by Rex Parker, Director
Another Season for AAAP
Our intrepid member “Totality Group” has returned from Oregon, the partial eclipse was seen by >300 people here at AAAP’s Washington Crossing Observatory, and September’s cooler weather has arrived in central NJ. We’re turning the page for a new season of great programs and fun events in AAAP, starting with the first monthly meeting on Sept 12 (see the announcement from Program Director Ira Polans in this issue). We’ll talk about member eclipse experiences at the Sept 12 meeting and want to hear from all of you with stories to share.
Autumn equinox arrives on Sept 22 which by coincidence is the first day of Jersey StarQuest, AAAP’s annual astro-observing event in northwest NJ. There’s a history here – if I’m counting right, this is the 26th StarQuest sponsored by our club. This year we’re featuring Electronic-Assisted Astronomy (EAA) live on the observing field. EAA is the emerging technique of using a digital imaging device in lieu of an eyepiece at the telescope for near-real-time viewing (distinct from long-exposure deep sky astrophotography). Several EAA equipment setups will be available for you to see and learn at StarQuest, as well as eyepiece-based systems. Weather-permitting, telescopes will be running all night giving you a chance to learn from experienced members even if you don’t yet own a telescope. See the announcement below for more info. We’re requesting that you return an intent-to-participate form (in the flier sent by e-mail to all members, and on the website) but no advance payment is needed, pay upon arrival.
Electronic Assisted Astronomy (EAA) Using the SX Ultrastar-Color Camera.
EAA is fast becoming one of the most capable techniques for astronomy observing especially in areas with significant light pollution. The upcoming Jersey Starquest event is featuring EAA (see above). Advances in camera hardware and software make near-live imaging with small telescopes more feasible than ever. Following on the recent suggestion that the club acquire this technology to improve the quality of outreach by members, I further tested one example of this camera technology, the Starlight Xpress Ultrastar-color CCD camera. There are a few other cameras out there to consider, some of which will be demonstrated by members at Starquest.
In the mid-summer edition of ST I showed images from the Ultrastar-C using the club’s Mewlon-250 telescope, a powerful 3-meter focal length scope. However, more practical for portable field use and outreach would be a wider field refractor on a lightweight portable mount. Below is a screen shot of the Eagle Nebula, M16, taken with a 5” refractor (FL=1m) on a relatively simple Celestron GP equatorial mount only roughly polar-aligned in the field. The image represents what you see on the screen in “real-time” with no further processing beyond the 7 second align/stack/mean by Starlight Live software.
Screenshot of Eagle Nebula (M16) as seen in near-real-time using EAA technology. M16 is a star-forming region about 7000 light years away in the constellation Sagitarrius. Screenshot from Ultrastar-C/Starlight Live using a 5” refractor in the field on a small portable mount. By RAP Aug 8 2017.
Skynet Update – Remote Imaging for Members
To date 10 AAAP members (of 24 with accounts) have accessed the remote telescope network capabilities offered by our participation in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Skynet. AAAP is sponsoring and paying for access to this system in order to give members a learning opportunity in remote astro-imaging. The telescopes are located all over the world, typically 16” imaging scopes of Ritchey Chretien pedigree with high quality large format CCD cameras. If you’re interested but not yet involved, send me an e-mail note to get set up. Full dtails are explained in the June issue of AAAP’s Sidereal Times. Also see the Skynet web site, https://skynet.unc.edu/skynet