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Friday, July 3, 2020

Wolf 359 Star Parallax

Using Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1) remote telescope, a Romanian team of amateur astronomers participated in the international project #NHParallax. This project is aimed to highlight the parallax effect by comparing image frames from the New Horizons space probe combined with frames obtained by ground-based remote telescope ATEO-1 located in New Mexico, USA.

Introduction:
Historically, the first determination of the distance to the stars was made by astronomer Friedrich Bessel in 1838 for the star 61 Cygni using the parallax method. This method remained the standard procedure for calibrating other methods for determining distances in the Universe. The parallax of a star is the angle through which the radius of the Earth's orbit as seen from the star when it is perpendicular to the Earth-Star direction. The simplified model of the parallax effect is illustrated in Figure 1. It involves a change in the apparent position of a star relative to the stars from the background when observed from two different locations. This is quantified by the angle p - called the parallax.

Figure 1 - Parallax Effect
Figure 1 - Parallax Effect

For the calculation of the distance, we refer to Figure 1.

The following equations can be written:

tg (p ”) = Earth-Sun Distance / Sun-Star Distance
tg (p ”) = 1UA / D, from which it follows that:
D = 1 / tg (p ”)
Since the angle p ”is very small (less than one second of arc) we can approximate tg (p”) = p ”and the formula becomes:
D = 1 / p ”,
where D is expressed in parsecs (pc)
p” is expressed in arcseconds and 1 AU represents an astronomical unit, ie the average Earth-Sun distance.

Traditionally the distances to Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359 were calculated using this method and resulted in the following data confirmed by the specialized space missions Hiparchos and Gaia:

p”Wolf 359 = 0.41516” ± 0.000162 ”

The distance to the star Wolf 359 = 2,409 ± 0.009 pc, ie 7.86 light-years (+/-0.03 ly) 

Remarks:
On April 22, 2020, we made observations with the ATEO-1 remote telescope in tandem with the New Horizons space probe at nearby star Wolf 359. The advantage of these tandem observations is that the New Horizons probe is 46 times the Earth-Sun distance, which causes the perspective of the probe on the star Wolf 359 to change visibly from the perspective observed on earth. With such a large distance between the two observation points (Earth - New Horizons), the parallax effect is easy to highlight by comparing photos taken from Earth with those received from the New Horizons probe. Here is the animation which shows a stereo view of this phenomenon.

Wolf 359 Star animation with image data acquired from the New Horizons space probe   and Insight Observatory's ATEO-1 remote telescope located in New Mexico.
Wolf 359 Star animation with image data acquired from the New Horizons space probe
 and Insight Observatory's ATEO-1 remote telescope located in New Mexico.

The raw images obtained by the New Horizons space probe were downloaded from the website below dedicated to this project:

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Learn/Parallax/Parallax-Images.php

The camera used by the space mission was the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). The raw images required some processing to eliminate image artefacts. This was done in the following steps:

- Creation of synthetic flat and removal of cosmic ray and hot pixels.
- Slight convolution of stars.

In order to measure the parallax angle, we must calibrate the two images in coordinates relative to the celestial sphere. This calculation was performed using the Astrometry.net program.

We determined the astrometric solution of the plate in the ICRS J2000 (International Celestial Reference System). Because the LORRI camera aboard the New Horizons spacecraft was designed to take images of trans-Neptunian objects, its resolution is only 4,09 arcsec/pixel as opposed to the much better resolution ATEO-1 telescope provides, ie 1,237 arcsec /pixel.

Results:
Since the geometry of the observations is more general than in the simplified model, respectively the Wolf 359 star is not centered in relation to the observation base. We first measured the angular distance between the star and the New Horizons probe at the date of the observation. The following were obtained:

θNH-Wolf359 = 125.20785° - The angular separation between New Horizons and Wolf 359.

According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website at the time of the observations, the distance between the Earth and the New Horizons spacecraft was 46.8534 AU, ie 7.028 billion kilometers. We measured the position of the Wolf star on the New Horizons frames and on the images obtained with the ATEO-1 telescope. We used all the images (3 provided by the New Horizons probe and 6 purchased with the telescopes we used) and averaged these measurements. To evaluate the measurement error we calculated their standard deviation. The results obtained are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Wolf 359 star coordinates in both images obtained by   the New Horizons probe and ATEO-1 telescope - ICRS2000.
Table 1: Wolf 359 star coordinates in both images obtained by the 
New Horizons probe and ATEO-1 telescope - ICRS2000.

An important aspect of these measurements, given that the pixel size is large compared to the star's profile, is the algorithm for identifying the centroid of each star in the images. For this, we used two methods: the position of the brightest pixel and the algorithm proposed by the AstroImageJ program.

