Arun Waves

September 25, 2012

Star charts

Filed under: Astronomy — Arun @ 11:36 pm

You can either give your own names to the stars and spin a story about a group of apparently nearby ones or use the star charts to find out the names that the ancestors gave them!! With the laptops/tablets/smart phones becoming ubiquitous, here are two electronic star charts that I use;

  1. – needs internet connection for the free version and sometimes the button under “Interactive night sky map” (top left) does not show up since it needs JAVA to be enabled, otherwise it is my favorite tool. Allows you to choose location and time/date. You can click your way into the past of future, on a minute by minute basis or even on a year by year basis. You can turn things on or off, like constellation names, outlines, grid etc. You can search using star/galaxy/cluster names, simply amazing πŸ™‚
  2. – When being online (on a laptop or tablet) is not feasible then I use Stellarium that can be downloaded for free. Its graphics and interface is different from the AstroViewer but does its job. Caution: someone not comfortable with computers/websites/apps may find it a little challenging in the beginning.

And when all the fancy electronics fails because of low battery, a red light and a paper chart or book will save the day!! I use ‘Skywatching’ by David H. Levy – simple but provides lot of relevant information in an intuitive manner. It has general info chapters, sky charts, and individual constellation descriptions with hints on what can be seen with naked eye, binoculars, and telescopes.


June 8, 2012

Venus transit – June 5th 2012

This has been a good year for amateur solar astronomy folks – a solar eclipse and Venus transit in the same year πŸ™‚ And for someone in Phoenix, we are weather proofed he he he – no clouds to worry about.

After the solar eclipse experience I felt I could do better, not just pics but something that gives a feeling of being there, so I decided to do a time-lapse video for Venus transit. The trusted Windows Movie Maker, in its new form – Windows Live Movie Maker did a good job; it took some time but here is the result……

PS: The yellow Sun pics were taken by Canon DSLR through solar glass filter. The almost black and white pics (magnified pics) were taken by a SONY point ‘n shoot with afocal coupling through my 4.5″ reflector with Baader solar filter sheet. See solar experience post for pics.

May 20, 2012

Solar Eclipse May 20th 2012

Filed under: Astronomy — Arun @ 10:25 am
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This is one of the few moments when you are glad you live in a desert!! While the people who were in the path of the annular eclipse were fretting over the cloud cover, we the desert people enjoyed a wonderful eclipse even though we saw only 88% eclipse.

I got a Baader solar filter sheet, built my own filter holder for my 4.5″ reflector and organized my 3rd star party. Enjoy the pics…………

August 2, 2011

Nice infographic about Solar System and distances involved

Filed under: Astronomy — Arun @ 9:19 pm
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I found this great infographic which gives a mind boggling insight into the distances involved just with in our Solar System. Similar infographics are available in abundance but this one has a new twist in that it shows the distance traveled by light in time scales that we use in our daily lives. The original link of the articles is here. This infographic is a long one so I am posting couple of screenshots to entice you πŸ™‚ You can find the infographic below the screenshots.

PS: The below picture of the Milky Way is an artist’s rendering and not an actual image. To do this we will have to send a probe outside the Milky Way (as of 2011, we have barely managed to send 2 probes out of the Solar System). However this picture is not just wild imagination. We have photographed other galaxies and we have studied (& photographed) our own Milky Way from inside and this picture is a combination of all that knowledge.

Ah … the (below) picture that shows the size of planets and Sun to scale. No matter how often I see this, it always amazes me. All the Sun has to do is send out a little burp and we will simply cease to exist!!

And here is the infographic, you may begin your journey …………… Live Long and Prosper
Our solar system to scale from the sun to the most recently discovered dwarf planet Eris in astronomical units.
Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

July 15, 2011

Encyclopedia of Astronomy by SAO – COSMOS

Filed under: Astronomy — Arun @ 6:21 pm
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COSMOS – The SAO Encyclopedia of Astronomy” is a great collection of definitions and explanations of astronomy related terms. Wait, it gets better, it is written by research astronomers!! so you get information “directly from the horse’s mouth” which is always the most authentic source.

June 1, 2011

Dark Sky viewpoint around Phoenix

Filed under: Astronomy — Arun @ 5:46 pm
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You may scream ARE YOU CRAZY? or more appropriately ARE YOU BLIND? Dark sky in Phoenix, one of the most light polluted cities in continental US!!!!!!!!

Yup I am talking of THE Phoenix in Arizona πŸ™‚ granted it is not the best dark sky location but hey give it some credit for being just 40miles from the city center and you can still see the Andromeda galaxy (M31)

Where to find it ………. head out in a North-Eastern direction on highway 87 (Beeline Hwy), keep going and cross Fort McDowell Road and then Bush Highway, watch for a big green sign saying “Four Peaks *something*” on your right leading to a dirt road; just drive in couple minutes and ta-da you are there.

Dark spot 2








Here is the board you would see after which you will make a right turn into the dirt road; there will be a cattle guard also.

Dark spot





Don’t believe me!? check out these pics that I took there, see the little light smudge at 2 o’clock position (click the image to go to Flickr and see the notes) …………..
Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy (M31)

Hey I even took a shot of Perseid meteor shower (click the image to go to Flickr and see the notes) …………..
Perseids meteor shower

NOTE: This spot is lonely (depending on the day of the year) and very dark AND you will hear animals that howl, so use common sense and be alert.

