Our friend David L. Fisherowski is well versed in many applications of Astronomy and has offered his support in this field of study. A little bit about David he was Born 9/15/48 in Erie Pa. spending 27 years there before moving to Boyertown, Pa. where he now views the heavens. David went to Erie Cathedral Prep 1966 then onto higher education at Edinboro State College(now University) 1970 and he felt the need to go further and did his Graduate work at Edinboro, West Chester, Boston University and College of the Pacific. His first and last job found him teaching at Boyertown Area School District 8th and 9th grade Earth and Space Science. David spent 35 years teaching students the foundations of earth sciences and sharing his love of space.(retired) 1970-2005(35 years). David was also the JV Basketball coach 1975-78, Varsity Football line coach and defensive coordinator from 1986-2011(26 years) David’s Hobbies include: Geology(All aspects), Weather analysis and photography, Astronomy and astrophotography and Americas favorite sport Football.
We encourage you to visit David’s Web site listed here. Here you can learn about the heavens, the weather, the DDS system ( now in developmental stages), astronomy and much more. http://daveshorizon.blogspot.com/
We also have our friends at AccuWeather.com community helping us out. Please feel free to visit their Astronomy blog daily. http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-blogs/astronomy
A Simple Guide to Backyard Astronomy
The Earth’s Moon
The wonderment of the night sky is a passion that must be shared. Tracking the phases of the Moon, if only to plan how much light it will put into the sky at night, and bookmarking the Clear Sky Clock, affectionately known as the Cloud Clock become as common as breathing. The best observing nights fall about a week after the Full Moon until a few days after the New Moon. However, don’t wait for ideal and see what you can see every night no matter where you are. I offer this simple guide to anyone who wants to look upward and behold the magnificence of the night sky. Light pollution complicates observing the night sky if you live near a city as the brightness of the sky will determine how much you will be able to see. Star gazing in Pennsylvania can be a wonderful experience in your own backyard or an incredibly fantastic experience if you are willing to drive 2 to 8 hours to find a dark sky. For more information about curbing light pollution and saving money at the same time, or to see a light pollution map, check out
All it takes to get started is a lawn chair and a pair of binoculars Then you will want to know where to look for beautiful things in the sky, and how to know where you have pointed your optics Soon you will want something to hold the binoculars steady, bigger binoculars, a more comfortable lounge chair, warmer clothes and something to keep the dew off your optics Then well, Pandora’s Box has opened, and you realize that aperture is everything, the cost of mounting the optics and accessorizing them far exceeds the cost of the optics themselves, and you are starting to wonder how nice a gift you need to buy for your spouse so that you can acquire a new piece of astro stuff.
Where and When to Go to look at the Stars
Your backyard is a good place to start Most local astronomy clubs have public outreach programs and advertise public viewing nights. If you like camping, try attending a star party. Even if you don’t own a telescope, star parties are fun to attend. People with big and small, homemade or expensive telescopes are happy to show them off and let you take a look. They are great opportunities to see and try things before you buy. Some of the ones I am familiar with are listed below, but there are wonderful star parties all over the country:
The Mason-Dixon Star Party near Lancaster, PA usually in June or July Stargaze in the Spring, and the No-Frills in the Fall at Tuckahoe State Park,
MD sponsored by the Delmarva Stargazers club Almost Heaven Star party in August at the Mountain Institute on Spruce
Knob, in West Virginia The Black Forest Star Party in Cherry Springs, PA in September Dress for the Occasion! Always carry a jacket, hat and boots. The cosmos is a very, very cold place, and it just sucks the warmth right out of you in the absence of sunlight.
By day, the sun can be intense and burn your skin. A daytime, safari-style hat with a broad brim and covers the back of your neck, though no fashion statement, will help protect your face and neck from getting sunburned. Sun screen, lip balm, moisturizing lotion and insect repellent are four things you do not want to be without in the middle of nowhere! Even in summer, most astronomers battle cold temperatures at night! Changing the clothes next to your skin at dusk, wearing wool socks and a hat that covers your ears will go a long way to keeping you comfortable. Dew can be a problem and soaks through clothing, so water resistant outerwear is a good idea. A pair of gloves comes in handy when the dew freezes on your equipment Wearing a hat will help keep your feet warm as fifty percent of your body heat escapes from the top of your head. If you find that insulated boots are too bulky, try a pair of NEOS Overshoes. They fit over your regular shoes, are very light weight, pack flat, and keep your feet warm and dry in water, mud, frost and snow.
