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January 26, 2020 -

Jim and LindaJim and Linda at Bouchaine Winery in Napa.  This was a Chinese New Year celebration for the Wine Club Members.  Clouds were overhead so we brought the telescopes inside and did a short presentaton.  Dinner was wonderful, and we met countless new friends.

The third and fourth stars in our logo stand for "Memorable Friends".  In total the 4 stars stand for "Spectacular Beauty, Memorable Friends.

Thank you Brian Allard of Bouchaine for treating us like a Queen and King.

&Date=January 26, 2020



                          



May 19, 2015 -

M101 is visible in the telescope and stunning in photography.  It is 21 million light years away.  Near the last 2 stars in the handle of the Big Dipper.

Taken during the Sonoma County Astronomical Society's Star Party at the Liberty Glen Campground near Lake Sonoma.




                          



May 10, 2015 -

We had an exciting Star Party at the Cooley Ranch above Lake Sonoma Friday night.  Thank you Landpaths and Heather Knoll for hosting us.

We were able to see Venus and Mercury after sunset.  Juptier was high in the sky all night.  At midnight Saturn displayed its beautiful rings.

It is a treat to be at the Ranch.  The Landpaths guests are always a joy and the viewing in such a dark sky location is wonderful.

We were eventually able to see all of Jupiter's Galilean Moons, as one peeked out from behind the planet after a few hours.

The ellusive Cassini "division" was also visible.  This is a black "pinstripe" between the inner and outer rings of Saturn.  The inner ring materials come from the planet and the outer ring materials come  from Saturn's moons.  The "division" is visible in our telescopes when the seeing conditions are best.

We all camped at the Ranch.  After a night of viewing, we are able to just cover the scopes and sleep.  I am glad for the tarps as fog rolled in and soaked everything.




                          



April 20, 2015 -

We had a Star Party benefitting Windows to My Soul. This photo was taken near Mount Aukum, east of Sacramento at the Il Gioiello Winery.  Note the cool telescope on the wine label. Estate owner Robert Morse attended the event and explained the origins of the name he chose for his vineyards and winery.  See the Wikipedia page for Il Gioiello (The Jewel), Galileo's home from 1631 until his death in 1642.

The Windows to my Soul program is run by my Sister in Law, Cindy Hodge.   We were happy to donate stargazing to a bidder at Cindy's fundraiser last fall.  The star party was preceeded by a wonderful 3 course dinner near the vineyard.

The skies were nice and dark.  We are so used to light pollution in Sonoma and Napa Counties to our East, but in the Sierra Foothills, the East is the darkest.  The Bode's Nebula image was troublesome.  Despite the fact that we recorded over an hour of images, only 20 minutes were usable.  However, the dark conditions made the limited exposures very good, and telescope viewing via the eyepiece was good also.

 




                          



March 10, 2015 -

We had a little supernova of our own last night on the way to the star party.  No harm done to us or the telescopes, but you should have seen the smoke!

We were on our way to the Lone Rock parking lot at Lake Sonoma.  I noticed the smoke just north of Windsor on Highway 101 as we approached Healdsburg.

Glad to know we had a working jack and good spare. 

The star gazing was excellent - lots of star clusters, galaxies, nebula, and planets.  Venus and Jupiter were spectacular.




                          



February 20, 2015 -

Conjunction of the Moon, Venus, and Mars. Photo taken in Rio Nido, California.

We had gone to the coast, but the fog chased us inland to Rio Nido.

There was a small parking lot near downtown where we photographed but the Moon quickly set behind the foothills.

As we headed inland further, we stopped near Korbel Vineyards.  Here the stars shinining over the nearby trees.  As cars passed nearby, the trees were lit up from headlights.

Long exposures of the cars on River Road gave us these streaks of brake lights.




                          



December 25, 2014 -

Merry Christmas to all our star gazing friends.  We hope to view with you in 2015.  Best wishes in the New Year!




                          



December 7, 2014 -

Do you want to see the International Space Station fly over?




                          



- Tahoe Donnor Timelapse of Cassiopeia


                          



- Beautiful Sunset to the West


                          



A beautiful sunset taken toward the West near Cloverdale.  There's enough light to see the faintest view of shrubs, the band of sunset, and several Constellations.  Bootes and the Northern Crown are visible to the right of center, near the top of the screen.  The bright star to the far right is "Alkaid", the last star in the handle of the Big Dipper


 

- Timelapse Video of the Milky Way


                          



Timelapse videos are becoming a favorite of mine.  This was taken by Tony Rowell over Alpine Lake near Bear Valley California.  My family used to vacation at Alpine Lake when we were kids.  I also went to a YMCA summer camp at Alpine Lake and looked up at the stars during a campfire.  This might have been the first time I noticed how bright the stars are when away from the city.

When looking to the south, as in this timelapse, you can see the center of our Galaxy.  It is the brightest portion of the star cloud, just above the mountains.

