Search for Planet Nine Lecture

Free ZOOM webinar: “The Search for Planet Nine” by Mike Brown (Caltech)

We would like to invite everyone to a free Zoom webinar on “The Search for Planet Nine” by Caltech planetary scientist Mike Brown this Friday, January 19, at 9 p.m. EST. Details of his talk are given below (PLEASE NOTE THE TIME ZONES). Mike is best known for his discovery of Eris and other TNOs.

To access the Zoom link, please register at:

Registration is free, quick and easy. All you have to do is to fill in your full name and email address, and the Zoom link will be sent to you automatically.

Neowise Over Plumas Lake

On July 13th 2020 I captured this image of Comet Neowise setting to the West at 9:15 pm. Canon 6d – 15 second exposure – 1250 ISO – 50mm lense

Neowise over Plumas Lake

C/2020 F3 or Comet NEOWISE is a long period comet with a near-parabolic orbit discovered on March 27, 2020, by astronomers during the NEOWISE mission of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer space telescope. At that time, it was an 18th-magnitude object, located 2 AU away from the Sun and 1.7 AU away from Earth.
Orbital period: 6,766 years
Discovered: March 27, 2020
Orbits: SunLast perihelion: July 3, 2020
Dimensions: ~5 km (3 mi)
Number of observations: 376

Beam’ a Greeting to New Horizons!

Team to Transmit Messages to the Spacecraft During New Year’s Flyby in the Kuiper Belt

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has traveled 13 years to reach the heart of the Kuiper Belt – but you can get there in a matter of hours!

In 2005, more than 430,000 people signed up online to place their names on New Horizons for its trek to Pluto and beyond. Now, with the intrepid spacecraft in the “beyond” phase of its voyage and poised to conduct the farthest planetary flyby ever, NASA’s New Horizons mission team is offering the public another chance to send a message to New Horizons on its historic exploration of Ultima Thule — an ancient Kuiper Belt object a billion miles farther than Pluto!

Visit to select a message to send to the New Horizons spacecraft. You’ll be asked to confirm your submission through email, and you’ll receive an electronic certificate commemorating your participation.

On Jan. 1, as New Horizons is flying past Ultima Thule four billion miles from home, the messages and names will be “beamed” by radio toward the spacecraft and Ultima from the satellite communications facility at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory – on the same Maryland campus as New Horizons mission control!

“Traveling at light speed, the signals carrying these messages will reach the spacecraft about six hours after being beamed from the Applied Physics Lab’s largest dish antenna, on the very same day that New Horizons flies by Ultima Thule!” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “How cool is that?

Entries will be accepted through Dec. 21, 2018. Like the flyby itself, this is a one-shot chance to become part of deep-space exploration history – don’t miss it!

Astrometric Measurement of WDS 03117

I am pleased to present this paper that I co-authored with two teachers and submitted to JDSO this year as part of the Boyce Astro program.

Hilde van den Bergh1, Chris Olivas2, Jerry Hilburn3

  1. Mentor, BEWiSE, Fleet Science Center, San Diego, California, USA.
  2. Chris Olivas, High Tech Middle School, San Marcos, California, USA.
  3. Epsilon Orion Observatory, San Diego, California, USA.

Abstract: We report CCD astrometric measurements of the components of the double star system WDS 03117+8128 STF327AB using the iTelescope network. We find the relative position to be r = 20.26± 0.12 arc-sec and q = 289.1±0.39 degrees at epoch 2016.84. When combined with the historical data over the last 114 years the trend suggests the decreasing of the distance between the AB pair.

We used the Washington Double Star Catalog (WDS) to identify a binary pair on which to conduct angle (Theta) and separation (Rho) measurements. The double star system was selected based on the following requirements:;


  • must be observable from the Northern hemisphere in the autumn
  • an angular separation greater than six arc seconds
  • a magnitude difference of no more than 5


The catalog star WDS 03117+8128 (STF 327 AB), satisfied these criteria

The A star in STF 327 is a spectroscopic binary (WDS Notes). The B star is not part of the spectroscopic pair. The primary has a spectral type of A7III-IV (Sordiglioni, G.). That means the star is a (A) white (IV) subgiant. The difference in magnitude between the A and B stars is 4.75 with the primary star having a magnitude of 5.914 in the visible and the secondary star having a magnitude of 10.7 in the visible, according to SIMBAD data. The first position angle and separation measurements taken in 1902 were 282o and 25 arc-seconds, respectively. The last measurements were 289o and 21.2 arc-seconds, respectively, in 2003.


