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Volume XVIII/Issue 2

TERENCE DICKINSON Conjunctions, Alignments and a Supermoon A pictorial review of the celestial show this spring.



Was Earth Once Closer to the Sun?

Scientists have been perplexed for decades about why Earth did not freeze over in its early history.


PETER McMAHON Gordon's Park, Manitoulin Island See the full glory of the cosmos under whot might

just be Ontario's darkest accessible skies.




Our Past and Present Moon

The further back in time scientists look, the less they know with certainty.


Over the history of Sky News, this gallery has displayed more than 7,000 cosmic portraits from our readers.

41 46





A Memorable Night in the Mountains A night of observing doesn't go as planned.



Solar Eclipse Widely Observed The May 20 partial eclipse of the Sun delighted skywatchers across much of North America.

Getting a great lunar image is easier than you think.





Scorpius at the Top


The Perseid meteors perform, and Venus gets hidden by the Moon, then joins Jupiter in the dawn sky.

Although the scorpion scuttles close to the horizon, the constellation's top end is worth exploring.


Night Sky for Summer for Canada and the Northern United States



Trying to find your way around the sky? There's an app for that, and it's Canadian.



We test Vixen's new compact and portable tracker.

COVER: Similar to the Orion Nebula, the star-forming region
NGC2467 is 11 times farther a churning maelstrom




of dust clouds.

Conjunctions, Alignments and a Supermoon
It was quite a celestial show this spring. Here's a pictorial review.
ACKYARD ASTRONOMERS are still talking about the visual feast we enjoyed this past spring -planets playing tag for months, planet lineups, conjunctions and, by most accounts, good viewing weather across the land. A few of the highlights as seen from my yard are displayed on the facing page. I especially liked Venus's visit with the Pleiades on April 2. The shot was a 1.6second exposure taken in gibbous moonlight with a Canon 7D DSLR at ISO 4000. Any longer exposure, and the stars would be trailed. But modern DSLR cameras (i.e., 2007 models or later) have made such captures a relatively easy tripod composition. Although most of these spring events were visible to unaided eyes from both city and country, few people aside from astronomy aficionados were aware of them. Except for one: the supermoon. Here was a marginal celestial event (the largest and nearest full Moon of the year), yet everybody seemed to know it was happening. But I'm not complaining! It got people looking up, even though it is almost impossible to tell whether you are looking at the closest or most distant full Moon of the year without special measuring devices. However, it's a good excuse to take a picture of the full Moon. The supermoon photo at left was taken a few kilometres from my home using a 600mm telephoto at f/8, 1/30 second at ISO 200. Editor Terence Dickinson welcomes your astronomical photos, descriptions of your astronomical observations and comments about anything you see in SkyNews. Send e-mailstohimat:skynewseditor@reztel.net

EVENING OF MARCH 25, TOP A striking alignment

of (top to bottom)

the Pleiades star cluster, Venus, the Moon (overexposed)

and Jupiter greeted


across North America from about 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Above right: A close-up view of the crescent Moon and Jupiter taken with a 200mm telephoto lens that same evening reveals the Moon's nightside illuminated by sunlight reflected off Earth, a phenomenon known as Earthshine. A couple of Jupiter's satellites are visible as well. Above left: A week later, on April 2, Venus passed the Pleiades, the night sky's brightest star cluster. The last time Venus appeared this close to the cluster high in the evening sky was in 2004. ALL PHOTOS BYTERENCE DICKINSON



VOLUME XVIII. ISSUE 2 Founding Publisher Canada Science and Technology Museum Editor Terence Dickinson E-mail addressskynewseditor@reztel.net Fax 613-377-1080 Art Director Janice McLean Associate Editor Alan Dyer Assistant Editors Todd Carlson, Christine Kulyk

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Astronomy Associate of the Canada Science and Technology Museum. Published six times a year by SkyNews Inc., Box 10, Yarker, ON KOK3NO Fax: 613-377-1080 Printed in Canada ISSN 0840-8939 PUBLICATIONS MAIL AGREEMENT NO. 40032351 RETURN UNDELIVERABLE CANADIAN ADDRESSES TO CIRCULATION DEPT. SKYNEWS, BOX 1613, BELLEVILLE, ONTARIO K8N 5J2 HOW TO GET IN TOUCH WITH SKYNEWS • To subscribe: The easiest way to subscribe to SkyNews is to call toll-free 1-866-759-0005 and order by credit card. It's a free call from both Canada and the United States. By mail, use the postage-paid subscription card bound into every issue. • To order a gift subscription: By credit card, use the toll-free line: 1-866-759-0005. By mail, use the postage-paid gift-subscription card bound into every issue. • Our mailing list: Occasionally, we make our subscriber to carefully screened companies whose products list available

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FSce 0011825




I am glad to see Alan Dyer's excellent coverage of the transit of Venus ("Rare Sky Event;' May/June). Unfortunately, he is not up to date on the explanation of the blackdrop effect, which Glenn Schneider and

I provided definitively in 2004, based on satellite observations of the 1999 transit of Mercury. Dyer cited only diffraction and the "Earth's atmospheric blurring:' Schneider and I showed that a very important, previously unappreciated effect

I am a member of the Windsor Centre of the RASC, and I have been encouraged by our members and a recent guest speaker to send you two of my images. I believe they are unique, in that I think this is the first time these objects have been imaged from Canada-at least, mainland Canada, but I doubt anyone has done it from the more southerly Pelee Island either. The galaxy Centaurus A (NGC5128, declination -43.0 degrees) and the globular cluster Omega Centauri (NGC5139, declination -47.5 degrees) were captured on the morning of March 11,2007. I used my Meade lO-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain with a StellaCam EX video camera from the beach just west of the Visitor Centre at Point Pelee National Park (latitude N41° 55' 5l.6"). From here, Omega Centauri (magnitude 4) is less than one degree above the horizon and Centaurus A (magnitude 7) is always less than five degrees. The images were taken using the 128x stacking mode, which essentially results in 2-second exposures. I then used RegiStax to process the video file, as in planetary imaging. The result is a stack of about 45 individual 2-second frames. Above are the best results I have been able to achieve by processing those video files. I thought they may be of interest, since Peter McMahon has been doing SkyNews articles on observing sites at national parks, and I know Point Pelee is one of them. With recent advances in imaging technology, I am sure I could do much better today, but the conditions have to be just right. Steve Mastellotto Windsor, Ontario
EDITOR'S NOTE: Previously, we have published reports of visual sightings of Omega Centauri from near Wheatley, Ontario, close to Point Pelee, the southern tip of mainland Canada. But these are the first images we have received of either Centaurus A or Omega Centauri taken from Canada. Both images have been contrast-enhanced by SkyNews for publication but are not otherwise reprocessed.

is the solar limb darkening. Dyer's photos that accompanied the article showed the limb darkening very well. It arises because a slanted view through the Sun's atmospheric semi-opaque gas doesn't penetrate as far down near the edge as it does at the Sun's centre. The higher levels are cooler and hence darker. It turns out that at just the extreme edge of the Sun, where the black-drop effect impedes timing, the Sun's gas dims over such a small spatial interval that it interacts with the inherent blurriness of any telescope to create the apparent black drop. No atmosphere is needed. Schneider and I saw a black drop on observations of a transit of Mercury, which has no atmosphere, from above the Earth's atmosphere with NASA's Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE). We reported our results at meetings of the American Astronomical Society, at the transit symposium of the International Astronomical Union, held at Horrocks' site during the 2004 transit of Venus, and later that year in the journal Icarus. Jay M. Pasachoff Director, Hopkins Observatory Williams College Williamstown, Massachusetts

I look forward to every issue of SkyNews, so much so that I usually read each issue cover to cover the same day I receive it. The May/June issue was the best yet. Excellent photography, great writers (Ken Hewitt -White and Ray Villard are my favourites) and timely articles. The transit of Venus and eclipse coverage were especially good. More, please. Mark Hewitt (age 14) Niagara Falls, Ontario

SkyNews welcomes your letters and photos about your experiences in astronomy or about anything you read in SkyNews. Send your comments and/or images to editor Terence Dickinson at: skynewseditor@reztel.net




The May 20 partial eclipse of the Sun delighted skywatchers across much of North America
by Terence Dickinson

FROM CALGARY SkyNews associate editor Alan Dyer reports: "Here's the best shot I got at mideclipse, at 7:14 p.m., MDT, with a nice sunspot group just emerging from behind the Moon at lower right. Skies actually clouded up as eclipse time drew near, and we missed the first 40 minutes or so, catching only glimpses of the Sun through clouds. But as mideclipse approached, skies cleared enough that we got sharp views through telescopes and with the naked eye through our eclipse glasses. We saw most of the rest of the eclipse, though always through some cloud. Photo taken through an 80mm apo refractor at f/6 with a Canon 60Da camera at ISO 100 and 1/250 second with a Baader solar filter:'

WORLD'S appropriately

LARGEST SUNDIAL occurred, enough, at the Sundial

An eclipse celebration

Bridge, in Redding, California, which happened to be on the centre line of the annular eclipse. Our man on the spot at the colossal 21-storey sundial was Vancouver eclipse aficionado Ian McLennan, whose hand is visible here strategically holding eclipse glasses as the Sun nears annularity. McLennan reports that hundreds of eclipse fans from allover the world converged in Redding for the event. The sundial is the spar on the cantilever spar cablestayed pedestrian bridge over the Sacramento River. Completed in 2004, the bridge and sundial have become a world-famous tourist attraction.




