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Mercury
Press, Travel journal

BepiColombo Completes First Mercury Flyby

The joint Japanese/European Space Agency’s Mercury mission encountered the innermost planet for the first time this past weekend.

Mercury

Mercury (annotated) as seen from BepiColombo during Friday’s flyby. ESA

Welcome to Mercury. An ambitious mission completed its first flyby of its final destination this past Friday, as the joint JAXA/ESA BepiColombo made its first flyby of the innermost world.Read more

Press, Travel journal

14 tips to optimize the performance of your observation station

You can now observe the sky at any time with the Stellina and Vespera observation stations. Their user-friendly advanced technology features enable use in big cities thanks to the light pollution filter or between two cloudy periods with very fast installation. Our users speak for themselves, commenting that they have never observed the sky as much as since they started using Stellina! Here are some tips to help you improve the quality of your observations and photos and make the most of your instrument’s capabilities. 

With optimal conditions (and some image processing) Stellina and Vespera can produce even more spectacular images. Carina Nebula captured with Stellina from the dark and clear sky of Namibia, Southern Africa.

 

1. Turbulence and transparency: choose the right time.

Two factors affect the quality of astronomical observations even in fair weather: sky transparency and atmospheric turbulence.

Tip 1: check for optimal sky transparency.

Even in the absence of clouds, the atmosphere can be loaded with particles (dust, sand, pollution, haze) that absorb part of the light coming from the stars. Here’s how to assess the transparency of the sky.

  • During the day, the horizon may seem hazy and long-distance visibility is limited, or you might notice a light halo around the sun. These are advance clues that sky transparency will be poor
  • When the sunset is deep red, this indicates that the atmosphere is loaded with particles.
  • This happens when a high-pressure system stays over a region for a long time, which often causes particles to stagnate in the atmosphere. Most of the time, this is associated with high pollution levels in cities.
  • After a period of rain or heavy showers, the sky is generally “washed out” and more transparent (once the cloud cover has gone of course).
  • The number of stars you can see with the naked eye from your usual observation site (after acclimatizing your eye to darkness) is also a good indicator of the sky’s transparency.

Tip 2: check for the lowest turbulence levels.

The atmosphere is comprised of air masses with different densities and temperatures that are in motion. This is atmospheric turbulence. It generates slight deviations of light rays, a kind of “shaking” of what we observe. It is responsible for the glittering of stars. Heavy turbulence alters the sharpness of the observed stars. Therefore, it is helpful to know how to evaluate the turbulence and choose the best nights of observation.

  • As a general rule, when the weather is scorching, the air masses are moving faster, and turbulence is more critical. Conversely, in freezing weather, the turbulence is often lower. When the sky is clear, observations in winter may be of better quality.
  • With the naked eye, if you notice that even the stars located very high in the sky are glittering a lot, it means that the turbulence is strong. Conversely, if the glittering of the stars is barely noticeable, then the atmospheric turbulence is low, and the conditions are right for better observations.

2. Light pollution, sun and moon: observe when the sky is dark

The darker the sky, the more contrasted and brighter your images of the stars will be.

Tip 3: keep away from artificial light sources where possible.

  • If you observe from an urban area, try to avoid streetlights or prefer dimly lit areas, such as parks.
  • For even better conditions, find a site far from urban areas and point away from the light halo created by distant towns.

Tip 4: observe after astronomical twilight.

Even after sunset, the sky is still bright because of the scattering of sunlight through the atmosphere. For perfect darkness and good visibility of the stars, the sun must go down at least 18° below the horizon. In summer in the northern hemisphere, above certain latitudes, the sun never goes low enough to obtain a sufficiently dark sky (near and beyond the Arctic Circle there is even no night). Winter is the season when you can enjoy longer dark nights.

Twilight phases

  • Civil twilight: the Sun has set below the horizon but at less than 6°. The sky is still quite bright, and only the very brightest stars are visible.
  • Nautical twilight: the Sun is between 6° and 12° below the horizon. Many stars become visible while the horizon also remains distinctly visible. This is when sailors could easily take measurements at sea with a sextant.
  • Astronomical twilight: the Sun is between 12° and 18° below the horizon. The sky becomes dark enough to make astronomical observations in good conditions.

