Cosmic Corner

Title III Activity 9: Astronomy and Astrophysics Imaging Program

PremMoon[Image credit: Premkumar Saganti]
 

Welcome to Our Site

Welcome to our website. We hope you will find our material enlightening and interesting. Not only will we be updating our project on a regular basis, but we will be posting images and information about the objects that are currently visible in the nighttime sky. Check out our links below to many web sites of interest in the areas of space science and astronomy.

emerging into sunlight Curved Shadow

These three views of the recent total lunar eclipse were obtained by Brian Cudnik afocally (the camera held to the eyepiece of the telescope) with a 10-inch f/6 reflector. Exposure times range from 1/250-second for the image in the upper left to 1 second for the image below. Visually the totally eclipsed moon appeared more orange than red as shown in the lower image.

mid-totality

What’s Up? (Updated April 23, 2014)

Many were able to witness a beautiful total lunar eclipse in the early morning hours of April 15, including myself (Brian Cudnik). I was able to watch the event in its entirety under clear skies, and was able to follow the changing appearance of the full moon as the shadow crept up to the lunar disk, then slowly sweep across the face of the moon, completely engulfing it for 78 minutes. I was able to get nearly 3 hours of video looking for meteoroid impact flashes. I also timed the covering of selected craters by Earth’s shadow in support of an ongoing project by Roger Sinnott of Sky and Telescope. Information about this eclipse can be obtained from NASA’s eclipse web site.

Information about this eclipse can be obtained from http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/OH/OH2014.html#LE2014Apr15T

Currently the moon is a waning crescent in the predawn sky. The predawn sky also features the bright “morning star” Venus low in the east as the twilight starts. Mars has just passed its opposition and closest approach to Earth and is now becoming an evening object, already visible low in the east southeast as darkness falls. Jupiter has taken on the role of “evening star” being high in the west as darkness falls. The constellations that are traditionally considered winter constellations in the Northern Hemisphere stretch along the western horizon in a band, starting with Auriga and Taurus in the west and northwest, then continuing with Orion and Canis Major in the West and Southwest.

Meanwhile the constellations of northern spring are well up in the eastern sky as darkness falls, to include the asterism known as the Big Dipper, the constellation Bootes with bright star Arcturus low in the eastern sky. Leo and Virgo are also up as darkness falls. More information on what can be seen in the sky on a weekly basis can be read at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/ataglance

Lunar Meteor Watch (Updated April 23, 2014)

Lunar Project Overview

I received the following report from Brian H. Day last Thursday concerning LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer):

We have received official word from the Mission Operations Manager – LADEE has impacted the Moon!

Last contact, before LADEE went behind the Moon, was at DOY-108 [April 18] 04:30 UTC. Re-establishment of contact would have occurred at DOY-108 05:22 UTC.  After achieving over 140 days of science and meeting its primary mission goals, LADEE dropped into a lower orbit for the extended mission phase in order to collect high value science data at extremely low altitudes. In anticipation of impact, we have been downloading science data on each of today’s low-altitude passes to ensure that we retain as much of the collected data as possible.

The LADEE team is doing well, with a mixture of pride and melancholy (and some celebration!).

For the duration of the more than 140 days of LADEE operations Mr. Cudnik had been one of about two dozen coordinators worldwide who coordinated and collected lunar meteoroid flash observations (such as the examples shown below). The images will go a long way to support the efforts of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer team as they sift through much science data collected by LADEE (“LAH-Dee”) during its four-month mission. The aim is to correlated changes in dust concentration with impact events. The spacecraft made impact on the far side of the moon, out of view for ground-based observers. More information on this NASA mission can be obtained at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/ladee/main/#.Uw4V1uNdV8E

The work of ground based video observers to monitor the moon with low light video cameras and telescopes in the 8 to 14 inch (20 to 36 cm) size range for up to two weeks per month will continue beyond the life of LADEE. These observations will not only support the science results of LADEE but will also continue to illuminate the frequency and size of lunar meteors, among other results. This web site will continue to serve to provide near-real-time images and information as they are received from observers. The mirror site, hosted on the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO) website will give dates of observations each month, background information, and other monthly updates as needed. The ALPO-based mirror site can be accessed via this URL: http://www.alpo-astronomy.org/lunarblog/lunimpacts.htm.

