A Conjunction Moon

I rolled the telescope out of the garage to view and photograph the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. It is impressive to see the two gas giants side by side like that. The photos were less of a success, with soft seeing they are not great. OK, the photos suck.

The Moon was a different story, high in the sky the seeing was much better. Since I had the camera on the telescope I shot a few photos of the first quarter Moon.

Look closely along the terminator and you can find the Lunar X, the V, and the Vallis Alpes…

Conjunction Moon
The Moon at first quarter on Dec 21, 2020

A View from the Past

As an evening pastime in these COVID restricted days I have been delving into the past again. Again reading the work of an amateur astronomer from long ago.

Frontspiece of Bedford Catalogue, 1844
Frontspiece of Bedford Catalogue, 1844, Capt. William Henry Smyth

I had previously read through the work of Rev. Thomas Webb, a vicar and amateur astronomer active in the late 1800’s. Webb frequently referred to the work of an earlier observer, Capt. William Henry Smyth.

Retired British Navy Captain Smyth was a backyard observer, gazing at the stars with a 150mm refractor from a garden behind his home in Bedford England. His telescope was quite good for the time, made by Tully of London, the best money could buy. This telescope was eventually purchased by the British Government to be used in the 1874 transit of Venus expedition to Egypt and the 1882 Venus transit in Jamaica. It now sits in the collection of the Science Museum, London.

Capt. William Henry Smyth's Telescope at Bedford
Capt. William Henry Smyth’s Telescope at Bedford

Smyth published two volumes on astronomy in 1844 under the title A Cycle of Celestial Objects . Volume II of this set, commonly called The Bedford Catalogue, contains descriptions of more than 1600 double stars, clusters, and nebulae, serving as a guide to what may be observed with a small telescope. The Bedford Catalogue became the standard at-the-telescope reference for other amateur observers for many decades until it was generally replaced by Webb’s Objects for Common Telescopes.

Continue reading “A View from the Past”

Mauna Kea in the Late Afternoon

The snow from this weekend was still visible this morning, but was gone by late afternoon when we were coming down, at least from the south face. The air was very clear all day, details often lost in the haze standing out clearly.

Even more dramatic when the late afternoon light emphasized the rugged terrain. Even those of us who have seen it so many times had to stop for the photo.

Mauna Kea in the Late Afternoon
Mauna Kea in the Late Afternoon taken from Mauna Loa

Andrea Ghez awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics

UCLA scientist and Keck Observatory user Andrea Ghez has been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. She shares the prize with two other researchers; Roger Penrose, a British mathematical physicist and German astrophysicist Reinhard Genzel, for work in black holes and galaxies.

Andrea Ghez presents a community lecture at the Honoka'a People's Theater
Andrea Ghez presents a community lecture at the Honoka’a People’s Theater

There is no Nobel prize in astronomy and the Nobel in physics has traditionally gone to scientists involved in hard physics for discoveries of some new theory or subatomic particle. It is only in recent years that we have seen a few Nobel prizes awarded to astronomers.

Andrea is the only Nobel recipient I have known personally. I can say one thing, she completely deserves it. While her scientific achievements may justify the award, her activities beyond the science are just as commendable.

Continue reading “Andrea Ghez awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics”