News

  • Christmas Comet Shines in Tandem with Geminid Shower

    Comet 46P/Wirtanen, commonly dubbed the ‘Christmas Comet’ thanks to its festive timing, is visible now and will reach its peak brightness on the 16th of December, 2018. Look to the Eastern horizon near the Pleiades cluster as it rises early in the evening.  The comet will be visible all night.  As we near the middle of the month, the green glow surrounding the comet should balloon to approximately twice the apparent size of the Moon making the comet appear as a diaphanous green orb. Head to dark skies to help boost natural night sky contrast and bring a telescope or binoculars for the best views.

    For astrophotographers and night sky photographers, 46P-Wirtanen’s arrival with the Geminid meteor shower offers a great opportunity to capture the green comet in tandem with a light show. The nights of the 13th and 14th of December are your best bet when the shower reaches its peak.

    Discovered in 1948 by Carl Wirtanen, an astronomer at Lick Observatory in California, 46P has been visible during every pass save one - in 1980 it was too near the Sun to see. This comet is a member of the Jupiter family whose orbits are controlled by the planet and are thought to originate from the Kuiper belt, a massive celestial lagoon of icy masses residing outside of Neptune. Their orbits are relatively short, typically less than 20 years. These are comets that we potentially see pass by Earth often. However, they are not always bright enough to see with the naked eye. Many meet an early demise by striking a planet or breaking apart in the atmosphere of one, such as Shoemaker-Levy 9 famously did in July 1992, or degrading in the intensity of the Sun.

    Jupiter family comets are not known for being very bright due to the rapid decline of their structures as they pass through our solar system. Of the over 400 Jupiter family comets known, 46P will be among the brightest to pass near Earth recently and is expected to reach a maximum magnitude of 4.2 at the nucleus as we near the middle of the month. Comet 46P holds the record for the smallest comet nucleus ever recorded.  Measured in 1996 at a likely charitable 1.1km. To give some idea of its size, that’s 1/10th the size of Halley’s comet and 1/13th the size of Hale-Bopp.  While it will not be as bright as a larger comet might have been and may not have much of a visible tail, 46P-Wirtanen is expected to reach a magnitude of 4.2 which is well into the visible-with-the-naked-eye range. This is also the closest the comet is expected to pass near Earth again.

    The comet isn’t the only one putting on a show this time of year. The Geminid meteor shower reaches its peak on the 13th and 14th. The most reliably brilliant shower every year, the Geminids put on a unique light display of noticeably slower meteor trails than other showers.  They often seem to skip and glide across the night sky sometimes lasting seconds or leaving behind green dust trails for minutes.  Because Geminid meteors are not the remnants of a typical comet tail but rather the rocky trail of a large mass called 3200 Phaethon, their composition is denser and the result is brighter longer lasting streaks of light as they enter our atmosphere.   This shower can reach peaks frequencies of up to 120 meteor per hour, promising a good showing even from suburban areas with moderate light pollution.  Peak times are about 2am your local time.

     

  • Navigating the August 2018 Sky!

    Check out the sky wheel link below!

     

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  • First Look - Meade LX85 EQ Mount

    June 1st, 2018 Meade Instruments announces a new line of portable, flexible and affordable equatorial mounts, the LX85.  Capable of carrying 33 pounds, this smart mount includes Meade Audiostar with Astronomer Inside technology, exceptionally stable and reliable gears and is compatible with the Meade Zero Image Shift focuser.  Check out this quick first look video and stay tuned for more!

  • Join us at Starlight Festival - Yerkes Observatory

    Starlight Festival 2018

    Yerkes Observatory - Williams Bay, WI

    Memorial Day Weekend

    This year's Starlight Festival will be held at the historic Yerkes Observatory, Saturday May 26th and Sunday May 27th.  This is a FREE event, open to the public.  Bringing together a community of scientists, writers, outreach volunteers and proponents of science and astronomy education with the leading retailers and manufacturers of telescopes, cameras, microscopes and science tools and toys this Festival is all about the importance of science in our every day lives, and continued advancements in education.   This year the event celebrates the 150th birthday of George Ellery Hale designer of the massive 40" refractor at Yerkes.  This beautiful observatory located in the stunning Lake Geneva area of Wisconsin was founded in 1897 and has been operated by the University of Chicago.  The college's funding for Yerkes may be at an end this year however and this could be a final chance to see the observatory up close.   In-depth tours of Yerkes, housing the world's largest refractor telescope, will be available during the festival.