If you are interested in joining our efforts and want to make a scientifically useful contribution, please “tune in” to the archived workshop that was held December 5, 2013. The archive is about 4 hours in length but there is a lot of great information and discussion contained therein. View it here: http://connect.arc.nasa.gov/p4zpsnm6weh/ (you may need to copy and paste this link into your favorite browser)

Lunar Project Updates

Check back often for updates on this campaign to study the effects of high-velocity collisions from nearly a quarter million miles away! The April observing cycle is active with the moon a waning crescent and the annual Lyrid meteor shower (which peaked on April 22nd) winding down. This year, a combination of lots of commitments and poor weather have severely limited my ability to observe the Moon during these times, but I was able to capture nearly three hours of video of the moon during the lunar eclipse. The video is intended to show any meteor impact flashes that occur on the moon as well as stellar occultations during the total phase of the eclipse. I used an 8-inch f/10 Cassegrain with an f/3.3 focal reducer to incorporate more of the moon in the field of view.

I have not received any recent reports as of this writing aside from what I have provided below, it is possible given the weather we have been experiencing as of late, many observers may have been clouded out. Earlier observing cycles have featured impact candidates that are presented below, starting with the most recent events.

George Varros reported:

Brian, here are two candidates from Jan 5.  I don’t know what to make of them. They are both single video field events and are dim but don’t look like cosmic rays because of their nice shape and brightness centroids. They have a similar look, are dim and very short, just like the one from Jan 4.  (I’m rescanning everything using Lunarscan 1.5 after experiencing anomalies or unexpected results.)

Jan 5, 2014 00:12:26  Lat 15.321S  Lon 25.489E inside crater Cyrillus F

Jan 5, 2014 00:31:35  Lat 15.5N  Lon 20.6E

001226_candidate 003135_candidate

[Images courtesy of George Varros]

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This is a detection by Marco Iten and Stefano Sposetti of a probable impact event on the moon. These are members of the Swiss-Italian team of lunar observers.

———-
Date: 2014 Jan 7
UT Time: 18:19:31.0
Airmass: 1.39
Lunar coordinates: 15.5° West, 19.5° North (Mare Imbrium)
Duration: 20 ms
Brightness: -
Presence of artificial satellites along the line-of-view: none in a 3deg diameter
Iten’s instrument: 125mm refractor with WAT902H2 Ultimate
Sposetti’s instrument: 280mm reflector with WAT902H2 Ultimate

Images courtesy of (left) M. Iten and (right) S. Sposetti.

2014_01_07_181931_iten 2014_01_07_181931_sposetti

——————————————————————–

Lunar meteor observer George Varros reports the following impact candidate:

I found a single video field event that may or may not be an impact. It occurred on Jan 4, 2014, at 23:49:37 UT, just south of Gambart B at  Lat 0.979 Long -11.56  I uploaded and posted an image and a map, in a new folder labeled “01/04/2014 candidate”.

Although it’s only one video field, the event does not have the visual appearance of a cosmic ray in that it has a brighter center and is in a matrix of 3×3 pixels – it looks somewhat stellar.

It was not detected by Lunarscan probably because the event is only seen in the even video field – the odd field was blank along with the odd field of the next frame. The picture is dark because I probably have my gain set too low.

The map image in the folder was made using Registax and consists of 30 video frames surrounding the event, to help pinpoint it’s location and to boost the signal.

The image of the impact candidate is shown below (Image courtesy of George Varros):

234937_candidate _Varros 7 Jan 2014——————————————————————–

We received several observations of likely lunar meteor impacts in December, and the images are provided below. One impact flash was observed on December 7, and another on December 8, with both observations being made by the Swiss-Italian lunar observation team. With the following images the team reports: “Saturday, Dec 7, Marco Iten, Raffello Lena, Andrea Manna and I, made some video recordings of the crescent Moon. We got good, but also poor sky conditions. 2 of us, Marco Iten and I, detected independently and simultaneously a small flash on the Moon. The image of Marco Iten [below, right] shows a very nice bright point of light, lasting about 4 fields (ie. 80 ms). My image is a lot blurred [below, left] because of wind and strong turbulence, the flash is washed out but clearly visible at the same instant and in the same lunar region. The airmass at the moment of the detection was 3.9.

No artificial satellites were along the line-of sight inside a 3deg diameter centered on the Moon coordinates. We performed no photometry of the flash. To note that Marco Iten noticed the flash visually in real time, while looking at the laptop screen.

In summary:

———-

Date: 2013 Dec 7

UT Time: 19:31:06.6

Airmass: 3.9

Lunar coordinates: 11° West, 14° South (Mare Nubium)

Duration: 80 ms

Luminosity: -

Iten’s instrument: 125mm refractor with WAT902H2 Ultimate

Sposetti’s instrument: 150mm refractor with WAT902H2 Ultimate

Analysis of the rest of the AVI-files is under way.

