Amazing Photos From the NNSF

Milky Way at NNSF
Milky Way and star fans, by Rodrigo Roesch, NNSF 2015. ISO 3200, 30s exp. with a Canon 6D & a Rokinon 14mm F/2.8 lens.

Check out these aMAZing photographs from last week’s Astro Babe trip to northern Minnesota and the Northern Nights Star Fest.

These pictures were taken by a super-talented member of the NPMAS astronomy club here in Green Bay. Rodrigo takes some of the best astronomy and aurora photos around, and we’re very lucky to have his talent, his helpful attitude, and his friendly smile hanging around our club. If I ever get a decent camera, he’ll be one of the first people I turn to for help getting started.

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Aurora at the observing field, taken by Rodrigo Roesch, NNSF 2015.ISO 1600, 15s exp. with a Canon 6D & a Rokinon 14mm F/2.8 lens.

 

In Rodrigo’s notes, he said he finds the Wolf’s cave nebula, pictured below, a very interesting object. In addition to the dark and reflection nebulae, he said that you can see an old planetary nebula towards the bottom of the picture about six o’clock, and some faint supernova remnants near the reflection nebula.

 

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You can also see the Andromeda Galaxy in this photograph near Long Lake. Taken by Rodrigo Roesch, NNSF 2015.ISO 1600, 8s exp. with a Canon 6D & a Rokinon 14mm F/2.8 lens.

Rodrigo said that the aurora’s that we saw Saturday night at had a lot of deep blue and violet color, which means a nitrogen emission. He said that he hasn’t seen very much blue in his other aurora pictures in the past, so these photos are a nice addition to his aurora collection. In the aurora pic to the right, you can also see the Andromeda galaxy.

Thanks so much for letting us share these photographs with all our Astro Babe fans, Rodrigo!!

 

Lynn

WOLF'S CAVE NEBULA
Wolf’s cave Nebula (LBN 1217) in Cepheus by Rodrigo Roesch, NNSF 2015.
6.2 h total exposure: 24x480s + 18x600s subframes at ISO 1600 – Telescope: WO 98mm and Orion EON 80mm – Camera: Mod Canon Xsi – Mount: Losmandy G11 Gem2 Guider: Orion Mini + OSSAU

 

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Another Star Party in the Can

Even though I’m late in posting this, rest assuredMAS-logo that the Astro  Babes did make it safely home from the Northern Nights Star Fest Sunday night.

The heat stayed with us for the remainder of the star party, but there was dew relief on Saturday night due to a light breeze. We were also treated to some amazing auroras around 11 p.m. Some of our club members took pictures, and I will post one as soon as I can get my hands on one.

We were also treated to lots of lightning that flashed behind the trees at the south end of the observing field for at least an hour. We had originally planned to cover our equipment with plastic and load it up in the morning, but when it looked like rain and storms were zeroing in on us, we joined everyone else and packed up the car in the dark. We headed back Sunday morning.

We had some observing successes, each earning an observing certificate for bagging 15 objects, plus lots of cool peeks into huge 25″ and 30″ Obsessions. And the Minnesota group are great hosts and fun to hang out with and share our love of astronomy. I feel we’ve made a few friends there.

Already looking forward to next year, but crossing fingers that the heat won’t be there to greet us again. Five days of temperatures near 90 and no air conditioning is not for the faint of heart!

Lynn

Another Soggy Night

Friday was another day filled with astronomy, humidity, dave-faulknerand excessive heat. Ninety-one Fahrenheit with a dew point in the low 2,000’s. So of course you know what THAT means. Dew, dew, dew!

The Northern Nights Star Fest has been a challenge for Amy and me, although the skies have been mostly clear. Last night we again abandoned the 8” club scope and the 20×80 binoculars because they only seemed to work with the hair dryer blowing constantly. Guess it’s time to break down and do something about dew heaters. It’s been really, really frustrating for us.

But fortunately, there were over 60 telescopes of all flavors and sizes on the observing field (WITH dew heaters) and we got to see some pretty incredible stuff. I saw the Andromeda galaxy naked eye for the first time, and that was exciting.

