Learned A Few Moon Craters

Last Saturday (June 18) it was a clear night, so I decided to gather my things together and head down the street to the park where I have been doing all of my observing lately. I have a great view from the park of every direction, although to the west is quite washed out from light pollution coming from the city of Plattsburgh. The North, South, and East are all quite dark and I can see many objects in all three directions. These three directions are better than the one direction I have from my back yard – directly overhead.

I didn’t get out to start viewing that Saturday until around 11:30pm or so and by then the Moon had risen in the south east and was quite low to the horizon. Not only was it low but it was roughly 90% full, only three days after the full moon and the long 100 minute Lunar Eclipse witnessed by South America, Africa, and Europe on June 15. So because of the moon being so bright and washing out the southern sky where I had planned on doing my viewing of Sagittarius and Scorpius I decided to dedicate my viewing time to our own natural satellite – The Moon. I have taken many pictures since December of The Moon but never any close up highly magnified pictures, so of course I took a couple that night. It’s about time I start to learn the moon a bit. You know what it means when I go out and learn something right? That’s right, you get to learn it to by reading about it here. I wanted to make this post that Sunday, but I was having a hard time identifying what I was looking at, then all of a sudden it hit me, I need to take my images and flip them upside down and reverse them in order for them to match up with the picture of the moon I was using.

Then I needed to figure out how to use the free program I downloaded called Virtual Moon Atlas. I came across the function to change the time and date on the program, which is usually set to the current time and date showing the current moon phase the exact same way you would see it if you stepped out and looked up at the moon. So I set it for June 18 at 11:30pm and there it was matching right up with the full picture of the moon I had taken, then with that I started hunting for my close up images of the crater on the moon picture I took, then finding it on the moon atlas.

The moon on June 18, 2011. Two areas of the moon pictures below are marked in picture above.

First set of craters: Brenner, Metius, Fabricius, Lockyer, Janssen, Steinheil, Watt (anyone else see the face formed by Brenner, Metius as eyes, Fabricius as the nose, and Janssen as the mouth?)

Each of these craters has multiple parts, A’s, B’s, C’s, 1’s, 2’s and so on so I labeled just the main crater and the rest are in the surrounding areas. These craters are in the South-East quadrant of the moon in the Vallis Rheita region.

Brenner – Is a crater that is 59×59 miles wide and 10,000 feet high. Steep slopes to the West and supporting Metius to the South-East. Brenner is named after the 19th century Austrian astronomer, Spiridon Gopčević or Leo Brenner. Brenner was an amateur observer of the Moon and Planets.
Metius – Is a crater that is 53×53 miles wide and 9,100 feet high. Very steep slopes riddled with craters and supporting Fabricius to the South-West. Flat floor with a small central mountain. The crater is named after Adriaan Adriaanszoon (also called Metius from the dutch word meten which means measurer or surveyor) who was a 17th century dutch mathematician and astronomer born in the Netherlands. Metius was a Dutch geometer and astronomer.
Fabricius – Is a crater 47×47 miles wide and 7,600 feet high. It features high walls with terraces and flat floor and two rectilinear and parallel mountain chains. Named after the 16th century German astronomer, David Goldschmidt (Fabricius). Fabricius is the Latinized version of Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt was the discoverer of the variability of the star Mira Ceti, and was the first observer of spots of the sun in 1610.
Lockyer – Is a crater 21×21 miles wide and 11,200 feet high. Steep slopes with high walls and a flat floor. Named after 19th century English science and astronomer Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer. Lockyer is credited for discovering the gas helium, and the founder of the first editor of the journal, Nature
Janssen – Has multiple parts to it many of which are craterlets. Janssen 1 is a dome with extrusive volcanism quite large. Named after 19th century French astronomer and physicist, Pierre Jules César Janssen. Janssen along with Lockyer is credited for discovering the gas helium.
Steinheil – Is a crater 41×41 miles wide and 9,100 feet high. Steep slopes, very high walls with terraces, flat floor filled with lava, wrinkles ridges and crevices. Named after 19th century German Physicist, Carl August von Steinheil. Steinheil was a physicist, inventor, engineer and astronomer;
Watt – Is a crater that is 40×40 miles wide and 9,100 feet high. High walls with terraces, tormented floor with a craterlet to the South-West. Named after 18th century Scottish engineer, James Watt. Watt worked on the vaporization of water and improved the steam engine.

Second set of craters: Macrobius, Tisserand

Macrobius – Is a crater 39×39 miles wide and 11,200 feet high. Steep slopes with very high walls with terraces. Flat floor and central mountain and hills. Named after 5th century Roman writer, Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius. Macrobius worked on Latin grammar and the author of a collection of poems called the “Saturnales”.
Tisserand – Is a crater 22×22 miles wide (unsure of it’s height). High walls with terraces overlapped by a craterlet to the North-East, also has a flat floor. Named after French astronomer, François Tisserand.

And that’s only 9 of the craters on the moon! Reading about all the craters and the people they’re named after was quite interesting. Definitely going to continue learning craters when I can. So much to look at in the night sky, so little time.

June 3, 2011 Viewing Session – M57, M13 and M4

 The skies were so clear on Friday June 3rd and since it was a weekend I was able to stay out pretty late and view the skies above. I went out around 11pm and didn’t start packing up my telescope to come home until around 2am. Since it’s summer time the trees in the back yard obstruct my view allowing me only to see directly over head. Now I have to pack my gear into my car and drive about 30 seconds down the road to the park, which isn’t such a bad thing. I have a great view to the North, South, East and West; although the view to the west is quite light polluted due to Plattsburgh being in that direction. I slowly watched the constellation Virgo disappear in the light pollution although Saturn was still quite bright next to the star Porrima.

I have just recently downloaded a firmware hack for my Canon point and shoot camera called CHDK. This hack doesn’t overwrite your current firmware, so you have to load it each time you want to use it. This is a nice feature because I don’t always want to have these options when taking pictures. With this hack there are all types of things you can do with your camera from time lapse photography, to exposure times of 1/60,000 (and faster with some of the available cameras) of a second to 30 minutes. Both exposure times are a bit extreme but within the range is a nice happy medium for taking afocal astrophotography images, which is exactly why I installed it on my camera. If you have a canon point and shoot and are interested check out CHDK’s wiki and make sure your camera is compatible. Mine isn’t fully compatible, but I found a link for the CHDK ported thread for my Canon Powershot SX210 IS.

The night started with me viewing M57 (The Ring Nebula) a planetary nebulae in Lyra. After viewing it magnified with my 12.5mm eyepiece I decided to try and image it. I didn’t have much luck, not sure if it was polar alignment issues or if it was issues with my motor drive not set at the right speed, but I tried like heck. So after a little bit I just gave up on the imaging of M57 and just enjoyed it’s pretty smoke ring look. A few days before though I also attempted and had the same issues. I did happen to get some cool light trails from an airplane that passed in my field of view while taking a 90 second exposure. I was hoping that M57 would come out nice and crisp with the light trails from the plane, but even that night I was having issues. I seem to have the most issues when using anything other than my 32mm eyepiece for imaging.

Also the same night I was trying to image M57 I went for M13, The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules again so that I could try to get another image of it less noisy due to high ISO. Since I have this hack allowing longer exposure times I can drop down the ISO from 1600 to around 400, and get a nice crisp image with less noise. Looks like I got some space junk floating through my field of view on this one. Thought it was maybe a satellite but it wasn’t visible to the naked eye, and I didn’t see any signs of a satellite using Stellarium. That night was the night of light trails in my images.

Anyway, on the 3rd I decided to aim to the south towards the constellation Scorpius which contains quite a few double stars and quite a few star clusters. The one I was after was M4 which is near the star Antares. I took somewhere around 10-12 pictures of M4 hoping to stack them all together when I got home to make for the largest image stack I’ve done so far. Needless to say I had quite a bit of issues with star trails again due to bad polar alignment or the motor drive not being at the correct speed. I did however get two great shots of it with no star trails, or I should say very little star trails. So I stacked the two images and had Rachael Alexandra edit them for me. The two shots were an exposure of 64seconds, F3.1, ISO 400. When stacked and edited I got this beautiful image of M4.