    Woodland Hills Camera & Telescopes is sponsoring featured speaker Dr. Linda Spilker, JPL Project Scientist for Cassini, at this year's Starlight Festival.   Launch in October 1997, Cassini spent two decades travelling through our solar system studying the fascianting planet of Saturn and in that time revealed only a small portion of all we had to learn.  That mission ended when the Cassini probe collided with Saturn in September 2017, sending invaluable data to NASA scientists about the ringed planet in it's final weeks.   Now that the mission has concluded, JPL and NASA scientists have processed the immense amount of data gathered uncovering previously unknown information.   Dr. Spilker will be discussing the incredible findings that the millions of gigabytes of data collected has revealed to us about Saturn, our solar system and the ongoing search for life beyond Earth.

    Other speakers at this year's festival include Dr. Seth Shostak and his search for extraterrestrial life, Samual D. Hale on the legacy of his grandfather the late George Ellery Hale who designed and oversaw the building of some of our nation's largest telescopes including the massive 40 inch refractor at Yerkes, discussions of astronomy outreach with Kosovo's Pranvera Hyseni, MIT Physics graduate and author Marcia Bartusiak on the history and breakthroughs of astronomy and physics, Astronomy Magazine editor David Eicher on the importance of science literacy, and a live feed from Mt. Wilson Observatory with telescope operator Thomas Meneghini.

    The Starlight Festival is an event to highlight science, robotics and astronomy literacy, education and research.  This begins with our youth and showing them that science can be a fun and fascinating hobby or profession.  STEM activities and hands on projects will be there for kids of all ages to join in on.  Joining speakers at this year's show is Physicist Jerry Zimmerman, also known as Mr. Freeze, who will be demonstrating the "super cool" properties of Cyrogenics!   His entertaining and amazing show is fun for the entire family.    Science touches so many aspects of our lives including the Arts.   The festival welcomes space artist Carlos Hernandez and live music.

  • September Star Party at Oak Canyon - September 23, 2017

    September's star party is this weekend! If you would like to join in and bring your own equipment, please plan to arrive well before dark between 6:30 and 8:30. The star party runs from 8:30 to 10:30 this month, is free and open to the public. Bring your family and friends for a night under the stars!

  • Nexdome Weathers the Storm in Ship Shape

    We recently received a message from John Baker, the owner of a Nexdome residing in the Houston, Texas area which was recently battered by Hurricane Harvey.   The backyard observatory proved its strength and durability as it came out of the category 4 hurricane, unscathed. Knowing his proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the likelihood of being hit with a tropical storm at some point, John did make a few small additions with brackets and tie-downs for additional insurance.  While the dome was slammed with high winds and rain it not only weathered the storm but no repair or adjustment after.  All Nexdomes are tested to withstand high wind and rains but a hurricane can test even the most durable of structures to their limits.  Thanks for sharing John and we are so happy to know that you and your equipment are safe!

    Read on to see what John says about his experience:

    Hi Farah, 

    I am more than pleased to tell you that the NexDome I recently purchased from Woodland Hills Telescope survived Hurricane Harvey's landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast. Peak wind gusts of 90+ mph were recorded as the storm passed over my Bay Home which is 12 miles from Port Lavaca, Texas. Things were "very rough" as you could tell from the Weather Channel's on site coverage at Port Lavaca during the height of the storm.  As my Bay Home is constructed to hurricane standards I decided to provide the same for the NexDome.  The NexDome is sitting on a 4 inch concrete slab and secured using concrete screws on each of the provided wall section's "L" brackets.  As an added feature, I installed hold down brackets on opposite sides of the dome using a similar bracket arrangement with concrete screws.  I attached a " D.O.T"  brand two inch wide "back off tie down" positioned directly over the dome's shutter to secure the both the shutter and dome.  The dome is fully functional and ready for some more great viewing down here on the Texas Gulf Coast.  By the way, I have a Mewlon 250 and IOptron Mount.  With that setup, there is enough room in the dome for two adults!!  Thanks for all of your help and liaison with NexDome regarding technical info:)

    Best Regards

    John Baker

    Houston, Texas

  • Seminar with Warren Keller at GMARS

    Join us at Riverside Astronomical Society's Goat Mountain Astronomical Research Station.  Saturday, September 23rd 2017, Warren Keller will be with us for an in-depth seminar on the popular PixInsight software. More details on the day's schedule will be released soon.

