Thursday, 20 July 2017

Iridium flare, 3rd July 2017

Iridium flare captured on July 3rd.


The video is a sequence of 20 frames with 1sec exposure. The total duration of the satellite visible to the naked eye was ~40 seconds, but the flash has a rapid increase and decrease in brightness at the center of the flare, of a few seconds. It was so bright (magnitude -7.4) that you can clearly see its reflection on the lamp post on the top left. Another Iridium post can be found here.


Iridium 11 flare: stacked images

Iridium 11 flare and other celestial objects for reference


Iridium flares are one of the most surprising events visible to the eye in the night sky. They are extremely bright, more than the planets and night stars. Only the Moon is brighter. Unfortunately these flares will not happen for much longer. The old Iridium satellite constellation is being replaced by a more advanced generation, Iridium Next, but those will not develop such intense flares. 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

ESAC Star Party 2017

The ESAC Astronomy Club organized the annual Summer Solstice Star Party on Friday June 30, 2017, coinciding with the newly ESA adopted #AsteroidDay.
ESAC 2017 Star Party


Despite an unforeseen cloud cover, over 500 enthusiastic people gathered at the ESAC premises in Villafranca del Castillo, Madrid, to enjoy this ESAC open night. Around 25 telescopes were mounted by several invited amateur associations (~50 astronomers) and the ESAC Astronomy Club, to allow the audience (411 external visitors) a wonderful and varied observation experience. The event was supported by 45 ESAC staff and contractors.
Setting up the telescopes

The first part of the Party was the Satellite Tour, conducted by Michel Breitfellner and Larry O'Rourke.  This was a general introduction to ESA and ESAC with description of our ESA space missions. The walking tour stopped at the outdoor scale models on-site (Rosetta, ISO, Herschel, SOHO) and the impressive VIL-1 15m radio-antenna.
Satellite Tour at the Rosetta scale model
Herschel and VIL-1 during the satellite walk tour

After that, Eduardo Ojero delighted 250+ people with an astronomy master class in the full main ESAC auditorium, in preparation for the observations to come.
Eduardo Ojero during the general astronomy talk

After the talks, visitors relaxed and had some food and drinks in the air conditioned areas. Meantime the skies started to clear up. Some time after twilight there were enough patches in the clouds to start enjoying the Moon and the main gas planets, and the second part started. Jupiter, its four Galilean moons, Saturn and the highly tilted ring system raised the first wows of the audience. Observers could enjoy Jupiter's main belt and zone bands, Saturn's rings Cassini division, plus around 5 small Saturnian icy moons. After midnight the telescopes pointed to double star systems and fainter objects like nebulae and star clusters. People could also take home pictures of their favorite objects with their smart phones.

The Moon, Jupiter and Saturn were projected live in a large screen, and several satellites were seen crossing the night sky. The brightest sight was the Chinese Tiangong-1 space station, that will re-enter into Earth's atmosphere in a few months. So one of the last chances for many to see this object in space.
Spica, Jupiter, the Moon and a lenticular cloud
Moon projection
The night was accompanied with live spacy music by Ekhi, and visual image projections on the D-building walls.

Observing M13 stellar cluster up the ladder, with image projection on the D-building

Thanks to all organizers and ESAC site services for such a successful night!




Related images:


The main observation site
Leo Metcalfe mounting the 25" (63cm) dobsonian telescope
The observation site on the D-building terrace

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

SOLD OUT ! ESAC Star Party 2017, 30 June

For your information. We have reached the registration limit for the Star Party 2017.
- 450 people registered total
- 250 people for the General Astronomy presentation
We do not accept more registrations. We look forward to welcome this large crowd at ESAC, weather permitting!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

ESAC Star Party 2017, 30 June

The ESAC Astronomy Club announces the annual Summer Solstice Star Party. This year it will take place on June 30, 2017, coinciding with the #AsteroidDay. The doors will open at 20:00, the programme will start at 20:30 and the observations with the telescopes will start at 22:30.

ESAC Star Party
Agenda:

  • 20:30 tour along the satellites at ESAC 
  • 21:30 presentation about astronomy in D building. 
  • 21:30 second tour along the satellites at ESAC 
  • 22:30 observation with telescopes, guided constellations tour, guided satellite spotting 
More:
Astronomy master class
As always you, your family and your friends are invited to attend the star party. However, the way we want to register the invitees is different than previous years! We have created a Google form that you, the ESAC employee, will need to fill out for every person that you want to invite. The form can be found here. Please make sure to fill out all required items and to also inform us if your invitees plan to attend either tour along the satellites and/or the presentation about astronomy by ticking the appropriate boxes in the form. The number of visitors is limited to 450 and the number of participants of the presentation to 250.

Telescope platform
As in previous years you are required to bring your own food and drinks. We will take care of ice to cool your drinks though. The restaurant terrace will be open for you to eat at. Parking will be done at the ESAC parking and the guards will let your invitees enter as long as they are on the list. So make sure to fill out the form for each invitee! Finally, the first tour of the satellites will start at 20:30 sharp and the presentation at 21:30 sharp so please make sure to arrive on time.

From 22:30 onward we will point our telescopes at various objects in the sky, including Jupiter, the Moon and Saturn. We will dedicate several telescopes to taking pictures and we will make sure that you and the other visitors can make pictures with your own smartphones through those telescopes.

Image may contain: screen
Saturn Live projection during 2016 Star Party
Location: ESA - European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) Camino bajo del Castillo s/n, Urb. Villafranca del Castillo 28692 Villanueva de la Cañanda, Madrid, Spain


Please contact us in case you have any questions,
ESAC Astronomy Club

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

NGC 7000 imaged from my backyard

In the night from May 24 to May 25 I used my Canon EOS 700D mounted on my Sky Watcher StarAdventurer mount to take images of NGC 7000, also known as the North America Nebula. The camera is modified and has its IR-filter (Infra Red filer) replaced by a different filter that lets pass through more red light. So emission nebulae like the North America Nebula are ideal objects to image with this camera because they principally emit light at the very red wavelength of 656 nanometers, which get blocked by the original IR-filter.

Here is a picture of my setup:


I took 40 images of 3 minutes illumination each. Then I processed the images and rejected 4 of them based on statistics that give indications about the background noise and sharpness of the stars. The final result is this


Stay tuned for more images to come in the near future!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Tiangong - 2

The Chinese space station Tiangong -2 flew across the night sky over a location close to ESAC. The Moon, Jupiter and some clouds complete this night-sky portray.


The Chinese station is a cylindrical module of 10 meters long and 3.3 meters diameter, flying at altitudes around 370km. In this pass, the station came out of shadow at 23:12 CEST on the western sky at 10 deg elevation, crossed the Leo constellation at 62 deg elevation, and got into shadow again at 23:18 in the eastern sky. The apparent magnitude was approximately 1 mag.


The images were taken with a Nikon D3100 with 1sec exposure and a cadence of around 2 seconds.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Plane crossing the Sun



The ESAC Helios Solar observatory captures from time to time objects crossing the Sun disk. In this case, a plane crossed the Sun. The image was taken on Wednesday 26th April 2017 at 10:48:43 Madrid time from the ESAC Helios Solar observatory. Image in H-alpha band (665nm wavelenght) showing the hydrogen emission from the Sun's chromosphere layer. The active regions around two sunspots groups are visible in the image.

Image credit: CESAR Educational team.