 

Tips o, observation conditions

Even when the stars become visible, the sky is not yet dark enough to observe nebulae and galaxies in good conditions. Depending on the season, you have to wait between half an hour and 2 hours after sunset to have the darkest sky possible.

Tip 5: observe when the moon is not visible or in a thin crescent.

From the first quarter, the moon’s brightness is enough to produce a glow on the whole sky, hindering observations. The period around the new moon is ideal because the moon is not visible.

Around the first quarter, the moon is visible in the evening, and one can make observations of better quality during the second part of the night once the moon has set. On the other hand, around the last quarter, the first part of the night is more interesting, until the moon rises.
Around the full moon, it is especially bright and visible all night long making it the worst time for observation.

Fish Head Nebula

The Fish Head Nebula captured close to the full moon (top) and without the moon (bottom). Credit : Enrique Gonzales

 

Mobile apps that can be helpful.

There are a number of applications available to find the times of sunset and sunrise, astronomical twilight, moon phases and visibility, and to determine the best potential periods for observation. These include “Sun Surveyor” and “Photopills”, or specialized astronomy apps such as “Stellarium”.

Tips on observation times

Sun Surveyor helps you determine the best time to observe.

3. Temperature: acclimatize your observation station.

Tip 6: take out Stellina / Vespera one hour prior to your observation.

Telescopes are high precision instruments that require extremely fine adjustments to produce good-quality images. They are sensitive to temperature variations which cause contraction or shrinkage effects of mechanical and optical parts, affecting image sharpness. Stellina and Vespera warn you when the instrument’s temperature has changed by more than 3°C after initialization, proposing a refocus of the telescope to get optimal sharpness.
The telescope may have been stored in a warm place before you take it out in the evening, when the outside temperature has dropped significantly. There will therefore be a significant difference in temperature between your instrument and the outdoors (especially in winter). We recommend taking the instrument out one hour before starting your observation for it to cool down to the ambient temperature.

4. Stability, vibrations, local turbulence: the right place to set up your telescope.

Tip 7: it is best to avoid using concrete or tarred surfaces for setting up Stellina / Vespera. Grass or dirt is more suitable.

We have seen how atmospheric turbulence can cause problems for astronomical observations. Another type of turbulence is local turbulence which results from the day’s heat being released by certain surfaces during the night.
For example, cement and tar heat up when exposed to the sun. As night falls, the temperature drops and these surfaces become warmer than the surrounding air, producing localized turbulence. Grass or dirt surfaces do not retain as much heat and create little turbulence.

Tip 8: set up Stellina / Vespera on a stable floor.

After initialization, it is essential that the tripod does not move to ensure better tracking of the stars and sharper images (avoiding oval-shaped stars). Try not to place Stellina on loose soil, sand, or gravel.

> Learn more on the initialization of observation stations:

Tips on choosing the right place for your telescooe

An ideal place to set up Stellina

Tip 9: observe when there is no wind, or shelter the telescope from the wind.

Wind above 10km/h can produce unwanted movements of the telescope, reducing the quality of the captured images or significantly increasing the capture time given that many images will be rejected.

Tip 10: avoid any vibrations near to the telescope.

Even small vibrations that you produce while walking near the telescope can be transmitted through the ground and affect image quality. This is especially the case if you observe from a terrace, a balcony, a wooden floor…

5. Observation target: choose wisely.

Tip 11: observe objects more than 30° above the horizon and less than 80°.

Near the horizon, light from the stars travels through a thicker layer of the atmosphere, causing a decrease in brightness. It is better to wait until the stars rise more than 30° over the horizon. Depending on the duration of observation required to get a good image quality, you may consider that the apparent rotation of the sky can bring your target under the limit of 30° although it was well-positioned at the beginning of observation. To avoid this, you may want to target stars rising in the east as soon as they reach 30°.

