time if Canopus could be seen from the area, and amateurs went far and wide looking for the perfect southern view.

Many observers saw the star, but most from different locations, within the local area. It was a fun event. When I first saw it…I was actually amazed, but have seen it many times since. Roger Ivester

From my (+35º 18′ ) in North Carolina, my theoretical south latitude 90º (-) 35º = ~ -55º.

Of course the terrain and light pollution can most often be the limiting factor for many in their limiting theoretical southern latitude.

I can see the star Canopus, at a south declination of (-52º 42′) but in a distant tree-line. However, it shines brightly! 

The following is my rough chalk sketch, on charcoal “colored” card stock. I made this “rough sketch” as viewed from the north end of Stadium Drive, at the stop sign (junction to the Boiling Springs/Cliffside highway)

Notes and image as following by Mario Motta:

Canopus near its peak which is 11 degrees, here at about 10º above the horizon in Naples, Florida. The neighbor had all their lights on for some reason.

I received this note from Richard Shuford, this morning: March 2nd 2023

Back in 1976, when I was an undergraduate physics major at Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, NC, catching a glimpse of Canopus was celebrated by some of my friends who observed it from a high hilltop in Burke County.Richard Shuford

(Note: Hickory is about one hour north from my location of seeing Canopus) I was very surprised when reading these notes from Richard Shuford, as I thought our group, in the early 90’s was the first time anyone in this area (+ 35º) NC was able to see Canopus….Roger Ivester

Chuck Vaughn: Observer from California

Now what is the likelihood of me finding and seeing this in a 30 year old magazine? Especially since I just completed a Canopus post on my site? Sharing the story By Roger Ivester

I was looking through a December 1992 Sky & Telescope, and the word “Canopus” seemingly jumped out of page-712 and hit me…right in the eye! His latitude was +37º 49′ which puts his theoretical limiting declination of almost exactly that of Canopus! And he claims to have seen it without optical aid!

The following is a brief of that article:

Canopus, too! Chuck Vaughn of Fremont, California… to have caught sight of the star without optical in November, 1991, and three years earlier in December. Has anyone else seen it from such a northerly location?”

Note for reference: Richmond, Virginia has a latitude of +37º 53′ just about the same as Fremont, California.

The Deep-Sky From Florida: Volume 2: By Guest Host Mario Motta

February 25, 2023

I was able to get my C-14 up and running in Naples, Florida, and the following are my images to-datebeginning in the winter of 2022, and continues as following into 2023.

The following is the second in the series: Volume 2

The above image is my Naples, Florida setup. I work under a Bortle 6.1, which is not ideal and “almost” two magnitudes below my 4.5 skies in Gloucester, MA where my 32-inch scope is located.

I have an iOptron CEM 70g mount and pier-tripod, which has a level and a built in polar alignment scope. I find it invaluable for a quick polar alignment, when I set it down on a pre-marked location via a pad.

This mount is center-weighted, which is excellent for southern objects, and much better then a standard German equatorial, due to the weight of the scope “hanging off” the end of the polar axis at +26º North.

On this mount the polar axis is “centered” between two bearings…spreading the weight distribution well for southern locations, and It has excellent tracking.

As shown above:

My C-14 Edge has excellent optics, and I employ a focal reducer, so my work is at f/7 instead of f/11. 

I then have a filter wheel, with a Astrodon Light pollution L2P filter in place of standard Lum filter, which helps cut the LP down a bit. Then standard R,G,B astronomik filters, and finally astrodon 5 nm, Ha, S2 and O-III filters.

Finally, my standard camera is a ZWO ASI6200MM pro. I like this camera due to its very low dark current and excellent sensitivity, and wide field.

Piggybacked on this set-up is a Night Hawk 85mm f/6.5 refractor, which I primarily use in auto-guiding with a starlight express Ultrastar. On occasion I use this for a super-wide field image, such as the Vela supernova remnant image, as shown in the images below.

