International Asteroid Day at the Las Cumbres Observatory Open House

Having recently visited  UCSB’s Sedgewick Reserve at the foothills of Figueroa Mountain in the Santa Ynez Valley, I was eager to learn more about the organization, people, and equipment comprising the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, commonly shortened to LCOGT Network or simply LCO. LCO’s very first fully automated research telescope was installed in the Laurie Nelle Bryne Observatory on a low ridge in the Sedgewick Reserve. While most of the research conducted at the reserve is related to botanical, zoological, and environmental subjects, what goes on with the state-of-the-art equipment in the Bryne Observatory is concerned with matters a bit more distant. Light years distant.    

Fortunately an opportunity to learn more about the network presented itself in the form of an Open House for the public and  celebration of International Asteroid Day to be held at the LCO headquarters in Goleta on Friday, June 30. I was joined by CCAS public outreach volunteers Dave Majors and Ron Setina as we carpooled south on U.S.101 with the aim of learning more about this organization just a short drive down the coast.  First held in 2015, the promotion of International Asteroid Day was designed to draw awareness of the potential for disasterous collisions with large errant undetected asteroids hurtling through space at speeds in excess of 12 miles per second.  The implications for our planet and civilization from collisions with such objects are sobering to say the

 least.  Friday, June 30, 2017 commemorated the 109th anniversary of the Tunguska event which is believed to have been caused by a 150 meter object entering the atmosphere over a remote part of Siberia, vaporizing in an airburst explosion with an equivalent force estimated at 5 to 15 Megatons of TNT (or something like 310 to 935 Hiroshima atomic bombs). The resultant shock wave flattened 800 square miles of forest. 

 Arriving in Goleta on a beautiful blue sky afternoon, we found the atmosphere at the LCO headquarters Open House decidedly quieter, relaxed, festive, and informative. All the trees were upright.  Visitors were cordially greeted by the staff, and we were free to explore the facility, admiring the well-equipped machine shop, benches loaded with high tech electronics, 40 cm and 1-meter Ritchey-Chretien design telescopes, and even hefty chunks of nickel-iron meteorites recovered from Australia and Canada.  We were treated to a bounty of refreshments and had ample opportunity to interact with LCO astronomers and engineers.


 LCOGT Network President and Observatory Director Dr. Todd Boroson addressed the large assemblage of visitors, briefly explaining the history and mission of LCO.  Founded in 2005, the non-profit Las Cumbres Observatory was conceived to be a unique fully autonomous worldwide network of state-of-the-art robotic telescopes, cameras, and spectrographs giving scientists the ability to perform continuous long term observing of astronomical phenomena as the network of scopes always has instruments operating on the night side of Earth.  This model for networked continuous observing managed by an autonomously controlled system for scheduling, observing, and data reduction gives LCO a competitive edge in what the LCO scientists refer to as Time Domain Astronomy. Long term data collection on the world’s newest and largest telescopes is prohibitively expensive and it is simply not realistic to expect most astronomers will ever be allowed large swaths of observing time on them. LCO provides astronomers, agencies, and institutions more options and more availability to accommodate their long term research at a reasonable cost.

Dr. Tim Lister provided background on the issue of Near Earth Objects (asteroids), the probabilities and consequences of them impacting the Earth, and the degree to which astronomers have identified and catalogued them. Most of the really big ones have been found, but he thinks perhaps only one percent of the little guys have been found. The telescopes at LCO are well suited to correct that situation, and Dr. Lister and other researchers are using LCO equipment to increase our knowledg

e and inventory of NEO’s. Other research being conducted by LCO astronomers and scientists at other institutions include a wide range of subjects such as time sensitive Supernovae observation, exoplanet detection by both the radial velocity and transit methods, and searching for optical counterparts to newly discovered gravitational waves. There is even one researcher at UCSB who is proposing SETI work with the LCO Network of telescopes. A plethora of research papers on dozens of other subjects have been published by researchers from around the globe who utilized the LCO Network of telescopes to conduct their research. It was extremely fascinating to learn about the people, equipment, and work being conducted with the innovative technologies and approach to modern astronomical research that characterizes Las Cumbres Observatory, and it was very cool to know that it’s all happening right here in our backyard on the Central Coast.

~Scott McMillian, CCAS Member  


Field Trip to SLAC 2017

Our CCAS Members went on a road trip to SLAC on January 26, 2017! SLAC is the world’s longest particle accelerator and has done incredible science over the past 65 years of operation. Six scientist have won Nobel prizes for their work done at SLAC, and each year they turn out over 1,000 research papers!

SLAC does experiments in cores of giant planets, plasma, biomedical research, lithium batteries, creating new molecules (like diamondoids), discovering new particles and so much more. We enjoyed a special 2-hour tour with an incredible tour guide from their Cosmology department.

SLAC is the world’s longest particle accelerator and has done incredible science over the past 65 years of operation. Six scientist have won Nobel prizes for their work done at SLAC, and each year they turn out over 1,000 research papers! You can read more about their work here: 

You can read more about visiting SLAC here: This page has important information about what to bring and what to expect on the tour if you’re one of the members signed up for this special trip!

The Central Coast Astronomy Society visit to SLAC was a very intresting trip. SLAC is located on the Stanford Ranch just to the West of the Standford campus in Palo Alto. SLAC was originally designed for particle physics work in the early 1960’s. It was the longest linear accelerator in the world. Over the years the SLAC facility has evolved, expanding to include storage rings where sub-atomic particles could be banged against each other. By the late 1990’s, even with numerous updates and expansion of the facility, it was becoming dated. The Department of Energy considered dismantling SLAC but then a physicist came up with a way to use the electron beam from the linear accelerator to generate a very high power coherent X-ray source (an X-ray laser) that could be used for a great many physics experiments. Since the development of this coherent X-ray source SLAC has created more physics tools using the old linear accelerator and when we visited they had a part of the the old accelerator closed down while they built a new tool. Our tour included a video on SLAC and a visit to the accelerator, where we had a lecture on the components of the original linear accelerator and then went out above the beam line to see some of the old (but updated) microwave sources and related equipment. After leaving the old accelerator we went to one of the old target buildings. At that building we saw a new wide area telescope being built at SLAC that will go into an observatory in a desert in Chile. Our guide was a graduate physicists student working on a device that would detect dark matter deep in an old gold mine in South Dakota. The photos give images from out tour.

Tom Coughlin

Mt Wilson Trip on Nov 5

mt-wilson1Mt. Wilson Observatory Trip

November 5-6, 2016

Trip summary and observation by Glen Smeltzer

            After meeting in the San Luis Obispo Home Depot parking lot, we boarded the bus and a car for the trip south.  We stopped in Santa Barbara for a quick lunch and a peek through Dave Majors’ H-alpha solar telescope to check out the activity on the sun, where we noted a couple of prominences but not much else.  Back on the road to La Cañada/Flintridge where we fueled up and headed for the mountain top.  All went smoothly until we were stopped just short of the turnoff to the observatory because of a motorcycle accident and had to turn around to another route, which cost us an hour of time.  However, we did arrive at the observatory safely and in enough time for an abbreviated tour and our night of observing through the 60 telescope. 

            mt-wilson3Our hostess, Shelly Bonus, and master telescope manipulator, Tom Mason, were wonderfully accommodating and provided us with an exceptional experience.  Over the course of the night we observed over 30 objects in the night sky, many which most of us have never seen before.  At the hours passed, some of us took time to cat nap or indulge in the world’s best hot chocolate.  Throughout the night we shared stories with one another, took cell phone photos through the eyepiece, kept reasonably warm, and expressed our amazement at many of the views through the scope. 

            Following is a list of the objects we viewed and and what I was able to observe about them.  Others saw more detail and some saw less; this is simply my observations.

  1. Mars – nicely resolved showing dark and light areas of the terrain.  Seeing had not settled down yet as this was early in the evening, so Mars popped in and out of focus.
  2. Ring Nebula – Beautiful view, although I was still not able to identify the central star.  Still best view I have ever had.
  3. Double double in Lyra – Crisp view of this multiple star system.
  4. Moon – With the very narrow field of view afforded by this magnificent instrument, we were focused on a small portion of the waxing crescent.  Again the view was crisp and very steady, hardly a hint of atmospheric ripple.  Features were clearly and easily visible.  We could have explored much more, but, alas, we had other objects to visit.
  5. Albireo – This beautiful double star in Cygnus sat like a sapphire and diamond on black velvet seemingly so close as to reach out and touch.
  6. Blinking Planetary Nebula (NGC 6826) – Here the central star was not only visible, it was impossible to miss, very bright, and it was surrounded by its gas cloud, not in a ring but full almost to the central star itself.  When I averted my vision the cloud brightened significantly, nearly outshining the star.  I enjoyed averting and centering just to see the effect.
  7. Campbell’s Hydrogen Star – This tiny planetary nebula proved to be a challenge, even in such a large telescope as the 60”, but it was distinguishable as a nebula rather than a star.
  8. Neptune and Triton – Tiny, but easily seen as a blue planet, although very oblate.  A real treat was noting its moon Triton, an amazing sight considering the distance from Earth.
  9. M 15 – While certainly not the largest of globular clusters at about 100,000 stars, it was easy to see hundreds of individual stars even close to the core.  Not bad for being 36,000 light years away.
  10. Deer Lick Galaxy (NGC 7331) – Very small and very faint.  Averted vision helped, but this tiny target was difficult to observe.  I was able to make out its central core as a bright spot in this edge-on spiral galaxy.
  11. Blue Snowball (NGC 7662) – Wow! Just wow!  This planetary nebula showed up blue as its name would indicate and quite large.  I was able to make out its ejection layers of gas as rings of gas emanating from the center.  An amazing sight.
  12. Uranus, Titania, Oberon, and Miranda – Beautiful blue disk, well focused in the center of the eyepiece.  I was able, after a couple of tries, to find the three moons listed here.
  13. M 32 – No wonder I haven’t been able to see this very well in my own scope.  It’s tiny even in the 60”, but still observable.
  14. G 1 – Stretching the limits of the scope we observed this globular cluster that is attached to the Andromeda Galaxy 2.5 million light years away.  Yes, is was barely distinguishable from the two foreground stars used as markers, but there it was.  I was looking at a group of stars in another galaxy.  Scientists estimate some 12 million stars comprise this wonderful globular.
  15. M 77 – A galaxy located in Pisces.  Very small view, but definitely shows as a galaxy with a bright central core.
  16. M 45 – The Pleiades, well one bright star and three dimmer ones in this very narrow view, where we were able to see the nebulosity of the gas cloud through which the Pleiades is passing.
  17. M 42 – The Great Orion Nebula.  Again, WOW!  The details of wispy gas clouds easily visible. The color, a pale green, varying with the thickness of the cloud, almost creating a 3D effect. The Trapezium, showing its four main stars and two smaller ones.  Add the Oxygen III filter and gasp as the background dims and the cloud becomes even further defined.  I’ll never look at the Orion Nebula with the same eyes again. 
  18. mt-wilson2Sirius and Sirius B – The blinding light os Sirius, combined with refraction spikes, prevented me from identifying the companion star.  Other reported seeing it.
  19. M 46 – A small planetary nebula with an open cluster in the same field of view.  The nebula was faintly visible, but the Oxygen III filter made it pop into view instantly, almost magically. Much fun moving the filter in and out of the view to watch the show.
  20. M 37 – A beautiful open cluster of blue stars with a single red one almost in its center.  Almost as if someone had a string of blue mini Christmas lights and had to replace one of the blue ones with a warm white mini-light.  Lovey to observe.
  21. NGC 1514 – Planetary nebula.  Difficult to see detail of any kind.
  22. NGC 1535 – Planetary nebula. Small, blue appearing nebula.
  23. R Leporis – Hines Crimson Star. Bright star surrounded by a tight, red halo of hydrogen. Absolutely stunning!  Very bright red around the center of the star. 
  24. Rigel – Clearly saw Rigel’s companion star and the difference in brightness was huge. Interesting sight.
  25. Betelgeuse – Requested by one of the group, this red giant is almost too bright in a scope like this, but looked like a bright star topper for a Christmas tree because of the refraction spikes surrounding it.  Color of the star very vivid.
  26. M 41 – Small open cluster with two red giants among the bright blue stars of the cluster.
  27. Beta Monoceros – This triple star system includes one star off to one side of the other two. 
  28. J900 – Planetary nebula.  Very tiny, almost just a dot, but not a star.  No details visible to me.
  29. Zeta Cancri – Another triple star system, very similar to Beta Monoceros
  30. Ghost of Jupiter – Dawn was approaching and clouds were encroaching.  I was unable to detect this object, although others said they did..  I will check it out personally when Jupiter is once again in the night sky.



Here are my comments to add to Glen’s


  1. The Ring Nebula was gorgeous. I could not detect the central star but clearly saw nebulosity within the ring itself.
  2. Moon- we were looking at the straits between the Sea of Tranquility and the Sea of Serenity. Ron and I spent a fair amount of time identifying the crater Plinius.
  3. NGC 7331. I had a lot of fun with this one. I had never heard of it being called the “Deer Lick” galaxy. The galaxy is one of the “Cigar” spirals- Not edge on but a highly inclined angle. I saw some mottling on the galaxy as if we were right on the edge of being able to see spiral arms.
  4. Blue Snowball in Andromeda. This was a great one. You could see rings and arcs inside the planetary nebula indicating many episodes of dust ejection.
  5. Uranus and moons- Ron, Glen and I went back and forth with Ron’s chart trying to identify which moon was which.
  6. M32- Easy to spot. I got into a fun little banter with Shelley our session director. I was trying to see if I could detect the background glow of M 31 surrounding M-32. I thought I could but like so many things seen right at the edge of visibility I hesitate to claim I positively did. Shelley thought I was batty looking for it. Probably was.
  7. G1- also known as Mayall 11-was an easy object for me. While I have never seen it through my own scopes I have seen it in other scopes of 20 ” over the years. In the 60″ this globular was bright and definitely non-stellar. However- if I didn’t know it was one I would not have known it was a globular. One of the more fun things I do when looking at M-31 through a large instrument is to look closely at any stars in the field of view- just in case they are actually bright supergiants in M-31. With the Mt. Wilson 60 ” several of these should be apparent visually. Without a detailed chart I will not be able to positively tell whether they are M-31 stars or Milky Way foreground stars but what the heck.

