The Human Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time

Who are we?

Sitting more than 2,100 light years from Earth, the Little Beehive Cluster shines bright in the evening sky this week. Credit: NOAO
Sitting more than 2,100 light years from Earth, the Little Beehive Cluster shines brightly in the evening sky this week. Credit: NOAO

We all experience things differently, but we each witness wondrous things and gain knowledge about ourselves and the bigger universe we live in during our journey.

What does skywatcher or astronomer mean to you? People viewing the night sky and contemplating the meaning of the universe. We have created distinct categories that are listed below.

What kind of sky watcher or astronomer are you?

The professional

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The professional skywatcher or astronomer earns a significant portion of their income from working in astronomy. They either teach the science in college or university or do space science research on a daily basis. Modern researchers work in individual science specialties like archaeoastronomy and astrometry, or on teams of space scientists planning current and future space missions and designing and engineering the latest spacecraft. 

The amateur telescope maker and gadgeteer

Dale Keller's Amateur Telescope Making
Dale Keller’s Amateur Telescope Making

This breed of skywatcher once composed a large percentage of astronomy hobbyists. They build amazing telescopes from scratch, grind mirrors, and haul their spaceship-to-the-stars to local star parties. Hands-on amateurs and inventive innovators, many are first time users and adopters of new astronomy technology. The amateur telescope maker and gadgeteer enjoy looking at telescopes as much as through one.

The amateur specialist astronomer

These photographs may look like incredible shots taken from telescopes in space, but they were in fact captured by amateur astronomer in his back garden. Located millions of light years away from Earth, the star-studded patterns fill the night sky with array of colours, from purples and pinks to blues and oranges. Photographer Terry Hancock captured the images using a specialist astronomy camera attached to a telescope, from the comfort of his home in Fremont, Michigan. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2847259/Move-Hubble-Amateur-astronomer-takes-stunning-photos-colourful-galaxies-garden-Michigan.html#ixzz3do8JaPxc  Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
These photographs may look like incredible shots were taken from telescopes in space, but they were in fact captured by an amateur astronomer in his back garden.
Located millions of light years away from Earth, the star-studded patterns fill the night sky with an array of colors, from purples and pinks to blues and oranges.
Photographer Terry Hancock captured the images using a specialist astronomy camera attached to a telescope, from the comfort of his home in Fremont, Michigan.

Amateur specialist skywatchers love to observe variable stars, track satellites across the sky, and spend days, weeks and even months hunting for comets. They provide useful scientific data that contributes to our understanding of the universe and enables the human journey to the stars. 

The backyard skywatcher or astronomer

'Urban CCD Imaging: Capture the stars from your own backyard' a Skywatcher presentation by Peter Ward. '
‘Urban CCD Imaging: Capture the stars from your own backyard’ a Skywatcher presentation by Peter Ward. ‘

The backyard skywatcher thinks space is cool and many are quite knowledgeable concerning the latest astronomy news or book. They enjoy reading about space science and astronomy and a percentage own their own telescope.

The beginner skywatcher

The Skywatcher telescope is perfect as a first scope for people just joining the human journey to the beginning of space and time
The Skywatcher telescope is perfect as a first scope for people just joining the human journey to the beginning of space and time

The beginner can be of any age group and just joined the human journey to the beginning of space and time. They often come to the adventure with a relatively clean slate, so find everything exciting.

The astronomy photographer

A detail image of the Veil Nebula supernova remnant. Angular size about the same as full Moon
A detail image of the Veil Nebula supernova remnant. Angular size about the same as full Moon

Often a photographic artist of the highest ability, the astronomy photographer creates and shares astronomy photography techniques and stunning images of the cosmos. Having a vast array of astronomy photography skills and amazing patience, they often leave us sitting back and enjoying their work. 

The science fiction fanatic

It's easy to see the inspiration and clearly there was an interest from the top to see a shift in tone resulting in Stargate Universe.
It’s easy to see the inspiration and clearly, there was an interest from the top to see a shift in tone resulting in Stargate Universe.

