Total Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017

HDR Image of the eclipsed Sun.  Regulus is to the left of the Sun.

This image of the “Diamond Ring” was affected by the high cirrus clouds

This image shows the solar prominences that were visible naked eye.

The eclipse I witnessed on March 7, 1970 was an exciting event, with the moon covering 99% of the Sun.  It was one of my life experiences that cemented my love for Astronomy. As a 12 year old, I constructed my first astronomical instrument, a pin hole box, to watch the moons shadow cross in front of the Sun.

Since that day, long ago, I hoped, one day, to be under the shadow of totality. On August 21st that hope became a reality.  The Total Solar Eclipse on August 21st was an awe inspiring event.  In anticipation of the eclipse I watched several youtube videos to experience the reactions of others who had viewed totality.  I couldn’t help but tear up watching the videos as the excitement grew in me.  I was not disappointed.

My home in South Carolina is only 5 minutes outside the path of totality, but the inconsistent summer weather here made me rethink my plans.  When the Astronomical League decide to have their annual conference the weekend before the event, in Casper Wyoming, a place almost guaranteed to have clear weather, the choice was clear.  I signed up for the conference and secured my room reservation more than two years before the eclipse.

It would be unfair to leave my non-astronomy wife home while I took my first cross country trip, so we incorporated our eclipse plans into a month long cross country trip.  It would be our first, and we planned to visit friends, family, places of interest for my wife, as well as the eclipse, conference, and visits to some of the National Parks that would be of interest to us both.

I made plans to attempt to image the eclipse, practiced them, and modified them right up to the day before we left on vacation.  My wife, an expert at vacation planning, took care of our day to day travel and visiting plans before and after the eclipse.

I wanted to image the eclipse without having to get so involved with the equipment that I would miss out on the visual experience. I decided I would use one of my computerized imaging programs, Backyard EOS, to run my DSLR, so my only involvement would be to remove the filter, push the button to start the imaging, and remember to replace the filter after totality.  The BYEOS program would take about 4 seconds to download each image, limiting the number of images I could capture.  But to me, the imaging was a secondary goal.

Along with the DSLR and BYEOS, I used my Ioptron  ZEQ25gt mount, with my Stellarvue 60mm APO doublet to capture the images.  The program was setup to capture frames from 1/2000 of a second to one second, and back up during the 2 minutes and 27 seconds of totality.  I made several practice runs to time out the sequence with the length of totality.

On the day before the eclipse, in the hotel parking lot, I practiced my customized method of daytime alignment to make sure everything was good to go.  My method included a wooden dovetail, compass, and info on the magnetic deviation for Casper Wyoming.  Because the metal mount would cause havoc with the compass, the wooden dovetail extended about a foot behind the mount, where I could get an accurate reading.  Along with my gps app, I was able to get very close to the pole.  I did a solar system alignment on the Sun with the ZEQ25, and the Sun’s image was in the finder.  I then adjusted the mount manually to center the Sun and finish the alignment.  This worked perfectly, as the mount tracked for over two hours with the Sun only moving half its diameter on the cmos chip of the DSLR.

The viewing location for the eclipse was setup by the Astro League for all the attendees in agreement with Casper College, which was about 5 miles south of town, and very close to the center line.  Because of the huge number of people that came to Casper for the conference and the eclipse, we started to head out early, in case we got caught in traffic.  We left the hotel at 5:30 a.m. to beat traffic and there wasn’t a soul on the road.  We found a great place on the grass between the parking lot and the road, and setup the equipment.

Then, Murphy’s law took over.  I went through my process to align, but when I went to do a solar system alignment, the Sun wouldn’t appear in the list.  I checked everything, including the time zone, DST, etc., but couldn’t get the Sun to appear in the routine.  I ended up just doing a goto to the Sun and then adjusted the mount manually to center the Sun.  I didn’t know if this would work, but it worked well enough that I only had to re-center the Sun on the chip every 15-20 minutes.  The only explanation I could figure out for the problem was the proximity of the high tension wires overhead.  Perhaps electrical interference played havoc with the built in GPS on the mount. 