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Scott Barrie of Milton, Ontario, reports from Utah: "Large crowds at Bryce Canyon, our original destination, prompted us to seek an alternate location. We discovered the appropriately named Kodachrome Basin State Park, a spectacularly beautiful place. We set up just before first contact at a little photo turnoff. It was just the two of us. But as the eclipse progressed, more and more people arrived and a steady lineup formed at the eyepiece of my small refractor. I was still able to grab some pictures. Bottom line: one of the coolest astronomy events I've ever experienced.

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ECLIPSE FLIGHT A SUCCESS With no high ground in the immediate Ottawa area to access a good horizon for the sunset partial eclipse, Peter and Debra Ceravolo flew their Cessna Cardinal airplane up to 8,500 feet over Algonquin Park to a view the eclipse. Hand-holding 200mm lens in the cramped cockpit, Debra captured the image below. Note the hint of green flash at the top of the Sun.




Every issue, we reserve at least one or two pages to display images submitted by SkyNews readers. So far, over the history of the magazine, that's about 1,000 different cosmic portraits.
.... AFOCAL SUN Norman Baum of Carman gay,
Alberta, used a Canon 4000 DSLR for his first solar image, shot through a Hyperion zoom eyepiece set at 16mm. The final picture is a digital stack oftwo images: a short exposure for the prominences and a longer one for the surface details. A Lunt 60mm solar telescope was used .

.... MARS, APRIL 2 This exquisitely


.... MARS, APRIL 4 Roberto Serri of Bois-desFilion, Quebec, captured this fine planetary portrait using a Celestron ll-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain and Imaging Source DMK 21 AU04 CCD camera.

image taken by Rolf Meier of Carp, Ontario, using a Celestron 14 shows the dark features Niliacus Lacus, slightly above centre, and Aurora Sinus, below it.

.... MARS, APRIL 12 Using a PlaneWave CDK 12.5-inch reflector, Jean Guimond of Quebec City recorded this image, revealing the north polar cap and the prominent dark feature Syrtis Major.

Usually known by the designation IC1848, which refers to the star cluster, the diffuse Soul Nebula is a difficult object for visual telescopic investigation, but its beauty can be seen in digital imagery. Denis Marquis of Quebec City used a filtermodified Canon 450D for this 3.6-hour exposure at IS01600 with an IDAS LPS filter through a 4-inch Tele Vue Genesis refractor.






On March 22, Roberto Serri of Bois-des-Filion, Quebec, took this fine portrait of Saturn using a Celestron ll-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain with a Tele Vue 2.5x Powermate and Imaging Source DMK 21 AU04 CCD camera. This image is a good representation of the current appearance of Saturn in a medium to large backyard astronomer's telescope .

Denis Marquis of Quebec City used a 4-inch Tele Vue Genesis refractor and an unmodified Canon 1OOODDSLR camera at ISO 800 for this image of the contrasting open clusters M35 and the more compact NGC2158. The pair are unrelated and just happen to be along the same line of sight from Earth. M35 is 2,800 light-years away, while NGC2158 is four times more distant.



Was Earth Once Closer to the Sun?
Scientists have been perplexed for decades about why Earth did not freeze over during its early history
HEORIES OF STELLAR evolution predict that the Sun was only 70 percent of its current brightness when it first lit its internal fusion engine 4.5 billion years ago. The Sun has been steadily growing brighter since then and will continue to do so into the future, eventually evaporating away the Earth's oceans a few billion years from now. Once Earth amassed an ocean 4.3 billion years ago, it should have quickly frozen over and reflected so much sunlight back into space that it squelched the Earth's ability to thaw out for billions of years. The dilemma, called the "faint young Sun paradox:' has methane and carbon dioxide combine to been recognized since the 1950s and was make a photochemical smog that would popularized by Carl Sagan in the 1960s. have chilled Earth even further. Now, David Minton of Purdue UniverSince then, geochemists and solar physicists have wrestled for answers to the paradox. sity has come up with a novel solution that, Lowering the Earth's reflectivity by by his own admission, straddles science reducing cloud cover doesn't work. Comfact and fiction. Minton proposes that puter models also show that a greenhouse Earth was closer to the Sun when it formed effect from dense carand then migrated out bon dioxide and methward to its current WHY DIDN'T EARTH FREEZE? ane could not warm orbit. To keep Earth One explanation for why the Earth enough to pretepid under a cooler Earth's oceans have remained vent a freeze-up either. Sun, our planet would unfrozen throughout its more In some simulations, have needed to be than four-billion-year history is roughly 10million kiloif Earth migrated outward from metres closer to the Sun than it is today. an initial orbit closer to the Sun. "Planets don't like PHOTO COURTESY NASA to stay still; they like to move:' said Minton during a presentation at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, in April. This has been proven by the discovery of hundreds of extra-solar planets, which reinforces a radical new idea that would never have even been considered in the 1950s: Planet migration seems the rule rather than the exception among the stars. This explains recent estimates of billions of "hot [upiters" that are predicted to have moved to orbits precariously close to their stars-to the point of evaporation. More recent discoveries have uncovered almost pure-water planets that must have migrated inward toward their suns as iceballs. But how do you nudge Earth into a new orbit? The most plausible model-out of several other unlikely mechanisms that were present only in the very young solar system-is a gravitational billiard game called planet-planet scattering. Because this process must have dragged on over one to two billion years, the biggest




challenge is to explain how it happened. Even more problematic is that for this to work at all, at least one more terrestrial planet is needed in the inner solar system. And it would have to be a big one at that, ranging between the masses of Mars and Venus. The unlucky "odd planet out" would have wound up either spiralling into the Sun, being ejected from the solar system or crashing into another terrestrial planet. This isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. We now know that over multi-billion-year time spans, says Minton, our apparently stable solar system is actually fundamentally chaotic. He says that the best dynamical computer simulation for relocating Earth has a rogue planet 75 percent of the Earth's mass smashing into Venus. This "three's a crowd" scenario would have happened as little as two to three billion years ago, with Earth getting kicked out into its present orbit as a consequence. This idea leaves me a little chagrined be-

cause it sounds like some of the wacky imaginary planet Nibiru predictions connected with the fanciful 2012 doomsday warnings. What's more, in the 1970s, Sagan ridiculed Immanuel Velikovsky's ad hoc theories of a runaway Venus and other colliding planets. On the surface, Minton's proposal sounds like Velikovsky's, but there's a huge difference: Velikovsky's ideas were built around comparative mythology, not dynamical mathematical modelling. While Minton insists that the Venus collision model is a plausible idea, he admits that it is a bit "heavy toward science fiction:' It would mean that Venus didn't finish forming until 2.5 billion years ago, he says, and that would explain Venuss appearance as a geologically young-looking volcanic planet. Regardless of this scenario, we're not necessarily safe into the future. In 10f2,500 dynamical computer simulations of the evolving solar system, Mercury, which is in

a quasi-stable orbit anyway, is ejected from the solar system within five billion years, triggering the ultimate Armageddon: a collision between Earth and Venus. Mars is tossed farther from the Sun. Science fiction? Perhaps. But, remember, no one was looking for hot Jupiters orbiting other stars until one was discovered orbiting the Sun-like star 54 Pegasi in 1995. Now we know of hundreds . Suddenly, what conventional wisdom had deemed highly improbable itself became conventional wisdom: Planets as big as Jupiter can, and do, migrate for various reasons from the far-out cold realms around their parent suns to tight, broiling orbits close to the mother sun. Planetary chaos in our solar system billions of years ago could have been in the Earth's history. .. Ray Villard is news director for the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

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here is something undeniably awe-inspiring about seeing the Moon's battered and scarred surface in a telescope. For my money, it's as impressive as the grand vastness of the Rocky Mountains or the pounding rush of Niagara Falls. The Moon has something else in common with these famous terrestrial sights: It unfailingly triggers a desire to take a picture so that the experience can be enjoyed again later or shared with family and friends. But unlike photographing the Rockies or Niagara Falls, getting a good snapshot of the Moon isn't quite as simple as aiming your camera and pressing the shutter button. A modest amount of extra effort, preparation and equipment are part of the process. Although practically any camera-and-telescope combination will do, you'll have to try your hand at some new techniques if you want to bring back a memorable lunar postcard.