Best regards.  For the Swiss-Italian group, Stefano Sposetti

2013_12_07_193106_Sposetti_field 2013_12_07_193106_Iten_fieldCourtesy S. Sposetti (left) and M. Iten (right)

 The same group reports another probable impact event on December 8, 2013:Marco Iten, Raffello Lena, Andrea Manna and I made some video recordings of the crescent Moon in the first half of December 2013. The December 8th, 2 of us, Marco Iten and Stefano Sposetti, detected independently and simultaneously a small flash on the Moon. The image of Marco Iten shows a somewhat bright point of light, lasting about 2 fields (ie. 40 ms). The flash of light in the Sposetti’s image is less evident.

The airmass at the moment of the detection was 2.19. The geostationary satellite INTELSAT 907 was at 66arcmin from the Moon centre at the moment of the detection, ie. outside the field of view. No other satellites were in a 3degree diameter circle centered on the Moon coordinates. We performed no photometry of the flash.

In summary:

———-

Date: 2013 Dec 8

UT Time: 19:15:58.6

Airmass: 2.19

Lunar coordinates: 18° West, 50° South (Longomontanus crater border)

Duration: 40 ms

Luminosity: -

Iten’s instrument: 125mm refractor with WAT902H2 Ultimate

Sposetti’s instrument: 150mm refractor with WAT902H2 Ultimate

Best regards.  For the Swiss-Italian group, Stefano Sposetti

2013_12_08_191558_Sposetti 2013_12_08_191558_ItenCourtesy S. Sposetti (left) and M. Iten (right)

 

 

Project Summary and April Update

IMAG1253 IMAG1260 IMAG1261

Three of our primary instruments are shown above: (from left to right), a Takahashi 5-inch refractor, a NexStar 11-inch Cassegraine and a Meade 14-inch LX 850 Cassegraine.

As the Spring 2014 semester draws to a close, our efforts had been primarily focused on Dr. Prem Saganti’s Chancellor’s Research Initiative projects (Radiation Biology Physics and Collaboration with Shinen-2, a spacecraft due to launch from Japan in December 2014) so we had not been able to work much on the CAST laboratory. Now with the semester drawing to a close we are gearing up to resume the development of the laboratory and the steps needed to begin the process toward planning and construction of an observatory that will host the 14-inch and the 16-inch telescopes.

Work will also continue on the Lunar Meteor monitoring project (the updates are just above). Astronomy is not only a very fascinating area of science but it is also an exciting area of study for many undergraduate students around the world. Many physics departments across the nation traditionally identified as “physics and astronomy departments” and this is true for many institutions in the State of Texas as well. Technology useful for scientific quality astronomical data has become available to the masses, and universities also benefit in that they are able to establish an activity involving “real” astronomy at relatively low cost. Within the Physics Program at Prairie View A&M University, an astronomy component is being established with our current expertise in astronomy, and help from Title III funding. Our activity, “Astronomy and Astrophysics Imaging at Prairie View A&M University” promises to bring to our Physics majors and minors, as well as all of our physics and physical science students an opportunity to become involved in a rewarding activity that is “out of this world”. We have a list of potential projects that students can be involved in and have already established a “Center for Astronomical Sciences and Technologies” (CAST) laboratory in room 325 in the E.E. O’Banion (New) Science Building.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of physics majors at PVAMU. We currently have 16 physics majors including double majors. As such we need a support structure (in terms of academic excellence and research opportunities) for these majors to complete their degrees and astronomy component is a popular and a competitive aspect of this structure. In addition to serve our existing majors, implementing and increasing an astronomical presence within the program will appeal to a broader audience: education majors planning to teach science, chemistry majors looking for another application for their subject area including spectroscopic applications, visiting teachers and students (e.g. summer programs, academic year visits from Texas schools, etc.) and future physics majors. Astronomy has a certain draw to it that attracts more people to the physical sciences and we would like to use that to not only attract more people to the program, but also to provide another resource for these students to gain practical, hands-on experience in a physical science that is literally “out of this world.”

As a central part of this activity, we plan to erect a small observatory to serve as a multi-faceted, primarily nighttime (but with a daytime, solar component) teaching-learning-research observatory that will be used by science students in collaboration with existing and future research projects. A preliminary site has been selected on campus for a facility whose primary purpose will be for teaching and outreach, although initially it will be available for basic research and observation projects. Some examples of these projects include senior research and capstone requirements of majors as well as the lunar mission LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) that is now underway. NASA-Ames research center (the institution in charge of LADEE) has requested collaboration between their program and our physics majors and a web based conference will happen on December 5 for coordinators and participants.

With the planned activities and upgrades, along with our present accomplishments, we are progressing to gain nationwide recognition needed for our department and students. With this proposed expansion and augmentation of astronomy component through teaching and laboratory resources we are certain to reach the pinnacle of recognition deserved for an undergraduate and minority serving institution.

