• Category Archives Astronomy
  • Camera gear damage from solar eclipse.

    I think that most that read this blog would know how to take a photo of a solar eclipse, but it was interesting to read about some of the gear damage that came as a result of photographing the elipse.
    Lens Rental is a big company over this way and I really like the attitude and style of the guy running it. Very sensible and down to earth.
    Anyway, they rented a hunk of gear out on the eclipse weekend, to their credit, they added an extra clause up front….. They would be covering any damage from incorrect use of the gear.
    (You can get accidental damage coverage from them when you hire gear, so they wanted to make sure people understood what they were covered for – like I said, I like the guys business model).

    You can see some of the carnage in this article here;

    Warning, if you love camera gear, its not for the faint of heart.
    (Or the shallow wallet – yikes, some of those lenses are worth a solid chunk of change!)

    The bottom line is this, you have to block the light (and thus heat) at the very front of the camera lens with an appropriately rated filter. Only then will things stay safe.

  • Solar eclipse – online vewing

    Todays the big day if you are State side.
    If you are not stuck in traffic, you might want to take the easy way out and watch the eclipse online.

    Here is a nice write up on some of your options.


    I personally am going to open a few tabs and see which is the least obnoxious. I have a horrible feeling that they will try and make it like a typical USA sporting event and shout every second of the event… Coupled with 1 second cuts to nothing related to the celestial event…..

    Wow. I sound like two grumpy old men.

  • Face west to feed the duck curve

    This one caught me out…..


    To solve ‘duck curve,’ Missouri utility to pay bonus for west-facing solar panels.

    In an effort to better align solar-energy production with peak demand, the electric utility in Columbia, Missouri has begun to pay higher rebates for new west-facing arrays than it will for those facing south.

    Fantastically simple. Sure, not everyone has west facing roof space, but why not incentivize those that do and are thinking about adding solar?

    The biggest problem with the duck curve is that evening ramp up. As the sun sets, the people go home and the solar output really drops off, the power companies have to fairly quickly ramp up megawatts of generation, sometimes even getting close to a gigawatt.
    Thats tricky and expensive.
    A west facing solar panel will put out more power at sunset than a north or south facing one (the usual direction).

    To be clear, it will NEVER solve the duck curve. Only storage will, but it is a small step in reducing the steepness of that curve up the ducks neck.

  • Solar traffic jam

    The solar eclipse on the 21st is getting some press over here.

    I liked this guys take on it.


    In short, he thinks there is going to be a whopper of a traffic jam.

    Traffic, along with weather, will be the chief challenges for people wanting to see the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. I analyze how the U.S. population is distributed with respect to the U.S. road network and the path of total solar eclipse to predict how many people will visit the path of totality and the resulting traffic congestion. Using advanced ArcGIS.com software by Esri, U.S. Census data, and a road network model of every street in the USA, I present estimates for where people will gather for the eclipse and in what numbers.

    The main reason I love this guys article is because of all the data he pulls and uses to make his point.
    Will it happen?

    Duno. I will not be amongst it.
    I do not have the holiday time, I don’t like crowds and I have more (to me) interesting things to watch – like the electricity grid.

  • She’s an old workhorse doing bleeding edge science – Hale Telescope

    As you know, I am a massive fan of the Hale Telescope at Palomar Mountain. I really miss going up and being a tour guide (docent), but have such a low tolerance for political games…..

    Anyway, one of the many things I enjoyed telling people about on my tour was how she’s an old massive workhorse and this makes her a very interesting and valuable science platform in the astronomy world.
    The Hale Telescope is the last big telescope in the world that is built an on equatorial mount. This means the axis of the telescope matches that of the earth. Roughly 23.5°. This means that the telescope only needs 1 motor to track the stars across the sky. It also means that the image in the ‘eyepiece’ (we use cameras these days, I have been told it’s been scores of years since Hale had an eyepiece fitted) does not rotate, it is in ‘lock step’ with the star or galaxy that we are studying.
    Why does this matter?
    New big telescopes are built to move in X and Y. So tilt and pan, or like a tank turret. You aim up and down and left and right. To track a star, you make tiny movements in both all the time. It also means that the star rotates in the eyepiece.
    Lastly, Hale is big and heavy. New scopes are built to a price, they are delicate. You can’t just bolt big heavy bits of gear to them and expect them to perform….. Hale on the other hand, she shrugs and after a quick rebalance, tracks as good as the day she was commissioned in Jan 1949.

    Great, where am I going with this?

    To this day, new science equipment is first tested out on the Hale Telescope and then refined and fitted to bigger telescopes.
    Case in point is a new instrument that can block out the light from a star so effectively that we can now see planets orbiting around it.
    If it were not for Hale, we could not see stuff like this;

    Direct imaging of four planets orbiting the star HR 8799 129 light years away from Earth

    How amazing is that!!!!!
    Totally mesmerizing. The star at the center of the image is 129 light years away.

    If you want to know more, you can read about it here; http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2010-128

    But as much as I geek out on the tech, I am always humbled by the fact that this new tech was tried and tested on the Hale Telescope on Palomar Mountain, just up the road from where I live, and for one amazing year, I told people how even though she is a bit old, a bit heavy and bit low tech in places (I mean, she was designed and mostly built before WW2), she is still doing a critical job in expanding our knowledge of the universe.

    That’s pretty cool.