Find us on Google+ Astronomy Box: July 2012

31 July 2012

Proud Member of WETI

While listening to a great episode of my beloved Astronomy Cast, Fraser and Pamela were discussing the search for extraterrestrial life. During this episode they mentioned the WETI Institute, a completely legitimate organisation which is dedicated to their mission of waiting for extraterrestrial intelligence. This is a cause I simply had to give my assistance. Considering my resources and availible time I can pledge to WETI, I am proud to announce that I am now a full time 24/7 member of the Effortless Action Committee and strive to do my very best to wait as hard as I can.

I now call on you, to join the wait and become a member too.

WETI needs you!

WETI of course an offshoot of the SETI Institute, who's mission is the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. SETI also need your help, and perhaps, even more than WETI.

SETI@home is a project which allows you to use any idle CPU time you may have on your computer to mine through huge amounts of astronomical radio data in the hope that you might be the one to uncover a pattern or signal hidden in it that will indicate the whereabouts of intelligent life elsewhere in our universe.

This is a noble cause, and I was quick to sign up and donate some of my idle computer time. I may have a been a little generous however and my computers power supply exploded.

Next time I'll be more careful, and there will be a next time.

30 July 2012

To Infinity and Beyond!

I came across this article about NASA designs for a new space suit for its astronauts. I just had to post an article of my own because I love it!

I know I can't be the first to make this comparison and I really really hope that this isn't a joke.

I know nothing about suit design but I'm sure the Buzz Lightyear green must be a temporary material. If there are some Pixar fans working at NASA, and there most likely are, then this is a fantastic way to grab the attention of weird children who are somehow not excited by space and astronomy already.

24 July 2012

A New Addition

As soon as I caught the astronomy bug I new right away that I would eventually be drawn to the art of astrophotography, and so I did.

Like, most amateurs and professionals would tell you, you should begin your hobby by getting your hands on a cheap and cheerful planisphere and a pair of decent binoculars. As sensible and good this advise is, I was stubborn and wanted to skip ahead to imaging. Although I don't regret the course I took I may have missed out a little bit on the simpler pleasures of astronomy.

I still haven't bought a planisphere, but for good reason. There are some fantastic apps out there for android and iOS, and since I already had the phone how could I say no to a free download? That's for another post though.

As for binoculars, I've finally got a pair in the form of some Bresser 20x60 Saturns.

They are second hand and did require some collimation. A lot of people will say they collimating binoculars should be left up to proffessional optics dealers/repair shops but it actually was quite simple and, in my case didn't even require the use of a bench. I found this great write up on Cloudy Nights forum which explained the proccess very well.

I'm now looking forward to some 'zero setup time' observing and something to occupy myself when my imaging scope is doing it's thing.

21 July 2012

DSO 2 - My First M31 Andromeda Galaxy Image

Last night we finally saw an end to the seemingly perminent grey weather and were blessed some some clear skies. I've been itching to give my Megrez 72 it's first imaging run and chose M31 as my target, as it was positioned very conveniently in the sky. Here are the results

OTA: WO 72mm Megrez w/ Moonlite Focuser
Camera: Nikon D3100 14.2mp
Mount: HEQ5 Pro
Exposures: 1
Exposure: 1min
ISO: 3200

My next goal is a guided image of M31 using an OAG and Orion Starshoot Autoguider.

I foresee that acquiring a guide star will prove difficult, as I learned last night while trying to use PHD. However, I'm sure with a little patience and luck I'll succeed.

11 July 2012

Space Art - Something Different

I'm going to try and do more space inspired art, I think. Here's a little something to kick things off.

4 July 2012

Higgs Boson Discovery?

There's a lot of buzz around the Higgs Boson this morning.

I always get so excited when it's mentioned in the news, but recently I've been wondering to myself, what kind of technological advancements can get achieve on the back of these discoveries? I of course had to set aside my complete satisfaction and delight of just the discovery and a larger understanding of the universe to ask myself this question. Not to mention the possible validation of the standard model. I did find that other articles have also asked this question; What can we do with the Higgs Boson?

I'm not too fond of the term "God particle", which nowadays seems to be the name mostly used by science correspondence, when trying to explain the Higgs boson it to the masses. However, if the Higgs boson is what gives things mass, perhaps the name is suitable and hints at possible practical uses for it. How about somehow harnessing the elementary particles to create mass out of energy? If a hypothetical particle which conveys gravity were to be discovered, could we manipulate it to create artificial gravity? I'm sure there are many more crazy ideas out there.

Like many have concluded, it is enough to discover the Higgs boson and to grow our understanding of the universe. It's the reward for our amazing and natural human curiosity. Anything else is a bonus!