Whatever it was, I was able to overcome it, and got some decent images in the end.  The only other imaging issue was the high cirrus clouds that moved in as totality approached.  You can see in the images some of the haze and gradient issues I had while trying to process them.  This was my first attempt at processing solar eclipse images, so I’m content with the results I was able to achieve.

Visually viewing the eclipse was one of the most inspiring astronomical events in my lifetime!  After starting the imaging program, I looked up to see the brilliant diamond ring as the moon swallowed up the last of the sunlight.  I described it as a 1000 watt light bulb shining on a diamond.  This was followed by the amazing clarity and detail in the corona, with brilliant extended streamers on both sides.  The corona, shaped by the Sun’s magnetic field stretched for multiple radii.  It was exactly the shape predicted by NASA and depicted in one of the talks By Fred Espenak at the conference. I noticed Venus to the west of the Sun and picked up the binoculars to look for Regulus, which I found just to the east of the Sun.  After putting down the binoculars I returned my gaze to the Sun and picked up the bright pink bumps of prominences at 12, 2, and 3 O’clock on the Sun’s limb.  These were surprisingly easy to see.

As the Sun’s light returned, I stated out loudly, like many before me, “When is the next one!”

Clearing Skies and Fast Asteroids

It’s been a good week for Transit Dream’s Asteroid astrometry program. A few days of reasonable weather has allowed me to dive back into imaging some of these solar system wanderers. My goal is to capture NEA’s that pass close to Earth with the future potential of impact. By refining the orbits of these asteroids, research scientists can extrapolate their orbits into the future, with greater and greater accuracy.

Many of these asteroids are small and dim. They only become visible, to even the large survey telescopes, when their orbits bring them in close to Earth. So followup obsevrations by amateurs are critical to obtain enough measurements to extrapolate the path of these asteroids, as their orbits take them photographically out of reach.

Right now, the work I can do is limited by the small aperture of my scope. I cannot always get reliable measurements of those dim asteroids due to their rate of motion, and the short exposures required to freeze that motion for accurate measurements. So, my focus right now is to image asteroids that are brighter, and whose orbits could use some refinement. I’m also getting involved with the “Target Asteroid” program, which is surveying some of the more interesting asteroids as potential future mission targets, like the Osiris-Rex program that has a spacecraft heading toward the asteroid Bennu now.

(Asteroid 138925: (20) x 30 seconds stacked on the asteroid.  The fuzzy oval is NGC 6926)

I was finally able to capture one of the fast moving asteroids that had eluded me for a while. Asteroid (138925), a main belt asteroid, is the fastest asteroid captured by Transit Dreams Observatory, to date. It’s currently crossing the sky at nearly 14 arc seconds per minute. I caught it last week, but my exposures were too long, creating a streak on the stacked images, instead of pinpoints. Those streaks created large residuals in the measurements of its position, making them unsuitable for submission to the MPC.

This past week I was able to finally get accurate measurements by shortening the exposures and increasing the number of exposures stacked. Listed below with the packed designation of D8925, are the measurements. The exposures were shortened to 30 seconds and 3 groups of 20 stacked images were combined, using the “Track and Stack” technique in Astrometrica. I was also aided by its increased brightness to magnitude 13.2. 

In all 18 asteroids, and 8 comets were imaged and measured this past week.

 

COD W33
CON Transit Dreams Observatory
OBS D. Wilde
MEA D. Wilde
TEL 127mm F7.5 APO Refractor + CCD
ACK MPCReport file
NET UCAC-4
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.36131 02 44 18.00 -08 12 57.4 14.4 N W33
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.37129 02 44 18.91 -08 12 44.6 14.5 N W33
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.37880 02 44 19.70 -08 12 35.8 14.5 N W33
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.38783 02 44 20.53 -08 12 24.6 14.4 N W33
CK17O010 C2017 07 26.35808 02 44 17.70 -08 13 01.0 14.6 N W33
CK17O010 C2017 07 26.38664 02 44 20.43 -08 12 26.3 14.9 N W33

