For months I’ve been waiting for my astronomy gear to arrive from Sweden. I packed everything last summer in 2016 and didn’t get to access my telescopes until January this year. Last weekend we decided to visit our family member who lives in Redding which is a small town near Shasta lake divided by the Sacramento river. He lives in a beautiful place close to nature so we didn’t hesitate for a second to load the trunk with my astronomy gear. It takes around 3 hours to travel from Sacramento to Redding, which is fairly far away from the town to spend time with family.
Saturday evening we went to Whiskeytown Lake and met members from Shasta’s Astronomy Club. A nice bunch of people who took their time to introduce themselves and tell us stories on how often they gather around every week to observe the beauty of the night sky in that area. I was impressed by their telescopes and knowledge and was happy to be among other fellow astronomy enthusiasts, exchanging knowledge about the night sky.
We had a good time with the kids and got to observe Jupiter with its moons, Leo’s triplet and the moon. We will definitely be visiting Redding again, maybe without the kids so we can stay much longer!
Below is the world’s largest sun dial at Turtle Bay Exploration Park
Thank you Shasta astronomy friends!
One of the most amazing things about California, are the infamous sunsets. The stratocumulus clouds are shattered across the horizon but still merged reminding us the potential rainfall on its way, as the twilight spreads in the upper atmosphere dominating the evening sky with red, orange, pink and yellow palette of colors. A magnificent view to say the least!
As I am gazing at the evening and night skies I can’t wait for my equipment to be transferred to the states from Sweden very soon. The need to be out in the nature and taking photos at the deep sky grows bigger for every day.
I wrote on my previous blogpost about the Solar System Scope by INOVE. This time I thought I’d write some extra about it. Beside their awesome interactive website, INOVE has developed their solar system to be accessible from Android devices. If you enter the App Store make a simple search for “Solar System Scope” and you’ll find it available for free.
It is the perfect app to teach yourself and others (your kids, or at the school) about our solar system. These days you can connect a mobile device to your laptop to enable projection on big screens.
Solar System Scope has some basic data about each object that is part of our solar system. From planets to dwarf planets, moons, comets, asteroids, constellations as you browse among many of them enabling you to explore their orbits, behavior and most importantly fast forward or rewind to observe their positions at a certain point in time.
Another cool feature is that you can “open up” planets to look at their interior and see what they consist of. Above you have two examples from the planets Saturn and Mars respectively. I believe this app is the coolest so far when it comes to graphics and usability. It is a very user friendly and intuitive app that has a simple design making it possible start using its advanced features within seconds.
I really hope INOVE takes this app one step further and offers us to explore other neighbor solar systems that we know off in scientific ways. How cool wouldn’t that be?
Unfortunately this app is only available for Android devices. I was hoping one day they’ll make a release for Windows mobile devices as well.
So there’s this thing going around that California will suffer great disaster. All that according to one of Nostradamus prophecies. Let us have a closer look to what he wrote:
The trembling so hard in the month of May,
Saturn, Capricorn, Jupiter, Mercury in Taurus:
Venus also, Cancer, Mars, in Virgo,
Hail will fall larger than an egg.
Upon closer look let us sort the planets by constellations:
- Constellation Capricorn:
– Planet Saturn (Exists instead by the constellation of Libra)
- Constellation Taurus:
– Planet Jupiter (Exists instead by the constellation of Cancer)
– Planet Mercury (The only one that matches the prophecy)
– Planet Venus (Exists instead by the constellation of Gemini)
- Constellation Virgo:
– Planet Mars (Exists instead by the constellation of Taurus)
So nothing matches except of the planet Mercury. The 29th of May 2015 looks pretty safe to me, so enjoy your weekend everyone! No need to barricade in your shelters or buy any food supplies.
The image above was taken by the entirely free of charge program “Solar System Scope” which runs on a webpage at:
Solar System scope can be also be found for Android and Apple devices ready to be downloaded for free.
By owning an equatorial mount, you’ll find yourself in the situation to perform a polar alignment to your mount each time you assemble your equipment prior an observation. However, apart from using the setting circles and calculating the polar star position manually, there are a few phone apps worth mentioning that would save you a great deal of time. Before phones and tablets entered our lives amateur astronomers relied on printed paper sheets including an approximate to the polar position reticle sky chart that resembles the finder scope reticle chart in your mount.
