A few items as you prepare for observing adventures at AHSP this year. Please read through, as these may help you with your enjoyment of the sky this weekend. Print out what you might want at your telescope.

You will find two files ready for observing challenges: the AHSP Binocular Challenge and the AHSP Telescope Challenge. The targets were edited by Dan Ward from the lists prepared for Stellafane by Phil Harrington. If you might be interested in trying the challenge itself, or just looking for suggestions for interesting targets for this weekend, you should print out the attached finder charts. Completed forms should be dropped off with Alan Goldberg or Dan Ward before any 6:30 PM Yurt talk, or emailed per the instructions on the page 2 of the challenge documents. Those who complete will get a certificate on-site, and a distinctive pin after AHSP.

The observing workshop is being held in conjunction with the challenge. During the daytime portion (Saturday 1:00 in the main yurt) some experienced observers will go over the equipment and techniques for finding relatively easy binocular and small, wide field telescopes. In the evening, we’ll help you actually find some of these objects. You should bring your star atlas and binoculars, the binocular challenge finder charts, as well as the extra charts found here, to the day session.

Kevin Quin will talk about how to use PixInsight on Sunday morning at 9:30.  To get the most from the tutorial, he strongly recommends that you follow along on your own laptop, processing the image as we go.  The image Kevin will be working on can be downloaded from Dropbox at this link:


That zip file contains four images in PixInsight’s XISF format.  They’re luminance, red, green and blue images of NGC 3184, a large face-on spiral galaxy in Ursa Major.  Kevin will demonstrate how he used Pixinsight to create those stacked images, and then we’ll work through the remaining processing steps together.  If you don’t already have a copy of PixInsight, you should download a 45-day trial copy from this link:


Download the copy soon, as it might take a day or two for the Pixinsight folks to send you the code you’ll need.  If you mention that you’re requesting a trial copy to follow along in a workshop, that may get you a faster response.

Bob Traube, Stacy Spear, Brian Cummins and John Sojka are having a gentlemen’s bet on who can take the best image of the Elephant Trunk nebula since it will be at its highest during the AHSP.  Sojka’s recent successful attempt is at right. Winner gets a beer, free dinner and the respect from the guys! :o)  Anyways, they are inviting others to join behind the scenes offering the choice of any target they want, but if you haven’t chosen one yet, then why not the Elephant Trunk (IC1396)?  Its providing a lot of fun and banter.  They’d like to open it up to all at the event.  It’s probably a moot point because Kevin Quinn would probably win!!! 

Contact John at AHSP or by email (sojkaj1@yahoo.com) for details about submitting your image by the end of September, and about the judging. You might take advantage of the Byron Bergert Image Processing SIG meet on 9/29 for processing help.

You can also hear John Sojka explain how to take astrophotos with your smartphone attached to your ‘scope. His talk will be Saturday at 11:00.  John does notclaim you will be imaging DSOs or entering the challenge, but you may do well on brighter targets.

Aside from all the usual parts of the sky and the planets we’ve been following for the past few months, Comet 21/P Giacobini-Zinnerwill be at perihelion on September 10 at 0300 EDT, and probably near its brightest. It will be visible in Auriga, rising at about midnight and reaching decent height an hour or two later. Up about 55 deg at the beginning of morning twilight. Current brightness reports suggest the total brightness to be about 6.5-7.

The hourly JPL comet ephemeris for AHSP is found here.

For reference on Saturday night-Sunday morning, darkness times (EDT) are as follows:

Orientation charts for the night skyat AHSP for 8 PM, midnight, and 5 AM are on here. These were created with John Walker’s Your Sky program  https://www.fourmilab.ch/yoursky/