J0166 C2017 07 27.14753 19 38 34.22 +11 24 18.3 13.9 R W33
J0166 C2017 07 27.17950 19 38 42.08 +11 23 38.7 14.0 R W33

CK17O010 C2017 07 31.31898 02 52 19.19 -06 27 12.2 13.9 N W33
CK17O010 C2017 07 31.32752 02 52 20.05 -06 27 01.4 13.7 N W33
CK17O010 C2017 07 31.33671 02 52 20.92 -06 26 49.1 13.5 N W33
00169 KC2017 07 31.23045 21 49 04.28 -20 23 14.1 11.4 R W33
00169 KC2017 07 31.24269 21 49 03.63 -20 23 15.8 11.4 R W33
00169 KC2017 07 31.25535 21 49 02.92 -20 23 17.5 11.2 R W33
00447 KC2017 07 31.23045 21 49 38.47 -20 08 42.7 12.7 R W33
00447 KC2017 07 31.24269 21 49 37.93 -20 08 46.5 12.7 R W33
00447 KC2017 07 31.25535 21 49 37.36 -20 08 50.2 12.6 R W33
06053 KC2017 07 31.23432 23 24 11.87 -01 36 17.1 14.1 R W33
06053 KC2017 07 31.24684 23 24 12.32 -01 35 31.2 14.0 R W33
06053 KC2017 07 31.25969 23 24 12.76 -01 34 44.3 14.0 R W33
90075 KC2017 07 31.23840 23 54 03.17 +43 08 12.6 15.1 R W33
90075 KC2017 07 31.25105 23 54 01.54 +43 07 47.4 15.1 R W33
90075 KC2017 07 31.26368 23 53 59.90 +43 07 21.9 15.0 R W33
D8925 KC2017 07 31.27889 20 33 30.96 -01 51 58.9 13.2 R W33
D8925 KC2017 07 31.29482 20 33 23.78 -01 56 59.3 13.2 R W33
D8925 KC2017 07 31.31065 20 33 16.68 -02 01 58.2 13.2 R W33

