Astronomy & Science

NEAF 2016 Astronomy Equipment Videos

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Celestron at NEAF 2016

A selection of Celestron scopes.
S&T: Sean Walker

Several thousands of amateur astronomers flocked to the 2016 Northeast Astronomy Forum, held every year in Suffern, New York, to see some of the hottest new telescopes, mounts, cameras, eyepieces, and other astronomy equipment at one of the world's largest astro trade shows.

Former S&T editor Dennis di Cicco interviewed several vendors about their newest products.

Browse vendors below and click to watch these in-depth conversations and find full details on new product lines and featured equipment.

Video Interviews on Astronomy Equipment

Video Interview with Astro-Physics
Astro-Physics astronomy equipment

Video Interview with Celestron
Celestron

Video Interview with Finger Lakes Instrumentation
Finger Lakes Instrumentation

Video Interview with iOptron
iOptron astronomy equipment

Video Interview with Meade
Meade

Video Interview with Stellarvue
StellarVue Astronomy Equipment

See our entire library of video interviews.

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Celestron at NEAF 2016

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Celestron-logo-300pxDennis di Cicco talks with several members of the Celestron staff who demonstrate the latest version of the Evolution series of Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes and the new Power Tank Lithium battery that provides advanced performance in a small package. Also discussed is the brand new Inspire line of refractors which includes features never before found on entry-level telescopes.

See additional videos from the 2016 Northeast Astronomy Forum.

Return to our Product Videos page.

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iOptron at NEAF 2016

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ioptroniOptron’s Roger Rivers tells Dennis di Cicco about the advanced features offered on the company’s extensive line of altazimuth and equatorial telescope mounts, including the new AZ Mount Pro with a built-in rechargeable battery. The interview ends with an introduction to several members of iOptron design team in China who attended NEAF this year.

See additional videos from the 2016 Northeast Astronomy Forum held in Suffern, New York.

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Meade at NEAF 2016

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MeadeMeade’s Scott Byrum and Dennis di Cicco take a look at the company’s line of LX600 telescopes with Starlock technology that delivers 100% automatic, full-time autoguiding in addition to other advanced features for visual observers and astrophotographers. They also discuss the new line of ETX Observer telescopes.

 

See additional videos from the 2016 Northeast Astronomy Forum held in Suffern, New York.

Return to our Product Videos page.

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Astro-Physics at NEAF 2016

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aplogo-color-web2Roland Christen from Astro-Physics gives Dennis di Cicco an overview of the brand new 17-inch astrograph, the largest telescope offered by the renowned manufacturer of refractors, astrographs, and German equatorial mounts. He also explains some of the advanced features added to the company’s new GTOCP 4 control box that retrofits with all of the earlier Astro-Physics mounts having servo-motor drives.

See additional videos from the 2016 Northeast Astronomy Forum held in Suffern, New York.

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StellarVue at NEAF 2016

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stellarvue_logoStellarvue’s Vic Maris shows Dennis di Cicco many of the user-requested features that the company is incorporating in its latest line of refractors and astrographs. They also take a quick look at the company’s new line of Optimus eyepieces featuring 100° and 110° apparent fields of view.

See additional videos from the 2016 Northeast Astronomy Forum held in Suffern, New York.

Return to our Product Videos page.

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Finger Lakes Instrumentation at NEAF 2016

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fli_logoDennis di Cicco and FLI’s Gregory Terrance take a look at the latest features of the company’s venerable MicroLine and ProLine CCD cameras and accessories as well as discuss some of the newest sensors available, including the 16 megapixel ML16200 CCD with 6-micron pixels.

See additional videos from the 2016 Northeast Astronomy Forum held in Suffern, New York.

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Una nueva medida en la desintegración radiactiva de los neutrones

Ciencia Kanija -

Artículo publicado por Chad Boutin el 14 de junio de 2016 en NIST

Un experimento de física realizado en el Instituto Nacional de Estándares y Tecnología (NIST) ha mejorado la comprensión de de los científicos de cómo se desintegran los neutrones libres en otras partículas. El trabajo proporciona la primera medida del espectro de energía de los fotones, o partículas de luz, que se liberan en el proceso conocido como desintegración beta de neutrones. Los detalles de este proceso de desintegración son importantes debido a que, por ejemplo, ayudan a explicar las cantidades observadas de hidrógeno y otros átomos ligeros creados justo tras el Big Bang.

Desintegración beta de neutrones

Desintegración beta de neutrones

Publicadas en Physical Review Letters, las conclusiones confirman la comprensión a gran escala del modo en que las partículas y fuerzas funcionan conjuntamente en el universo — una comprensión conocida como Modelo Estándar. El trabajo ha estimulado nueva actividad teórica en electrodinámica cuántica (QED), la moderna teoría de cómo la materia interactúa con la luz. El enfoque del equipo también podría ayudar a buscar una nueva física más allá del Modelo Estándar.

Los neutrones son conocidos por ser uno de los tres tipos de partículas que forman los átomos. Presentes en todos los átomos, salvo en la forma más común del hidrógeno, los neutrones junto con los protones forman el núcleo atómico. Sin embargo, los neutrones “libres”, que no están ligados a ningún núcleo, se desintegran aproximadamente en 15 minutos en promedio. Habitualmente un neutrón se transforma, a través de un proceso de desintegración beta, en un protón, un electrón, un fotón, y la versión de antimateria del neutrino, una abundante pero esquiva partícula que raramente interactúa con la materia.

Los fotones procedentes de la desintegración beta son lo que quiere explorar el equipo de investigación. Estos fotones tienen un rango de posibles energías predichas por la QED, que ha funcionado muy bien como teoría durante décadas. Pero nadie había comprobado este aspecto de la QED en la realidad con este grado de precisión.

“No esperábamos ver nada inusual”, dice el físico del NIST Jeff Nico, “pero queríamos poner a prueba las predicciones de la QED con una gran precisión de un modo que nadie había intentado antes”.

Nico y sus colegas, que representan a nueve instituciones de investigación, realizaron sus medidas en el Centro de Investigación de Neutrones del NIST (NCNR). Aquí se produce un intenso haz de neutrones de movimiento lento cuyas emisiones de fotones pueden detectarse con la misma configuración usada para anteriores medidas de precisión del tiempo de vida del neutrón.

El equipo midió dos aspectos de la desintegración de los neutrones: el espectro de energía de los fotones, y también su razón de ramificación, que puede proporcionar información sobre la frecuencia con la que las desintegraciones se ven acompañadas de fotones por encima de una energía específica. Los resultados de este trabajo dieron una medida de la razón de ramificación que es el doble de precisa respecto al valor anterior, y la primera medida del espectro de energía.

“Todo lo que encontramos era consistente con los cálculos predominantes de la QED”, comenta Nico . “Nuestras medidas encajaban bien con la teoría respecto al espectro de energía, y redujimos la incertidumbre de la razón de ramificación”.

De acuerdo con Nico, los resultados proporcionaron información específica que los físicos teóricos están usando ya para desarrollar más la QED para proporcionar una descripción más detallada de la desintegración beta de los neutrones.

Los resultados sirven como una comprobación necesaria sobre el Modelo Estándar, comenta Nico, y valida el enfoque experimental del equipo como un modo de ir más allá del mismo. Con mejores detectores, el enfoque podría usarse para buscar lo que se conoce como “neutrinos diestros, que aún no se han detectado en la naturaleza, y potenciales violaciones de la simetría temporal, que podrían explicar por qué hay mucha más materia que antimateria en el universo.

Referencias

M.J. Bales, R. Alarcon, C.D. Bass, E.J. Beise, H. Breuer, J. Byrne, T.E. Chupp, K.J. Coakley, R.L. Cooper, M.S. Dewey, S. Gardner, T.R. Gentile, D. He, H.P. Mumm, J.S. Nico, B. O’Neill, A.K. Thompson and F.E. Wietfeldt (RDK II Collaboration). Precision measurement of the radiative beta decay of the free neutron.Physical Review Letters. June 14, 2016, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.242501

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FRIPON: A New All-Sky Meteor Network

Sky&Telescope -

The innovative FRIPON network will engage professionals and the public in the hunt for space rocks.

FRIPON camera

One of the FRIPON all-sky cameras stands watch outside the Paris Observatory.
FRIPON

On February 15, 2013, the world awoke to dramatic news as an asteroid roughly 20 meters across exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The asteroid approached Earth unannounced from a sunward direction, and weeks went by before researchers could analyze all the dash-cam footage, determine the rock's trajectory, and recover debris from the surviving meteorite.

Now, imagine a network of all-sky observing sentinels that speeds this whole process up to just days or even hours.

That's the goal of the Fireball Recovery and InterPlanetary Observation Network (FRIPON). A collaboration between the Observatory of Paris, the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS), the University of Paris-South, the French National Museum of Natural History, and the Aix-Marseille University, this network of 100 cameras and 25 radio receivers provides continuous all-sky coverage over all of France. Catching a meteorite's fall from various angles from known coordinates enables researchers to quickly and accurately determine the location of a possible strewn field for an organized search campaign.

"If tomorrow a meteorite falls in France, we will be able to know where it comes from and roughly where it landed," says Jérémie Vaubaillon (Paris Observatory) in a recent Nature.com article.

Sourcing Meteorites

Most meteors seen in the night sky are just grains of dust, remnants of various comets' passages, that burn up in our atmosphere without ever hitting the ground. French researchers estimate that 10 meteorites fall in France every year, but a meteor sighting followed by a subsequent meteorite recovery has been a once-a-decade affair. The rolling countryside of France isn't exactly prime real estate for meteorite hunting — ancient stones from space stand out better against the sands of the Sahara or the pristine ice shelf of Antarctica.

Now, FRIPON will give French meteorite hunters an edge, enabling them to recover meteorites before the space rocks are lost to erosion and earthly contamination.

With FRIPON researchers hope to accomplish a ground recovery within 24 hours of a bolide sighting. To accomplish this, the cameras are placed 50 to 100 kilometers apart, many of them at educational and research facilities throughout France.

FRIPON trajectory calculation

Calculating a meteorite's trajectory requires at least two images from two different stations. Additional stations can help get a clearer view during inclement weather. Even if the trajectory is initially well known, wind can strongly affect the location of the strewn field. Estimating the location becomes more complicated when the meteorite burns out, going dark before it falls.
FRIPON

You can see a searchable map of the FRIPON network, including two cameras based on Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean sea, and one each in Vienna, Austria, and Bucharest, Romania.

Researchers hope to expand the FRIPON network into Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and other European countries in the coming years. Other networks are already operating in Europe, including the United Kingdom Monitoring Network (UKMON) and the Spanish Meteor Network. NASA also has its own network in the United States named the All-Sky Fireball Network, with three clusters of cameras across the U.S.

In addition to aiding recovery, FRIPON will document the trajectory and direction of a meteorite's fall, allowing researchers to estimate its final orbit and, perhaps, its source.

FRIPON Vienna

Researchers with a FRIPON camera mounted atop the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria.
FRIPON

FRIPON is the first high-density, fully automated meteor observation system connected over a single network, says principle investigator François Colas (Paris Observatory). Other networks, such as one based in Australia, cover a larger area but with a more spread out cameras. Also, while most networks connect cameras that are privately owned and on separate networks, FRIPON's central computer can look at the same detection from several different cameras on the same network. That means it can quickly estimate a meteorite's strewn field down to a rectangular box that's about 1 kilometer by 10 kilometers.

It will be possible to get very fresh material with the least possible alteration due to our atmosphere,” says Colas. “The goal is to get the meteorite within 24 hours. This is also really new compared to other networks.”

Expanding the Hunt

Although only trained scientists will scout for meteorites initially, FRIPON hopes to invite the public to the hunt with the Vigie Ciel ("Sky Watch") project. This will allow educators and amateur meteor hunters to gain access to FRIPON data so citizen and professional teams can quickly scour the countryside.

French history is littered with tales of meteorites and meteorite falls. A stony meteorite fell near the town of Ensisheim in the Alsace region on November 7, 1492, and is now on display in the town's small museum. Another meteorite fall on April 26, 1803, showered 3,000 fragments over the small town of L'Aigle. That find ended the controversy as to whether meteorites were of volcanic or extraterrestrial origin, and it gave rise to the science of meteoritics.

Strangely, the number of meteorites recovered from France in the 20th century was about one per decade, a drop from one every two years in the 19th century. FRIPON may reverse this trend in the 21st century. So far FRIPON hasn't resulted in a ground recovery yet, but it has already resulted in a few preliminary orbital calculations, and the project is continuing to mature.

"In the end, we want to connect a meteorite with a parent body,” says Colas. “We are ready to search for meteorites!”

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Ice Giants: Neptune and Uranus

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Uranus and Neptune, the so-called ice giants, are the only major planets in our solar system that aren't easily visible to the unaided eye. If you already know what these planets look like, and just need charts to find them, skip to the bottom of this article. But if you've never seen Uranus or Neptune before, it's helpful to know how they were discovered in the first place. Every time you set out to find a new celestial object, you are in some sense reliving the original discovery.

The Discovery of Uranus

In 1779, an obscure amateur astronomer named William Herschel decided to view all the bright stars in the sky at high magnification, to see if they were double stars. Two years into this project, on March 13, 1781, he noticed a "star" in Taurus that looked quite different from all other 6th-magnitude stars when viewed at 227× in his homemade 6.2-inch reflecting telescope. When he observed it again four nights later, it had moved with respect to the background stars, proving that it was actually an object inside our solar system. At first, he assumed that it was a comet.

William herschel William Herschel, the discoverer of Uranus Wikimedia Commons / PD When professional astronomers viewed Herschel's "comet," they saw only a garden-variety star. That's because — unknown to him or anyone else — Herschel's homemade reflector was far superior to most professional scopes. But it was easy to watch Herschel's object moving from one night to the next, and that allowed mathematicians to compute its orbit. It turned out to take a nearly circular path around the Sun, just like all the known planets, and very unlike the elongated orbits of comets. And the new object was much farther from the Sun than any solar-system body had ever been seen before. Considering how bright it appeared, it must be many times bigger than Earth.

Herschel had, in fact, stumbled upon the discovery Uranus — the first new planet discovered throughout all of human history. Locating this ice giant was the most revolutionary discovery since Galileo spotted the moons of Jupiter 170 years earlier. Herschel became an instant celebrity and won a stipend from the King of England that allowed him to become a full-time astronomer.

How to Observe Uranus

As the story of its discovery indicates, Uranus is easy to see, but not so easy to recognize as a planet. If you're willing to use our sky charts to identify the planet — taking it on faith that we're telling the truth — then you won't need any tools besides binoculars. In fact, you might be able to see Uranus with just your unaided eyes if your sky is very dark.

 The First Ice Giant Uranus, imaged at high power on August 28, 2007, with a 12.5-inch reflector using the stacked-video technique. Visually Uranus appears much more white than blue-green. S&T: Sean Walker But you'll need to examine the planet quite carefully with a telescope at 100× or higher to see that it's actually a tiny disk rather than a pinpoint of light like a star. That means that you need to pinpoint its location precisely. Being in the right general vicinity isn't good enough. It's easy to scan right over Uranus without noticing that it's anything but a regular star. Remember — many generations of highly skilled observers before Herschel did precisely that.

The first step is to make sure that the planet is above the horizon — and preferably fairly high in the sky — when you plan to look for it. From January through May, Uranus is so close to the Sun that it's difficult or impossible to spot. You can see Uranus as early in the year as June if you're willing to get up before dawn, but the best time to view it in the evening sky is from September through December. January's not impossible, but you'll have to start right after sunset.

Uranus is easy to locate if you have a telescope with an accurate Go To mount; otherwise, you'll need the charts at the bottom of this article. And if you need to brush-up your chart-reading skills, you might want to look at our online article Using a Map at the Telescope.

You may be able to recognize Uranus just by its hue, which most people find faintly blue or green. Contributing Editor Tony Flanders can see the color even with his10×50 binoculars. Through a telescope, even at magnifications too low to see that planet's disk, you may notice that it shines with a steadier light than other similarly bright stars. And at 120× in a 70-mm telescope, Tony can quite clearly make out a tiny disk or dot — about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Don't expect to see any features on the ice giant planet, though. Even giant professional telescopes can barely do that.

The Discovery of Neptune

U. J. J. Le Verrier Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier (1811–77) accurately calculated the position of an unseen planet based on the motion of Uranus. In his day, he was famous for both his brilliance and arrogance. Once Herschel had overturned the millennia-old wisdom that there were exactly five planets besides Earth, astronomers started actively searching for new ones. And indeed, four new planets were discovered between 1801 and 1807, all orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. But these were tiny compared to Earth, let alone Uranus — too small to show as extended disks through most telescopes. Herschel, by then the grand old man of astronomy, called them asteroids because they look just like stars (Latin astra). Asteroids' rapid motion with respect to the "fixed" stars makes them great targets for backyard telescopes.

It wasn't until 1846 that another really large planet was found. And Neptune, as the new planet came to be called, was found in much the same way that you're going to find it. J. G. Galle and H. L. d'Arrest, staff astronomers at the Berlin Observatory, looked where the new planet was predicted to be, compared what they saw with a star chart, found an uncharted star, and then verified that it was in fact a planet.

But credit for the discovery goes not to the astronomers who first saw Neptune but to Urban Jean Joseph Le Verrier, who predicted where it would be found. It had been known for some time that Uranus didn't move exactly as it should, taking the gravitational attraction of the Sun and the known planets into account. Le Verrier analyzed the discrepancy, concluded that it must be due to the pull of a large planet well outside Uranus's orbit, and predicted the new planet's location with an error of just one degree. It was a stunning triumph for theoretical astronomy.

How to Observe Neptune and Uranus

Neptune and Uranus are in Aquarius and Pisces, respectively, throughout this period. Uranus is fewer than 10° north of the celestial equator, and Neptune will be 9° to the south of the center line at the end of 2016 — so neither gets very high in the sky for people at mid-northern latitudes. So it's important to make the best of the relatively short window of opportunity for viewing them. Neptune rises first, but because it's so much fainter, it won't actually be visible much earlier. Sometime in June or July, both planets become high enough for decent telescopic viewing in the predawn sky.

The two planets are near-twins in actual size, but Neptune is about 50% more distant, which makes it surprisingly much harder to find. But if you can find Uranus, you can find Neptune too, with the aid of the charts below. It just requires using the same techniques more carefully.

Neptune varies from magnitude 7.8 to 8.0, about two magnitudes fainter than Uranus. It's visible in steadily-supported binoculars, but only if you look quite carefully. And while Uranus is frequently brighter than any other star visible in the same binocular or finderscope field, the sky is crowded full of stars as bright as Neptune. So you have to be careful when you match up your charts with what you see through the eyepiece.

Having said all that, it's worth remembering that even a very small telescope can easily show stars down to eighth or ninth magnitude. So Neptune is not faint by telescopic standards. In fact, it's bright enough to stimulate color vision through any telescope with 4 inches (100 mm) of aperture. Look for a hue quite similar to Uranus's, though somewhat bluer.

Neptune's disk is plainly visible at 200× through a 6-inch telescope on a night of steady seeing. But it may be quite hard to see the disk if conditions are bad or your telescope is improperly collimated. Tony Flander's 70-mm refractor is a little too small to resolve Neptune properly, but when he examines the planet carefully at 120× it looks clearly different from a star of similar brightness. Neptune's light is distinctly steadier, and it appears more solid. Not exactly a disk, but a fat pinpoint. It's a little more clear in a 90-mm refractor, but don't take our word for it; see for yourself what Neptune looks like!

Charts and Tools for Observing

Because Uranus and Neptune are so far from the Sun, they move very slowly across the celestial sphere. They appeared side-by-side in 1993, and they've only drifted about 42° apart since then. So they're still visible at more or less the same time of year and/or night.

Neptune reaches opposition to the Sun on September 2nd (16:23 UT), and Uranus on October 15th (10:30 UT). These are the dates when the planets rise around sunset, set around sunrise, and reach their highest in the sky in the middle of the night. Neptune is reasonably well placed in the evening sky from August through December, and Uranus from September through February 2017. They're detectable after that, but too low for high-power telescopic observing.

Get charts for the June 2016 - March 2017 season.

If you're looking for a real challenge, try looking for the moons of Uranus.

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