May 21, 2011

Awesome pics from a blog

Filed under: Astronomy — Arun @ 11:32 am

This is what I love about internet and blogs, sitting in my house in Phoenix, Arizona, I can experience a person’s interest who lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

This philosophy professor processes planetary images from various sources and produces amazing pictures of planets and their moons, check it out for yourself, very high quality images, almost surreal views …………….

Since Blogpost does not let you link to a specific post I am linking the entire page and this is the topic I want you to look at first, then feel free to explore his blog. Search for “New Color Views of Europa” in the above link and be dazzled πŸ™‚

May 14, 2011

What can you see with a 4.5β€³ telescope? – Ptolemy Cluster (M7)

Filed under: Astronomy — Arun @ 3:45 pm
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Surprise surprise, I woke up at 3am to feed the baby and once I was done I decided to step outside with my 10*50 binocular and voila ……….. there was M7 in all its glory πŸ™‚ I ran back in and got my telescope.

The exciting part was that it was not visible with naked eyes, the light pollution was surprisingly high even at such early hours – suburban skies, what more can I say :mad:. I saw something that looked like the Orion’s belt and in my zeal to view my favorite constellation (actually asterism) using my first telescope, I quickly concluded that it was the Orion’s belt. But a voice deep inside me kept on pointing to contrary evidence like the absence of Betelgeuse or why was Orion’s sword’s center star so bright?! While scanning the alleged Orion’s sword I went off track and chanced upon this high concentration of stars. Immediately I knew that it was a star cluster. Happy with my observation and eager to catch some sleep before the baby wakes up I went to bed. As soon as I got up I looked up the star chart and almost instantly realized my folly, Orion’s belt is not visible during early summer (May) πŸ™„ So what was it? luckily I remembered the approximate orientation, time and star layout, and it turned out to be …….. M7 – a beautiful open cluster, also known as Ptolemy Cluster. This is the essence of astronomy as a hobby, a chance discovery, seeing things that are not visible with naked eyes.

25mm EP (eyepiece) (36X with a Meade 4400) gave the best view where you could distinguish the cluster’s stars from the overall background stars. The 12.5 mm EP was way too zoomed in to appreciate the cluster and as usual the 4mm was absolutely useless.

As far as pics, I need to see what I can do, esp. since I do not have a tracking mount and anything other than the moon and planets are difficult to image without tracking.

May 10, 2011

What can you see with a 4.5″ telescope? – Saturn’s rings

Filed under: Astronomy — Arun @ 9:49 pm
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Today I saw Saturn’s rings. Saturn is very easy to spot with naked eye and at a convenient elevation at 9 pm.

25mm (36X with a Meade 4400) and 12.5mm (73X with a Meade 4400) eyepieces worked just fine but the 4mmΒ (228X with a Meade 4400) eyepiece was very susceptible to vibration, quickly moved out of view, and was blurry due to atmospheric disturbance.

The 25mm eyepiece resolved the planet as a small circle but the rings and its shadow did look like horns on the plant πŸ™‚ The 12.5mm clearly showed the ring around the planet. I also saw a spec of light very close Saturn, I think it is one of the moons but got to confirm it. Neither of them could resolve any surface features on Saturn.

Again my 3X Barlow lens was not of much use since any higher magnification caused blurry images and the subject moved out of view (I do not have tracking mount).

Later I will try to snap a pic πŸ™‚ You know what they say “pics or it did not happen”

PS: Viewing from backyard in the light polluted city of Phoenix, AZ, USA

Pics are not at all good since I was pointing my DSLR on the eyepiece and contorting my body in all possible ways to align with the optical axis, a.k.a. “afocal coupling“. This is pretty much the size that you will get to see with a 12.5mm (73X with a Meade 4400) but it will be much more clear and sharp.

CLICK the pic for better view

CLICK the pic for better view

April 16, 2011

What can you see with a 4.5″ telescope? – Moon

Filed under: Astronomy — Arun @ 12:43 pm
Tags: , ,

Today I saw the moon and it was awesome. In a way this is the first light for my telescope even though it is second hand. I could clearly see the mountains, impact craters, lava filled craters, craters with a small peak right in the middle, the dark colored flat regions on the moon, craters within a crater, so on and so forth ……………… πŸ™‚

When I used the 25mm (36X with a Meade 4400) eyepiece, the moon filled the field of view while the 12.5mm (73X with a Meade 4400) eyepiece allowed me to view about half of the moon and more details. The 4mmΒ (228X with a Meade 4400) eyepiece showed only a small fraction of the surface but it enabled me to see numerous surface features. However since I was at a high magnification, the moon moved while I was viewing it and in few seconds I had to realign my telescope. After a while this became irritating and I switched back to 12.5mm eyepiece.

My 3X Barlow lens was not of much use since any magnification at or above 200X causes the moon to quickly move out of view (I do not have tracking mount).

Pics are coming sooonnnnnnnn ………… (if I can manage to aim my DSLR into the eyepiece without smashing my camera’s lens!!)

PS: Viewing from backyard in the light polluted city of Phoenix, AZ, USA

Pics are not at all good since I was pointing my DSLR on the eyepiece and contorting my body in all possible ways to align with the optical axis, a.k.a. “afocal coupling“. This is pretty much the size that you will get to see with a 12.5mm (73X with a Meade 4400) but it will be much more clear and sharp.

CLICK the pic for better view

CLICK the pic for better view

CLICK the pic for better view

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