Waiting for U Scorpii to Blow Up - or at least flare up

Bradley E. Schaefer has made a risky prediction in Sky and Telescope. He has studied U Scorpii and come to the conclusion that this recurrent nova will flare up in 2009. Actually, in some of his other writings he hints that he believes the star may go supernova.

Rather than summarize his work, you can find it by going to http://www.skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/observingblog/43435242.html

I've been observing U Scorpii and taking a few images. So far, nothing. But who knows?

The first image, taken on May 1, 2009, shows the target zone, which I identified with the help of the Simbad program.

This next image has a poor quality, but I believe I can identify U Scorpii in this one. I'm still waiting for the flare up :).

I took these images with my 14 inch f/11 Schmidt-Cassegrain, and an SBIG ST-10XME CCD Camera.


Just a quick note of celebration

Today I received confirmation of my Double Star Observing Club award from the Astronomical League. Included was certificate and a pin.

I keep my pins on my name tag that I have as a member of the Atlanta Astronomy Club. It goes around the neck, and it is beginning to get heavy :)

I do not have a pin for the Messier clubs. I'm not sure if I lost it, or if the League was giving pins for observing clubs back then.

To date I've earned 26 observing awards from the League. I now qualify to submit an application as a Master Observer, which I will do sometime this weekend.

I have earned at least one level of each observing club, except the observing clubs related to the Southern Hemisphere (although I am working on them - completion will take a trip below the equator), the Galileo Club (which is new), and the Local Galaxy Group and Neighborhood (which I'm working on).


Just How Many Telescopes Does One Person Need?

I think telescopes are like cars the cars of our youth. You get rid of them, and decades later you wish you had them. Why? Who knows. I started with some sort of Jason reflector and then moved to an Edmonds Scientific 4 inch reflector. I think a lot of astronomers of my generation had that reflector.

My Cave Optical 8 inch f/8 reflector was a wonderful telescope, and I knew it would be the last I'd ever need. I got it in 1966, and in 1968 I moved up to a 3 inch Questar. At the time, they were considered the best - the Rolls Royce of telescopes.

The Jason and Edmonds are long gone and nearly forgotten. The 8 inch is now property of Ware Shoals High School.

I still have the Questar. It is still better than any other instrument I've ever used. It's so portable.

I also have a 10 inch dob, which I like because it uses a 2" 32 mm eyepiece and that is easy on these eyes. It can use the 2" eyepiece or the 1.25" with the adaptors that come with it. That one travels well to star parties, but it is a bit bulky to use for just a few minutes of observing. For that I use the Questar.

To observe the sun, I have the Questar, but I also have one of Coronado's PST - Personal Solar Telescopes. Mine has an aperture of 40mm, so it is one of the smaller ones. Still, I can observe the sun in H-Alpha light and see the prominences and filiments and active regions of the sun.

I have a 85mm f/5.6 Apochromatic Refractor telescope, but I'm selling that one.

I also have a 14-inch f/5.5 Schmidt-Cassegrain but it is permentantly mounted at a dark site in Georgia.

So, how many telescopes does one person need? Just one more.

With this being the 400th anniversary for Galileo's initial publication of his astronomical research, a lot of attention is being given to Galileo. So thought I'd work on the Astronomical League's Galileo observing club by getting one of the Galileo telescopes that are being marketed. I figure it will be interesting to people when I do observing nights for the neighborhood or for church and civic groups.

Once I buy that one, I'm sure all I will need is just "one more" telescope.


Robotic Telescopes

Robotic Telescopes are becoming more and more useful. And more common.

I have one. Several of the scopes at the Georgia darksite belong to members of the Atlanta Astronomy Club, a few hours west of the site. Many of them are robotic and can be accessed and controlled via the Internet. When I lived in the Miami community, the South Florida club considered plans for one in the everglades, but that was not practical for several reasons related to the ownership and use of the land.

I've used Slooh for a few years, and recommended it highly. I no longer recommend it to friends because the management is not responsive to customers. It seems the owners are going to shift from serious astronomy work to targeting children. It is increasingly difficult to reserve time on the scope.

I used Bradford in its early days, and was very disappointed. I'm told I need to use it again, as it has improved greatly.

I think we will be seeing more and more of these robotic scopes in the future, and that they will add to the serious astronomer's work.




Constellation: Ursa Minor
Right Ascension: 02h 31m 48.7s
Declination: +89° 15′ 51″
Distance from Earth: 430 Light Years

Polaris is one of the most familiar stars to astronomers, since it is located near the north celestial pole. It is often called the North Star.

Polaris is a multiple star system. Polaris B can be seen in a modest telescope.

Polaris is a Cepheid Variable. A Cepheid is a type of variable star which exhibits a regular pattern of changing brightness as a function of time. Cepheid variables are used for determining distances in modern astronomy. Polaris is our closest Cepheid.

I imaged Polaris with 85mm f/5.6 Apochromatic Refractor telescope with SBIG ST2000-XM CCD camera. The image was taken on April 26, 2009.