Spacecraft Status Updates

There are lots of automated, robotic, unmanned spacecraft exploring various parts of the solar system, galaxy, and universe. DISCLAIMER: All are doing the exploration from within our local solar system, with the exception of Voyager 1 (and this only from a fields and particles perspective) none of our spacecraft have left the solar system.

Hayabusa-2 (related to the above mention Shinen-2 project) http://www.jspec.jaxa.jp/e/activity/hayabusa2.html

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter:  http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/main/index.html

Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/ladee/main/#.UtAZKdJDt8F

Curiosity Mars Rover:  http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html

All Mars Missions: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/

Venus Express:  http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Venus_Express

MESSENGER at Mercury:  http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/index.html

Solar Dynamics Observatory:  http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/

STEREO (Solar Observing Spacecraft):  http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Dawn:  http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/

Cassini at Saturn:  http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/

The Voyagers: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/

Hubble Space Telescope: http://hubblesite.org/

GAIA (search for Earth-like worlds): http://sci.esa.int/gaia/

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Project Status archives: (updates Spring 2013)

We are in the first year of a five year activity cycle and have made purchases of many pieces of state-of-the-art equipment. We will be providing images soon of some of this equipment. One of the first significant pieces of equipment is a “Solar Max” Coronado 90 mm Hydrogen-alpha solar telescope, which will enable detailed study of the activity on the sun’s disk. With a video connection and laptop, we will be able to display the sun for entire classes to see at once. Also we have the capability right now to image the Sun and bright nighttime celestial objects, one of the purposes of which is providing activities for our majors to use for their Senior Research Projects.

One project we plan to start over the summer is monitoring the moon for meteoroid impacts. More on this project will be forth coming but information on the monitoring of meteoroid impacts can be found on the web page of the Lunar Meteoroid Impact Search Section of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, http://www.alpo-astronomy.org . The primary instrument for this work will be a Meade 14-inch telescope and will be used for up to 5 days twice per month, weather permitting.

Dr. Saganti is working with a colleague from NASA-Johnson Space Center, Mr. Doug Holland, to test and validate a new scientific-grade detector that uses CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology. A number of images have been produced and published online at http://www.holland-observatory.net/recent/.

We are awaiting the arrival of a Meade LX 200 16-inch scope. This instrument will be for planetary and deep astronomy; one project involves the monitoring of Jupiter for meteors in its atmosphere as several have been reported with identically-sized instruments in recent years. In the meantime, software and hardware essential for these projects are being acquired and observations will be scheduled, involving students as much as possible.

Check back as this site will be updated regularly with accomplishments and activities as time passes. We hope to get our computing environment set up over spring break so as to be able to process images; some additional hardware for lunar meteor impact work will be purchased in the near term and activities in conjunction with the Astronomy and Astrophysics class that Mr. Cudnik is currently teaching will be defined and tested during the second half of the semester

We are in the first year of a five year activity cycle and have made purchases of many pieces of state-of-the-art equipment. We will be providing images soon of some of this equipment. One of the first significant pieces of equipment is a “Solar Max” Coronado 90 mm Hydrogen-alpha solar telescope, which will enable detailed study of the activity on the sun’s disk. With a video connection and laptop, we will be able to display the sun for entire classes to see at once. Also we have the capability right now to image the Sun and bright nighttime celestial objects, one of the purposes of which is providing activities for our majors to use for their Senior Research Projects.

Dr. Saganti is working with a colleague from NASA-Johnson Space Center, Mr. Doug Holland, to test and validate a new scientific-grade detector that uses CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology. A number of images have been produced and published online at http://www.holland-observatory.net/recent/.

We are awaiting the arrival of two medium-sized telescopes, expected sometime around Spring Break. They include a Meade 14-inch and a Meade LX 200 16-inch scope. The former will be used for lunar meteor impact monitoring which will happen twice per month for five-day stretches, weather permitting, starting in April. The Meade LX 200 16-inch scope will be for planetary and deep astronomy; one project involves the monitoring of Jupiter for meteors in its atmosphere as several have been reported with identically-sized instruments in recent years. In the meantime, software and hardware essential for these projects are being acquired and observations will be scheduled, involving students as much as possible.

Check back as this site will be updated regularly with accomplishments and activities as time passes. We hope to get our computing environment set up over spring break so as to be able to process images; some additional hardware for lunar meteor impact work will be purchased in the near term and activities in conjunction with the Astronomy and Astrophysics class that Mr. Cudnik is currently teaching will be defined and tested during the second half of the semester.

 

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