Supernova in Taurus . . . July 4, 1054

In the early morning of July 4th, 1054 A.D. a guest star was seen in the constellation of Taurus. Chinese government officials recorded the addition of the guest star.  Wikipedia offers a good review of this process. LINK. It is definetly not the right time to go looking for the remains of this supernova, now called Messier 1, The Crab Nebula.  I love the image above since it is a deep desire that I may have the opportunity in my life to witness a supernova that occurs within our galactic neighborhood here in the Milky Way Galaxy that is equally as visible.

We do in the summer have other supernova remnants or SNR's as they are called that we can view. About 30,000 years ago, a massive star reached the ends of its life when it began to make iron in it's core and this resulted in the star exploding into what we would call a supernova. Located just north of the double star Alberio in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan, Sharpless 2-91 or Sh 2-91 is easily seen at a dark site, with a 10 inch or greater dobsonian/reflector telescope using an OIII filter. I have several entries on this object, I have visually seen several components of the SNR. Here is a sketch I did on the main component over on a forum I created for posting sketches that I need to update LINK. Here is the S&T article on Sh 2-91 LINK. More details from Galaxy Map at this LINK. Finally Steve Gottlieb's reports from 2001 LINK. Enjoy going after this one!

Of course the Veil Nebula Complex in Cygnus is one of the best views of a SNR in the summer sky. Comprised of NGC 6979, 6960, 6992, 6995 and other parts, this is perhaps one of those show case items most amateurs visit in the summer sky.  I believe I made a good review of this SNR and of Sh 2-91 in my August 5, 2015 where I proposed a year round SNR Challenge Observing Program for those that want to go for it.  Here is that LINK and findercharts are available there as well.

So just a quick post to get you interested in viewing this stellar remnants and to observe them and see the heavy elements being seeded into the surrounding galactic region that will go into creating new planets and such.  Now, still wishing and looking for that Milky Way Supernova to appear in the NORTHERN Hemisphere.  Sorry my Southern Hemisphere friends. A SN down under won't do me any good except to have to redeem some mileage points and fly south to see it!  I want a good old northern SN to appear! I'm being selfish but yeah, we are over due.


Powering a Laptop for Astronomy and Running a CPAP while Camping and doing Astronomy

I wrote in an earlier piece, about a month ago about my Lenovo 100S IdeaPad that I use in the field. I run SkyTools 3 on it to record my observations, to bring up finder charts and to manage my observing that evening. The laptop is a basic laptop with 2GB DDR3L / 32GB eMMC flash memory, and an additional 64gb of micro SD card memory where I store the backups for my SkyTools 3.

Someone, while, several people asked locally how I keep the screen so dark while observing at a dark site. In addition how do I recharge the laptop when in the field. First is how to keep a screen dark. It begins with this LINK to ScopeStuff for their Optically Clear Red Acrylic Sheet 1/8" Thick
Up To 17.5 x 11.5 inches product. I actually get 2 sizes, 11.5"x 8" and 17.5" x 11.5" for both laptops I run in the field. The first image below is from ScopeStuff and shows two different size laptops with these screens attached. The next picture is one of my Levono 100S on my wife's piano bench to her Grand.  You can see that I have not darken the screen on the laptop here, so it would show through . In the pictures from Scopestuff they have darkened their screens.  With a screen darkened it often is not necessary to add the next component, but that is up to you.

The two images above show the Levono 100S in the back of my Outback, hooked up to a power source in the car with SkyTools 3 running in white light, and the bottom one showing it running in Night Mode without any other measures added or the screen darkened.

The next item that I add is Rubylith Red Mask Film that is clear, again from Scopestuff LINK.  Again, I get both sizes here, as I run two different laptops in the field at different locations and sites. You can see those in the picture below:

You can see the rubylith above, two sheets with the edges curled somewhat. It is clear so it is reflecting back into the camera. In the picture below you can see the clear, red, acrylic plastic and the two rubber bands that hold it in place.

Now in terms of power, there are two ways I can charge my laptop. My Outback has 3 power outlets, one in the rear cargo area, one under the armrest where you store items, and one under the a/c or in front of the shifter.  I use the power outlet in the rear compartment to charge. My Outback requires that either the car be running or the key be in the A/C position to allow power to the Outlet.  To assist in getting power I have a 150 Watt Power Inverter from Radioshack that works well for this. Here is what it looks like: 

The green light is a 20 amp 30w fuse to help protect the inverter from overloading and blowing the fuse in the care for this outlet.  It also has a USB if I want to charge offf of that and a 9v charger.  I use the electrical here and plug right in, though I could connect an extension cord to it and run and charge the laptop that way. I just don't do that personally.