Equipment, Observations and Data Reduction Procedures

CCD images were taken using the T7 and T18 telescopes, part of the iTelescope network. T7 is a Corrected Dall-Kirkham Astrograph with an aperture of 431mm, a focal length of 2929mm, and a F/Ratio of f/6.8. The CCD for the T7 is a SBIG STL-11000M (ABG) with a resolution of 0.63 arc-secs/pixel housing an array 4008 by 2672 (10.7 Mega pixels) with a FOV of 28.2 x 42.3 arc-mins and is located in Nerpio, Spain.

Additional images were taken using the T18 telescope located in Nerpio, Spain, using a Planewave 0.32-m f/8.0 reflector equipped with a 3072 by 2048 array imaging at a pixel scale of 1.69?. Both cameras can easily resolve separations above five arc-seconds.

A total of six images were acquired between epochs 2016.816 and 2016.854. Two images were taken with the T7 Telescope each with red (1-90sec, 1-120sec). Four images were taken with the T18 Telescope, two images each with the red (1-90sec,1-120sec), hydrogen alpha (1-120sec, 1-180sec). An additional 11 images were excluded due to tracking quality of the observations.

The remaining 6 images were preprocessed (dark and flatcorrection) by the iTelescope data reduction pipeline. MaximDL v6 was used to insert World Coordinate System (WCS) positions into the FITS headers through comparison of the image star field against the Fourth U.S. Naval Observatory CCD Astrograph Catalogue (UCAC4).

During this process MaximDL typically used approximately 400 stars out of a database of 3000 stars for this particular star field. Mirametrics Mira Pro x64 was used to compute accurate position angles and separations of the component stars. The A and B stars were identified, marked, and then measured using the algorithms of Mira Pro to find the centroids of each component. The telescopes and filters used for the 6 images measured gave consistent results so we calculated a master average of r and q.

 See full paper for results: WDS03117-8128 STF 327 AB

Asteroid TB145 Movie

Friday night I started calibration and testing of the imaging system at 8PM. By 10pm I was ready to start taking data on the Halloween Asteroid. When I first moved the scope into position and started shooting I tried a series of 60 second shots, then 30 second, then 10 second shots.

The challenge was finding the right exposure length to capture the asteroid as a point of light. At the longer intervals the asteroid appeared as a streak and even when I dialed it down to 10 seconds it still moved so fast that it took up 2-3 pixels of width. The sequence in the video below is a 12 minute long series of photos each 10 seconds long with a 5 second pause between shots.

Estimated visual magnitude at this time was 11.5. The rock was so near the moon that in the original images I could see streaking from the moonlight and vignetting on the edges of the images. I processed these shots individually and removed the streaking. I am amazed at how fast this asteroid moved through the field of view.

JSF Photo – The Trifid

The summer sky never disappoints us, especially the jeweled region of the southern Milky Way. Rising up out of steam from the pot of Sagittarius we find one sparkly pretty after another. Here I present to you a nebula known as The Trifid.

I shot this using a 8″ f/4 TPO Newtonian with a Canon 5d. This is a combination of 3 –  2 minute images, combined, processed to bring out the color range. Click on it to see full scale.

The Trifid Nebula (catalogued as Messier 20 or M20 and as NGC 6514) is an H II region located in Sagittarius. It was discovered by Charles Messier on June 5, 1764.[3] Its name means ‘divided into three lobes’. The object is an unusual combination of an open cluster of stars; an emission nebula (the lower, red portion), a reflection nebula (the upper, blue portion) and a dark nebula (the apparent ‘gaps’ within the emission nebula that cause the trifurcated appearance; these are also designated Barnard 85). Viewed through a small telescope, the Trifid Nebula is a bright and peculiar object, and is thus a perennial favorite of amateur astronomers.

Courtesy of WikiPedia

New Horizons Less Than 100 Days from Pluto

NASA-MeatballSpeeding toward a historic flyby on July 14 – just over 98 days from now – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has moved into the second phase of its approach to Pluto and its moons, beginning a series of observations and activities that will bring these distant, icy worlds into sharper focus than humankind has ever seen.

New Horizons began its long-distance encounter phase with Pluto in January, taking dozens of images used primarily to navigate the spacecraft toward Pluto and using its plasma and energetic-particle sensors and dust detector to sample the environment and learn more about the Sun’s influence – or space weather – near where Pluto orbits 3 billion miles from the Sun. During this first approach phase New Horizons also made an important course-correction homing maneuver on March 10.

In the more intensive Approach Phase 2, which started April 5 and lasts through mid-June, the mission adds numerous new and significant observations of the Pluto system, including the first color and spectral observations of Pluto and its moons, and series of long-exposure images that will help the team spot additional moons or rings in the Pluto system. The spacecraft will also make its first ultraviolet observation to study the surface and atmosphere of Pluto and the surface of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, and the spacecraft will conduct a major joint test of flyby radio science observations in conjunction with NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN). These various activities are critical to developing a fuller picture of that system, and in assessing any hazards New Horizons could face as the spacecraft passes between Pluto and Charon.

Read Complete Article at: New Horizons Mission to Pluto

First Ever: AP Euro Stargazing Event

By:  Taylor Menconi, Copy Editor

The sky is no longer the limit for Mr. Prodan’s AP European History classes.

On Monday, Feb. 9, the AP Euro students and their families visited Charter after school hours from 7 to 8:30 p.m. to star-gaze with NASA Ambassador Jerry Hilburn, who was invited by Mr. Prodan.

“Since we’ve been studying Galileo and the Scientific Revolution, I thought it’d be cool if students were able to see what Galileo saw and experienced,” AP Euro teacher Mr. Prodan said.

The beginning of the night was mainly led by Hilburn, who works for the San Diego Astronomy Association (SDAA) Outreach program. Students looked at the stars and planets in the Milky Way, and even at another galaxy, he said.

As he pointed out and described each section of the sky, Hilburn shared his knowledge of astronomy by giving a short lecture about the various stars, planets and galaxies.

“Students have a neat opportunity to listen to an astronomer explain the basics of astronomy and show the students the planets that we don’t normally see,” ECHS Director Mr. Roner said, who was present at the event.

Mr. Roner also stated how excited he was to look through the telescopes Hilburn had set up. One of the two was pointed at Jupiter for most of the night, and people were able to see the moons orbiting it.

Students were able to take a view from the lens of an 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain Celestron with a 80-mm refractor on top, and a 20-inch Starmaster Dobsonian.

The first-ever AP Euro stargazing event was a low-key night filled with learning and discussion, as well as a potluck of desserts, coffee, hot chocolate, and apple cider that was served in the lobby of the American Spirit Theater.

“Coming at night was really cool because we were able to see the stars and have apple cider and hot chocolate and all this other stuff,” Sophomore Jaylene Ramli said. “It was just a really relaxing environment.”

The hope for the night was that it would potentially spark an interest and expose students to a different kind of science, according to Mr. Prodan.
“Obviously there are other subjects beside history that are important, and I know a lot of kids enjoy science. Hopefully they were able to learn a lot more about astronomy and have a great time,” Mr. Prodan said.

Full article at:

The Most Astounding Fact

Neil DeGrasse Tyson born October 5, 1958) is an American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space.

Best viewed Full Screen

“To Build A Home”
Cinematic Orchestra

There is a house built out of stone
Wooden floors, walls and window sills
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
This is a place where I don’t feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home.

And I built a home
for you
for me

Until it disappeared
from me
from you

And now, it’s time to leave and turn to dust……..

Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the color of green
Ground had arose and passed its knees

By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top
I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
Held on as tightly as you held onto me
Held on as tightly as you held onto me……

And I built a home
for you
for me

Until it disappeared
from me
from you

And now, it’s time to leave and turn to dust……..