    The fee for Saturday is $50 and includes:

    • A day with Warren Keller for a full education on PixInsight.  The day starts at 10am.
    • Lunch
    • Dinner
    • Access to FREE camping under the beautifully dark skies at Goat Mountain from Friday to Sunday.

    CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

    Space at this venue is extremely limited.  Register early!    Lunch and dinner provided courtesy of Woodland Hills Camera & Telescopes for registered attendees.  More details including directions to GMARS will be provided to those who register.

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    Warren's easy to digest tutorial format has helped thousands of astronomers perfect their image capture and processing achieve new heights.  Check out all of Warren's video tutorials here.

  • Oak Canyon Park Star Party Dates - All 2017

    The Oak Canyon Astronomy Group has their star party dates for the remainder of 2017.  Please note that events are subject to cancellation in the event of inclement weather.

    May 20, 2017: 8PM to 10PM
    June 17, 2017: 8:30PM to 10:30PM
    July 15, 2017: 8:30PM to 10:30PM
    August 12,2017:  9PM to 11:00PM
    September 23, 2017: 8:30PM to 10:30PM
    October 28, 2017: 7:00PM to 10:00PM
    November 25, 2017: 6:00PM to 9:00PM
    December 16, 2017: 6:00PM to 9:00PM - This date is a new moon! 
    Set up time for those bringing their equipment for viewing or imaging is two hours prior to the start times listed above.
    Be sure to follow the group on Facebook for up to date information on each event as each month rolls around, pictures, conversation with other group members and more.

     

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  • Monthly Star Party at Oak Canyon A Go! April 22nd, 2017.

    Anyone that has been following our monthly star party updates knows that Oak Canyon Astronomy Group has been rained out for three months straight- which might be a record for our typically dry and sunny locale.   This month's star party is April 22nd, with set up at 5-6:30pm and public viewing from 6:30pm to 11pm.

    LA City College astronomy group will be joining OCAG with their 28" Dobsonian as part of the astronomy outreach efforts.   Viewing the night sky through one of these giant telescopes is an immersive experience unlike any any other.

    Check out the OCAG's Facebook page for more details on this free and open to the public star party. Stay tuned for May, June and July dates coming soon.

  • Losmandy Announces Major Release of New Mount Systems

    Losmandy has announced an new mount system based on their long-standing and well loved GM8, G11 and Titan mounts.   With the addition of a simple adapter, you can now split your existing Losmandy mount and attach to new, alternate bases without having to buy an entirely new mount.   In other words, if you have a GM8 and have been wanting to upgrade to a G11, you add an RA extension adapter and a G11 base increasing your mount's weight capacity to 50 pounds.   Have a G11 and want to upgrade? Add the RA Extension and the Titan base and you have a mount with a 75 pound capacity for a fraction of the price of a new Titan mount.

    There are great major possibilities and potential versatility with a modular equatorial mount system.   For astronomers with multiple fixed viewing or imaging locations that you travel to, you could have two bases and a single mount head rather than two complete mounts.  You could keep a larger fixed system at home and travel with a lighter setup when you're out in the field.  By splitting the mount in two it becomes more portable and easier to handle as well.   Losmandy has updated the mount design by tucking motors away making the mount bodies more streamlined and compact than before.    The new mount systems are also available in pre-configured sets under the new models, GM811G and G11GT.

    As of this posting mounts, Losmandy is expected to start shipping in about 4 weeks and the RA Extension for the GM8 is due out soon as well.  We are accepting preorders now for these mounts and upgrades.

     

     

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