CK15O010 KC2017 08 01.14356 16 41 52.72 +23 30 03.6 14.3 N W33
CK15O010 KC2017 08 01.15556 16 41 51.74 +23 30 02.9 14.2 N W33
CK15O010 KC2017 08 01.16757 16 41 50.84 +23 30 00.9 14.2 N W33
CK15V62L KC2017 08 01.18372 22 46 07.04 +11 46 42.4 14.4 N W33
CK15V62L KC2017 08 01.19579 22 46 04.62 +11 46 31.6 14.3 N W33
CK15V62L KC2017 08 01.20785 22 46 02.26 +11 46 20.4 14.3 N W33
CK16M010 KC2017 08 01.15159 17 21 09.96 +47 18 15.8 15.8 N W33
CK16M010 KC2017 08 01.16357 17 21 09.24 +47 18 04.6 15.3 N W33
CK16M010 KC2017 08 01.17560 17 21 08.61 +47 17 54.6 15.3 N W33
CK16N040 KC2017 08 01.18772 00 35 06.79 +54 58 42.6 15.7 N W33
CK16N040 KC2017 08 01.19985 00 35 06.17 +54 59 01.6 15.5 N W33
CK16N040 KC2017 08 01.21188 00 35 05.58 +54 59 20.4 15.6 N W33
CK16N060 KC2017 08 01.14758 15 19 39.70 +58 37 03.5 15.7 N W33
CK16N060 KC2017 08 01.15953 15 19 38.75 +58 36 57.0 15.8 N W33
CK16N060 KC2017 08 01.17157 15 19 37.74 +58 36 50.8 15.7 N W33
00024 C2017 08 01.22061 01 57 09.84 +11 38 41.4 12.6 R W33
00024 C2017 08 01.22853 01 57 10.03 +11 38 42.4 12.4 R W33
00024 C2017 08 01.24027 01 57 10.41 +11 38 44.4 12.5 R W33
00081 C2017 08 01.09547 15 50 12.82 -29 19 50.4 13.8 R W33
00081 C2017 08 01.11226 15 50 12.97 -29 19 48.3 13.9 R W33
00094 C2017 08 01.09547 15 49 07.90 -29 19 52.6 12.8 R W33
00094 C2017 08 01.11226 15 49 08.10 -29 19 51.0 12.8 R W33
0029P KC2017 08 01.17977 21 27 47.94 -13 47 35.1 14.7 N W33
0029P KC2017 08 01.19178 21 27 47.59 -13 47 36.1 14.7 N W33
0029P KC2017 08 01.20387 21 27 47.24 -13 47 36.9 14.7 N W33
00972 KC2017 08 01.21606 02 35 47.37 +24 31 48.4 13.8 R W33
00972 KC2017 08 01.22524 02 35 48.10 +24 31 52.8 13.7 R W33
00972 KC2017 08 01.23443 02 35 48.85 +24 31 57.3 13.7 R W33
02329 C2017 08 01.09093 13 18 01.28 +25 44 55.2 15.8 R W33
02329 C2017 08 01.10706 13 18 03.06 +25 44 43.6 15.7 R W33
11398 KC2017 08 01.12514 17 43 31.02 -00 35 01.4 16.1 R W33
11398 KC2017 08 01.13878 17 43 32.43 -00 35 41.4 16.3 R W33
81061 KC2017 08 01.17977 21 27 01.94 -14 00 11.7 17.5 R W33
81061 KC2017 08 01.20387 21 27 00.71 -14 00 17.9 17.6 R W33
D4702 KC2017 08 01.17977 21 28 34.08 -13 35 52.8 17.7 R W33
D4702 KC2017 08 01.19178 21 28 33.45 -13 35 53.4 18.6 R W33
D4702 KC2017 08 01.20387 21 28 32.68 -13 35 54.2 17.5 R W33
D8846 KC2017 08 01.12060 17 34 24.59 -09 49 17.0 17.0 R W33
D8846 KC2017 08 01.13416 17 34 25.20 -09 49 11.5 17.5 R W33
00558 C2017 08 01.32352 02 43 30.77 +08 05 54.1 13.9 R W33
00558 C2017 08 01.34782 02 43 32.02 +08 05 55.4 14.0 R W33
00558 C2017 08 01.37228 02 43 33.32 +08 05 56.6 13.9 R W33
04163 C2017 08 01.33293 02 43 47.74 +04 12 46.7 17.7 R W33
04163 C2017 08 01.35738 02 43 48.90 +04 12 46.3 16.8 R W33
04163 C2017 08 01.38178 02 43 49.99 +04 12 45.8 17.4 R W33
26852 C2017 08 01.31878 02 45 09.68 +09 56 41.7 17.7 R W33
26852 C2017 08 01.36748 02 45 13.45 +09 57 12.3 17.5 R W33
—– end —–

Young Imagers at Roper Mountain Astronomers

One of the best parts of the hobby of Astronomy is spending time with others who share your interests. In addition to imaging from Transit Dreams Observatory, when the weather permits, I am also a member of two local Astronomy clubs.  The Roper Mountain Astronomers, and the Astronomy club of Asheville.  On occasion we get the opportunity to observe the night sky from some nice dark areas, away from the light pollution.  I had one of those opportunities this past weekend with friends from the RMA.

Our vice-president Mike F. found a great spot in the Sumter National Forest in South Carolina.  With the permission of the rangers we set up at a nice spot on Lake Sedalia, overlooking the summer constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius.  Our normal observing spot has a light dome to the south, from a major city, so this was a real treat.  To celebrate, I brought out “Caroline”, my 15″ dob.  She hadn’t been out for a while, so I figured I could hunt down a bunch of globulars to finish up my  Globular Cluster program from the Astronomical League.

A couple of young imagers I’d been harassing, er. , I mean advising, were in attendance with their DSLR’s and tripods to image the wide breadth of the summer Milky Way.  I’d thought about bringing a camera myself, but I wanted to rekindle the fire of my first love, visual observing.

I was amazed at the spectacular images they captured that night and had to share a couple of them with you here.  My wife even commented “They’re better than yours” when I showed them to her.

So, without further ado………….

What is amazing to me about this image, captured by Fleet B., is the clarity of the reversed reflections of Scorpius and Sagittarius in the water.  The thin clouds give an eerie nebulous feel to the composition of the image.

 

The image below, captured by James C., is the classic Milky Way shot as it stands tall in the southern summer sky.  Again the stars of Scorpius and Sagittarius shine against the perfectly still waters of Lake Sedalia.  As I added this image to the post the visual effect of the Milky Way struck me!  “A giant rainbow trout poised to dive head first into the lake.”