Tracking celestial objects that are more than 80° above the horizon is more critical with an altazimuth mount such as the one that equips Stellina and Vespera. The capture may require more time.

Tip to choose a target to observe

Favor targets between 30° and 80° of height, taking into account the apparent rotation of the sky. Sometimes you won’t have a choice, some stars will never be more than 30° high. Stellarium™ sky simulation

6. Under the best skies: take Stellina and Vespera along with you.

Tip 12: go and search for better skies with your observation station.

One of the benefits of Stellina and Vespera over conventional telescopes is their ease of carrying and setting up. It is mainly the case with Vespera, which is so compact you can take it everywhere with you: while hiking in the mountains or as cabin luggage when flying. A real opportunity to conquer skies of exceptional quality and get even more out of your telescope.

So where to go?

  • A weekend in the countryside far from the light (and air) pollution of the cities. Thanks to the observation stations’ battery power, you can set up in the middle of a field. No one will come and disturb your observations.
  • A stay in the mountains at altitude: the sky is often more transparent and far from artificial light. Even with the naked eye, you will see more stars. Take Vespera in your backpack for an overnight bivouac.
  • Some countries or regions of the world have specific climatic conditions that favor exceptional sky quality. Plan your next trip with Stellina or Vespera to the most famous destinations with crystal clear skies: Arizona and Utah National Parks in the United States, the Canary Islands in the North Atlantic, Pic du Midi in France, the Atacama Desert in Chile, Namibia in Southern Africa, the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand, Mauna Kea Island in the Hawaiian archipelago…
Observation with Stellina from Namibia, one of the best skies on the planet.

Observation with Stellina from Namibia, one of the best skies on the planet.

 

Assessing the quality of the sky: the Bortle scale.

The Bortle scale, named after its creator, has 9 levels to assess the darkness and purity of the sky and, therefore, the quality of astronomical observations. The scale goes from 1 for an excellent sky to 9 for a very bright sky in the center of large cities (one can see very few stars with the naked eye).
Online maps are available to indicate light pollution and sky quality levels that can help you to choose your next destination. Keep in mind that temporary circumstances can change the sky quality locally… and that the weather must also be with you.
https://www.lightpollutionmap.info

7. Extend the experience: capture longer and manage the telescope power.

Tip 13: run longer captures to get images of better quality.

Stellina and Vespera show you objects of the universe vividly and colorfully thanks to their automatic image stacking process. The Stellinapp application recommends a minimum observation time, depending on the object, needed to collect enough images and get a good result. However, you can get even better results if you double the recommended capture time, especially on fainter nebulas and galaxies.

Tip 14: use approved batteries and carry a spare.

Longer captures require enough power supply. Stellina works with removable batteries. You can therefore have several with you to last all night long. Make sure your batteries meet the required specifications: 5.1 volts and 2.4 A minimum. A 10,000 mAh battery will last up to 5 hours. Yet keep in mind that if you operate in cold weather, the battery will be depleted more quickly.

Recap

Tip 1: check for optimal sky transparency.
Tip 2: check for the lowest turbulence levels.
Tip 3: keep away from artificial light sources where possible.
Tip 4: observe after astronomical twilight.
Tip 5: observe when the moon is not visible or in a thin crescent.
Tip 6: take out Stellina / Vespera one hour prior to your observation.
Tip 7: it is best to avoid using concrete or tarred surfaces for setting up Stellina / Vespera. Grass or dirt is more suitable.
Tip 8: set up Stellina / Vespera on a stable floor.
Tip 9: observe when there is no wind, or shelter the telescope from the wind.
Tip 10: avoid any vibrations near to the telescope.
Tip 11: observe objects more than 30° above the horizon and less than 80°.
Tip 12: go and search for better skies with your observation station.
Tip 13: run longer captures to get images of better quality.
Tip 14: use approved batteries and carry a spare.

 

Tips & News, Travel journal

Top Astronomy Events for October 2021

October sees a parade of planets, meteor showers and more.