- Partial Solar Eclipse


                          



There will be a partial solar eclipse (where the Moon blocks part of the Sun's disk) visible from the entire region next Thursday (October 23).
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The eclipse will begin 1:51 pm PDT (Thursday afternoon). Mid-eclipse, where 43% of the Sun will be covered, will be at 3:15 pm. The eclipse will end at 4:32 pm.




                          



Since this is only a partial solar eclipse, You CANNOT OBSERVE IT DIRECTLY WITH THE NAKED EYE! You should never try to look at the Sun with the naked eye, unless using a properly approved solar filter. However, you can make a pinhole to project it onto a surface, or look at the Sun's images projected  on a wall/surface from the "pinholes" created from the spaces between leaves on a tree.

- Save the Lick Observatory


                          



Professor Alex Filippenko gave a wonderful talk about the awesome research done at the Lick Observatory.  His mission is to save this obervatory as it is on the chopping block due to University of California budget cuts.  This is shocking, as it is a vital and useful research observatory used by students all over the United States. 

To learn more, go to the Save Lick Observatory Website:  http://ucolick.org/SaveLick/index.html .

 

- Lunar Eclipse - Wednesday morning - Oct 8


                          



Here is the "schedule" for the lunar eclipse.  All times are PST Wednesday morning October 8.

The adjacent photo is from another eclipse earlier this year.

01:16 Moon enters penumbra

02:15 Moon enters umbra

03:25 Start of totality

04:23 End of totality

05:33 Moon exits umbra

05:45 Astro twilight starts

06:32 Moon exits penumbra

NOTE: The planet Uranus will be very close to the moon moon (just slightly to the south) during the eclipse.

- Frog's Leap Winery Harvest Moon Party


                          



We presented a Star Party at the Frog's Leap Winery during their Harvest Moon event Saturday September 6.  Frog's Leap is located in Rutherford and is on a beautiful Napa Valley location. 

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Approximately 60 guests attended the event.




                          



As people arrived, we were set up adjacent to the area were wine glasses were presented.  Linda had her solar filter set up on her telescope so the guests were treated to views of the sun with approximately a dozen sun spots.

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After sunset we were able to share views of Saturn, Mars, and the nearly full Moon.  The toasty daytime temperatures cooled down to comfortable levels as the evening progressed.




                          



We were able to capture some audio of the participant's exclamations.  Look for that on our testimonials page.

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Thank you to Frog's Leap.  The staff was exceptionally gracious and welcoming to Wine Country Star Party.  We would love to present an event on a darker moonless night sometime soon.




                          



NGC6444, M8, M20, and M21 - August 31, 2014

This is a single 8 minute RAW image file post-processed in Corel Paint Shop Pro of 4 DSOs taken with a Canon T2i last night.  We can improve the focus next time, and perhaps take an even longer exposure.  The scope was an Orion 400mm focal length 80mm refractor that we normally use to autoguide with.  And an identical scope autoguided on an Orion Atlas mount.

We've been enjoying playing with taking astrophotos of wider field objects lately.  We hoped to see the Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae, but the additional open clusters were a bonus.




                          



Nice view above Sagittarius - August 28, 2014

Wine Country Star Party co owner Linda Sinkay captured these images of nebulae in the southern skies this weekend.

Beautiful!




                          



Before the star party at Bull Frog Pond - July 29, 2014

This beautiful sunset over our campsite preceeded the star party at Bull Frong Pond Saturday night.  The clouds prevented the best of viewing, but Friday night was beautiful.  Thanks Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods for your hospitality.

Our next event with the Stewards is August 23.  You can come for the night and leave by car or stay in the campsite. Camps are reserved on a first come first served basis, so plan accordingly.




                          



M27 - The Dumbbell Nebula - July 3, 2014

This is a single 10 minute exposure of the dumbbell nebula taken in fairly light polluted skies in residential Sebastopol. 

Sebastopol is close enough to Santa Rosa that it is not great for star gazing because of the light pollution, but the main objective was to get outside and practice taking some Astrophotos.

 




                          



Landpaths Star Party at the Cooley Ranch - June 21, 2014

Here's a photo of one of our scopes prior to the start of the Landpaths Star Party at the Cooley Ranch.

Tha Ranch is beautiful making, for a nice backdrop to some of our equipment.

Thanks to all who attended.  The best views of the night were of Saturn.

The fellowship and potluck were hightlights for us.




                          



Cooley Ranch Star Party - June 16, 2014

We're getting excited about the Star Party this Friday night at the Cooley Ranch.  The Ranch is located "above" Lake Sonoma.  And what is so  good about that?  The skies are really dark!

See http://www.landpaths.org/eventdetails.aspx?EventId=20340  for more details.

At this time, the event may be in "waitlist" status meaning it is full.  If you'd like to consider a Star Party on another night, please visit our registration page.

Clear Skies!