2 images @ 64sec. F3.1 ISO400. Edited by Rachael Alexandra.

While I was taking the images of M4 I did some naked eye observing and enjoyed the view of The Great Rift in the milky way. It’s a series of overlapping, non-luminous, molecular dust clouds. Basically The Great Rift looks like a division in the Milky Way separating it into two streams of stars between the constellations Aquila and Cygnus. I also looked towards the constellations Sagittarius which is just west of Scorpius. In my light polluted area I was able to make out a faint fuzzy object, and using my pocket star atlas from Sky & Telescope I determined the small faint fuzzy I was looking at was the Lagoon Nebula. While standing at the park that I was viewing from I noticed quite a few meteoroid’s in the sky. One in particular caught my eye and took my breath away. It was extremely close to where I was standing and very bright. It couldn’t have been any further than 10-15 yards away from where I was standing, and by the time it burned out it was about eye level to me. Probably the closest one I have ever seen. If it wasn’t dark or if it hadn’t burnt out before hitting the ground I would have searched to see if any of it made it completely to the ground before burning out.

After I was done imaging M4 I pointed over in Sagittarius and found a cluster of stars. I’m still not 100% sure of what object it was I was looking at, but I’m thinking it was M23, an open cluster of stars. I attempted imaging it but got a lot of star trails and all types of motion. I’m including the image in case anyone can look at it and give me a definitive answer as to what it is I was imaging. At first I thought it was M24 star cloud but it looks quite a bit like M23 the open cluster.

1 image @ 64sec. F3.1 ISO400 no editing

The Moon at Daylight

We haven’t had much clear skies here in the Adirondacks lately. Been mostly clouds and rain since the beginning of April. Any of my Adirondack readers will shudder in repugnance just thinking about this past month. I’ve posted a few times since the beginning of April but those have been our only clear nights. It’s made updating about my viewing sessions a little scarce but I’m doing what I can. Trying to focus mainly on the viewing in this area to try to grow a local fan base for astronomers in this mountainous region of New York. We’ve been through some flooding, which is finally receding back into Lake Champlain, and high winds which haven’t helped the flooded areas dry up.

This past week we’ve had some clear skies but not much clarity as far as the transparency and seeing go (remember to hover over the words with the dotted lines for a quick explanation on what I’m talking about). Although I did get out in daytime to try and capture some images of the moon as it was visible from my back deck.

The moon, I never tire of it. Every time it’s clear and the moon is out I have to put my sights on it and see it magnified and examine the craters the best I can. I don’t magnify it too much because it makes it harder to focus on it. It was quite the site in the daytime. Weird seeing the white moon with a blue background. I also got one nice shot of it at about 74% Waxing Gibbous which is one of my favorite times to view it. Get some nice shadows being cast by the craters making them stand out quite a bit more. Hope you enjoy these couple of shots of the daylight moon, and the night moon.

First shot of the moon in daylight.
Second shot of the moon in daylight, zoomed in a bit on my camera to magnify it.I love this shot, it reminds me of looking out of a port hole of a space ship as the moon comes up over the Earth’s horizon
74% Waxing Gibbous which is around my favorite time to look at the moon and it’s craters. When it’s full it’s too bright to get any good detail without good filters.

All pictures edited by @EyeDelights

April 30, 2011 Viewing Session – M92 and M57

After having clouds for what seems like an eternity, they have finally broke! Checking all my astronomy weather forecasting sites making sure it was supposed to be a good night. Oh what a beautiful and clear night it turned out to be. I had two objects that I had my mind set on finding. M101 and M51. Although my night of viewing started off with something that isn’t a planet, galaxy, nebula, or some sort of star cluster. After which I hunted for M101, M51, M92, and M57 the Ring Nebula.

The night started around 9:25pm when I looked at my clock and remembered that there was supposed to be an extremely bright pass of the ISS. I rushed to put my camera on a tripod, and adjusted the camera settings, ran outside I found the big dipper which led me to Polaris which told me which direction north was. From there I used it to find WNW which is where the ISS was rising from. I stood there waiting for it, feeling like it was taking forever! Around 9:30pm I started to see this, what appeared to be, a reddish light smoothly gliding across the sky. I’ve seen satellites numerous times when looking up, but nothing compares to the brightness of the ISS! At first I thought it was a plane until I came to my senses and realized there weren’t any blinking lights. So I got a few 15 second long exposures of it as it made it’s way across the sky. I got it from the point I could see it, and took as many pictures as I could until it disappeared behind some trees.

