Observation Tips

Lyrid Shooting Stars

So I’ve got the orange skies, the moon glare, and clouds – it can’t get any worse!

For all you lucky ones out there with clear skies, here goes:
NatGeo’s Sky-Watchers’ Guide: How to See Lyrid Meteors This Weekend.

I’ll be keeping a lookout till the 25th though…Ohhh it’ll be great to catch something – it has been so many years since I last saw a shooting star and it a lovely sight – so speedy!

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Categories: Amateur Astronomy, Observation Tips, Shooting Stars | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stumbled upon a really useful article on my Astronomy reader – written by the CuriousAstronomer…every “telescope-user-beginner” has got to read it! And voila, my first reblog! 😉
These are really the essentials you’ve got to know when collimating your scope. If you need to collimate the secondary mirror of a reflector, you’d need to adjust the bolts on the spider to get the mirror aligned to the focuser (you’d need a sighting tube for this)…but mostly you’d only need to adjust the primary (the rear) mirror – and for that, just tweak the screws on it, till you get an out-of-focus star that looks like a doughnut :)) (pic is below). Here as well, a sighting tube or a laser collimator come in handy (though they’re not altogether necessary).

Heyyy thanks Rhodri for posting this up – been great meeting you! — who knew the world was so small!

thecuriousastronomer

I was on the BBC last week recording an interview which will go out this week. One of the topics discussed (in addiition to how to take a pee in the dark) was how to collimate a telescope.

Two types of telescopes – Refracting and Reflecting

There are two basic types of telescopes, refracting telescopes (which use lenses) and reflecting telescopes (which use mirrors). Either type of telescope can become mis-aligned, usually through the telescope being knocked. Putting it back into alignment (technically called collimation) is not a difficult process, and should be the kind of thing anyone can do with a little patience.

There are many expensive gadgets available to help you align a telescope, but none of them is really necessary. The easiest way to do it is to simply point the telescope at a star and then de-focus the image. You will end up with a…

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A Brief Observing Guide for Asteroid DA14

The best pic I’ve seen thus far, for catching asteroid DA14.
All times are in GMT, on Feb the 15th. The asteroid begins from the bottom of Leo and moves to the Plough.

You’d need a pair binoculars (50mm aperture is the minimum, I believe) to see it. It’s too faint for the naked eye, about 250 times fainter than the stars of Ursa Major (the Plough). If you’ve got a telescope, all the better!

Sadly, I can’t be catching it today…Ohh why (said in anguish!)
The clouds are too heavy down here. I can’t see a single star – so there’s no way I could navigate the constellations.

And if you’re from the Americas, you won’t be able to catch it too, as its daytime. But, if you’re at the Eastern Hemisphere, keep a lookout.

This is the view from home. Not the best pic, but the skies are entirely void of stars today – and it’s all just an orange blur (though the sky looks black in the pic).
Oh well…

…guess I’ve gotta wait  40 more years before I see you. Till 2046 then!20130216-021604.jpg

Good luck hunting guys!

And yes, don’t forget to check out these links:
1. How to spot Asteroid 2012 DA14 – by The Guardian
2. NASA’s Guide

My bed’s calling 😉

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StarHopping – Old Skool Style

So, if you don’t have a PushTo, GoTo or a Telrad (like myself), this is whatcha gonna need for some old-skool style star-hopping.

Gear

Star Chart

Here’s a link to a free downloadable version which I’ve used for my observation nights with my club: SFA Star Chart. Star Charts map constellations, nebulae and galaxies, and they sometimes even indicate brightness! So, before you start observing, you’ll need a star chart to know what’s up in the sky tonight, decide which object to hunt for and use the pattern of stars to guide you there. Without star-hopping, locating an object is like looking for a needle in a haystack – especially if your eyepiece has a narrow field of view and a short focal length – talk about tunnel vision!

Hands

A Compass

Instructions

The trick is to imagine your star chart as a sphere encapsulating Earth.

From the Equatorial Region

Check your Star Chart and lookout for today’s date (its on the horizontal axis). If you imagine a vertical line through the point which marks the date, that would be the view of the skies at the Celestial Meridien at 8 pm. Then on, just minus or add the time of your viewing to the Meridien (at 8 pm) and shift your focus (the imaginary vertical line) on the map – basically, aligning the Celestial Meridien to the current time. So, if you’re observing at 11pm, you would need to add 3 hours (11-8=3) to the 8pm Meridien, which means, looking 3 hours to the left of the imaginary 8pm Meridien line on the map. if you’re observing at say 7 pm, look an hour (8-7=1) to the right of the 8pm Meridien. Once you’ve approximated your vertical axis, look up to the skies and align it with what you see.

Now if you wanna see the Eastern sky, align yourself to face East – here’s where the compass comes in. Look at the left of the vertical line which matches your time of viewing and date. And if you want to see the Western sky, face West and look at the right of the imaginary line. You see, as Earth rotates, you’ll see new stars emerging on your East and other stars falling under the Western horizon.

It all may sound quite confusing. So, back to basics, imagine your chart as a sphere wrapped around Earth, and remember how Earth’s rotation makes the sky look like its moving. Check out: Why Stars Move

Next up, is using your hands. Once, you’ve located what you see on the chart, to hop to the right star, you’ll need to measure. On the chart, are “latitude lines” 10 degrees apart. How on earth would you know what’s 10 degrees apart in the sky. Well, make a fist and point it up to the sky, the length of a fist measures 10 degrees in the sky. The thumb, about 5 degrees. And if you open you hand as wide as possible, from the tip of the little finger to the thumb’s tip, 25 degrees.

Now, you’re all set!

Zoomed in Star Chart

ps. What’s the Celestial Meridien?It’s a circle the passes through the north and south celestial poles, the zenith and nadir. Read: Measuring the Sky to find out more.

Categories: Amateur Astronomy, Observation Gear, Observation Tips, Stars | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Jupiter Watch

Last year, when I first bought my scope,  I didn’t realize how much weather conditions affected observing. And so I thought I would be up stargazing every night, recording and collecting my observations to make my own deductions.  But, the haze (swept from Indonesian peat fires) and rain clouds in Malaysia has severely limited my observation nights instead…Darn you weather!

But,  last year,  there was a week with two clear nights (a rare event from my home). It happened when the monsoon rains cleared sometime in October. And guess what, Jupiter was up. It was the first planet I ever saw in real!

Here’s My sketches of Jupiter. I used a 24mm and 10mm Skywatcher Plossl to view the gas giant. Check it out! To the naked eye, it appeared as the brightest star in the sky. And I was lucky enough to catch all four of it moons on one night!

Jupiter season should be back soon, can’t wait. I’m praying the skies will finally clear up by then!

 

 

Have you seen Jupiter? I’ve been saving for a set of planetary eyepieces –  I really want to get a better view of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

If you’re from the tropics, what’s the weather like there? Similar to Malaysia?

 

Categories: Amateur Astronomy, Observation Sites, Observation Tips, Solar System | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Becoming an Amateur Astronomer

Hey guys! Sorry for not writing in the past couple of weeks, but I’ve been so busy with university applications and my new semester at college – it’s hard to even find the hours to sleep! But I’ve finally found some free time – and can’t wait to start posting again! So here it is…

First up – on becoming an amateur astronomer.

There’s only one way.

Be inspired .

You gotta feel the excitement of looking up at a clear the night sky! Trust me, all the books and videos in the world can never match the real thing – seeing a night sky for yourself! In my case, it happened when I really young, on a bus ride through rural Malaysia, past villages in the state of Perak. As I looked out of the windows, I was shocked to see hundreds of stars in the night sky – and was simply mesmerized! My aunt sitting next to me (the only other person awake), who would have seen questions written all over my face, told me there were billions of these stars in the sky, each burning for billions of years. I had never heard of something so vast, immense and ancient before –  and I was hooked!

In Malaysia, you could take a drive to the islands like Pulau Perhentian or Tioman for some serious stragazing. The remote highlands or hills (last year for instance, I went stargazing atop the hills of Kuala Kubu Bharu in Pahang) are good observation sites too.. Even on the North-South highway, my sis and I caught the Big Dipper and Orion, as we travelled through the state of Johor. All you need is a clear dark sky. But beware! The monsoon seasons (the Southwest Monsoon from May to September, and the Northeast Monsoon from November to March) here bring in some heavy clouds that might take days/weeks to clear. But if the haze hits Malaysia, it might take months to clear – just like the one we’re having now. But besides the climate, Malaysia is a wonderful place for stargazing.

What about your country? What’s the best spots for stargazing?

Categories: Amateur Astronomy, Observation Sites, Observation Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SkEye Planetarium App

My favourite planetarium App for Android mobiles: SkEye!

Why I absolutely love this app you ask?

1.  It’s calibrates to the section of the sky you’re pointing almost instantly. I have the GoSkyWatch app too but it’s does not calibrate as fast as SkEye when you’re moving your mobile and pointing it to different parts of the sky.

2. It has a search function that guides you (with a bullseye reticle) to point your mobile and zoom in onto the interstellar object you’re looking for.

3. Plus, it has a huge database of deep sky objects, Messiers and NGCs. Way more than I could ever hope to observe from the suburbs with moderate light pollution levels, in which I live in, through my 10″ scope.

4. It can be used as a PUSHTO Guide on your telescope optical tube assembly. All you’ve got to do is attach your mobile to your scope, align the app’s map to what you’re observing and voila, you now have your very own tracking system!

5. All these features come free!

For detailed instructions, visit: SkEye, Planetarium and PUSHTO Guide for Android.
Visit the SkEye’s official site at:  http://lavadip.com/skeye/index.html

Categories: Amateur Astronomy, Observation Gear, Observation Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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