                          



Howard Lake Astrophotography - May 27, 2014

These photos were taken Memorial Day Weekend at Howard Lake in the Mendocino National Forest.  It is very dark there and the conditions are good for astrophotography.

The first photo is of the M101 galaxy, near the end of the handle of the Big Dipper. 

The second photo is of M13, the great globular cluster in Hercules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The location is beautiful. Lupin and other wildflowers everywhere.




                          



Dark Sky Locations preffered for Star Gazing - April 20, 2014

In this Press Democrat article, we're quoted when asked where we like to view

http://sonoma.towns.pressdemocrat.com/2014/04/news/celestial-showcase-international-dark-sky-week/




                          



Milliken Creek Inn and Spa Star Party - April 17, 2014

We had a fun event with "Piper and Chris" at the Milliken Creek Inn and Spa in Napa.  It was Piper and Chris' honeymoon! 

The star party was adjacent to the Napa River on a beautiful lawn.

We viewed Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, Bode's Nebula, the M3 cluster, and the Leo Triplet.

We were proud to present Piper and Chris with a framed photo of the recent Lunar Eclipse (see following BLOG entry).




                          



Lunar Eclipse - April 15, 2014

We took this eclipse photo near midnight at the Robert Ferguson Observatory.  Lots of visitors and fellow Docents were on hand to view the beauty.



Comments


Username / Nickname: Linda

Last night was a night I will always remember...The way the Moon was dressed in red with the jewels of orange Mars and ice blue Spica framing the sight.  It was truly, 'other-wordly'.  The best part was that it was shared with my Orion telescope buddies: Jim DeManche, Rob Davis, Dickson Yaeger, and Jim Goodenough.  I had my Orion scope too, and we had them all lined up in the parking lot.  Jim G. and I did astrophotography, and the visitors to the observatory were delighted for sharing this unique experience.    I met a fellow, Mitch - I think, who was extremely knowledgeable about photography, and shared a lot of terrific suggestions for ISO and exposure settings as we captured the eclipse.  In astrophotography, my favorite thing is to capture a special and unique moment in time, while contemplating how infinite the universe is.   I am so grateful for SCAS and for the Robert Ferguson Observatory, the friends I have made, and the memorable experiences we share.




                          



Nice photo of the M81 Galaxy - April 7, 2014

We got this nice photo of the M81 Galaxy also known as "Bode's Nebula".




                          



Charles Schulz Starry Starry Night Event - March 31, 2014

We participated in the Charles Schulz Museum's "Starry Starry Night" celebration this past weekend.  A total of 40 people, mostly families with young children, attended.

Our telescopes were set up in the lobby.  Cloudy conditions made the possibility of viewing doubtful, so we aimed our scopes through the lobby at the distant collage of Peanuts comic strips.

The kids loved seeing the results and the laser on our largest telescope was a curiosity for the kids as usual.

After the families had dinner, we went into the theater and presented a slideshow and some videos on the night sky.

We offered "prizes" to the kids for the best questions during the slideshow.  Some of the questions were amazing!  What smart kids we had in attendance.  We had 3 framed photos of the moon, stars and nebula, and also some gold pin stars.

At the conculsion of the presentation we went back out in the lobby and the clouds had broken just enough to view Jupiter.

It was a great night.  Thanks to Jessica for her professionalism and support.

Thre are many more photos of the event on our Facebook Page.

Stargaze Calistoga Napa Santa Rosa Healdsburg




                          



Susan's Birthday party at Domaine Chandon - Napa - March 27, 2014

We hosted a star party at Domain Chandon for Susan H Monday night, March 24.

There were perhaps 20 guess.  We viewed Jupiter, Mars, Galaxies and Constellations. 

At right, Wine Country Star Party's Linda sinkay poses by her 10 inch Orion reflector telescope.

A big thank you to Jennifer at Domaine Chandon for her hospitality.




                          



BIG NEWS ~ BIG BANG - March 18, 2014

http://news.discovery.com/space/astronomy/big-bangs-smoking-gun-discovered-140317.htm




                          



Scientists have discovered evidence that supports the theory that universe expansion began after the Big Bang explosion.

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“This detection is cosmology’s missing link,” physicist Marc Kamionkowski, at Johns Hopkins University, told reporters during a webcast press conference on Monday.




                          



“It’s something that we thought should be there, but we weren’t really sure. It has been eagerly sought now for close to two decades,” he said.

- Bahtinov Focusing Mask


                          



"Jordan" at the local high school with my Bahtinov Focusing Mask. This was created on Analy High School's laser cutter. The materials were purchased in Santa Rosa at Tap Plastics.

From "WikiPedia":

"The Bahtinov mask is a device used to accurately focus astronomical telescopes. It is named after its inventor Pavel Bahtinov. Accurate focusing of telescopes and astrographs is particularly of concern to those involved in astrophotography.

