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Posts Made By: Fred Lusk

October 26, 2014 09:24 PM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

NGC300 Southern Spiral

Posted By Fred Lusk


NGC 300 was on my observing list for last night, but clouds came in soon after NGC 253 crested the eastern horizon so I didn't have a chance.

October 27, 2014 05:06 AM Forum: Film Astrophotography - Imaging and Processing

Three star trails from this summer

Posted By Fred Lusk

Wide angle view from Glacier Point.

December 29, 2014 07:26 PM Forum: Off Topic Discussions

Nazis Were Developing The Bomb...

Posted By Fred Lusk

A good book on this subject is "Time Bomb: Fermi, Heisenberg, and the Race for the Atomic Bomb" ( I have read it three times over the years, including just last month. Heisenberg was working towards a self-sustaining pile, but hit some roadblocks along the way, including Nazi politics and disdain for "Jewish physics", early physical and financial dispersal of their efforts, a fire in a test pile, a fellow scientist's mistaken calculation about the efficacy of using graphite as a moderator (which is why Heisenberg stuck with heavy water), etc. An Alsos team found his last pile in in a town in the French army's zone of operations (but before the French arrived) and determined that it was too small to be self-sustaining. However, I don't recall anything in the book about St. Georgen an der Gusen.

Some have speculated that Heisenberg deliberately slowed or even sabotaged Germany's atomic bomb program because of pressure from other physicists before the war to leave Nazi Germany so that the Nazis could not use his genius for the war. However, Heisenberg was also a strong nationalist and his ego was big enough to see that creating a self-sustaining reactor pile and a bomb would add to his fame. I would like to think that Heisenberg had the humanity to keep the Nazis from getting the bomb, but that may just be wishful thinking.

January 24, 2015 10:39 PM Forum: Solar System Observing

Jupiter's triple moon shadows

Posted By Fred Lusk

Here's my long observing report. The short version is that turbulence made the view less than ideal and we had to pack up before the third shadow appeared. I didn't even try to get any pics. I had better luck with the March 28/29, 2004 triple shadow transit, which I saw in its entirety.


Our winters in Fresno, CA, are often plagued by Tule Fog, which sometimes stays on the deck for days on end and sometimes rises to about 1000' AGL during the day, then drops to the ground at night. By Wednesday, we had endured two weeks of the latter, but around noon on Thursday, the skies began to clear. By sunset, the skies were completely clear. After dinner, I took my 20x80 binos out to look at Comet Loveyjoy, M42, etc. I also checked the weather report, which predicted nearly three days of 100% clear weather. So, I quickly set up an impromptu star party at a local park I sometimes use to see the triple shadow transit, the comet, and whatever else we chose to look at. Several club members were going to join me along with a bunch of people I know who wanted to see this.

Then Mother Nature took over. Friday never cleared…well, for about 10 minutes around 5 PM, cloud cover was down to 95% and Moon was visible around 6:30 PM. So, I had to cancel the star party and switch to Plan B. Plan B was to head for the hills. My Plan B observing location was the Big Stump parking lot in Kings Canyon National Park (36°43'15.30"N, 118°58'15.40"W, 6300' elev). It's about 60 miles and 1 hr 10 min from my house and on a winter day/night like this temperatures can actually exceed those on the floor of the San Joaquin Valley. In our case, Big Stump was only a couple degrees cooler over the course of our observing session.

Here's the detailed observing report I passed along to my friends:

The skies at Big Stump were clear and transparent. However, the atmosphere was somewhat turbulent to the east, looking over the mountains. This affected our view of the shadow transits, which I will describe below.

The temperature at Big Stump was only a couple degrees cooler than in Fresno, so that wasn't a big problem. When we arrived, it was 45°F and the humidity was 20%. We we left to come home, it was 36°F and the humidity was 25%. We passed through a thick high fog layer heading up (between about 1500' and 2500'), but only a very thin layer at about 1500' coming home. For observing, we had my 8" telescope (Celestron CPC-800) and 10x50 and 20x80 binoculars.

To the west, looking over the valley's inversion layer, the air was rock solid. The air was similarly steady to the north and in a 90° (or so) cone around the zenith. The stars in these directions did not twinkle. The Pleaides (M45) was steady and very bright. With the unaided eye, I could resolve the cluster's 6 brightest stars. Younger eyes could probably see a few more. In the telescope I could see the brightest parts of the nebula that this open cluster is passing through. Comet Lovejoy showed a tail, which I had been unable to see from the valley floor.

The Orion Nebula (M42/43) was spectacular, and that was without putting the OIII filter on the eyepiece. This is my first time observing Orion from the mountains and I was blown away by its size and brightness. Usually, I see the Orion Nebula from my backyard or from Eastman Lake, and it's very nice, but nothing like this. The amount of detail was phenomenal. The embedded Trapezium star cluster was not quite steady, but that's because this part of Orion was on the transition from rock solid overhead skies to turbulent southern skies. For example, the bright star Rigel (a little lower in Orion) twinkled and the brighter star Sirius (a little lower in Canis Major) looked like it was boiling. I had hoped to see Sirius' white dwarf companion for the first time, but the skies did not permit it.

Now to Jupiter…We began observing at 7:50 PM, or 40 minutes after Callisto's shadow started moving across the disk of Jupiter. Due to the turbulence in the lower atmosphere (Jupiter was then only 17° above the horizon), I couldn't see the shadow at first. Jupiter subtends 45 arcseconds and Callisto and its shadow each subtend 1.7 arcsec. My telescope has a theoretical resolving limit (Dawes Limit) of 0.57 arcsec, so under steady skies, it would not have been a problem. In fact, when I saw the March 28/29, 2004 triple shadow transit, it was with a 5" telescope (Dawes = 0.91 arcsec) from my backyard…but those skies were rock solid.

So, for about 20 minutes, I tracked down other objects and showed them to Debi and my 6-year-old granddaughter, Abi (Jupiter is Abi's favorite planet, which is one reason she came with us). At 8:10 PM, Jupiter had risen to 21° above the horizon and I could finally see Callisto's shadow. It remained visible the rest of the time we were there. For planetary observing, I prefer to use my 8 mm eyepiece (254x), but due to the turbulence, my 13 mm eyepiece (156x) provided the best compromise between magnifying Jupiter and magnifying the turbulence (e.g. the turbulence was not really noticeable in my 27 mm eyepiece (75x) but neither were the shadows).

Io and its shadow subtend 1.1 arcsec, but this was enough of a difference from Callisto to make Io's shadow a hit-or-miss proposition the rest of the night. I wasn't able to see Io's shadow early in its passage because Jupiter's limb is darker than the middle and the lack of contrast hurt. I first saw Io's shadow at about the same time that Io itself began its transit, or about 9:00 PM. Abi saw Io right off the limb of Jupiter and she liked that. I saw the combined Callisto/Io shadow about 9:50 PM, right before we decided to pack up. We took our last look at 10:10 PM. We decided to leave before Europa's shadow made an appearance because it was getting colder, the turbulence compromised the view, and we had a 6-year-old astronomer to get home for bed.

BTW, in an 8" telescope, all four of Jupiter's big moon are seen as little disks, not pinpoints. Ganymede (1.7 arcsec) was especially impressive.

Since the views of Jupiter were not as pleasing as I had hoped, I spent quite a bit of time tracking down things I had not seen before, such as the Flame Nebula, the small background open cluster next to the large open cluster M35, Hind's Crimson Star (a carbon star, and the reddest star in our skies…although it is more deep orange than red), the Heart Nebula and its neighbor the Soul Nebula (the latter was easier to see and its embedded star cluster is quite nice), NGC 2362, which is a triangular shaped open star cluster with a bright star in the middle and a diffuse background that hints at other stars, etc, etc, etc.

February 9, 2015 07:36 PM Forum: Politics

Massive Development Set For Grand Canyon

Posted By Fred Lusk

I don't like the idea of this development at this location, but given the levels of poverty and other problems on the Navajo Reservation, I can understand why it is being proposed. I would feel a little better about it if the Navajo would guarantee that they would operate and staff all businesses with Native Americans rather than contracting out everything like is done with most (all?) Indian Casinos.

The proposed development site is on the northeast canyon rim above the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers with some facilities located between the rim and the river(s). In this area, the west and south sides of the confluence are within the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park, but the northeast side is Navajo land. The proposed development site is quite a distance from the main part of the park and about 20 miles NE of Grand Canyon Village.

The website for the development is here:
Go to Library|Maps to see the conceptual plan.

You can see the NPS map of the Grand Canyon National Park here:
The proposed development is across the Little Colorado from Cape Solitude near the right edge of the map.

March 7, 2015 07:30 AM Forum: Politics

Antisemitism...coming to a California University n

Posted By Fred Lusk

I saw this a few days ago and it sickens me. My old high school debate partner (now an attorney) sent it to me. He told me he's glad his B.A. and J.D. degrees are from another school. smile

If I was in charge of UCLA, I would have immediately expelled the anti-Semite members of that student council and refused to refund their tuition. I would also have lectured them about the sordid history of anti-Semitism, especially in the early- to mid-20th century, and I would have concluded with that ago-old question, "What is wrong with you?"

March 12, 2015 05:49 PM Forum: Politics

James Carvill on you democrats LMFAO!

Posted By Fred Lusk

Only 80%? I think Carville is low-balling his estimate.

BTW, with this statement, Carville shows yet again how utterly immoral he is.

March 23, 2015 09:33 PM Forum: Film Astrophotography - Imaging and Processing

Three star trails from this summer

Posted By Fred Lusk

Here is a small selection of other star trails from my archive, I have more, but these are among my favorites.

This one is from Courtright Reservoir (2007), this time looking south at the bulge of the Milky Way. The brightest trail is Jupiter. The bright light is from a vehicle heading towards our site.

August 25, 2015 01:39 AM Forum: Solar System Observing

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

Posted By Fred Lusk


Our first choice for the eclipse is near Madras, Oregon, north of Bend. According to some websites I have found (e.g., the Madras area has statistically the best chance of clear weather along the entire central line. And, since I will be coming from Central California, it will be shortest drive for my wife and me.

Where near Madras is still to be decided. Our local astronomy professor has booked a B&B in the area and has offered our club members several of the rooms. If John Day Fossil Beds or some other park is doing a public program (like Whiskeytown Reservoir did for the annular eclipse in 2012), then we might end up there. Our astro prof is going to stay at the B&B and do his photography there, partly because at the annular eclipse at Whiskeytown, some kid ducked under the caution tape around his equipment and bumped his tripod. But, I like doing public programs, so I'm still undecided. If I stay at the B&B, I will probably only bring my 5" SCT on an Advanced VX mount and do a time lapse of the eclipse. If I do a public program, I will also bring my CPC-800 for the public to use.

Our second choice is near Boise, Idaho, because my wife's cousin lives there. If we go to Boise, then we will extend the trip and head up through central Idaho and on to Glacier/Waterton.

September 29, 2015 01:28 AM Forum: Solar System Observing

No eclipse for me

Posted By Fred Lusk

It was partly cloudy in Fresno, but we got to see all of the eclipse through clouds and holes in clouds. At its worst, the eclipsed Moon was barely visible in my 8" SCT. At its best, we could see good detail, including mountain profiles along the bright part of the lunar limb after totality ended.

My 7-year-old granddaughter had her new scope and she and I entertained about 30 of our friends and acquaintances at a local park. Her scope is a 6" dob based on an OTA I bought two years ago with a Celestron Advanced VX mount (for only $100 extra) and a mount built by my son-in-law…first light was the night before.

I was going to try some photography, but with the clouds and crowds I gave up.