Annual astronomy festival returns to Science Center


HICKORY — BoBfest: Regional Gathering of Amateur Astronomers returns to Catawba Science Center on Saturday, Jan. 28. The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

BoBfest is free and open to the public. The event will feature keynote speakers, astrophotography displays, and door prizes. Vendors, exhibitors, and information about local events and facilities will be available, as well as the chance to engage with amateur and professional astronomers from the region. 

CSC staff and volunteers along with the Patrick Beaver Memorial Library will be heading up family activities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Activities will include crafts and experiments related to astronomy for children of all ages.

Attendees ranging from professional astronomers to those who simply have an interest in astronomy are welcome. Anyone looking into astronomy as a hobby is urged to come and ask questions of the more experienced astronomers.

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This year’s keynote speakers are Corrie Ann Delgado with her presentation, “Through the Eyes of the James Webb Space Telescope,” and Michael Rehnberg with his presentation “When Clear Skies Aren’t Enough: Weather Forecasting for Amateur Astronomers.”

There will also be afternoon forums with different speakers covering a range of topics from astrophotography to space radio, and how to get started in astronomy. In addition to the keynote speakers and various afternoon forums on astronomy topics, there will be solar observing available during lunch, weather permitting.

Tickets will be sold for a wide variety of door prizes for $1 per ticket. Door prizes range from astronomy materials and merchandise to telescopes, items from local businesses, and more.

While attending the event is free to the public, the money from the door prize donations will help fund the event.

Interested vendors or door prize donors may contact bobfestastro@gmail.com.

Everyone planning to attend is encouraged to pre-register online at www.catawbasky.org/bobfest.

For a more detailed schedule of the events, visit www.catawbasky.org/bobfest. Food trucks from the Hickory Sandwich Shop, Dig N Dogs, and Dipperz Mini Donuts will be on site during lunch break around 11:30 a.m. Special planetarium features, including children’s shows and laser shows, will be shown throughout the day in the Millholland Planetarium.

BoBfest is presented by the Cleveland County Astronomical Society, Catawba Science Center, and the Catawba Valley Astronomy Club.

Catawba Science Center is on the SALT Block, 243 Third Ave. NE, Hickory. Call 828-322-8169.

Catawba Science Center is a nonprofit science and technology museum serving North Carolina’s western Piedmont region. Special attractions include temporary exhibits, a digital planetarium theater and marine touch pool and live sharks and stingrays. Learn more at www.CatawbaScience.org.

The New ‘Smart Telescope’ That Lets You Stay Indoors While It Shows You Spectacular Images


It’s a telescope, but not as we know it. Meet the eVscope eQuinox 2, a new so-called “smart telescope” unveiled this week at CES in Las Vegas that adds planets to the roster of what it can image in the night sky.

The annual tech show is mostly known for huge TVs, drones and electric cars, so what is a diminutive telescope doing in the halls of the Sands Hotel?

The eVscope eQuinox 2 is not like most telescopes you will have seen before, probably gathering dust in a friend’s spare bedroom. The eVscope eQuinox 2 has no eyepiece. You cannot look at the night sky through this telescope. Instead of your own eyes collecting the light from distant galaxies, nebula and star clusters those photons go directly to a Sony IMX347 sensor.

The eVscope eQuinox 2 is all about astrophotography, not stargazing—and you can sit indoors while it does its thing and just wait for its images to be delivered to your smartphone.

It’s modelled by French company Unistellar on professional telescopes that are found the world over, usually on mountain tops, which collect light using the giant mirrors before focusing those photos on an image sensor. Hey presto, you get image date of galaxies and anything else astronomers care to point these behemoths at. This is also essentially how space telescopes like Hubble and Webb work.

The follow-up to 2021’s eVscope eQuinox, this second-generation version is not like those professional telescopes, but it is way more slick. A 4.5-inch/114mm reflector telescope with a focal length of 450mm, focal ratio of f/4 and 50x magnification, the eVscope eQuinox 2 weighs 9kg, has a motorized alt-azimuth mount, an 11-hour rechargeable battery and 64GB of storage. It produces 6.2 megapixel images in JPEG or RAW formats. They’re easy to share and easy to post-process, if that’s your thing, but the whole point of the eVscope eQuinox 2 is that it’s autonomous.

You literally just put this smart telescope in your backyard—or even on your balcony in a light-polluted environment—and it gets to work plate-solving, comparing the stars it can see in the sky with a database on its on-board computer. Within a few minutes it’s ready to use.