16 .M-45 The Pleiades- young Open Cluster with nebulosity. Nebulosity was easy. One again Ron and I conferred over his iPad to see if we could identify the stars. We identified it as Taygeta

  1. M-42. Another WOW. Talk about spectacular. Green all the way across the field of view with innumerable dark patches. And then add the O-III filter and -WOW!!
  2. Sirius and Sirius B. Sirius B was a easily visible just to the right of the diffraction spike at the top of the field of view. There where a couple of stars of comparable brightness so it took Shelley to point out which one was the companion.
  3. M46. For me this was the highlight of the night.The open cluster M-46 in Puppis was too large for the field of view but then it has a foreground object- the Planetary Nebula NGC 2438 seemingly within the cluster. In my own scopes this is very pale and difficult to spot. It was the same way in the 60″ -barely visible. Until the O-III filter is brought into play- then WOW! It looks like a big Ring . Easy to see and filled half the field of view.
  4. M-37. A pretty Open Cluster in Aurigae. Glen and I had a lot of fun with this one. I spent some time using this cluster as an example of how to interpolate visual measurements of star brightness. When he got up to the scope he was able to detect brightness variations that he hadn’t noticed before. Hopefully he will never look at a star cluster the same again
  5. This was Ron’s star. One of my regular Mira variables- it is near minimum light. It is also a carbon star. An old star currently in the AGB stage of evolution- the last stage in a star before becoming a Planetary Nebula. Both Carbon and Oxygen have been dredged up from deep inside. All the oxygen has been locked up in Carbon Monoxide (yes -the star is cool enough for chemical compounds to form). The carbon absorbs the blue light from the star and thus it is intensely red.
  6. J-900. I had a lot of fun with this one. In fact- I was in heaven. I had to help Shelley and Tom Mason locate it. Tom uses the Sky as his planetarium software to get him the coordinates and he couldn’t find it in his database. So I take my laptop behind the telescope to his control console and between me giving him the coordinates and him controlling the telescope we get it centered. Then Shelley asks me to identify it for her. It is a bright but small planetary. No sign of the central star but the nebula is easy to see. I commented I haven’t seen it that much and Shelley quips “Maybe there’s a reason I haven’t seen it much”
  7. Ghost of Jupiter. Last object of the night and hidden in the dawn. I looked very hard for it but saw nothing. A couple of people did mange to make it out but the sky was brightening too quickly for the rest of us to see anything.


I have to say that Shelley and Tom- our session directors were just absolutely fabulous. Shelley was wearing a very appropriate astronomy based Halloween type costume with headgear. A great sense of humor and she and I exchanged in some banter through the night. She took the time all through out the night to talk individually with our group members.

As a group we actually stumped them .We ran through the entire list they had prepared and toward the end they were looking for more objects to feed our voracious astronomical appetites. We got in several requests of our own.

And I certainly can’t leave out Nick- the docent who gave us our tour before the observing began.  Very personable and friendly. He regaled with with some great stories about the history of Mt Wilson. He activated and rotated the platform while we were in the 100 “dome and opened the shutters partially. I especially enjoyed his story of Walter Baade and his World War 2 experiences. 


Clear skies and dark:

David Majors


For C.C.A.S. members who own a telescope or plan to use or purchase one in the near future!

WHAT:  Discussions and examples will include:

  • Types of telescopes w/advantages and disadvantages of each.
  • Telescope mountings and how they are used.
  • Types of eyepieces and how to select them.
  • Importance of eye relief, exit pupil, field of view, and useful powers.
  • Useful accessories such as finders, barlow lenses, filters, etc.
  • Resources for finding your way around the night sky and locating objects of interest.

WHEN:  Friday, May 13 or Saturday, May 14 at 7:00 pm.

WHERE:  At a private observatory in Atascadero.

If you are interested in attending one of the two workshops, contact Lee Coombs at (805) 466-2788 or by e-mail at and specify which session you would prefer to attend or if either would work out for you.

This is a first-come, first-served event so reserve your spot right away as space is very limited.

2nd Annual “How to Use a Telescope” Workshop

WHO: For C.C.A.S. members who own a telescope or plan to use or purchase one in the near future.

WHAT: Discussions and examples will include,
Types of telescopes w/advantages and disadvantages of each.
Telescope mountings and how they are used.
Types of eyepieces and how to select them.
Importance of eye relief, exit pupil, field of view, and useful powers.
Useful accessories such as finders, barlow lenses, filters, etc.
Resources for finding your way around the night sky and locating objects of interest.

WHEN: Friday, August 28 or Saturday, August 29 at 7:00 pm.

WHERE: At a private observatory in Atascadero.

If you are interested in attending one of the two workshops, contact Lee Coombs at (805) 466-2788 or by e-mail at and specify which session you would prefer to attend or if either would work out for you.
This is a first-come, first-served event so reserve your spot right away as space is very limited.

Solar Astronomy at Georgia Brown school

solar viewing 2

One of the students getting his first glimpse of the sun and a solar flare.

Georgia Brown school.  A little background: My daughter teaches first grade at the school, so last year she arranged for me to present to the third graders as part of their unit on the solar system.  That went so well that one of the teachers who was moved up to 5th grade wanted me to present to that grade level this year.  My write up follows.

On Tuesday, January 13 I had the pleasure of presenting solar information to three fifth grade classes at Georgia Brown Elementary School in Paso Robles.  As part of the presentations I provided a few projected slides showing various pictures of the sun as well as a cutaway drawing of the sun’s internal structure.  I also showed a few slides of the Milky Way, a lunar eclipse (with Uranus in conjunction), and the partial solar eclipse in October.  Following the presentations in class, I took the classes out side for first hand viewing of the sun through two solar telescopes, one a Coronado PST H-alpha and the other called the Sunspotter, which projects an image of the sun on a piece of paper.  The sun was moderately active that day with a pair of sun spots, some filaments, and a few small prominences.  I think the students were most fascinated by watching the image of the sun move across the paper as the earth turned.  It happens in real time and the movement is readily perceivable.  This gave me the opportunity to have the students adjust the telescope to re-center the sun.  I always enjoy a teaching situation, and this was no exception.  The students asked great questions in all three classes, and I probably could have easily taken more time than I was allotted.  I am certain I left behind a spark of interest in the wonders of our nearest star and the heavens beyond.

~Member Glem S.



Epsilon Aurigae

Here are the links I promised you all about the Epsilon Aurigae debris cloud imaged by the CHARA Array. This is the star I was discussing with the Docent at Mt. Wilson when he was explaining the CHARA Array. This is the star in that triangle I pointed out to some of you when we were looking at Capella through the 60″. I have nicknamed this one the “Weirdo Star:” because it has been a major mystery for more than 150 years.

1. Here is a video presentation explaining the system. This was put out by Timothy Ferris prior to the last two year long eclipse of the system.

2. Here is a video constructed using CHARA Array data of the beginning of the eclipse. Bear in mind that this video represents more than 6 months worth of data.

3. For those interested -here is a more detailed explanation. This star was extensively studied during the past eclipse using a worldwide collaboration between the Amateur, Professional, and Physics Communities

4. Here is the light curve of the eclipse. This chart contains visual estimates (black dots) and both V (green dots) and B (blue dots) measurements. When you hear the term “Color Index” or “B-V” index this is what they are referring to. The green measurements are standard “V” which approximates what the eye would see (green-yellow). The “B” or Blue filter measures the -wait for it- “Blueness”. The reference points are defined by certain well defined reference stars. For example the star Vega is defined to define the zero point where B-V=0. If the B-V is a positive number the star is redder and cooler than Vega. If the B-V is a negative number the star is bluer and hotter than Vega. As you can see from this light curve the B mag is dimmer than the V mag so B-V will be positive. For Epsilon Aurigae the value of B-V=.54 For the Sun the B-V = .66. So Epsilon Aurigae is a bit hotter and bluer than the Sun – yellowish white.

Of the dots in this graph 12 of the black ones are my measurements.

Dave Majors
CCAS (Central Coast Astronomical Society)
AAVSO (American Association Of Variable Star Observers)

CCAS Members Trip to Mt Wilson Observatory!

Here are several different member’s report on the Mt Wilson trip!

Click here to download Dave Major’s account of the trip.

The following is by Steve:

Looking back, the trip was a great success. Even the mountain drive going up to the Observatory was very pleasant. We walked up to the 100 inch Observatory, passing Albert Einstein’s photo from around 1922. We went inside the 100 inch telescope and also viewed the other observatories on the site. We thought this was very interesting. Our tour guide and the 2 technicians in the 60 inch Observatory were all fantastic. They’re all extremely knowledgeable and really delighted to spend the night with us. Of course, they were extremely knowledgeable. We learned how the telescope worked, checked out the controls, etc. We had never spent extensive time in an observatory and this was quite a surprise. It is a good idea to bring lots of food with you unless you had had a good dinner. There are chairs to sit on but no tables. There was plenty of hot water, instant coffee and hot chocolate. Then the sun went down and we started to use the telescope. It’s amazing on how open the window is with the big scope. As the night progressed, it got pretty chilly. There is, of course, no heating as this would affect the telescope images. I brought several sweatshirts, a parka with the hood and a ski hat. Long johns really would have helped. The night actually went by pretty quickly. I do think spending the entire night viewing was a big plus.

“And now onto what we saw through the 60 inch Mt. Wilson telescope. This was truly spectacular. There were galaxies that I could never see on my own 8 inch scope. A variety of nebulae were presented to us, as well as open and globular clusters with great detail. Everyone had their favorites. For me, it was the detail with which I could see of familiar things in the sky. Some of the best images were in the predawn sky. The Orion nebulae looked like an astronomy magazine cover photograph. It was special. As was Jupiter with its red spot and moons. We even saw the blue Uranus and its moons. So, in summary, the trip was special. We saw things in the sky that we could never see with our own telescopes in such detail. So the night was special. It also was pretty chilly similar to camping out in the mountains overnight. We all have aperture envy and are looking forward to see the sky through the 100 inch sometime in the future.”

“What an awesome experience!  In the course of the evening, I used the SkySafari app on my  iPad to follow our observations.  After the first couple of objects, I started making a few cryptic notes in the app so I would have a record of the observations for future reference (see below)…I have also included a photo of the group outside the 60-inch telescope and one of the moon that I took with my cell phone (Galaxy 4).  That’s Clavius on the right. By the way, our tour guide said that they were in the process of setting up the 100-inch telescope for public star parties starting sometime next year.  Everyone was excited to hear that.  Maybe next year…..!  Thanks again.  Looking forward to meeting you sometime in the near future.” -Stan Ketelsen


  1. Vega – Alpha Lyrae (Variable Double Star in Lyra)

    Outside the observatories


  1. Hercules Cluster – Messier 13 (Globular Cluster in Hercules)

Lots of individual stars.


  1. Double Double – Epsilon1 Lyrae (Double Star in Lyra)


  1. Double Double – Epsilon2 Lyrae (Double Star in Lyra)


  1. Ring Nebula – Messier 57 (Planetary Nebula in Lyra)

Not as bright as I expected.  Saw center star with peripheral vision.


  1. Cat Eye Nebula – NGC 6543 (Planetary Nebula in Draco)

    Image of moon from my cell phone through 60″ telescope!

Could clearly see central star.  Nebula had a blue hue.


  1. Moon (Moon of Earth in Taurus)

Focused on the crater Clavius – with two internal craters.  I took a picture with my Galaxy 4.


  1. Neptune (Planet in Aquarius)

Saw moon Triton (at about 5:30).


  1. ARO 11 (Planetary Nebula in Cygnus)

Saw Campbell’s “Hydrogen Star” in this nebula.  Did not see any nebulosity.


10. Saturn Nebula – NGC 7009 (Planetary Nebula in Aquarius)

Unspectacular – just an oval blob with no definition.


11. Blue Snowball Nebula – NGC 7662 (Planetary Nebula in Andromeda)

Good definition – two distinct circles separated by a thin white line.  Faint blue color.  Could not see the red color of the center circle shown in the SkySafari photograph.


12. NGC 7331 (Spiral Galaxy in Pegasus)

Unimpressive – just a faint vertical disk.


13. Uranus (Planet in Pisces)

Good image. Saw four of the five moons (all except Miranda).


14. Andromeda Galaxy – Messier 31 (Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda)

Telescope was focused on the central bulge of the Andromeda Galaxy.  The entire eyepiece was filled with a grey nebulosity.  Saw a bright star-like object in the center of the eyepiece.


15. Mayall II – G 1 (Globular Cluster in Andromeda)

A globular cluster on the outskirts of Andromeda.  It was the right-most of three “stars” in a triangle – the fuzzy one.


16. Messier 32 (Elliptical Galaxy in Andromeda)

A fuzzy ball with a star in the middle.


17. NGC 604 (Bright Nebula in Triangulum)

NGC604 is a star birthing area.  Irregular fuzzy shape with faint dark trails through it.  Just in the center of the eyepiece.


18. Little Dumbbell Nebula – Messier 76 (Planetary Nebula in Perseus)

Here’s an image Tom Frey took through the 60″ during our Mt. Wilson trip.

Used a 50mm eyepiece (most of the evening we have been using a 65mm eyepiece).  Per Gio’s calc (at Tom’s direction), this equated to about 487 power (about 375 power for the 65mm eyepiece).  Saw the bright center section of the nebulosity (kind of a rectangle) but could not make out the bulbous outer sections shown on the SkySafari photo.


19. NGC 891 (Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda)

Used the 65mm eyepiece.  Could only faintly see the dust lane (dark center section) of the edge-on galaxy.  Could not see any of the bright stars lining the dust lane.


20. Orion Nebula – Messier 42 (Bright Nebula in Orion)

Viewed with the 65mm eye piece.  Focused on the center star of the Orion sword (Trapezium).  Amazing nebulosity filled the entire field of view!!  Four brightest stars in a square pattern in the center.


21. Jupiter (Planet in Gemini)

Viewed with the 65mm eyepiece.  Jupiter was very bright.  Saw very good color variation (although light), including the Red Spot.  Saw all four Galilean moons,


22. Mars (Planet in Leo)

Viewed with the 65mm eyepiece.  Just saw a white orb with no surface color variation.  Very little, if any, red tint,


23. C/2012 S1 – ISON (Comet in Leo)

Viewed with the 65mm eyepiece.  Just looked like a fuzzy dot – no tail.