The most direct way to photograph the Moon is simply to position your camera so that it's looking into the eyepiece of your telescope and fire away. This is known as afocal photography, and it works well for point -and -shoot cameras, those with nonremovable lenses and LCD viewscreens to frame the scene. To give this method a try, first aim your telescope at the Moon and bring the view into sharp focus with a medium-power eyepiece. Next, set your camera's white balance to daylight (usually the little Sun symbol) and to infinity focus (or leave it in auto- focus if no such mode is available), and carefully aim into the eyepiece while looking at the viewscreen. Zoom in with your camera until the eyepiece field fills the screen. It'll probably take a few tries before you manage to line up the camera with the eyepiece correctly. Once you do, take a couple of test shots and see what you get.

JUST SHOOT ME Ordinary pointand-shoot cameras can take very satisfying Moon photos using the "afocal" method. While a specialized bracket to attach the camera to the telescope is best, reasonable shots can be captured by simply holding the camera up to the telescope eyepiece.

A PRIME EXAMPLE This view of the
February 2008 total lunar eclipse was taken with a Nikon DSLR used at the prime focus of an 8-inch reflecting telescope.



TWO TOOLS OF THE TRADE To attach a DSLR camera at the prime-focus of a telescope, you need a T-ring (left) and a prime-focus adapter tube.


ADOPT AN ADAPTER Eyepiece-projection photography requires a special adapter tube (into which a telescope eyepiece is inserted) and a T-ring. Some adapters, like this one, allow you to vary the image size by shifting the position of the eyepiece relative to the camera.

Chances are, your first photos will show a featureless white disc, instead of a richly detailed lunar portrait. That's because the black sky surrounding the Moon can trick your camera into overexposing the scene. The first thing to try is to increase the magnification of your telescope by changing the eyepiece or (better) zooming in with your camera so that the lunar disc occupies more of the field of view. The less blackness the camera sees, the less likely its metering system will be fooled. Various camera settings can also help you tame the Moon's brightness. First, make sure the ISO is set to its lowest level. If that doesn't yield the correct exposure, check to see whether your camera has a manual mode. If it does, this is where it comes in handy. Switch the camera off automatic, throttle down the exposure, and try again. If you don't have manual exposure, dig out the instruction booklet, and look for a feature called "exposure compensation:' This allows you to reduce the camera's sensitivity so that the Moon isn't blown out. Experimentation is the key, but luckily, todays memory cards easily hold loads of test exposures. After a few pictures, you'll probably find that lining up the camera with the telescope is a tedious hit-and-miss affair. To make it easier, mount your camera on a tripod so that you can aim into the eyepiece more precisely. And if you really want to get serious about shooting the Moon afocally, invest in a specialized bracket to couple your camera directly to the telescope. Suitable units are available from most Canadian telescope dealers. An adapter bracket will ensure the best, most consistent results with the least amount of fuss.

Compared with small point-and-shoot models, digital SLRs offer greater dynamic range and less picture "noise:' The result is highquality lunar images bursting with an impressive amount of fine

detail. You can use a DSLR with the afocal method, but to take full advantage of the camera's potential, try prime-focus or eyepiece projection. In prime- focus photography, the telescope essentially functions like a powerful telephoto lens. To make the prime-focus connection, you'll need a T-ring adapter. This is a simple fitting with female T-threads in front and a bayonet flange on the rear to match your camera's lens mount. T-rings are available for most popular camera brands and models. Some telescope focusers are threaded to accept T-adapters directly, but if the one on your scope isn't, you'll also need a prime-focus adapter tube. This piece screws into the T-ring and allows you to attach your camera to your telescope's focuser like a preposterously oversized eyepiece. In prime-focus photography, the size of the lunar image depends on the focal length of your telescope's objective lens or mirror. A telescope with a focal length less than about 1,500mm will show the entire lunar disc on a standard DSLR camera. This is ideal for photos of the Moon's phases and for lunar eclipses. If you want to get closer, you'll need a teleconverter lens, which typically magnifies the image l.4x to 3x, depending on the specific model. However, this gain in image scale requires a corresponding increase in exposure time. In other words, a 2x teleconverter will double the image size, but you'll need to double the exposure time or the ISO setting. Once your camera is attached, use the telescope's focuser to get a sharp image. This task is made much simpler if your DSLR is equipped with "live view:' Most DSLRs manufactured after 2008 have this option. Generally, it's easiest to focus on the limb of the Moon or some well-defined feature. As you adjust focus, you'll probably notice that the image jiggles every time you touch the telescope or camera. This is why a cable release or a remote shut-




ter trigger is essential. You don't more troublesome vibrations and want the vibrations caused by camera to obtain the highest-resolution lunar imaging. atmospheric distortion become. But the technique demands the greatest effort. As the camera's shutter firing to blur Furthermore, you will need to use your Moon pictures. If you don't this image ofthe craters Ptolemaeus and Alphonsus a sturdy telescope mount that is have a remote for your camera, shows, the results can be very impressive. equipped with a motor drive to look for a shutter-delay setting compensate for the Earth's rotaburied in the menu system. This tion. With sufficient magnificafeature builds in a few seconds between when you push the shutter tion, the Moon will move far enough even during a brief exposure release and when the picture is actually taken, which gives vibrato blur the image. An ordinary Dobsonian likely won't do. tions time to die down. Another helpful option to guard against Eyepiece projection can be very challenging, but it is also very vibrations is "mirror lockup:' Check your camera's instruction rewarding. manual to see whether your DSLR has this. Anything you can do THE MOON UP CLOSE to avoid jiggling the camera and telescope will increase the sharpness of your images. Today, it's possible for skilled astro-imagers to produce detailed Prime-focus photography is great for whole-disc shots and for shots of the Moon that rival spacecraft images. How? They use capturing large expanses of the lunar surface, but if you want to highly sensitive, digital video cameras or web cams, recording at record individual features with your DSLR, "eyepiece projection" is 30 frames per second or faster. This rapid frame rate allows astroimagers to "beat the seeing" and avoid the worst effects of atmothe answer. This method works more or less as the name implies. A telescope eyepiece is inserted into an eyepiece-projection adapter, spheric blurring. The nuts-and-bolts details of the technique are beyond the scope of this article, but if you're determined to capwhich is then slipped into your telescope focuser to mate to your ture detailed close- up pictures of individual lunar features, video camera's T-ring. The eyepiece projects a magnified image of the Moon onto your camera's CCD chip. With this setup, the size of the imaging is how it's done. lunar image depends on the focal length of the eyepiece and the Essentially, the procedure involves three main steps, beginning projection distance. You can really get in close, but these gains come with image capture. You place a specialized CCD camera in your with an important caveat: The bigger the image, the longer the rescope's focuser and record the video output with a computer. Next, quired exposure, the more difficult it is achieve sharp focus and the you use software to pick out the sharpest individual frames from

MASTER CLASS Expert lunar photographer Mike Wirths uses an l8-inch Newtonian and CCD video




EYE IN THE SKY The heart of this monochrome camera is a sensitive CCD detector.

