JPL Open House 2012

WOW! I just got back from a day at JPL. I’ve heard from some of the volunteer’s that this year’s was the biggest event yet.  I will have some pictures as soon as I get them all into one place.  I had to use a variety of device (three in fact) to take all the pictures that I could.  I was only able to get about half way through all the exhibits and missed some of the ones that I wanted to see due to the amount of people.  It was like going to Disney or Magic Mountain.  The stuff I did get to enjoy was fantastic.  A big thank you to all the JPL volunteers that put this event on, you were outstanding!

I’ll have a more detailed report for you once I have rested awhile. It was 99 degrees F when I got back in my car.  Note to self, next year come earlier and wear a hat.

Love, love, loved this event.  If you ever get the chance I would plan on spending both days viewing all the exhibits.  Some people we talked to in line were coming back for their third trip to view the exhibits.  I must admit that I was tempted on a couple to get back in line and go around again.

Next year promises to be even better!  I can’t wait.


– Ex astris, scientia –



Image of the Venus Transit

Here are the results of my first (and last) Venus transit photos.  I had a terrible time with equipment.  None of my Canon cameras wanted to download an image.  Finally, I used Images Plus and was able to capture Live View video of the event and then stack them.  It seems, after some investigation, that the USB ports on my laptop do not supply power while it is one batteries.  So the Canon’s could not download images without power.  It would have been nice if I could control this “feature” and decide if I want the batteries to power the USB or not.  Come on man!  Anyway, the color isn’t the best, but I need to calibrate my monitor to get better color and I have not had a chance to do that yet.  Hopefully this weekend will give me the time to work on the images more.  You can view, or download the full size images here.

– Ex astris, scientia –



JPL Open House

The 2012 annual Open House at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.,  Saturday, June 9th & Sunday, June 10th from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.  This year’s theme is “Great Journeys,” inviting visitors to share in the wonders of space through high-definition and 3-D videos, live demonstrations, interactions with scientists and engineers, and a first look at JPL’s new Earth Science Center.

The following items are not permitted at this NASA/JPL Event: weapons, explosives, incendiary devices, dangerous instruments, alcohol, illegal drugs, pets, segways, and all types of skates including skateboards. No bags, backpacks or ice chests are allowed, with the exception of small purses and diaper bags.
JPL is located at 4800 Oak Grove Drive in Pasadena, off the 210 (Foothill) Freeway at the Berkshire Avenue/Oak Grove Drive exit. Parking is available near the Oak Grove main gate and the eastern boundary of JPL, accessible from Windsor Avenue via the Arroyo Boulevard exit off the 210 Freeway.

This is a great event for adults and kids alike.  If you have never been to JPL or any NASA facility you are in for a treat.  I highly recommend attending.

– Ex astris, scientia –

Venus Transit

Well, today was the big day and I got some great pictures from the event as you can see.  I spent the afternoon with K-8 kids showing them the sun and the transit.  My sun gun traveled to St. Andrews Catholic School where a fellow attorney’s child attends.  They asked if I would be willing to show these youngsters the event and, well, I can’t say no to any request like that.  I love help kids understand about the universe outside their windows. Luckily today there were also A LOT of sunspots making the display even better.  I was only able to snap a couple of photos with my smartphone during the lulls, but I must say it worked pretty well.  I was also able to get some images from home (thank the weather gods for a sunny day) so I will process them and, if any of them are good, I will post the results here for you to see.  So did anyone try for the contest from Southern Stars?  I would love to seen any pictures that you might have taken. I am exhausted, so its off to bed for me.  A couple of hundred kids and an afternoon in the hot sun has done me in.  Enjoy the photos.

– Ex astris, scientia –

More Solar Pictures

I haven’t actually had time to process all my images yet, but I have recieved requests to post what I have.  So, I created a Flickr account and will post them here.  I have added some comments and geotagged the photos so you can see the area that the images were taken.  The solar images (like the featured image)  in the Annular Eclipse May 2012 set were taken with a point-and-shoot JVC Picsio camera through a cheap solar film viewer that was given to me.  It worked surprisingly well.  Friends of mine, Diane and Sandy from the Riverside Astronomical Society used this technique with their iPhone and Droid respectively and also managed to capture several good images of the eclipse.  I hope you enjoy these and I promise to keep working on the other images.

– Ex astris, scientia –

Off to the Eclipse!

I’m leaving on a jet plane…well, actually in an RV for a remote spot in Utah on the center-line of the annular eclipse!!!! <Muppet flail> Yeah!!! </end Muppet flail>.  I hope everything goes well and I will have some great pictures to share with you on my return.  For those of you that have the chance to view the eclipse, please remember that this is NOT a total eclipse and that you will need to protect your eyes.  Only 85% of the sun will be obscured by the Moon, leaving plenty of sunlight left to make you go blind.  Take all precautions, especially with any children that may want to look up and see what is going on.  I’ll be back on Tuesday!

– Ex astris, scientia –

The Sun – Safely

Well, I saw this article about making a Sun Gun (no, not the one envisioned by German scientists in WWII), but this one, and I just happened to see a Fry’s ad for a $129.00 Celestron 60mm goto telescope and I couldn’t resist.  So, after a quick trip to the penny less than a dollar store only I manage to get all the parts for this:

She’s a beauty, ain’t she.

Using the 9mm eye piece that came with the scope I was able to actually see 6 sunspots!

Despite the wind that kept moving my planter….er…sun viewing device around I could clearly make out the sun and the sunspots.  Although it is not very apparent in these shrunk down, web size pictures, the full blow images are great.  Visually it is rather stunning.  Next steps: I will reinforce the connection a little more, but I now have a safe, quick and easy way for children of all ages to view the sun safely!

Please remember to never look directly at the sun as it will make you go blind!

Venus transit here I come!

– Ex astris, scientia –

Getting Ready for the Eclipse

Dateline, May 20, 2012.  Where: western United States.  ITS COMING! No, not the end of the world or the Mayan calendar, just a great opportunity to view an annular eclipse.  What is an annular eclipse you ask?  Well, according to Wikipedia: An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s apparent diameter is smaller than the Sun, causing the Sun to look like an annulus (ring), blocking most of the Sun’s light. An annular eclipse appears as a partial eclipse over a region thousands of kilometres wide.  In other words, it looks like the image at the top of the post or this one:

Solar annular eclipse of January 15, 2010 in J...

Solar annular eclipse of January 15, 2010 in Jinan, Republic of China. Français : Éclipse solaire de type annulaire du 15 janvier 2010 à Jinan, République de Chine. Tiếng Việt: Nhật thực hình khuyên diễn ra ngày 15 tháng 1 năm 2010 tại Tể Nam, Cộng hòa Nhân dân Trung Hoa. 中文: 2010年1月15日日環食,中國濟南. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The moon doesn’t completely block the sun, so there is a ring.  I will be traveling to get the best vantage I can for the event and for some astrophotography as well.  The timing of the eclipse just happens to be on a new moon weekend.  Barring any clouds or bad weather, it looks to be spectacular.

This will help me get ready for the total eclipse on November 13 in Australia.  I can’t wait to go back to Australia.  I highly recommend a trip if you haven’t been there before.  The people are great and the country is beautiful.

A word of warning!!! Never look directly at the Sun, it will blind you!  Google eclipse for ways to safely view an eclipse.

– Ex astris, scientia — Ex astris, scientia –

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