The science fiction fanatic loves astronomy because of concepts like wormholes, folding space, multiverses, and tachyons. Constantly looking for a door to another dimension or the next universe, they’re more at home in Star Trek, than the real human journey to the stars.

The space travel and planet colonization advocate

Furthermore — and in my view mostly importantly — it advocates the building of a self-sufficient orbiting colony in which at least a portion of the human ...
Furthermore — and in my view most importantly — it advocates the building of a self-sufficient orbiting colony in which at least a portion of the human …

Often a romantic soul, the space travel, and planet colonization advocate can be a member of The Planetary Society and wants to colonize other worlds. They’re currently pushing for the colonization of Mars, traveling to nearby asteroids and the jovian moons, and actively push for funding for the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

The space nut or visionary

South African-born entrepreneur Elon Musk, 40, ended up in the United States because, he says, it's where great things happen. Musk is gambling that his company, SpaceX, can change the world with its Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules by carrying cargo, and eventually people, to orbit. (Space X) Read more: http://www.airspacemag.com/space/is-spacex-changing-the-rocket-equation-132285884/#gYyRg6biy0KeghKU.99 Save 47% when you subscribe to Air & Space magazine http://bit.ly/NaSX4X Follow us: @AirSpaceMag on Twitter
South African-born entrepreneur Elon Musk, 40, ended up in the United States because he says, it’s where great things happen. Musk is gambling that his company, SpaceX, can change the world with its Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules by carrying cargo, and eventually people, to orbit. (Space X)

The space nut or visionary sends in letters ‘disproving’ relativity or offering a brilliant alternative theory. Often they believe NASA is covering up an eminent and world-ending asteroid strike and provide detailed math and physics to back up their claims. Convinced they know something the rest of us don’t, some could be right.

The imprisoned skywatcher

Prisoners living in light polluted areas of the world don't get to see this hanging in the night sky.
Prisoners living in light polluted areas of the world don’t get to see this hanging in the night sky.

The imprisoned skywatcher has developed a deep curiosity about astronomy but lives in a light-polluted region of the world. They read all they can about space science and the human journey to the stars, but can’t enjoy the journey as they should.

The astronomy zealot

More than three centuries later, the quest for an understanding of the physical universe, from the fundamental properties of particles to the complexities of galaxies, remains at the heart of physics. However, the origin of gravity and a unified theory for all the known forces of the universe (i.e., gravity, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong interactions of subatomic particles) remains elusive.
More than three centuries later, the quest for an understanding of the physical universe, from the fundamental properties of particles to the complexities of galaxies, remains at the heart of physics. However, the origin of gravity and a unified theory of all the known forces of the universe (i.e., gravity, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong interactions of subatomic particles) remains elusive.

The astronomy zealot looks at the “Big Picture” and the most outrageous models of the human journey to the beginning of space and time. Throw them a string theory or multiverse hypothesis and they swallow it whole. They’re cerebral, speculative and open-minded to anything, and often prefer a novel possibility over hard fact.

The spouses and friends

Spouses get dragged to star parties and often become enthusiastic members of the human journey to the beginning of space and time.
Spouses get dragged to star parties and often become enthusiastic members of the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

Spouses get invited to attend star parties, astronomy talks, and sightseeing tours through the solar system and beyond. Only partly enjoying and understanding the process and events, they learn to enjoy these moments, or just put up with it.

The Star Followers

The wayfinder memorizes the position of stars on the celestial sphere in order to use them as directional clues when they rise and set. On cloudy nights, when only parts of the sky are visible, he may recognize isolated stars or star groups and imagine the rest of the celestial sphere around them.
The Wayfinder memorizes the position of stars on the celestial sphere in order to use them as directional clues when they rise and set. On cloudy nights, when only parts of the sky are visible, he may recognize isolated stars or star groups and imagine the rest of the celestial sphere around them.

Star navigators are mostly pilots, adventurers, and yachtsmen using the night sky to navigate the globe because they enjoy the hands on feeling of adventure in the ancient art of celestial navigation.