SAY CHEESE Specialized CCD cameras like this one excel at producing high-resolution lunar images. The camera's video output is recorded on a computer and then processed using software later.

sharpen the stacked Moon picture and tweak the brightness and contrast levels. You may even choose to stitch several images together into a larger mosaic, since individual video image stacks tend to be quite small. Each step in the process- from capture to final adjustment-must be performed with great care and will test your patience and skill. But the results! Knock-your-socks-offMoonscapes that push the boundaries of resolution to the limits of your telescope's optics. This powerful technique is easily the most involved and difficult to master, but it is also the one with the greatest potential payoff. No matter which techniques you try, experimentation is key. And don't be discouraged if you shoot more duds than winnersmost of us do. First-rate images of the Moon require you to control vibration, achieve tack-sharp focus and battle the effects of atmospheric turbulence, all at the same time. But when everything is working just right, the reward is a pictureperfect lunar postcard that you can share with others and enjoy for years to come. .. SkyNews columnist Gary Seronik is the editor of Antonin Riikl's classic, Atlas of the Moon. He regularly shoots the Moon from his home near Victoria, British Columbia.

the raw footage and digitally stack them together for maximum clarity and freedom from image "noise." (Software such as RegiStax will perform both the sorting and the stacking more or less automatically.) And, finally, you use image-processing software to





The scorpion scuttles so close to the horizon that not all Canadian stargazers livefar enough south to admire its attractive tail of stars. But the top end of the constellation is definitely worth exploring. Antares, the scorpion's luminous heart, is a good place to start. by Ken Hewitt-White

IRST-MAGNITUDE and fiery red Antares, or alpha (a) Scorpii, is a splendid binary star. Yet my lO-inch Dobsonian can't pick up its 5.4magnitude companion. The secondary star is only 2.5 arc seconds away, and dazzling Antares simply overwhelms it. Worse, from my B.C. backyard, this low-down region of the NEAR ANTARES The distinctly sky is always turbulent, orangish Antares is the anchor for seekso high magnification ing the deep-sky riches in northern Scorpius. Classified as a red supergiant does not help me out star, Antares is 600 light-years distant of my predicament. I and about 50,000 times the luminosity do much better with of our Sun. CARTOGRAPHY BY GLENN LEDREW 2.9-magnitude sigma (0), west of Antares. Yellow-white Sigma has a bluish S.4-magnitude attendant star 20 arc seconds off. Easy! A showcase double star lies nine degrees northwest of Antares. Beta W) Scorpii, also known as Graffias, consists of2.6- and 4.5-magnitude components not quite 14 arc seconds apart. In my reflector, their colours are blue-white and blue, respectively. Curiously, Graffias is not a true binary; it is an "optical double" featuring unrelated stars in the same line of sight. Below Graffias, my bare eyes can pick out another unconnected pair: omega' (00') and omega? (002). Separated by nearly 15 arc minutes, omega' is magnitude 4.0 and blue-white, while omega- is magnitude 4.3 and yellowish. The colours show beautifully in binoculars and small telescopes. About 1.5 degrees east of Graffias is uu (v), a tricky doubledouble. Low magnification divides nu into a yellow-white 4.2-mag-


nitude star and a bluish 6.6-magnitude star 41 arc seconds apart. That each of these is a tight duo can be proven by cranking up the power-or maybe not. The fainter star is accompanied by a




7.2-magnitude neighbour 2.4 arc seconds away, while the brighter one has a 5.3-magnitude companion l.3 arc seconds distant. The blurry 200x view in my 10-inch resolves the former but not the latter. Thankfully, an eye-catching, medium-power double-double stands S.5 degrees north ofGraffias. Xi (~) sports an off-white 4.9magnitude primary with a warm-hued 7.3-magnitude secondary 7.5 arc seconds away. Immediately south of xi is Struve 1999 (L1999), whose orangey 7.5- and S.l-magnitude points are almost 12 arc seconds apart. Lovely! If we return to Antares, we can hop to three globular clusters. The first, M4, is just l.3 degrees west of Antares. Roughly 7,000 light-years away (close for a globular), M4 is 26 arc minutes in diameter and boasts a total visual magnitude of 5.6. The brightest cluster members are magnitude 10.S, well within reach of a small telescope. Unfortunately for me, though, M4 never emerges from a broad "light dome" on my south horizon. This problem is magnified by another factor. Globulars are categorized according to their degree of concentration, from class 1 (very dense) to class 12 (loose). M4 is class 9. In my scope at 5Sx, I see a thin sprinkle of stars overlying an ill-defined haze. Doubling the power resolves more stars and confirms that the brightest ones are arranged in a north-south band bisecting the cluster. This feature raises M4 to distinction, especially in a country sky or from parts of eastern

Canada where observers around latitude 45 degrees have the advantage over me of five or more degrees to elevate these targets. A line from Antares through 4.5-magnitude omicron (0) brings us to M80. Some 33,000 light-years distant, MSO is only nine arc minutes across and magnitude 7.3. None of its member stars exceed magnitude 12.5. But MSO punches above its weight because it is densely packed (concentration class 2). At 5Sx, the object looks dramatically brighter toward the middle; in fact, the centre appears virtually stellar. At 116x on the steadiest nights, I perceive a granular texture across the cluster, with a hint of resolution into dim pinpoints around the outskirts. Observed amid my suburban light pollution, MSOseems more impressive, at least in terms of contrast, than M4. High magnification and atmospheric steadiness are the keys to penetrating this compact sphere of stars. The third globular, NGC6144, lies a mere 37 arc minutes northwest of Antares. Too bad the cluster is barely seven arc minutes wide and ninth magnitude. Moreover, it is class 11-a loose star ball with no central concentration. I can't spot the pale blob in my whitened south sky. Observers in more southerly (and darker!) locales should have better luck. .. Ken Hewitt- White has observed deep-sky faint fuzzies over southern British Columbia for four decades.

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OUR CHART SHOWS the major stars, planets and constellations visible from Canada and the northern United States within one hour of these times:

THE EDGE OF THE CHART represents the horizon; the overhead point is at centre. On a moonless night in the country, you will see more stars than are shown here; deep in the city, you will see fewer. The ecliptic is the celestial pathway of the Moon and planets. The star groups straddling this line are known as the zodiac constellations. The Moon is shown for selected dates. USING THE STAR CHART OUTDOORS: The chart is most effective when you use about one-quarter of it at a time, which

roughly equals a comfortable field of view in a given direction. Outdoors, match the horizon compass direction on the chart with the actual direction you are facing. Don't be confused by the east and west points on the chart lying opposite their location on a map of the Earth. When the chart is held up to match the sky, with the direction you are facing at the bottom, the chart directions match the compass points. For best results when reading the chart outdoors, use a small flashlight heavily dimmed with red plastic or layers of brown paper. Unfiltered lights greatly reduce night-vision sensitivity.

MERCURY makes a poor appearance low in the western evening sky in early July; then after moving to the other side of the Sun, it makes a favourable appearance in the predawn sky in August, with greatest elongation on Aug. 16. VENUS becomes prominent as a morning "star"this summer, reaching its greatest brilliancy, at magnitude -4.6, on July 12 and its greatest elongation from the Sun on Aug. 15, just one day before Mercury's maximum angle from the Sun. MARS can be seen low in the southwestern evening sky near slightly brighter Saturn and the star Spica. The trio forms a tight vertical line in the evening twilight on Aug. 13 and 14. JUPITER shines at magnitude -2 in the predawn sky in Taurus, above Venus. On July 15, Jupiter forms a beautiful gathering with Venus, the Moon and the Hyades star cluster.

JULY 1 Mercury at greatest angle east of Sun (26°) low in evening sky JULY 3 Full Moon, 2:52 p.m., EDT AUG.13 JULY 9 Venus 0.9° north of Aldebaran in morning sky JULY 10 Last Quarter Moon JULY 12 Venus at greatest brilliancy (magnitude -4.7) in morning sky JULY 14 Waning crescent Moon 4° below Pleiades in morning sky JULY 15 ® Venus and Jupiter each 4° from waning crescent Moon in morning sky JULY 19 New Moon, 12:24 a.m., EDT JULY 24 Waxing crescent Moon near Mars, Saturn and Spica in evening sky JULY 26 First Quarter Moon AUG. 15 Venus at greatest angle west of Sun (46°) in morning sky; waning crescent Moon T" west of Mercury AUG.16 Mercury at greatest angle west of Sun (19°) in morning sky AUG.17 New Moon, 11:54 a.m., EDT AUG.21
® ®

AUG.13 ® DaylightVenus occultation by Moon in afternoon (all of Canada) Mars 2° and

Saturn 4° above Spica tonight and tomorrow in evening sky

Moon, Mars,

Saturn and Spica in close 4°-wide group low in evening sky AUG.22 Double shadow transit on Jupiter (3:21 to 4:30 a.m., EDT; best from eastern and central Canada) AUG.24 First Quarter Moon; Neptune at opposition (rises at sunset, sets at sunrise) AUG.29 Double shadow transit on Jupiter (3:58 to 4:23 a.m., MDT; best from western Canada) AUG.31 Full Moon, 9:58 a.m., EDT (second full Moon of August)

SATURN presents its last showing this summer before it drops behind the Sun. Look for it as a O.8-magnitude object 4° north of slightly dimmer Spica, in Virgo. URANUS rises about midnight in July

JULY 28 South Delta Aquarid meteors peak AUG.1 Full Moon, 11:27 p.m., EDT

and at 10 p.m. in August, appearing as a 5.9-magnitude object on the PiscesCetus border. NEPTUNE reaches opposition on Aug. 24, when it rises at sunset and is due south in the middle of the night. It can be found in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9 about 3° northeast of the fourth-magnitude star iota Aquarii.

AUG.9 Last Quarter Moon AUG.11 ® Perseid meteor shower peaks (good moonless sky); waning crescent Moon 4° from Jupiter in morning sky AUG.13

Waning crescent Moon

4° from Venus in morning sky; double shadow transit on Jupiter (3:48 to 5:08 a.m., PDT; best from western Canada)

Impressive or relatively rare astronomical event




The Perseid meteors perform, and Venus gets hidden by the Moon, then joins Jupiter in the dawn sky. by Alan Dyer
e're not done with Venus! While only distant future generations will witness the next transits of the planet across the Sun, we are at least treated to a summer of Venus shining brightly as a morning "star:' It even undergoes an eclipse of sorts, as the Moon covers Venus in an unusual daylight event. The always anticipated Perseid meteor shower should put on a good show this summer, under nearly ideal moonless skies. The hours from dusk on Saturday, August 11, to dusk on Monday, August 13, sees a busy schedule of celestial events that are the highlights of the summer season.


After a spring sky filled with four or five planets, this summer sees the evening reduced to containing just two, Mars and Saturn. Neither is placed well enough for good views through a telescope. Both are too low in the southwestern twilight for sharp images at high power. But you can enjoy the view with your unaided eyes or binoculars. The attraction that the summer evening planets provide this year is their mutual proximity. Through July, Mars gradually shifts eastward to sidle up to Saturn, which itself sits JULY DUSK GATHERING close to the bright star Spica. Look west-southwest at dusk on July 24 Look for a wide grouping of to see two planets, the Moon and a Mars, Saturn and Spica with bright star gather in an area of sky not the waxing crescent Moon much larger than a binocular field. on July 24. COURTESY STARRY NIGHT PRO PLUS'M/SIMULATION The real show, and it will CURRICULUM CORP. take a concerted effort to see, comes in mid-August, when Mars, Saturn and Spica cluster into a striking vertical line of three "stars" in the summer twilight. The evenings of August 13 and 14 offer the best opportunity to view this formation. It won't be obvious, as Mars and Saturn are so low from Canada that they are visible only when the sky is still bright with evening twilight. Binoculars will show the conjunction best. An even more attractive grouping occurs on August 21, when the Moon is back beside Mars, Saturn and Spica, creating a





Spica to form a tight configuration

By mid-August,

Mars catches up to Saturn and, for two nights (August 13 and 14), joins Spica

in a rare line of three "stars" in the sky at dusk. Above right: About a month after July's gathering, the crescent Moon rejoins Mars, Saturn and of objects low in the twilight.

tight four-world gathering hovering just above the southwest horizon at nightfall.

While the evening planets bow out of the sky, the morning planets are just emerging onto the celestial stage this season. While Jupiter rises first as a morning planet, it is Venus that steals the predawn show this summer. Following its passage across the Sun in June, Venus is now climbing rapidly away from the Sun high into the dawn sky to repeat its brilliant evening appearance of spring, but in mirror-image fashion in the morning. Venus reaches its greatest brilSPECTACULAR JULY DAWN
In mid-July, the waning crescent Moon approaches the pairing of Venus and Jupiter, culminating junction Hyades star cluster. in a superb conCOURTESY STARRY CURRICULUM CORP.

at dawn on July 1S amid the


Jupiter has pulled far away from Venus, creating successive Moon-planet ings later.


first with

Jupiter on August 11, then with Venus two mornCOURTESY STARRY NIGHT PRO PLUSTM/SIMULATION CORP.



of August
August brings us two full Moons. The cycle of lunar phases is 29.5 days, and with a full Moon on the night of August 1-2, the 31-daylong month manages to squeeze in another full Moon on August 31. In recent years, this second full Moon in a month has become known (erroneously) as a "blue moon" (see SkyNew5 Nov/Dec 2009). Notice the shift in rising positions of the two Moons. Early in summer, the full Moon comes up in the southeast, but by late sumnorth mer, the Moon rises farther CAPRICORNUS


along the eastern horizon. Because the full Moon always rises opposite the Sun, the Sun sets farther summer progresses.


along the western horizon as the

liancy, at magnitude -4.7 (the same brightness at which it peaked in April), on July 12. Venus continues to climb away from the Sun until it reaches its maximum angle from the Sun, called "greatest elongation:' on August 15. Venus then sits 46 degrees west of the Sun. By coincidence, Mercury reaches its

greatest elongation from the Sun on the following day, August 16, when it sits 19 degrees west of the Sun at dawn. Look for it as a first -magnitude "star" low in the twilight. The morning before, on August 15, the waning crescent Moon shines just above Mercury, making the elusive inner planet easy to spot.

For most of us, dawn events in summer are tough to get up for, given the early sunrise times. But you don't want to sleep in on Sunday, July 15. Rise early (and I mean early: about 4 a.m.) to see a close gathering of Venus, Jupiter and the waning crescent Moon near the star Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster, in Taurus. Such a grand gathering is a rare photo opportunity and will be an especially fine visual treat in binoculars-the entire gathering will fit within a single binocular field of view.

In contrast to last year's Mooned-out Perseids, this summer's edition promises to

Venus shines at its highest in the dawn sky, at its greatest elongation from the Sun of 46 degrees. The waning Moon from the Sun, but at a much smaller angle of it not far above the treetops at dawn.

lies below it, just above Mercury, then a day before its greatest elongation 19 degrees, putting






the Perseids is fairly easy, but

success involves a lot of luck. Using a DSLR camera on a tripod with a fast wide-angle lens set at

~:::::-~~!!!!!!~_!!'!! __ =.J,i
tn to
or not you want to introduce star luck, one or more of those


Shooting the

f/4, carefully focus the lens manually so that the stars are sharp. Set the
camera to ISO 800 to 3200, and try exposures of 20 to 120 seconds (the length depends on how bright your sky is and whether trails-shorter your camera to automatically exposures will keep the stars looking like points). If you can, set take exposure after exposure over one to two

hours or even all night. With the aforementioned

many exposures will capture a bright meteor well framed in your shot.


The constellation

Perseus, the radiant point for the Perseid meteor shower, stands high in the east at dawn on August 13. Orion is just rising. Jupiter is near the star Aldebaran, in Taurus. The Moon sits next to the planet Venus; later in the day, it will pass in front of Venus.

provide a good show. And the timing couldn't be better. The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks on the night of Saturday, August 11, into the predawn hours of August 12. In fact, the peak hour for North America is expected to fall after sunrise on the morning of August 12, so the number of meteors should rise through the night on Saturday into Sunday morning and still be going strong as it gets dark on Sunday night and through until Monday morning. The fortuitous timing makes this a great weekend to head to a dark-sky site for stargazing at a campsite or cottage. The waning crescent Moon rises around 2 a.m. on Perseid weekend, but the thin crescent won't interfere too much with the show. Indeed, the crescent Moon near Jupiter and Venus will be an added attraction in the predawn sky. The instructions for watching meteors couldn't be simpler: Just lie back on your



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favourite lounge chair, and look up! While all the Perseids will appear to shoot out from a radiant point in the constellation Perseus, in the northeast, meteors can appear anywhere in the sky. Meteors closest to the radiant will be short and fast, while meteors far from the radiant, over in the western sky, will be long and slow. The brightest will have some colour and may leave brief "smoke" trails of glowing ionized air that will change shape in the highaltitude winds. Don't expect a fireworks show. Meteors will appear only every minute or two at best. And just a few will be bright "Wow!" events. But those few are well worth the wait. Keep in mind what you are seeing. Meteors are glowing trails of light created by small particles of dust that are being incinerated high in our atmosphere at an

altitude of roughly 100 kilometres, at the edge of space. The dust originated in a comet named Swift-Tuttle, last seen in 1992. We cross the orbit of Comet SwiftTuttle every year in mid-August, when we pass through dust cast off during its former passages around the Sun (it orbits the Sun every 133 years). In the case of meteors in a shower, all the dust particles burn up; none are substantial enough to make it to the Earth's surface. Meteorites that do reach Earth are typically rocky or metallic chunks broken off asteroids and are not part of any predictable annual shower. Astronomers aren't expecting any heightened level of activity from this year's Perseids, unlike the showers of recent years. But with the Moon largely out of the way, we should see a respectable showing of up to 60 meteors an hour from

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Astronauts aboard the space station can look down and see meteors-in this case, a Perseid-being incinerated in the upper layers of the atmosphere below them. Here, the green band of airglow marks the top of our atmosphere. The nightside of Earth is lit by light from the Moon.

a dark-sky location on both Saturday and Sunday nights, August 12 and 13.

On June 5, all of North America was able to witness Venus passing in front of the Sun. On August 13, much of the continent can see the Moon passing in front of Venus. This rare occultation would be a stunning sight if it occurred in a twilight sky.

Early risers have several opportunities

this summer to

see two moon shadows on Jupiter at once. The August 13 event (the same morning as a fine Moon-Venus conjuncand

tion) is timed for best viewing

from British Columbia

Alberta. The August 22 transits are best seen from eastern and central Canada, while the August 29 transits are good for all of western Canada. Any telescope at moder-

ate power should show the moons' inky black shadows. The bright moons themselves more difficult to pick out. in front of Jupiter are much



All times p.m., local time zone, Monday, August 13 Ingress Toronto Winnipeg Edmonton Calgary Vancouver 4:37 EDT 3:25 CDT 2:07 MDT 2:01 MDT 1:03 PDT Egress 5:21 * 4:17 3:11 3:17 2:19

* Moon only 2° high, about to set,
at egress from Toronto

afternoon of August 13, Venus disappears behind the bright crescent limb of the Moon and reappears about an hour later at the dark edge of the Moon, which will be invisible in the blue sky. Venus will seem to reappear into empty sky.

Unfortunately, the Moon doesn't meet up with Venus until midafternoon, so the event occurs in broad daylight, in a bright blue sky. However, because the occultation happens just two days before Venus is at its greatest elongation from the Sun, the angular distance between the Moon and the Sun-a generous 46 degrees-couldn't be wider. This should place the Moon in a deep blue sky and not close to the Sun's glare, assuming your day is favoured by clear, haze-free skies. Through a telescope, the occultation should be easy to see, because the Moon and Venus are so bright, they'll show up even in a daylit sky. The trick is to find the Moon first. Look west (to the right) of the Sun and lower in the sky. Once you find the Moon in binoculars or a telescope, Venus should be obvious. You might even see it with your naked eye when you know just where to look to the left of the Moon before the occultation. Indeed, if you have never seen Venus with the unaided eye in the daytime, August 13 is the day to do it. The Moon's motion around Earth will take it across and in front of Venus. The planet will disappear behind the leading bright edge of the Moon. The farther west you are, the longer the occultation. From

OUT OF THE BLUE From western Canada, the Moon and Venus will be high in the southwest at occultation time. The Moon should be easy to see with the naked eye. If it is not, you mounted telescope by aiming at the Sun and swinging three hours west in can find it with a properly filtered equatorially right ascension

(carefully!), then shifting 5.5 degrees north in declination

Vancouver, where the occultation lasts for 76 minutes, Venus takes a path behind the centre of the Moon's disc. From Canadian sites farther east, Venus takes a more northerly chord behind the Moon, and as a result, the occultation doesn't last as long. Western sites also have the advantage of seeing the occultation with the Moon higher in the sky, where it is less likely to be obscured by haze and cloud. By contrast, the occultation from Toronto ends with the Moon just about to set and probably lost in the horizon haze of a humid summer day. Atlantic Canada and the eastern seaboard of the United States miss the Venus occultation entirely. For a complete listing

of sites and times, see the International Occultation Timing Association webpage for the event at www.lunar-occultations. com/iota/planets/0813venns.htm. Just to be clear: Even though this is a daytime event, you needn't worry about using solar filters unless you choose to aim at the Sun first, as a starting point for finding the Moon. However, looking at the Moon using a red filter inserted into your eyepiece can help darken the daytime sky and improve the contrast between the Moon and the sky. This occultation of Venus is one of several events that make August 12 and 13 busy days for stargazers and high points on our summer stargazing calendar. •




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Trying to find your way around the sky? There's an app for that, and it's Canadian.

to learn the sky
T OUR LOCAL PUBLIC STAR NIGHTS, I can where it was and would not follow where the iPad was aimed. But usually be found showing people what's up at most star party sites, it worked well. in the sky using my iPad. There are dozens of The number of labels presented is well suited to learning the astronomy apps available for Apple's family of sky. Tapping on an object pops up a box with essential data, such iOS devices (iPad, iPhone and iPod as rise/set times, star type and coordinate touch), but I'm always on the lookout position. However, as you drill down into for one that will work great for public smaller sections of the sky, there are no more outreach. Some apps are superb for adlabels and only some fainter stars appear, unlike more advanced apps. Indeed, the vervanced observers but are too complex to recommend to beginners or for easy sion reviewed (vl.O.2) does not have any use when demonstrating to the public. deep-sky objects. While this is clearly an app In some cases, the sky displays are lackaimed at those starting out, it would be helping in a key feature-one popular app ful to include a few popular targets, such doesn't display star names unless you as the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda zoom in or tap on a star. Dumb. Galaxy. Every beginner wants to know where That's why I was pleased to find a these and other famous objects are. new app called Classic Sky Map, released A nice touch is seeing animated meteor in April and available through the showers coming from the correct radiant iTunes App Store. The "classic" refers, I point on the peak night of a shower. During presume, to its retro wood-grain look. the day, the sky is tinted deep blue, but sky The interface makes use of large virtual objects are still visible, handy for showing buttons and sliders that are easy to oppeople what's up now at daytime events. erate in the field. Some programs have However, there is no option for revealing too many menus flying off other menus. what's below your local horizon. With Classic Sky Map, stepping back Classic Sky Map presents crisp text on devices with a high-resolution "retina display:' and forth in time is easy with intuitive buttons and not, as with other apps, by An excellent night-vision mode turns the entire screen a readable shade of red. A welsliding phantom controls that you can never quite remember how to use. come feature I've made use of is the ability to Like most astronomy apps, Classic save or e-mail an SOO-pixel-diameter image Sky Map uses an iOS device's built-in of the star-map window. This makes it easy compass and tilt sensor to provide a to post professional-looking star charts to a magical view that matches the real sky Facebook page or Twitter feed, for example. as you move the device around. DeClassic Sky Map makes no pretensions to be an advanced star atlas or a source of envices without 3G connectivity must rely FLEX Classic Sky Map is a single-download, upon connecting to a local WiFi netcyclopedic information. It is an attractive one-price "universal" app that is able to run on both an iPad or a smaller-screen iPhone work to get location data. In the field, no-frills app for beginners to learn the sky or iPod touch. This is the iPhone version. without WiFi nearby, I found the app and for more advanced stargazers to use at would occasionally get confused about public outreach events. I recommend it. ..

by Alan Dyer




SOMETHING TO APP-RECIATE Classic Sky Map presents a circular view of the whole sky or a section ofthe sky, accompanied by large, easy-to-hit buttons and readouts of time and current sky events. This view shows the entire sky, as with a classic planisphere.