Dusk at the Nebraska 75th Annual Star Party in 2018. Credit: Dave Dickinson

October is one of my favorite months for astronomy. Not only are temperatures cooler in the northern hemisphere, but nights are getting longer: no waiting until past 10 PM for dark skies.Read more

Tips & News, Travel journal

Spire Satellites Ready for Solar Cycle 25

Spire

A unique constellation of nanosatellites provides real-time space weather data.

In space, sometimes looking down is the best way to look up. This is especially true of the interactive space weather environment, as our planet interacts with our often tempestuous host star. Our global modern technological society is increasingly vulnerable to space weather activity, and this is even more so as we head into active solar cycle #25.

Enter Spire

One effort to model and understand what’s happening worldwide is thanks to Spire Global Inc. And their constellation of Lemur satellites. Located in Sun-synchronous low Earth orbit, the first batch of Lemur satellite was launched on a Russian Dnepr rocket in 2014. Now boasting 110 satellites in LEO, Spire’s constellation is second in number only to SpaceX’s Starlink constellation.

How SPIRE works: Spire’s dataset is touted as ‘space-to-cloud’ offering a rich resource of weather patterns for maritime, aviation and other assets. Crucially when it comes to space weather, Spire can even model the upper ionosphere by means of over the horizon radio occultations. Often, turbulence (known as scintillation) can offset or knock out GPS capability entirely, especially during times of high solar activity.

And what’s more Spire Analytics is open to users. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently awarded a contract to Spiral Global to provide daily radio occultation data in an effort to improve the accuracy of global weather forecasts worldwide. This is the largest purchase of commercial weather data by the NOAA to date.

This cloud computing weather capability will be key, as the current solar cycle number 25 gets underway in earnest. Our Sun goes through an 11-year cycle of sunspot activity (flipping its magnetic polarity in what’s known as the 22-year Hale Cycle). We had a breather with the last lackluster cycle 24. If early 2021 and recent sunspot activity is any indication, however, Solar Cycle 25 may be a powerful one as it heads towards its peak in 2025. Already this week, multiple large sunspot groups can be seen currently turned Earthward, the most in years.

Space Weather and the next ‘bad day’: A battery of space weather satellites and observatories worldwide monitor the Sun around the clock, but knowing what’s going on in the upper ionosphere is also crucial. An Earthward coronal mass ejection in the X-flare category can blind satellites, and force the crew on the International Space Station to shelter in the dense core of the ISS. On Earth, a massive solar storm can push aurora away from the poles, and wreak havoc with communications and transmission lines. The Great Solar Storm of 1859 set telegraph offices afire, and sparked aurorae seen as far south as the Caribbean. It goes without saying that today, a similar storm would be a very bad day for our technology dependent society.

Monitoring the space weather environment is crucial, and Spire’s innovative constellation of nano-satellites fills in a crucial gap in our holistic understanding of the local space weather environment.

Tips & News, Travel journal

How to Spot the Inspiration4 Mission in Orbit This Week

SpaceX’s historic all-civilian Inspiration4 mission is visible if you know when to look for it.

An artist’s impression of Inspiration4 in space. Credit: SpaceX.

Spaceflight will never be the same.

Tonight, Inspiration4 will launch from historic Launch Complex-39A on Wednesday, September 16th at 00:02 Universal Time (UT)/8:02 PM Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT). LC-39A also hosted Apollo and Space Shuttle era launches.

The crew consists of Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Christopher Sembroski and Sian Proctor. Money raised for the mission and proceeds are going towards St. Jude’s Hospital.

Crew Dragon Resilience will launch tonight atop a twice flown Falcon 9/Block 5 rocket. After launch and deployment, the Falcon Stage 1 booster will head for recovery on the Just Read the Instructions landing platform at sea.

The crew will spend a three day mission in space, set for splashdown landing in the Atlantic on Sunday Sept 19th and recovery by the SpaceX vessel GO Navigator.