A flashlight that shines a red and not a white light is essential for navigating your way around in the dark on the observing field and reading the star charts. You can either cover a flashlight you have with rubylith, a red cellophane, or buy one with a red LED bulb. Many clubs that sponsor public outreach programs will be able to provide you with red cellophane for your flash light when you arrive. I have come to prefer the kind of light you wear around your head so your hands are free. WHY RED? Human eyes adapt to the dark by dilating the pupils and filling up with a chemical called visual purple. A white light will cause immediate pain and take your eyes another 30 minutes to readjust to the dark.
How to Find Things in the Sky
There are many maps of the sky available. The selection is overwhelming, so I will name my favorites. Photographs on the covers of astronomy books and maps are spectacular, but you will NOT see those objects in that beautifully illustrated way in a small telescope or with a pair of binoculars. You also will not be able to see the color shown in these photographs, so don’t be disappointed at the outset! I own two bookshelves full of atlases and star charts, yet I cannot read them in the dark with a red flashlight because the print is too small and/or they cram so many objects on the chart that you can’t tell where they are. Many of the charts included in this guide will be ones I created for myself and are specifically limited to large, bright objects you can see with a small telescope or binoculars. Most of the objects can be seen to some degree with the naked eye in a dark sky, and many of them can be found using optics in the horribly light polluted skies of any city.
Most amateur astronomers use a combination of charts and gizmos to assist them in finding celestial objects. There is even software that can be used on a laptop computer or Pocket PC that will guide you or a telescope to targets you choose. Many new telescopes come with “Go-To” motors and software built into them or something like Sky Commander can be used with large Dobsonian telescopes to find and track objects in the sky. Planetarium Software Planetarium programs can be installed on a computer that will show you what is available for viewing at anytime – both past and future. Most of my favorites are available for free on the web.
Google Sky https://www.google.com/sky/
Hallo Northern Sky http://www.hnsky.org/software.htm
The Sky Tonight http://www.skytonight.com
The What’s Up Page http://www.telescope.com/content/inthesky/
The heavens Above http://www.heavens-above.com/
Sky View Finder Stellarium http://www.stellarium.org/
Red dot pointing devices mounted on binoculars , cameras or telescopes work very well. A Rigel finder stands up a little higher and gives our face a little more room to aim the scope. You can aim the red dots at a specific point in the sky, then look through your scope. If everything is lined up properly, the object you seek will be centered in the eye piece.. A stand-alone “star finder” is the new Celestron Sky Scout. Not only does it have a lighted display that is more or less possible to read in the dark, it can also talk to you if you use the ear buds that come along with it. It works by turning on its GPS and gets a lock on several satellites. Then you can point it to any area of the sky, day or night, and it will tell you what object you are looking at. You can even ask it to find something for you, and more of the lights will blink on the display the closer you get. Meade has a similar product made of plastic called the mySKY, however the picture is misleading because you will NOT see that beautiful galaxy in the window!
DDS (Dave’s Dynamic System)
For years mankind has had to battler the elements of mother nature. When it comes to capturing the night sky, well lets just say one word DEW. For the most part it’s rather easy to set up the camera, all you need is a long lasting power source, good tripod, good SLR camera, and a timer. However remember that element called dew? Well as the sun sets, the stars come out and it’s time for mother nature to create dew. What is dew? Dew is water in the form of droplets that appears on thin, exposed objects in the morning or evening due to condensation. As the exposed surface cools by radiating its heat, atmospheric moisture condenses at a rate greater than that at which it can evaporate, resulting in the formation of water droplets.When temperatures are low enough, dew takes the form of ice; this form is called frost. Because dew is related to the temperature of surfaces, in late summer it forms most easily on surfaces that are not warmed by conducted heat from deep ground, such as grass, leaves, railings, car roofs, and bridges. Yes, here we have a common occurrence which will happen on many nights, so the question remains… your trying to capture the night sky and the dew will surely form on your camera and its lens. Before the DDS was invented astro folks would use a heat strap wrapped around the lens and a bag placed over the camera. The heat strap was powered by a large battery, which should last all night. David L. Fisherowski being a science teacher, understood the dynamics of dew and knew that if you apply a condensed project focal layer of air to affected area the dew in question will be unable to form. So in short after years of fine tuning and tweaking the first DDS he developed what we have today the DDS standard, the Mobil DDS, micro DDS, Suspended DDS and the AC/DC interchangeable DDS. For more information visit Dave’s Blog at http://daveshorizon.blogspot.com/ This video explains in detail the workings of DDS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m47qGLPiZNc&feature=youtu.be
Binoculars for Astronomy
