Venus and Moon at sunrise

A beautiful sunrise event this morning - a conjunction of Moon and Venus over Shamokin Mountain, Union County, Pennsylvania. Moon phase was 7.4% waning crescent with a bright Earthshine and a faint Lunar Corona can be seen in the morning twilight.

(Click photo to enlarge)

Bode's Galaxay (M81)

Discovered by Johan Elert Bode in 1774, this "grand design" spiral galaxy is located about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. Its large size and relatively low apparent magnitude (higher brightness) makes it a good target for my telescope.

Two amazing images of Bode's galaxy are: (1) a image taken by the
Hubble Telescope and an 2005 infrared image of M81 by Spitzer Space Telescope.


After a cool and cloudy July, we finally had a few clear skies this week . Set up the telescope and enjoyed some star gazing over the weekend. You can click on the thumbnail to the right and see a photograph I took through the telescope of Jupiter and three moons Io, Europa, and Gannymede.

(Click photo to enlarge)

Eleven times the diameter of Earth, the rotation of this enormous ball of hydrogen and helium is the fastest of all the Solar System's planets, completing a rotation on its axis in slightly less than ten hours; this creates an equatorial bulge easily seen in this photograph. The
Great Red Spot , a turbulent storm, is visible right in the foreground.

Watching the ISS flyover

Tonight we stood with a group of friends in a meadow outside of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and watched the International Space Station (ISS) fly over. True to NASA’s website predictions for this location, the ISS appeared as a bright moving star on the NNW horizon at 20 degrees and for a little of 3 minutes made a low arc across the sky before disappearing on the SSE horizon.

It was fantastic! To think that six people were on board, fly 220 miles above us at a rate of 17,000 miles per hour. Photo at right was taken using my iPhone.

M100 Coma Berenise

A beautiful example of a grand-design spiral galaxy, and one of the brightest galaxies in the southern part of constellation Coma Berenices. M100 is a spiral galaxy, like our Milky Way, and tilted nearly face-on as seen from earth. It is among the first spirals that have been discovered, and listed by Lord Rosse as one of 14 "spiral nebulae" discovered to 1850. The galaxy has two prominent arms of bright blue stars and several fainter arms. The blue stars in the arms are young hot and massive stars which formed recently from density perturbations caused by interactions with neighboring galaxies which are lying just outside our image. Despite its nearly perfect symmetric outline, this galaxy appears slightly asymmetric, as on the southern (lower) side of the nucleus more (or brighter) young stars have formed.

8" Meade SCT LX200 with Orion ED80 autoguider; imaged using Canon Rebel, 3 x 10 min exposures, ISO 400. Darks and flats subtracted.

Total Lunar Eclipse (Umbra Phase)

It lasted about three hours and twenty-six minutes from start to finish (not including the penumbral phases which are very difficult to see). But man, was it fantastic!*! The kids and I donned out winter coats and gloves and viewed through my low resolution telescope. This image was taken with Nikon D40 and 300mm ED Nikkor lense.

The partial eclipse began as the Moon's eastern edge slowly moved into the Earth's umbral shadow. Since no major volcanic eruptions have taken place, the Moon took on a vivid red-orange color during the total phase. A summary diagram of this eclipse is available from NASA