Star Crossed Stars Doomed…An Astronomical Love Story For Valentines Day.

Just like a Shakespearian play, the two white dwarf stars in Henize 2-428 are circling each other toward a deadly embrace.

Stellar partnership doomed to end in catastrophe

Each of the white dwarf stars have a little less mass than the Sun.

In about 700 million years the stars will merge into a Type 1a supernova, destroying both stars in a fiery final embrace.

Normally at the end of the life of a star like our Sun, the white dwarf stage is fairly permanent.   However, these two are doomed to produce another spectacular event.

A tragedy worthy of the Bard’s ballad:

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona Henize, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.

Romeo And Juliet Prologue, 1–8

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.

Norman

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What Are Wolf-Rayet Stars?

Wolf-Rayet stars are the last activity of a dying star. The stars are at least 20 times more massive than the Sun.

Stars this massive grow quickly and die early.  Wolf-Rayet stars run out of lighter elements to fuse inside its core. Unlike the Sun, which turns hydrogen into helium, Wolf-Rayet stars are burning elements like oxygen to maintain equilibrium.  This causes winds of 2.2 million to 5.4 million miles per hour (3.6 million to 9 million kilometers per hour).  The winds strip away the outer layers of the Wolf-Rayet star eliminating a lot of its mass.

When the star runs out of elements to fuse, fusion stops and the pressure inside is less than the gravity and the star explodes as supernova.

But while the star is still (barely) alive, it is a Wolf-Rayet

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.

Norman

Citizen Scientist Adds To Supernova Science.

Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki discovered a “new” star that was really a Nova in Delphinus.

The next day after the report the scientists at the Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy (CHARA) atop Mt. Wilson pointed the world’s largest infrared telescope at the event for the next 27 days.

The CHARA group was able to obtain the highest resolution images ever of an expanding nova in its earliest stages.  Although we are seeing it now, the nova actually occurred 15,000 years ago.

The CHARA Array uses the principles of optical interferometry to combine the light from six telescopes to create images with very high resolution, equivalent to a telescope with a diameter of more than 300 meters. This makes it capable of seeing details far smaller in angular extent than traditional telescopes on the ground or in space. It has the power to resolve an object the size of a U.S nickel on top of the Eiffel tower in Paris from the distance of Los Angeles, California.

Although located a couple of miles up the road from my house in Pasadena, the CHARA Array is operated by funding from the National Science Foundation and Georgia State’s College of Arts and Sciences.

 

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

And So It Begins…Nightfall Has Arrived.

Once again, I am making my pilgrimage to astronomical nirvana by attending Nightfall.  This year’s event is going to be a show stopper.  Not only is there the usual advanced courses available, this year there is a another complete track for not-so-advanced astronomers.

Also, our sponsor, Woodland Hills Telescope will also have astronomical goods on sale during the event.  This is great because I can’t tell you how many time that I forget that one piece of equipment/cable/something that my entire rig depends on to function.  Not only does this make me VERY angry, it also makes me go to the nearest astronomy store (about 80 miles away through the mountains, still closer than home) to get it.  Not this year.

I will be giving a talk, along with fellow Riverside Astronomical Society member Daniel Perry, about mirror-less cameras and astrophotography.  Daniel recently picked up a Sony A7s, which has great low light sensitivity (not any of the other A7 models, just the A7s).  While I will be talking about my significantly less expensive Canon EOS-M, which also has great low light capabilities.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each one.

I will also be manning the Solar Pavilion with always popular Lunt 152mm solar scope.  I will also have my Lunt 60mm solar scope and a Coronado PST.  We are only supposed to be open for about an hour, but it always turns into an all day event.  Thank goodness for pop-up shade tents.

I hope to see you there, but in any case, I will have plenty of images from the event for you next week (if I survive the trip and the event).

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

JPL Open House Part 1.

Among the many, many other events this past weekend, there was the can’t miss event…the JPL open house.  Restored after the sequester and budget cuts, this event should be on top of NASA’s outreach budget.  Although there is no advertising (except for a few emails and social media posts), the last event drew more than 400,000 people.

2_Waiting

Although I don’t have and numbers for this years event, the staff people that I talked too said that Saturday had more visitors than the facility had ever had.  I was there on Sunday, and it was packed as well.  We arrived 40 minutes early and were still in line over 1/4 mile from the entrance.  There were so many people waiting that they actually opened up early to avoid problems.  When I left at noon (for another event that I needed to attend), the line of cars waiting to get in was backed up over a mile on the 210 freeway!

1_Entrance

This year I started at the front of JPL.  There are two lanes of traffic, one takes you to the rear parking lot and one takes you to the front.  Last year we went to the rear parking lot.

3_Rover

At the entrance is the rover exhibit.  Above is a copy of the Spirit/Opportunity rovers that JPL uses to help them understand what is happening on Mars.

4_Rover_bottom

A scale model of the wheels for Curiosity. Just to the left of the picture is another booth where JPL staffers line children up and roll over them with a set of Spirit/Opportunity wheels.  It was great fun if the squeals of delight were any indication.  I have a (not so good) video, but I had to reach over three people deep to even try and get that.  It was VERY popular for kids and parents alike.

5_Plank

In one pavilion scale models of several satellites were on display.  The Plank spacecraft is shown above.

6_Wise

A mockup of the instruments on WISE and what they do was being explained to a young lady that was very interested.  It really does help that many of the staffers at JPL are women.  I think it helps overcome some of the biases that society pressures young girls to believe about themselves.  This is a concrete example of what a smart woman is capable of achieving in science.

This is just the first part.  I have a lot more pictures that I will be posting this week so you can see what you missed.

FYI, according to people at JPL, NASA is trying to get this event back on its regular schedule.  So due to the date this event was held (the beginning of the fiscal year), the next open house probably won’t be held until the  March-May 2016 time frame.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Sun in the mornin’ and the Moon at night.

Yesterday, I posted some images I took of the Sun with just ordinary photographic equipment.  I didn’t get a chance to take any more images today, but this evening, the Moon was full and I decided to see what other ordinary camera capabilities are available.  Also, there was that lunar eclipse.  I didn’t stay up for that because it was a school night and I had to get up in the morning.  I hope some of you enjoyed it however.

So I broke out my birthday present.  A Sony DSC-H400 compact camera with an amazing 63x optical zoom.

Moon1 Moon2

With a better tripod, I extended the lens to is max capacity and shot some images.  The top image was bracketed by 1/3 ev and I think it looks better than the bottom one, which I did not bracket.  However, the bottom one is truer to the actual color (if you can call dust a color) of the Moon.  I think if I used the movie mode and then ran the frames through another free program, Registax.  I think the results may have been even more spectacular.  Not that I don’t think that the Sony didn’t take some very good images for single shots.  It is just that post processing will always make your images look better than a single shot in almost every case.  If only I had the time to do it all.

But it just shows that even an inexpensive camera, the Sony was around $300, can take some impressive images of the night sky.  I only wish my birthday has been a little later, because Canon just announced the PowerShot SX60 HS.  Although a little more expensive at $549.00, it has a lot more capabilities than the Sony.  Plus all my other cameras are Canon, so the controls are more familiar to me.  It took a few minutes to figure out the manual mode settings for the Sony.  At least they had the manual mode.  If you are looking for a camera to be creative with, you really need to get one with manual mode.  The Canon has the added bonus of storing images in RAW format which allows for a greater range of processing options that I don’t have with the JPEG only Sony.

Oh, well.  There’s always next years birthday to look forward to.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman