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Having Lunch With Mario and Joyce Motta In Charlotte: Mario is Well known In The Astronomy Community For His Fabulous Deep-Sky Images. However, He Is Best Known For His Advocation Of Proper Outdoor Lighting, And Wrote The Official AMA Paper Concerning the Human Health Hazards Of Light Pollution.

May 15, 2022

My wife Debbie, and I had lunch on Thursday (May 5th 2022) with Mario Motta and his wife, Joyce, from Massachusetts.  

Left to right: Mario and Joyce, and to the right, myself and Debbie….

Mario and I had communicated about three months earlier, concerning his presentation at an AMA meeting in Charlotte and a possible lunch meeting. (Mario is a cardiologist and trustee of the American Medical Association) and was scheduled to give a presentation at that meeting.

Charlotte is only about an hours drive from our home.

So, Deb and I picked out an “authentic” Italian restaurant (within walking distance of the Sheraton Hotel) to avoid Mario and his wife having to drive.  All worked out perfect, and I thought the food and wine were great! (The restaurant: Mama Ricotta’s @ 601 S. Kings Dr. Charlotte, NC)

Mario is also an amateur astronomer and has been for many years (as myself) and the following is a photo of his telescope and home observatory in Massachusetts.

An advocate of proper outdoor lighting: Mario wrote the official AMA article/paper concerning the negative “health hazards” on humans, but also wildlife and the entire ecosystem.

An example of his astronomy work: The “Famous” Horsehead Nebula. To see more of his extraordinary deep-sky images go to his site: https://www.mariomottamd.com/ 

Outdoor Street Lighting, Glare, and Circadian Rhythm Disturbance: human health and environmental effects.

It is now well established that lighting can effect both human health through circadian rhythm disturbance, and the environment though light pollution. I am happy to say that the AMA has had a beneficial and significant impact by two reports,  light pollution: adverse health effects of nighttime lighting (2012), detailing the adverse health effects on human health and the environment,  and Human and Environmental effects of Light Emitting Diode (LED) Community Lighting  (2016). this last report has led most cities in the US and across the globe to reject 4000K lighting in favor of 3000K lighting, and thus changed and averted major environmental damage. these are available for review and downloading with a number of scientifically published peer reviewed papers.

New: IES (Illuminating engineering society), now has changed its guidelines.  Their new  new Illuminating Engineering Society roadway and parking lot standards document: RP-8-18 has now come to be more consistent with AMA recommendations, which were published well before the IES changed its recommendations.

NEW: UN report on light pollution issues

Final UN report on light pollution and human health I was involved with has been submitted to the general assembly, hopefully this will lead to international cooperation, and.. The UN recommendations are consistent with AMA policy !!

Mario Motta, MD

Galaxy NGC 3079 – Ursa Major: April 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #159

April 5, 2022

Medusa Nebula – Abell 21 – Planetary Nebula in Gemini: March 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #158

February 27, 2022

The following Information taken from “Deep-Sky Wonders” by Sue French:

Sweeping 2 1/2º eastward brings us to the cluster NGC 2395. My little refractor at 87x reveals 20 stars loosely scattered across 15′. At 28x, it merely shows a granular-looking patch with two faint stars, but something remarkable happens when I add an oxygen III filter. Although completely invisible before, Abell 21, the Medusa Nebula, joins the scene 1/2º southeast of the cluster! I can see it with direct vision, but it shows up better with averted vision. This unusual planetary nebula is about 8′ across, dented in its northwest side, and brightest toward the northeast and southwest. With my 10-inch scope at 68x, I prefer viewing Abell 21 with a narrowband nebula filter (rather than the oxygen III filter) which shows this large, impressive detailed planetary to be very uneven in brightness. SF

MONTHLY OBSERVER’S CHALLENGE

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina

&

Sue French, New York

March 2022

Report #158

The Medusa Nebula, (Abell 21, PK 205+14 1, PN G205.1+14.2) 

Planetary Nebula in Gemini

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together

Introduction:

This month’s target:

Abell 21 was discovered during the course of the Yerkes-McDonald survey of  symmetric galactic nebulae. The ensuing catalog was published by Hugh M. Johnson in the May 1955 issue of the Astrophysical Journal, in which it was given the designation YM 29. https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/#abs/1955ApJ…121..604J/abstract

The nebula was independently discovered by George O. Abell among globular clusters and planetary nebulae newly found on the National Geographic Society-Palomar Observatory Sky Survey. His paper was published in the August 1955 issue of the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, which listed 13 globular clusters and 37 planetary nebulae.

https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/#abs/1955PASP…67..258A/abstract

Although the nebula is number 16 in Abell’s list of planetaries, it’s now commonly known as Abell 21. His well-known, updated list of  86 planetary nebulae was published in the Astrophysical Journal  in 1966, and since the nebulae are given in order of right ascension their numbers were changed accordingly.

https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/#abs/1966ApJ…144..259A/abstract

In his 1961 “A Description of Fifty Planetary Nebulae”  https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/#abs/1961AZh….38…75V/abstract, B. A.Vorontsov-Vel’Yaminov, credits the name Medusa Nebula to a 1961 entry in Astronomicheskij Tsirkulyar No.221 (1960), which unfortunately or mercifully, depending on your point of view, I do not have access to. Sue French

Bertrand Laville: Observer from France (pencil sketch)

Roger Ivester: Observer from North Carolina

Pencil sketch using a 10-inch f/4.5 equatorially mounted reflector

Abell 21 also known as the Medusa Nebula:  

After spending four nights and ten hours, with two different telescopes, and multiple eyepieces and filters:  I was finally able to “visually” see the Medusa Nebula.  For me…the euphoria of seeing an extremely faint deep-sky object after many nights and hours, can “or might be similar” to something physical, such as running a marathon, which I’ve never done, but I have competed in bicycle races.  

To be able to locate and “visually” see the Medusa Nebula, a very dark sky is most desirable, but which is something I don’t have from my suburban backyard. My best NELM seldom exceeds 5.0-5.2 on a superb winter night. But I’ve always tried to make-do, and thus far, been successful in seeing all of the challenge objects for the past almost 14 years, and now exceeds more than 200 deep-sky objects.  

The Medusa Nebula is the most difficult (visual) object featured to-date in the Observer’s Challenge report for the past almost fourteen years.  This might be proof that a dark site with a 6.0-7.0 NELM is not necessary to enjoy the wonders of the night sky. 

The Medusa Nebula:   

Easy for the imager, but extremely difficult for the “purist” back yard amateur astronomer, using an eyepiece, an O-III or UHC filters, a pencil, note and sketch pad.  

Amateur astronomy can be anything the amateur wants it to be.  But for me, I want it be “not too distant” from the nights, taking out a 60mm refractor, in what I called the “weedy-field” beside my childhood home.  I wanted to see some of those fabulous spiral galaxies (and in color) that I’d seen in my 6th grade science book.  Of course I never did, but without any support or guidance, I learned what was possible.  

I’ve never been disappointed in those very faint objects that are barely visible in the eyepiece, and requires hours or nights to finally see, but somehow “for me” those are my favorite.  Where in the solitude of the night, I might whisper to myself:  THAT’S IT !  

For those few that choose to carefully, and with patience, observe and sketch a deep-sky object, also supplementing with copious notes, they will never forget what that object looks like, and with instant recall. 

After 50 years of observing, I’m so glad I never lost my EP, my pencil, or my sketchpad, as I never had any desire to become an imager.  I also have a library with hundreds and hundreds of “one of a kind” pencil sketches, to review, and for future reference.   

If you’ve never attempted to make a pencil sketch, with supporting notes, you should consider.  And we need to keep the ancient art of visual observing and “pencil sketching” alive.  A skill or facet of amateur astronomy that fewer and fewer seem to be interested in these days.

After all, this was the original reason or concept for the founding of the Observer’s Challenge back in 2009.     Roger Ivester

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

February 14, 2022

I was able to get my C-14 up and running in Naples, Florida, and the following are my images to-date.

The above image is my Naples, Florida setup. I work under a Bortle 5.5, which is not ideal and a full magnitude 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.