60″ Telescope at Mt Wilson

Solar telescope at MWO

Solar telescope at MWO

100″ Telescope at Mt Wilson

Report: Star Gazing on May 24th

We had TWO locations for star gazing in May, and here’s the report for both of them:

Talley Vineyards: “I arrived at Talley about 7PM to hazy skies with wind. I waited until 7:30 and then decided to set up. The winds died down and by 9:30 we had pretty good seeing although water began to condense on my shroud and Telrad. We had about 4 very excited family groups and some CCAS meeting regulars. The 4-10 year old kids were blown away! We started with Jupiter (4 moons), Mars, and Saturn (4 moons). Joe and I kept trading off on objects so we tried to have different objects at the same time. After that we hit M-13 and M-5. They were hooked. So then to M’s 51, 57, 81,82, and 104. I tried the Cat’s Eye but too much haze to get a good image. We closed up about 11:30.” ~Tom Frey

KOA in Santa Margarita: “We had a lot of scopes and people at KOA last night. Seeing conditions started out terrible with the wind but calmed down about 10. I saw 3 of Saturn’s Moons while Kent saw 6. Chris and Reed made it with Nimbus- big bonus. M-51 with spiral arms totally visible. Another Bonus . We saw  through both my Dob and Nimbus. With my 1.5 degree FOV my scope showed a fan shaped dust tail but no Ion tail. Nimbus showed more detail including some structure in the Coma. On the Sun-there was a big loop prominence visible and a couple of people were totally fascinated by the view through the H-Alpha.” ~Dave Majors



May 9th Mentoring Program

Mentoring Program with Lee Coombs is coming up on May 9th! This group meets in the evening at Lee’s private observatory. This program is specifically for new members with little to no experience in astronomy. It’s designed to provide basic instruction about the night sky as well as how to use one of our club’s loaner telescopes.

You’ll learn not only the easy-to-use telescopes but the accessories any good observer needs, such as appropriate eyepieces, sky atlases, accessory cases, etc. The program is available only to members, so if you’d like to attend, please so we can hold a spot for you and give you all the information you need.

Earth Day Excellence


Our happy club of friendly astronomers were busy at the Earth Day astounding folks with different views of the sun through a variety of different solar scopes, including optical and h-alpha filters, including a special guest appearance by David Gibb’s Lunt scope (image on the right below shows Dave Majors and his Coronado PST). There were a couple hundred folks at the peak of the day, and we had about a dozen club members working our booth. Thanks to everyone who helped!

Lunar Eclipse

The total lunar eclipse of April 15 lasted about 3.5 hours between late Monday and early Tuesday, with the Earth’s shadow slowing darkening the face of the so-called “Blood Moon” in a jaw-dropping sight for stargazers willing to stay up extra late or rise super-early for the event. The lunar eclipse peaked at 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT), with the moon taking 78 minutes to pass through the darkest point of Earth’s shadow. It was visible from most of North and South America, Hawaii and parts of Alaska. The eclipse was the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses, known as a “tetrad,” between April 2014 and September 2015. ~Source:

“The eclipse was great. About 60 degrees up to 2 AM. No bugs, no wind, no clouds. This image was taken from an area about 20 miles north of Tucson. Canon T2i camera with an 18 to 135 mm lens.” ~Tom Frey

For more information about the first lunar eclipse of 2014, click here.

UPDATED: Download the full account notes, including lots of photos, from CCAS member Dave Majors!

Successful Talk with Dr. Dave Mitchell

Very full meeting last night! Dr. Dave Mitchell spoke to about 85 people, including a bunch of youngsters who asked as many questions as the adults! It was so nice to see the interest from the community about astronomy. Dave had a hard time getting speaking about the moons since there were so many questions about Jupiter itself. We spent a lot of time on Io and Europa. Ganymede and Callisto were covered at the end, but since Dave wanted folks out to look through the telescopes, he cut it a little short.

Dave presented on the topic: “Jupiter and its Moons: What You Can and Can’t See Through Your Telescope”. We also had a couple of telescopes to look at Jupiter after the talk, including Dave Majors who brought his 12″ Dobsonian, Scott brought his large binoculars, Tom Frey set up the CPT, and more.

Lee Coombs talked about how to photograph the April lunar eclipse. Overall, a very successful meeting!

(We actually ran out of cookies this time. We’ll make sure to bring more next time.)

See you at the next one!


Solar Presentation at Atascadero School

Last week, Glen Smeltzer (that’s me) gave a Solar Presentation at Dennis Eaton’s 3rd grade class, San Gabriel Road Elementary School, Atascadero. Mr.Eaton’s had been studying the solar system, so I offered to let the students
view the sun through my Coronado PST so they could see more than just a bright yellow circle in the sky. I prefaced the viewing with a presentation on what the sun is; how it operates; its size, distance, temperature, and power; and what they would see when looking through the scope. I was careful to emphasize that they should never look at the sun without proper equipment. I also gave them a brief overview of how the solar telescope works before we went outside to take in the sights. I was amazed at how well the students received all the information I presented. They were attentive and asked many great questions as we went along. As a retired teacher, I was thrilled by the experience. The old teacher juices were flowing at full force, even though I was a high school teacher with very little (let’s say none) 3rd grade teaching experience. Mr. Eaton managed the class excellently and sent 5 students at a time to view the sun while he kept the rest of the class busy with science videos of lightning pictures taken from the space station and of the size of the universe. He was a pleasure as a partner in this process.

solar lecture

Part of the presentation explaining the internal workings of the sun.

solar viewing

Another student checking out the sun. I used the towel as a light block so students could see more clearly. Some students didn’t need it.

solar viewing 2

One of the students getting his first glimpse of the sun and a solar flare.

solar parnter

Mr. Eaton (left) and I stand by as another student gets a good view.

John Dobson

We lost one of the true giants of the amateur community on January 15, 2014. John Lowry Dobson was a popularizer of amateur astronomy. He is most notable for being the promoter of a design for a large, portable, low-cost Newtonian reflector telescope that bears his name, the Dobsonian telescope. Read more about him here.

Solar X-Class Flare

January 7, 2014: Major group of Sunspots yesterday that originated a huge x-class flare today! There wasn’t a flare yesterday through the H-Alpha.

Photo by Dave Majors

Read more about this here


Took these tonight from Morro Bay of Venus, Jupiter and M42


101 Astronomical Events During 2014

Here is a nice collection of upcoming astronomical events during 2014 from Universe Today.

Star Gazing at Georgia Brown Elementary School

Venus_globeOn Friday 6 December, Joseph Carro conducted a star party for students of Georgia Brown Elementary School of Paso Robles. Three adults and eleven children enjoyed viewing the Moon, and the planet Venus. The night was clear, and several constellations were visible from a parking lot near Cuesta College. The students had many questions about stars, and were especially interested in the laser light used to point out the constellations.

What’s Up for the December Sky

Key Stars

For observers at mid-northern latitudes, the Pleiades star cluster is due south around 10 P.M. local time. Above it is Perseus, flanked by Auriga and Cassiopeia. Orion can be found above the southeastern horizon, and between it and the celestial pole glitters Capella. High in the east are Castor and Pollux, the brightest stars of Gemini, and below them Leo the Lion is rising. In the southwest is the Square of Pegasus and Vega shines low above the northwestern horizon.

The Planets


The normally secretive world is easy to see as December opens, when Mercury shines near magnitude -0.7 and lies about 10 degrees above the southeastern horizon, half an hour before sunrise. A slender crescent Moon lies just 5 degrees to Mercury’s upper right on the morning of December 1, while Saturn appears 3 degrees above our satellite. By mid-month, Mercury reaches magnitude -0.8 and becomes increasingly difficult to spot, a few degrees lower in the bright twilight. As December nears the end, the planet quickly drops out of sight and into the glow of the Sun.


Venus does not set until almost three hours after the Sun for viewers at mid-northern latitudes this month. It is by far the brightest point of light in the sky, shining at an awesome magnitude -4.7 in the southwest for more than half the duration of the long northern evenings in December.


Mars rises around 1 A.M. local time on December 1 and an hour earlier by month’s end. The best time to look, however, is just before dawn, when the planet is much higher in the southeast. Mars begins the month in western Virgo, close to Beta Virginis, but its eastward motion carries it within 0.5 degree of Gamma Virginis on the 29th.


By the time early evening is over, you can start looking for Jupiter.
The giant planet rises around 7:30 P.M. local time in early December but breaks the eastern horizon soon after sunset on the 31st, when it remains visible all night. Jupiter spends the month less than 10 degrees southwest of Gemini’s twin stars, Castor and Pollux. On the evenings of December 9 and 10, binoculars will also show 3.5-magnitude Delta Geminorum just 15 arcminutes south of the planet.


At the start of December, Saturn is just 15 degrees high in the southeast as dawn begins, but gets a little higher every morning. The ringed planet resides among the background stars of the constellation Libra and remains within 5 degrees of 3rd-magnitude Alpha Librae all month. Through a telescope, Saturn sports an angular size of 16 arcseconds, while the rings span 37 arcseconds.


Uranus remains visible well after midnight this month, but it is highest in the south and best observed around 7 P.M. local time in mid-December. At magnitude +5.8, the planet is bright enough to see with the naked eye in a really dark sky. Telescopes will reveal its pale bluish or greenish disk, just 3.5 arcseconds wide.


Neptune, in central Aquarius close to 4th-magnitude Iota Aquarii, is well placed for telescopic observing in the early evening. The distant planet then lies due southwest and about a third of the way up from the horizon to the zenith. Neptune shines at magnitude +7.9 and appears a tiny 2.4 arcseconds wide.


Ultrafaint Pluto, in Sagittarius, is technically in the evening sky in December. However, the dwarf planet sets soon after the Sun and is in too bright a sky to be seen in most amateur telescopes.


532 Herculina

This month, Herculina shines at 10th magnitude and moves slowly through the star fields of northern Orion. The easiest way to find it is to center your telescope on Nu Orionis or Xi Orionis (the two stars that mark the handle of Orion’s club) and then move 2 degrees to the north. The asteroid will readily identify itself by its movement within the star field, shifting by about 15 arcminutes (a substantial part of the telescope field) during a twenty-four hour period.


C/2012 S1 ISON

At the moment of writing this (early morning, December 1), Comet ISON is fading at the rate expected of a simple, inactive debris cloud moving farther from the Sun’s illumination. It now seems unlikely that there will be much to see when the comet (or what is left of it) returns to dawn visibility after December 5. Keep in mid, however, that during most of the last month, Comet ISON brightened and dimmed in unexpected ways. There may be hope yet.

For in-depth information on observing Comet ISON in December, complete with finder maps, please consult the page “Comet ISON – Latest Updates, FAQ and Viewing Guide”
( The link points to the “Viewing Guide” section; to explore the page, press “Return to Top”
and use the page navigation links.

C/2013 R1 Lovejoy

At the start of December, C/2013 R1 is 4th magnitude and moves through Bootes the Herdsman, positioned well for mid-northern observers just before dawn. By December 5, the comet shifts into Corona Borealis, where it spends a few days before crossing into Hercules.

Do not miss the chance to see this bright comet from a dark-sky location. Lovejoy should be readily visible to the unaided eye, as a small fuzzball surrounded by a faint halo. Make sure you bring binoculars – they will also show a faint tail, about 2 degrees long.

C/2012 X1 LINEAR

Throughout all of December, C/2012 X1 should remain around 8th magnitude, making it an easy target for 4-inch telescopes. The comet cuts through the constellation Serpens the Snake, and rises about two hours before the start of astronomical twilight for mid-northern observers. By the time dawn begins to brighten, it is already some 30 degrees above the eastern horizon.

Meteor Showers

The Geminids

The Geminids are active from December 4 to 17th and peak very quickly on the night of December 13 – 14. Most activity occurs after midnight on the 14th, when as many as one hundred slow, graceful Geminids might be seen per hour under ideal conditions. This year, however, the Moon shines all the way until daybreak, so bright moonlight will wash out most meteors.

The Ursids

The Ursid shower is active from December 17 to 26th, and peaks on the morning of December 22. The radiant lies near the bright star Kochab (Beta Ursae Minoris), which appears below the Pole Star in the evening and above it before dawn. The radiant is circumpolar from most of the Northern Hemisphere, so viewing can last all night. The Ursids usually produce fairly modest rates, with a typical peak ZHR (Zenithal Hourly
Rate) of about ten.

Sky Events

  • December 1 – The Moon is 1.3 degrees south of Saturn (5 A.M. EST).
  • December 2 – New Moon (7:22 P.M. EST).
  • December 4 – The Moon is at perigee, the point in its orbit when it is nearest to Earth (5:09 A.M. EST).
  • December 9 – First Quarter Moon (10:12 A.M. EST).
  • December 11 – The Moon is 3 degrees north of Uranus (2 A.M. EST).
  • December 14 – The Geminid meteor shower is at peak activity (5 A.M. EST).
  • December 17 – Full Moon (4:28 A.M. EST). Uranus is stationary (9 P.M. EST).
  • December 19 – The Moon is 5 degrees south of Jupiter (2 A.M. EST). The Moon is at apogee, the point in its orbit when it is farthest from Earth (6:50 P.M. EST).
  • December 20 – Venus is stationary (3 P.M. EST).
  • December 21 – Winter Solstice (12:11 P.M. EST).
  • December 22 – The Ursid meteor shower is at peak activity (5 A.M. EST).
  • December 24 – Asteroid 532 Herculina is at opposition (2 A.M. EST).
  • December 25 – Last Quarter Moon (8:48 A.M. EST).
  • December 26 – The Moon is 1.1 degrees north of Spica (10 P.M. EST).
  • December 28 – The Moon is 0.9 degree south of Saturn (8 P.M. EST).
  • December 29 – Mercury is in superior conjunction with the Sun (1 A.M. EST).

Star Party

Star-PartyOn November 1 Joseph Carro, Tom Frey, Dave Majors (aka Galileo), Gus Nelson, and one parent with an SCT were at Branch Elementary School outside Arroyo Grande.  The school had a very good turnout and we estimated at least 100 people. At one point all 5 telescopes had long lines of at least 15 people at each.   On this night there was no moon or clouds. Early on Venus was the big target- it was at Maximum Eastern Elongation the night before and was a perfect half moon. We also looked at Albireo, M31, M57 and the Pleiades. The teacher had just finished their Astronomy section and the kids had done an exercise on the school fence. They set up a scale model of the Solar System. Pluto of course was too far distant to be on the grounds at all- but since it isn’t a planet anyway…

Black Holes, Solar Flares and Jupiter’s Lasers

On Saturday Oct 5th, 2013 at 10am Aurora Lipper gave an astronomical presentation at the SLO library to the general public entitled “Black Holes, Solar Flares, and Jupiter’s Lasers”. We had over 80 people join us on this bright sunny morning, Dave Majors, Joseph Carro, and Aurora Lipper amazed the crowd with their solar scopes that viewed the sun in both optical and h-alpha wavelengths. We saw a couple of really neat sunspots, and several small, spiky flares that the crowd went wild over! In attendance there were seniors, families, young professionals, and everything in between.

Annular Eclipse on May 10th

Here are a couple of beautiful images from the annular solar eclipse on May 9 / 10th. More info and images are available from NASA and



Curiosity Lands on Mars August 5th

Curiosity has successfully landed on the surface of Mars!

Here are some of the first images:

More images are being posted by NASA here:  Mars Science Laboratory Image Gallery

Live coverage starts at 8:00pm on NASA TV and 2:00pm at The Planetary Society’s Planetfest

This is the stuff of dreams, imagination, creativity and innovation.

This is especially directed at parents still having children at home to have their children witness something “out of this world” live as it happens.  This is American STEM education at its absolute finest.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is about to do it again, BIG TIME!

If you are interested in experiencing an incredibly rare and exciting space exploration event coming at 10:31 PM on Sunday, August 5th, please check out Walter Reil’s Blog about the upcoming landing of the Mars Science Laboratory “Curiosity” rover on the surface of Mars.

In normal fashion for JPL in Pasadena, this will be no normal, everyday kind of landing, as Curiosity will blast into the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 miles per hour and in a death-defying “Seven Minutes of Terror” come to a soft landing on Mars.  Fingers and toes crossed.  And, due to its heavy weight, it will not be landing like Spirit and Opportunity did about 8 years ago landing in cushioned, inflated air bags.  Curiosity will be lowered to the surface under a rocket-powered sky-crane, never before attempted by any spacecraft.  Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity is the most sophisticated and complex robotic spacecraft ever built.  I’m sure JPL engineers and scientists are beginning to bite their nails in anticipation and concern.  The nights between now and next Sunday will most likely be sleepless for many JPL and NASA folks.

Curiosity Mars Landing Phases

You too can witness this history-making event live, as it happens, via the NASA TV Internet site or TV, or the JPL website, along with millions of people around the world who will be tuning in.

Also, some folks may have heard that there was a problem anticipated with the transmission of the landing telemetry (radio signal), possibly taking hours before we would know what happened during the landing.  That problem was with America’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft orbiting Mars (along with America’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Europe’s Mars Express Orbiter).  A “reaction wheel” that helps control Mars Odyssey’s orbital path location had problems, that could have impacted its ability to receive and relay the telemetry as it happens.  This past week JPL engineers successfully corrected the issue, putting Mars Odyssey back on course to directly receive the landing telemetry and beam it back to Earth as it is happening.

But, bear in mind that the transmission time from Mars to Earth will be about 14 minutes at the speed of light, so Curiosity will have experienced the Seven Minutes of Terror and landed before we get the signals from Mars.

Hold your breath and wish Curiosity the best!

For more details see the NASA Curiosity Mission Page and Walter Reil’s Blog

Also be sure to check out live coverage on NASA TV

P.S.  PG&E meteorologist and SLO County’s favorite weather forecaster John Lindsey will be at JPL that weekend as a reporter for the Tribune newspaper to report on Curiosity’s landing.  He will get to experience this event up-close-and-personal.

Special Event: July 26th – Summer Astronomical Research Presentations

Talk Title: Special Event – Summer Astronomical Research Presentations
Time & Location: Thursday, July 26th, 2012, 7:00 PM – 8:40 PM, Room 2402 at Cuesta College (the observatory building)

A special joint meeting of the CCAS and Cuesta College will take place on Thursday, July 26th, 2012, 7:00 PM – 8:40 PM, Room 2402, Cuesta College. Master of Ceremonies will be long-time CCAS member Jo Johnson, who recently graduated from California Sate University, Chico. Jo, Eric Weiss (AGHS graduate and now physics major UC San Diego (starting his third year in the fall), and a number of Cuesta College and Cal Poly students will give presentations on their summer astronomical research projects. Presentations are planned in the area of double stars, stellar intensity interferometry, telescope control, and other areas. Dr. Russell Genet also plans to provide a short summary update on the world’s largest portable telescope.

CCAS meetings are free, friendly and informal. Members sometimes share photos and information on all kinds of subjects. Occasionally there are special guest speakers and presentations on events or activities in the area. We also partner with Cuesta College faculty and students, so there can be an interesting variation of discussion topics, sometimes very light in content and sometimes moderately heavy in technical information.

Visitors are welcome and encouraged to attend. You do not need to be a CCAS member to attend meetings. Folks are welcome to bring astronomy equipment, books and photos to share with the group. We like to assist in answering questions or help with equipment operation techniques when needed, BUT we must first be aware of the situation. If you wish to bring a telescope or want to discuss the operation of your telescope, FIRST, please contact the CCAS to discuss this, as meetings are sometimes already booked solid with topics, or, there may not be anyone at the meeting who is knowledgeable of the item you need help with.

If you have questions about bringing something to a meeting, or wish to ask specific technical questions, or about meetings in general, just let us know.



Transit of Venus: June 5



This event is over… thank you to everyone who participated. Together, CCAS reached over 1,000 people!




Here are some if the pictures from the transit:

A transit of Venus is the observed passage of the planet across the disk of the sun.  The planet Venus, orbiting the sun “on the inside track,” catches up to and passes the slower earth.  Venus, appearing as a small dot in the foreground, will move from left to right across the sun.  The word “transit” means passage or movement—in this case, across the face of the sun.

Transits of Venus have a strange pattern of frequency.  A transit will not have happened for about 121 ½  years (prior to 2004, the last one was 1882).  Then there will be one transit (such as the one in 2004) followed by another transit of Venus eight years later (in the year 2012).  Then there will be a span of about 105 ½ years before the next pair of transits occur, again separated by eight years.  Then the pattern repeats (121 ½ , 8, 105 ½ , 8).

Where can I view the Transit? On June 5 at 3pm:

  • The big CCAS Solar Transit Party at the City Park in Past at 3pm includes a bunch of scopes, including the ultra-popular h-alpha scope, Aurora’s own radio telescope, and several members are bringing their own so you can safely view the sun. Free solar viewers for the first 200 to look through the scopes.
  • There’s a second viewing party with Jim Carlisle in Atascadero (call him at 466-5997 for directions)
  • And another viewing party in Grover Beach with Joe Richards, who will be at the Pismo State Beach at the end of Grand Avenue in Grover Beach (by Fin’s Restaurant and the golf course). There are picnic tables right by the parking lot that we’ll be setup at. Additional scopes requested to help out.

What’s the Big Deal about the Transit?

Consider this brief history:  In 1716 astronomer Edmond Halley calculated that you can quantify the distance from the sun to the earth by having observers across the globe time the passage of Venus across the sun.  Knowing he would not live to see the next transit, Halley predicted global sites that would be suitable for viewing a transit and called upon future generations to pursue his plan.  For the 1761 transit and every transit opportunity since then, explorers sailed to distant lands to time the transit.  The quest to time the transit of Venus in 1761, during the Seven Years War, marked one of the first times the international community cooperated to answer one of the leading scientific questions of the day.

By quantifying the distance from the sun to the earth, a simple application of Kepler’s Third Law gives you the distances of all the planets from the sun, and thus the scale of the solar system.  Knowing the size of the solar system gives more accurate parallax measurements of distant stars.  Today, the transit of Venus as a means to measure the sun-earth distance is largely of historical interest, for tools such as radar have measured distances to planets much more accurately.

A transit is a great opportunity for the public concurrently to study the sun, which influences life on earth on both a planetary and a personal scale.  A dynamic between the sun and earth sustains life here, while our personal lives–which are becoming more technology dependent–are impacted by the sun’s shenanigans.

You may view the sun—and thus the planet Venus passing in front of the sun—only if you use proper solar filters or indirect viewing techniques.

CCAS is handing out free viewers to all club members at their live event on June 5th 3-6pm. Click here for a flyer for this event!

Transits of Venus across the disk of the Sun are among the rarest of planetary alignments. Since the invention of the telescope in 1609, only seven such events have occurred, and the next transit will occur on 6 June 2012. The transit is an important event because the distance to Venus can be used to calculate the distance from the Sun to all of the planets.

There first measurements were made by Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree on 4 December 1639. With each successive transit, the distance was further refined, and, in 1882, measurements of the transit yielded a value of 92,702,000 miles. This distance is now used a unit of measure, and it is called an astronomical unit. Due to the fact that orbit of the Earth is an ellipse, the average distance to the Sun (now 92,755,700 miles) is used for the value of an astronomical unit. Once the distance to the sun was known, the distances to all the other planets could be easily derived.

Observations of the transits of Venus across the sun also yielded information on the size of the planet, its orbit, and provided the first evidence that it has an atmosphere. As better instruments and methods were developed, astronomers began to understand the members of our solar system in increasing detail. We came to understand our solar system’s history, and its likely future.

Once the distance to the sun was known, a race was on to determine distances to nearby stars. The astronomer’s tool once again was parallax, the apparent movement of nearby stars against the background of more distant stars as viewed from different places in the Earth’s orbit. Those measurements required an accurate value for the distance to the sun. With the aid of sophisticated telescopes, the tiny parallax angles to nearby stars could be measured. In the year 1839 the first stellar parallax was confirmed for three stars. The stars were 61 Cygni (Friedrich Bessel), Alpha Centauri (Thomas Henderson), and Vega (Wilhelm Struve).

Astronomers learned more and more information about our galaxy and the universe in general. As part of this journey of discovery, astronomers began to wonder if our solar system was unique among the billions of stars in each of billions of galaxies in the universe, and now able to study the universe using satellites. An impressive array of highly technical instruments scans the heavens gathering information about the wondrous place we call home.

Here are the local times of the transit phases:

June 5th:

  • 1st Contact (Ingress Begins) 3:10 PM PDT Altitude 59
  • 2nd Contact (Ingress Complete)  3:27 PM PDT Altitude 56
  • Mid Transit 6:30 PM PDT Altitude 19
  • Local Sunset approx 8:15
  • 3rd Contact (Egress Begins) 9:32 PM PDT  Altidude -13 below horizon
  • 4th Contact (Egress Complete) 9:49 PM PDT Altitude -16 below horizon

Solar Eclipse on May 20

On May 20, 2012, an annular eclipse of the Sun will be visible within a narrow corridor that will traverse the Northern Hemisphere of Earth. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partially obscuring the image of the Sun. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s apparent diameter is smaller than the Sun, causing the Sun to look like an annulus (Latin for ring), blocking most of the Sun’s light. An annular eclipse appears as a partial eclipse over a region thousands of kilometers wide.The shadow of the Moon will begin in eastern Asia and crosses the North Pacific Ocean where it will end in the western United States.

For more information, maps, and photographs, please open
There is no CCAS event planned for this date, as our friendly astronomers are all previously engaged with other outreach events! However, we will be hosting an event for the Transit of Venus…

Here is a series of photos taken by Mick Bondello at Turlong, Califonia of the May 20th, 2012 eclipse:

Download August 2012 Newsletter

Monthly club newsletters are available for members to download. If you’re a member of CCAS, you’ll be able to download these newsletters to your computer.

Los Osos Star Party on March 1

Join the CCAS for a star gazing event, rain or shine at the Los Osos public library! Here’s the information you need to know…

Paso Robles Elementary schools have a winner with their Math and Science Nights.

Kermit King Elementary held theirs on the evening of Thursday, January 26. These events are held in the schools’s gym and feature various science exhibits- some by the school ‘s students ,Van de Graaff Generators by High School students, and of course our own CCAS members with telescopes. This is education at its best- hands on with active participation by teacher’s, parents and kids.
Central Coast Astronomy was well represented with three members-Joseph Carro, Dave Majors, and Gus Nelson. Joe and David had their usual scopes but Gus brought a Mini Tower Pro equatorial mount and was able to mount two parallel scopes- enabling him to handle twice the number of people. A real nice touch. Gus was wearing a “Glow In The Dark” T-shirt with the Periodic Table of the Elements. Want to know what a star is made of? Point to the top left of Gus’s T-shirt! Another nice touch. David was wearing his “Galileo” Renaissance Scholars’s robe and cap.

The evening started off with a bit of a scare- the infamous “Observing Night Clouds” were hiding precisely the objects we wanted to show-Venus ,the Moon, and Jupiter.

Early on we were chasing holes with these objects but fortunately at this time there were relatively few viewers. As twilight faded the clouds finally began to clear. Almost like a curtain going up they cleared about the time large numbers of kids and their parents began to filter out of the main gym.
We explained the various phases of Venus and it was still high enough and the atmosphere calm enough to clearly show Venus is still on the far side of the sun and in its’ waning gibbous phase.

The moon was in its’ waxing crescent phase with the morning terminator at Theophilus. The sun had not yet risen over the Apollo 11 Landing Site. The seeing condition were quite good as Petavius showed the central peak complex and the associated Rille quite clearly.

Jupiter was the big show with the equatorial bands very apparent and all four Galilean Moons visible. Io and Europa were very close together and appeared as double moons.

Jupiter is always a thrill for the youngsters anyway and the usual “AWESOME” remarks. You can always tell when the youngsters actually see what you hope they did- even the shy ones suddenly exhibiting uncontrollable grins. We also showed M42 and parents as well as the kids were fascinated to learn about this stellar nursery.

From about 6:30 to after 8:00 we never got a break as kids and parents just kept coming. I stopped counting after about 100 people. Joseph explained to several of the parents about his double star work , Dave covered why M42 looked green and Gus explained how there is no surface per se to Jupiter but the atmosphere of the gas giant just gets denser and kind of becomes like soup.

We would like to thank Teachers and Staff at Kermit King for a thoroughly enjoyable night.

David Majors
Gus Nelson
Joseph Carro

From a participant:

I want to thank you so much for coming out to our Math/Science Night at Kermit King and sharing your time, knowledge, and enthusiasm- families loved it! I am so sorry I did not get a chance to bring you pizza and something to drink. The attendance was much greater than we expected and we were a bit overwhelmed inside. Again, we really appreciate you being there. The students are still talking about seeing the moon, Jupiter, and all of the other neat astronomical bodies. I overheard one student from 1st Grade tell his friend that he “Met a wizard from Hogwarts!” – the wizard get up was a hit! Please relay our heartfelt thanks to everyone else who helped. Hopefully, you would be willing to do it again next year:)

Missed Tartar’s Talk?

Jill Tarter is Director, Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. On October 8th, she gave an amazing presentation to over 300 people at Cal Poly State University.

Tarter’s work has brought her wide recognition in the scientific community, including two Public Service Medals from NASA. In 2004 Time Magazine named her one of the Time 100 most influential people in the world. Tarter was one of three TED prize-winners in 2009, and was a recipient of the Silicon Valley Women of Influence 2010 Award. In the movie CONTACT, Jodi Foster plays the character of Ellie based upon Jill’s career as a radio astronomer.


