Month: August 2011

Observational site for astrophotography

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Astrophotography requires these days a remote location in order to avoid city lights and other sources of light polution originating from suburbs, traffic, illuminated roads, commersial signs, small villages and so on.

The best way to decide wether or not a location is spared from that, is by checking an overview map focusing on the light polution given by sattelite data. There are numerous of sattelites orbiting earth and one of the most popular websites giving you that opportunity to review your local areas situation is the “Night Sky In The World“.

From where I live, the best closest location spared by light polution are the shores of the lake “Krankesjön” 15-20 minutes from where I live by car. Fortunately the area is a nature reserve and some streets are off limits due to military excersises, limiting the traffic. Besides the closest civilization is made of very small villages at a distance of 10 to 20 km from the lake. Occasionally the military police makes a visit during the astrophotography sessions wondering what business we have in the area. Sometimes they’re interested knowing more about astrophotography but most of the times they check your ID number and move on.

Today I went out by car for the second time to investigate this location and find a better spot from where I could assemble my telescope. During my trip I came across a Danish group of bird viewers and exchanged a few words about their cameras and their telephotography techniques.

By night south part of Sweden is very light poluted due to the geography. Small villages and cities are growing by population every year and the situation gets worse as times passes. A map provided by my astronomy society Aquila (ASAK) shows the whole picture on what magnitude stars you can see by naked eye.

Light Polution of South Sweden

The map was created by Lars Lindh, amateur astronomer and astrophotographer and member of the Aquila astronomical society in Kristianstad. His webpage can be found here.

The link bellow shows the location of lake “Krankesjön”.,13.481855&spn=0.031874,0.104628&z=14&vpsrc=6&output=embed
Visa större karta

Astrophotography blog in local newspaper

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Niklas HenricsonPhoto: Sara Frostberg Lowery

The last few years I’ve made occassionally appearance on TV, radio and news papers regarding astronomy and science related news and happenings, but in difference to these interviews, I’ve been asked this time by “Lunds Lokaltidning” to say a few words about this blog in particular.

A big thanks to Sara Frostberg Lowery for taking time and effort visiting me at home last week. It was a nice relaxing interview as we both talked about my background and this big interest around astronomy and astrophotography.

In difference to most blogs covering fashion, movies, life experiences, music and so on; this blog is ofcourse dedicated to astrophotography and astronomy related news and history. That became interesting for the local newpaper who started recently a campain of interviews dedicated in local blog authors resided within our community, Lund.

If you’re interested reading the article click this link bellow.

Lunds Lokaltidning – Med blicken riktad uppåt

A google-translated version can be found here.

Jävan Observatory – Sweden

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Jävan observatory
Jävan observatory

During 1930:ies there were countless of meetings at the university of Lund regarding the problems in lacking an observatory. The old observatory at the park of Lund was outdated, old and fell victim of the growing city and therefore light polution.

It stood clear that astronomers were in serious need of a new observatory to perform their observations and provide students with a better place. They started investigating local areas outside the suburbs of Lund during 1940 and finally found a hill located near the village of Genarp. The new place was decided to be hosting the new observatory and it was not that far away from the university (30 minutes by car), but far enough to avoid light polution at night time. It wasn’t until September 1965 the university received the telescope mirror and in October 1966 the observatory was finally operating for the first time.

During planing it was decided that the observatory would have two domes, one at west and one east, both having the ability to look south at meridian. The main instrument was a Nasmyth-Cassegrain telescope provided with a spectrograph table, cooling system. The entire system’s weight was estimated to be 3500 kilograms. The main mirror is parabolic and 61 cm in diameter and weights around 98 kilograms. The hyperbolic secondary mirror is 16 cm in diameter and was made of Duran glass with aluminmum surface.

The main goal of the observatory was to study the magnitude of thousents of stars on one single shot through photoelectric photometry. 1973 the telescope had a spectrographer to enable studies in spectrum for individual stars.

As the decades passed by, the cities around Genarp (including Genarp village itself) grew larger. A new era in astronomy started enabling astronomers to either travel out of country to remote locations, or connect to an observatory across the world through internet. Jävan observatory was hard to compete to the new technology and the evergrowing cities around light poluting the skies.

This observatory stopped beeing operable at the late 90:ties. Regardless, for an amateur astronomer the hill location is perfect still for observations. The forest around the hill has grown wild and large pinetrees are covering the low horizon and most of the light polution is hidden behind the forest trees.

A friend of mine and myself went there one night (8th of May 2011) and began observing the night sky together. It was a beautiful night sky full of stars. We tried taking a few pictures on globular clusters towards south, but that night was windy causing pollen to raise in the air and therefore it was far from ideal in regards to astrophotography.

Summer, vacations and observatories

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Niklas Henricson
Niklas Henricson

I thought I’d write something regarding my summer activities. Amateur astronomy is very quiet during the summer season due to the light skye for the most part, the quick changing weather circumstances from day to day, but also because for a common Swede the summer season is dedicated for the anual vacations from work and studies. My family and I decided to visit Scotland this year, which was very beautiful. We decided to visit the major cities such as Glasgow and Edinburg, but also the country side of Scotland, such as lakes (Loch Lomond, Loch Drunkie) and parts of the Scotish Highlands. Scotland got rich scientific and engineering history. One interesting story is that of Scotsman James Watt (known from the unit Watt written on every light bulb you buy at stores). Watt was a poor engineer fighting with his economy issues most part of his life. He owned a little store selling his navigational instruments in Glasgow, but barely made any money that suffice for his family living at the time. Years passed and James suceeded getting an employment at the university of Glasgow, enabling him to access the university workshop.

Just as other innovators, James did what most people did not. He had passion in details and improvement. He analyzed the classical steam engine and found some basic flaws and weaknesses in the current system. At the time steam engines were very small and used for the most part in the Scotish country side, helping miners to pump out water from the coil mines.

James found out that Newcomen’s model of steam engine had very low efficiency. After some long nights and big efforts James finally found a way to improve the steam engine and win a high degree of efficiency at low cost. To make a long story short, his solution revolutionized and changed the world. His ingenious methods and solution to the steam engine was a major turning point in history changing the way of living. It is what we call today as the industrial revolution.

His steam engine was used hence in the railways bringing people and wares closer to each other, as well as commersial and the military fleets across the world. Brittain was back then the biggest empire in the world. The sun was always up shinning somewhere in the Brittish empire on the earth.

James Watt statue, Glasgow
James Watt statue, Glasgow

Thanks to James Watt’s efforts, we use today a unit called “Watt” in the S.I. system to honor his name. The unit Watt tells us what amount of efficiency (work) we get during a certain amount of time. Before that, it was common to use horsepowers (hp) but horsepower was a smaller unit in order to express efficiency large machines.

1 W = 0,0013596216 hp or vice versa 1 hp = 735,49875 W. That is why car salemen are using still horsepowers to impress potential buyers, instead of using Watt… People are more impressed when they hear thousents of horsepowers efficiency on the engines, rather then a few tens.

Regardless in daily life we’re using Watt in light bulbs.

Now the question is what does Watt mean for astronomy?

Astronomers are using mostly Watt to express the electromagnetic radiation efficiency on certain amount of area. Watt/square meter (W/m²).

Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to visit the Royal Observatory of Edinburg, but I will try and write about the local observatories of Skåne were I live and see if I ever fufill my dream visiting other famous observatories across Europe.

On my next article I will write about the forgotten observatory of Jävan, located in Genarp, not very far away from where I live.