Many large deep sky objects look better in binoculars than in a telescope due to their larger field of view. Although any pair will do, bigger binoculars gather more light than smaller ones. Larger binoculars (15×70 and larger) should be mounted because it is hard to keep the image steady whereas smaller models are easily hand held. There are also “image stabilizer”models that keep the target from moving. Because the pupils of the eyes dilate in the dark, binoculars for night use need larger exit pupils ratings than binoculars that will only be used in daylight.The exit pupil is simply the objective (front /larger) lens diameter divided by the magnification (the smaller lenses next to your eyes). A pair of 10×50 binoculars would have an exit pupil of 5; 10x30s have a 3; 8x56s have an exit pupil of 7. The larger the exit pupil, the brighter the target image will appear. In general, a larger field of view is better, but more magnification reduces field of view so the observer needs to balance the factors. A telescope may have a view of only 1 degree, but many objects in the night sky are much larger and can only be seen in their entirety with binoculars. It is like the difference between viewing something the size of your fingertip versus the size ofyour hand at arm’s length. Another very important consideration is whether the binoculars will be used with or without eyeglasses. For use with eyeglasses, more “eye relief” is needed. Long eye relief generally is at least 18 mm. There are two types of prisms used in binoculars: porro and roof. Porro prism binoculars cost less. “BaK-4” (barium crown) glass is better quality than “BK-7” although the latter is not necessarily bad. Coatings are used to focus the different wavelengths of light to a single point to minimize color aberrations and halo effects. “Fully multi-coated” is best. Roof prism binoculars are better if they are also “phase coated”. The older Celestron Giants 20x80s were made with Japanese optics are the very best large binoculars. Although they are no longer made pairs may become available. I fasten them to a parallelogram mount attached to a surveyor’s tripod. On a dark sky, I can see nebulas very well – especially using only one nebula filter fastened to one eyepiece. A favorite binocular mounts is the Couch Potato Telescope Chair. It is made to handle mounting of small and medium sized binoculars up to 15×70 lightweight models. The entire assembly folds flat and easily fits into a car. It offers a 360 degree rotation and good height adjustments. You can buy it already assembled, or buy it in kit form, or just buy the plans and make it yourself. The chair is made by Sim Picheloup in Houston, Texas. His website is: http://www.geocities.com/lwraif/SimP/
Telescopes for Back Yard Astronomy
The best telescope is the one you use all the time. The telescope tube is the least expensive item of the set-up once you consider eye pieces and mounting the thing. Bigger and heavier is always better, but as you get older, weight will become more of a consideration than money. Depending on the construction of the telescope, the image you see is usually upside down, and/or reversed left to right. A roof prism, although not necessary, will correct the position of the image. A spotting scope gives you an image that is realistically oriented. There is an extensive selection of telescopes available in every conceivable price range – reflectors, refractors, Dobsonians, Schmidt-Cassegrains, and Maksutovs. They all do different things and it all comes down to personal preference and what you want to look at. You can even buy telescopes for only a few hundred dollars that have GOTO computers attached to them that will point themselves to whatever you want to look at in the sky. There are endless focal length specifications and eyepieces. Many decisions and trade-offs need to be balanced in selecting a telescope as no one model meets all needs. Some scopes to consider
The Yukon 6x100x100 Spotting Scope is very light weight and versatile. It has built in zoom and the eyepiece can be easily rotated to different angles. Both the scope and the tripod are in the $350 price range. Don’t waste your money on anything less than a Carl Zeiss tripod!!! The website for the spotting scope is: http://www.yukonamericas.com/index.asp The Celestron NexStar 4SE has high-quality Maksutov-Cassegrain optics with Celestron’s premium StarBright XLT coatings. It weighs 21 lbs including the tripod, is ultra portable and features a precision optical system with 1,325 mm focal length (f/13) with a 105 mm (4-inch) mirror. This means it has a much narrower field of view than the above telescopes, but can see much fainter objects in light polluted skies. It gives very good detail on the planets. It is also completely computer-controlled (GoTo) and sets up in minutes. The database has 40,000 objects. The first time I set up mine, I simply leveled the included tripod, adjusted the included red dot finder, pointed it to one bright object in the sky
The Coronado Personal Solar Telescope (PST) is the specialized little telescope that has only one purpose – viewing the sun! NEVER, NEVER point any other optics directly at the sun without special filters!!! You will fry your eyes and your optics! You can see solar storms on the surface of the sun which appear as black sunspots when viewed head-on, or prominences, pictured below, when viewed at an angle. Sunspot activity is indicative of solar flare activity that causes the Northern
Lights (Aurora Borealis). You can see predictions of aurora activity at: www.spaceweather.com
LOMO 6″ Maksutov Telescope. This is a short tube telescope with Russian optics mounted to a fork mount on a heavy duty tripod. The wedge attached to the tripod enables the scope to “track”, follow the rotation of the earth, when a small, 9-volt battery operated servo motor is connected. This way the object in focus does not move out of view. Both the telescope and fork mount are made of steel. Because this set-up is very heavy I think twice before taking it anywhere. However, it has extremely sharp images and doesn’t move in a strong wind!