The mask consists of three separate grids, positioned in such a way that the grids produce three angled diffraction spikes at the focal plane of the instrument for each bright image element (star). As the instrument's focus is changed the central spike appears to move from one side of the star to the other. In reality, all three spikes move but the central spike moves in the opposite direction to the two spikes forming the 'X'. Optimum focus is achieved when the middle spike is centered on the star and symmetrically positioned between the other two spikes. Small deviations from optimal focus are easily visible."

- The Horsehead Nebula


                          



Hard to locate and impossible to see with the naked eye or even with a telescope.  The Horsehead Nebula is well known, but a challenging photography target

This photo was taken in Sonoma County by Wine Country Star Party's Linda Sinkay and Jim Goodenough using our Orion 12 inch reflector and equatorial mount.

 

- Thr Triangulum Galaxy


                          



We took this photo last Satuday - first really good one of  the new year.  It is the Triangulum Galaxy.  It is located very near Pegasus and the Andromeda Galaxy.  There are 70 minutes of total exposure in the total capture from 60 images.  We also captured "dark" images that help us reduce the noise in the photo.

We were set up near Santa Rosa California in Sonoma County.  Temperatures were near freezing.  Bad for people but good for low noise astrophotography.

- CANVAS Holiday Party - Dec 17 2013


                          



Wine Country Star Party had the opportunity to present a star party at the CANVAS Holiday Party at the Raymond Vineyards Tuesday December 17.

It was a great event.  CANVAS - the Concierge Alliance of Napa Valley and Sonoma - invited 400 guests.  Raymond Vineyard's facility is unbelievably beautiful.

As cablecars arrived with guests our telescopes were available for viewing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the early evening, Venus was high and bright.  Most views were accompanied by the surprise that Venus is a crescent in its obit right now.  Venus goes through phases just like the moon and is a thin crescent.

Many people were fooled as they actually thought they were viewing the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CANVAS Executive Director Colby Smith with a big smile and a  view through our 10 inch telescope.

Thank you Colby for giving us the chance to present a star party to the CANVAS party guests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim and Peter Viviani talking Astronomy

- Comet Lovejoy


                          



We got a nice photo of Comet Lovejoy this morning at a favorite observing site near Santa Rosa.

Now that Comet ISON appears to be "dead", we are interested in Lovejoy.

This photo was taken between the tail of the Big Dipper and the head of Bootes the Hunter.

- Equatorial Platform


                          



Our equatorial platform is complete!  We are going to pick it up in Auburn next week.

- Comet ISON - Nov 16


                          



We finally got a nice view and photo of ISON.

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This was taken with our 12 inch Dobsonian with a one second exposure.




                          



This is a scope not yet on a tracking mount, thus the short exposure.

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It was a cold morning, viewing toward the east, just near the star Spica.




                          



We were in a field near Forestville California.

- Sugarloaf Ridge State Park star party


                          



We had a very successful star party last night with 4 guests from Glen Ellen and Miami Florida.  The sun set and cast a glow on the eastern mountains as we waited for our guests to arrive.

Although we are quite familiar with Sugarloaf, we had never run a star party in the campground.

We are Docents at the nearby Robert Ferguson Observatory and we travel up and down Adobe Canyon Road reguarly to attend events at RFO.

The upper campground meadow is broad and the low horizon makes for good viewing.  I am sure we will return and perhaps camp. 

I never miss an opportnity to photograph my equipment during set up.  Here is my Orion 12 inch Dobsonian reflector and my accessory table loaded with eyepieces and other equipment.

Our 2 guests from Glen Ellen left with some Wine Country Star Party brochures and offered to share our story with their friends.  That would be nice as we really enjoyed their company.

I was concerned about the quality of the viewing since the moon was almost full and faint deep sky objects are often obscured during moonlight.  However our guest's enthusiasm was high and we had a very memorable evening. 

Our 2 Miami guests stayed later and we were able to attach their Canon DSLR to Linda's telescope and get some decent photos of the Moon, Andromeda and the Dumbell Nebula.

With so much attention placed on high magnification and narrow view photography, I was happy to take the wide angle photo of the moon below.

We enjoy almost all astronomy photography, and sometimes a wide field photograph is just as pleasing as anything.

Please consider reserving a star party this winter.  The winter night sky objects are beautiful and we'd love to share them with you.  The next good dark viewing nights are the first week of December.

Jupiter rises before midnight now and the Orion Nebula is stunning.  Casseopeia remains high in the sky along with the nearby Double Cluster.

A star party makes a great holiday gift.  We even have "stocking stuffer" gift certificates available.  Our events are unique in this area.  We bring 2 large/capable telescopes to each star party and also provide coffee, tea, and sweet treats.  We can be contacted at 707-823-3631 or info@winecountrystarparty.com.  You can book a reservation here on our reservations page.

