While playing with the telescope setup this afternoon I thought I’d take a quick shot at the massive sunspot (AR2529) that everybody has been talking about lately. I also grabbed a quick shot of sunspot AR2532 as well.
On April 1st through April 3rd Pickett State Park, a newly designated IDA Dark Sky Site, held its first Astronomy Weekend Star Party. We were clouded out Friday night but clouds on Saturday finally yielded to clear skies albeit with some very gusty winds until the wee hours of the morning.
My buddy and I drove up to Pickett State Park which recently was designated a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. The night wasn’t perfect; cold, little too windy, and high thin clouds to the south that at times mucked with our images. I had wanted to test out a new widefield camera tracker from StarSync LLC. Unfortunately, I forgot my intervalometer so I was limited to 30 second exposures which isn’t the best test. Still, I think it’s the tracker I’ve been waiting for. I love the design.
This enigmatic formation of gas and dust lies in the constellation of Monoceros (the Unicorn) not far off the right arm of Orion. This is a close-up of a small section of a much larger complex, generally known as the Christmas Tree cluster. The mysterious Cone Nebula is also a part of this same cloud.
The red regions of this nebula are caused by hydrogen gas that has been stimulated to emit its own light by the copious ultraviolet radiation coming from the hot, blue stars of the cluster. The blue areas shine by a different process: they are mainly dust clouds that reflect the bluish light of the same stars.
C/2013 US10 (Catalina) is an Oort cloud comet discovered on 31 October 2013 by the Catalina Sky Survey at an apparent magnitude of 19 using a 0.68-meter (27 in) Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope. As of September 2015 the comet is around apparent magnitude 6.
When discovered on 31 October 2013 observations from another object from 12 September 2013 were used in the preliminary orbit determination giving an incorrect solution that suggested an orbital period of only 6 years. But by 6 November 2013 a longer observation arc from 14 August until 4 November made it apparent that the first solution had the wrong object from 12 September.
By early May 2015 the comet was around apparent magnitude 12 and had an elongation of 60 degrees from the Sun as it moved further into the southern hemisphere. The comet came to solar conjunction on 6 November 2015 when the comet was around magnitude 6. The comet came to perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on 15 November 2015 at a distance of 0.82 AU from the Sun. At perihelion, it had a velocity of 46.4 km/s (104,000 mph) with respect to the Sun which is slightly greater than the Sun’s escape velocity at that distance. It crossed the celestial equator on 17 December 2015 becoming a northern hemisphere object. On 17 January 2016 the comet will pass 0.72 AU (108,000,000 km; 67,000,000 mi) from Earth and should be around magnitude 6 while located in the constellation of Ursa Major.
C/2013 US10 is dynamically new. It came from the Oort cloud with a loosely bound chaotic orbit that was easily perturbed by galactic tides and passing stars. Before entering the planetary region (epoch 1950), C/2013 US10 had an orbital period of several million years. After leaving the planetary region (epoch 2050), it will be on an ejection trajectory.
Taken 12/5/2015 from Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina. Sky quality was a little hazy early on and deteriorated by morning. SQM readings started around 21.1 and topped out around 21.2 mag/arcsec^2. This has always been a favorite object but I have always struggled processing it. It’s dim, it’s difficult, it always seems soft…. I’d prefer to shoot these dark dusty nebula from a darker site and if I ever get the chance I’ll be coming back to this object.
I’ve cut a few more trees and have updated the horizon survey accordingly. The local light domes for Clinton and Oak Ridge are easily visible in the East and South.
Earlier this year (2015) Pickett / Pogue State Park was named a Silver Tier IDA dark site. I haven’t made it up for a night of astrophotography yet but have been wanting to visit the area and scope it out before lugging all the equipment up there for the first time. On Sunday my wife, the dogs, and I made a visit up to hike the short trail to the Pogue Canyon Overlook. The trail head is connected to the parking lot that adjoins the astronomy field at the Pogue SNA. First off, finding the place wasn’t difficult BUT google maps does not have current satellite imagery from there so I couldn’t pinpoint it easily. The address given didn’t seem to match up with anything in the imagery. So, to make it a little easier, here is an image of the location:
I’ve been interested in Pickett / Pogue for a while since it appears to be one of the darkest places in Tennessee and is located only 1:40 from my home. Here are a few light pollution maps showing where it is in relationship to sources of light pollution:
I also wanted to share a few photos from the site to show you all what to expect when you arrive at the site:
A little bit of side information that might be of interest as it contains SQM measurements, photos, and upcoming event information:
Don’t forget, the Fall Star Gaze is happening 9/19/2015 at this location! I’d love to see you there but I’m tied up and can’t make it. Hope to make it out under the stars there another time.
This was my first visit to Fall Creek Falls for the 2015 Tennessee Fall Star Gaze. It’s a casual get together held at a clearing within walking distance from the Inn. The site is reasonably dark measuring 21.42+ on Friday and 21.31 on Saturday after some thundershowers upped the humidity level. Both nights were good so long as you were prepared for dew.
I spent both nights gathering data on SH2-155; the Cave Nebula. It’s a fairly dark object and I’d like more than the 4.5 hours of exposure time I got on it but a couple technical issues coupled with the early moon rise limited my time….
S 155, also known as the Cave Nebula, Sh2-155 or Caldwell 9, is a dim and very diffuse bright nebula within a larger nebula complex containing emission, reflection, and dark nebulosity. It is located in the constellation Cepheus.
Visually it is a difficult object, but with adequate exposure, makes a striking image. The nebula gets its name Cave Nebula from the dark lane at the eastern side abutting the brightest curve of emission nebulosity which gives the appearance of a deep cave when seen through a telescope visually.
This was my first time to Fall Creek Falls and I was not sure what to expect in terms of amenities. For those of you considering going: Restrooms are a 1000+ ft walk from the site. There are no restrooms at the field, nor is there any power, water, etc. The only things available at the site are trashcans. The Inn, as I mentioned before, offers restrooms, along with buffet meals, vending machines, and accommodations on the lake.
It ended up being a gorgeous night at Norris. The MW was clearly visible and seeing looked reasonably good just based on the naked eye twinkle criteria.
I was able to gather a paltry 3x20min of O[III] and 2x20min of S[II] data on M8 (The Lagoon Nebula) to complete a tricolor Hubble Pallet image before it moved behind a tree….