Another of my faves (although hardest to see) was Stephan’s Quintet, a group of five faint galaxies in Pegasus. Four of them are in a cosmic dance. I’ll warn you though, even in a 30” Obsession they were pretty hard to make out. I also got to see Jacques comet in the 30”, tail and all. How cool is that?

Amy loved Draco’s Cat’s Eye Nebula in Kevin’s 18” Teeter. She said it had a turquoise jewel-like center that was very cool. She also renewed her interest in radio astronomy and is now talking about trekking out west to the Green Bank observatory.

Lots of astrophotography lectures yesterday and today that we played hooky from since we don’t have any fancy cameras or processing software. Maybe we’ll get to that hobby later.

Lynn

Star Party Time

Despite two harrowing near-misses and a wrong exit in Duluth, the 20150813_154840Astro Babes safely rolled into Palisades Minnesota yesterday for the start of the Northern Nights Star Fest. Unfortunately, we got clouded out on the first night, but we weren’t complaining because we were both snoring by 9:30.

Today was the first day of organized programs. First, we heard a lecture by Dave Falkner, a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador and former president of the Minnesota Astronomical Society, our host club. His presentation was about the 2004 Mercury’s Messenger Mission to learn more about how our Solar system was created. Research included studying why Mercury’s iron core is so large and so dense, as well as understanding Mercury’s unusual magnetic properties. The mission ended in a decayed orbit in 2012.

The next presenter was a fellow club member, Kevin Nasal. He had recently bought a Teeter’s 18” truss-tube Dob telescope, and he shared his comparisons with an Obsession telescope of equal size and quality.

Following that, a group of us got some training on how to use the MAS’s 25″ Dob. The training was interesting, but it was so hot and humid out in the observing field that it was hard to focus. And I won’t even mention the pesky, angry bees who lost their home in the observing field yesterday and are still buzzing around looking for revenge. Good thing they sleep at night!

Tonight we’re expecting clouds and possibly rain again, and the plan is to just to hang out, maybe watch a movie with the group, and get ready for tomorrow and Friday nights’ clear skies.

Lynn

Pluto Mission Success!

Amy and I joined the rest of the Earth and held our breath tonight mission-controlwaiting for the confirmation call from New Horizons.

The NASA Twitter feed counted down the approach of the signal as it crossed the halfway point, then Jupiter’s orbit, then Mars’ orbit. Then the live feed on NASA TV confirmed the nominal condition of one system after another and the control room exploded with cheers.

At its closest approach, the spacecraft buzzed Pluto at approximately 6,200 miles above its surface, then buzzed Charon from about 17,931 miles. The pictures and data will be exciting, although we’ll have to wait 16 months to see them all.

The first image from Pluto will arrive some time overnight and will be released in the morning. Tomorrow we’ll wake up to the opportunity of a lifetime – to view close-up images of the last unexplored world in our solar system. How cool is that??

Lynn

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Star Party in Amberg

A great time was had by all at Gerry’s star party scheduled spider-pixThursday through tonight in Amberg, WI. A small group turned out on Thursday, but Amy and I were lucky enough to catch the best skies on Friday night. Tonight (Saturday) was clouded out.

Yes, there were misquitoes and flies, but Deep Woods Off took care of them. This spider, however, looked big enough to grab the Deep Woods Off can and chase us around the observing field. At least we didn’t have to battle any dew.

The skies were unsteady around 10:30, and thin clouds occasionally interfered briefly with what we were trying to observe. But as the evening progressed, seeing steadied and I found M4 and M5, and easily split Alcor and Mizar with Gerry’s 10×80 binoculars. We saw Pluto in Gerry’s 10″ Schmidt, watched a really bright Iridium Flare, and the Milky Way brightened as the sky got darker.

Amy and I also entertaiobserving-fieldned ourselves by looking for Asterisms, and found the Engagement Ring, the Owl Cluster, the Gas Pump, and the Guardians of the Pole. We’ll write more about Asterisms in a later blog.

