Category Archives: Uncategorized

Images from the Partial Solar Eclipse of Oct 23rd 2014

Its rare for one to live in a place where the heavens just decide to show you their wonder. The path of Oct 23rds eclipse wen right through Minneapolis, USA where I currently live. Not to miss this, i loaded my scope and filter in the car, and set it up at my workplace’s parking lot right after work. The sight that made the eclipse special was the massive sunspot AR2192 which is as big as Jupiter. As seen from here. the maximum of the eclipse about ~ 50% was able to obscure some part of the sunspot.

Another thing that was interesting was the ability to resolve surface limb features on the moon. Contrary to what one would imagine, the moon has a very rocky terrain, since there is no wind, water or volcanic activity to smooth out the surface. Looking carefully we can see this detail in the images above

Some EXIF info
Taken using a Canon Rebel XT at prime focus on a 5″ MCT telescope F/12
ISO100, 1/2000 s exposure
Baader Astrosolar safety filter

Partial Solar Eclipse, Oct 23rd 2014

A partial solar eclipse is going to occur on Oct 3rd, 2014 and unfortunately will not be visible from India. Skywtchers in the United States Mexico and Canada are going to be able to witness this event. The maximum of the eclipse is expected at 9:45pm UTC

Eclipse as Seen from Minnesota, MN, USA at 17:50 CDT

The eclipse will make a good photo shoot event with Venus in the background

Lunar Eclipse, Oct 8th 2014

A total Lunar Eclipse will occur on Oct 8th 2014.The penumbral phase begins at 8:15:33 UTC during broad daylight in India. Moonrise in Delhi will occur at 5:14 IST ( 11:44 UTC ) when the moon will be phase past the U3 umbral-penumbral contact. That means that the maximum extent of the eclipse would be over by the time the moon is visible. However stargazers in India may be able to see the partial phase which will extend into the sunset. The moon will finally come out of the umbral shadow at 7:03 pm ( 13:33 UTC )

Totality Map of the Eclipse, shamelessly copied from

Telescope Open House

Nehru Planetarium, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, in collaboration with the Amateur Astronomers Association, Delhi, will be organising a Telescope Open House on the 4th of October 2014, with a sky theater interaction from 5:00 PM to 7PM and a skywatch with telescopes following that.

This event starts in the sky theater of the planetarium, ‘Under the stars”, with interactive discussions using full dome visuals, to be followed by an evening skywatch through telescopes. The sky theater interaction and discussions will be related to telescopes of all apertures – from a Galileoscope to the TMT. There will be presentations live as well as recorded. You will get to hear and interact with – seasoned amateur astronomers as well as professional astronomers working with cutting edge research in optical Astronomy.
During the day : From 12:00 Noon to 2:00 PM, there will be some simple sun observing activities with amateur telescopes (through projection and also using solar filters).
The sky theater interaction will be a combination of live and recorded segments of content related to telescopes. The presentation will be aimed at an appreciation of gains in understanding celestial objects, from each substantive jump in aperture – through history – to contemporary times.
Evening skywatch will be through 8″ and 14″ aperture computerized Go To Celestron telescopes facilitated at the planetarium, by the National Council of Science Museums.

The Schedule:

12:00 Noon to 2:00 PM : Observing the Sun through projection and through solar filters
Location : In front of the planetarium
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM : Telescope Open House in the Planetarium sky theater

On the Panel ; Ajay Talwar (AAAD), C. B. Devgun (SPACE), T. V. Venkateswaran (Vigyan Prasar), co-ordinated by Rathnasree (Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi).
Skype interaction with Prof. Tushar Prabhu (Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore) and Arvind Paranjpye, Director, Nehru Planetarium, Mumbai.
Recorded Presentations ; Prof. Gordon Squires (Communications and Education Head, Thirty Meter Telescope), Prof. Eashwar Reddy (Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore) and Prof. A. N. Ramprakash (IUCAA, Pune) and Prof. Chris Impey, University of Arizona

Inputs in this interactive session, are invited from all interested participants, and in particular, from those who have worked with telescope making/assembly/usage
7:00 PM to 8:00 PM : Evening skywatch with telescopes.
Please try and be present from 5 PM onwards, at the planetarium, on the 4th. Bring any questions you have on telescopes, to the planetarium.