In addition to my “Florida images” as posted by Roger Ivester, you can see a large set of my images (~700) at www.mariomottamd.com

So click on the top ribbon pane under astronomy to view my total images.

Enjoy….Mario Motta,

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 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.

Calculation for Naples, Florida as following:

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!

From my (+35º 15′ ) 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! Roger

Vela supernova with 90mm f/5.5 scope, use this scope only for piggyback guiding. ASI 071MC pro camera, and with optalon L-extreme filter. Two hours of 5 min subs, this is low in the sky, but with the filter able to image nearly to the horizon.

NGC 1097, in Fornax, 45 MLY away…a beautiful barred spiral

NGC 2467, in Puppis, the “skull and crossbones nebula.” This is NB imaging, mostly H alpha

NGC 4536, barred spiral in Virgo

NGC 5068, open spiral in Virgo

SH2-302 nebula, the “snowman nebula in Puppis. This is all H-alpha

Faint section of the Vela nebula…a supernova remnant

NGC 1365: Known as the Great Barred Spiral in the constellation of Fornax (Feb. 2022)

NGC 2736: The Pencil Nebula (a supernova remnant) in the constellation of Vela (Feb. 2022)

Sh2-301, a small diffuse nebula in Canis Major, can be imaged from Gloucester, but easier from down south. (Feb. 2022)

Globular Cluster NGC 1851 in the constellation of Columba (February 2022)

Centaurus A NGC 5128 in B&W (March 2022)

Centaurus A – NGC 5128 in color (March 2022)

The Famous Globular Cluster…Omega Centauri (March 2022)

Galaxy NGC 2997 in Antilla (March 2022)

Globular Cluster NGC 3201 in Vela (February 2022)

Galaxy NGC 4945 in Centaurus (March 2022)

NGC 6357 in Scorpio, an H alpha region of intense star formation. Taken with the C-14, and the ZWO ASI6200 camera, with H alpha, O3, and S2 filters, combined in PixInsight and processed. The star cluster embedded within the nebula contains some very massive stars, 10-100 solar masses among them. This nebula is also nicknamed the “lobster nebula” (Posted April 26th 2022)

M42 and M43 – Bright Nebulae in Orion: February 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #157

January 21, 2022

MONTHLY OBSERVER’S CHALLENGE

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina

&

Sue French, New York

February 2022

Report #157

M42 and M43, the Orion Nebula

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together

Final Observer’s Challenge Report:

Comet Leonard: Image by Guest Host Anas Sawallha from Jordan

December 4, 2021

Hello Roger, I wanted to share my rather humble image of Comet Leonard with globular cluster M3, taken using an alt-azimuth mount and a monochrome camera.

NGC 16; Galaxy in Pegasus: December 2021 Observer’s Challenge Report #155

November 23, 2021

Work-File: Used only for organization and editing. When all entries are received, a .pdf report will be issued by the 10th of January. And the link will be posted on this page.

James Dire: Observer from Illinois

On a recent autumn night with great seeing and transparency, I imaged NGC 16 with a wide-field view to capture it with myriad galaxies lying in the same field, four of which are in the New General Catalog (NGC). The telescope was a William Optics 132mm f/7 Apo. The imager was a SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera. The images here were created by combining 20 ten-minute exposures. The camera was self-guided on a Celestron CGEM II mount using MaximDL software for capture and guiding. One image below has labels showing some of the brighter galaxies in the field of view. 

After NGC 16, the brightest galaxy in the field of view is NGC 1. The New General Catalog lists deep space objects by right ascension. So NGC1 has the smallest right ascension of any object in the catalog: 00h 07m 15.9s (Epoch 2000). NGC1 is a magnitude 12.8 spiral galaxy 1.6×1.1 arcsec in size. Some spiral structure can be seen in large amateur telescopes and is even captured in my wide-field image.

Just below NGC 1 is NGC 2, a magnitude 14 spiral galaxy measuring 0.9×0.5 arcsec in size. At 220 and 330 million light years, respectively, NGC 1 and NGC 2 are farther away from us than NGC16. Whereas NGC1 presents itself more face on, NGC2 is more edge on.