Finally…I have a Celestron dew control system, which is a necessity here in Florida. The humidity and dew-point can and most often is somewhat high.

After spending a night with a hairdryer removing dew every half hour, I recognized immediately that a dew-control system was not just a necessity, but a must!

Set-up time is about 50 minutes, with about 10 minutes to polar align after placing on the preset location.

A nice dark-sky would be great, but not…which indicates we need good light-pollution laws in every state.

I plan on catching those deep south gems that are not available to me from my home, back in Massachusetts, and will be adding my latest and newest Florida images as following, as they occur.

If you can’t remember this link: Whatever search engine you are using, just type in “The Deep-Sky From Florida: Volume 2″ Mario Motta”

For the benefit of those that might want to follow Mario in his quest to observe deep-sky objects from Florida, I’ve included the following calculation for your use.

Or you might just want to determine the deep-south objects that are available to you, which you might not thought were possible, due to their southerly location.

Theoretical limiting southern horizon calculation from Naples Florida at ~ +26º North Latitude:

(90º-26º) = -64º limiting south latitude, which opens up a vast number of deep-sky objects not available in the NE:

M83 is one of my favorite galaxies, but too far south, making it difficult to get up north.

I did have a very good night a few years ago with my 32-inch, and got a nicely detailed image. But, just not high enough in the sky to do multiple channels for color and hydrogen alpha. And the poor spring weather in Massachusetts, caused me to miss opportunities to get full scale color.

So…a few nights ago I tried to obtain M83 from Naples: Four hours of imaging over two nights to obtain R/G/B and Ha, and Lum channels, it came out reasonably well. However, the detail can not match what my 32-inch scope is capable of. A “nice result” for a C-14 but I’m spoiled by my 32-inch image of this galaxy.

Then I got the idea to use RGB and Ha from my C-14 and instead of the C-14 lum, combine it with my older 32  Lum image. Using a program in PixInsight called dynamic alignment, I was able to accomplish, and came out very nice.  (See the following image.)

M83 is 15 MLY away in Hydra on the border with Centaurus, a spectacular barred spiral. 

This image shows RGB, Lum, and Hydrogen alpha detail…

RCW 38, a star forming region in Vela: (Note: images follow the identification and text) Telescope: C-14

RCW 36, a star forming region in Vela (Telescope: C-14)

RCW 19, a star forming nebula in Puppis (C-14 Telescope)

NGC 2177 known as “The Seagull” Nebula, as following was taken with a 6-inch RC f/9 reduced to f/6. Optalong L extreme filter and ZWO ASI 071 camera, about 90 minutes of imaging.

I used my 80mm scope last night (February 22nd 2023) to get these wide-fields.

1. Simeis 147 (also known as SH2-240, or the Spaghetti nebula), is in Auriga and Taurus. I used the 80mm scope, with a field compressor working at f/5 with an optalong L extreme filter (allows Ha and O3), despite my wide field I needed to mosaic it, this is 3 sections overlapped, about 5×6 degree field in all. with light pollution some overlap lines are seen. This is a huge supernova remnant, very dim, a total of about 4 hours imaging 5 min subs. 

2. At the other end of the sky is the Vela SN remnant (also known as Gum 16, which is far below the Massachusetts horizon) and is a similar SN remnant, Vela.

This is a single image frame, about 2 hours total imaging, I re-imaged this from last year using the wider field this time. Same set up as above. 

Vela Supernova also known as Gum 16:

Gum 15 in Vela: Located at -41º south declination, and is a large glowing nebula from a central double star, HD 74804. The image was taken with my C-14 and Ha and O3 filters…about 2 hours imaging.

NGC 1851: Globular star cluster in Columba, taken with C-14, 1 hour of Lum filter at -40º south declination.

NGC 3201

Deep-sky galactic cluster, the hydra cluster, about 200 MLY away, many galaxies. I labeled the brightest and largest in the group, many more….about 90 minutes imaging located at -27º south declination.