Gordon's Park, Manitoulin Island
See the full glory of the cosmos under what might just be Ontario's darkest accessible skies
ESTLED AMONG some 40 hectares of cedar-bordered meadows on the world's largest freshwater island, Gordon's Park on Ontario's Manitoulin Island is possibly the darkest reasonably accessible astronomy site in the province. "It never stops to amaze me every time I step outside and look at the sky;' says park co-owner Rita Gordon, who personally welcomes guests to local astronomy events with good cheer and a cup from the official star party box of wine. "I totally understand the connectivity that astronomers have when they're staring at all the stars that are visible. We are privileged to be able to experience this here:'

WELCOME TO THE ISLAND This colourcoded map of light pollution from streetlights and other outdoor sources ranges from severe (white) to slight (dark grey) to pristine (black). Manitoulin categories. Island is entirely in the latter two




Sitting on the edge of an ancient fossil reef in the Great Lakes between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, Gordon's Park, located in the big island's southeast corner, is about a five-hour drive from the Greater Toronto Area. On the first clear night, anyone who has come from an urban environment to rural Manitoulin Island will experience the bliss of a 360-degree view of nearly perfectly dark skies: The average sky-quality meter reading here is 22. (A reading of 17 represents an urban sky, while 23 is perfectly dark.) Of course, I'm biased, but in my opinion, you should pack your bags and head out as soon as possible to any accessible dark-sky site in this park. Since being designated a dark-sky preserve by The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) in 2008, Gordon's Park has welcomed stargazers from as far away as Germany and Australia to a series of tent sites and "astronomy cabins" on the edge of an observing field. While some dark-sky sites suffer from light domes around the horizon-a telltale sign you're still too close to a large city to see the unspoiled night sky-Gordon's sits in the middle of a giant island with a very low population density and no large towns. "Manitoulin Island is still very nonurbanized, and there's no major industry;' says Rita, as darkness falls and the haunting songs of the local whip-poor-wills drift across the lake. "People don't realize how incredibly dark this site is until they get here:' About 1 in 10 visitors comes for stargazing. While that may not sound impressive, it's more than almost any other designated astronomy park in the world. And Gordon's Park is looking to attract an even heavier portion of sky worshippers with one of the most ambitious annual slates of stargazing events in Canada.


fest organizer Malcolm Park. Special clinics include learning how to use your telescope, how to get out of an observing rut and observing smaller solar system moons. Other highlights of the weekend include a wine and cheese welcome reception, a guided fossil hike, a potluck dinner and views through a variety of telescopes under ultradark conditions.

Warm weather and clear skies?

The park's other annual event, the Manitoulin Star Party, runs August 17-20. This year, the weekend event features an astronomy art show (among the pieces that will be on display are a silk scarf incorporating the Milky Way, the Rosette Nebula done in stained glass and two oil-on-canvas paintings of the northern lights). Talks on habitable-zone planets, Pluto ids and observing the life cycle of a star will whet partygoers' appetites, who will then have the opportunityto look through a huge 27-inch-aperture telescope. Local astrophotographer Aaron Top, whose imagery graces this column, will also be on hand with slides of his latest endeavours. Other summer events at the eco-resort include a Perseid Meteor Shower Party, August 10-12, and a Drumming & Stargazing Weekend (led by Organic Groove, which runs social drumming programs for wellness) on the Labour Day weekend.

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Finally, take in the hidden treasures of the fall sky (including an aurora or two, perhaps) in an almost perfectly dark location when I host a special stargazing weekend at Gordon's Park on September 7-9. To find out more about that weekend's "skylights" and special talks (I'll be presenting one on dark-sky preserves across Canada and one on the latest space tourism developments) and the other events mentioned above, log on to www.gordonspark.com/ astronomy .• Check out Peter's website at: wildernessastronomy.com For further information on Gordon's Park, see: www.gordonspark.com


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I think Gordon's Park offers two of the coolest small star parties in Canada. First, Stargazing Manitoulin, July 20-23 for 2012, features talks on the northern lights and the wonders of Chile's Atacama Desert by Star-

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Our Past and Present Moon
Thefurther back in time scientists look, the less they know with certainty. And that's the problem with understanding the geologic history of the Moonnearly everything happened a long, long time ago. But there are plenty of clues.
HE MOON THAT DRIFTS THROUGH OUR NIGHT SKY is essentially the same one our distant humanoid ancestors gazed at. It is the same Moon that lit the nighttime landscape of the dinosaurs. In fact, if you could take your telescope and travel back in time three billion years, you would have no trouble identifying most of your favourite Moon features. The changes that have occurred over the past couple of billion years have mostly been the finishing touches-the addition of a new crater here and there and little else.


But the Moon's unchanging surface is part of what makes it so important to study. It effectively allows planetary scientists to look back in time to see what was going on in the early days of the solar system. On Earth, the geologic record of the distant past is all but gone, having been thoroughly erased by plate tectonics and erosion by wind and water. If we want to know what the early solar system was like, we need to study the Moon. As with the geologic history of Earth, scientists have divided the Moon's past into HISTORY LESSON several maj or periods, Copernicus, a magnifieach marked by imcent ray crater, formed portant events. The approximately 800 milmain tool used when lion years ago, shortly painting a picture of after the current period lunar history is called in lunar history began. stratigraphy, an apPHOTO BY MIKE WIRTHS proach that allows scientists to sequence events in the evolution of the Moon's surface. The resulting time line is anchored to specific dates gleaned from analyzing Moon rocks returned by various space missions and reveals a fascinating story consisting of five main chapters. The most ancient lunar features date back to the Pre- Nectarian Period, which spans from the formation of the Moon, 4.5 billion years ago, until about 3.91 billion years in the past. This was a time of heavy bombardment, when millions of asteroids, comets and meteorites collided with the Moon, each producing an impact scar, some of which persist to this day. Grimaldi and Ptolemaeus are two notable features that survive from this era. The formation of the Nectaris Basin marks the beginning of the Nectarian Period, which lasted until about 3.85 bil-




lion years ago. During this time, the rate of cratering slowed, as the number of impacters roaming the inner solar system diminished. Even so, by one estimate, some 1,700 craters larger than 50 kilometres in diameter formed during this relatively brief chapter in the Moon's story. The magnificent crater Clavius and the Crisium Basin date from this era. One of the biggest events in lunar history occurred 3.85 billion years ago: the violent, powerful impact that excavated the immense Imbrium Basin, the moment that marks the end of the Nectarian Period and the beginning of the Imbrium Period. This important era lasted until about 3.2 billion years ago, and by its end, most of the big craters and maria we see today were in place. Plato, Archimedes, Arzachel and Sinus Iridium are among the many significant additions. The Eratosthenian Period that followed was the longest, lasting until l.1 billion years ago. A few more big craters were created, and the last lunar volcanism occurred as relatively small quantities of magma oozed to the surface to fill in a few craters and other low spots. The crater Eratosthenes, of course, dates to this time, as do Pythagoras and Theophilus. The Moon is presently in the Copernican Period, which began 1.1 billion years ago. By way of noting how dramatically things have slowed down, consider that only 44 craters larger than about 80 kilometres in diameter have formed during this span. That's an average of one every 25 million years-slow going, indeed! That said, some of the most impressive craters on the lunar surface are among those recent formations, including the great rayed craters Copernicus and Tycho. These features add exclamation marks to the ongoing story of the Moon's evolution. ... Gary Seronik is the editor of Antonin Rukl's classic Atlas of the Moon. Lunar observers will find a wealth of information at Gary's website: www.garyseronik.com.



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Asteroid Naming
NE OF THE MOST PLEASANT ASPECTS of searching for and discovering an asteroid is that when the orbit of a newly found asteroid is determined, the discoverer can suggest a name for the asteroid. The name must then be approved by the Committee on Small Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The committee itself can name the asteroid, but it normally approves, or rejects, the name proposed by the discoverer. I learned about all of this while working with asteroid experts Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker at Palomar Observatory two decades ago. The Shoemakers had nominated the names of people they highly respected to be honoured with having asteroids named after them. There are other naming possibilities too. In 1990, an asteroid that Henry Holt and I discovered was numbered 5261 and named Eureka, after Archimedes' exclamation upon discovering the principle of buoyancy and displacement. Legend states that he leaped out of his bath and ran into the street yelling, "Eureka" (I found itl), The name was chosen to ponder a sense of joy in making an important discovery. An opportunity to name an asteroid arose again after Arizona


Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who represents the area where I live and work, was seriously injured in an assassination attempt on January 8, 2011, that made headlines around the world. When it was announced that she would survive but face a long convalescence, my wife Wendee suggested that we nominate her for an asteroid name. However, asteroids cannot be named for living political figures. Wen dee then came up with the suggestion that we could name asteroid 167748 after Mark Kelly, her astronaut husband. He flew into space four times: in 2001 aboard Endeavour; in 2006 on Discovery (the first shuttle launch since Columbia's tragic breakup on reentry in 2003); on Discovery again in 2008; and, most recently, as commander of Endeavour's final mission in 2011. The IAU accepted the proposal, and the asteroid was officially named 167748 Markkelly (2004 XB42). A few decades ago, asteroid naming was a bit of a freewheeling affair, with some of these solar system bodies being named for the discoverers' pets or favourite movie characters. In 1971, the rules were tightened somewhat and pet names were banned. Today, it is considered an honour to have an asteroid named after you. ..