Los Osos Library Success!

At the invitation of Joe Laurenzi of the Los Osos Public Library, CCAS astronomers held a very successful star party featuring the first quarter Moon and Jupiter. Attending for CCAS were myself with  my 12 “ Orion Intelliscope, Joe Carro with his 11” Celestron, and Tom Frey with the big boy-his 18” Obsession Dob.

We set up our telescopes in the parking lot where Mr. Laurenzi set up tables and provided cookies and cider.  Acting as host Mr. Laurenzi greeted the party attendees and counted at least 50 people. A couple of visitors saw the ad for this event on the CCAS website and drove out from Fresno to attend!!

We had a good mix of kids and adults including several schoolteachers and a fair number of people that had never looked through large scopes before- lots of “Ooohs and Ahhs” Thursday night. It never fails to give a thrill when a youngster gets a good look and rewards us with a “Wow!”. We had lines of people at all three of the scopes. And many of them got to see the same objects through all three to see the difference of performance between different scopes.

Each of us approaches these objects from a slightly different perspective and I think guests come away with a better understanding as a result. While I was giving the constellation tour there was one youngster that was obviously well conversant with Greek Mythology and I let him explain the mythology of Medusa and the “Clash of the Titans” connection- getting the guests participating with us as well as observing.

So what did we see?

Thursday was one of those clear nights with good seeing. The moon was just past  first quarter with the terminator running past the central craters. During the early part of the evening only the rim walls of Ptolemaeus was lit. But barely a an hour and a half later later the sun was illuminating the crater floor with the shadows from the rim wall thrown into sharp relief.  I can visualize Galileo first seeing this in 1609. Alphonsus was spectacular -initially looking like a bulls-eye with only the crater rim and the upper reaches of the central peak lit. Just like Ptolemaeus the floor was illuminated later in the evening. A classic demonstration of the shallowness of lunar craters relative to their diameter. Guests are always surprised at just how shallow these really are. And of course we showed the Apollo 11 Landing Site.

And then on to Jupiter.  This one got more of the Oh’s and Ahhh’s than the Moon. Firstly when people realized that those “stars” were really moons. Then again when they realized that were were seeing the cloud banding on Jupiter. All four Galilean moons were visible with Europa beginning transit just after 8:00 PM. Joe Carro gave a really nice lecture on Galileo and the moons. I put on my astrometric eyepiece and explained how it could be used to measure the size of various features and the planet itself. I had to move my scope a couple of times when Jupiter started to go behind the trees. Joe Carro had the best position for Jupiter. He was still able to see it after Tom and I had to move on to other objects.

We didn’t neglect the rest of the sky either. We all showed the Orion nebula-always a nice view with the Trapezium and the Fishmouth. Hmmm-a new asterism with the Trapezium as a fishhook and the dark Fishmouth taking the bait?

Tom gave a really nice explanation of M42 and his purchase of his 18” because of this stellar nursery. A little later Tom pointed his scope at M82 and the Andromeda Galaxy-always neat things to see.

Joe spent quite a while showing people Mintaka and explaining binary stars and showing the constellations with his pointer.

And I got a three-fer. I showed people Polaris. With the astrometric eyepiece the companion to Polaris was easily visible so I got to plug Tom and Joe’s double star expertise too. And I got to explain Cepheid variables and the Period-Luminosity relation.

I would like to give a thank you to Joe Laurenzi for inviting us to his Library. All three of us had a very good time and so did the guests.

Oh yes- The cookies and cider went fast and I broke the new equipment jinx-at least for one night. My new Celestron Microguide eyepiece came in Wednesday and Thursday was first light!

Clear skies and dark,

David W. Majors

P.S. From Tom Frey: Last night’s star party at Los Osos Library was a great success. Joe, the librarian, said he estimated 75 people, mainly families with small children, showed up. I never even got off of the Moon! I have attached a few photos I took early on during set up but had no chance once folks started arriving to take more. Dave Majors, Joe Carro and I had our scopes out for about 2 hours.

Feb 17, 2011: “Math and Science” night at Virginia Peterson Elementary School

As part of “Math and Science” night at Virginia Peterson Elementary School – Principal Brad Yee requested a couple of telescopes from CCAS. In response Joe Carro arranged for us to have our telescopes at their school. The packed auditorium was set up with tables for the various grades to to demonstrate knowledge of math and science with an ongoing math competition on the main stage.

Since it was a “Dark and Stormy Night” Joe and I set our telescopes up as a “Show and Tell” over by the stage. We explained how our telescopes worked and I let the kids play the usual “Front-end Lookie-Lou” with my dob. In keeping with the “Math and Science” theme I had my Astrometric eyepiece out and explained how it could be used to measure the sizes of Jupiter’s Red Spot and the sizes of lunar craters. Joe explained how the eyepieces are used to measure binary stars.

-Report by D.M.

Star Gazing at Los Osos Public Library

We’re bringing telescopes to view the moon and Jupiter on Feb 10th! Here’s how you can join us:

Trinity School Star Party

On Jan 7 Joe Carro and I attended a star party at Trinity Lutheran Church School in Paso Robles at the invitation of Jackie Loper- one of the teachers at this school.

This event was a wild success with 50 or so students and parents in attendance. To start with- this party was coupled with student assignments. The students had studied the solar system and had a series of tabletop displays on the planets. These kids had done their homework properly and were very knowledgeable about the basic statistics of the solar system. In fact – when we were showing the kids Jupiter through the telescopes they were telling us the various facts about the planets including the current moon counts- something I cannot do without my cheat sheets!

For the observing part we had three telescopes set up in the field. I had my 12” dob. Joe had his Celestron goto and one other gentleman had a 4 “ newt on a German equatorial mount. Regrettably – I was so busy myself that I did not get a chance to meet him or look through his scope. Anyway I would like to thank him for bringing a scope. We needed it. There were lines at all three scopes.

We got the evening started off with the waxing crescent moon. The sun had not yet risen over Tranquillity Base. But Mare Crisium was one of the big attractions as I explained that the Sea of Crises was a flooded impact basin. Several of the parents were as excited as the kids at seeing the ghost craters along the basin rim. Petavius with its central peak and rille was another attraction.

Onwards to Jupiter and its moons. A couple of the students got very excited when they realized they were actually seeing the equatorial bands they had only seen in pictures. I explained that the S. Equatorial band had disappeared during the seasonal gap and was gone when Jupiter reappeared in the morning sky. All four of the Galilean moons were visible with Io nearing occultation disappearance. I had my S&T wigglegram with me and I let the several of the students identify the moons for me.

After this the teacher rounded up everybody and we headed for the classroom where Joe Carro held a Q&A session. There were a few stumpers but fortunately Joe and I complemented each other on these. Like I said-these kids had done their homework

After this it was back to the scopes for some of the deep sky stuff. We gave a constellation tour and explained the stepladder for the cosmic distance scale and showed Polaris and its companion. There were some high clouds that affected seeing but we got in several planetaries as well as M31 and M42. M110 was just barely visible. We got in M42 and all four stars of the Trapezium were visible.

I would like to thank Jackie Loper for inviting us for this event and Joe Carro for setting this up .

Clear Skies and Dark,
David Majors

Star Party at the Nipomo Native Gardens

December 1, 2010

Visitors: Administrators, Adults and students from the Guadalupe-Nipomo, Dunes Center

Chris Estrada, Dave Majors, and I (Tom Frey) held a star party on 12/1/10 at the Nipomo Native Gardens (NNG) in Nipomo, CA. This was at the request made to Cindy Jelinek and Charlie Gulyash, members of the NNG, from Kanani Fox, Education and Administrative Coordinator of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center. The after school program at the Dunes Center has been doing an astronomy session for the students this fall and wanted to know if members of the CCAS could bring telescopes to the NNG for an early evening star party.

Tom, Chris, and Dave were set up by 6:30 PM when the groups of 7 adults and 9 students arrived. After a few brief words of introduction and telling the group about the CCAS, Chris took the group on a tour of the visible constellations using his laser pointer and speaking of the mythology behind their placement in the sky. With 3 telescopes and a binocular chair, the group viewed Jupiter and 2 of its moons, M15, M27, M57, M31 (the biggest hit besides Jupiter), M45, and finally about 8PM, M42.

Here are some of the comments Tom, Chris and Dave received the next day:

I am so impressed with your astronomy group that you asked to come to the garden last night. They were very informative, great with the kids and adults and had some pretty amazing telescopes. Two children in particular from Santa Maria, had never seen the night sky like that before, never peered through a telescope, knew that you could see a planet or see another galaxy before. I am so thankful that we have been able to work together on this field trip and that in my mind it was a complete and total success! These two young ladies immediately after seeing the north star climbed down from the step stool and said “I’m going to be an astronaut when I grow up and I’m going to travel in space!”. What a genuine reaction to something that we as adults may take for granted the knowledge that we have.

Furthermore, all the children had a wonderful time and the parents as well. I just want to thank you again for taking the time to open the garden and host us (again!) for a field trip to expand the horizons of our local youth in SM, Nipomo and Oceano! Many of which are underserved and may never get this opportunity to stare into the night sky without the inhibitions of street lights and be inspired to do great things!

..and a following note:

Thank you so much for all your help with our group last night.  I really believe that many of these young, new scientists will begin to explore the night sky more as time goes on.  I think the sheer magnitude of how big and dynamic our solar system is made an impression, not to mention the ability, thanks to you and the club offered, to have an up close view of what they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to gaze at in the city. I will check out the website and hopefully get up to the lake soon!  Looking forward to viewing the night sky again!

My sincerest thanks,


Lunar Eclipse

There’s a full lunar eclipse on Dec 21st at 3:17am Eastern Time (12:17am Pacific) which is visible from all of North America! If you have no idea what a lunar (as opposed to solar) eclipse is, check out this new JPL information video:

For those of you more experienced with eclipses, here’s the exact data you need:

Bottom line: Go outside on the evening of Dec 20th and look up. You’ll see the copper color of the moon as the day swings to the 21st. This is the first one since Feb 2008. Enjoy!

Clear skies!

West Templeton Star Gazing

On the night of 28 November 2010, a star party was held at a residence in West Templeton. Astronomer Joseph Carro met with Mary Gardner and members of her family. There were five adults and six children at the house on Claassen Road. Upon his arrival, the skies were cloudy, so Joseph placed his telescope, a Celestron 11” unit of Schmidt-Cassegrain design, inside the house, and explained the function of a telescope. A lively question and answer period followed, which lasted about 30 minutes. During that time, the clouds passed, and an excellent viewing opportunity appeared. The planet Jupiter and its moons were clearly visible, as was the double star, Eta Cas. Joseph pointed out some of the constellations, and answered questions about them. The viewing lasted about 40 minutes, and was followed by large cups of hot cider! A good time was had by all.

Shooting Holes at the Boy Scout Convention

From Dave Majors:

I was at the Boy Scout event on 10/29-30 with over 500 scouts and possibly rainy weather, and it turned out better than I thought it would (given the weather forecast). It clouded over as the sun was going down but I did get the chance to shoot holes in the clouds. Because of that we got off to a slow start but for about a hour and a half there was a pretty steady stream of people and several of the scouts got to see Jupiter and its moons for the first time-then went to bring their friends to see it.

We managed to get in Globular Messier 22 in Sagittarius as well as Albireo- since one of the merit badge requirements is to identify a red yellow and blue star-here’s a binary (maybe) that gives two of them at once.

I set up a booth with astronomical information geared to the boy scout requirements.

I covered basic information on telescope types , types of objects to be seen and the various types of charts and computers we use- Boy Scout Astronomy merit badge requirements
Another of their requirements is to conduct an observing session, or to conduct or assist a star party so I had another board showing that aspect of our hobby.
Finally I had a set of demos and NASA freebies on the Sun that Aurora was kind enough to provide.

All throughout the day the Sun was playing cat and mouse with clouds and for about a half hour in the morning I put a tarp over my dob when we started to get some sprinkles.

Aside from that the day was a successful one. I gave away all fifty of the Sky &Telescope dome chart handouts I made as well as the Sun cards from the freebie kit.
Another of the scout requirements involves some selenography so I showed them the last quarter moon which was still up in the morning. I got the most questions about the Apollo 11 landing site and as the sunset terminator had not yet reached that point I used my astrometric eyepiece to show the approximate location in the Sea of Tranquility.

One of the big highlights of the day was a visit from a cub scout pack. I got a little nervous initially because these cubs were like I probably was as a cub-mischievous and into everything. They wanted to know what everything in my eyepiece case was from the filters to eyepieces to the magazines and books. I got in some explanations of how the telescope works and let them look inside the scope at their reflections (this always seems to fascinate cubs). One of them asked why Venus looked like the moon so I asked for volunteers. I had one of the cubs playing the Sun, another got to be Venus and a third got to role-play the Earth. I had the cubs demonstrate the orbital motions and showed them the relative locations of the various phases . There were quite a few onlookers watching their performance and when done we gave the cubs a big round of applause.

Soon afterward all the scouts disappeared for a demonstration by the Bomb Squad. What boy could possibly resist the “Things That BLOW-UP” demonstration? Including me. I was sitting there with people from a couple of the other booths listening to the scouts yelling “Fire -In-The-Hole” and we would all stop talking and listen to the concussion. And give our judgment “That was a teeny one” or “Yess-That was a good one!”

The Sun was the big attraction (and also one of the merit badge requirements) and most of the sun was bland. But there was one very well defined sunspot group near the limb. In the morning there was one large spot surrounded by a couple of smaller spots. The whole area around the group is disturbed with obvious mottling. The nice thing is that in the afternoon another spot which had not been visible in the morning made an appearance giving the group a “Pawprint” appearance. By the time the day finished off about 5:00 PM this spot was as apparent as the other two smaller spots. The penumbra was very easy to see around all four of these spots.

The other two highlights for me were several flyovers and a gyrocopter. The flyovers involved a twin-engined aircraft with a performance envelope that allowed formation flying with single engined aircraft. I believe Coordinator Cindi Beaudett’s husband was the pilot.

The other one occurred during one of the periods when the Sun was hidden in the clouds. We were watching an RC plane doing some spins and noticed a craft that a Scoutmaster standing next to me thought looked like an Autogyro. We managed to get on my red dot finder and slew the telescope to him. It was indeed an autogyro. We were both able to slew the telescope quickly enough to keep him in view for about two minutes before he disappeared behind the arena bleachers.