Sh2 294, “The Octopus” not very far south at -9º south declination, taken with Ha/O3/and S2 NB filters, about 2 hours imaging.

ScopeStuff: Telescope Accessories And Hardware

February 22, 2023

Your One-Stop Shop For Astronomy Accessories!
Prices include shipping in the USA. ($10 Minimum Order)

Choose a Category:
A – – Telescope Covers – Original Solar Series
B – – Telescope Covers – Continuous Exposure Series
C – – Dew Control – Heaters, Controllers and accessories
E – – Finders and Finder Mounting
F – – Explore Scientific & Meade Finder Stuff!
G – – Solar Observing Stuff
H – – Rings, Rails, Dovetails, etc
I – – Lasers and Accessories
J – – Eyepieces and Barlows
K – – Filters
L – – Visual Accessories
M – – Visual Adapters
N – – Other Accessories
O – – Observing Aids
P – – Upgrades and Maintenance
Q – – Collimation Stuff
R – – Threaded Things – Telescope and Mount Hardware
S – – Caps and Cases
T – – Red Things
U – – Machined Things – Fine Focus Knobe, Filter Wrenches, Etc.
V – – Telescope Electronics – Interface and Replacement Cables
W – – 12 Volt Stuff
X – – ATM Stuff
Y – – Not Astro Stuff
Z – – Ordering, Warranty Etc


Collimation Of An f/4.5 Newtonian Reflector With Emphasis On “Offsetting The Diagonal” And The Purpose For This Procedure.

February 13, 2023

When I purchased my first f/4.5 Newtonian in February 1992, I learned about the need or reason for offsetting the diagonal. This was something totally new to me, as all my previous reflectors had focal ratios of f/8 or slower.

From my instruction book for the 10-inch Meade f/4.5 Newtonian which was beneficial for me at that time. I’m including a couple pages as following:

Meade Instruments Corp.

Newtonian Notes: Possibly or “arguably” one of the best books covering everything and anything someone would want to know about how to collimate a Newtonian reflector.

A page from “Newtonian Notes” as following, concerning the purpose and need for offsetting a diagonal.”

Preliminary (Report) March Observer’s Challenge Object: Galaxy NGC 2841 in Ursa Major

February 12, 2023

Mario Motta image via 32-inch telescope: Extraordinary Image for sure!

Mircea Pleancu: Observer from Romania

I observed galaxy NGC 2841 with a 250 mm Dobsonian reflector, and was easy to locate using Sky Safari.

This galaxy was easily seen at 48x, appearing elongated, with the axis being oriented NNW-SSE. When increasing the magnification to 171x, and with averted vision, the galaxy appeared grainy, or mottled, with a bright core and a faint surrounding oval halo.

An interesting feature noticed by myself and my friend Armand, who assisted me in locating the galaxy, and we could see some faint structure.

The galaxy NGC 2841 was well visible in an Omegon 20x80mm tripod mounted binocular. Just the elongated core was discerned but the mag 13 was not visible.

As following:

Rough pencil sketch(s) of NGC 2841 using a 10-inch f/4.5 reflector, from 30 years ago! Pencil sketching technology has changed little in the past 200 years.

My personal reason for wanting to keep the “ancient art of pencil sketching alive” for future generations:

There are fewer and fewer amateurs (each and every year) that visually observe deep-sky objects, and fewer that sketch the objects they observe.

Now you might wonder how I know this, and can make such a “seemingly” definitive statement. A simple IE tool used in industry to quickly access what’s causing most of the problems (or it could be anything) is called random sampling.

So, just go to any astronomy club site, and see what is the most popular subject, or facet of amateur astronomy is being discussed. Maybe….just open any astronomy related magazine, and see what the “primary” topic is.

My preferenceor my personal interest in amateur astronomy:

I much prefer amateur astronomy from days past, and will continue this way all the rest of my “observing” days. And what is that? That would be pencil sketching with supporting notes.

My most fun days were using a 4.25-inch f/10 Edmund Reflector, in a light polluted back yard, during the 70’s….hoping to one day see all of the Messier Objects.