Most star charts I have seen are cluttered with too many objects in a small space for me to be able to read in the dark with a red flashlight, so I made my own charts using the Deep Space Astro Card software. The darker the sky, the more objects you will be able to see. You know when you are looking at a dark sky when the clouds appear black instead of white! Of course, the bigger the telescope the more detail you can see! The planets always travel the same path through the sky, called the Ecliptic. The constellations located along this path are known as the Zodiac. You can always check the almanac data in the newspaper to find which planets are visible and when. While stars focus to a point of light, planets focus to a solid object. Venus can only be seen in the morning and evening, and Jupiter and Saturn can be seen during the night as well as evening and morning depending upon where they are in their orbits around the sun. Often, these very bright objects are miscalled the Morning or Evening Stars. Mars is visible only every 2 years and looks red. You can tell if you are looking at Jupiter because you can usually see at least 3 little moons near it. Saturn, with its rings, is the most impressive object in the sky next to the moon! Only two double stars on are included on this list of objects, but the sky is full of them. Two easy ones to see with a small telescope are Mizar in the handle Big Dipper and Albireo in the constellation Cygnus. My charts contain Open Clusters, Globular Clusters, Nebulas and Galaxies. Because galaxies are so diffuse they are hard to see in light polluted skies. You need a larger telescope to see most of them, however, the closest one, the Andromeda Galaxy, is best viewed with binoculars. Galaxies can only be seen when looking out of the plane of our own Milky Way Galaxy which appears as a narrow, bright celestial cloud spread across the sky. The Open Clusters will also be best viewed in binoculars. Globular clusters and nebulas will appear as “faint fuzzies” in the sky.
List of 93 Treasured Objects in the Sky
This a list of 93 things you can see in the sky with a small telescope or pair of binoculars and 15 star charts to help you find them. The moon, planets, and comets are NOT included because they are in different places each night. The chart also includes a map key to assist you in finding these treasures. There is a column that lists each object’s magnitude – the lower the number the brighter the object. Under light -polluted skies, or nights when the moonlight is bright, you may only be able to see Mag 4 or less. The right ascension (RA ) is when an object rises in the East with smaller numbers rising earlier. The Declination shows the degrees the object is located North (+) to South (-) of the celestial equator. Some objects are best viewed in binoculars because they are so large.
Good Binocular Objects – These objects are included in my list of 93.
Nebulas Orion Nebula, M42 Nebulas in Sagittarius, The Lagoon (M8), the Trifid (M20), the Swan (M17), Eagle (M16) The North American Nebula, NGC 7000 in Cygnus The Dumbell Nebula (M27) in Vulpecula The Helix Nebula, NGC 7293 near Aquarius Open Star Clusters The Peiades, M45 The Hyades in Taurus The Alpha Persei Group in Perseus The Double Cluster in Perseus The Coma Cluster in Coma Berenices, The Beehive (Praesepe, M44) in Cancer, M6 and M7 above the tail of Scorpius, Globular Clusters (look like fuzzy balls in binoculars as do comets), M13 and M92 in Hercules, M22 in Sagittarius, Omega Centauri in Centaurus – only visible here in March and April, Galaxies, The Andromeda Galaxy, M31 – look between Cassiopeia and Pegasus, The Triangulum Galaxy, M33, Star Chains, Kemble’s Cascade in Camelopardus (between the North Star and the Double, Cluster in Perseus), Messier Charts\, Charles Messier (1730-1817) was a French astronomer, and along with his friend, Pierre Mechain, compiled a list of 103 “faint fuzzies” they observed with small telescopes over the skies of Paris. Comet hunting was a very popular pastime back then, and since comets also appear as “faint fuzzies” in the sky, Messier compiled this list so they would not be mistaken for comets.
Astrophotography is a Pandora’s Box all unto its own. You will NOT be able to see these beautiful colors through a small telescope, however using a Nebula filter, you will be able to see some nebulosity as green.
HOW TO SHOOT THE NIGHT SKY
SO YOU WANT TO SHOOT THE NIGHT SKY (Including Lightning) ……..
This is just a short basic overview on how anyone can shoot the night sky.
Although sunset photos are attention-getters, you and your digital SLR can get great shots of the night sky after the sun goes down. Please note it is very difficult to shoot the night sky with a point and shoot camera, but it can be done. Now you first task, is to find a great spot with no ambient light from cities, also be aware of floodlights that turn off and on. And the weather plans a big role as well; shoot on nights that have a lower-humidity, the fall and winter seasons makes for clearer pictures.
Another item that you will most likely need is a lens warmer. Now I have tested many items claiming to keep your lens warm all night, hand warmers, hand wraps, etc. None of these work all night long, however I did find a product which worked not only on cameras but telescopes as well. The firefly heater by Kendricks Astro Instruments http://www.kendrickastro.com/astro/dew_flyheaters.html has this powerful device that will supply heat to your camera through the roughest, dampest nights anyone can imagine. We have been shooting the night sky this past week looking for meteors but we have had a lot of low level fog, and the lens never gathered drops of water.
I also place a plastic bag over the entire camera keeping water away from battery and housing itself. I cut a small hole in one end to fit the lens over and use a rubber band to hold bag around the lens. Now back to taking your picture.
To capture a photograph of a scene complete with stars, you need to keep your aperture open a long time. You also need A tripod, this is a must! You need to use a remote trigger to operate the shutter. ( I found mine on amazon for $8.00) My timer is a digital timer allowing me to walk away and let camera shoot all night long.
When you photograph a scene that includes starry skies, you want a huge depth of field to keep everything in focus, so use a small aperture that has an f/stop of f/16. If you rely on the camera to expose the scene, you don’t see any stars at all. Therefore, shoot this type of picture by using the B Bulb setting – shooting mode so that the shutter stays open until you decide to close it, which you do remotely.
The lowest ISO setting on some older cameras and Nikons is ISO 200. But if your camera has a lower setting, use it. A focal –Length range of 28mm to 50mm lets you either capture a wide expanse of landscape and stars, or zoom in for a tighter view.
I also shoot a high asa and shorter time frame. I then use a free program to stack my pictures. http://www.markus-enzweiler.de/software/software.html
A sample of stacking pictures – I used over 900 pictures to get this effect
Taking pictures of the night sky
Ok find yourself a dark location, backyard, field, flat roof top, but make sure your far enough away from any kid of lights. Also make note a full moon will often bleach out the night sky.
Mount your camera on a tripod and get it set up, including attaching the remote shutter trigger. Set the lens to manual focus and the lens focus to Infinity. This setting, combined with the small aperture, gives you a huge depth of field
You can attach a hood if you want to, it helps.
After you compose the picture, press and hold the remote release. Experiment with different exposure times. Start out with an exposure of about 30 seconds. Release the remote trigger and review the image:
- If the sky is too bright, the image is over exposed Decrease the exposure by about five seconds.
- If the image has bright areas, find an area that has no ambient light at all. A car turning a corner and illuminating nearby trees makes a bright spot in your picture.
- If silhouettes of trees are blurry, either appreciate the role the wind is playing or try again on a calm night.
- Basic settings to shoot meteors – ASA 2000 – open aperture – 30 to 45 sec exp. Time. With a 1 sec interval and shoot till your battery dies. (Oh is best if you get the battery base with 2 batteries this way you can shoot all night.
- If shooting lightning remember a high ISO will cause your lightning up close to be over exposed be careful
- Lightning up close I shoot full open aperture – Bulb setting 30 sec. to 2 mins. – ISO around 100 – Lens on manual focus after you focus.
- Lightning far away I shoot 15 to 30 secs high ISO 1200 or higher. I use a Nexstar 5 from Celestron http://www.celestron.com/astronomy/celestron-nexstar-5se.html to take a lot of night sky pictures. On the back of the scope you can mount your camera and take pictures in manual mode or allow the telescope to do it for you as it will pan to various points you program in. Video on YouTube provides a short overview of the telescope. http://youtu.be/E1dM6haWLtc
- USING a Telescope to take pictures of night sky.