Inspiration4 is headed toward Low Earth orbit (LEO), in an orbit similar to ISS inclined 51.6 degrees relative to the equator 590 km (370 mi) up, in a 90 minute orbit.

Spotting Inspiration4

The good news is, with a steep inclined orbit, Crew Dragon Resilience and Insiration4 will—like the International Space Station—be visible over most of humanity while it’s in orbit. And while the 8.1 meter-long capsule won’t be as bright as the brilliant station, it will be at decent +1 magnitude ‘star’ on a good zenith pass.

If the mission launches on time tonight, there’s also a good chance that the launch might even be visible as it travels up the U.S. East Coast minutes after liftoff. We’ve seen night launches from Florida from here in downtown Norfolk before, and they can put on an amazing display at dawn or dusk.

Heavens-Above should start tracking the launch once its in orbit, and it will probably turn up as NORAD COSPAR ID 2021-083A. Plugging in Two-Line-Element sets supplied courtesy of satellite tracker Marco Langbroek into Orbitron, we see good early passes for Inspiration4 favoring 20-50 degrees north latitudes at dawn, and 10N to 30S latitudes at dusk. We’ll be updating sighting opportunities worldwide on Twitter as @Astroguyz.

Watching for Dragon an Inspiration4 is as easy as standing out and scanning the sky at dawn or dusk, with no optical assistance needed: you just need to know what time and direction to look. Satellites in LEO shine via reflected sunlight, and look like steady moving ‘stars’ in the twilight.

Space is getting crowded, as the roll call of humans in orbit is the largest its been in recent years. This week, we have:

-7 crew members on the International Space Station

-3 crew on China’s new Tiangong station (though there’s word that the crew may return to Earth this coming Friday).

-4 crew on Inspiration4 for a grand total of 14 humanoids in space.

This briefly breaks the record of 13 people in space at once set in March 14, 1995, with 7 astronauts aboard STS-67 space shuttle Endeavor, 3 cosmonauts aboard Mir, and 2 cosmonauts and one astronaut aboard Soyuz TM21.

…and there’s more to come, as Axiom Space plans to partner with SpaceX on future tourist missions to the ISS, the first of which may launch as early as January 2022.

Is civilian space the wave of the future? Will the argument of ‘billionaires are ruining space’ rear its ugly head again, like it did during the recent crewed Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic flights? Are private astronauts referred to as ‘privonauts?’

Whatever your opinion is, you can at least catch Inspiration4 on a visible pass near you this week, and marvel at the potential for what may be to come.

Press, Travel journal

Impact Alert on Jupiter

Something struck the largest planet in the solar system last week.

Impact flash on Jupiter. Credit: the Société Lorraine d’Astronomie (Screen Capture).

It’s always worth keeping an eye out for the unexpected, even during routine observations. Just such a surreptitious occurrence happened just last week, when observers from South America to Europe caught sight of a bright flash on Jupiter.

The Impact: The event occurred around 22:39:37 Universal Time (UT) 6:39:37 AM Eastern Daylight Saving time (EDT) on September 13th in the equatorial zone of Jupiter. The event also happened to transpire during an ongoing shadow transit of the innermost Galilean moon Io, while it was casting its shadow back on to the cloud tops of Jove. Most likely, the flash was due to a comet or asteroid a few hundreds of meters across, burning up in the atmosphere of Jupiter. No impact scar was noted on the evenings after the event. The discovery sent observers around the world scrambling to review video and photos taken around the same time, yielding multiple confirming views of the same impact flash. News of the impact made its way around the astronomical community via online message boards and social media, most notably Twitter, the first place we heard about the sighting.

This impact occurred at an ideal time, as Jupiter just passed opposition early last month. As the name implies, this is the point when Jupiter is ‘opposite’ to the Sun as seen from the Earth, rising in the east as the Sun sets in the west. Orbiting the Sun once every 11 years, Jupiter reaches opposition once roughly every 13 months, moving about one constellation eastward along the zodiac annually as it does so. Jupiter is also a fast rotator, spinning on its axis once every 10 hours. This also means that you can see the entirety of the planet around opposition, in one night.