Oh yes. I can’t forget to mention the Twizzlers and the Banana Cream Pie from the Amberg Pub. Thanks Gerry and Mary!!

Lynn

Happy New Year!

What a year it’s been! Amy found Uranus with 2015-logoher binoculars (no small feat!!) and we both learned how to use setting circles. We gave one of our Lynn & Amy Shows at the Neville Public Museum to a captivated crowd, and together attended our very first star party in Minnesota. We went to the annual club Perseids picnic last summer, and uploaded our 100th blog to this website.

November and December were especially busy as our jobs bogged us down. Then the shopping and baking season kicked in and we prepared for family time and Christmas and the company that it brings. I baked a zillion Christmas cookies, and got to spend a whole week with my first grandson who is quickly figuring out how to pull himself up and stand on his own. It was magical.

However, along with the joys of Christmas comes the crappy skies of Wisconsin. As the atmosphere above us grows colder each winter, the condensation and cloudiness spread out horizontally and results in mostly overcast days and nights. The clouds pretty much roll in here late in November and stay until the Messier Marathon. Then, when it does warm up a little, we are stuck with ground and air temperatures that are almost the same, which brings fog and condensation. Oh, and living a few miles away from a Great Lake doesn’t help much either.

And if that’s not bad enough, the cold temperatures discourage all except the heartiest from going outside for more than a few minutes – even on the clearest nights. Right now, the wind chill is double digits below zero, and last night the actual temperature was -7°F. If I heard right, the wind chill could dip below -30°F tonight. Sigh.

However, despite all the current weather gloom, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming year, starting off with the NPMAS Christmas Party this Wednesday (the White Elephant Gift Exchange is always a hoot!). Then there is some winter camping at Camp U-Na-Li-Ya in a few weeks, lots of blogs to write, and a calendar full of meetings and pizza at Happy Joe’s. There will be warmer nights of observing at Parmentier’s, public observing events, meteor showers, a couple of total lunar eclipses, the New Horizons spacecraft arriving at Pluto, and hopefully another great trip to the Minnesota Star Party.

The year 2015 promises to be a great year for the Astro Babes, and we hope it is a great year for you, too. Happy New Year!

– Lynn

A time to mourn

SpaceShipTwo (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

It was a sad week for the burgeoning U.S. private space program.

First was the loss of the unmanned Antares supply rocket last Tuesday. It exploded just seconds after liftoff in Virginia, and 5,000 pounds of food, experiments, and supplies for the International Space Station went up with it. It was the third cargo mission to the ISS contracted by NASA.

A few days later, the Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two crashed during a test run in California’s Mojave Desert, killing the co-pilot. A malfunction took place shortly after it separated from White Knight Two, the rocket that hoists Space Ship Two to an altitude of 45,000 feet.

The food, supplies, and scientific experiments can easily be replaced. However, the losses would have been much greater if Spaceship Two had been filled with the first batch of space tourists. More than 600 people have already bought their tickets at around $200,000 a seat.

Because of the forced retirement of NASA’s shuttle program in 2011, the U.S. is totally dependent on the Russians to get our astronauts into space, and on private industry to get supplies to the ISS. It is what it is.

There will be long-term repercussions from both of these incidents, but that doesn’t mean we should discontinue our exploration efforts. Space is, and always will be, a very dangerous place.

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Intelligent Life Found on Mars! (Well, Not Exactly)

Mars is back in the news again. On its way to the base of Mount Sharp, the Mars Curiosity Rover snapped yet another controversial photo – this time, it captured a picture of a UFO landing nearby.

NASA claims that the bright spot in the first photo (on the left) is a hot pixel, which is a bright spot that appears on an image when camera sensors get hot during long exposures. NASA claims they appear often on Curiosity’s images.

Okay. Everyone can accept that explanation. Hot pixels happen even here on Earth. But the second image on the right was snapped only 31 seconds after the first image, and it appears to look like a shiny UFO descending off in the distance. But this time, NASA says it’s a cosmic ray strike.

