Cygnus -summer meeting of Finnish amateur astronomers was organized in Mäntsälä 17.-20.7.2014

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The traditional Cygnus -summer meeting of Finnish amateur astronomers was organized in Mäntsälä, Southern Finland. The event place was a camping site of the local Parish, called Leiriniemi. The place is located in the shores of a small lake called Keravanjärvi. The number of participants was about 120, which has been quite typical number during recent years.

The programme of the event consisted of lectures and workshops. Also a museum visit to home site museum of A.E. Nordenskiöld was included in programme. A.E. Nordenskiöld was an explorer, cartographer, mineralogist and geologist born and raised in Finland. Nordenskiöld was the first man to navigate through the Northeast passage. One of the most anticipated lectures was the 3rd part of the lecture series about the Moon race during the Cold war given by Hannu Määttänen. Other popular and interesting lectures were the lecture given by Arto Oksanen about the spectropolarimetry -observations of T Pyx in VLT, Chile and the lecture given by FMI researcher Harri Haukka about the Rosetta -comet exploration mission. Outside the formal programme, we were having sauna and having some good time with other fellow amateur astronomers and friends. The event ended in the excursion to Tähtikallio observatory in Artjärvi, only 60km from the event site.

Weather during the event was mostly warm and sunny, except few isolated showers. We also were able to observe some thunderstorms during the event. Noctilucent clouds were observed only during the first night of the event.

More photos here.

Bright noctilucent clouds 11./12.7.2014

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Observed phenomena: Noctilucent clouds
Observed NLC forms:

  • I (Veil)
  • IIa (Bands with diffuse, blurred edges)
  • IIb (Bands with sharply defined edges)
  • IIIa (Short, straight and narrow streaks)
  • IIIb (Wave-like structure with undulations)
  • IVa (Whirls with small angular radius (0.1 – 0.5 degrees))
  • IVb (Simple curve(s) with angular radius of 3 – 5 degrees)
  • IVc (Large-scale whirls)
  • 0 (A form which does not fit into types I – IV)
  • S (NLC with bright ‘knots’)
  • P (Billows crossing a band)

Brightness of the NLCs: 4 (NLC very bright and attracting the attention of casual observers)

Elevation: 130°

Date: 11./12.7.2014
Time: 22:00-00:00 UT
Observing place: Turku, Finland
Observing method: Photography
Technical information about photographing equipment: Canon EOS 1100D, Canon EF-S 18-55mm

A very bright all-sky NLC display appeared in the sky of Turku in the night between 11th and 12th of July 2014! During the night, the NLC’s extended long way to the southern sky, only the shadow of Earth was limiting the visibility of NLC’s. In this display, practically all kinds of NLC forms were visible. The display was dominated by a persistent fan-like structure formed by NLC belts which was opening from northeastern sky. Some belts in western sky reached brightness 5, which is the highest brightness in the brightness scale used with noctilucent clouds. The NLC’s were also very persistent, and it took long time for them to vanish completely to the sunrise. I noticed the NLC’s at 22:00 UT and they were visible still at 01:00 UT, when sky was already very light!.

Happy birthday, blog!

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Happy birthday, blog!

I just realized, that I have been blogging now for six years! Actually the date when I began blogging was 29th of June 2008. So this is a bit late, but anyway, I’ll post this!

I started blogging in late June 2008 in Finnish with the old blog called Taivaanpallo in Blogspot. It means Celestial Sphere in Finnish. I kept blogging in Finnish up to late 2010 when I started a new blog in English. The new blog was called Celestial Sphere. In late 2011 I started a new blog in WordPress and transferred the contents of the old blogs from Blogspot to WordPress. Then I discontinued and deleted the old blogs entirely. Since that I have been blogging here in WordPress!

Thanks for all of you who have shown interest to my blog and have stayed with me! I really appreciate it!

Now nights are getting gradually darked here up north, and the season of noctilucent clouds has started! I’ll be observing them whenever I can, and then I’ll be blogging here about the best and most interesting displays!

With sunny greetings,

Juha

Binoculars!

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Here they are, my new binoculars! From now on, I’ll be focusing on variable star observing with binoculars! The pair of binoculars that I bought are Helios 10×50 and the field of view of the binos is 6,5°. The binos are quite light, and observing with them is pleasent. I still have to make a real test under dark sky to get conclusive results.

The stars that I’ll be monitoring from now on are: rho Cas, Mu Cep, W Cyg, W Ori, X Her, g Her and UU Aur. All of these stars are somekind of semiregular variables, and they all have quite small amplitude, and it’s possible for me to observe these stars throughout the entire cycle of light variations! All of these stars are included in the binocular program of AAVSO, and most of them are included in LPV Legacy- and LPV -programs as well.

Now I’m anxiously waiting for the dark nights to come…

My new Helios 10x50 binos.

My new Helios 10×50 binos.

Atmospheric optics meeting 2014 was successful well beyond expectations

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Finnish atmospheric optics -enhusiasts gathered to Tähtikallio observatory center in Artjärvi, Southern Finland between 6th and 8th of June. The numer of participants was 19, which is 4 more than last year and 6 more than two years ago! Some of the participants came from as far as Oulu, which is a city 500 km away from the Tähtikallio observatory center! Also surprisingly many new participants had arrived to the event, which is a fact I’m very delighted to state!

The programme of the meeting was very flexible. We started when all the participants had arrived to the site in saturday afternoon. The meeting started with my review of the Halo April 2014 -observing campaign. After that, Marko Mikkilä from Nivala talked about his recent halo discovery, 32° arc. Besides this, he also showed his amazing pictures of the mega-scale halo display of 14th of May 2014. After the presentations given by Marko Mikkilä, another Marko, Marko Pekkola talked about current issues of the Taivaanvahti -observation database of Ursa astronomical association. After this short session, Veikko Mäkelä held a workshop -like session about observing noctilucent clouds. The grand finale of the meeting was again the great photo show, where participants could show their best photos of atmospherical phenomena from recent year.

Besides the formal programme, we also had sauna and barbequed some sausages at the campfire in the evening. We also tried to observe noctilucent clouds, but we didn’t see any. Weather was fine during the event, there were though some random showers and we heard thunder rumbling once.

Here are some photos from the event:

All photos © Juha Ojanperä.

Bright halo display 7th of May 2014

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Observed phenomena: Halo phenomena
Light source: Sun
Origin: High clouds (cirrostratus)
Observed halo forms:

  • 22° halo
  • Parhelia
  • 22° tangent arcs (circumscribed halo)
  • 46° halo
  • Infralateral arc
  • Parhelic circle
  • Wegener antisolar arc

Date: 7.5.2014
Time: 11:10-12:35
Observing place: Turku, Finland
Observing method: Photography
Technical information about photographing equipment: Canon EOS 1100D, Samyang 8mm fish-eye

A bright all-sky halo display was observed in Turku, Finland in 7th of May 2014. This display was dominated by halo forms originating from columnar crystals. In this display, 22° arcs were bright and well developed, and they formed a circumscribed halo around the Sun. A full parheluic circle was circling the whole sky. Also both infralateral arcs were visible. This halo display had also an almost full Wegener antisolar arc, and this was the second time for me to observe this rare halo form! This was a really fantastic celestial display to observe!

An interacting pair of galaxies in Easter night

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Date: 19./20.4.2014
Time: 23:00-02:30
Observing site: Ulvila observatory, Finland
Instrument: C280/2750mm

NELM: 6.0
SQM: 20.80
Darkness of the background sky: 3
Seeing: 3
Transparency: 1
Weather: Clear sky, calm, no Moon, pretty warm

Objects observed: T Cep, R Leo, NGC 5394-5

I travelled to my parent’s place to Ulvila for Easter holiday. Weather was absolutely fantastic during Easter, it was warm and sunny, and during one night I was also able to do some observing in Ulvila observatory! Nights are already quite short, and we don’t get real astronomical darkness here in Southern Finland anymore, but it is still possible to do some observing for couple of weeks before the white nights of summer.

During the night between Holy Saturday and Easter day I went to Ulvila observatory for observing session. First I did some variable star observing: I checked R Leo and T Cep to see, what they are up to! R Leo is near it’s minimum, about 9 magnitudes, whereas T Cep is around it’s maximum, about 5,7 magnitudes. And T Cep is now so bright, that I could see it with naked eye!

After doing the variable star routine observations, I decided to observe an interesting interacting pair of galaxies well visible in springtime in Northern hemisphere. This pair of galaxies was NGC 5395 and 5394 and the duo is located in the constellation of Canes Venatici, The Hunting Dogs!. This pair of galaxies is also known as as Arp 84 in the Arp catalogue of peculiar galaxies. Both of these galaxies are heavily distorted by tidal forces, and I’m sure they offer fascinating views for bigger telescopes!

NGC 5394-5 aka Arp 84. Photo: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

NGC 5394-5 aka Arp 84. Photo: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

With my instrument, Celestron C11, the brighter of the two, NGC 5395, was visible as an elongated, fuzzy nebula, whose long axis was oriented in NE-SW direction. I could quite easily see the relatively bright core of this galaxy, but unfortunately other detail’s weren’t visible with my instrument. The visual length of the long axis was about 2,7′. NGC 5394 was visible as a roundish, fuzzy spot just about 1′ north of NGC 5395. This galaxy seems to have a relatively bright, almost stellar core.

This observing session might be the last one for me during this observing season. But there is still slight chance for observing during coming two weeks before white nights! So keep yourselves tuned for next blogpost, I’m sure to write something before summer!

NGC 5395-4 observed with 11' Catadioptric.

NGC 5395-4 observed with 11′ Catadioptric.

Upper Sunvex Parry Arc 19.4.2014

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Observed phenomena: Halo phenomena
Light source: Sun
Origin: High clouds (cirrostratus)
Observed halo forms:

  • 22° halo
  • Parhelia
  • Sun pillar
  • Upper 22° tangent arc
  • Circumzenithal arc
  • Supralateral arc
  • Upper Sunvex Parry arc

Date: 19.4.2014
Time: 20:05-20:30
Observing place: Ulvila, Finland
Observing method: Photography
Technical information about photographing equipment: Olympus μ 1030 sw

During Holy saturday of 2014 (19th of April) only an ordinary 22° halo was visible in the sky of Ulvila. But later in the evening, I was able to see something spectacular! I observed a bright and well -developed upper 22° tangent arc, and I thought that could there be a possibility, that a Parry arc would appear inside the curved tangent arc? After some gazing, another arc really started to develop inside the bowl of tangent arc! And there it was, my first ever upper sunvex Parry arc! And it was very well developed and bright, and it appeared in high clouds! These guys are really rare sights in high clouds! What a wonderful way to end an otherwise quite booring halo day! Thank you Mother nature!

Observing 29./30.3.2014

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Date: 29./30.3.2014
Time: 21:00-02:00
Observing site: Stormälö, Parainen, Finland
Instrument: N250/1200mm

NELM: 6.4
SQM: 21.25
Darkness of the background sky: 1
Seeing: 3
Transparency: 1
Weather: Clear sky, calm to light breeze, no Moon, no snow, humid air, -4 to 0 °C

Obects observed: SS Cyg, R Tri, R Cas, T Cas, NGC 4567-8, NGC 6229

After a wonderful night in Parainen, I went again for observing in Parainen during the following night! During this observing session, observing conditions were nearly as good as they were last night. Only problem during this night was condensation of moisture to all optical surfaces. Otherwise conditions were good: sky was clear, and it was nearly calm all the time. Sky was dark and Moon was absent!

I started this night by observing zodiacal light, which was well visible in the NW sky. Observing zodiacal light is a popular pursuit nowadays in Finland, because now everyone know what to expect and how to observe this phenomena! So now we know for sure, that zodiacal light can be observed at latitude 62, or even higher! My observing site is located little bit north of latitude 60.

Zodiacal light observed 29./30.3.2014 from Parainen, Finland

Zodiacal light observed 29./30.3.2014 from Parainen, Finland

After observing zodiacal light, I went on observing some further-away targets, meaning variable stars and deep sky! First, I tried to observe Leo I, a dwarf galaxy in Leo, near Regulus. I gazed at the right spot, I sweeped around it and tried to catch it with averted vision. Nevertheless, this time I have to make a negative observation of this target. I just couldn’t see it. Sometimes I could see glimpses of something, but I’m not sure that I really saw the dwarf galaxy. I also tried to observe NGC 3115 in Crater, but I decided to give up on it because it was just at too low altitude.

After two not so lucky observing attempt, I decided to observe something I could surely be able to catch! I observed an interacting pair of galaxies, NGC 4567-8 in constellation of Virgo. This pair of galaxies is easy to find, it is located very close to Messier 58 and 59. The galaxies appeared as small, fuzzy elongated patches. This pair of galaxies were connected at their northern edges. The opening angle of the galaxies was about 60 degrees southwards. It was quite easy to separate the galaxies visually. The apparent visual diamater of the galaxy system is about 5′. This one is a really interesting target!

NGC 4567-8 observed with 10'' Newton

NGC 4567-8 observed with 10” Newton

After this pair of galaxies, I aimed my telescope towards constellation of Hercules. In the northern part of this constellation, lies a small globular cluster, NGC 6229. For some reason, I had never observed this target before! At my ocular, this object appeared as a small, round, fuzzy spot. The cluster was not resolved. There isn’t much to see of this object with instrument of this size.

NGC 6229 observed with 10'' Newton

NGC 6229 observed with 10” Newton

After doing some wandering in the realms of deep space, I returned to our own Milky way to do some variable star observations. I observed dwarf nova SS Cyg also this night, and it’s brightness seemed to be same than last night, 8,6 magnitudes. I observed also R Tri, R Cas and T Cas. All of these stars are now close to their minimum brightness, and it would have been impossible for me to observe these stars with my small refractor. R Cyg was so faint, that it wasn’t visible at all with my instrument!

After observing these stars, I decided to go home and get some sleep. I think I just had one of my best observing experiences during this season! Observing conditions were only inch away from being perfect and I could observe many interesting targets! I could also enjoy the wonderful atmosphere of nights of early spring here in Southwestern Finland!

Now it’s April and nights are getting quickly shorter, and phase of the Moon is also getting bigger. It means, that is observing season is soon over. But there are still some observing opportunities in late April and early May!

 

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