Following their passion and desire to explore, they’re the astronauts of the future, the true adventurers at the forefront of the human exploration of the solar system and beyond.

The enthusiastic human with no idea

The enthusiastic human with no idea about the human journey to the beginning of space and time is the majority of the human race. Unable to name or pinpoint the brightest star in the night sky, or the most common element in the universe, the cosmos just isn’t that interesting to them, so far. 

No matter what kind of sky watcher or astronomer you’re, the wonder and mystery of the cosmos can create a passion to answers questions deep within the heart.

Questions generations of sky watchers and astronomers spent thousands of years looking up into the night sky trying to answer. Answers we have designed and engineered amazing spacecraft and telescopes to find during the modern age of space travel and astronomy we live today.

Welcome to the human journey to the beginning of space and time!

Warren Wong

Editor and Chief

The human journey to the beginning of space and time

Read about the NExSS Coalition’s Search for Extraterrestrial Life.

Learn more about NASA’s search for ultra-light materials to help enable the human journey to Mars and beyond.

Learn how to calculate the orbit of asteroids in the Main Asteroid Belt.

The Telescope Drive Master

A mid-level mounts’ best friend?

My Telescope Drive Master v2 arrives
My Telescope Drive Master v2 arrives

To take truly inspirational images of the cosmos you need three astronomical tools; a telescope (optical tube assembly), an imaging device (normally a CCD or DSLR camera), and a mount. All three components should be of good quality in order to achieve the results desired during your journey to the beginning of space and time.

Some amateur astronomers may believe the imaging device and optical tube assembly are more important than the mount. This might make a good mount less important in their eyes, but a safe, steady, well-made mount is just as important in taking great astroimages.

Modern telescope mounts

There are modern mounts in the $3000 range available capable of excellent tracking with minimal periodic error (error induced due to small mechanical imperfections in the device). You can also break the piggy bank and opt for a German equatorial mount (GEM) in the five figure range that’s even more accurate. In the case of modern mounts, made by a reputable manufacturer, you really do get what you pay for. 

The Telescope Drive Master

In an effort to make mid-level and GEMs, even better Hungarian firm MDA-TelesCoop has introduced the Telescope Drive Master (TDM). Designed to correct the periodic error of a telescope mount, without the requirement for an auto guider system, the Telescope Drive Master is made to enhance the ability of both mid-level and expensive GEMs.

You can obtain a Telescope Drive Master through Explore Scientific in North America and in other areas of the world.

Price: $1,799.95 

My Telescope Drive Master v2 arrives 

17059I used a Celestron CGE Pro GEM to test the claims of MDA-TelesCoop concerning the Telescope Drive Master’s ability to make this excellent quality mount even better.

I got the Telescope Drive Master v2 I tested through Explore Scientific. It arrived securely and safely packaged, and with the right mechanical adapter for my CGE Pro GEM. You need to indicate which model of mount you’ll be using with the TDM when ordering because each requires a specific adapter.

You can check which models the Telescope Drive Master v2 can be used with here.

They included instructions and helpful photographs on setting up the Telescope Drive Master, which I found easy to understand. They also helped explain how the TDM works with my CGE Pro GEM and computer to make beautiful images. Getting the setup right only took me about an hour and a few minutes to get everything ready to view the cosmos.

Performance

The Telescope Drive Master significantly reduced the periodic and even non-periodic tracking errors of my CGE Pro GEM to within 0.5″. This is a result in agreement with previous reviews and independent tests.

It also integrated well with the autoguider system, offering me precise tracking of celestial objects.

These results would likely not be possible with a lesser quality mount than my CGE Pro GEM. Still, it should improve the ability of even mid-level mounts.

The conclusion

Overall this device did improve the ability of my mount to improve the quality of images taken of the cosmos. It’s worth the price I paid to obtain.

If I was a serious astroimager desiring to enhance my ability to take stunning, unforgettable images of the cosmos, I would purchase the Telescope Drive Master.

It can definitely make your journey to the beginning of space and time more memorable.