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We’re all rational adults here, right? But doesn’t that seem like an absolutely amazing coincidence? I mean, putting all sanity aside, put these pictures side by side with a 31 second time frame and yes, it does look like a UFO is landing on Mars.

This is not the first time that the rovers have sent back strange images from Mars, and I’m guessing that if you’re a rover and you’re crawling around on any planet in the solar system taking zillions of pictures, you’re going to photograph strange tricks of light and questionable rock formations now and then.

For example, just this past April, Curiosity photographed a mysterious bright light shining off in the distance.

light2

The same light appeared in pictures taken on two different days. One NASA explanation was a distant shiny rock. Another explanation involved a spot of light shining through the vent hole of a leaky camera housing. And, of course, a cosmic ray was offered as an explanation, too. But that last explanation was hard to swallow when the same light was found on two separate images, taken on two different days with the same instrument.

One website that shall remain unnamed claimed that this was an “artificial light source” that could indicate that “there is intelligent life below ground and they use light as we do.” Sigh.

In my recollection, all this fuss about Mars began in earnest when the Viking 1 orbiter captured the famous Face on Mars back in 1976.

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Rumor spread like wildfire when this image hit the news stands. This rocky face was located in the Cydonia region of Mars, and was immediately dubbed a remnant of an ancient civilization. Eventually, NASA dismissed it as a trick of light and shadows, but to this day it gives me the willies.

Here are a few other photographs of Mars that I’ve run across over the years. Isn’t that a Martian Squirrel captured by Curiosity in September 2012? It sure looks like the squirrels I have in my backyard.

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And then there’s this fossilized iguana captured by Curiosity in November of 2013. According to another website that shall remain unnamed, there have actually been 10-15 animals found on Mars, and they speculate that NASA is releasing them. Some excitable conspiracy theorists “fear that NASA is planting life on the planet for scientific testing.”

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Another fave of mine is this picture taken by the rover Spirit in January 2004. You can’t help but see the mysterious lady walking down a Martian hillside.

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But here’s my all-time favorite Martian photograph! It’s a selfie of me and Curiosity that I took during my Mars exploration mission in 2012. What a great adventure that was!

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Pareidolia is the human tendency to see random images and turn them into something significant, which is why you can occasionally find people selling an image of the Virgin Mary seared into a grilled cheese sandwich. This psychological phenomenon may explain away some of the images that conspiracy theorists see when they search through the images from Mars. But as far as I’m concerned, I won’t be convinced until I’m holding a live, kicking Martian squirrel in the palms of my space gloves.

– By Barbara Millicent Roberts
Astro Babe Mars Correspondent

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One Small Step……..

apollo 11
Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Apollo 11 Astronauts

This past weekend we celebrated the historic moon walk, and success of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins. It was one of those moments in time that remain engraved in ones memory, as clear as the day it happened.

I was a 10 year old kid on a family vacation. My brave parents bundled up six kids in a station wagon, attached a pop-up camper and headed westward. Our goal was the same as many Midwest families: Yellowstone. But the timing of this particular vacation overlapped a significant historic event, the moon landing!

Not to worry! My parents had the good sense to plan ahead and find a campground with a working TV.

Being only 10, I wasn’t really sure what was happening, but I could tell it was big. All the campers headed to the building, filling the tiny room. When I realized what I was about to witness I was stunned. My world just got a whole lot bigger.

I stared at the TV so hard I thought I’d get sucked up into it.  I remember it all; those historic first words, that little hop they had to do to get to the surface, everything. The whole world watched as Neil Armstrong took that first step. We actually managed to unite the planet, even if only for a few short moments. I will always be grateful to my parents for making sure we witnessed this historic event.

Neil Armstrong's First Step on Moon

The moon changed forever for me that night. It was no longer just a beautiful addition to our night sky. It had become a place that people had visited. It had become a place that someone had actually reached out and touched. That fact still takes my breath away.

I still am stunned at the beauty of space, what we’ve seen and discovered since then. From planet hunting, visiting asteroids, looking back at Earth from Saturn and roving around Mars, we’ve done some pretty amazing things!

So – where were you on July 20, 1969?

Amy

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