- The Binary Star Almaak


                          



The Binary Star - Almaak - located in Adromeda.  AKA Gamma Andromedae.  It is approximately 350 light years from Earth.  We like to think of the asterism that forms Andromeda looks like an angel laying on its side with the long lines of a gown formed by the stars.  Almaak is at the end of the eastern side of the "gown".

This binary pair is tough to split while vewing through small telescopes.  We took this photo to expierment with the focusing ability of our 12 inch scope.

 

- Clavius Moon Crater


                          



The "Clavius Moon Crater" is the feature on our Moon's surface to the upper left in this photo.  Do you see the crater with the string of increasingly smaller craters running through it?

This photo was taken with our 12 inch telescope using a 2X powermate adapter and Canon T2i.

One interesting thing about this crater is its size.  The crater is 150 miles wide.  If it was possible to stand on the floor of the crater all the way to one side, it would not be possible to see the wall of the crater all the way on the other side.

Also, the crater is believed to be 4 billion years old.

Read more about Clavius on Wikipedia

- Equatorial Platform update


                          



Here is another photo of the ongoing work on our equatorial platform.  It will allow us to track objects with our 12 inch scope and also to do astrophotography.

- Low Profile Helical Focuser


                          



I purchased an Orion 12 inch Newtonian Reflector with a Dobsonian mount in August 2011.  It is a great product and I often hear from fellow astronomers that the view through this scope is better than many other larger telescopes.  In 2011 I had the attitude that astrophotography was a long way off for me, and besides "who would want to take photos you could easily find on the internet anyway?"  My opinion changed after my first experience capturing the Andromeda Galaxy with a 10 inch Equatorial mounted telescope.  This write-up describes the efforts I have taken to get my 12 inch Orion Newtonian Reflector ready for astrophotography.

One of the things Orion did to make the view through their Newtonian Reflectors so good was to “figure” (design) the entire optical path just right.  This means the mirror, diagonal, and focuser are all sized so there is a minimal obstruction of the light path by the diagonal inside the optical tube.  Less obstruction yields a more quality view, but there is a small price to pay. 

When sizing the diagonal so small, the intent is to have all of the light reflecting off the primary mirror enter the focuser and eye piece.  It is undesirable to “waste” any light that might not converge to the size of the diagonal, so the cone of light coming off the primary mirror is quite small as it reflects off the diagonal and enters the focuser.  In turn, this puts the rapidly converging cone of light and focal plane entering the eyepiece quite close to the optical tube. 

Now consider astrophotography as I did.  I bought a “T Ring” and adapter for my Canon T2i DSLR and attached it to my focuser, but I could not achieve focus.  It was not possible for me to adjust the inward travel of my stock focuser to bring the sensor inside my DSLR in close enough to the focal plane of the telescope.  The photo below shows the best I could do.

If one researches online a bit, there are options.  Some experts recommend coma correctors.  These optics help correct distortions in the outer regions of the field of view on fast Newtonian Reflectors and are often offered as a solution to the DSLR focus problem.  Unfortunately there is little documentation for each telescope and DSLR combination so you have to rely on most telescope retailer’s generous return policies to evaluate a solution and then return the product if iler’s generous return policies to evaluate a solution and then return the product if it does not work.  I returned my coma corrector as my ability to focus the camera improved only slightly.

Other possibilities include purchasing a low profile focuser.  I did that too.  Orion makes a low profile focuser.  I bought it, tried it, and returned it.  I decided to get more analytical and I disassembled my focuser assembly from my optical tube and held my DSLR by hand and measured the distance from the optical tube to the face of the camera.  This dimension turned out to be just over 2 inches.

So much for potential of the JMI or Moonlite low profile focusers I’d researched.  Each of these products is constructed such that the total height is about 2.25 inches.

By the way, Dickson Yeager’s 8 inch Orion Newtonian Reflector works just fine for astrophotography with a low profile JMI focuser.  And Linda Sinkay’s 10 inch Orion Newtonian Reflector is an “Astrograph” – which means it was “figured” for astrophotography so none of these issues is a problem.

I started a homemade design of a very thin plate with internal threads and a matched piece of threaded tubing that was intended to focus up and down by being rotated.  Certainly this combination could be designed to be extremely low profile.  After calling a few machine shops and checking some of the online forums, I became convinced that my concept – a threaded “helical” focuser probably already exists. 

I finally wound up at “Kineoptics”.  Kineoptics makes a 2 inch helical focuser – cost about $125.  The product is a very short Crayford telescope focuser with helical bearings providing “extremely smooth backlash free focusing”.  See http://www.kineoptics.com/HC-2.html.  The Kineoptics buyer has to figure out the mounting details to integrate the focuser onto their telescope.  So I purchased a used Orion focuser from an astronomer via Cloudy Nights – cost: $45.  I disassembled it and am using just the base plate since interfacing to the round tube body is the most intricate mechanical interface.  With the help of a friend, I machined an aluminum sheet metal plate to marry the Kineoptics focuser and base plate and the completed assembly is pictured below.  I have also included a photo of the moon, sharply focused in my new design.