These  images reveal the hard work, skill, and perseverance of these two budding astro-imagers.

 

New Comet!- Comet C/2017 O1

 

Comet C/2017 O1

A new comet has been discovered on images captured on July 19th by the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae.  The comet designated C/2017 O1 by the MPC, will grace our skies this fall.  It was magnitude 15.3 at discovery, relatively bright for a newly discovered comet.  Its brightness at discovery is probably the result of it emerging from the glare of the Sun, where the large survey telescopes dare not point for fear of damage to their equipment. It will be a  northern hemisphere object into this fall.  Some predictions have it brightening to 7th magnitude, but it is really too early to tell how bright it will become.

 

Transit Dreams Observatory imaged the comet on the morning of July 26th before morning twilight.  Uncalibrated measurements with Astrometrica put the comet at magnitude 14.4-14.9

COD W33
CON Transit Dreams Observatory
OBS D. Wilde
MEA D. Wilde
TEL 127mm F7.5 APO Refractor + CCD
ACK MPCReport file updated 2017.07.26 06:51:22
NET UCAC-4
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.36131 02 44 18.00 -08 12 57.4 14.4 N W33
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.37129 02 44 18.91 -08 12 44.6 14.5 N W33
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.37880 02 44 19.70 -08 12 35.8 14.5 N W33
CK17O010 KC2017 07 26.38783 02 44 20.53 -08 12 24.6 14.4 N W33
CK17O010 C2017 07 26.35808 02 44 17.70 -08 13 01.0 14.6 N W33
CK17O010 C2017 07 26.38664 02 44 20.43 -08 12 26.3 14.9 N W33

—– end —–

 

TDO Reaches 50 Asteroids

Sometimes the weather and the Moon don’t cooperate in our quest to measure faint NEO’s and provide useful data that can refine their orbits.  Located in Southeastern United States, Transit Dream Observatory is subject to high humidity and often cloudy skies during the summer months. Even though TDO is in a rural area, the sky glow from water vapor in the air reduces how deep we can go.  On those nights if conditions are good enough to image I’ll still attempt to capture some brighter asteroids, to perfect my methods and reliability in imaging and measuring.

Last night was one of those nights, with the moon being almost full.  A list of 12 brighter asteroids was compiled to image.  In most cases asteroids like these have well established orbits that need little or no refinement.  Some technical difficulties with the equipment, and some user error in programming the software to automate the imaging did not allow me to get as far as I would have wanted.  I use Ccd Commander to program the operation of the observatory and integrate the image list into the imaging paramters.  A simple mistake in entering the start time in 12hr notation, instead of 24 hr. would have started the imaging operation  at 10:15 a.m. had I not caught the error.  This still caused a delay which prevented capturing some of the asteroids that were sinking in the west.

The weather also interrupted and ended the session early as clouds filled the sky.  In all 4 asteroids were imaged and measured.

(00006) Hebe, (00030) Urania, (00387) Aquitania, and (00599) Luisa

This brings the total to 50 asteroids measured, with 199 measurements.

COD W33
CON Transit Dreams Oservatory, Campobello, SC 29322 [dwilde.tdo@gmail.com]
OBS D. Wilde
MEA D. Wilde
TEL 127mm F7.5 APO Refractor + CCD
ACK MPCReport file updated 2017.07.08 01:02:51
AC2 dwilde.tdo@gmail.com
NET UCAC-4
00006 C2017 07 08.19267 17 24 19.63 -05 23 10.6 8.7 R W33
00006 C2017 07 08.20010 17 24 19.17 -05 23 13.5 9.3 R W33
00030 C2017 07 08.12781 14 20 09.85 -16 35 46.6 11.8 R W33
00030 C2017 07 08.13527 14 20 09.98 -16 35 46.7 11.8 R W33
00030 C2017 07 08.14271 14 20 10.10 -16 35 46.8 11.8 R W33
00387 C2017 07 08.11031 13 24 49.46 +12 37 00.6 11.8 R W33
00387 C2017 07 08.11777 13 24 49.83 +12 36 54.9 11.8 R W33
00387 C2017 07 08.12522 13 24 50.18 +12 36 49.4 11.8 R W33
00599 C2017 07 08.16720 14 58 40.31 -27 49 58.2 12.5 R W33
00599 C2017 07 08.17462 14 58 40.23 -27 49 58.9 12.4 R W33
—– end —–