Rathnasree, Nehru Planetarium

Almost there, ISRO makes it to Mars

ISRO scientists recently reawakened the frozen orbiter Mangalyaan or short MoM, from its deep slumber, test firing its main rocket motor for 4 seconds. The risky phase went smoothly and according to ISRO

almost there

Graphic: ISRO

the craft will reach Mars tomorrow. The sensors aboard the craft are already detecting acceleration in the craft as it is being pulled into Mars’s gravitational well ( or fancily called Mars sphere of influence ) indicating that it is already in the neighborhood of the red planet… as expected 😛

Tomorrow, the probe will autonomously fire its liquid apogee motor (LAM), when the craft is eclipsed by the red planet from our view on earth.

Mangalyaan insertion into Martian orbitMangalyaan first perform a back flip to point its main engine against its current velocity vector, i.e. the direction its flying in. It’s speed will drop significantly and get caught in a highly elliptical orbit around Mars ( see ISRO graphic )

If the LAM fails to fire, ISRO is banking on eight smaller engines which may be used alternatively. Commands related to all of these scenarios have been already uploaded into the craft a few days ago. If nothing works, short of a spacecraft exploding in deep space ( just kidding ), the orbiter would just shoot past Mars and the get hurled into a trajectory that would send it out of the solar system.

For now scientists

Stay tuned….as more exciting times are ahead!




Meteor Fireball

IMG_8439_EXPORTSo, me and some of my astronomy enthusiast friends went out to look for Aurora borealis here up in Northern Minnesota. As luck would have it we had a hard time dealing with cloud cover and the moon rising at around 9 pm local time . However as i was playing with may camera, trying to detect any signs of an auroral glow, this nice visitor showed up in front of my camera.

The bright meteor left a nice smoky trail as it blazed by. The fireball’s flash  was so bright that it could cast shadows on the ground.

Sunspot 2158 Erupts. X-Class Solar flare will reach Earth Fri, 12/09/14

Sunspot 2158 eurupted on Wednesday 10/9 at 1746UTC, hurling an X-Class solar flare right towards us. The flare is scheduled to reach on Friday, A radiation flash from the explosion ionized the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere, disturbing HF radio communications for more than an hour. More importantly, the explosion hurled a CME directly toward Earth. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory photographed the expanding cloud

SOHO image of sunspot clusters on the solar surface as on 11/9/14
SOHO image of sunspot clusters on the solar surface as on 11/9/14

What to Expect?


Radio Storms

HF Communication issues

Pandemonium and chaos… nope kidding about this one 😛

The Big Bang’s Lithium Problem

Whoever said that with the discovery of the Higgs boson, the field of cosmology suddenly became dull and everything of significance is known known.
Enter Lithium, a particle physicist’s worst nemesis. The reason why this simple element is such a big problem is that we know how stellar hydrogen fuses to become Lithium
in Big bang like conditions. We’ve verified this experimentally. However the amount of Lithium found in stars and the observable universe is much much lesser.

Scientists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) studied how much lithium forms under Big Bang conditions for the first time and determined that the theoretical calculations were indeed correct. The phenomena under which Lithium is created has a rather fancy name called “primordial nucleosynthesis”. The things scientists do for getting grant money 😛

The experiment was performed in an underground lab called the Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics (LUNA), shielded by cosmic particles using a lead barrier.
These are the extreme setup conditions needed to get correct results.

The question is, if the theory works what’s happening out there. Why do stars contain much lesser quantity that what we should have seen.

For the advanced reader See

M. Anders et al. (2014), First Direct Measurement of the 2H(a,?)6Li Cross Section at Big Bang Energies and the Primordial Lithium Problem. Physical Review Letters 113, 042501. DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.042501