To calculate the parallax, we used the formula for calculating the angular separation (Jean Meus - Astronomical Algorithms). In this formula, α and δ are the right ascension and the declination and the indices 1 and 2 correspond to the measurements with our telescope, respectively with the New Horizons probe.

cos d = sinδ1 sinδ2 + cosδ1 cosδ2 cos (α1 - α2)

Based on this formula we obtained the following parallaxes. I marked it with d to differentiate it from the meaning described in the introduction.

d”Wolf359 = 16,479” ± 3,390 ”

Figure 3: The geometry of the Earth, New Horizons space probe and Wolf 359 star on April 22, 2020.
Figure 3: The geometry of the Earth, New Horizons space probe and Wolf 359 star on April 22, 2020.

Taking into account the geometry of the observation (Figure 3) the distance can be calculated using the formula:

distEarth-Wolf359 ≈ distEarth-New Horizon / tg (d”) * sin (θ),

where distEarth-Wolf359 is the distance from Earth to the Wolf star, distEarth-New Horizon= 46.8534 AU is the distance from Earth to the New Horizons probe, and sin (θ) is the factor that takes into account the geometry of the observation.

We obtained the following distance for Wolf star:

distEarth-Wolf359 = 7,576 ± 1,559 light-years.

Conclusions:
This result corresponds to the recent determinations reported by the Gaia space mission and presented in the introduction. Our measurement has a lower degree of accuracy due to the low resolution of the LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) camera with which the images from the New Horizons probe were recorded. This camera has a resolution of 4.09 ”/ pixel which means that a one-pixel position measurement error is a 10-20% parallax error (depending on the star). The approximations made in this calculation are insignificant in relation to the error in determining the position.

NASA's #NHParallax project to measure parallax by performing tandem observations on Wolf 359 and Proxima Centauri stars with the New Horizons spacecraft was purely educational, with NASA encouraging amateur astronomers around the world to make observations with their instruments at the same time as the space probe.

More details about this project can be found on the official website of the New Horizons mission:

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Learn/Get-Involved.php#NHparallax

The FITS files from the New Horizon space probe can be downloaded here:

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Learn/Parallax/Parallax-Images.php

The movement of the two stars is very difficult to visualize in the frames recorded on Earth, six months away because the parallax angle is extremely small compared to the star profile caused of the atmospheric disturbance recorded by the best observatories. The present project has managed to clearly illustrate this effect.

Authors Affiliation: 
Daniel Bertesteanu - Bucharest Astroclub
Marcel Popescu - Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy
Marian Naiman - Bucharest Astroclub
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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

What's In The Sky - July 2020

Get ready for summer stargazing! With the weather warming up, July is a great time of year to enjoy relaxing evenings under starry skies with your telescope or astronomy binoculars. Here are a few of Orion Telescopes and Binoculars picks for July stargazing...

Gas Giants at Opposition

Jupiter and Saturn both reach opposition one week apart this year, making July the perfect opportunity for planetary viewing! Opposition is when the Earth passes directly between a planet and the Sun. This coincides with the planets closest approach to Earth, providing an excellent opportunity for great views in a telescope. Both planets are easy to find in the Southern sky, about 7 degrees apart from each other. Jupiter reaches opposition on July 14th and Saturn about a week later on the 20th. During opposition, Saturn’s rings will be inclined at 21 degrees towards Earth, close to their maximum angle of 27 degrees. Combined with the planet's close approach to Earth, this makes July an excellent time to observe Saturn and its rings!

Jupiter imaged on 12/07/2012 with an Orion 180mm Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope Optical Tube. Imaged by Cherdphong V. from Bangkok, Thailand.
Jupiter imaged on 12/07/2012 with an Orion 180mm Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope Optical Tube. Imaged by Cherdphong V. from Bangkok, Thailand.

Grab a high magnification eyepiece or a Barlow lens, and check out the gas giants during opposition!

New Moon

July 20th is the darkest night of the month and therefore the best time to observe the more faint objects like galaxies and star clusters. Grab your observing gear and enjoy!

Hercules almost directly overhead and Scorpius

With constellation Hercules almost directly overhead and Scorpius to the south, there's plenty to see in July skies as summer continues. Check out globular star clusters M13 and M92 in Hercules, and explore Scorpius to find numerous deep-sky objects including open clusters M6 and M7, and globular clusters M4 and M80.

The Summer Milky Way

From a dark sky location in mid-July, the glorious Summer Milky Way shines as a band of light that stretches from the southern horizon to nearly overhead. As the night progresses, the Milky Way will arch across the entire sky. From a dark observing site, scan the Milky Way with 50mm or larger binoculars or a wide-angle telescope to explore some of the hundreds of open star clusters, emission nebulae and planetary nebulae that lurk among the star clouds.

Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope Kit.
Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope Kit.

July Challenge Object — Hercules Galaxy Cluster

About half a billion light-years from Earth in the constellation Hercules, not far from the star Beta Hercules in the southwest corner of the "keystone" asterism, lies the "Hercules Galaxy Cluster." This association is a group of 200-300 distant galaxies, the brightest of which is NGC 6050 at about 10th magnitude and can be seen with an 8" reflector like the Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian under very dark skies with good seeing conditions. A larger aperture, 14"-16" telescope like the Orion SkyQuest XX14g GoTo Truss Dobsonian will begin to show about a half-dozen or more galaxies in one field-of-view. How many can you see in your telescope?

Orion SkyQuest XX14g GoTo Truss Tube Dobsonian Telescope.
Orion SkyQuest XX14g GoTo Truss Tube Dobsonian Telescope.

All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

ATEO-1 Nightly Rentals Now Available!

Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector remote telescope is now available for full nightly rentals at discounted rates.

Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO-1) is now available for full nightly rentals.
Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO-1) is now available for full nightly rentals.

This 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector remote telescope, designated the Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO-1), is hosted at SkyPi Remote Observatory located at an elevation of 7,778 ft in the dark skies of New Mexico. This telescope went online back in August 2017 and is accessible remotely via the internet for students, amateur astronomers, and astrophotographers to conduct astronomical research and deep-sky imaging.

M81 and M82 - Bode's and Cigar Galaxies  (upper left),  M13 - Globular cluster in Hercules (lower left), and M63 - The Sunflower Galaxy in Canes Venatici (right). All image data acquired on ATEO-1 and processed by Utkarsh Mishra.
M81 and M82 - Bode's and Cigar Galaxies  (upper left),  M13 - Globular cluster in Hercules (lower left), and M63 - The Sunflower Galaxy in Canes Venatici (right). All image data acquired on ATEO-1 and processed by Utkarsh Mishra.

You may now rent a full night on this remote imaging system to gather image data in addition or as an alternative to purchasing imaging credits. Nightly rental use of the telescope can be for conducting research and deep-sky imaging for a flat discounted rental rate. These rental rates are depended upon the time of year the telescope is reserved. Discounted nightly rental rates cannot be applied with other running discounts and promotions.

If bad weather becomes a factor for your reserved night, you will be contacted either to reschedule or cancel without penalty. If your nightly imaging rental encounters unforeseen weather during the imaging run, we would then continue the imaging run the following night to complete the equivalent of a full nights worth of imaging hours.

Available slots are limited, so please Contact Us today for more information on pricing and details!
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Monday, June 1, 2020

What's In The Sky - June 2020

Get ready for summer stargazing! With the weather warming up, June is a great time of year to enjoy relaxing evenings under starry skies with your telescope or astronomy binoculars. Here are a few of Orion Telescopes and Binoculars top picks for June 2020 stargazing and observing:

Solar System Trio

Rising in the southeast on June 7th and 8th, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon are well placed for observing, with 5 degrees of separation between Jupiter and Saturn. On the 7th the Moon approaches Jupiter with a separation of 6 degrees, and on the 8th it is 4.5 degrees away from Saturn. They will rise around 11pm, and reach their highest point in the sky around 4am, providing ample observing time. Grab a planetary guide set to identify surface details or a Barlow lens for high magnification viewing!

M13 - The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules imaged on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1). Image data acquired by Muir Evenden and processed by Utkarsh Mishra.
M13 - The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules imaged on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1). Image data acquired by Muir Evenden and processed by Utkarsh Mishra.

Summer is Globular Season!

Globular star clusters are densely packed balls of stars that are concentrated towards the center of the Milky Way. June skies offer some of the finest globular cluster viewing opportunities. While you can detect most globular clusters in 50mm or larger binoculars, a moderate to high-power eyepiece in a 6" or larger telescope offers the best chance to resolve individual stars. In the constellation Hercules, look for M92 and the "Great Cluster" M13. In Scorpius, look for M4 and M80. The constellation Ophiuchus is home to six globulars - M10, M12, M14, M107, M9, and M19. Can you spot them all?

Summertime Staycation

Take advantage of the New Moon on June 20th and the galaxies and globular clusters visible for a great Staycation at home! Not only will the dark skies of the moonless night provide great opportunities to see fainter objects more clearly, but the warm June weather will make it easy to enjoy starry sights all night long. The New Moon also brings an annular solar eclipse, but this is only visible from parts of Africa and Asia.

M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (left) and M101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy (right) in Ursa Major imaged on Insight Observatory's ATEO-1 by Michael Petrasko (M51) and Utkarsh Mishra (M101).
M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (left) and M101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy (right) in Ursa Major imaged on Insight Observatory's ATEO-1 by Michael Petrasko (M51) and Utkarsh Mishra (M101). 