I also have a battery jumper with me in case, just in case I drain the main battery. I usually start the car a couple of times during a charge and run the engine for about 10 minutes to let the alternator recharge the car battery.  Haven't had a problem doing this.

The second way is I have two deep cycle batteries used to power carts that I use for power.  One I use when I am camping or sleeping over and it runs my CPAP machine, well the one I now use in the field. I cannot use the humidifier when using the battery, if I want to get more than 1 or 2 nights use with it. By not using the humidifier I can get 4 nights out of the battery. I can also run a O2 Cool portable fan from the battery while I sleep (I like a fan blowing on me when it is warm outside).  Mix that with a spray bottle and a few sprays in the face and you cool right down!

Anyway to make this all work I purchased the following items off of Amazon for about $6 each, except for the not pictured Battery Tender which re-charges the batteries at home off of the outlets or the 100w solar panel that will also in about 2 days re-charge a battery.  I don't use that much, it is more for if the power is out long term and I need to charge the batteries to use my CPAP.

This item below, is a Battery Tender 081-0069-6 Ring Terminal Harness with Black Fused 2-Pin Quick Disconnect Plug.  It connects to the battery and then has (hidden under the cord in the center of the image) a plug that connects to the second image, a NOCO ISCC2 5-Way SAE Adapter Connector.  By plugging in the NOCO I get 4 outlets that I could use to draw power of the battery and recharge IF I want to.

Below is the Battery Tender 081-0069-8 Female Cigarette Adaptor for Quick Disconnect that connects into the NOCO above (that is connected to the battery) and then I have the correct adapter that lets me connect my CPAP to this plug and then my CPAP is powered. I also run one for the O2 COOL 12" fan I run, and then I can also if there is enough charge in the battery, charge my laptop up during the day I usually use the battery I am not using for the CPAP to charge the laptop. Takes about 4 to 5 hours to charge off the battery vs 2 hours or so off the car, but I drain the deep cycle battery here, not the car battery. Just depends if I want to stay in the car, and start her up to charge, sometimes I do run the car when I charge as it seems to charge quicker, or if I am using the other laptop for the next night.  

So here are my poor man videos that I crudely made to give you an idea of controlling light and re-charging a laptop or running a CPAP in the field.  Again for the CPAP you need a deep cycle battery, the cords above and the 9volt power cord male that fits the female Adapter above and fits into the back of your CPAP machine.

The first video is bad, really bad. I did not realize that the camera had turned so the video is mostly sideways. This is focused on the 150 Watt Inverter and using that to power the lap top. The car is running at this time.  Here you go.

The next video improves as I did it the right way and shows the power and the rubylith and red clear acrylic covering for the laptop(s).  

This video shows the clear acrylic covering on the laptop and how I would roughly put the rubylith on using the rubber bands to secure it. 

This next video shows how I use my deep cycle batteries to re-charge the laptop, and run my CPAP machine and my O2 COOL fan that I got from Lowes.  Oh, please no comments on my 51 year old legs . . . . at least I can still sit with my legs crossed over! 

There you have it, basically.  I recharged my batteries today. One was almost dead for 5 days out in the field, camping and running the CPAP and re-charging the laptop twice and running that fan at night and during the day for me. The other battery took about 3 hours to finish the charge.  My main goal in the film above was to show the alternative way I run power, for those that may want to do something similar. Anyway, hopefully that helps! 


