Cosmic Watch

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I’ve had the pleasure to be in touch with the creators behind Cosmic Watch app which can be found either at iOS App Store or at Google Play for Android devices.

The new version has a plethora of new features to access a range of beautiful settings in regards to constellations, planetary position, the solar system position in correlation to our galaxy, switch between locations on earth and keep up with time zones, day/night time settings, while you can still browse back and forth in time to find out what the night sky looked or will look like ahead of time.

I must say I’m impressed by the beautiful design and easy way to access all these features and how quickly the app responds to each setting. I really recommend this app for kids and adults alike if you’d like to explore and learn real-time how the earth’s orbit around the solar system works and how constellations move around over time.

 

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The app was created by,

Concept & Design: Eduardo Santana
Advisor: Markus Humbel
Software Engineers: Reto Spoerri, Adrian Pflugshaupt
Astronomical Algorithms: Jean Meeus

Cosmic Watch can also be visited on Facebook if you’d like to ask questions to the creators behind this software.

The new version 2.0 has also a built-in point-and-view feature that helps you learn constellations, star names, planets, etc and explore the night sky at real time! That’s a super neat feature that is very helpful for everyone who wants to learn more on how to find things in the night sky. A perfect tool for families and educators

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Niklas Henricson

NGC 7000 – North America Nebula

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It has been 2 years since me and my wife went to Oregon with mom to witness the great American solar eclipse where I had the chance to snap more photos through my telescopes. It was a beautiful night despite the fact I was very rusty in setting my equipment up before getting too dark. I succeeded doing somewhat good polar alignment but I forgot my laptop and I couldn’t use my auto-guider, leaving me with the old traditional manual cranking of adjusting against the drifting.
What was worse I forgot even my battery for powering the telescope but a fellow astronomer in my club lent me his 10 ft. extension cord so I could power myself off my truck. 

I made an attempt with the American Nebula (NGC 7000/Caldwell 20) in constellation of Cygnus which relies some 1,500 light years away. My DSLR (Canon EOS 50D) is an unmodified version and on longer exposures it gets really hot and as a result adds some extra noise in the exposures. That made me lower my exposure time from 5 minutes down to 2.5 minutes (which also made the drifting less painful). The image below was just a test image of 5 minutes exposure in ISO 1600 to see how badly I was drifting.

A good thing with NGC 7000 this time of the year (or any other object in the region for that matter), it’s very high up in sky which eliminates the worse part from light pollution and atmospheric distortion due to temperature shifts. Deneb (the 19th brightest star in the night sky) is nearby allowing auto-guiders/guiding much easier in the process.

Unfortunately I couldn’t see the drifting accurately on site since I forgot to bring over my laptop (note some egg-formed stars in zoomed portion of the image to the right). But overall I was pleased with the results on my shorter exposure images and can’t wait to stack them together once I’ve gathered enough light.

Next time I’ll be more prepared of course since this is more of a long term project were I need to gather in total over 150 minutes of exposure in order to do this night sky object some justice. It is definitely one of the most beautiful nebulae out there!

Niklas Henricson

Fires and nature around us is changing

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Many times as an amateur astronomer/astrophotographer you’re trying to locate good places with good seeing and local weather to accomodate your needs in astronomical observations. Many amateur astronomers have spotted favorite spots away from modern civilization’s disturbances such as lights, traffic, curious individuals that approach you with headlights in the middle of the night, such as dog owners, hunters, security guards, the local police force, etc.

I’ve met all of these types of people in the middle of the night and believe me sometimes they scare you more than nature wildlife sounds might do. California is rich in wildlife, such as snakes, bears, mountain lions, etc. Animals however always want to keep their distance to your nightly activities and are less curious than human beings on what you’re working on during a photographic session.

There are many stories I can tell you about these meetings, but this blog entry is more about loosing the beauty of nature that once was there protecting you from city and traffic light, dew, and temperatures. The devastating fires in my immediate close area last summer was different. I live with my family very close to California’s most aggressive fires that happened in this state’s history ever before.

The so called Carr fires in Shasta county (including Hirz) then later on the Camp fire in Butte county where the most devastating wildfires that I’ve ever seen. Loosing forests so drastically, not to mention cities and home societies that were wiped out of the map is a weird feeling. You realize how vulnerable we all are against the climate changes and you literally end up loosing everything. At my job we all know someone, either close family relative or a family friend that has lost property and even family members. It feels as if we are in a war zone and you can’t do anything about it. Human lives, wild and domesticated animals, acres of both forest and farming land was lost in matter of a week from the moment those fires started.

Insurance companies are now facing huge issues in trying to pay back all those incoming claims from their insurance policy members which effects everyone financially. Local businesses are lost and people end up moving (migrating) away from the areas. I saw people camping in parking lots and had nowhere to go and no family to take care of them.

It was most noticeable this past November in 2018 when Thankgiving was around the corner when you realized how many people wouldn’t celebrate one of the biggest key holidays in US, freezing cold that night in their cars completely alone from the warm homes that once protected them.

Everyone is making new year’s resolutions about gym, career, health, but I believe my new year’s resolution is to try and bring awareness to people about our nature changes and do my best to document and write more about the climate change and its effects on all of us. There’s a major disbelief that climate change is hoax, but you can’t simply ignore the fact that all these people and animals have died for something we all could have done something about.

Wikipedia documentation on all the wildfires in California 2018

While east coast is starting consequentially experiencing annually the wrath of hurricanes and extreme storms here in California we got something called Fire Season… It is unbelievable, you know it’s going to happen again every year and every time with more devastating effects. California’s once proud forests are slowly turning out to its neighboring state Nevada… A Marsian looking desert.

Forests are more than just nature’s lunges… They protect us from landslides, they improve home living from high summer temperatures and people who suffer from medical conditions end up living close to those areas to ride out California’s extreme summer heat, they provide us with knowledge, they improve local businesses and trade by bringing over tourists and campers, they host threatened from extinction animals and insects and many other things.

Let us hope 2019 will be more hopeful with less fires and nature disasters against our natural monuments and our homes.

 

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Niklas Henricson

Lick Observatory

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Lick Observatory Entrance
Lick Observatory

For my 40th birthday my wife took me to the Lick Observatory. It was in my to-do list a very long time but we never found the right time to just go and visit it. It is resided just 3 hours from where we live, but the road there is very curvy.

Lick Observatory was built 1887 on the top of mountain Hamilton facing San Jose with a breath taking beautiful view. The name of the observatory was in honor of James Lick who founded the building of the the world’s first mountain-top observatory accompanied by the time the world’s largest refractor (lens) telescope.

We had a great time and the observatory is family-friendly. We had the luck to arrive 10 minutes before a guided tour was about to begin. Normally the observatory isn’t open for visits, but around this time of the year they open to public. Much of its funding is done through the gift shop, so if you drop by that’s a great place to make donation to keep the free guided tours alive.

There are many discoveries that have been made by the Lick Observatory, such as the distinction of the several different rings on Saturn, played a key-role in Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the expansion of universe, discovery of exoplanets, among many other successful research discoveries.James Lick

Parts of the observatory are still used for science and research with the latest modern equipment. There are other domes that house these aside the infamous Lick telescope dome that occupies the highest point.

At the bottom of their 36-inches Lick telescope is James Lick buried right at its base. I recommend people visit this historically important observatory. There are so many things to look at and read about hanging at its walls and at the exhibition area, such as fragments of meteorites, old generation CCD sensors and cameras and log books from astronomers in the past.

 

 

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Bright Smoke in the sky in California

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So there was a mysterious smoke clearly visible in north California this evening. It was not the Delta IV rocket scheduled to be launched the very same evening. 4 minutes before the appearance the Delta IV launch was cancelled due to a leak in one of the hydrogen tanks.

From the appearance, this was not an airplane malfunctioning but most likely a meteor.

Moon and Venus in conjunction

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Tonight Venus and the Moon were in conjunction. A beautiful show that was clearly visible in the Sacramento, CA area despite clouds in the horizon

Camera: Canon EOS 50D – with tripod and remote control
ISO: 500
Exposure: 2 secs
Focal Ratio: f/4.5
Focal Length: 96 mm
Original Dimensions: 4752 x 3168 px
Time: 4/17/2018, 7:37 PDT
Location: Sacramento CA, US
Post Processing: Adobe Photoshop CS6

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Niklas Henricson
Sacramento, CA

Planetary Alignment Event on March 2018

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Next astronomical event will be the alignment between the planetary objects Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Moon and the star Antares.

Take the chance to do a wide field photography or study the planets through either telescopes or binoculars to try and see their features.

The event will happen on March 7th, 2018 at 4 AM (PST) and can also be observable on the 8th of March as well.

Below I’ve labeled all the celestial objects that will line up.

  1. Saturn
  2. Mars
  3. Antares
  4. Jupiter
  5. Moon
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Planetary Alignment, March 2018

 

Niklas Henricson