The final NGC object on the image is NGC 22, a magnitude 14.8 spiral galaxy. NGC 22 is 1.2×0.7 arcsec in size. At magnitude 14.6, UGC69 is the next brightest galaxy. UGC69 is about the same angular size as NGC1 and at the same distance. However, at nearly two magnitudes fainter, UGC69 as well as NGC 22 are difficult to see in telescopes smaller than 14-inches. Despite the scale, some spiral structure is visible in my image for both of these faint galaxies.

There are dozens of other galaxies in my image. Most appear as tiny, dim star-like dots. Some appear elongated giving away their galactic shape. Three I have labeled are PGC1811465 (mag. 16.7), PGC212478  (mag. 16.7), and PGC182172 (mag.16.8). I was able to pick out galaxies down to magnitude 19 in the image.

Supporting notes and information to follow later…

Pencil sketch by Roger Ivester:

Pencil Sketch by Uwe Glahn: Observer from Germany

NGC 1 and NGC 2: 27-inch reflector @ 293x

NGC 6572, Planetary Nebula in Ophiuchus: July 2021 Observer’s Challenge Report #150

July 19, 2021

Roger Ivester, North Carolina

&

Sue French, New York

July 2021

Report #150

NGC 6572, Planetary Nebula in Ophiuchus

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together

This month’s target

Our object for the 150th monthly edition of the Observer’s Challenge is the tiny, but bright, planetary nebula NGC 6572, variously nicknamed the Emerald Nebula, the Blue Racquetball, and the Turquoise Orb. These names highlight the range of hues perceived by different observers. The nebula is young, perhaps only a few thousand years old. Its diminutive size led to its inclusion in some early star catalogs. NGC 6572 has a visual magnitude of 7.3, as determined by Stephen O’Meara, while its central star dimly shines at 13th magnitude. As with many planetary nebulae, published distances vary wildly. Values in the vicinity of 5000 light-years seem most likely. This pretty little gem was discovered in1825 by Wilhelm Struve.

NGC 6572 displays bipolar outflows in deep images. There’s evidence of interaction between the collimated outflows and the nebula’s elliptical shell. The interaction has broken up the elliptical shell such that parts of the shell have been accelerated, while the outflow has been slowed down and/or deflected. This supports the idea that such outflows are common in planetary nebulae and may play an important role in shaping nebular shells. https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1999ApJ…520..714M/abstract 

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

NGC6572 is a very tiny object (16×12 arc seconds). Got this last week, poor night with some turbulence, with an H alpha, O3 , and S2 filters. Very short exposures as it is very bright. Visually a small “blue spot”.

Image attached, about 20 minutes each filter, O3 dominated…thus very blue. No detail that I can see. Only good image on line I found is by the Hubble, but can’t match that one! However, a nice object.

Complete Observer’s Challenge Report: Click on the following link…

july-2021-observers-challenge-_ngc-6572-1

Roger Ivester: Observer from North Carolina

NGC 6572 – Planetary Nebula in Ophiuchus 

Date:  May 2021 

Telescope:  6-inch f/6 Newtonian Reflector 

Eyepiece:  20mm + 2.8x BarlowSketch Magnification:  128x

NELM:  ~4.9 Magnitude

I knew that fine detail of this planetary would not be possible from my back yard, using a 10-inch reflector.  So, I chose to use a 6-inch f/6 reflector, mostly for convenience, but not really expecting much difference from the 10-inch.

With the 6-inch, this planetary is very small, mostly round and featureless, but with a pale bluish color.  

This is definitely a large telescope object for the visual observer.  

Peter Vercauteren: Observer from Italy

Telescope: 18-inch f/5 Otte BinoDobsonian

Magnification: 4.5mm @ 507x

How to Choose Your Telescope Magnification – Sky and Telescope Magazine: By Al Nagler

March 9, 2021

One of the best articles I’ve ever read concerning the calculation of everything involving telescope eyepieces.

https://skyandtelescope.org/astronomy-equipment/choosing-your-telescopes-magnification/

I was fortunate to meet Al Nagler a few years ago. Such a nice guy….

Herschel 400 Notes: By “Guest Host Sue French” From New York

February 16, 2021

Sue and Alan French