Can’t wait for a clear night, without a moon:

I’m most anxious to see this galaxy again (this month) for a new, and more precise pencil sketch. I would think it would appear more “lens-like” but all of my sketches show something else.

A supernova reported in the galaxy NGC 2841:

My first magnitude estimate based on and using “Thompson and Bryan” search charts. At 13.25, this was the brightest of my estimates and occurred on the night of May 10th 1999.

Supernova on the night of May 15th 1999, estimated SN magnitude of 13.4 and will be getting dimmer in the nights to come.

Supernova magnitudes, as following and with my last estimate at 14.25 which was surprising I could see from my back yard, even despite a moon!

May 10th 1999: 13.25

May 15th 1999: 13.4

May 19th 1999: 13.9 (Required 200x to see, and with first quarter moon!)

May 20th 1999: 14.2 (16mm UO Konig + 2.8x UO Klee Barlow) = 200x “Difficult!”

May 20th was my last night to see the supernova….disappointed to watch it fade away. Never to be seen by the human eye…ever again.

The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, As Viewed From Laurens, South Carolina. What A Fabulous Day!

February 6, 2023

Image of the eclipse, the diamond ring, and Bailey’s beads provided by Barre Spencer and Patrick White using a Canon Rebel with a 200 mm zoom lens.  Location of photo:  Columbia, South Carolina

(s) Diamond / Baily's Beads 9

A group of folks from various places met outside of an Italian restaurant to enjoy the solar eclipse together.  We were all surprised how few came to this quaint little town to observe this historic event.  The totality duration was ~ 2 mins  34 seconds, and with perfect weather!    

During totality the sky darkened to a surprising level, but not as dark as a clear full moon night.  Venus appeared very bright in the western sky and Jupiter in the southeast.  I could not see any stars….naked eye.  

Both Debbie and I were amazed at the sudden flash of the diamond ring.  (See the image above) 

The temperature drop was very significant.  A weather bureau report from Newberry, SC, not many miles away and also in the line of totality, recorded a temperature drop of 11º Fahrenheit.  

We can assume that this temperature drop would have been similar in Laurens.  When the sun began to re-emerge, we noticed a shimmering of light waves on the pavement in front of us, known as shadow bands.  A very interesting phenomenon, that I was hoping we’d see, and we did!  

What an incredible day!  


Sunday, February 5th 2023:

One enjoyable day for myself and Debbie, was the August 21st 2017 total eclipse.  We didn’t have very far to travel…less than an hour to the line of totality, which was Laurens, South Carolina.  

Interesting, This morning (Sunday, February 5th 2023) 

I wore my Astronomical League (Total Solar Eclipse lapel pin) which I do quite often.  John Goss, who at that time was the President of the AL, sent both Debbie and myself this/these very nice and high-quality pins. 

If you are planning to “witness” and document the 2024 eclipse…see if the Astronomical League will have a similar pin.  It will become an heirloom for you, and your proof that you saw the event.  Not “likely” that this will ever be required, or that you’ll have to manifest for any reason, but you’ll have it….just in case.  🙂  

If your club is not a member of the Astronomical League, talk to your president.  If your club does not have an interest in being a member, become a member at-large.  

The Astronomical League does so much for amateur astronomy.  How about observing the Messier Objects and receiving a certificate, The Herschel’s, Double Stars, and too many other “amateur projects” to list. Let it be known, that everyone in an astronomy club doesn’t have to become an AL member.

I’m wishing all that are planning on observing the 2024 total solar eclipse will have “perfect” weather, and as much fun as Debbie and I did in 2017.

Be sure to document via the “written word” your thoughts, a few photos of the area, and the occurring events around you. Look for the shadow bands!  

A photo of the event is what most “eclipse chasers” desire….but try to encompass all that’s taking place around.  After all…they’ll be “most likely” thousands of photos of the actual eclipse, from still shots to videos.  Roger Ivester