History of impacts: Of course, the memory of that most famous of all planetary impacts is still a fresh–that of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hitting Jupiter back in 1994. At the time, it was thought that such impacts were relatively rare.. but no less than seven impacts have been witnessed on Jupiter in the quarter century since Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 made its cosmic crash into Jove. This is a testament to the rise of modern planetary imaging and video technology, allowing for nearly constant coverage of the planet worldwide… how many impacts managed to sneak by the eyes of observers before the 21st century?

Current thinking among planetary astronomers is that Jupiter acts as a sort of goal tender for the inner solar system, deflecting and taking hits from many of the incoming intruders from the distant outer solar system. In fact, any incoming comet stands about a 40% chance of having its orbit altered by Jove during a perihelion passage… this famously happened to Comet Hale-Bopp in the late 1990s, which had its orbit shortened by several thousands of years.

Be sure to keep a sharp eye out, even during routine astronomical observations… you never know what might just turn up.

Tips & News, Travel journal

Enter the Equinox: Top Astronomy Highlights for September 2021

September is equinox month. Nights are getting longer in the northern hemisphere, meaning more time under dark skies before the chill of northern hemisphere winter sets in.

The September Sky: The glories of the summer Milky Way still linger post dusk. Up north, the famous summer triangle asterism rides high, with the stars Deneb, Altair, and Vega at its three corners.

The biannual equinox is short for ‘equal nights,’ a moment twice a year (once in March and again in September) when the rotational pole of the Earth is at a 90 degree perpendicular angle to the Sun, and day and night are equal worldwide. The equinox season is also special for a few other reasons: One is because it also marks GEOSat eclipse season. This is the period of a few weeks on either side of the equinox where distant satellites in geostationary/geosynchronous orbit seem to flare briefly into visibility, before vanishing into Earth’s shadow. Another phenomenon to watch for near the equinox is a peak in aurora activity. This biannual surge used to be a complete mystery until it was explained by what’s known as the Russell-McPherron Effect, which posits that solar wind streams through fissures opened in the Earth’s magnetic field. This occurs because the opposing magnetic field of the Earth is at its weakest angle right around the equinox. In 2021, we’re just now coming off a profound solar minimum, as Solar Cycle #25 gets underway in earnest. The jury is still out on whether or not the next solar cycle will ‘dazzle’ or ‘fizzle,’ though we’ve already seen some heightened solar activity worldwide in late August.

The Moon in September 2021: First Quarter Moon occurs on September 13th, and Last Quarter Moon occurs on September 28th, meaning the dark of the Moon (the best times for deep sky observations in the evening) runs from the 1st to the 13th centered on New Moon around September 7th, and resumes at the end of the month on September 29th and 30th. Of course, the Moon is a fascinating object to study in its own right, especially near Quarter phase when mountains and craters stand out in sharp contrast along the daylight/terminator.

The Planetary Rundown for September 2021: This month offers a true treat for evening skywatchers, as every naked eye planet is visible immediately after sunset. Mars is toughest, at just 12 degrees from the Sun at the start of the month, well below Mercury and Venus to the west. The gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn rule the night rising in the east, fresh off of opposition last month. As an extra challenge, try spotting +8th magnitude Neptune with binoculars or a telescope in Aquarius this month. Fun fact: Neptune was discovered in the same constellation in 1846 after predictions made by astronomer Urbain Le Verrier), and has only completed one orbit in the last decade since discovery.

Highlighted object (northern hemisphere) Messier 57 The Ring Nebula – it was one of the first deep sky objects I ever went after. Situated in the constellation of Lyra the Lyre, M57 is a fine planetary nebula located about midway between the bright stars Beta and Gamma Lyrae, making it an easy find. I can just spy the ‘ghostly doughnut’ of M57 with binoculars from a dark sky site, and it really jumps out in a telescopic view. M57 is located approximately 2,300 light-years distant.