Dark Skies and Good Hunting!
Dave Majors
12″ Intelliscope

From Cyndi Beaudett, coordinator:

I wanted to thank you for attending our Camporall.  I think we had somewhere at +/- 500 scouts.  Some even braved through the wet night on Friday.  I was down there, but had a hotel room both nights.  I know the boys who looked on Friday night were impressed, and luckily the rains didn’t hit when you were there.  I think you mentioned not until you hit the bridge.  That’s pretty close timing!

Saturday was a completely different animal and more like mud wrestling, so when we repositioned everyone I think it still worked out quite well.  Thanks for taking the extra time at the end of the day to show my family the sun spots, and for my son Carson with the different eyepiece so he could see it.  Impressive stuff especially since you said it WASN’T there in the morning.

So thanks again David for attending our 100 Years of Scouting celebration called Camporall.  My family hopes to fit into our crazy busy schedule a time when you are up at Santa Margarita so we can see some more night stuff especially some of the deep space things you were talking about.

Happy trails,

Cyndi Beaudett

New Planet around Gliese 581

I figure we will be asked about the planet discovery that was in the paper so here are the stats:

Star Name: Gliese 581 – also listed as variable star HO Lib
Spect: M3V
Mass: .031 Suns
Luminosity: .013 Suns
Apparent Mag: 10.55
Surface Temp: 3500 K
Distance: 20 ly or 6 pc
Variability: BY Dra type (variability is due to the star’s rotation carrying sunspots into and out of view). I didn’t see anything on it being a flare star but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Planetary System: Has at least 6 planets-the one in the paper being Gliese581G. Three of the planets straddle the “Liquid Water Zone” with one on the inner edge, one on the outer edge and Gliese581G smack in the middle (hence the moniker “Goldilocks”). The newest planet has a mass of 3-4 times the earth with surface gravity about 1.2 times the Earth’s. It orbits about 0.146 AU from the primary with a year of approx 36 days. Obviously at this distance it is probably tidally locked.

I have also made up two AAVSO charts-the 15 deg “a” and the 3 deg. “b” scale. The 2.6 mag star on the “a” chart is Beta Lib. The title
lists the star under its variable star designation HO Lib. The pattern of stars just south of the target star on the “b” chart is located just northeast of Beta Lib on the “a” chart.. The “b” chart magnitude limit is 11.0

Article by Dave Majors

1 Meter Telescope: Assembled

After being worked on at Reed and Chris Estrada’s place in Lancaster, California, the 1 meter photometric telescope has been moved back to the Orion Observatory (near Santa Margarita Lake not far from San Luis Obispo, California). Below are some photographs (taken by Cheryl Genet) of the telescope being set up.

IMPORTANT: Click on the image to enlarge!

“Big Blue” arrives from Lancaster in the back of Reeds pick up truck. Left to right: John Baxter, retired AP Physics teacher Arroyo Grande High School; Tom Frey, Emeritus Prof. of Chemistry, California Polytechnic State University; Russ Genet, Research Scholar in Residence, California Polytechnic State University and Adjunct Professor of Astronomy, Cuesta College; Chris Estrada, Biochemistry major Allan Hancock College and Vice President Central Coast Astronomical Society, and Reed Estrada, Test Pilot, Edwards Air Force Base.

The bright yellow tow bar has been attached to the steerable nose wheel. On the right, one of the two “wheelbarrow” handles has been attached. The other one will be attached to the left side before telescope extraction. The Jeep Cherokee transport vehicle is lower to the ground and the telescope can be rolled out without using the wheelbarrow handles. A hand winch can be used for single senior person extraction or insertion.

Russ hand tows the telescope over loose gravel to its patio parking spot. Per Howard Banich’s advice, the entire telescope, except for the prime focus truss and instruments, stays together as a single unit. One of the two main wheels can be seen lower left. Pneumatic 10 inch tires make travel over rough terrain relatively easy. We initially considered castered front wheels—shopping cart style—but Mel Bartels informed us that without positive steering a heavy telescope on uneven terrain would go where it wanted to go, not where you wanted it to go. Reed and Russ, both pilots, were used to moving tricycle gear aircraft around via a tow bar attached to a steerable nose wheel, so this seemed a natural. At a bit over 300 lbs, this telescope weighs a fraction of what a typical small airplane weighs.

Reed inserts a top truss tube into the square mid-level spacer while Tom holds the last lower truss tube. The original truss assembly used an “X” middle section (similar to the VERITAS Cherenkov radiation and Fairborn Observatory telescopes). However this approach lacked rotational stiffness (without the addition of outriggers, a significant complication).

At RTMC, Dave Rowe suggested we switch to a square middle section approach. This approach is similar to that used by the HESS Cherenkov radiation telescopes. We also switched from square to round tubing—allowing one more degree of freedom during assembly.

The assembled lightweight truss, which can be easily lifted by two persons, is lifted into place. The Orion Observatory’s 10 inch SCT is housed in the flip top structure behind Big Blue. Russ’ front porch shop is on the right.

Reed hooks one of the X guy wires to the square mid section. While pointing at the Zenith, all connections are loosened and the telescope is given the “Kent Wallace shake” so everything drops into place. The turnbuckles on the guy wires and connections are then firmly tightened.

The crew poses with the assembled telescope. The goal is to refine the assembly procedure so that two persons can unload, assemble, and collimate the telescope in a half hour or less, thus meeting the Banich Bylaw definition of portability.

Several prime focus instrument packages are planned. All use the Meade micro-focuser (on the right). This package utilizes a Meade flip mirror system where the mirror has been replaces with a dichroic filter. This allows simultaneous two color (V and I) photometry. Alternatively, the dichroic filter can be flipped out of the way and the single straight through camera used for sequential multicolor photometry.

Other prime focus instrument packages planned include those for high speed (millisecond) photometry and near infrared photometry.

Star Party on Sept 4th Success!

Wow… what a beautiful night! We had such a great time with the clear night as tons of folks trekked up the hill. Many thanks extend out to Kent Wallace, Pete Roebber, Chris and Reed Estrada for their time, telescopes, and talent! We had mostly ‘big guns’ up at the hill (18″, 20″, and 22″ Dobs) and my own 8″ (eq) Newtonian. We also had a few newbies getting lessons with their telescopes at sunset, so this made for a nice way to start the evening. The sky was clear and the hill was packed with astronomy passion for a good part of the night.

And yes, I know that the picture here has me pointing my telescope toward the ground… what you don’t see (at first) are my hands lifting and tightening it onto the tripod! If you want a true blooper, then you’d have had to attend this star party, where I used an O-III filter to bring out the Lagoon Nebula and left it on (by accident, I swear) when looking at Jupiter. 🙂

Stary Party at the KOA

The August 7, 2010 KOA star party was a success even though there were only 4 telescopes. Dave was there with his 12” Intelliscope, Kent with his 20” Starsplitter and Reed with his and Chris’s homebuilt 22”. A 6” Newt on a German equatorial arrived after dark and was set up at the north end of Star Hill.

Guests began arriving well before dark and David got the show off and running with the Sun. He had brought his 4.5 “ off-axis solar filter and lo and behold-there was actually solar activity to be seen. Three large , well defined and separated sunspot groups were visible.

Even before the Sun set Kent spotted Venus. Still appearing as a half moon – Venus is just past Eastern Elongation and is beginning to move between the Earth and Sun on its inferior orbit. There was enough atmospheric turbulence that the planets could not take much magnification but it was nice to see Venus in a bright sky minus the usual glare.

Saturn followed as soon as it started to get dark and there were a lot of requests to see Mars despite the lack of detail on the Red planet. We got some “Wow”s when people realized that the little speck to the side of Saturn was Titan with it’s methane lakes.

There was a large public turnout. At one point during the evening there were at least 12 cars parked at the base of Star Hill and the overflow parking area. Quite a few visitors were staying at the campground including Julio from the SJAA. At any given time there was a group of 6 or so people at each of the telescopes with all the astronomers showing their showpiece objects as well as the usual constellation tours and explanations.

There were a lot of requests for individual stars such as Mizar/Alcor, Polaris, and Albireo. And one for Herschel’s Garnet Star. This is of course Mu Cep which is a supergiant star that would reach out to the orbit of Jupiter. It did not appear quite so red last night.

Once again M51 was a highlight of the evening. Even through Dave’s 12” there were a number of “OH!”s. And Reed pulled out the 17mm Ethos eyepiece for “The Scope”. The Whirlpool filled the eyepiece field of view with individual knots visible.

Kent and Reed were also able to do some reviews of some of the coming fall attractions such as M 31 and the Owl Cluster.

The evening finished off with Jupiter rising in the east. Although in the mud it was apparent that the South Equatorial Belt is still missing. Io was in transit across the face of Jupiter although it was too low in the sky to see it or the shadow transit. As the party was finishing up Reed detected Io just popping into view after exiting the giant planet’s disk.

The guests appeared happy and pleased as they left. Thanks to the astronomers for a successful party.

The next KOA Star Hill Party is scheduled for Sat Sep 4 2010. Sunset at 7:25 PM PDT

Dark skies and good hunting,

Dave Majors


From Reed Estrada:

Saturdays star party (Aug 7, 2010) was well attended thanks to Wednesday Tribune  article on the CCAS Santa Margarita Lake star parties.  We had three CCAS member telescopes in attendance and one new comer.  David Majors added a “Solar Filter” to his new 12 inch Orion dob.  We had some fine views of solar sun spots appearing on the surface of the sun, following a long sun spot hiatus.  Kent Wallace and Reed Estrada’s large 20 inch and 22 inch dobsonian telescopes dominated the hill again offering the large public gathering excellent views of Venus, mars and Saturn in the early evening.  Later as the sky’s darkened, the crowds lined up to see a host of galaxies and nebulas and double stars while listening to brief descriptions of the significance of the night sky observations.  We noticed the absence of monthly regular CCAS members due to the Pine Mountain Oregon research event and the Oregon Star Party scheduled for this week and the next. This was a relaxed  enjoyable week end event with good weather and friendly folks.

Thunder at a Star Party!

From VP Chris Estrada:

The last Star Party on July 10, 2010 at the Santa Margarita KOA had mixed results… Only 4 scopes turned up… Reed Estrada and I, Tom Frey, Pete Roebbers and David Majors… There was a modest public turn out… The afternoon started out iffy but then just after sun set it cleared out for a bit and we where able to do allot of viewing, including show the crowd the ISS as it passed overhead and a really nice Iridium Flare… However around 10:30 or so it began to close in and flashes of lighting where actually seen off to the south east… so we began to clear off our selves… Dad (Reed) and I where the last to leave and not a moment to soon there was one last big flash and where heard thunder… then it began to rain on the hill, HARD… needless to say we beat a hasty retreat… LOL it all worked out in the end though…

Click here to read more CCAS events.

Large Alt-Az Telescope at Big Bear

One Meter Photometric Telescope at RTMC (Riverside Telescope Maker’s Conference) on May 15, Big Bear Lake, California

Report from: Russ Genet, Reed Estrada, and VP Chris Estrada

The one meter wooden prototype photometric telescope made it to RTMC this year.  First “sawdust” was this past October, so construction has been underway for about seven months.  The mirror for the telescope, a 1 meter f/4.0 spherical meniscus ¾ inch thick, weights about 70 lbs.  It was kindly donated to the project by DOTI Optical.  The telescope is a prime focus system (no eyepiece) just intended for photometry.  We consider it a science “light bucket” telescope.  An aluminum prototype is nearing completion at Inca Corp. by George Roberts and his associates.

The telescope is still a work in progress with much remaining to be done.  The basic construction has been completed, and the drive components have been installed.  We did not operate the drive system at RTMC due to a short in the altitude cable connection we didn’t have the facilities to repair on the spot.  The instrument rotator/focuser is being built by Andy Saulietis and should be installed next week.  The control system is the new Sidereal Technology brushed servomotor control system that should be ready in a couple of weeks (we are temporarily using the older SiTech control system for checkout).  With the OTA trusses and top altitude trunion sections disassembled, the entire telescope fits in the back of a Jeep Cherokee SUV, although it was brought to RTMC in the back of Reed’s pickup truck (he was doing some last minute work on the telescope while Russ was giving a talk at SAS).  What follows are some photographs of the telescope at RTMC.

Reed checks the 18 point mirror support system while Russ fastens one of the two removable upper trunion sections.  Tom Smith provides moral support.

Chris Estrada fastens down the brace between the two removable upper sections of the altitude trunions.

Chris and Reed Estrada finish fastening the aluminum tubing brace between the upper trunion sections.  Richard Berry, far right, helps hold the brace in place, while Gary Cole (blue jacket and tan hat) looks on.  Dave Rowe (between Chris and Reed) sees something down on the ground.  What could it be?

Russ and Reed move the 1 meter mirror from a transport box to the telescope.  Normally the mirror will ride installed in the telescope, but the transport safety/cushioning arrangements have not yet been completed.

Reed and Russ lower the mirror into the mirror box.  The two yellow items on the side of the rocker box hold wheels that keep the altitude trunions  centered on their drive/idler wheels.  The aluminum “disk” near Russ’ foot is the toothed altitude drive pulley.  An AT-5 steel reinforced belt can be seen going down to a smaller pulley on the end of the altitude motor.  One of the two main wheels can be seen on the left.

With the mirror in place, Russ looks at the reflection of the clouds.

Reed, Russ, and Chris move the assembled truss structure into place.  The two-bay truss is being redesigned to make its assembly easier.  Cross bracing cables tightened by turnbuckles are being added to stiffen the structure.

Reed and Russ hold the truss in place while Chris fastens down one of the corners.  Note that the mirror cover is in place during assembly.

With the telescope assembled, Reed, Russ, and Chris pose for the camera.

Although not operational yet, Dave Rowe was impressed that after only seven months of work, the telescope had been physically assembled at RTMC, and he gave the telescope a quick kiss.

Chris, Reed, and Russ tilt the 1 meter photometric telescope (aka Packman or Big Blue) down beside the Jeep that it fits inside. Celebration at the Third Annual Large Alt-Az Telescope Dinner.  There were toasts to PlaneWave Instruments CDK 700 telescope, the portable 42-inch CDK wooden telescope (13 years in the making), and the 1 meter photometric telescope.  Seen round the table is Russ Genet, Tom Smith, Rick Hedrick, Floyd Fietchner, Dave Rose, and Deborah Ceravolo.  Peter Ceravolo, Joe Haberman, and a few others were there but did not appear in this photograph.