Swirling Spirals

Around 10pm in mid-June, two glorious, face-on spiral galaxies M51 and M101 will both be in a great position for viewing and imaging. Look for M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, to the southwest of the star Alkaid at the end of the Big Dipper's "handle". Scan the sky to the northeast of Alkaid to find M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy. Under very dark skies, these distant galaxies can barely be detected in smaller telescopes, but a 10" or larger reflector will reveal much more impressive views. If you're viewing from an especially dark location, try to resolve the delicate spiral arms of M51 in a 10" or larger telescope.


Orion Telescopes and Binoculars 10" Dobsonian Telescopes
Orion Telescopes and Binoculars 10" Dobsonian Telescopes

Gems of the Summer Triangle

By 10pm in mid-northern latitudes, the Summer Triangle, comprising beacon stars Vega (in Lyra), Deneb (in Cygnus), and Altair (in Aquila), will be fully visible above the horizon. Several celestial gems lie within its confines, including the Ring Nebula (M57), the Dumbbell Nebula (M27), open star cluster M29, and the visually challenging Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888). To catch a glimpse of the elusive Crescent, you'll almost certainly need an Orion Oxygen-III Filter in a larger telescope.

Summer Sky Challenge

Discovered in 1825 by the German astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve, NGC 6572 is bright enough to be seen in a humble 60mm refractor telescope from a dark sky site; but it is very, very small! At only 8 arc-seconds in size, it takes a lot of magnification to distinguish this from a star. The easiest way to find it is to look in the target area for a green star. NGC 6572 is one of the most intensely colored objects in the night sky. Some say this is green, some say it is blue; what do you think?

All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.
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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Monsoon Madness!

Get 20% OFF Imaging Credits and Starbase Image Set Subscriptions on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1)!

Offer valid from June 1, 2020, Thru August 31, 2020.

Now that the summer months are arriving in the southwest, US, they may bring us fewer clear nights. However, when the nights are clear, the deep-sky gems in the summer Milky Way are there for the taking.

Insight Observatory has decided to celebrate the "rainy season" with a summer discount of 20% OFF imaging credits and Starbase image set subscriptions on our fast and wide field of view 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector remote telescope located at nearly 7,800' in the dark skies of New Mexico.

Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1) remote telescope housed in Gamma Observatory at SkyPi Remote Observatory located at nearly 7,800' in Bortle 1 dark skies of New Mexico.
Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1) remote telescope housed in Gamma Observatory at SkyPi Remote Observatory located at nearly 7,800' in Bortle 1 dark skies of New Mexico.

ATEO-1 Discounted Imaging Rates:
  • Standard: $48.00 USD per imaging hour - Savings of $12.00 per imaging hour
  • Education: $39.00 USD per imaging hour - Savings of $10.80 per imaging hour

ATEO-1 Starbase Image Set Subscriptions:
  • Standard: $0.08 cents per minute of image set exposure time
  • Education: $0.06 cents per minute of image set exposure time

Get quality image data acquired from ATEO-1 to process images like these...

M13 - The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, M16 - The Eagle Nebula, and M63 - The Sunflower Galaxy all imaged on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1) remote telescope. M13 and M63 images processed by Utkarsh Mishra and M16 image processed by Bubba Daniels.
M13 - The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, M16 - The Eagle Nebula, and M63 - The Sunflower Galaxy all imaged on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1) remote telescope. M13 and M63 images processed by Utkarsh Mishra and M16 image processed by Bubba Daniels.

If you have any questions regarding our "Monsoon Madness" summer discount, please Contact Us.

Sign-up or log in to access your ATEO Portal account to take advantage of this special offer.

Enjoy and Clear Skies!
The Insight Observatory Team
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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

New Image Sets Available In Starbase!

New image sets are available for downloading from Insight Observatory's Starbase Image Set Repository! Over the course of the past six months, all three remote Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO) have been busy gathering image data for Starbase as well as various educational projects.

Listed below are just a few image sets that are now available acquired on Insight Observatory's ATEO remote telescopes...

NGC 1365 - The "Great Barred Spiral Galaxy" in the constellation Fornax. Imaged data acquired on ATEO-3 by Franck Jobard and processed by Utkarsh Mishra.
NGC 1365 - The "Great Barred Spiral Galaxy" in the constellation Fornax. Imaged data acquired on ATEO-3 by Franck Jobard and processed by Utkarsh Mishra.