Wolf Creek Summit Directions

Well, today I drove out to Wolf Creek Pass to see the condition of the observing area and see if it is ready to go for observing. I personally have not observed at Wolf Creek since I believe either 2011 or 2012.  Vernon FR006 has registered darker skies, less light pollution from the Salt Lake - Provo Light Dome and during the week is quiet, deeply relaxing and beautiful.  There are negatives that cross over each site. Both have disperse campers with trailers up in the area, though they are usually spread out.  If you in an observing location, usually 9.9 times out of 10 others don't disturb you.  Disperse campers can mean garbage left around, but this is more of an issue I have found at FR006 than at Wolf Creek.  Weekends can be horrendous to find a spot to observe though, at either place during the summer. Since Vernon is hotter, being only around 6500 to 7000 feet, not 10,000 feet like at Wolf Creek, more opt to escape the heat by going to Wolf Creek. Wolf Creek also has one MAJOR downfall. It is a site that you can observe from basically from mid June through late September. If you wait for October you face a deer hunt there and snow can arrive early at Wolf Creek.  Vernon is a year round site and I use it for that. At FR006 in Vernon the sites there will have light pollution from the Salt Lake Light Dome at the Northeast to eastern horizon, impacting views there up to about 20 to 25 degrees.  Wolf Creek has light dome from the greater Salt Lake Light Dome and it is to the west at about 30 to 35 degrees up on the horizon.  Vernon is panoramic, while Wolf Creek's trees if you set up too close to them, will impact your northern views. Set up on a ridge, no impact.

Directions are rather easy and I am assuming a start in Salt Lake City.  If your in Utah Co. you will need to adjust your route to Francis where 35 intersects and heads east out of Francis.  From Salt Lake City go east, up I-80.  Continue east up Parley's to Parley's Summit, then continue east heading for the I-40 Intersection.  You will see the two images below and you will need to be in the right hand land to exit to I-40.

One your on I-40, head south on it and continue on I-40 until you come to exit 4 that reads: Exit 4 Park City Kamas.  You want to head to Kamas.

You will take Exit 4 and turn left. Disregard my shot, we took a right for a quick potty break. 

Yes, the shot above IS Exit 4 to Kamas, YOUR exit! 

As you turn left off of Exit 4, you will go under I-40, follow that highway, the right lane merges into the left for awhile. 

The is State Road 248 that goes to Kamas. Head up and over. Bad news, you'll get lousy gas mileage on the way up since your climbing most of the time. The good news, on the way home you get awesome gas mileage! 

Your now in Kamas. Head to Main and at the 7-11, turn right onto  SR 32, and go south to Francis. 

When you see this mileage sign, your on the right route. 

Your in Francis now, having passed a huge Welcome to Francis sign. This sign signals directions and you will be turning left unto Highway 32 toward Woodland. 

Make sure you get in that left turn lane to turn left toward Woodland on SR 32. 

After making the left turn, this is what you will see (above). 

Follow SR32 up and out of Francis. When you come to this corner you have 20 miles EXACTLY to the observing site! 

As you drive up you'll have some excellent views of the South Fork of the Provo River

This is a good sign. Your entering National Forest Land! 

Yep, you continue to climb, another sign and that is good!!

Another sign for Mill Hollow. Getting closer. If you have ever had a 6th grader in Granite School District attend Mill Hollow, this is the turn off of SR 32 they take to get there. 

This sign means you are actually starting to get close and you have a steep climb coming up. 

Beautiful country and I hope this gives you the impression you are climbing as you drive now!

This sign is IMPORTANT!!!! Your about to get off SR 32 and go on FR091 that leads up to the observing site. 

When you see this sign on your right, get on the right shoulder, signal to turn right and turn right. 

When you turn right off of SR32 you will see the group campground.  It was closed today.  Don't head there either, look to a dirt road to your right. 

This is the dirt road and what you should see. 

For Robert Frost to roads divide and he took the one least traveled. Don't do that here. Stay on the main dirt road to the right, that is FR091.  The one on the left here look at as it is a camping and picnic area, and there are Forest Service Restoom's here in case you need them. They are about 2 miles from the disperse camping site and the observing field. 

Yep, stay on good old FR091 and keep moving. Go slow here. Your close but the road can be bumpy here and there are large rocks on the road at times from water runoff from the winter.  

The road will now climb up and keep taking a slow pace. My Outback has no problem here but from rain runoff and grading there can be some large rocks or pot holes on the road. If your going slow you can maneuver around them easily. 

Once you come out of the bottom area and up the steep hill, you enter more of a gentle climb. Meadows on your sides but no motor driven cars on them.  You can see the road is smooth in places, rough in others with rocks wash and exposed from spring runoff. No problem navigating up to the site though.

This one shows a large water hole, dry now, but filled with water during the spring run off and if a heavy thunderstorm were to hit. Be aware. 

Road continues its gentle climb. Your desitination is up just after those trees. 

After you go through the trees at the top of the previous picture, FR091 Y's You'll see this post on the left hand side and that is the direction you turn down. Go LEFT young people! 

A close up of the sign show the Forest Road Numbers. 