ISS coming up to the constellation Auriga to the left.
ISS Next to the constellation Auriga star Capella to the left.

ISS making it’s way to the constellation Ursa Major

ISS passing through Ursa Major/Big Dipper starting at the star Alioth. Just below you can see the double star Alcor and Mizar. One of the only double stars I know of that you can see with the naked eye.
ISS going down into the trees. Arcturus is to the right (the orange star).

After I came inside to view those photos and let the excitement of capturing it calm down. I decided to watch an episode of Oddities. Yeah I know, not very astronomy-like but it’s a good show. So I watched an episode then 10:30pm came along and I started gathering my camera, the mount to put my camera to the eyepiece, and my headlamp. Made my way out to the back deck to begin my night of viewing. I only expected to really be out there until 1:30 or 2 at the latest. It was a Saturday night so I decided I’d stay out as long as I could stay awake.

The hunt for M101. I don’t know if you have ever watched an episode of Survivorman where Les Stroud patiently waits for food to end up in a dead fall, but never ends up catching anything. Well that was how my hunt for M101 went. I didn’t really pay much attention to the time while I was out there but I spent a really long time searching for this spiral galaxy. I figured it would be easy enough to spot as a magnitude 7.86 and the face that it’s a face on spiral galaxy meaning I’d be viewing it from above, not from it’s side where it would be a thin flat line. I searched and searched and searched right where it should be. I don’t know if I just couldn’t see it due to light pollution or what but I had absolutely no luck. I was slightly disappointed by my lack of finding it. I came inside and viewed Stellarium to see if I was close, and it seemed I had it but never actually saw it. I attempted to take pictures but nothing captured it. I am not giving up on this galaxy! I will be back out to search for it time and time again until I finally see it!
After having no luck with M101 I figured I’d hop on over to M51, a whirlpool galaxy, close by to M101. M51 is a magnitude 8.4 and is an interesting site because it’s a large whirlpool eating another galaxy, or colliding with, I like to think of it as a hungry whirlpool devouring a smaller galaxy. I should have been able to see this one also since it can be seen in binoculars. I didn’t quite know where to look for it but I didn’t have much luck. I figure this one’s like M101 and it’s up all year round, I’m not going to spend all night searching for this. It was clear out and I wanted to see something!

I found Lyra and decided I should use my RA and DEC setting on my equatorial mount. Not quite sure why I didn’t think of this off the start. So I re-polar aligned my telescope to make sure it was correct, then I swung it towards the bright star Vega in Lyra and set the setting circle to it’s coordinates; RA 18h37m DEC +38. I decided since there was a globular cluster near Hercules and Lyra that I haven’t looked at yet I’d make my way to it tonight. M92 is at a distance of about 26700 light-years away from Earth, and through my scope looks less magnificent than The Great Cluster In Hercules M13. It may have been smaller and harder to see but it was still a beautiful site. I gazed at it and tracked it through the sky for quite a while, and attempted to take some pictures of it. Although they aren’t the greatest pictures they still work great as a visual example of what I saw and for documentation of what I’ve seen. These pictures were taken through my 32mm eyepiece, which is a magnification of about 31.25. Looking back I should have attempted with the 12.5mm eyepiece which would have given me a magnification of 80.