   

- Equatorial Platform


                          



Here is an update on our Equatorial Platform - check back to September 20 for the previous update.  At that time, the basic frame was built.  Now the critical curved "feet" are included and welded in place.

Once we have this platform, our 12 inch Orion dob will be capable of tracking accurately for Astrophotograpy.

The manufacturer tells me that this completes the top portion and now will begin on the baseplate.

We are not sure about the schedule, but the original commitment was 12 weeks which would put delivery in mid November.

- Low Profile Focuser


                          



We have completed a project that will allow us to use our Orion 12 inch Newtonian Reflector for Astrophotography! 

Normally the response to this challenge is, "it can not be done" since Newtonian Reflectors are "figured" (or set up) for visual use.  The focussed image is far too close to the telescope tube and the distance to the back of our cameras is too far to achieve focus.

The solution was to build a very low profile focuser allowing the camera to reach "prime focus".

Pictured here is the 3 part focuser assembly.

The black base is a purchased part.  It is the lower part of an off the shelf Orion Crayford style focuser.  We bought this online for about half of the $90 retail price since buying the piece was far less expensive than machining it.

The shiny aluminum ring is an adapter that we had machined by a friend locally.

The red ring and black assembly above it are a Kineoptics HC2A helical focuser.  There are no focuser "wheels" to turn.  Rather, this focuser twists and causes the mechanism to focus in and out.  Without all the structure and mechanical details, the resultant focuser is very low profile.

Even a low profile Moonlite focuser is about 2.25 inches tall and you must add the thickness of the camera T ring to the total.  Prime focus on our equipment requires a measurement of slightly more than 2 inches.

Here is a photo of the full moon I used to prove to myself that focus was achieved.

 

- Stellarium and Comet ISON


                          



Here's a really good link that shows how to add Comet ISON to the object database in Stellarium.

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http://www.wikihow.com/Add-Comet-ISON-to-Stellarium




                          



Equatorial Platform - September 26, 2013

Our 10 inch reflector telescope tracks the stars beautifully via an equatorial mount.  This means the telescope rotates in sync with Polaris, thus keeping all objects in the center of the field of view.

Our 12 inch reflector telescope sits on a static mount.   Over time, the objects viewed through this telescope drift out of view.

We are investing in an equatorial platform to replace the static mount.  This means both scopes will track without adjustments during star parties. 

The platform is being manufactured by Tom Osypowski.

The photo on the right is the top plate for the mount - under construction.

Delivery is expected this November.




                          



Healdsburg Rotary Star Party - August 16, 2013

We held a Star Party last night at the Vineyard Club in Geyserville for the Healdsburg Rotary Club.

The Vineyard Club is a beautiful location in Geyserville with a Club house and Lake.  Approximately 40 persons attended.  Dinner was served by "Healdsburger" and it was excellent.

We were in the parking lot observing the moon and Saturn after dessert was served.

 




                          



Star Party at in western Sonoma County - August 14, 2013

We had another beautiful night above Armstrong Woods in the Austin Creek State Recreation area this past weekend.  This was our third event with the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods.  The fog threatened slightly Friday night, but held off.  Saturday night was beautiful with views of the crescent moon and venus at sunset.  Late night views of the Milky Way and early birds from the Perseid meteor shower were excellent. 



Comments


Username / Nickname: Linda Sinkay

While trying to figure out why this cluster was named the Wild Duck Cluster, (because it doesn't really look like a duck to me) ;-) , I learned that it is called the Wild Duck Cluster because of the three bright stars surrounding the cluster, shaped like a triangle, the formation in which ducks fly!  The flying ducks, (the cluster of stars), about 2,900 of them, are estimated to be about 220 million years old.


Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

I did not know that - about the 3 stars!  Thanks LInda




                          



The summer constellations are high and beautiful late at night right now.  Even Pegasus is rising to reveal M31 (Andromeda) before we called it a night.

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The adjacent photo is of the Wild Duck Cluster.  It is a beautiful open star cluster in the constellation Scutum.




                          



Dumbell Nebula and a Guest - July 30, 2013

We were at Lake Sonoma west of Healdsburg at the Lone Rock parking lot this past weekend. 

Time was short as darkness is total at about 9:30pm and the moon rose at just before 11:00pm. 

This single exposure of the Dumbell Nebula (M27) includes the trail of a Satellite.  The exposure time was long enough to allow the satellite to appear in the frame and travel all the way across the field of view drawing a straight line.

This photo was taken with a Canon T2i and Orion 10 inch Newtonian telescope mounted on an Atlas equatorial head.  The setup was autoguided.




                          



Scope tune up and Milky Way - June 29, 2013

We spent some time doing alignments on our 10 inch equatorial mount scope last night.  We are trying to see why sometimes the objects we slew to is not in the field of view.