ATEO-1 - 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector:

NGC 5907 - The Knife Edge or Splinter Galaxy (left) imaged on ATEO-1, M81 and M82 - Bode's and Cigar Galaxies (upper right) imaged on ATEO-1, and IC 405 - The Flaming Star Nebula (lower right) imaged on ATEO-2A.
NGC 5907 - The Knife Edge or Splinter Galaxy (left) imaged on ATEO-1, M81 and M82 - Bode's and Cigar Galaxies (upper right) imaged on ATEO-1, and IC 405 - The Flaming Star Nebula (lower right) imaged on ATEO-2A.

ATEO-2A - 5" f/5.8 Wiliams Optics APO refractor:

ATEO-3 - 12.5" f/9 Quasar Ritchey-Chretien:

Learn more about Insight Observatory's Starbase or download these and more image sets by logging in or signing up to Starbase HERE.

For any questions regarding Starbase, please Contact Us.
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Monday, May 11, 2020

The O-TEAM: A Thousand and One Nights - Part 2

Once upon a time, at a tiny cul-de-sac, in the village of North Falmouth, Cape Cod, Mass -

"This morning - was something to remember"...

So the note goes, written in pencil, on an official Edmund Scientific observing notes template, on the warm, sunny morning of 8 May 1983, by one, Mike Petrasko - one-third, of that notorious 3-member "gang" of optical aficionados, the "O-Team".

But, I think the tone of the note, was an understatement;

as observing sessions go, this one was outstanding, on several accounts! We had a guest for this session, a friend of Mike's, Shawn, who had never really had an opportunity, before this, to observe the sky with a telescope (and - he may not have, since!)

Graphic of O-Team members telescopes at Camelot Court


I had arrived, on location, at around 2:00am. The others - Mike, Muir, and Shawn, were just waking from a short night's sleep, camped out at the center of an unused, undeveloped, someday-to-be, cul-de-sac neighborhood called, "Camelot Court", in North Falmouth, Mass. We had chosen this location for its proximity, open view of the sky, and, for its relative isolation from outdoor lighting - and other, un-welcomed intrusions.

In the span of 3 hours of telescope time, we had assessed, 5 Messier objects, an unknown open cluster, an unknown globular cluster (to us, at the time), and 8 sporadic meteors.

The wee hours of the night present some of the best opportunities for the amateur observational astronomer: fewer episodes of sporadic lighting, fewer people, less traffic, increased meteor activity, and, most of all, quiet.

M57, The Ring Nebula in Lyra imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Utkarsh Mishra (left) and M27, The Dumbell Nebula in Vulpecula imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko.
M57, The Ring Nebula in Lyra imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Utkarsh Mishra (left) and M27, The Dumbell Nebula in Vulpecula imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko (right).

Our, "optical ambush", begins with M57 - the "Ring" nebula, in Lyra. Though this emission nebulosity does, indeed, appear ring-like through the eyepiece, that is an illusion of perspective. This structure is, in reality, a spherical shell of excited gas molecules, outlining the shock bow from a centralized supernova event. M56, to me, has always appeared to be, a lone "Cheerio", floating in the darkness! It sits, almost squarely, between the two, lower corner stars of the "lyre" shape, Gamma and Beta Lyrae. It can be observed well with a 4" telescope.

The next object was M27, in Vulpecula - the "Dumbbell" nebula.

This, also, can be seen easily in a 4" inch scope. I know this, because Mike had a 4" Edmund Scientific Astroscan, at the time, and usually found these objects before I did. It is a twin-lobed remnant, also of a supernova. Burnham's Celestial Handbook describes it as, "large and shining", at several times the size of M57. About then, we broke out some nutrition to keep up our ambitions: "Nutty Bars", "M&M's" (plain), and a bag of "Doritos". Now, there's some "energy food"!

Edmund Scientific's Astroscan 4" f/4.2 reflector telescope (left) with the original observing log entry this post was adapted from back on May 8th, 1983 written by Insight Observatory Co-Founder Michael Petrasko when he was 17 years old. Image credits: Astroscan - Glenn Votava, Observers Log - Dale Alan Bryant.
Edmund Scientific's Astroscan 4" f/4.2 reflector telescope (left) with the original observing log entry this post was adapted from back on May 8th, 1983 written by Insight Observatory Co-Founder Michael Petrasko when he was 17 years old. Image credits: Astroscan - Glenn Votava, Observers Log - Dale Alan Bryant.

Next on our list was M13 - the Hercules cluster (globular cluster, not referring to the cluster of galaxies within that constellation). Easily seen in good binoculars, this is one of my favorite collections. Of stars, that is. A nearly, perfectly symmetrical, uniformly dense, globe-shaped cluster of stars within the halo of globular clusters that orbits the Milky Way galaxy. Well, that's a technical description – but, see it for yourself, and you'll likely choose other, more prosaic wording, I'm sure of it.

M11 - is an open star cluster in the constellations Scutum. Open star clusters are loose congregations of stars, bound together, gravitationally, as are globular clusters, only, not as tightly. It's commonly called, the "Wild Duck" cluster (for reasons I never quite grasped). I have a favorite open cluster, not in this list: the double cluster, NGC'S 864 and 889, in Perseus. At over 7,000 light-years, the stars in the cluster appear as tiny, brilliant and colorful jewels.

M13, The Great Hercules Globular Cluster imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Utkarsh Mishra (left) and M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko (right).
M13, The Great Hercules Globular Cluster imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Utkarsh Mishra (left) and M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko (right).

Next up, M51 - the "Whirlpool" galaxy. M51 is another "Grand Design" spiral galaxy, in reference to its near-perfection. Actually, it's an interactive pair of galaxies - the larger one, slowly consuming the smaller of the two. Located in Canes Venatici, its brightness and relative isolation in the darkness make it an easy target for small scopes.

As for the unknown open and globular clusters, I could only guess at what they would have been; likely, something in Ophiuchus - an area, rich, in such wonders.

And that leaves eight meteors; possibly, or not, connected to the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Meteors are a fascinating subject, all on their own. The months of April and May have, historically, produced some very large fireballs and bolides, in historic times. Ask Mike or me, about that, sometime!

Dale Alan Bryant
Senior Contributing Science Writer
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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

NGC 5907 - Galaxy with a Tail

NGC 5907, also known as Splinter or Knife Edge Galaxy, is a warped spiral galaxy about 150,000 light-years across and is located in the constellation Draco around 50 million light-years away from earth.

Back in 2019 after completing my project on M63 Sunflower galaxy, I decided to search for new objects to image using Insight Observatory's 16" f3.7 Dream astrograph reflector, ATEO-1, remote telescope. While I was surfing the internet, I came across an interesting galaxy. I made sure that it is visible in the northern hemisphere as ATEO-1 is located in the dark skies of New Mexico. I researched a bit more about this edge-on galaxy and found that tidal streams create a loop around this galaxy. I found a couple more images where there were two loops wrapped around the galaxy. I was really excited to capture this galaxy remotely as it was one of a kind and I could not find a similar galaxy that had two loops. I made a decision to capture this galaxy and I decided to email Michael Petrasko and Muir Evenden, Co-founders of Insight Observatory. As the tidal streams were very faint, it would mean investing a lot of imaging time. We started out and collected 5 hours worth of luminance data with ATEO-1.

NGC 5907, also known as the Splinter or Knife Edge Galaxy in the constellation Draco displaying its tidal loop and stream. Imaged on ATEO-1 with 29 hours of luminance image data combined with color image data from the Dragonfly Telephoto Array. Image data acquired by Muir Evenden and processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko.
NGC 5907, also known as the Splinter or Knife Edge Galaxy in the constellation Draco displaying its tidal loop and stream. Imaged on ATEO-1 with 29 hours of luminance image data combined with color image data from the Dragonfly Telephoto Array. Image data acquired by Muir Evenden and processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko.

After capturing 5 hours worth of image data from ATEO-1, I thought we could get some hint of the double loop but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, although a wisp of the upper tidal stream was visible. I decided to research this a bit more and I found out that this stuff is very faint and probably needs 20-30 hours of exposure to reveal the kind of details I was looking for. Unfortunately, ATEO-1 was shut down for many months due to maintenance so I had to continue this project when it was back online. Michael reminded me about this project that was lagging behind so I decided to get back to work on it.

NGC 5907 imaged on ATEO-1 with 29 hours of luminance image data.  Image data acquired by Muir Evenden and processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko.
NGC 5907 imaged on ATEO-1 with 29 hours of luminance image data.  Image data acquired by Muir Evenden and processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko.

After a couple of days, I read an article from Sky and Telescope magazine that astronomers found that those double loops actually do not exist. My mind was completely blown and I shared this with Michael. This subject was getting more interesting day by day. I also came across a couple of images that showed that the loops do exist. I was really looking forward to working on this data and thanks to Michael and Muir, they managed to grab another 10 hours worth of data for me. I jumped on my computer to process it and I was expecting the double loop to pop up now but there was still no sign of it. I was unable to believe that even after 15 hours of exposure time with this really fast equipment under some of the darkest skies of the US, the double loop did not show up. I asked Michael to change the binning to 2x2, doubling the CCD camera's sensitivity. The data comprised of around 10 hours of bin 2x2 and 5 hours of bin 1x1. I then asked Michael if he could try imaging more data. The weather cooperated and we were able to gather 5 more hours of data. Once again, I looked on my screen with the expectation to see the double loop in my data, however, it looked like the image data was showing me something else. I processed the data and inverted it and found that the tidal streams were going downward and forming a structure similar to a tail.

I had many doubts regarding all the stuff that we captured so I quickly approached my friend Xavier Strottner. He has discovered many objects in space so I thought that he would have better knowledge and understanding of this. I had a great conversation with Xavier and he clarified all my doubts. He shared a few research papers with me so that I can read and understand more about this galaxy.

Inverted images of NGC 5907 imaged by the Dragonfly Telephoto Array (top) and ATEO-1 (bottom).
Inverted images of NGC 5907 imaged by the Dragonfly Telephoto Array (top) and ATEO-1 (bottom).

After working on 20 hours of luminance data, I started questioning whether the loops existed as they should have shown up.  I just had one more doubt that maybe we are not going for enough exposure length so I requested that Michael and Muir image 1200 sec sub exposers with binning 2x2 and erase all of my doubts regarding this double loop. Soon we were able to capture 4 hours worth of 1200 second image data and combine it with the rest of the data taken over the last year. I compared the 4 hours with the 5 hours we captured earlier in 2019. I could not find much of a difference in both. I requested Michael combine all data and make a master stack of it. After 24.5 hours of imaging time, there was still no sign of those double loops. However, I was very happy that we, amateurs, could capture the extremely faint tail that probably no one could do except the Dragonfly Telephoto Array. The Dragonfly telescope is an array of 48 lenses in two clusters of 24 and is equivalent of a 1.0 m diameter f/0.4 refractor. I also contacted a few astronomers working on these tidal streams to see if maybe they would publish a scientific paper on this in the future about our latest imaging on this data.

I would like to thank Michael, Muir and Xavier for providing excellent support throughout this project. I really enjoyed working together as a team. This project has really inspired me to image the entire tidal stream survey and I am looking forward to doing more such projects Insight Observatory using ATEO-1.

Personally, I also assume that "Team Insight" has only managed to capture the faint stellar tail in the amateur astrophotography world. 

Utkarsh Mishra
Lucknow, India

**All 29 hours of image data for NGC 5907 is available for download from Insight Observatory's image set repository "Starbase".
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Friday, May 1, 2020

What's In The Sky - May 2020

Get outside with your telescope on clear May evenings to see celestial treats! With the weather warming up and skies clearing up, there's no shortage of celestial delicacies to view with telescopes and binoculars. Here are a few of Orion Telescopes and Binoculars top suggestions for May observing:

Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

Grab a blanket or a comfy lounge chair to sit back, relax and watch the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, one of two annual showers caused by dust particles from Halley's Comet. Catch the peak of the dazzling show before dawn on May 5th. The approximate peak rate is 10-30 per hour, but meteors should be visible from April 19th through May 28th. Look for meteors appearing to radiate from the constellation Aquarius. We've selected some useful equipment for viewing meteor showers, including ultra-wide-angle binoculars, and star charts.

M97, The Owl Nebula in Ursa Major imaged on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1).
M97, The Owl Nebula in Ursa Major imaged on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1).

Four Big Planetary Nebulae

Use a 6" or larger telescope and an Oxygen-III filter to catch nice views of four relatively large planetary nebulae in May skies. See the "Ghost of Jupiter," NGC 3242 in Hydra; M97, "the Owl Nebula" in the Big Dipper; NGC 4361 in Corvus, and the famous "Ring Nebula", M57 in Lyra just a few degrees from the bright star Vega. To help you locate these objects, use the Orion DeepMap 600.

New Moon, Dark Skies

Take advantage of the dark skies provided by the New Moon on May 22nd to scope out the many star clusters, galaxies and other deep-sky gems on display. Pack up your astronomy gear using our full line of telescope and accessory cases and head to a dark sky site for the best viewing conditions.

M13, The Great Cluster in Hercules (left) processed by Utkarsh Mishra and M3, a globular cluster in the northern constellation Canes Venatici by Michael Petrasko. Both clusters imaged on ATEO-1.
M13, The Great Cluster in Hercules (left) processed by Utkarsh Mishra and M3, a globular cluster in the northern constellation Canes Venatici by Michael Petrasko. Both clusters imaged on ATEO-1.

Five Glittering Globulars

Five picture-perfect examples of globular star clusters will be visible in May skies. Check out M3 in the constellation Bootes. M13, the "Great Cluster in Hercules" will be visible near the zenith. M5 can be found in Serpens and M92 in the northern section of Hercules. Be sure to track down M4 (NGC 6121) in Scorpius on May 27th, as it will be in a great position for telescopic study throughout the night, reaching zenith around midnight. Big telescopes will provide the best views, but even a pair of humble 50mm or larger binoculars will show you these dense balls of stars from a dark sky site.

M101, The Pinwheel Galaxy in Ursa Major processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko (left) and M51, The Whirpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (right) imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko.
M101, The Pinwheel Galaxy in Ursa Major processed by Utkarsh Mishra and Michael Petrasko (left) and M51, The Whirpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (right) imaged on ATEO-1 processed by Michael Petrasko.

Four Face-On Spirals

Use a large telescope to see the classic pinwheel shapes of galaxies M101 and M51 in the Big Dipper asterism of Ursa Major, and M99 and M100 in the Virgo galaxy cluster. There are also dozens of additional galaxies to explore in the Virgo cluster with a large aperture telescope.

May's Challenge Object

May skies present some of the best opportunities to grab a view of Omega Centauri - the brightest globular star cluster in the sky! While it's big and bright, even visible as a "fuzzy" star in binoculars, the challenge Omega Centauri presents is its low position in southern skies, which can make it unobservable from higher northern latitudes. If you're having trouble locating the famous globular cluster, Bruce McClure from EarthSky.org suggests letting the sparkling blue-white star Spica help you. He explains that when Spica climbs highest up for the night, so does Omega Centauri - look for it 35 degrees directly below Spica.

Classic Dobsonians from Orion Telescopes and Binoculars.
Classic Dobsonian Telescopes from Orion Telescopes and Binoculars.

All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.
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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Online Learning Opportunities Using ATEO

During these unusual and stressful times, Insight Observatory has been fortunate enough to be able to offer and provide online learning opportunities with teachers and students from their homes. One instance was a recent collaboration with Plymouth South Elementary School 5th-grade teacher, Ms Christine DeSantis, from Plymouth, Massachusetts. Insight Observatory and Ms. DeSantis had scheduled an education program earlier this year to take place in April 2020. Fortunately, due to Insight's online Educational Image Request (EIR) application, Ms. DeSantis and her 5th-grade students could still proceed with the class project as planned.

Plymouth South Elementary School Student, Aidan F., examines his image of M27, The Dumbbell Nebula, taken on Insight Observatory's 16 f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1) remote telescope.
Plymouth South Elementary School Student, Aidan F., examines his image of M27, The Dumbbell Nebula, taken on Insight Observatory's 16 f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1) remote telescope.

"We are very grateful to have been able to benefit from Insight Observatory’s educational outreach program, especially during this difficult and challenging process of distance learning!" states Ms. DeSantis. "Students first visited Insight Observatory's website to learn more about the online remote telescopes and their locations. The students discussed why New Mexico was an ideal location for deep space photography, and how Insight Observatory Co-Founder, Mr. Petrasko, first became interested in space photography. It was inspiring and motivating for the kids to learn how a hobby and interest in space could eventually develop into this type of program."

 Plymouth South Elementary School Student, Morgan H., displays her image of M57, The Ring Nebula.  M97, The Owl Nebula and M108 Galaxy on the right were imaged by Brook C. and Cameron J. All deep-sky objects were imaged by the students on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1). Plymouth South Elementary School Student, Morgan H., displays her image of M57, The Ring Nebula.  M97, The Owl Nebula (upper right) and M108 Galaxy (lower left) were imaged by Brook C. and Cameron J. All deep-sky objects were imaged by the students on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1).
Plymouth South Elementary School Student, Morgan H., displays her image of M57, The Ring Nebula.  M97, The Owl Nebula (upper right) and M108 Galaxy (lower left) were imaged by Brook C. and Cameron J. All deep-sky objects were imaged by the students on Insight Observatory's 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector (ATEO-1).

"After their research, students were paired up to choose some deep-sky images to have photographed. It was particularly exciting for the students to find out that the spring sky is loaded with galaxies. Students chose from a list of open star clusters, spiral galaxies, globular clusters, and planetary nebulae. They were thrilled when their images arrived. After seeing their images, students discussed the immensity of distances in space and reviewed the variation in galaxy shapes. This was such a wonderful project, especially since it allowed my students to visit faraway places without having to leave their homes."

More images acquired by Plymouth South Elementary School 5th-grade students using ATEO-1. M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy imaged by Trevor B. (left), M27, The Dumbell Nebula, imaged by Aidan F. (upper right), and M3, Globular Cluster imaged by Nathan B.
More images acquired by Plymouth South Elementary School 5th-grade students using ATEO-1. M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy imaged by Trevor B. (left), M27, The Dumbell Nebula, imaged by Aidan F. (upper right), and M3, Globular Cluster imaged by Nathan B.
Insight Observatory would like to thank Ms. DeSantis and her 5th-grade students for participating in a classroom project for the 3rd year straight year! Even during these challenging learning conditions, we are very happy we could still make it possible!

If you are an educator and would like to participate in an online learning opportunity using our Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO) remote telescope network, please Contact Us
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