The 1 meter photometric telescope was just part of the special program at RTMC.  The announcement for the program is below:

Large Alt-Az Telescope Developments

Special Presentation Session and Workshop

Riverside Telescope Maker’s Conference

May 15, Big Bear Lake, California

The Riverside Telescope Maker’s Conference has scheduled a special Saturday morning session that will feature six short talks on large (for amateurs) alt-az telescope developments.  A complimentary two hour workshop follows in the afternoon.

9:15-10:30   Large Alt-Az Telescope Developments

A Brief History of Alt-Az Telescopes (Richard Berry)

The Alt-Az Initiative (Russ Genet)

CDK Direct Drive Telescopes (Rick Hedrick, Joe Haberman, Dan Gray, Dave Rowe, & Allan Keller)

Lightweight Aluminum Telescopes (Tom Osypowski & Howard Banich)

A Portable 1-Meter Photometric Telescope, (George Roberts, Reed & Chris Estrada, & Russ Genet)

A Portable 42″ Broken-focus Corrected Dall-Kirkham Telescope (Dave Rowe & Rick Hedrick)

2:00-4:00   Large Alt-Az Telescope Workshop

Chair: Dave Rowe. Participants: Howard Banich, David Davis, Russ Genet, Dan Gray, & Rick Hedrick.

Topics: primary mirror substrates, spherical and parabolic correctors, the corrected Dall Kirkham optical design, direct drive motors, encoders, bearings, fundamentals of servo control, field de-rotators, material properties and material selection, truss structures, and transportation of large alt-az telescopes.

Talk at Cambria Rotary Club

The CCAS was invited to be the guest speaker for the Cambria Rotary Club on Friday, June 18th, 2010, who meets weekly at the Cambria Pines Lodge.  Member Joseph Carro was the presenter:

“The meeting of the Cambria Rotary went very well.  I had a presentation ready, but as soon as the introduction ended the group started to ask questions, and all of the time (only 25 minutes!) was spent answering them.  The high level of interaction made for an interesting meeting.  After the meeting, several people approached me to ask more questions, and I spent an additional 30 minutes talking with them.” (Report from Joseph Carro)

Star Gazing and Wine!

The CCAS was invited to co-host a wine-tasting event under the stars on June 19, 2010 at sunset.  This is the fifth year in a row that we’ve had this wonderful opportunity to share with the public, and we hope to continue this event in the future.

“Cass Winery star party was an unqualified success!  Gus, Chris, Reed, Patti and I attended to about 30 people during a clear, but somewhat chilly, summer night.  With clear skies, we were able to conduct a top rate show, and a good time was had by all.” (Reported by Joseph Carro)

Star Party Success!

The June 12th, 2010 public star party at the KOA campground was a HUGE success. It was well attended by both astronomers and the general public. The Night started off a little breezy but it rapidly calmed at dusk. The conditions where clear and cool, which made for a very pleasant evening.

Also not to toot our own horn, but I think the night was truly made when we Re-unveiled our 22inch Dobsonian Homebuilt Telescope with its brand new Swayze Optical Mirror.

It was great with our eye pieces, but it truly became a work of art and function when Mr. Pete introduced us the the Ethos line of eyepieces. We where COUNTING arms on the whirlpool galaxy. We could SEE the streamers on the Dumbbell, and many MANY other things had details the like of which we have never seen before.

All who looked through the scope had exclamations of aw on thier lips. The greatest compliment of the night was when our resident Planetary Expert Mr. Kent Wallace looked at the Dumbbell and said, wow. It was truly a great night with many great memories. Mr. David Majors and Dr. Tom Frey where especially helpful, as always, and all the other astronomers did a great job showing people the night sky… A great event all around!

Chris Estrada, CCAS VP


Report from Tom Frey:

Reid and Chris had their 22″ with the new Swazey mirror for the first time. Pete Roebber lent his TeleVue 17mm Ethos (FOV 100 degrees) and I lent my OIII filter and hood to see some of the greatest views of Ms 5, 13, 51, 27, 11, 20, 8, 17, the Veil, on this fantastic new, home constructed Dobsonian. there were a lot of ohhs and ahhs all night long.

We had 9 scopes on the hill and many visitors. The wind was a threat early on but settled down after sunset. The seeing was “very good”. Kent Wallace had his 20″ Starsplitter firing on all fronts with a long que at his scope. Mark was calibrating his Celestron for double star studies in Oregon in August. Tom was measuring a triple star in Draco with his Celestron astrometric eyepiece. Pete Roebber got his 18″ Obsession going after a visitor, Gordon, determined that Pete’s telescope had a bad cable; once replaced, it operated fine. Dave Majors was there with his scope as well as several other members. (I apologize for not including all of your names here.) But the 22″ took center stage. We all enjoyed looking through one another’s telescopes and enjoyed sharing the June skies with all in attendance. Tom left about 3AM, Reid, Chris, and Mark Brewer (new CCAS member) left after that.


From Kent Wallace:

The star party went well. We had quite a few people attend. It started out windy and cold. Later the wind dropped off and it got colder. The big hit for the night was Reed and Chris’ 22″ scope with it’s brand new 22″ mirror. Got a wonderful view of M 51 in it.

People enjoyed seeing M 5 and the Cat’s Eye Nebula in my scope. Later I swung the scope to the Network Nebula which is the eastern part of the Veil Nebula supernova remnant. I used a 32mm 2″ eyepiece with a 2″ O-III filter screwed into the back of the eyepiece. People really liked how the all the filaments lit up and the large size of this object.

Tom and Pete were there with their 18″ scopes. Also there was a new member there with a 16″ Lightbridge scope. So we had plenty of large scopes on top of the hill. The green laser pointers seemed to impress visitors as we pointed out various constellations and were various deep sky objects could be found. Also as usual, the Stargate asterism was a hit with people, just because it look neat.


From Dave Majors:

Chris and Reed’s 22″ was the star performer. When we saw M51 everyones first utterance seemed to be “OH!!!” As Chris said we were counting arms and we could follow the arms through almost their entire arcs.  We didn’t get out until about 2:30 AM Just after Jupiter had risen. We did take a peek at Jupiter but it was still in the mud and all we could really tell was that one of the equatorial belts was missing.  A great evening!!

Star Party for the American Cancer Society

The CCAS was invited to host a star-gazing event on Saturday, June 5, 2010 with the American Cancer Society. The event was called Camp Reach for the Stars “Creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays…”

According to one of the organizers there where approximately 15 children, cancer survivors, and their families attending the camp. The camp was basically a typical summer camp with lots of activities for the children and families to do. Saturday evening we arrived and set up our 22inch Dob and Bino-Chair. It turned out to be a pleasant evening and we where able to show those who where interested Venus, Mars and Saturn along with M-13 and the Ring Nebula. Dad and I also did our usual “Greek TV” pointing out the constellations that where up with the green laser pointers. As quiet time was 10PM and Bed time was 11PM the festivities and our activities ended around 10:30PM. Everyone who looked through the scope and played with the chair was VERY impressed and very grateful that we where able to attend and share the night sky with them.

Report from Vice president Chris Estrada

Omega Centauri Visible at Dancing Deer!

We were at the new star site, Dancing Deer Ranch in Templeton on Saturday, June 5th, 2010. Although we weren’t sure what to expect to see with the scopes (it was really our first time out there), we were quite impressed! Here’s the scoop on the scopes:

From Tom Frey:

“Omega Centauri (NGC 5239) is the largest and brightest globular cluster around the Milky Way Galaxy. It is located in the southern constellation of Centaurus, is 15,800 light years away, and is about 12 billion years old. Estimates are that it contain over 1 million stars. The stars in the core are estimated to be only 0.1 light years apart, where as the closest star to us is about 4 light years away. It’s big. The cluster appears to be as large as the full moon.

“Kent Wallace was scanning the horizon with this binoculars when he said “I wonder if we can see Omega Centauti from here.” Usually the cluster is too far south to be seen from most observation sites at our latitude. Kent then said, “there it is.” Wow! Tom plugged the coordinates into his Argo Navis and slewed to the massive globular. Tom was worried as his scope got lower and lower as it approached the horizon. When it stopped moving at about 5 degrees above the horizon, we literally got down on our knees to view the Big Sheriff of globular clusters. With a 17mm eyepiece at 120x, the spheroid almost filled the eyepiece. The Dave, Kent and Andy followed suit to see it. Considering that we were looking through the “soup” at the horizon, Omega Centauri was remarkably resolved and it was the highlight of the evening.”

From Dave Majors:

“Tom and I were out until about 2:30 AM. The waning crescent moon was rising over the trees to the east just as we were leaving. The seeing improved steadily throughout the night. Tom was working through some of his double star lists and I was working through some of the neglected Miras. We had one final observation of what we thought might be the brightest member of Stephen’s Quintet. If that observation holds up then the limiting magnitude for my 12” was 14.1 for stars and 13.9 for deep sky objects.

Click here to read more…

Report from June 5th Star Gazing…

On June 5,  CCAS members were finally able to give the Dancing Deer Ranch site a good workout.

Attending with their scopes were the dobs:

Aurora’s 8 year old son Benji with his 3” scope.

Kent with his 20”

Tom with his 17”

Dave and Andy with their 12” scopes

The skies were clear, the evening warm, the company good and the stage set for a fine evening.

Seeing conditions were unsteady from some breezes early on but improved throughout the evening

Eagle -eyed Kent got the evening started off by being the first to spot Venus. Venus is still showing a waning gibbous phase. A variable polarizer filter gave better views of the gibbous phase by reducing glare.

As the sky darkened Kent was consistently the first to spot objects – this time Saturn and the Regulus-Mars pair. Saturn was a fine view with at least three moons as well as the rings . Titan was visible of course but there were at least two others. Rhea was on the other side of the disk from Titan. There was a third moon visible on the same side of the disk with Titan which from the S&T wiggle-gram could have been either Dionne or Tethys- possibly both as the seeing was still a bit unsteady.  Mars showed a small disk with little detail.

All during the early evening there were guests staying at the ranch dropping by and looking through all the scopes. Dave was delayed when his Intelliscope Finder stopped seeing signals from the altitude encoder midway through the alignment but got back into the act a little later.

Once it was fully dark Kent noticed that the ridge defining the southern horizon was very low and that stars of Centaurus were visible. Out came his binocs and there it was- Omega Centauri from San Luis Obispo County!!! Several of the observers had never before seen this magnificent globular visually and were very impressed. Tom had to go to a lower magnification as  it filled the entire field of view through his 17mm eyepiece. Individual stars were visible all across the cluster in all the scopes despite the low altitude.

Also visible was the colliding galaxy pair NGC 5128. Through all the scopes the dark lane was visible with direct vision.

A couple of other highlights from the evening were the Stargate asterism and the colliding galaxy pair NGC 4038/4039.

The Stargate is an asterism with a triangle of stars nested inside another triangle near M104. Designated STF  1659 this is a nice attractive set of stars .  Here are links to a couple of sites with more information.

for information on the stars and a finder chart

for PA and Sep measurements if anyone would like to compare.

NGC 4038/4039 is a colliding pair of galaxies in Corvus called the Antennae or Ring-Tail galaxies.  Through Tom’s and Kent’s scopes the U-shape was readily apparent. Through Dave and Andy’s 12” scopes the dark area appeared more of an indentation and the u-shape not readily apparent.

By midnight Just Tom and Dave were left. They spent the next two hours working through their lists-Tom with his doubles and Dave with his Miras.

Just before finishing off they took a quick tour through the summer attractions and some of the fall attractions. The last item was galaxy NGC 7331 in Pegasus . There appeared to be a faint galaxy about a half degree from NGC 7331. It was only seen with averted vision and very faint at that. From the location this may have been the brightest member of Stephen’s Quintet at 13 mag.

The waning crescent moon was rising through the trees just as Dave and Tom were driving off

Here some links to some APOD images of the night’s observing

Omega Centauri

NGC 5128 or Centaurus A

The Antennae (NGC4038/4039)

Stephan’s Quintet

NGC 7331 with Stephen’s Quintet at lower left

Good Hunting!!

Dave M.

New Star Site for CCAS Members

theroad Saturday, June 5, 2010 at Sunset

CCAS Members are invited to a private star party just for CCAS members at an 80-acre ranch in Templeton, owned by retired professor Peter Huber (who is also an amateur astronomer).

The ranch is an eco-friendly retreat center available to CCAS free of charge on select nights. The site is very dark, has 360-degree visibility and no annoying lights (like at KOA). There are two possible observing sites on the property that have already been previewed by Lee Coombs, Tom Frey, and Jim Carlisle this month (who all gave the thumbs-up!), so bring your scope and drive right up!

What you need to do: Bring a snack to share and arrive early so you can meet Peter and look around before it gets too dark. Just send us an email if you plan to attend so we know to look for you.

Boy Scout Star Party

The CCAS provided a star gazing event on May 15th, 2010 to Boy Scout Pack 91 at Lopez Lake – here are the highlights!

From Member Joseph Carro:

We met at Camp Mabel French at 8pm to find about 20 Boy and Girl Scouts and about 15 adults who accompanied them. After setting our telescopes, we gathered at a small amphitheater, and we, the members of the CCAS, spoke to the group. Daniel opened by discussing the formation, life, and death of stars. Larry spoke about constellations, and distributed a star map. Joseph spoke about how telescopes reveal the motion of the earth, and gave a brief review of the composition of our solar system. Several questions were asked by the scouts, and then we walked to the viewing sight. Fortunately, the planet Saturn was visible, and that fact made the evening interesting.

Sidewalk Astronomy Day Success!

We had lots of sun at the Earth Day event in Mission Plaza, SLO on Sat. April 24th, 2010. Representing CCAS were members Dave and President Aurora, who found they were the only booth that didn’t bring a tent for shade, as their exhibit included five solar-viewing telescopes.

Dave’s 12″ Dob had an off-axis solar filter which was dimmer than Aurora’s 8″ Newtonian which had a full filter on the end. The sun was mercilessly clear – not a sunspot in sight, nor flare could be seen through the h-alpha scope. However, the star performer at the booth was actually the radio telescope, as word spread like wildfire through the plaza that you could ‘hear’ the sun if you went to the ‘telescope’ booth. Aurora had converted a small satellite TV dish into a radio telescope, and through some fancy wiring, was able to hook it up to a set of earphones.

We have a couple of new members and a lot of interest and education as a result of the warm summer-like afternoon, and everyone walked away with smiles in the eyes and stars ringing in their ears.

In case you missed it, you can join our next Sidewalk Astronomy Event by checking our calendar here!

1-Meter Telescope – BIG Hit!