We took this Milky Way photo at the end of the night just before the Moon rose.

 




                          



The Milky Way - June 16, 2013

There are at least 6 constellations in this photo - can you find them all?

Look for:

  1. Cygnus
  2. Sagitta
  3. Lyra
  4. Aquila
  5. Vulpeca
  6. Delphinus




                          



Skyline Park Napa - June 15, 2013

We had a nice Star Party at Skyline Park in Napa.  Skyline Park is a Wilderness Park which means dogs must be on leash and wildlife is abundant. The park is only about 4 miles outside the center of Napa,

We hosted Caitlin and Kapil from Texas - a very nice couple.  Thanks for sharing your birthday cake Kapil!

The crescent Moon, Saturn, and the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules were the standout sights, along with a nice long view of the International Space Station.

Caitlin and Kapil departed before midnight, but Linda and I stayed much later after playing with our cameras and taking lots of Milky Way photos.




                          



Heading to Napa this Friday - June 11, 2013

We are having a Star Party in Napa this Friday.  Please contact us if you are interested.  We'd love to see you there.




                          



Milky Way Timelapse - June 10, 2013

We were at Bull Frog Pond - above Armstrong Woods near the Austin Creek Recreation area.  This sequence was taken at 1:00am.  There was a strange tropical warmth as it was still 85F at 1:00am.

There are 40 frames in the sequence playing back at 5 frames per second.

Sagittarius and Scorpius are visible to the left and center, respectively.

This Star Party was with the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods.  There were perhaps 20 people in attendance.



Comments


Username / Nickname: Linda

"Spectacular Beauty"




                          



Comet Ison - June 5, 2013

Comet Ison will be perhaps the "Comet of the Century".

It may be visible during daylight.  If it breaks up while passing the sun, the fragments could turn into a stunning display of trailing tails.

Watch the video to see how it was named and why Comets are known to be unpredictable.




                          



As the seasons change - June 2, 2013

It is late spring / early summer.  As Leo heads west and Ursa Major climbs even higher in the sky, the summer constellations start to rise from the East.  I am excited to have had my first views of the Summer Triangle, including the Ring Nebula. 

I see Scorpius and Sagittarius rising in the south.  Late at night I see Cassiopeia coming all the way around Polaris.  My views of the great cluster in Hercules are always pleasing and so was the Dumbell Nebula last night.

Here comes another new moon.  We hope to get another good astrophoto this weekend.  I am hoping for color.  A nice colorful photo of a Nebula with pink and blue would make my week.  We are planning on setting up in the Austin Creek Recreation Area - above Armstrong Woods at the vista point near Bull Frog Pond.  We are doing astrophotography Friday night and a public event Saturday night - come join us Saturday.

Clear Skies!




                          



Bull Frog Pond Event - May 13, 2013

We had a great time at the scenic overlook just before the entrance to Bull Frog Pond this past Saturday.  We had approximately 25 guests.  This was an event in which we parthered with the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods.

The evening began with a beautiful sunset and a search for Jupiter.  Jupiter is near the western horizon right now and is a good eye test for everyone as the anticipation of darkness falls.

The crescent moon did not dissappoint either.  It was just below Jupiter. 

Soon we were all looking to the west as Saturn rose through the trees.  The rings of Saturn were clearly visible.

The night was warm.  Even near midnight, we were warm in just  tshirta and light sweaters. 




                          



365 days of the moon, in 2 1/2 minutes: - May 5, 2013


                          



Astronomical Yard Sale - May 1, 2013

The Robert Ferguson Observatory (RFO) is clearing out excess astronomy equipment! RFO will hold a public yard sale June 1, in the parking area in front of the Observatory.

There will be telescopes, eyepieces, and all kinds of astronomical gadgets. A list of items will be posted soon. Proceeds will be used for observatory development.

More Information




                          



Excellent conditions for stargazing - May 1, 2013

The conditions are excellent for star gazing in Sonoma County right now.  The moon is waning and the skies have been clear.  And the weather is marming up, making for comfortable viewing late at night.

Come out with us to view the late spring and early summer constellations!  Whether at onen of our favorite spots at Lake Sonoma or at your location, we will give you a night of beautiful views to be remembered for a lifetime.




                          



Jupiter and its Moons - April 9, 2013

The 4 large moons that orbit Jupiter are named Io, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

In total, there are over 50 moons orbiting Jupiter, but these 4 moons are the ones first viewed by Gallileo in the 1600s.  In this video the planet and moons drift through the field of view of a stationary telescope.

The planet and moons appear from the upper left.  Wait for Jupiter to appear.  The first object you see is Ganymede and is quite small.  Jupiter does not appear until approximately 18 seconds have passed in the video stream.

The field of view is quite small making the drift rate appear to be very fast.



Comments


Username / Nickname: Triana Elan

This is very cool!


Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

Thanks for your comment Triana




                          



Darkness Transparency and Seeing - April 9, 2013

The weather is beautiful for stargazing and star parties.  It is supposed to be close to 80F in Sebastopol and the rest of Sonoma County this week.  Usually good conditions for stargazing include darkness (no full moon) and good transparency (no clouds) and good "seeing".  Seeing related to turbulence in the atmosphere.  Since a telescope looks thorugh miles and miles of atmosphere, wind and turbulence cause viewing conditions to degrade.  Last night the dark and clear skies were still somewhat compromised as the Seeing was poor. 

The best way to anticipate good seeing is when the high pressure weather patterns set in and the middle of the high is centered on your viewing area.  This will be happning in Sebastopol/Santa Rosa in a few days.  Looking forward to it.




                          



PANSTARRS continues to provide photo opportunities ~ - March 31, 2013

 From Astonomy Magazine:   "On April 1, Comet PANSTARRS lies 33° north of the Sun

and 4° north-northeast of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). And the separation between the two objects decreases to 2.5° on April 4. Amateur astronomers who image should consider this a great photo opportunity. And visual observers should take this opportunity to compare the relatively nearby comet to M31, a vast spiral galaxy 2.5 million light-years away. Use binoculars to get an overall view, but a 4-inch or larger telescope with an eyepiece that provides a wide field of view will deliver the best results."

We're hoping the Northern California weather will clear up enough for us to photograph the comet PANNSTARRS, near the spectacular Andromeda Galaxy!

 

 

 




                          



NGC694 - March 26, 2013

NGC604 is located in M33.  What does that mean?  NGC is an acronym for the "New General Catalog".  M is an abbreviation for "Messier".  These are ways of identifying deep sky objects.  Many of the deep sky objects were "discoveries" claimed by early astronomers of the 1600s. 1700s and 1800s.  The NGCs were primarly Englishman William Herschel's discoveries while the Ms were Frenchman Charles Messier's.  Here is NGC604 "hiding" inside the bounds of M33.




                          



Bought a new used scope - March 20, 2013

A friend was offering a used Celestron 5 inch ALT AZ scope so we bought it,  It is fun to have a telescope that tracks unlike my Orion XT12.  Plus at about 15 pounds it is easy to take out back for a quick view.  The skies in Sebastopol (Sonoma County) are still a little cloudy tonight.

Jupiter and the Moon are nice and bright.




                          



Photo from our friend Napa Mark - March 14, 2013

Here's a photo of the Pan Stars comet. 



Comments


Username / Nickname: Graham Goodenough

Wow, can only imagine what would have been like in person


Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

It was very dim.  It was north (to the right) of where we thought we were supposed to be looking.  I was proud to find it, like I was a discoverer.  I hope the comet next fall is brighter.  Perhaps we will get larger photos of it.




                          



It is dim. 

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This is a realistic view of what we saw last night.




                          



The photo was taken by WCSP's friend Mark from Napa California.

- PAN STARRS


                          



We saw the comet tonight.  Very faint through wispy clouds.  This was from the Sebastopol / Santa Rosa area looking toward Bodega Bay.

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At 8:00pm it was just to the right of the crescent moon and just above the horizon.  The altitude was about 4 finger widths viewed over my outstretched hand. 




                          



We saw a yellowish or golden glow, a tail and the main body clearly through a 4 inch reflector telescope and also with binoculars.

- Rosette Nebula


                          



This photo of the Rosette Nebula was taken with our 10" reflector and a Canon T2i DSLR.  We've really improved our ability to take photographs since we improved the positioning of our polar alignment scope.  What this means is our 10" scope spends a lot of time clicking off images that are later "stacked" into one final image.  There is over an hour of exposures in this image.

- Beautiful night last night at the coast


                          



We found a new observing spot. 

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Carlevaro Way near Goat Rock.  VERY dark.  You can here the sound of the waves crashing at the beach which is just a few hundred yards to the west.




                          



I always say that a site is dark if you can't see your feet.  This spot was very dark - public - spacious - and low horizons.

- Virgo Cluster


                          



Part of the excitement of springtime astronomy is the Virgo Cluster. 

It contains over a thousand galaxies - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgo_Cluster

When viewing through a telescope, one can see multiple galaxies in a single view.  It is very impressive!

Using the snapshot from Stellarium below, look for the triangle between Arcturus, Spica and Denebola.  At the center is Vindemiatrix.  (all of these stars have been accentuated in the graphic) 

The cluster is very impressive between Denebola and Vindemiatrix.

- Meteor hits Russia


                          



- The Rosette Nebula - NGC 2237 February 15, 2013


                          



- International Space Station February 13, 2013


                          



- Sunny Williams in the International Space Station giving a tour February 7, 2013


                          



- Asteroid 2012 DA14 February 6, 2013


                          



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- A simple list of Constellations in the early morning February 6, 2013


                          



- More Orion Nebula February 3, 2013


                          



Wine Country Star Party