Today’s phone apps are able to locate your exact position through the phone’s built-in GPS ability including the exact time and thus calculate more accurately than before the current polar star position allowing you to do a finer alignment to your scope mount.
I will mention three phone/tablet apps starting with the old classic PolarFinder (http://polarfinder.com/) that also exist as Windows and Linux programs available on their website. A version for Mac and Windows phones is on the way *thumbs up*
This app was the very first one that appeared at Play Store but I never succeeded making the reticle image cover up the entire screen as shown in the screenshot. Also its not very obvious in the reticle as where the polar star should be located at.
Northern Polar Alignment
This is a much simpler version of polar finder that supports only the northern hemisphere. You have to set date and time zone manually as well as your longitude every time you enter the app. It has some static text with information on the screen and it doesn’t look overly impressive by any means. It wouldn’t be my first choice or recommendation to anyone in comparison to what is available out in the app stores.
The next app is called PolarFinder developed by Jótzef Lázár and is in my opinion the best choice so far. It uses GPS just as the previous app but has many more options to choose from than any of the previous apps so far.
The best function is that you can change reticle types to ressemble the reticles in the most known mount types. These are Ioptron, Astro-Physics, Losmandy, Skywatcher, Takahashi, Vixen, AstroTrac and StarAdventurer.
The longitude can either be entered manually, or acquired through the phone GPS. You can adjust the markers distance, night mode, date format, star sizes and hemisphere location (north/south).
The image orientation option is greyed out when you choose among telescope types and enabled when you use the “Built-in” reticle type.
AP Polar Align
For the windows phones and tablets out there you’ll find this neat app that by default in night vision mode. You can choose to either allow the phone enter your GPS location or enter it manually. The night vision brightness is adjustable through a slider and the reticle is very easy to understand. A double tap on the reticle image zooms in for more detail. I would say this app is neat and has a very clean layout. Finally, this app is found for free in the Windows Store.
I’ll continue writing more about other neat apps that I always carry around with me on my phone and tablet. The next in order is something that concerns everyone when it comes to weather forecasts and Weather Live is actually the one that predicts weather outcome the best for your local area. It is very simple using it and provides information about the humidity, precipitation, pressure, wind strength and direction, average temperature, lowest and highest temperatures, how temperature feels in combination with wind, you can add locations and most importantly check the visibility! The app comes both as a full freeware (with ads) and an ads-free version for a little over a buck. The app comes also in an iPhone version and can easily be found at Apple’s App Store. Weather Live is developed by an app company called Apalon.
I’m adding a few screenshots from my phone that give you an overall idea of the layout.
I’ve been using for quite some time a few apps that I would love to mention. This time I’m promoting something called Mobile Observatory; its current version is 2.6 and has been developed by Wolfgang Zigma. I’m very restrictive when it comes to IT- or other tech-suggestions before I’ve tried things out for quite a while, but this phone app is very neat! For 1½ years now it sends me regularly updates only when I’m entering the app.
Also, it doesn’t force you to update anything if you just want to go ahead and start using it, even though you really want to if you’d like to keep yourself with up to date astronomical events and data. So my suggestion is to go ahead and download all databases in advance before heading out to observe the night sky.
I must say that I really dislike uncalled updates on my phone specially when they are forced upon you by Play Store; but the creator of this app is restraining the uploads quite well! I think I’ve updated the app itself only twice during these two years of using it.
I am attaching two links on the bottom of my blog post so you can visit and read all the features in detail, but I’ll mention just a few nifty ones that I find very cool.
- Events – Upcoming astronomical events
- Sky View – Shows you the current view of the sky based on your location
- Sky Overview – Shows you the entire sky chart
- Live View – Point your phone somewhere in the sky and it’ll inform you what you’re looking at
- Twilight – The dawn, dusk, blue and golden times at your location
- Eclipses – All about eclipses!!!
- Moons – Planet moons, their current and upcoming orbits
The app has of course many more features. You can search deep sky and planetary objects, the app will bring you all the information you need in regards to your location, point out the visible objects for you and give you detailed information on what you’re looking at. You can add objects in your favorites list, you can also browse back and forth in time for an object and also get suggestions on what are the best visible objects for a particular date plus allows you to add calendar reminders when it comes to events.
No need to purchase astronomical calendars or booklets anymore, this app really has it all you need and more for an amateur astronomer. But wait.. Did I mention it also has a night mode view in red light. How cool isn’t that?!