Telescope Drive Master

Price: $1,799.95

Learn more about TelesCoop here.

Learn more about Celestron’s complete lineup of astronomy products here.

Looking for a quality telescope for your journey to the beginning of space and time? Read about Explore Scientific’s 80mm Triplet Apochromatic Refractor

Need a good pair of astronomical binoculars? Check out Denkmeier’s new Binotron-27 Binoviewers

Looking for a quality portable mount to enhance your journey to the beginning of space and time? Read about the Maxim DL

Space Exploration Takes Time

It took five decades to develop and ultimately launch the Hubble Space Telescope 

Artists conception of possible successor to the Hubble Space Telescope
Artists conception of possible successor to the Hubble Space Telescope Image Credit NASA

Future space telescopes (Oct. 15, 2014) –

Traveling and exploring space is an adventure unlike anything experienced by travelers during thousands of years of life on Earth. A space journey requires careful planning, patience, and determination far beyond any adventure ever undertaken by people traveling over land or water. Exploring space for possible new worlds orbiting distant stars takes a space telescope requiring decades to develop and ultimately launch into space.

For example, the space telescope most people associate with hunting for new worlds, the Hubble Space Telescope, took five decades to design, engineer and finally launch into space. In the same fashion, the James Webb Space Telescope is expected to make the leap into space in 2018, almost 24 years after work first started on the idea. In fact, NASA engineers and scientists believe it will take so long to actually build a true successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, they have already started work on a replacement.

Dubbed the Advanced Telescope Large-Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST), the successor to the first planet hunter incorporates improved technology first pioneered by the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes. Studying the ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared universe, ATLAST is designed to be a long-term space observatory for the next phase of the human journey to the beginning of space and time. Engineers and scientists are currently taking a look at the costs and scientific and technical requirements of constructing a replacement planet hunter sometime within the next twenty or thirty years.

Team of NASA scientists and engineers studying the feasibility and costs of building ATLAST
Team of NASA scientists and engineers studying the feasibility and costs of building ATLAST Images Credit NASA

“Conceptually, ATLAST would leverage the technological advances pioneered by the Webb telescope, such as deployable, large segmented mirror arrays,” said Mark Clampin, ATLAST study scientist and Webb’s project scientist.

“We will be leveraging a lot of heritage from the Webb telescope and then developing new technologies over the next few years for the primary mirror assembly, wavefront sensing and control, and ultra-stable structures to achieve this wavefront error stability,” Clampin said.

“One of the killer apps currently planned for ATLAST is the ability to detect signatures of life in the atmospheres of Earth-like planets in the solar neighborhood,” Clampin said.“While other observatories will image larger exoplanets, they would not have ATLAST’s advanced ability to identify chemicals that may indicate the presence of life in these far-flung, Earth-size worlds.”

ATLAST will reside in the same Sun-Earth L2 orbit the James Webb Space Telescope will occupy once it’s launched around 2018. Carrying a state-of-the-art star shade designed to help reduce the light from an Earth-sized planet’s home star, ATLAST should detect worlds that could be a new cradle for the human race to begin life again.

ATLAST also has a large main mirror capable of studying star and galaxy birth in high definition. It would be able to provide detailed images of stars in galaxies over 10 million light-years away and regions of space where new stars are being created over 100 parsecs in size anywhere in the visible universe. This mirror would be quite a bit larger than the largest segmented mirror NASA has ever launched into space, the one on the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA identified a need to begin development of a replacement for Hubble and James Webb Space Telescope in a recent document outlining its vision for astrophysics during the next three decades titled “Enduring Quests, Daring Visions“.

“While people expect Hubble and Webb to operate for many years, we are looking ahead to the telescope and instrument requirements needed to answer the questions posed in NASA’s 30-year vision,” said Harley Thronson, the Goddard senior scientist for Advanced Concepts in Astrophysics and ATLAST study scientist.

“ATLAST would achieve critically important science goals not possible with ground-based observatories or with any other planned space missions,” added Thronson. “Now is the time to plan for the future.”

“One of the pertinent attributes about ATLAST is that it’s being designed to be modular and serviceable, following the Hubble Space Telescope model,” observed Julie Crooke, one of the Goddard study leads. “Mission planners would design the observatory so that it could be serviced to upgrade instrumentation — a potential capability that depends on available budget and science requirements. Serviceability has been one of the great paradigms in mission architecture that separates the Hubble Space Telescope from all of the other space missions to date,” Crooke said.

You can find more information on ATLAST here.

For more information on the James Webb Space Telescope visit here.

Read about methane clouds over the northern seas of Titan

Read about icy geysers on Enceladus

Read about our calculations concerning the possibility of intelligent life existing in the universe other than on Earth

Celestron NexStar Evolution

Available in 6, 8 and 9.25-inch models, Celestron's NexStar Evolution
Available in 6, 8 and 9.25-inch models, Celestron’s NexStar Evolution

Earth’s most popular spaceship-to-the-stars has evolved

NexStar Evolution includes everything you love about Celestron telescopes, plus a few upgrades to enhance the view

Quickly and efficiently find the most popular stellar objects in the sky by touching your smartphone or tablet. Just connect to NexStar Evolution’s wireless network to manipulate your new NexStar Evolution using the included Celestron SkyPortal planetarium app for iOS and Android.

  • Available in 6 in, 8 in, and 9.25 in models

  • State-of-the-art lithium battery allows for up to ten hours of continuous sky watching

  • Includes a Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube, with StarBright XLT optical coatings, and is Fastar compatible

  • A USB charging port, adjustable tray light, and improved tripod add new convenience features that make using your new NexStar Evolution a lot more fun and safe

  • Download free SkyPortal app

You can find the new NexStar Evolution at Celestron.

Read about Einstein’s Spacetime.

Read about earth-sized planets within their habitable zone.

Read about something unusual discovered by scientists.

Celeston Ultima Duo Eyepieces

Celestron's new Ultima Duo  eyepieces
Celestron’s new Ultima Duo eyepieces

Get a new perspective on the universe by looking through Ultima Duo high-performance photo-visual eyepieces offering stunning views of the solar system and crystal clear images of the Moon and planets. Versatile enough to go from viewing to imaging in the blink of an eye, Celestron’s new Ultima Duo eyepieces combine fully multi-coated, state-of-the-art optics and a built-in T-adapter for reliable Astro imaging 

A complete line of quality eyepieces
A complete line of quality eyepieces

Celestron’s Ultima Duo eyepieces have a 68-degree field of view perfect for visual observing and industry standard 42mm T-adapter threads. Just remove the rubber eye guard and then easily attach a DSL camera for unforgettable images of the planets and Moon.

Canadians can find Ultima Duo here or at Celestron.

Read about “NASA”s Curiosity Mars Rover Approaching a Region Called the Kimberly on the Red Planet

NASA’s Asteroid Hunting Content

Ancient Skywatchers of the American Southwest

A great telescope for viewing the solar system and stars

View Comet 67P Churyumov with a Cometron 114AZ

The 2014 Cometron 114AZ is Celestron’s 114mm (4.49 inches) Newtonian telescope, with 10mm and 20mm Kellner eyepieces, offering stunning 22.5x and 45x views of the planets, Moon, and comets speeding through the solar system.

A great telescope for viewing the solar system and stars
This 114mm Newtonian telescope is one of Cometron’s newest models for 2014

I distinctly remember counting the dollars saved until I could purchase my first telescope. Walking down to the local hobby store to pick it up was a pleasure I had been thinking about for months.

I still have this first scope. I recently discovered it sitting in a closet downstairs, forgotten about, but still usable. I was only twelve years old when I purchased it, from dollars I had saved from my paper route. A 2-inch reflector, I had first seen it sitting in the store window. It had an all white cylinder, with black trimming, and was about 20 inches in length. Mounting her was simple, but the locking clamp was crude, and the tripod unstable at times. There was no way to align the optics system of my first telescope. She was beautiful to me, my first reflector, but she didn’t offer unforgettable views of the solar system. Still, as a young boy exploring a world he had dreamed about, purchasing this first telescope was one of the best gifts I have ever bought myself.