Asteroid (0070) Panopaea

Asteroid (0070) Panopaea is a main belt asteroid.  It is approximately 22 kilometers long by 2 kilometers wide.  Discovered in 1861, it orbits the sun in 4.23 years and rotates in 15.87 hours.  It was imaged and measured at Transit Dreams Observatory on June 12, 2017.

 

COD W33
CON Transit Dreams Observatory
OBS D. Wilde
MEA D. Wilde
TEL 127mm F7.5 APO Refractor + CCD
ACK MPCReport file updated 2017.06.12 12:03:11
NET UCAC-4
00070 C2017 06 12.08756 11 42 03.10 +09 33 41.5 12.8 R W33
00070 C2017 06 12.10662 11 42 03.75 +09 33 31.4 12.7 R W33
00070 C2017 06 12.12675 11 42 04.43 +09 33 20.9 12.6 R W33
00070 C2017 06 12.14693 11 42 05.13 +09 33 10.0 12.7 R W33
—– end —–

 

New Menu

New menu items have been established for the website.  The data menu item is supporting sub-menus for the Asteroid data and Comet data measurements recorded and reported to the IAU Minor Planet Center.  The measurements with the “xxx” suffix were made before the establishment of Transit Dreams Observatory as MPC W33.

 

 

Horsehead Nebula- IC434

IC 434

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Horsehead Nebula (IC434) is located in a the constellation of Orion at the end of Orion’s Belt, near the bright star Alnitak. It is 1300 light years from Earth. The ionized cloud of hydrogen is illuminated from the hot young stars within this stellar nursery allow us to see this dark cloud. The Horsehead gets its name from the part of the cloud shaped like a horses head. This image only covers a portion of the entire nebula.

Explore Scientific ES127ED @f7.5,
Paramount MX+
Atik One ccd
(20) x 300 seconds, 7nm Ha filter.
Photoshop CS5, Carboni’s tools for the false color

 

 

 

Asteroid (111253) 2001 XU10

(111253) 2001 XU10 2017-06-11

Asteroid (111253) 2001 XU10 is an Apollo class asteroid, name for the first asteroid discovered in this class (01862) Apollo.  This class of asteroids are Eartth crossers which means thay can pass very close to Earth which can create the threat of collision.  It was tracked and measured at TDO on June 11,2017.

COD W33
CON Transit Dreams Observatory
OBS D. Wilde
MEA D. Wilde
TEL 127mm F7.5 APO Refractor + CCD
ACK MPCReport file updated 2017.06.11 11:56:10
NET UCAC-4
B1253 KC2017 06 11.33677 01 10 21.75 +17 48 06.0 16.6 R W33
B1253 KC2017 06 11.34819 01 10 23.50 +17 48 50.8 18.5 R W33
—– end —–

 

 

Asteroid (136108) Haumea

(136108) Haumea 2017-05-16

Asteroid (136108) Haumea was imaged and measured at TDO on May 16,2017.  (136108) Haumea is a dwarf planet, in the plutoid class, discovered in 2004 at Palomar Observatory.  Two small moons were found to be orbiting Haumea in 2005 in images taken at the Keck Observatory. Haumaea is named after the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth. 

COD W33
CON Transit Dreams Observatory
OBS D. Wilde
MEA D. Wilde
TEL 127mm F7.5 APO Refractor + CCD
ACK MPCReport file updated 2017.05.17 13:50:34
NET UCAC-4
D6108 KC2017 05 17.08046 14 07 07.34 +17 29 52.5 17.0 N W33
D6108 KC2017 05 17.08937 14 07 07.30 +17 29 51.9 16.8 N W33
D6108 KC2017 05 17.09826 14 07 07.26 +17 29 52.6 17.0 N W33
D6108 KC2017 05 17.10716 14 07 07.23 +17 29 52.4 17.0 N W33
—– end —–