After turning left at the Y you'll see this Dead End sign. It's okay, it can Dead End. You won't go that far.  The sign means your in the right direction. 

Enjoy the drive but watch out for other vehicles and ATV's coming down the path. A good rule is radio off, music off, windows down and you'll hear them if they approach. Tap friendly on the horn if needed. 

Yes, you will wind in and out on the dirt road, and through some water holes. There are some big bumps and holes on this road so watch where you drive. 

You will eventually emerge out of a grove of trees (and yes, there are a LOT of trees killed off by Bark Beetle so be careful of fire dangers. I was amazed how many trees have died over the last 4 plus years since I was last here!).  As you emerge, you will see the culp or clumb of trees to the right, that is where you are going, or at least your scopes are!

Closer now. The observing area is just off to your right in that grass and weedy area.  You can pull off there and drive out to set up.  Some gophers in the area but plenty of flat open areas to give incredible views! 

Pan of the observing field/area and the other features. Beautiful! Wish tonight had been a new moon period, I would have observed! 

Close up of the culp or grove of trees from the observing field. 

Another Pan of the road area looking directly out to the observing area. Behind me is a good area to disperse camp, especially if you have kids. 

Observing area looking west to southwest. Light dome from Salt Lake to Provo will impact this view.

Looking south from the observing field where Scorpius, Sagittarius, Aquila etc. will lay beautifully begging for you to spend the evening or night observing them! The full Milky Way, well you may just sit down and lay on your back or in a chair just taking it all in. 

Observing field looking southeast. There is some light in the distance from here form the oil and other fields near Vernal and Roosevelt. Not bad though and low to the horizoen. 

The only water hole that had water in it on my drive up. I simply drove to the side with two wheels and drove the other two through the water. No problem if you just want to go around it. 

There you have it. Wolf Creek. Good memories here. I cut some of my sketching teeth here and observing teeth and am anxious to head back to an old friend. Feel free if you want to join me. I am planning on Wednesday, July 6th through Friday, July 8th to observe.  Come out for one night, two nights or stay longer than I am.  I know a few have asked about sketching and I could not attend a June SLAS Astrofest this year. So if you come up, I'll share some techniques with graphite and pencils but more importantly, I'll share how to sketch using the Mellish method. Plenty of summer objects to observe, so come on out for whatever reason you for whatever you want to observe! 

Here are the directions again broken into easier terms probably: 

Wolf Creek Summit Star Party Travel Directions

Take I-80 East (past Park City exit) to Exit 148. (Rt. 40 East). Stay to the right on the exit, as it splits. Head East on Rt. 40 to Exit 4. At the bottom of the exit ramp, go left towards Kamas. Follow this road as it winds through the hills to Kamas. In Kamas there is a stop sign at the intersection of this road and Rt. 32. Go right (South) on Rt. 32. Take Rt. 32 several miles to the intersection with Rt. 35 in Francis. See below for directions from Francis. 


Go up Provo Canyon either by going East on 8th North in Orem or by taking University Avenue North in Provo. Go past Deer Creek Reservoir and when you get to the stop light in Heber turn Left (North). Go all the way thru Heber. As you approach the Jordanelle Dam there will be a signal light. Turn right at the light and go several miles to Francis. 


When you get to Francis there will be a flashing light at the intersection. If you are coming from Provo, go straight (East). If you are coming from Kamas, turn left and go East. In about 3 1/2 miles you will go through a little community called Woodland. Continue on for another 16 miles (+ a little) to the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. You will see a sign for the Wolf Creek campground on your right. Go thru the campground on a dirt road. It is a little rutty at first. Continue on about 2 miles heading south, until you reach a "T" intersection. Turn Left and go past the "Dead End" sign .8 miles. There is a beautiful wide grassy area to the right. 

Clothes and Camping
Remember to dress WARMLY! We cannot emphasize this enough. Dress like you want to go night skiing and you might be comfortable. Hats, gloves, and warm boots are smart year-round. Keep in mind that you can always leave extra stuff in the car, but if you don't have enough layers, you'll be sorry! On Sunday at 6:00pm when I left on June 20th, 2016, the temperature was 66 degrees F (just down from the 68 degrees F).  Checked local weather and the temperature right now is 38 degrees F. Warm clothes, warm sleeping bags etc. 

Please use good star party etiquette; dim headlights if arriving after dark, and be sure to bring red lights for wandering between scopes, etc. so you don't spoil dark-adapted eyes.