What you’re seeing is a star at the end of it’s life, ejecting gas and dust in its final death throes back into space. A challenging +15th magnitude white dwarf sits in the center of M57. Our Sun may do the same about 5 billion years from now, though a 2013 study cast doubt on whether we will also one day host a planetary nebula for future denizens of the Milky Way to enjoy at star parties. Fun fact: the term ‘planetary nebula’ actually has very little to do with planets: rather, early astronomers such as Charles Messier thought they appeared ‘planetary-looking’ while he was compiling his famous deep-sky catalog… and the name stuck.

Highlighted object (southern hemisphere): The Wild Duck Cluster Messier 11 – Many observers tend to overlook open clusters, which is a shame. Often, these loose stellar groupings still have enough ‘punch’ to go after, even from light-polluted urban sites. One of my favorites is M11. I often think of it as in the constellation of Aquila as it lies just off of the Eagle’s tail, but it’s actually just across the border in the tiny constellation of Scutum the Shield.

M11 is at southern declination of just over -6 degrees, making it a fine object for either hemisphere. At 6,200 light-years distant, M11 lies in the Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way, towards the galactic center. At the eyepiece, M11 has a ‘powdered sugar’ look.

Challenge object (Northern Hemisphere): While you’re in the constellation Lyra checking out M57, try and see if you can resolve the famous ‘Double-Double’ star Epsilon Lyrae. The quadruple system is about 1.5 degrees from the brilliant Vega. Splitting the 210” pair is easy, even in binoculars; the challenge is to split the ‘pair into pair(s),’ both of which are only about 2.5” apart. This amazing system lies 162 light-years distant.

Challenge object (Southern Hemisphere): It’s a true irony of the night sky. Red dwarf stars, the most common type of stars in the universe are too faint to see with the naked eye. One of the brightest is the +6.6 magnitude star AX Microscopium in the obscure constellation of the Microscope. This star is 12.9 light-years distant, and offers a fine example of a nearby solitary red dwarf to check off of your life observing list. The coordinates for AX Microscopium are: RA: 21 Hours 18’ 35”, Declination -38 Degrees 46’ 49”.

Top Astronomy Events for September 2021

7th-New Moon

14th-Mercury greatest elongation (27 degrees east of the Sun at dusk)

14th-Neptune at opposition

15th-GEOSat eclipse season

17th-Comet 6P/d’Arrest at perihelion (+9th magnitude, 93 degrees east of the Sun in Sagittarius at dusk)

20th-Full Harvest Moon

20th-762 Pulcova occults +7 magnitude star for Mexico and US, in the brightest asteroid stellar occultation for 2021.

22nd-Southward Equinox

23rd-Aurora season

 

Nébuleuse de la méduse
Travel journal

Monday, February 8

1h12 AM

Today we embarked on a journey twenty thousand leagues under the sea aboard the Stellina station. We never imagined meeting a huge celestial jellyfish on our way. Bewitched by the movements of her radiant and transparent body, we spent 5 hours watching her swimming majestically in this sea of ??stars called Gemini. What marine animal are we going to meet again?

Nébuleuse de la méduse Object: IC 443 Jellyfish Nebula
Date: 08/02/2021
Total exposure time: 5 hours
Location: United-States
Auhor: Brian P.

m8 process
Travel journal

Friday, July 31

12:56 AM

This month, we’re heading to the constellation of Sagittarius from our base in Namibia. Fleeing the overwhelming heat of the world’s oldest desert, the Namib, we’re diving into the heart of the pink Lagoon. The nebula stretches deep over 100 light years. On our way, we cross star reefs and Bok globules. We narrowly avoid being engulfed by a tornado caused by the emission of ultraviolet rays from a massive star, tunneling into an even darker region. Halfway in, we find ourselves in the area called the Hourglass Zone and witness, with awe, the birth of young stars that will in turn illuminate this immense expanse of cosmic gas..

m8 process

Object: M8 Lagoon Nebula
Date: 01/07/2020
Stacked images: 360x10s
Total exposure time: 1 hour
Location: Namibia
Author: Sebastien A.