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Darling Hill Observatory Will OPEN Tonight (August 11) For The Perseids – But Keep Track Of Local Conditions

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

There are mixed reports as to the amount of cloud cover tonight, but all agree that the chance of precipitation is low. Coupled with the fact that the Perseids will not wait for our conditions to improve, we’ll be opening the observatory in hopes of having clear-enough skies for catching the peak of the meteor shower late tonight. The winds are predicted to be higher than ideal for telescope observing, so we might not have lots of equipment set up (but will try regardless).

If you plan on attending, consider something to place on the ground between it and yourself. The best show will radiate from the North-East but will be right above us, so consider your neck!

And for those already looking up, we’re getting three ISS fly-bys tonight (courtesy the predictive tools at heavens-above.com)!

Date Brightness Start Highest point End
(mag) Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
11 Aug -2.4 20:42:11 10° WSW 20:45:00 54° WNW 20:48:37 10° NE
11 Aug -0.7 22:19:48 10° WNW 22:22:18 20° N 22:24:48 10° NE
11 Aug 0.0 23:57:03 10° NW 23:57:43 13° NNW 23:57:43 13° NNW

Astronomical Chronicle For August 2012 Is Up, Plans Pending For The Perseids Tonight At Darling Hill

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

1. Perseid Opening – As of 11:00 a.m., conditions look right for opening Darling Hill for the Perseid Meteor Shower. Please keep track of this website around 5:00 p.m. today for the final decision and possible decision about opening tomorrow night instead.

2. The latest edition of the SAS newsletter is available for download below:

DOWNLOAD HERE

This edition features a lengthy article by the SAS’s Rick Kellogg on an Electronic Polar Alignment Scope, available for download at 2012_August_R_Kellogg_Electronic_Polar_Alignment_Scope.pdf. Rick’s summary is below:

A traditional polar scope can be used to align an equatorial mount in a few minutes. However, the alignment achieved is typically not that accurate due to misalignment of the polar scope axis with the mount axis, or the polar scope reticle not being centered. I typically can only get to within 0.1 degree of the celestial pole with my Losmandy polar scope.

Extending the ideal of using a polar scope for aligning to an electronic scope – I use an SBIG STV with a 75 mm lens as an electronic finder. This combination provides a 3.7 by 2.7 degree field of view (FOV).

Setting the DEC to 90 degrees, Polaris and UMI lambda are in the field of view – regardless of the RA setting. By taking 2 pictures with different RA (differing by 4-6 hours or 60-90 degrees),

1) the pixel location of the mount’s RA axis can be determined, and

2) the pixel location of the Celestial pole can be determined (knowing the current epoch
coordinates of Polaris and UMI Lambda).

Then the offset from the mount’s RA axis to the Celestial pole is added to the location of Polaris (or UMI Lambda) to act as a target to move the scope via azimuth or altitude controls.

I have automated the process using the SBIG utility that comes with the STV (STV Remote), and a MATLAB script that I wrote to make the computations.

The typical polar alignment process can be easily completed in 15 minutes.

Perseid Meteor Shower Weekend, Darling Hill Schedule For 10th, 11th + 12th, And Weather Updates

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

This weekend marks the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, produced as the Earth passes through minute particles left by Comet Swift–Tuttle. The highest counts are predicted for the night of August 11th, although those in clear conditions may already be observing an increase in shooting stars from the North-East between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

While Darling Hill Observatory is one of the darkest places in CNY for observing the Meteor Shower, any clear, dark conditions will do, so we encourage you to find yourself outside wherever you are at some point this weekend!

Unfortunately, the CNY forecasts for most of this weekend are a bit less than promising, with Sunday the 12th being the best evening (so far) for observing. Our plan is to have Darling Hill open for at least one night this weekend for those interested in attending (and all three nights if the skies are clear). We’ll be posting here by 5:00 p.m. on the 10th, 11th, and 12th with opening announcements.

If attending, consider bringing whatever it is you prefer to place between yourselves and the ground. The best views are straight up, meaning your best orientation is horizontal (and oriented with your feet to the North-East).

Darling Hill Observatory WILL OPEN Tonight (Saturday The 21th) For A “Member And More” Session

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The forecast is just promising enough to warrant an opening for this evening and we have a few small groups that are interested in attending for a session tonight, so we will be opening the observatory for a “Member+” session. As is the policy, these member sessions are open to the public, but our usual sky tours and lectures will not occur, instead providing people opportunities to work on special projects or otherwise observe whatever else is out beyond the “pick hits” of planets and bright clusters (a good chance to practice you skills at observing faint objects).

Will expect to have the gate open by 8:30 p.m. tonight. We hope you can join us!

Darling Hill Observatory Will NOT Open Tonight (Friday The 20th) For The Member Session

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

We are hoping to get at least one session in before the end of July, but tonight is decidedly NOT it. Tomorrow is looking more promising, but the forecasts are not in good agreement as to when any potential clearing will occur. We will announce sometime before 5:00 p.m. tomorrow if anyone will be showing up to open the gates. Stay tuned!