Using an smartphone app it’s possible to choose from a list of deep sky targets you want the eVscope eQuinox 2 to observe. Each object in its database comes with baked-in settings for exposure times and ISO, so all you really have to do is wait (though you can tinker with the settings if you want).

In fact, you can actually leave the telescope outside and go sit indoors because the live image it produces is shown on the app and continually refreshed. It depends on what you are looking at, but for faint objects such as nebulae, the longer you leave the telescope staring at it, the better the finished image will be. That’s because it’s taking an image every 30 seconds or so, and stacking it on top of the last one, thus producing a cleaner and brighter image as time passes. It’s these algorithms and machine learning that are the secret sauce inside the eVscope eQuinox 2.

I’ve used the original eVscope eQuinox extensively—adoring it mostly for its skill at completely bypassing light pollution—and this new version looks interesting. At $2,499 it’s the company’s most affordable model yet. It now has a new sensor and a slightly wider field of view (34×47 arc minutes). The latter means it can fit larger objects into its field of view, chiefly the Andromeda galaxy and the Moon (though until a firmware update arrives it won’t be primed to take images of our only natural satellite).

However, what’s really interesting about the eVscope eQuinox 2 is a much-anticipated new ability to study and image planets. In stark contrast to the long exposure images it uses to find objects, the incredibly bright orbs of Jupiter, Mars and Saturn are snapped using something called “lucky imaging”. Another technique used by huge ground-based telescopes, this is when astrophotographers continually snap away at an object in the night sky hoping that Earth’s turbulent atmosphere will, just for a split second, settle enough for them for the image to be perfectly exposed, sharp and without any distortion.

“The eQuinox 2 smart telescope puts incredible power in the hands of the general public and inspires a new generation of urban stargazers who can now enjoy an amazing voyage to the universe from their balcony and within minutes. Thanks to its unique technologies and its smart design choices, we are putting space within reach from anywhere, even from light-polluted cities,” said Laurent Marfisi, co-founder and CEO of Unistellar. “Now, novice stargazers and amateur astronomers can enjoy stunning clarity, color, and hard to see details like the striking colors of the Dumbbell Nebula.”

The Unistellar eVscope eQuinox 2 can be pre-ordered now, with shipping expected from mid-February 2023.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes

Tinian ‘Astro Dad’ captures the magic of the night sky | Lifestyle


Tinian’s skies are an astronomy lovers’ dream. With the island’s absence of light pollution, the night sky lights up with constellations and glimpses of majestic beauty.

Since 2020, astrophotographer Joshua Brazzle has refined the art of capturing photos of space.







Joshua Brazzle is shown with his wife, Mary Hocog-Brazzle, and their daughter, Ke’alohi Lani Brazzle.




Brazzle had been interested in astronomy since childhood, but he took his passion to the next level after stumbling upon YouTube videos about astrophotography, which morphed into his lockdown hobby when the pandemic prompted the community to stick closer to home.

To create his photographs, Brazzle uses an Orion 8-inch Newtonian reflector telescope, and sky view pro-mount using a DSLR camera.

The mount “tracks the rotation of Earth once you switch it on,” Brazzle explained.

Using the DSLR camera, which is screwed on to the telescope’s eyepiece, Brazzle takes numerous photos.

“So what you’re doing is pretty much taking faint light, that’s millions of light years away, and then you have to take so many exposures,” he said.


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“There’s a setting on the DSLR, usually you can take that first photo up to one second or longer, as long as you want it. The longer you take the photo, the more light you’re sucking in. For example, if you take 15 seconds of 300 photos, whatever object you’re taking a photo of, a galaxy or a nebula, or a star cluster, and then you go to your computer and edit it. It becomes clearer in detail because all of those photos are pushed into one,” he said.

He usually takes the photos from his house in Carolina Heights, but occasionally will bring his astrophotography set-up to another location for a better vantage point, or when the occasion of a lunar eclipse calls for it.


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Of the many stunning photographs that Brazzle’s produced, his personal favorite targets to capture are the Orion Nebula and Andromeda Galaxy.

“If it’s a really dark area, like where I live, you can actually see it (the Orion Nebula) with the naked eye,” Brazzle shared.

For budding astrophotographers, Brazzle recommends using what you have — he started out using his cell phone.

“There’s certain apps and … phones are now developed to where you can do long exposures through it. For example, the iPhone, I think iPhone 11 to 14, if it’s lowlight, it’ll have a delay on it and it’ll say three second, ten second pause. It’s a similar process to long exposure, it’s sucking in more light. You just need a simple tripod and an iPhone,” he said.


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He urges everyone to take time to do some stargazing in a dark place. To fully appreciate the wonders of our island skies, Brazzle recommends downloading an app like Stellarium, an astronomy app which helps users to identify and search for certain targets.

Brazzle hopes to begin selling his photographs by 2023, and stargazers can keep up with his work by following him on Instagram at @tinianfitastrodad.

Hanle, Ladakh, is India’s first Dark Sky Reserve: How to get there from Leh


If you’re ready for a spectacular peep into the universe, you may want to put Hanle in Ladakh on your list. The cluster of six hamlets—Bhok, Shado, Punguk, Khuldo, Naga & Tibetan Refugee habitations within the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary, has just been formally notified as the Hanle Dark Sky Reserve. Effectively, an expanse of 1,073km situated around the Indian Astronomical Observatory is now a sanctuary for darkness, where light is managed so that scientists and astronomy enthusiasts can access the night sky in its purest possible form. 

The orion rising over Hanle, Ladakh. Photo: Sabit Tisekar/Shot on OPPO

To weed out light pollution at India’s first Dark Sky Reserve, there will be several restrictions on use of light including placing curtains on windows and doors, restricting the use of artificial illumination indoors and on vehicles. For a place to qualify as a dark sky reserve, it has to be accessible for all or most part of the year–and it has to be accessible to the general public. 

Why Hanle?

Much before it became a Dark Sky Reserve, Hanle was picked by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics to set up an observatory. “There were various reasons why Hanle was chosen for an astronomical institute. The best reason is that it is very dry and very cold,” says Dorje Angchuk, engineer in-charge of the Indian Astronomical Observatory at Hanle. “If there is any moisture, most of the light gets absorbed by the atmosphere, and very little light from the stars reaches us. Due to the dry atmosphere [at Hanle], the lights coming from far away sources are not attenuated,” says the scientist who has been in Hanle for 25 years. 

Indian Astronomical Observatory at Hanle, Ladakh. Photo: Sabit Tisekar/Shot on OPPO

Astrophotography brings out passion and a feeling of permanence for this Colorado Springs woman


Storing telescopes, mounts, tripods and cameras inside their home, the couple takes out all the heavy equipment to their backyard to try and capture an element in our universe not seen by the naked eye. This method of photography is called astrophotography — it goes beyond landscape photography to use a combination of lenses, computers and telescopes to capture a moment in deep space.  

You can go out in the summer and set up a tripod and a camera and a wide angle lens and do a long exposure … and get to see the stars in the Milky Way in the core and some beautiful details of the sky,” Marcus explained. “I would say the biggest difference between that and deep space astrophotography is with deep space astrophotography, you’re looking way closer in on a target.” 

To do that, Marcus and Miles must understand and keep track of what is happening in the sky above and when. Then given those parameters, they pick a target or two for the night, set up their equipment to get it polar aligned and then take long-exposure pictures for as long as possible — often lasting throughout the whole night.  

The idea is to capture a series of long-exposure images, which invite more light into the lens, to gather as much visual data as possible. Marcus and Miles’ equipment keeps them on the target throughout the night as the subject moves across the sky. The series of photos, which will be later layered on top of each other, add more detail to the image.  

As one might imagine, this hobby isn’t best served by partial commitment.  

“If you meet anybody in the astro[photography] community, they’re going to talk about the time that they spent on this,” said Marcus with a smile.  

On top of the time it takes to capture the images overnight, it takes about an hour to set up the equipment and a little bit less than that to take it down. While a lot of technology helps Marcus and Miles, they still must constantly check on the equipment throughout the night.  

“We got up to the observatory property last Friday night at about 7:00 and we left the next morning at 7:30. So, we were there for 12 and a half hours,” said Marcus.  

Marcus and Miles often take the deep space photos from just their backyard, but they also have connected with a person who has an observatory near Florissant, about 11 miles west of Pikes Peak. There they have access to power to operate their equipment, and it’s under a dark sky protected area and at high elevation. These conditions give Marcus and Miles an even better chance of capturing the beauty of the stars above.  

“When I go to a dark sky and I look up and I see these things, these stars, these brighter stars, it’s like I reaffirm that they’re still there as am I. Me and the universe, we’re on the same terms,” said Marcus.  

When Marcus returns to inside her home, she then has the immense task of stacking the images and pulling out the beauty from them. A single image can look like a smattering of stars, but as she is able to put several images together, nebulas, galaxies and other targets really start to take shape.  



Star trek, a passion sky-high- The New Indian Express


Express News Service

CHENNAI: The white, tiny dots winking their eyes up above the sky are posing with a bright smile on their face. Lying on the terrace of his house, with the back of his head resting on palms, Bhavanandhi Babulal tells himself and the astrophotography camera lying nearby: “It’s time to sleep. Come on, let’s go.” But as usual, agony of indecision kicks in. He lies there gazing at the skies as if he is under the influence of a strange force, and, like that in a movie, his entire life starts playing in front of him, episode by episode.

“It’s captivating,” 31-year-old Bhavanandhi’s eyes gleam with joy whenever he speaks about his bonding with the celestial objects. For this resident of Kolathur in Chennai, stars and the moon are the best companions and stargazing his world.

Call it the tryst with destiny. Otherwise, an ex-banker who pursued his bachelor’s degree from Loyola College in Chennai would not have entered into the world of stars, Milky Way and the universe, ultimately leading him to establish a startup –  Starvoirs – six months ago. Bhavanandhi has a friend of his to thank for the initiative, as he is the one who kindled the passion in him during a camping trip to Nagalapuram in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh seven years ago, in 2015.

He was so engrossed in the beauty of the new-found world that he decided to gather interested people and organise star-gazing trips. “I quit my banking job in 2018 as I was finding it difficult to juggle my job and passion,” he says. During the second wave of Covid-19, he went a step ahead and started teaching stargazing free of cost.

To see the stars and planets clearly, Bhavanandhi says, a place free of light pollution is required. “That’s why I organise several trips to Ramanathapuram, Sayalkudi, Chidambaram, Kodaikanal, Ooty, Kodaikanal, and Poomparai after collecting lowest-possible amount from interested people as the telescope I use is very expensive,” says the star-lover who has read astronomy books despite being a commerce degree holder.

“I want more women and children to develop interest in the heavenly bodies as it would help mould a knowledgeable future. The trip fee for women is cheap and for kids it’s free,” he points out.Ask Dharmadev Kumar Singh, a staff at the hotel where Bhavanandhi stayed during Covid, he would say he considers learning from the “master” about stars as a big achievement. “It gives me immense pleasure to watch Saturn and the Milky Way,” says the man who studied only up to class 10.

Bhavanandhi suddenly woke up from the half-sleep and looked around. His camera is still lying there, with its lens pointing upwards. It’s past midnight. He stood up on the terrace, thinking about the excitement he had seen in the eyes of people after he showed them the bands on Saturn’s rings and craters on the moon.
“I should try bringing all those interested in stargazing under one roof and make it a grand movement,” he resolved while drowsily walking to his bedroom.

“It’s captivating,” 31-year-old Bhavanandhi’s eyes gleam with joy whenever he speaks about his bonding with the celestial objects. For this resident of Kolathur in Chennai, stars and the moon are the best companions and stargazing his world.

Call it the tryst with destiny. Otherwise, an ex-banker who pursued his bachelor’s degree from Loyola College in Chennai would not have entered into the world of stars, Milky Way and the universe, ultimately leading him to establish a startup –  Starvoirs – six months ago. Bhavanandhi has a friend of his to thank for the initiative, as he is the one who kindled the passion in him during a camping trip to Nagalapuram in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh seven years ago, in 2015.

He was so engrossed in the beauty of the new-found world that he decided to gather interested people and organise star-gazing trips. “I quit my banking job in 2018 as I was finding it difficult to juggle my job and passion,” he says. During the second wave of Covid-19, he went a step ahead and started teaching stargazing free of cost.

To see the stars and planets clearly, Bhavanandhi says, a place free of light pollution is required. “That’s why I organise several trips to Ramanathapuram, Sayalkudi, Chidambaram, Kodaikanal, Ooty, Kodaikanal, and Poomparai after collecting lowest-possible amount from interested people as the telescope I use is very expensive,” says the star-lover who has read astronomy books despite being a commerce degree holder.

“I want more women and children to develop interest in the heavenly bodies as it would help mould a knowledgeable future. The trip fee for women is cheap and for kids it’s free,” he points out.Ask Dharmadev Kumar Singh, a staff at the hotel where Bhavanandhi stayed during Covid, he would say he considers learning from the “master” about stars as a big achievement. “It gives me immense pleasure to watch Saturn and the Milky Way,” says the man who studied only up to class 10.

Bhavanandhi suddenly woke up from the half-sleep and looked around. His camera is still lying there, with its lens pointing upwards. It’s past midnight. He stood up on the terrace, thinking about the excitement he had seen in the eyes of people after he showed them the bands on Saturn’s rings and craters on the moon.
“I should try bringing all those interested in stargazing under one roof and make it a grand movement,” he resolved while drowsily walking to his bedroom.