Report from VP Chris Estrada on the monthly CCAS meeting for April 2010:

The meeting went great – we had lots of people both young and “seasoned” alike. The power point, though a little mistimed was full of interesting information ( I should know I spent the better part of 2 days staring at it) and was colorfully done. Reed Estrada gave an interesting and informative brief, which was supplemented by the late (but timely) arrival of Dr. Genet. The Scope was a “Big” hit no pun intended.  After the meeting almost EVERYONE crowded around it and asked MANY questions –  in all the evening was a success!


CHANGE OF LOCATION! National Astronomy Day Celebration

john-dobsonLooking for fun ways to celebrate National Astronomy Day on April 24th?

CCAS Members are invited to hit the streets with us on Saturday, April 24th at 11am at the Earth Day celebration event in the plaza at the SLO Mission. We’ll be showing the public the sun and answering questions about telescopes and astronomy. (Weather-permitting!) We’ll be handing out free NASA Sun Science packets to anyone who attends.

Click here for more details.

Star Party Report from Dave M.

Dancing Deer Ranch 17 Apr 2010:

We had a small group of 7 people  and 2 telescopes. Just a nice small informal group. We had a retired physicist who is a new member to the club along with one of Peter’s staff who live on the grounds. Along with Aurora we had a couple of us oldtimers (well -I’m an oldtimer to astronomy though still a “Rookie” in the club). And to round it off we had a couple of artists who brought their 8” Dob that they just bought used.

Unfortunately the sky had clouded up during the day with cirrus-thick enough to seriously affect the seeing but still thin enough to see constellation patterns.

Aurora started out the evening with the “Pop Quiz” question of the night. What is that bright object hanging there in the western sky? Venus – of course. Telescopically it is still  fairly small and as it is still on the far side of the sun relative to earth exhibited a gibbous phase.

I helped the couple with the 8” dob get their scope aligned with the finder.  I had a little bit of trouble with the finder-mainly due to fact that the finder bracket was mis-aligned with the optical tube just enough to hit the stop before an object could be centered in the crosshairs. But we got things centered enough to make it useable. Then with Aurora we  were able to get a reasonably good collimation.  This is a sweet little scope with very smooth bearings -far smoother than the bearings on my dob. Here’s hoping they bring it on out to Star Hill on the 8’th!

Once we started doing some observing we got some reasonable views of the Moon and Venus.  The sun shadow angles were still low enough that the line of craters Langrenus and Petavius were still easily discernable although I could not see the rillle in Petavius.

We spent some time in and around the Orion complex and one of us was able to see two stars inside the trapezium in spite of the high cirrus.We spent the next hour or so showing Polaris and giving the sky tour. We rounded out the evening with some some of the spring galaxies such as M65/66, M81/82 and M51 and M104 although with the seeing these were washed out.

I finished off the evening with some of my Mira variables. R Hya which is nearing minimum at 9.1, R Leo which is brightening at 9.8 and R Com which was fainter than last nights magnitude limit of 13.9 for my 12” Dob.

The dew monsters made their rounds about 11:30 PM when I decided to quit for the night.

Dave M.

Citizen Sky Blog

Here’s a website with the Epsilon Aurigae IR images:

Space and Astronomy News

YouTube:  KSBY TV News Report of Delta IV Heavy launch from Vandenberg in December 2010

Santa Maria Times Article: VAFB Gets Ready for Heavy Duty  (Delta IV Heavy)

Scientific American Article:  Does the U.S. Produce Too Many Scientists?
You can provide your views and comments to the author of this “draft” article

Scientific American Podcast:  The Complex Physics of Clouds

NASA Unveils New Space-Weather Science Tool – Integrated Space Weather Analysis (iSWA) system

GLOBE at Night Event March 3-16
Join thousands of teachers, students and families around the globe March 3-16, 2010, in a hunt for stars. Take part in this international event to observe the nighttime sky and learn more about light pollution around the world. GLOBE at Night is an easy observation and reporting activity that takes approximately 15-30 minutes to complete.
Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, also known as GLOBE, is a worldwide, hands-on science and education program for primary and secondary schools.  For more information about the event, visit  E-mail questions about this event to .

Dark Matter in Distant Galaxy Groups Mapped for the First Time

Soul Nebula in Stereo – Using your Normal Vision fascinating

MIT Streaming Video:
Climate Change in a Changing World: Meeting the Needs of Humanity and the Planet
1-hour video by Steven Hamburg

Hubble Space Telescope

This is Part 1 in a series of ten videos produced by the ESA for public distribution about the Hubble Space Telescope and much more. If you want to watch all ten videos, click on the player below and you’ll be taken to You Tube, where you can access all ten.

No-Go Status for Star Gazing

Sadly, the weather got in the way of our night under the starry skies! We highly suggest joining our email list, where you’ll get the latest information on whether a star party is a GO or NO-GO depending on weather conditions.

Go Status for Star Gazing

Are you ready for Saturday’s STAR GAZING event? We’ll be at the Santa Margarita KOA at sunset – come join us for this once-a-month free public event under the night skies!

Dancing Deer Ranch Star Party

theroad April 17, 2010 at Sunset

CCAS Members are invited to a private star party just for CCAS members at an 80-acre ranch in Templeton, Dancing Deer Ranch, owned by retired professor Peter Huber (who is also an amateur astronomer).

The ranch is an eco-friendly retreat center available to CCAS free of charge on select nights. The site is very dark, has 360-degree visibility and no annoying lights (like at KOA).

What you need to do: We’ll be meeting early for a potluck of snacks and drinks so you can meet Peter and look around before it gets too dark. Just if you plan to attend.

Radio Astronomy

Here’s a brief movie highlighting the Science and Technology behind NRAO’s instruments: the Very Large Array (VLA) and its expansion (EVLA); the Green Bank Telescope (GBT); the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA); and the Atacama Large Millimeter-wave Array (ALMA). Read more here.

Speaking for Astronomy: Harder Than It Looks

ab2010-40Astronomy Beat #40

Speaking for Astronomy: Harder Than It Looks (PDF, 1 MB)
by Bruce Margon (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Click on the link above to view the pdf, or right-click (PC)/control-click (Mac) the link to download the file to your computer.

Dark Matter: A Talk with Vera Rubin

ab2009-39Astronomy Beat #39

Dark Matter: A Talk with Vera Rubin (PDF, 650 KB)
by Douglas Isbell and Stephen Strom

Click on the link above to view the pdf, or right-click (PC)/control-click (Mac) the link to download the file to your computer.

Ice Halo in Morro Bay

Here’s a nice 22 deg ice halo from Morro Bay this morning from CCAS member Dave Majors.


Finding the Naked s Process in Stardust


Astronomy Beat #38

Finding the Naked s Process in Stardust (PDF, 672 KB)
by Donald D. Clayton (Clemson University)

Click on the link above to view the pdf, or right-click (PC)/control-click (Mac) the link to download the file to your computer.

Solar Observing

On April 3, 2009, countries from around the world participated in the ‘100 Hours of Astronomy’ webcast to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy. Produced to support the webcast, this movie highlights the discoveries of the SOHO and TRACE satellites, and features NASA solar scientists Alex Young and Dawn Meyers, describing how both satellites view the sun in their own unique way.

Heaven’s Touch

ab2009-37Astronomy Beat #37

Heaven’s Touch (PDF, 823 KB)
by James Kaler (University of Illinois)

Click on the link above to view the pdf, or right-click (PC)/control-click (Mac) the link to download the file to your computer.

Dr. Ray Weymann on KVEC

rayFor those of you interested in the subject of global warming and climate change, here is another opportunity to listen to the views of local retired professional astronomer Dr. Ray Weymann who has been deeply immersed in studying this subject over the past year to understand details of the science, facts and fiction behind information being reported in the media. This will be an excellent opportunity to call into the show to ask your questions and provide your comments.

Ray will be on the KVEC 920 AM news radio Dave Congalton talk show on Tuesday, December 8th, starting at 5 PM. You can either listen via your AM radio or via the KVEC website. This show is occurring during the second day of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen If you wish to communicate with Ray on this subject, please him.

Sidewalk Astronomy, National Astronomy Day: April 24th

kentwallac1Saturday, April 24th in front of Borders Booksellers in SLO from 11am – 2pm

Come out and celebrate National Astronomy Day!

CCAS Members are invited to hit the streets with us in celebration of this years Astronomy week. We will be handing out NASA Astronomy Packs, peeking through telescopes, and sharing the love of the cosmos with the public during this Sidewalk Astronomy Day. (Weather-permitting!)

We invite you to join us and feel free to bring any cool astronomy things with you, such as meteorites, binoculars, or astronomy books you want to show off to the public. Contact Aurora for information ( RSVP by email right away.

Preserving the Dark

ab2009-36Astronomy Beat #36

Preserving the Dark: Advocating Against Light Pollution at the American Medical Association (PDF, 664 KB) by Mario Motta, MD

Click on the link above to view the pdf, or right-click (PC)/control-click (Mac) the link to download the file to your computer.

Map of Black Holes

blackhole-mapWhat is a black hole? A black hole is a region of space that has so much mass concentrated in it that there is no way for a nearby object to escape its gravitational pull. There are three kinds of black hole that we have strong evidence for:

1. Stellar-mass black holes are the remaining cores of massive stars after they die in a supernova explosion.

2. Mid-mass black hole in the centers of dense star clusters

3. Supermassive black hole are found in the centers of many (and maybe all) galaxies.

If black holes are black, how can we find them? This Black Hole Map will show you where they are and all the key information  you need to start a black hole galaxy quest. Best enjoyed with a bowl of popcorn and a radio telescope.

Skymap for November 2009

SkyMap-Nov09-thumbSky Map for November 2009 One of the perks of being a member of CCAS is all the great up-to-date astronomy information we provide.  This is a star chart published monthly for you to explore, learn, and enjoy the night sky.

You’ll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the file. Reprinted with permission from

The White House Star Party

ab2009-35Astronomy Beat #35

The White House Star Party: Reports from the South Lawn (PDF, 1.1MB)
by Stephen Pompea and Dara Norman (National Optical Astronomy Observatory)

Click on the link above to view the pdf, or right-click (PC)/control-click (Mac) the link to download the file to your computer.

Click here for a video of this amazing event!

November CCAS Newsletter

NewsletterNov2009Celestial Observer Newsletter: November 2009

You’ll find monthly sky highlights, new meeting location information, and more in our monthly newsletter. Click here to view the pdf, or right-click (PC)/control-click (Mac) the link to download the file to your computer.

Adobe Reader is required: Download the free software.

Undergrad Research Seminar with Dr. Genet

College and high school students are conducting original scientific research through an innovative one-semester seminar offered by Cuesta College. Students present their research at major scientific conferences and their findings are published in scientific journals. Real science is about the unknown; these students, just like working scientists, do not know what they will find—no one knows. They are thrilled by their discoveries! Click here to read more.

rg1 rg2 rg3

CalTech Symposium

You’re invited to the Sagan/Michelson Fellows Symposium, Nov 12–13 (Thurs-Fri) at Caltech.  The symposium highlights cutting edge research being conducted by current Sagan postdoctoral fellows and past Michelson postdoctoral and graduate student fellows. In addition to keynote talks by Dr. Jeremy Kasdin and Dr. Chas Beichman, there will be presentations on studies of stars, disks, and extra solar planets along with exciting new advances in technology to detect planets around their host stars. Attendance is free but please register online.

Any questions, please contact Ellen O’Leary at IPAC,  .

Apollo 11/Saturn V Rocket Launch

Hubble’s Top Ten

Livio-iconThis is a neat presentation of the March 2005 teleconference on the Hubble Top 10. It comes bundled with a power point presentation, MP3 audio, and PDF written transcripts. Be sure to download all three before you get started. Best enjoyed with a bowl of popcorn.

You can play the file by downloading the entire MP3 to your computer.  You’ll also need Adobe Reader to view the PDF files. Here’s what you need:

Download the Presentation Slideshow
Download the MP3 audio file
Download the PDF transcripts

What if the Earth Had a Backwards Orbiting Moon?

Astronomy Beat #34

What If the Earth Had a Backwards-Orbiting Moon: The Art and Science of “What If?” Questions (PDF, 692 KB) by Neil F. Comins (University of Maine)

Click on the link above to view the pdf, or right-click (PC)/control-click (Mac) the link to download the file to your computer.

Adobe Reader is required to view Astronomy Beat. Download the free software.

Is There Life Out There?

Dr. Laurance Doyle from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute and Dr. John Keller from Cal Poly discuss the possibility of life on other planets. You can click PLAY on the audio player below or download the MP3 file.

Download the MP3 file here.

A Star Party on the White House Lawn

The Discovery of the First Gravitational Lenses

Astronomy Beat #33

The Discovery of the First Gravitational Lenses (PDF, 1.3 MB)by Ray Weymann (Staff Member Emeritus, Carnegie Observatories)

Click on the link above to view the pdf, or right-click (PC)/control-click (Mac) the link to download the file to your computer.

Adobe Reader is required to view Astronomy Beat. Download the free software.

ISS Tour

This is a FOUR-PART video series that takes you on a complete tour of the International Space Station, guided by a NASA astronaut and filmed in the summer of 2009. Enjoy!

Cal Star Sept 2009

CalStar09Cal Star is a great 4 day event that my father and I (Chris) always have fun at. Lake San Antonio is not the greatest place for star parties but it works well. There are plenty of things to do both day and night. We usually bring swim trunks, bikes, and hiking gear. The night sky is decent, comparable to Star Hill. The atmosphere is not quite as open and friendly as our own star parties, but people are polite enough and there are usually a couple of CCAS members that attend.  We enjoy the consecutive observing nights, the camping and in general being out doors… During the day we take advantage of the Paso Robles Public Library, conducting research on items we wish to find later in the night. Over all a very pleasant experience.  One we look forward to every year.

Aricle by Chris Estrada, CCAS VP

Past Events for CCAS

Get the latest information on space exploration events happening worldwide, including current and upcoming NASA missions, news about the International Space Station, star gazing reports, and other astronomical resource information.

Check out past events hosted by the CCAS:

The Search for Life in the Universe
NASA Kepler Mission: Detection of (Tatooine-like) Habitable Planets Around Double-Star Systems
By: Dr. Laurance Doyle, SETI Institute

Planetary Astrophysics
“Mars Within Reach: Arctic Melodies and Science from the Red Planet”
By: Planetary Science Professor Dr. John Keller, NASA

Free Public Science Outreach Presentation
“Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe”
By: Dr. Alex Filippenko, Professor of Astronomy, U.C. Berkeley

Live Space Exploration Event
PHOENIX Mars Lander Landing Event
By: Dr. John Keller, NASA
Live feed from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory!