New Technology Lets BASA Astronomer Sip Coffee While Exploring Vast, Distant Galaxies

Neighbor Clifton, Chief of Astronomical Research for the Bernal Aeronautics and Space Administration (BASA), recently acquired some new gear which significantly expands his ability to explore the far reaches of the universe from the safety and comfort of the Bernal Heights Observatory.

This new space-travel technology is called a “light pollution filter,” and it cancels out the brightness of the urban sky to reveal the secrets of the heavens hiding in space above us. It also allows Neighbor Clifton to pursue his caffeine addiction and his passion for astronomy at the exact same time:

Absolutely tickled that I’m able to pull off some astro imaging from home. It’s nice to sitting at my kitchen table sipping coffee while collecting data. Adding a light pollution filter to the camera has made a stunning difference at what the camera can see in a densely populated urban environment. I’ve been focusing on open clusters while I experiment with longer subs from my back deck.

So what has Bernal’s intrepid space explorer discovered while staring at the night sky with his fancy new gizmo? Neighbor Clifton reports:

Bernal Heights was treated to spectacularly  clear skies and astronomical “seeing” for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Your humble BASA astronomer was busy doing a survey of open clusters adorning the skies above Bernalwood.  The Bernal Heights Observatory has just acquired a light pollution filter for its imaging equipment, making surveys of dimmer and more distant objects possible.

Our imaging team’s first survey was of Cluster M35 which is prominently placed at the foot of Gemini, The Twins.  The constellation Gemini is a Winter favorite with its two bright stars, Castor and Pollux forming the head of the twins.  You’ll notice a rich star field in this part of the sky because it’s looking right into the heart of Milky Way, which does indeed exist above Bernal Heights beyond our rather powerful urban light dome:

Tweaking the focus and tracking a bit, our second object, open cluster M37 is in the constellation Auriga and is another example of an image in the Milky Way.  Open Clusters are young loosely packed star forming regions, as opposed to Globular clusters which are densely packed swarms of stars.  Globular clusters are more ancient:

Both of these objects are relatively easy binocular targets, however, it takes the photon accumulation power of a camera, now filtered with proper light pollution subtraction, to see the richness of the Milky Way from our urban observation site.  Both of these exposures exceeded 30 minutes.

For you armchair explorers at home, I’m also including a star map, which is a simulation of the Bernalwood night sky around 10:00 PM.  This should be good through December, if you would like to locate these objects yourself (once the rain and fog go away):

IMAGES: Top, M43, Orion Nebula, photographed from Bernal Heights. All photos by Clifton Reed.

Junior Science Team Explores Puddles at Precita Playground

Last weekend’s heavy rains were good new for flowers, foliage… and small children. During a lull in the rains on Saturday, Neighbor Kristen led a team of aspiring Bernal Heights scientists on a mission to the Precita Park playground:

Neighbors Max and Kennedy confirm that this morning’s Precita Park puddles meet toddler approval for depth and breadth.

As you can see, these junior researchers conducted their experiments very thoroughly:

PHOTOS: Neighbor Kristen

Astronomer Explores Lunar Surface and Jupiter from Bernal Heights Observatory

While you were enjoying the warm weather earlier this week, your neighborhood aeronautics and space agency was hard at work exploring the solar system. Neighbor Clifton, Chief of Astronomical Research for the Bernal Aeronautics and Space Administration (BASA), files this report on his most recent observations from the Bernal Heights Observatory:

The skies above Bernal Heights are ablaze with activity this week. The current heat wave and passing of the Fall Equinox has created a double whammy of astronomical delights. The constellation Orion has reappeared in the early morning, sporting “The Great Orion Nebula” or M42. Look for M42 just under the 3 star belt of Orion, it’s the blurry patch just under the belt which can be seen by naked eye and resolved brilliantly with just about any pair of binoculars.

The Autumn sky also brings the return of the king of planets: Jupiter — which I’ve been busy attempting imaging via the webcam method. This week’s waning Gibbous Moon has been an excellent target for Jupiter practice. I did a quick survey on Monday. The sky was so clear I was able to do a close-up of the lunar surface.

I also took a crack at Jupiter, with somewhat disappointing results:

Jupiter will raise earlier as the year concludes, there will be more opportunity. Look for Jupiter, or Jove as I like to call him, about 30 degrees following the moon towards the Eastern Horizon. Jupiter raises at about 12:00 AM this week.

This is your BASA astronomer, wishing you clear skies.

PHOTOS: Clifton Reed

Threat or Menace? Bernalwood Mounts New Defense to Counter La Lengua’s Burrito Rail Gun

Those uppity La Lenguans have become uppity again, as the militarization of the La Lengua Autonomous Zone continues. Earlier this week, the La Lengua rebel propagandist known as Burrito Justice claimed to have developed a new superweapon, in the form of a super-sized Burrito Railgun.

Burrito Justice claims the weaponized burrito is based in the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, high atop the massive overhead crane that serves as a local landmark. The La Lenguans demonstrated their achievement with this chilling propaganda display:

The Bernalwood Intelligence Agency takes such threats very seriously. Our operatives quickly located the Burrito Railgun and confirmed its location via photo-analysis and 3-D modeling.  What they found was both shocking… and rather confusing:

In short, since burritos lack inertial self-guidance capability, the BIA’s trajectory analysis revealed that the true target of this weapon is not Bernalwood, but Oakland. The mega-burrito projectile is visible in this overview map:

While it is clear that La Lengua has transferred significant railgun technology to the Hunters Point Security Collective, the nature of their alliance — and why they have joined forces against Oakland and the East Bay powers —remains unknown. Nevertheless, this reckless act of Burrito-Based Arms (BBA) proliferation is a direct threat to District 9 security, and it must be met with a strong response from the Dominion of Bernalwood.

In collaboration with the Bernalwood Air Force, the BIA immediately deployed Phase II of the EYE OF SAUTRITO project. Originally developed to prevent illegal dumping on Bernal Hill, the Eye of Sautrito has now been upgraded to include a sensitive antenna array that can detect the electromagnetic emissions from a railgun preparing to fire. The array is linked via radar to a rapid-action, megajoule-burst microwave emitter that is capable of destroying foil-wrapped tortillas at distances up to ten miles. Watch this simple demonstration:

Sleep well, Citizens of Bernalwood, because you may rest easy in the knowledge that your vigilant defense forces will spare no expense to keep you safe, stylish, and secure.

Star Sighting: Shuttle Endeavour Soars Over Bernal Heights

Well, that was rather epic, wasn’t it?

When we told you yesterday that the pilot of the Boeing 747 carrying the Space Shuttle Endeavour would be thinking of Bernal Heights as he flew over San Francisco, we weren’t kidding. But we didn’t realize that meant he would actually fly the thing right over our neighborhood!

Yet that’s what happened (because Bernalwood is glamorous like that). A little after 10 am today, Shuttle Endeavour made a big sweeping pass over Sutrito Tower and the Dominion of Bernalwood, amid much rejoicing and clicking of camera shutters.

From atop the hill, Neighbor Charlie took this terrific shot of the shuttle floating past Sutro Tower:

Neightbors Jeanne and Taina enjoyed a Tomorrowland view from their Bernal Heights living room:

Anthony Brown, Bernal’s finest penguinologist, was on the Hill, and he captured this video of the fly-by, which may be the next best thing to having been there:

And since it was a day for star-sightings, it’s only natural that Endeavour’s arrival coincided with a cameo by another elusive celebrity: The Bikini Jogger!

But let’s back up for a moment. Your Bernalwood editor got to spend some serious quality time with Endeavour yesterday while it was at Edwards Air Force Base, courtesy of the very generous folks at NASA. So if you enjoyed the view of the Shuttle over Bernal Heights today, here’s a glimpse of what it looked like up close:

Endeavour and 747 SCA

Shuttle Endeavour

Shuttle Endeavour

Endeavour and 747 SCA

Shuttle Endeavour

Wow. Quite a day to remember. Someday, you can tell your grandkids that you not only saw the Space Shuttle fly over Bernal Heights, but you also saw the Space Shuttle fly on the last day that any Shuttle took to the skies, ever. It was just another glamorous day of history-in-the-making here in Bernalwood… and you were there.

PHOTOS: Bernal photos, from top: Erin Veneziano, DenSF, Stephen Woods, Milk DragonMatthew Gilreath, Xtel, Wirednerd,  Joe Thomas. Bikini Jogger by sfcitymom. Shuttle closeups by Telstar Logistics

BASA’s Chief Astronomer Is a Celebrity in England

The Olympics aren’t the only thing generating news right now in England.

Neighbor Clifton, Chief of Astronomical Research for the Bernal Aeronautics and Space Administration (BASA), reports that his awesome photo of the Transit of Venus as seen through Sutro Tower was accepted for publication in the prestigious British magazine Astronomy Now:

Clifton writes:

I submitted that photo of the Transit of Venus I took from Bernal Hill to “Astronomy Now” magazine in England. Much to my surprise, I received a copy of August edition of the magazine and a check for 10 British Pounds in the mail yesterday.

BASA is now internationally recognized!

Call it one giant leap for Bernalkind.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Clifton

BASA Astronomer Welcomes M13 Galaxy to Bernal Heights

The Citizens of Bernalwood are glamorous and rather vain, but we take great pride in our neighborly inclusiveness. That welcoming spirit applies to Bernal Heights residents new and old, as well as alien life forms from far-distant galaxies.

Clifton Reed, the newly appointed Chief of Astronomical Research for BASA — the Bernal Aeronautics and Space Administration — recently conducted a series of deep space observations from his backyard observatory in Bernal Heights. Neighbor Clifton focused his attention on the M13 galaxy, which is summering high above the night skies of Bernal, more than 100 light-years from here.

Of course, there are those who worry about the potential gentrifying effect that M13 may have in Bernal Heights. A few old-timers in Cortlandia have been heard to grumble, “When M13 arrives, Starbucks is never far behind!” But in the spirit of promoting neighborly ties, Neighbor Clifton brings this message from the Bernalwood-M13 Friendship Committee:

Bernal Heights Observatory
Observed M13, The Great Cluster in Hercules, on Saturday, 9 June 2012, 20:35 hrs. PST.

Explanation: Discovered by Edmund Halley in 1764, Messier 13 or M13 is a globular cluster in the constellation Hercules. It’s visible from Bernal Heights throughout the summer, although it’s dim (Apparent Magnitude 5.8) and hard to find in our light polluted paradise. BTW, it’s the faintest object that I’ve managed to observe from Bernal Heights so far. You may have a shot at it with a decent pair of binoculars. However, it will only appear as a dim smudge and make you go racing for the nearest Hubble image. Even with a telescope, it still takes the sensitivity of a digital camera to observe any detail in the sky above San Francisco.

Globular clusters are ancient star-forming regions and are often found around galactic centers; They are some of the most ancient objects in the cosmos. How many worlds or civilizations maybe orbiting around those stars? M13 is situated 139 million light years from the top of Bernal Hill. It has a diameter of 145 light years and contains hundreds of thousands of stars. Its estimated age is 2.68 X 108 years.

This is your local Bernal Heights amateur astronomer, wishing you clear skies.

For information on organized star parties and astronomy events, please visit the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers (SFAA).

PHOTO: Our neighbor M13, by Clifton Reed

Transit of Venus AND Sutro Tower Serendipitously Photographed from Bernal Hill

On Tuesday evening I went up the hill to see if anyone brought a big telescope to observe the transit of Venus across the face of the sun.

I arrived with a pair of cheap cardboard eclipse-viewing glasses that I’d used (and shared) a few weeks earlier for the partial solar eclipse, another a well-attended astronomical event on the hill. The transit of Venus brought out a smaller crowd, but one nice genleman there had set up a telescope on a tripod and attached a camera.

He was happy to let several of us random neighbors take a look through the viewfinder, and there were apparently quite a few more throughout the day, as he writes on Flickr in the comments:

I spent yesterday afternoon freezing on a wind swept hill in San Francisco imaging the Transit of Venus. I almost packed up my gear and equipment but decided to stay until the sun dropped below the horizon, the ToV will never occur again in our lifetimes. Just before the sun set in aligned perfectly with a very large and iconic tower, The Twin Peaks antenna, which wasn’t planned, Although some high clouds blurred the image a bit, the wait and was worth it. I suppose a big part of photography is luck.

Ironically, I planned on shooting at a different location which was about 30 miles away. When I arrived I discovered that I forgot my solar filter and had to race back to San Francisco to retrieve it. I headed for a large hill top park in my neighborhood with a clear view of the Western horizon. This is a popular park where people love to walk their dogs. I estimated about 300 people got a view trough the telescope which they weren’t expecting. Apollo must of been with me yesterday, a near disaster turned out to be the best option.

Amazing story, amazing luck, and an amazing shot!

PHOTO: Clifton Reed

Copernican Groupies Gather on Bernal Hill to View Solar Eclipse

Bernal Heights Turns Out for the Eclipse

Scientists say the earth revolves around the sun. Others believe the whole thing is a liberal conspiracy concocted by scientists with a heliocentric agenda. Opinions differ, but among the former crowd, Sunday evening’s solar eclipse was a pretty big deal.

Neighbor Brent shot the video you see above, in which dozens of Copernicans can be seen massing atop Bernal Hill in anticipation of the eclipse. Brent writes:

It was really cool. People were talking to each other, sharing home-made viewers and commercially produced lenses (think of old 3D glasses with dark, “optical density 5” lenses instead). All sorts of people were there. Many trying to take pictures (some with tripods and serious looking equipment, others with smartphone cameras). It truly was a cool scene. Here’s a typical pic:

Fashionistalab captured this shot on the hill by attaching an iPhone to a telescope:

Of course, you didn’t have to be on Bernal Hill to enjoy the show. Here’s a great shot of some wacky eclipse-mutated shadows, taken by Neighbor Isaac:

I noticed a similar thing happening on the sidewalks of Precita Avenue:

And lastly, here’s a photo of Sutro Tower that I took; notice the crescent-shaped eclipse reflection at the top of the image. Spooky!

PHOTOS: Top, David Gallagher