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Messages - Mark

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See you there.  Navarrete coming too.

TAC Visual / Re: Epic Montebello Wednesday
« on: Yesterday at 12:38:41 PM »

Thanks for getting the gang up there.  So many faces from the past.  We should try it again.

I spent the observing part of my evening there, looking in the darkest part of the sky, low in the curve of Scorpius' tail.  Lots of gems in the area, including of course the two big opens M7 and M6.  I thought The Bug Nebula was the most interesting, and teasing out a bit of The Lobster (NGC 6357) was fun too - love the nice hooked chain of stars it sits on.  Think I'll bring the 18 the next time, but did enjoy getting my 10" out too.

I'm certainly up for more of this!


Observing Intents / Re: Observing at Montebello on Wed July 19
« on: July 19, 2017, 02:14:32 PM »
All packed up and ready to go.

Forecast looks great.  There's about a 3% chance of precip in Palo Alto at 9 tonight, which I take to be low cloud/fog moving in low... so we may get some light extinction help.

My 10" CPT Dob is the choice for a close-to-home trip.  Hunting targets using the Tirion Sky Atlas 2000.  A few hours of fun mid-week is perfect.

See you there - noobs, come have a look, no need to bring a scope.  Or if you have one, join the party.


Observing Intents / Re: Observing at Montebello on Wed July 19
« on: July 18, 2017, 09:20:31 AM »
There looks to be one of the largest crowds complete with a few special guest TACos  heading up to Montebello this Wed.
This just may be an epic get together for good old Montebello gravel crunchin astro fun

Thanks to Marco for announcing this week's Montebello here on TAC.  I'm in, either with my 10" or 18".

This site is an original TAC hangout, where beginners get to meet more experienced observers, check out equipment, and enjoy a night under darker suburban skies close to home.  Casey Fukuda has gathered the gang at Montebello Open Space Preserve ( ongoing for years now, and James Turley's been keeper of the flame (our group permit for Wednesday nights) for over 15 years - thanks to them both for keeping this a vibrant astro-site!

This event is highly recommended for any and all who are interested or curious.  Big globulars, great double stars, Summer Milky Way rising full of visual treats.  If we're lucky enough, fog will mute the bay area lights.

Bring warm clothes just in case, red flashlight or cover a regular flashlight with shopping bag paper (so you can see in the bathroom).  Arrive before dark as the parking lot gate will be closed once its dark (sunset 8:30).  We'll help people drive out when you want to leave.

I've returned to Montebello after an almost 8 year absence - can't wait - see you there!



Dan Wilkins, KIPAC (Stanford/SLAC)
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at 7:30 PM

Panofsky Auditorium
Science and User Support Building (BLDG 53)

Black holes are some of the most exotic and extreme objects in the universe. Though they sound like the stuff of science fiction, they are real and much more common than you might think.  Every galaxy has a black hole lurking at its center!  Also, these black holes are not actually black, because matter falling into black holes liberates energy that can power some of the brightest objects we see in the night sky. In this lecture you will find out exactly what a black hole is, how we can find them, and how they can flare intensely — giving rise to impressive firework displays and launching vast jets of plasma at close to the speed of light.

Dan Wilkins is an astrophysicist in the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University and SLAC.  He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2013.  He held a postdoctoral position in Halifax, Nova Scotia, under a fellowship from the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics. In 2016, he joined KIPAC as an NASA-supported Einstein Fellow. Wilkins works on both observational and theoretical aspects of black hole physics. He is a member of teams at NASA and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) that are developing next-generation X-ray observatories to study energetic cosmic sources powered by black holes.

Seating is on a first-come-first-served basis

We will also be streaming the lecture live on our Facebook page a few minutes before the start time.

Observing Reports / Two Very Different Nights At Lick Observatory
« on: July 16, 2017, 09:50:25 AM »
I had a terrific time at Lick Observatory over the weekend. Friday night we had very clear steady skies and a great lineup of telescopes.  Eric Z. was showing Jupiter in daylight to the early arrivers in his AP 155.  Al Howard had an identical scope, Kurt Kuhlman brought a C14 Fastar, I had my 18" Obsession, and a relative beginner and his son who had just attended GSSP a 10-inch SCT. As the sky darkened Saturn was rock steady and commanded views in most telescopes. I showed it briefly and moved on to some interesting double stars, settling on Albireo (which voice recognition wants to call El Burrito), explaining the idea of binary stars and what the colors mean to the public.  After some time people moved on to the big globular clusters and in a few cases M51. I eventually began showing the Neil Nebula, Witches Broom section, which with an OIII filter glowed as a subtle neon blue-gray tube extending away from 52 Cygni, which I kept at the edge of the field of you as a reference point to describe the object and help first-timers see it. It was really a fine night with shirt sleeve conditions all night. I spent the night in the Rec Hall as I was staying for Saturday as well.

Saturday was hot and cloudy, not a good combination. I set up my telescope after watching the others who had arrived do the same. Eric was back, as was Marek Cichanski (voice recognition kitchen ski), who brought his 18' Obsession once owned by Michelle Stone, who sold it to me, for my daughter Mimi to use, eventually selling it to Marek. I didn't look through my telescope once Saturday night due to conditions. But the company was great! We also were treated to a spectacular sunset as well as seeing some very unusual mammatus clouds over the observatory. Here are photos of both the clouds and tremendous sunset. The photo is from Rick Baldridge, whose shot turned out better than mine. I sat outside the observatory doors which were open to keep things cool and listened to the Grammy award-winning duo of Tingstad and Rumbel, guitarist and wind instrument players.  I loved the tune Chaco (, hearing the alto and tenor clarinet, and sweet potato.  Great setting for a concert.

All in all volunteering at Lick Observatory is a fun way to spend a weekend. I did it last month and I'll spend two nights there again in August.

Next up will be a Wednesday trip to Montebello for observing then to the Pinnacles on Saturday for some Dark Skies. Hope to see other observers out this week.

Clear skies,


TAC Visual / Mark Loves The Moon
« on: July 13, 2017, 03:21:30 PM »
There... I've said it.

After many years of confirmed, nearly exclusive focus on deep sky, I've fallen.  Its the images of our own local Jim Ferreira, along with a Texan named Robert Reeves, that got me looking.  Now I can't wait to get out and observe even in my bright Los Gatos skies.  Here's a photo of Reeves as an example of some of the detail I'd like to try picking up - although this shot with Reeve's new a 20"....  just to think of it... buying a 20" scope to shoot the moon!

Anyone else here spend their time looking at what my buds and I used to call "The Great Obliterator" and the "Plaster Ball"?  Think its a superb target for sketching!


Rants and Off Topic / Re: Welcome Back Brad Franzella!
« on: July 12, 2017, 03:00:16 PM »
Wow, Copernicus Dinner Club.  I'd forgotten that one.

John Hales (there are endless stories about him) drive his pickup to Lassen Peak parking lot, filled the bed with snow, hauled it back and built a snow mountain with it at the group  campground.  Stuffed 2 liter bottles of home brew in it.  Rangers we're not all that pleased about his absconding with the snow!

We sure had fun....

Observing Intents / Re: TAC members in my area
« on: July 12, 2017, 12:37:37 PM »
Blue Canyon, wherever that is.

Highway 80 near Auburn.

Rants and Off Topic / Re: Welcome Back Brad Franzella!
« on: July 12, 2017, 12:07:35 PM »
Didn't realize you knew Brad, Jamie.  Where did you meet him, CalStar maybe?  He's signed up to attend this year....

Rants and Off Topic / Welcome Back Brad Franzella!
« on: July 12, 2017, 10:17:04 AM »
TAC has a new member today - Brad Franzella.

Brad has been living in Germany for many years, and will be returning to CA shortly.  Only a few people will know this, but Brad was one of the early attendees to the fabled Lassen Star Parties, predating the Shingletown Star Party, which we all know now as the Golden State Star Party.

Brad was so young when he began attending that his father would drive him and his 10" Dob from home in Chico to Lassen, and leave him there with the group (all 20-30 of us?).  He'd have to hitch a ride to the observing site and back with other star party members.  Brad must be about 36 now... this story goes back probably 20 years....

Welcome back Brad, we'll see you soon!


Observing Intents / Re: CalStar continues to ride again
« on: July 11, 2017, 08:49:11 AM »
I've signed up too.  Let's see if we can get the three Marks reunited for an observing run!

Each week Orion Telescope has "The Night Sky Tonight" available on its web-page (and usually their Facebook feed).  Format is generally to alternate evening and morning targets during the week.  These are geared predominantly toward beginners, with occasion "challenge" targets included.  Have a look!

Rants and Off Topic / Juno GRS images?
« on: July 11, 2017, 08:24:35 AM »
So, Juno did its Great Red Spot fly-over yesterday.  Anyone seeing info on when images are going to be released?

NASA info:

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