Of Comets, Planets, and Nebulae – Jupiter, M42 and Lovejoy

A new image of Comet Lovejoy came through my queue yesterday afternoon from the BRT so I decided it was a great time (since it was clear) to give my scope another chance.


I managed to finally get my new-to-me Meade LX-80 mount with 6" Meade Refractor (AR-6) to actually align properly. This resulted in a great observing session including Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy, The Orion Nebula (M42) and the planet Jupiter. In addition to catching these great objects, I hooked up my Nikon D80 DSLR camera to it for some shots.

I've included a couple shots below and the full gallery link at the end of the post.

DSC_7862_lzn DSC_7864_lzn DSC_7889 DSC_7900

It was definitely a chilly night and the observing session ended when the scope was slewing to the Pinwheel Galaxy (so I could try a few shots there) and the power cord unplugged signaling a great time to call it a night.

In addition to the 3 main objects I managed to capture, the M42 shots include the surprise of several objects passing through the field of view. I suspect one of them is Japanese satellite AJISAI (EGS) but the others I wasn't able to identify before this post.

Catch the full gallery here: http://www.collegeastronomy.com/gallery/comet-q2-lovejoy-m42-jupiter/

The Leo Cluster – Abell 1367

I managed to use the BRT to snap a black and white deep sky picture of this group of galaxies. The Leo Cluster, otherwise designated as Abell 1367 is a part of the Coma Supercluster of galaxies and spans even more sky area than what I've captured here.  The cluster is around 330 million light years away and one of the closest clusters to our own. The cluster contains over 70 galaxies, not all of which are visible in this image. The expanse of the view field even contains some quasars, one of which is known to be over 10 billion light years away and due to expansion, traveling away from us at nearly a quarter of a million kilometers per second. Pretty amazing huh?

In the image, you should be able to see two spiral galaxies easily, one in the upper left which is edge on to us and another toward the upper right. Most of the other galaxies in the field are eliptical galaxies which appear as large fuzzy circular objects in the image, they represent the majority of the galaxies in this image field.

Below is a 300 by 300 thumbnail, click on the image for the full size version.


R.I.P. John Dobson (Dobsonian Telescope Inventor)

I just heard the news that John Dobson, among many other things, the inventor of the Dobsonian telescope, passed away yesterday, January 15th 2014, at the age of 98.  I had the pleasure of two instances of significance with Mr. Dobson over the years.  The first, exposure to The Astronomer's book and video series from the early 90's which he had a clip in.  This clip was one of my very first exposures to astronomy (much thanks to Jim Lewis for sharing this back then) and certainly helped inspire my drive and desire to pursue astronomy and make it a part of my life in some manner (mainly toward a degree in the field).

JohnDobson_01The second, was an opportunity to actually meet him at an ASKC (Astronomical Society of Kansas City) event where he gave a presentation.  His presentation was good and I'm sure inspired and encouraged people in the room which he excelled at doing throughout his life.  It was a pleasure to know of and understand his contribution to the astronomical community and to have actually had the chance to meet him.

He leaves behind significant contributions to the community that are, pun and more intended,… astronomical in their impact.  The invention of the Dobsonian telescope is a monolithic contribution from the stand point that, for the first time, it placed small and especially large aperture telescopes into a price range that even casual hobbyists could afford.  Even today, a 16" dobsonian style telescope (this is huge) runs roughly $2,000 while other 16" aperture telescopes will typically run from $10,000 to $20,000 as a starting price.

The second and, in my opinion, even more important contribution was his personal one.  The amount of public outreach and interaction that John Dobson had over the years of his involvement, and founding, of the San Fransisco Sidewalk Astronomers is staggering to consider.  The shear number of people that he encouraged to look through his telescopes and share enjoyment of the universe around us is simply astounding.  As the AAL (Astronomy Associates of Lawrence) so aptly puts it "Astronomy IS the people's science" and John Dobson was a true master at bringing basic, awe inspiring, astronomy to the people.

John, after the run that you've had with life, and all the positive contributions you managed to make, I'd say you certainly deserve the break.  You'll definitely be missed for those contributions and your willingness to engage and share the spectacle with people, it's with great thanks and joy that I can say I had the opportunity to meet you.

RIP John Dobson (1915-2014)


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Comet C2013 R1 Lovejoy

Comet Lovejoy (Designation C2013\R1) was discovered in September 2013 by observer Terry Lovejoy in Australia. This comet is expected to reach peak brightness this week around +4 magnitude (in a good estimate for what's visible is about +6 magnitude), the lower the magnitude the brighter the object (kinda like golf, the lower the score, the better!).

Below is the image that I was able to take with use of the BTR (Cluster Camera) a Nikon 200mm lens.

C2013 R1 Comet Lovejoy

The comet will be visible in the morning skies and will be moving quickly towards the Sun and then out of the solar system. This comet has a 7000 year orbit so I don't think we'll be seeing it back around these parts anytime soon so look while you can!

The key to seeing this comet will be early morning observing. I recommend a visit to the following site (http://theskylive.com/ephemerides-computation?obj=lovejoy) if you want to try and catch it. This website provides tracking of the current position of the comet against the stars so you can get an accurate idea of where to look. Given how dim this comet is, you'll probably want to have a pair of binoculars or a small telescope for easy viewing.

Happy comet watching!

Meade 6 Inch Refractor Arrival

After some hand wringing and a lot of consideration I decided to snag a new scope (well, new to me).  Mainly this was driven by the upcoming Comet ISON visit as well as the ability to use the scope (with proper equipment) for lunar and solar viewing.  Not to mention, once it's cleaned up and tweaked, some light astrophotography.

Since this is only the second scope that I've ever actually owned, and this one being a rather large one by many standards, I thought it would be appropriate to capture the unboxing ceremony.

The fruits of my (with the help of KW) unboxing and setup labor can be seen here:

Meade 6 Inch Refractor Arrives!