Click to Glubulate

Next on my list was an object I didn’t even expect to be able to see, M57, a ring nebula located in the constellation of Lyra. M57 is a magnitude 8.8 and using the setting circles on my mount I was able to easily get in the vicinity of it and could just barely make out the faintest gray fuzzy circular object through the 32mm. So I centered it in my eyepiece and started tracking it with my motor drive and switched out to my 12.5mm eyepiece. There it was a bit larger of a view. Still a faint gray object but I knew what I had in my view. It seemed like such a perfect round circle in my eyepiece; there was no confusing it with anything else. I didn’t think it was possible for me to get a picture of it, or anything really, through my smaller eyepiece (any of them that aren’t the 32mm have given me lots of trouble in taking pictures in the past). Lo and behold I got the object on film, albeit a digital camera and an sd card, not really film, but you know what I mean. Once I saw the very first picture of it that I took I was so amazed by the color that showed!! I had so much excitement running through me after this that I decided to pack it up and call it a night. Although being late at night, or early in the morning, I decided to just quickly scan around the constellation Cygnus just to see all the pretty stars inside of the constellation. Then I finally gathered up the will to bring my cold frozen self back inside and put my telescope, eyepieces, headlamp, camera, and camera mount away.

Click to nebulate

It was a great night of viewing aside from the slight disappointments with the two galaxies I went for, but there’s always next time! It’s one of the reasons I love this hobby. I also didn’t want to get too into Cygnus quite yet since it doesn’t come up into my view until around 2am at the moment, I’ll wait until it’s up a bit earlier and I have more time to search through it and it’s many objects available to view. Looks like Cygnus, Ophiuchus, Scutum, and Sagittarius are going to be fun constellations to surf around in the next month or two as there are a ton of nebula and clusters coming up with them. Looking at the weather forecast I’m glad I made the best of it when I did because more clouds and rain is on the way. Not like the flooded Adirondacks need it.

April 7, 2011 Viewing Session

Oh the Adirondacks are such a great place. The air is clear, the skies are clear and the clouds were nowhere to be found tonight. I went and visited a few things that I viewed last night. I had changed the battery in my motor drive for my mount and it works so much better! I can track stars now and only have to adjust the Declination (DEC) axis every so often.

What I visited tonight is, yup you guessed it right, Saturn. Of course I couldn’t resist it’s pretty yellow/orange glow with is rings encircling it. I don’t have to work in the morning so I was able to stay up and out late. I went out around 12:30am and came in about 2:30am, technically it was an April 8th am viewing but I’m just going to call it the 7th. Here in the Adirondacks it may be April but it doesn’t feel like it with a temperature of about 22°F, my feet are frozen. Once I got Saturn into view with the 32mm I then worked my way down to my 4mm eyepiece which had my No. 12 Yellow filter screwed into it, which turned out to work quite nicely for viewing and for getting the video that enabled me to get this picture.

Saturn (click to enlarge)

I also went into Hercules to see The Great Cluster in Hercules (M13) which is a globular cluster. A bit faint and fuzzy, but pretty with the two stars near it looking like eyes. As you can probably tell my excitement for this doesn’t get old, I’m like a kid on Christmas morning every clear night that I get to take the telescope outside. Even the small presents given bring quite a bit of joy. I like to take pictures because it helps bring out what I see with my own eyes a bit. I may have been a bit out of focus for the picture, I just need to practice more. These are nice to look back on as a reference, and also going to come in handy for comparisons later on if/when I get better at imaging and editing.

Great Cluster in Hercules (M13) (click to enlarge)

I briefly went over to Arcturus and decided to get a quick snap shot of it. I think the exposure time was a bit too long, but I feel the need to share it anyway. It’s orange glow seems less prominent when it’s at zenith I’m guessing that’s because it has less atmosphere to go through. Either way it was pretty through the eyepiece so I couldn’t resist getting a picture of it to share on here.

Arcturus (click to enlarge)

While I had the camera out with me I decided to piggy back it onto my telescope. The telescope mount came with a mount for a camera to sit on top of the telescope to allow you to take pictures of a bigger area of the sky as if you are looking up at it. Just mount the camera to the back, point the telescope at an area of the sky and start snapping pictures. Below are pictures of the constellation Hercules and the constellation Ursa Major, you’ll recognize the big dipper.

Hercules (click to enlarge)
Here I outlined Hercules and wrote in M13 where the Globular Cluster is located. Just below where I wrote M13 you can see two tiny stars, in between them is where the cluster is and when you look at the cluster picture I posted those two bright stars on either side of it are the small ones you see in this picture. (click to enlarge)

Ursa Major/Big Dipper (click to enlarge)