Monday, March 24, 2008

The Smallest Telescope Detects the Largest Cosmic Explosion

Good things do come in small packages.

A small telescope, with a 71mm (2.75") aperture (diameter) is responsible for detecting a star explosion and resulting Gamma Ray Burst (GRB). The GRB, registered as GRB080319B occurred 7.5 Billion light years across the known universe and was discovered by an organization called "Pi of the Sky", a group of Polish Physicists, mathematicians, and graduate students that look at specific portions of the sky for GRB events. The operation is managed in Warsaw, Poland, but the cameras are physically located at the Las Campanas, Chile observatory.

'Pi of the Sky' currently covers a 20 deg. X 20 deg. portion of sky, but has plans to extend optical capabilities to simultaneously cover 1/3 of the visible sky.

Here is the Internet link to the 'Pi of the Sky' news release with an animation of the GRB event:


@ NEW Telescope Curse !

I have been hit by the NEW TELESCOPE curse. In other words: "It has been cloudy every night I have been home to use my telescope since First Light". Hopefully, I will be able to get out soon. I am trying to capture a picture of the "Leo Triplets" (three galaxies, including M66, located in the constellation Leo) to enter in a photo contest. The contest closing date is 03/31/2008.

@@ Almost Heaven Star Party 2008

Yeehaw! Git yer campin' gear reddy and dust off the John Denver 8-tracks, cuz the Almost Heaven Star Party (AHSP) 2008 has been announced.

Every year, a conglomeration of amateur and profession astronomers gather at Spruce Knob, West Virginia for a 4 day/3 night star party. This year's event will be held from July 31st to August 3rd, 2008 (Thursday-Sunday). I plan to attend August 1st -3rd. It will be my first star party, and I hear it is not for the faint of heart. Spruce Knob has rugged amenities, (in other words tent camping with no electricity), so this event is not for everyone. At least they have hot showers, hot meal service and conveniently located out houses.

Check the AHSP website for more information:

Until The Skies Clear !


Thursday, March 13, 2008

YIKES! Death Star Taking Aim At Earth

Long story short ...

A 'real' Death Star, not the fictional one from Star Wars is taking aim at Earth according to the March 1st issue of the Astrophysical Journal. Recent images from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii indicate that a pair of stars locked in a death spiral are tearing each other apart. One of the stars, called a Wolf-Rayet is in the 'Winter' season of its life and will eventually lose its mass and go supernova. The unfortunate thing for Earth is that when the star explodes, the axis, which happens to be aimed right at us, will shoot a Gamma Ray burst in our direction.

Good News! Bad News!

Good News: The star may not explode for another 100,000 years and is 8,000 light years from Earth.

Bad News: Unlike the moon-sized Death Star from Star Wars, which has to get close to a planet to vaporize it, this blazing spiral has the potential to burn worlds from thousands of light-years away.

Good News: We will have some warning before the star explodes.

Bad News: Uhhh ... Maybe a moments warning, because Gamma Rays travel at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second.

Good News: Gamma Rays do not vaporize worlds as depicted by the fictitious Death Star.

Bad News: A Gamma Ray burst directed at Earth could damage chemicals in the Stratosphere, thereby depleting up to 50% or more of the Ozone layer. What's wrong with that ? The Ozone has 3-4% depletion at present, so a 50% depletion would drastically change our atmosphere for decades. In other words, such a 'raking' of the Ozone layer would lead to extinction of most living things within months".

Help Me Obiwan Kinobe, You're My Only Hope!

Heyyy! ... Maybe our fictitious Star Wars friends can help us build a BIG shield to protect against Gamma Ray bursts. Sorry! In this case, not even Ole' Ben Kinobe can help us. You see, Gamma Rays travel 'through' stars, planets, galaxies, big-honkin' shields, and so on. Get the picture ? Gulp!

Oh, That's Not Good ... What Can We Do ?

Nothing we can do, really. WR104 is the first star astronomers have detected that has its destructive sights set on us. There may be dozens, hundreds or thousands more undetected Wolf-Rayet type stars ready to blow their tops and shoot Gamma Rays at us.

My Humble Perspective ...

You see, we are here by design. It was NOT by chance or luck that we exist. We have a Creator who placed us here for a reason, and I for one am not worried about some star losing its cookies and depleting our Ozone or any other atmospheric layer.

The more I realize how inhospitable other parts of the 'known' universe are, the more I marvel at God's grand design in putting us on this planet, in this solar system, in this galaxy and in this part of the local galactic neighborhood.

I am just going to enjoy the life I have been blessed with and leave management of 'Space Stuff' to the Creator.

The Heavens Declare His Glory!


P.S. - Here are some WR104 resources for you to check out:,23599,23311578-2,00.html

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Beginners Luck

I had a chance to try out my new telescope on the evening of March 2nd. Saw a lot of cool looking celestial objects. Here are pictures I took of a few of my favorites.

M42 - Orion Nebula (Wide Field Photo with airplane entering frame at upper left)

M42 - Orion Nebula (Zoom Photo)

M44 - Beehive Star Cluster

M45 - The Pleiades Star Cluster (The seven bright stars are called the seven sisters)

M81 & M82 - Galaxies

NGC869 & NGC884 - Double Star Clusters (in Constellation Perseus)

I plan to dedicate an entire post to the Orion Nebula (my favorite constellation), so check back soon.

Clear Skies!