About KSE Observatory

Welcome to KSE Observatory

Recent activity at KSE Observatory


May 4, 2014: An occasional look at nearby galaxies.

With Leo overhead and a rich cluster of bright galaxies following the constellation, I gave into the temptation to image some of the brighter spirals for a chance to stumble on a supernova in the making. Not much luck on that night, which isn't surprising considering that the rate of supernova events in any given galaxy is about one per hundred years!

Here's an example image of NGC 4565 as it appears after an 11 minute exposure through a photometric V filter.

Click on the image to enlarge.



October 14, 2013: Observations of Nova Delphinus 2013.

Nova Del 2013 (V339 Del) continues to fade and is now at approximately 10.6 magnitude (V filter). The data collected on the night of October 14 (3:17 - 5:43 UT) shows good agreement with CCD observations made by Timothy Crawford (AAVSO observer code CTX) on the same night. The light curve below shows observations made at KSE Observatory and by various other observers including Mr. Crawford. The KSE data points are plotted in blue and all others are green. All measurements in the plot below were from CCD images and the Johnson-V filter bandpass. Plot courtesy of AAVSO (www.aavso.org)

Click on the image to enlarge.



October 8, 2013: Observations of Nova Delphinus 2013.

More fluctuations in the light curve of Nova Del 2013 (V339 Del) are evident in the data gathered on October 8th, (starting at 3:09 UT).  About 3.3 hours of total observing time is shown in the plot below. The fluctuations have a similar period as seen in the light curve created on October 6th (October 7th post). The data was obtained from 330 images, each consisting of a 20 second exposure through a photometric V filter. These fluctuations have been reported by other observers but have not been confirmed as of yet

Click on the image to enlarge.


October 7, 2013: Observations of Nova Delphinus 2013.

The time series observations of Nova Del 2013 (V339 Del) on October 6th-UT shows some interesting structure in the light curve shown below. Brightness fluctuations of about 0.1 magnitude (V-C1+Std) can be seen over the 3.5 hour long observation period. These fluctuations appear to be real since the comparison minus check star brightness (C2-C1) is fairly constant over the same period. Each data point represents one 15 second exposure through a photometric V filter. The data was reduced and the light curve was generated using AIP4Win 2.4.2 and it's "Magnitude Measurement Tool".  More observations to follow!

Click on the image to enlarge.


October 1, 2013: Observations of Nova Delphinus 2013.

A bright nova was detected in Delphinus on August 14th by the Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki. Nova Del 2013 (aka V339 Del) is located at RA 20:23:30.68 and DEC +20:46:03.8. Initially reported at magnitude 6.3 on an unfiltered CCD image, it continued to brighten to approximately 4.5 magnitude (V filter) over the next three days. This is the brightest nova in the Northern hemisphere since 1999. Also, this nova emitted gamma rays during it's outburst, making it the fourth known nova to have been observed at these high energies. Spectra obtained by several observatories show strong H-alpha & H-beta lines indicating that this is a "classical" nova.

The binary star system responsible for the outburst is visible as a single magnitude 17 star in the DSS image archives. This faint star system appears blue in color and consists of a white dwarf and another star in close orbit. These stars are in very close proximity to each other with an orbital period of only a few hours.

Below is an archive DSS image showing a 12 arc-minute wide region centered on the originator star (pre-outburst):
Click on the image to enlarge.



Below is the same field imaged at KSE Observatory on 9-30-2013:
Click on the image to enlarge.


The V-band magnitude light curve for Nova Del 2013, through 10-01-2013, is shown below:
Courtesy of AAVSO (www.aavso.org)
Click on the image to enlarge.



A plot of the time series data obtained at KSE Observatory for Nova Del 2013 on 10-01-2013 (UT) is shown below. My V-filter observations covering about 3.5 hours are shown on the plot as blue dots (other observers data is shown in green). There is a hint of some "waviness" in the light curve but this may be due to systematic errors in the camera and the telescope guiding system. Any hint of short term periodic variability in the light curve has yet to be confirmed by other observers. The appearance of a short term, low amplitude variability in the light curve could indicate that the accretion disk is being reformed around the white dwarf. As the nova fades with time, the light variations due to the orbital period of the accretion disk will slowly emerge from the glare of the initial outburst. 
Courtesy of AAVSO (www.aavso.org)
Click on the image to enlarge.




April 18, 2013: Monitoring of IU Leo in support of Hubble COS observations.


The cataclysmic variable star IU Leo (HS1055+0939) was the Hubble Space Telescope's target of interest, directed by Dr. Boris T. Gaensicke, et al. for the purpose of collecting UV spectra of the white dwarf in this binary system. The Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) was used to obtain the spectrum but close monitoring of IU Leo by ground observers prior to the Hubble observation was requested to make sure that the star was in a "low" state and not about to brighten. The Hubble's COS is very sensitive and may be damaged by exposure to the light from UI Leo during an outburst. As Dr. Gaensicke explains: "Because of the extremely variable nature of CVs, we have to make absolutely sure that the HST observations are obtained during quiescence, as the detectors of the Cosmic Origin Spectrograph can be damaged by exposure to too much light. Therefore the success of this project entirely relies on ground-based observers who can monitor the targets in the weeks prior to the HST observations."

Dr. Gaensicke adds: "
2011 was an extraordinary year for astronomy, with the Nobel Prize for Physics being awarded for the discovery of dark energy. While most astronomers agree that type Ia supernovae (SNIa) arise from white dwarfs exploding in some kind of binary system, we are still unable to explain the precise nature of SNIa progenitors, the very tool that led to the discovery of dark energy. One way to  improve our understanding of the evolution of compact binaries and the effect that the accretion of mass and angular momentum has on the structure of white dwarfs is to study cataclysmic variables (CVs). As simple as this idea seems, it can only be done in the ultraviolet, as the white dwarfs in CVs are outshone in the optical by light from the accretion disk and / or the donor star. We are carrying out a large program with the Hubble Space Telescope to obtain ultraviolet spectroscopy of more than 40 cataclysmic variables, with the aim to measure the temperatures, rotation rates, atmosphere abundances, and ultimately the masses of their accreting white dwarfs. The observations are scheduled to start in October 2012, and will run through September 2013."

Observations of IU Leo were made at KSE Observatory on 4-11-2013, 4-17-2013, and 4-18-2013 (UT) and V-band magnitudes were measured and submitted to the AAVSO as part of the ground based monitoring effort to make sure that this CV system is not about to flare up unexpectedly.  Below is an image of IU Leo and the adjacent stars used as comparison and check stars in determining the V-band  magnitudes. IU Leo was measured at magnitude 15.41 (V-band filter) at KSE Observatory a few hours before the scheduled observation by the Hubble. Subsequently, the Hubble team decided that it was safe to observe IU Leo and the spectrum was successfully recorded by the COS instrument.

Click on the image to enlarge.


The light curve of IU Leo for the past 200 days is shown below: (Courtesy of AAVSO, aavso.org)

Click on the image to enlarge.



June 05, 2012 Transit of Venus across the disk of the Sun:

Here are yet more images and a video of the rare transit of Venus across the disk of the Sun as seen from KSE Observatory in Carlsbad, California.  Below are enlargements of  the first five images which show the beginning of the transit. The first image suggests that Contact-I occurred just before 3:09 PDT.  North is up and East is to the left in the pictures and the video.

Image #1 taken at 3:09PM (22:09 UTC), June 5th, 2012

Image #2 taken at 3:13PM (22:13 UTC), June 5th, 2012

Image #3 taken at 3:15PM (22:15 UTC), June 5th, 2012

Image #4 taken at 3:23PM (22:23 UTC), June 5th, 2012

Image #5 taken at 3:24PM (22:24 UTC), June 5th, 2012

Below is a YouTube video made from images taken between 3:09PM and 4:21PM PDT.  The time lapse video was made from images taken at approximately 5 minute intervals:

YouTube Video














Observing goals:

Most of the observing time at KSE Observatory is devoted to variable star CCD photometry in support of AAVSO observing campaigns and special activities. Objects of interest include cataclysmic variable stars (CV's), high mass x-ray binaries (HMXB), polars, blazars (BL-LAC objects), and extrasolar planets. And there's an occasional solar system planet, asteroid, or comet that also makes the list.

Partial target list:


          Nova Del 2013 (V339 Del) (Classical nova in Delphinus)
          http://www.skyandtelescope.com/about/pressreleases/Naked-eye-Nova-in-Delphinus-220235341.html
          
J2030.5+4751 (High Mass X-Ray Binary)
http://www.aavso.org/aavso-special-notice-213
HBC 722 (Young stellar object)
http://www.aavso.org/aavso-alert-notice-425
BL Lac (Blazar, AAVSO High Energy Network target)
IL Aqr (Magnetically active dwarf, AAVSO Alert #406)
http://www.aavso.org/node/1555/89
3C454.3 (Blazar, AAVSO High Energy Network target)
V455 And (AAVSO Alert Notice #426)
http://www.aavso.org/aavso-alert-notice-426
1ES0120+34 (Blazar, AAVSO High Energy Network target)
TT Ari (Monitor for low state)
3C 66A (Blazar, AAVSO High Energy Network target)
1H0323+342 (Blazar, AAVSO High Energy Network target)
AAVSO 0434+41 (High Mass X-Ray Binary)
http://www.aavso.org/aavso-special-notice-213
NSV 16181 (Magnetically active dwarf, AAVSO Alert #406)
http://www.aavso.org/observing-campaign-monitor-magnetically-active-dwarfs-long-term-variability
V998 Ori (Magnetically active dwarf, AAVSO Alert #406)
FS Aur (Peculiar Dwarf Nova, AAVSO Alert #428)
http://www.aavso.org/aavso-alert-notice-428
SAX J0635+0533 (High Mass X-Ray Binary)
http://www.aavso.org/aavso-special-notice-213
1ES0647+25 (Blazar, AAVSO High Energy Network target)

OI 158 (Blazar, AAVSO/GTN High Energy Network target)

YZ Cmi (Magnetically active dwarf, AAVSO Alert #406)

1ES0806+52 (Blazar, AAVSO High Energy Network target)

MRK 1218 (Blazar, AAVSO High Energy Network target)

OJ 287 (Blazar, AAVSO/GTN High Energy Network target)

NSV 4776 (Magnetically active dwarf, AAVSO Alert #406)

FIRST J1023 (Neutron star binary, millisecond pulsar)
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/05/missing-link-pulsar/

RY Sex (Magnetically active dwarf, AAVSO Alert #406)

EE Leo (Magnetically active dwarf, AAVSO Alert #406)

CN Leo (Magnetically active dwarf, AAVSO Alert #406)

MRK 421 (Blazar, AAVSO High Energy Network target)

3C 273 (Blazar, AAVSO High Energy Network target)

3C 279 (Blazar, AAVSO High Energy Network target)


Artist's depiction of DQ Herculis, an intermediate "polar" CV binary star.
Image courtesy of NASA/nasaimages.org
Click on the image to enlarge.


A super-massive black hole at the center of galaxy M87 beaming a jet of electrons and sub-atomic particles. Strong magnetic fields and the spin of the black hole are thought to produce the narrow jets which shoot out from the poles in opposite directions. Blazars are galaxies such as M87 where the jet of particles is directed at our line of sight. Image courtesy NASA/hubblesite.org
Click on the image to enlarge.

An artistic view of the accretion disk and the jet of a blazar. Credit: Cosmovision, a group led by Dr. Wolfgang Steffen of the Instituto de Astronomia, UNAM, Ensenada, Mexico.
Click on the image to enlarge.