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SkyNews editor Terence Dickinson has always wanted to offer readers first-class 8x56 astronomical binoculars. Now he has found them: Celestron's new SkyMaster 8x56 Colbinoculars, the best combination of quality optics and reasonable price available in this size. "In many ways," he says, "the 8x56 is the ideal binocular for the backyard astronomer." lecting 25 percent more light than standard 50mm binoculars and 96 percent more than 40mm binoculars, the 56mm is the largest binocular that is still comfortable to hand-hold. Moreover, the Celestron SkyMaster 8x56 is the lightest 56mm binocular we've tested. • Superb 8-power optics with a 5.8-degree astronomy, • Fully multicoated • Twist-up/down • Exceptionally • Lifetime optics; field of view-perfect for boating and birding and at the cottage no ghost imaging, even on the full Moon eyeglasses eyecups for ease of use with or without light weight for a 56mm binocular


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for Wide-Angle Star Shots
The Earth's rotation turns stars into trails in time-exposure photos longer than 10 to 20 seconds. We test Vixen's new compact tracker, designed for exposures of minutes, not seconds, and portable enough to take to sites far from light pollution.

Camera Tracker
by Terence Dickinson

PERSISTENT MISCONCEPTION that beginners bring to amateur astronomy is the idea that a telescope is needed for photography of the night sky. The reality is that apart from shooting the Moon, astrophotography is difficult or impossible with most first telescopes. What beginners interested in celestial photography really need is a setup that captures the night sky as in the image below-no telescope needed.

point-and-shoot camera, both the size of a deck of cards. These can shoot the Moon (page 17) and capture a few stars in a dark sky, but that's about it. What we are really interested in here are "enthusiast" cameras. The top end of this category is the digital SLR (DSLR) First, a few words about the most important item in the astrophotography equation: with interchangeable lenses. If you are the camera. The most common cameras used today are the cellphone and the compact serious about your photography, you probably already own one of these (see facing page) or want one. Another sector of the enthusiast category includes mirrorless cameras and large-sensor point -and -shcot models, which are becoming increasingly popular and are capable of fine celestial portraits. The Vixen Polarie is designed for all the cameras described in this paragraph. A highly portable device, the Polarie will firmly hold your camera while compensating for the CYGNUS TEST SHOT Earth's daily rotation. It must Our first test photo with the Polarie (setup as seen be mounted on a solid camin #6, at right) is this 2era tripod, since it will be minute exposure. Camera holding your camera as it settings at ISO2000 with points skyward. An essential a 30mm lens at f/2.5 reaccessory for the Polarie is a veal thousands of stars. good-quality ball-head mount Blue cast at bottom is the (not supplied because many approaching dawn. PHOTOS BY TERENCE DICKINSON photographers already own one). The Polarie unit itself is surprisingly solid. I noticed absolutely no "play" in the device. Nor did any mechanical anomalies show up during a night of photography.






This year's contest is now closed. The winners will be showcased in the September jOctober issue of SkyNews. And a big thanks to our sponsors, who generously supplied our prizes.


THE DETAILS Clockwise from top left: (1) A simple lensless Polaris sighting hole allows
accurate enough alignment for exposures of up to about 4 minutes with wide-angle lenses shorter than 30mm. (2) Small tilt meter acts as a latitude gauge to get you close. (3) Smooth but sure click stops, plus red glow, indicate (clockwise from OFF position) lunar, solar and stellar driving rates, as well as "starscape" mode and illumination commodates a user-supplied ball-and-socket of tilt meter. (4) Underneath the screw-off centre cap is a compass for locating north at an unfamiliar site. (5) Central hole accamera mount; or an optional small polar scope fits the hole for increased alignment accuracy. (6) Polarie with DSLR camera ready for action.

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And this is a tidy device that, along with a DSLR, compact tripod and lenses, will fit in most carry-on luggage. An excellent guidebook accompanies the unit. How accurate is it? I tried lenses ranging from 50mm down to 10mm and found that without the optional polar-scope accessory, the Polarie is at its best as a wideangle tracker. In my tests, the polar-align-

ment peep sight offers accurate enough alignment for up to a 4-minute exposure with an 18mm or shorter lens. But this is plenty when used at ISO 1600 (normal for today's enthusiast cameras), and fine starscapes are possible. At about $425 at Canadian dealers, this is an easy way to get into satisfying astrophotography. (For further details, see: www.vixenoptics.com.) ..






Sometimes, a night of observing doesn't go as planned
ATESUMMER; NIGHTFALL. The sky was crystal-clear and filling with stars. I was at a mountain lookout in Manning Provincial Park, a few hours' drive east of Vancouver. The 1,700-metrehigh viewpoint is one of the truly dark places I go to push deep into the cosmos with my telescopes. That particular observing run represented more than the purely recreational: I was "on assignment" for this magazine, preparing to track down some faint nebulas with my 17.5-inch Dobsonian reflector. The big Dob was cool and collimated; its owner calm and collected. Solitary stargazing works for me. Ah, but I wasn't alone. The alpine vista is a favourite of daytime sightseers, and earlier that evening, a throng of tourists had gathered to watch the sun slip between snowcapped peaks into the horizon. Now, with the dusk almost done and the temperature dropping, one youthful couple remained. They, too, were admiring the swelling starscape. They couldn't miss my hulking light-bucket and wandered over. "Excuse me;' said the young woman. "I'm


sorry to interrupt, but I was wondering what you're looking at?" Usually, I'm happy to engage in conversation with curious bystanders. I've spent most of my life popularizing astronomy, and like many amateurs, I enjoy letting folks take a look through my telescopes. But when I'm tied up with fieldwork, a celestial show 'n' tell isn't always convenient-especially if time is tight. And that was the case here. I had before me a single exquisite night sandwiched between a spell of unseasonable weather and a period of increasing moonlight. My chosen targets were already halfway down the western sky, and I was itching to get at them. However, when the girl made her polite inquiry, the sky wasn't yet dark enough to properly scrutinize ghostly nebulosities. I was waiting out the lingering twilight by magnifying the brilliant globular cluster M13, in Hercules. So yours truly invited the guy and gal to have a look. The fellow was first up my three-step stairway, and though his turn was brief, he seemed impressed. Then his companion mounted the ladder and slowly peered into the eyepiece. Near

silence. A moment later, there was a guttural "a-a-a-h" followed by a louder, drawnout "fan-tas-tic!" My appreciative customer explained that she'd taken an Astronomy 101 course the previous winter, had peeked through a telescope on campus but had never seen anything like this. To my surprise, the novice skywatcher asked whether I could show her the side-byside galaxies M81 and M82, in Ursa Major. They were low in the north, but the sky in that direction was now almost velvet -black, so I swung the scope around and framed the Big Bear pair in a wide-angle eyepiece. Another "a-a-a-h." I increased the magnification and suggested my guest ogle the objects one at a time. She quickly noted the patchy, irregular structure of the edge-on M82 and the silky smooth form of the face-on spiral M8l. Tm so pleased;' she exclaimed without interrupting her gaze. "I've always wanted to see these galaxies:' I was gratified too. In all my years of scoping the sky,this was the first time a perfect stranger had requested not the Moon or planets but galaxies. Despite my pressing observation schedule, I didn't want this starry soiree to end. I pointed out some better-known constellations and proffered telescopic views of several sure-to-please deep-sky objects. The sprawling Andromeda Galaxy, complete with threadlike dust lanes, particularly impressed the couple. I would have shown them more, but they weren't dressed for the chilly night air. Shivering in unison, he and she-especially she-thanked me for the guided tour and departed. I got on with my work. I did so knowing that my favourite dark park had provided a natural "blackboard" for an enthusiastic student of the stars. The real-time stargazing had instilled in her an appreciation of the universe that no classroom could match. I'll never know whether that inquisitive person took more courses in astronomy, but I'll bet my last loonie she's still entranced with the night sky. This summer, I'm bound to encounter more people with the same curiosity and that familiar question: "Can I have a look?" The answer will always be yes. .. Contributing editor Ken Hewitt- White observes the night sky from the mountains of southwestern British Columbia.




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