Quadrantids: Years First Meteor Shower

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower timing for 2020 looked very good for me: being in CST timezone the shower should peak January 4th at 2:30am. During the day Friday the only question was would it stay clear in the Flint Hills. At last minute I didn’t drive out there for fear it would stay cloudy there. Stayed home to watch shower in less than great skies.

Well son of a gun, checking satellite next day the skies did cleared over the Flint Hills about 2:00am.

Regardless of location and weather the Quadrantids were a surprise this year. The peak came three hours early which was terrible timing for my location. This shower has a very, very brief maximum strength of only a few hours. It was greatly diminished by the time I observed 2-4am CDT . Bummer. Be a number of years before I get this favorable timing again.

Lunar Delight

Telescope SelfieTuesday morning I watched a spectacular lunar eclipse. Awesome, fantastic, those are some of the words I would use to describe the night’s event. This was the best lunar eclipse the mid-west will experience for many years to come.

I was excited for the chance to watch this eclipse it’s been several years since my last one.I spent all evening getting ready, watching the sky and satellite images as a line of clouds passed over. Just before midnight it cleared. As Earths shadow began to creep across the moon my telescope took a selfie, the picture to the left. Through out the night I took pictures and will post more in the days ahead.

Several friends told me they got out and saw the eclipse. Excellent! Pretty impressive they got up, let alone out into the cold. It was a crisp 27 degrees (F)! Great to see interest in an event that has awed man for centuries but I feel they missed a big part of it. They saw it, they didn’t watch it. There’s a difference you see. One watches the sunset, the sky changing color with each passing minute. To simply look at the setting sun captures the moment but misses the whole experience.

There’s something special about watching a lunar eclipse. The night sky turns dark as the moon goes red. Colored by all the sunsets and sunrises happening that moment on Earth. For a short while that red moon sits among the nights stars. That’s a sight you rarely get to see.

Imaging Expedition

2012 da14 Asteroid Observing Expedition from J.D.Strikis on Vimeo.

ex?e?i?ion

anexcursion,journey,orvoyagemadeforsomespecific purpose, such as discovery orexploration.

I so like this short video, kudos to the producer. Over the years I’ve taken many pictures of my own expeditions and found still shots rarely capture the essence of the experience. It takes video and a soundtrack to express it. But what the hell is going on in this video?!

We start indoors with a telescope, then someone that appears anxious, someone is working at a computer and a telescope mount is seen slewing. This is the planning stage, perhaps the final test and preparation stage before leaving. In this case the expedition will attempt to photograph asteroid 2012 DA14 as it flies close by Earth. They will only get one shot at this. It appears they have developed a custom program to move the telescope mount to follow the asteroids path. A challenging task as mounts are not made to do this, hard to simulate this motion ahead of time.

We cut to the waxing moon and all the activity taking place in the field. Equipment is setup and aligned, tested, checked again and shared with others around. If something breaks or fails to work as planned you hope spare parts or a friend can help. Otherwise your mission will fail. I’ll note there is a whole bunch of white light around, there would be howls of protest from the star party light Nazi’s I’ve known.

Around the two minute mark we see the fruits of their labor, it appears they were able to image the asteroid and track it reasonably well. Seventeen seconds later in the video they are packing up to head home. I’m going to bet they were a happy bunch!

All this is speculation on my part, I don’t know this group of astronomy enthusiasts. But I do know what its like to plan a trip, chart my target, fret over the weather and finally be under the night sky to implement my plan. Successfully completing a quest is exhilarating.

 

December Nights

The days are getting shorter and the nights longer. The final month of the year features two great night sky events worth catching. Both are late in the night to early in the morning but worth staying up for.

First up is the Geminid meteor shower peaking the night of December 13th, morning of the 14th. Perhaps the finest meteor shower of the year its only drawback is the winter temperatures. But those of us willing to stand the cold are rewarded with a steady stream of falling stars. This year the moon is first quarter and will set around midnight local time. Just as its fully dark the meteor shower will be ramping up to full strength, around 120 meteors/hour (ZHR). With a clear dark sky you should see more than one per minute.

The second big event is a total lunar eclipse on December 21. Interestingly the 21st is also the Winter solstice: the shortest day of the year and the start of winter. Its been 2 years since the Midwest last saw a total lunar eclipse and we won’t see another until 2014!. But this one we’re in the right place, the Midwest is perfectly situation to see all stages of the eclipse. For a neat animation of these eclipse stages check outShadow and Substance website. What dark color will the moon be this eclipse? Perhaps with this years volcanic eruptions we’ll see a deeper red.

Okie-Tex Star Party 2010

This year the Okie-Tex Star Party was held October 2 through October 9th and the weather was very good. There were six consecutive nights of clear or mostly clear sky, this maybe a record for the Kenton site. The weather might not have been ideal for everyone, persistent gusty winds typically started at darkness and lasted until 2:00am in the morning. Temperatures were unusually mild during the night with lows around 54?F (Saturday morning was lowest at 44?). I will post temp and SQM data later.

While I imaged many targets throughout the week I had two particular photographs in mind: Comet 103P/Hartley 2 and the morning Zodiacal light. The comet I shot every night and have a pile of imaging data to reduce.

Thumbnail of Zodiacal light over star partyMy Zodiacal light plan almost became an epic failure. I needed all night energy as its best around the end of darkness (start of morning twilight) and petered out on several nights. In fairness most of us had a tough time Wednesday night, it started out cloudy and we broke out the beer, then it cleared up! Friday morning arrived with decent skies, I was fired up and ready to go. I ascended to my planned location to find I had miscalculated the relationship of the star party field and the Zodiacal light. To say I was pissed at myself is an understatement. With little time remaining I descended and repositioned myself on top of a boulder further north. Anyone awake in that area probably thought a bull was stumbling down the hill and through the uncut field. To make matters interesting I fell off the boulder my first attempt climbing it, the entire journey would have made a comical movie. Perseverance paid off, thumbnail to the right is the best image taken at the very end of darkness (click for full size version).

More updates and images to come later.

Eyes Wide Open

It seems like shit happens when I’m not connected to the Internet, the Jupiter impact the latest example. I heard about this event at NSP yet I never got a chance to see it there. Kinda odd given the hundred plus scopes in that location. Not to be denied I setup my telescope Saturday and waited first for Jupiter to clear my trees and then for the impact zone to rotate into view. According to Spaceweather.com the new dark spot transits 2 hours after the great red spot, of which Sky and Telescope has transit times on their website. At 01:30 CDT on July 26 it was visible in my 8inch Celestron SCT, cool. Kind of alarming that nobody saw the impactor coming and it left a huge scar on the planet.

It was cool to see my aurora picture on Spaceweather’s front page for three days!

One Week To NSP

Stardate 07.19.2009: the start of the Nebraska Star Party (NSP). I’ve never been to NSP, let alone Northern Nebraska so this should be an interesting adventure. I’m planning on being there Sunday night through Tuesday night, hoping mother nature is nice to me.

This trip brings a brand new capability for me, one I’ve needed for some time. I recently aquired a Kyocera 43w solar panel and 6 amp charge controller from Northern Arizona Wind and Sun. I can now recharge my batteries in the daytime, making me self sufficient for powering my astronomy equipment. When not traveling it will be mounted on the observatory, one tiny step to being off the grid.