The telescopes sold today to young people and adults deciding to experience astronomy and owning a telescope for the first time offer a far better view of the solar system and cosmos than my first reflector. Considering the recent news that the Rosetta spacecraft will near Comet 67P Churyumov during the coming days, and NASA’s future plans to drop a lander on this comet, lots of people will be desiring to take a look. Fortunately, Celestron is introducing two new Cometron telescopes for 2014 perfect for a beginner. The Cometron FirstScope and Cometron 114AZ. Two new telescopes offering beginners great views of the solar system at a reasonable price.

Read about “The Possibility of Intelligent Lifeforms Existing in the Universe

Read about NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover.

Viewing the Moon Through Binoculars

The complete astronomer’s guide to viewing the Moon using binoculars

Compare sizes to prices and you'll see bigger is better and more expensive
Compare sizes to prices and you’ll see bigger is better and more expensive

People often ask me whether they can get great views of the solar system using even simple 7 x 35 binoculars and the answer is yes. It doesn’t matter if you’re using relatively expensive 7 x 35 Leitz Leica BA Trinovid binoculars or the less expensive Celestron 71300. The night sky will explode with visual gems invisible to the naked eye and the Moon will come alive with color when viewed through binoculars.

The view becomes even better when seen through binoculars like the Oberwerk 100mm giant binocular telescope. Numerous double stars can be seen using state-of-the-art astronomy binoculars, variable stars will noticeably fluctuate at times, and you’ll see stars the naked eye isn’t able to discern. The list of objects to view using binoculars is virtually endless, but let’s start with the Moon.

The Moon

A mere 238,000 miles distant, the Moon offers viewers on Earth more visual gems than any other object in the solar system. Soaring mountains, immense plains, insanely deep and wide valleys, and hundreds of craters are easily visible on the Moon using astronomy binoculars.

Selecting the best lunar phase for viewing the Moon is critical for people deciding to tour our closest neighbor using binoculars. Very little detail is often visible on the surface after a New Moon, but as the Moon rises further east night after night, more features of the surface come into view. During the First-Quarter phases of the Moon, an amazing variety of lunar surface terrain can be viewed through binoculars.

The huge plains of the lunar seas Serenitatis, Mare Crisium, Tranquillitatis, and Fecunditatis cover the equatorial regions of the Moon. Travel northward to view several large craters scattered across the landscape or south to view an area often called the “no man’s land” of the Moon. Experience the south polar region to be inspired by the rough beauty of a region with so many craters it’s often hard to tell them apart.

It’s always fascinating to view the line dividing the night and day on the Moon, which astronomers refer to as the Moon’s terminator (lunar terminator). Viewers can often see unusual lighting effects on the surface as the Sun rises and sets. If you view from the right angle, a crater can look like a bright, bottomless pit. Sunlight can often be seen traveling down the wall until it floods the bottom of the crater.

The best time to view a New Moon is normally April and May for viewers in the northern hemisphere, and October and November in the southern regions of the planet. Viewers north of the equator desiring to experience the Moon less than a day before New Moon should view during July and August, while those south of the equator will have better luck during January and February. During these times the Moon is higher in the sky, so if you slowly scan a point below the horizon directly under the Sun and the view is free of obstacles, you might experience an extremely thin crescent.

Modern astronomy binoculars offer grand and inspiring views of the Moon and solar system sure to open the mind to the usefulness of binoculars when viewing the universe. Make plans to check out the view they offer and we’re sure you’ll discover just how useful they’re.

Read about Albert Einstein and his space-time in “Space and Time, or Space-Time

Ever wonder what space archaeologists in the future if our civilization crumbles? Read “Earth Mission Discovers Something Unusual“.

Does life exist beyond the dusty ball of dirty water we call Earth? Read “The Possibility of Intelligent Lifeforms Existing in the Universe“.