Saturday, November 19, 2005

20051119 - Groundhog Day? with Sunspots & Venus

Session name: 20051119.1000
Location: The Rock, Central Park

:: Televue Ranger (TVR), Obj-70mm, FL-480mm; Thousand Oaks Solar filter
:: Takahashi FS102 (Tak102), Obj-102mm, FL-820; Homemade Baader Film filter

I returned to the Rock for a third day in a row to observe Sun & Venus. If it weren't for the different people who came by and the addition of sunspot group 823, I would have thought it was "Groundhog Day."

Just after setting up the scopes, Andy, an amateur astronomer from Ohio, stopped by. We spoke of scopes, astronomy, dark skies and facilities in New Mexico, mirror making, and how he donated a homemade 6" scope to a local school here in NYC a good time ago. While we were talking a Dad and his son were looking in the scopes. The little guy was able to see all the spots, he went to eyepiece a few times and each time mentioned a new feature he noticed - a very skilled observer. Andy spoke of his observatory and I was thinking along the terms of Megan's outfit.

Alex, the photographer, returned to say hello and look at Sun. He told me how he brought his scope out last night to observe Moon. On another topic, he described how he is working with photographic prints on canvas. I was thinking how cool it would be to have a photo of the Moon on canvas. I can just imagine the texture to the eyes of the rough, cratered south polar region, a dimple of smooth Plato, and the mountains of the Alpes, Caucasus and Appeninus. I think that could be pretty cool.

Later another photographer, Salem, would stop by. I think he may have been running and caught site of the astro setup on the hill. After looking at the different filtered solar images, we talked for a while. I tried to describe how magnificent Orion's Nebula is in the eyepiece. I have yet to see a photograph that can capture the dynamic range that M42 offers. Also, the sheer, visceral experience of the photons hitting the rods and cones has no equal from a photograph. Salem sounds interested in trying a hand at astrophotog, or at least seeing M42, so I told him I'll let him know when I head back to TotL.

I took these two photos with Group 822 & 823 visible. To assist in seeing the smaller spots between the large, central spot and the one to the right, I also included a negative of the shot for a little contrast. Of all the photos, the old adage holds: Garbage In, Garbage Out. My setup is not up to snuff to take those million dollar images. (For anyone interested check out Dirty Skies blog for some pretty good images and Rob's progress with astrophotography.)

On davep's blog, he has a link to his fine sketch of yesterday's group. I don't have scanner so I sketched this up on the tablet in Alias SketchPro. I included some notes. The sketch is based on views through the Tak102 with Plossl 32mm, Nagler 13mm, and Nagler 9mm. Again the seeing was not great, so the 13mm provided better views. The 9mm required waiting for moments of good seeing, so I didn't use it often.

The spot below the second largest spot to the left went undetected until the last looks. I threw the 32mm eyepiece in to focus the scope before looking for Venus. The low power offered nice crisp views, not accentuating the turbulence, and here that spot popped out. While there I swapped in the 13 & 9mm EPs, but the spot was not as obvious. The little stroke to the right of "b"was where I saw 4 small spots yesterday but was unableto detect today.

Sunspot Group 823 , noted with a red comment, appeared as three spots. The upper one was sensed as a double in the 13mm and was resolved with the 9mm. I sketched this before going to One can see a photograph of today's Sun at that site.

When Venus cleared the horizon-obstructing trees and buildings, I observed it. It appeared much better than yesterdayand I was able to push the magnifcation to 90x, using the 9mm with the Tak. I took more photos of it again but they do not do justice. Crescent Venus looks like a little moon.

A young couple, Markus & Daniella, had stopped to have some looks. In addition to observing Venus, they observed Sun and spots through the viewing window and both scopes. Perched at the edge of the rock, overlooking the street, we talked for a while about how one can find Venus, why sunspots and what is the best object observed - Saturn!!

So these last three days have been fun at this new location. With 3 days of vacation, which 2 were good weather days, and a Saturday made for pleasant times. I met a lot of new faces, and George's words, a gentleman from yesterday when a small crowd gathered , resonated today: "How can people fight when there are wonderful things like this. " So true. So true.