A bright Supernova for NOT the Oregon Star Party!


Well the supernova sure has brightened a lot over the last week!

Supernova in M101, August 25th 2011, about a 3 hr exposure with an 11in scope and 2500 iso on a canon D60.

From the night of the 3rd sept. 1.5hr exposure comprised of 20s unguided exposures (chosen frames) of a cpc1100 with a canon 60d at prime focus (f6.3 reducer).

It now easily outshines the galaxy core and is the brightest thing in the field.

So it turns out one of the reasons I had the Pine Mountain Observatory to myself to do ‘supernova LIVE’  (Sept 1st) was because some of the folks had drifted off to the Oregon Star Party.  I too was advised to go, in part for the great skies of the ochico, and part for the company.

Getting there was a bit of a nightmare in that I set the wrong GPS coordinates (a combination of relatively little sleep the night before, and just drifting along with the scenery).  Either way, by the time I worked it out I was 50 miles down the road, and the GPS kept on trying to send me down dirt roads to nowhere to get back.  The tricky thing about dirt roads, is if they are good, you can get up to 45 mph-ish.  If they are not good, not only will you be doing well to make walking speed, but 10 feet can make the whole thing utterly impassable to a polite little underpowered low clearance suburban car like mine! (or the even more devastating, can get the car stuck!) Thus it was after an hour or so detour down a road that started like a ‘freeway’, then it  narrowed and narrowed and eventually turned into a road where I might as well have been trying to drive down a rough rutted river bed.  I think I did well to survive the turn around! Especially seeing as I was miles in the middle of nowhere by this point, with no apparent traffic on the road!  Eventually I decided to retrace my steps down the black top and do it right!

Thus is was that it was about 5pm by the time I arrived at the Oregon Star Party.  I had a brief exchange with the staff, who insisted on a 75 dollar registration fee.  I told them I was there just to take a look around- ’75 dollars’, that I probably wouldn’t even be there a full day ’75 dollars’, and so it went on.  Just for the record, that would make visiting the Oregon Star Party significantly more expensive than Disneyland, which is some 85 dollars for a day pass.  Apart from the OSP is just a bunch of guys sitting out under the stars ontop of a hill.  Now I was actually interested in talking to some of the vendors they had there, particularly Celestron and Orion (the latter about their crappy capture device on their deep sky video camera), but I was knackered.  So I put up my feet in the car and dozed a bit, trying to recover some strength and in part to work out what to do.  Eventually the organizer came out and said they were ‘locking the gate’ at 7pm.  This was bullshit, there was no gate.  Shit what were they going to do imprison everyone ontop of the hill for the night?.  I got his message thoguh, so at that I rolled back a mile or so down the road and found a place with a good northern horizon and set up the scope.  The ochico is notorious for having a fine dust that gets onto and into everything, including optics, and so I was quite happy to not have folk around disturbing the dust.  Set the scope up on M101 and cooked myself some ‘ramen noodle’ soup type stuff.  Hunger and a bad day are by far the best cooks, and it was the best meal I’ve thus far had on the road, snarfed down with butter and bread! Ahhhh!  Then I basically went to sleep for a few hours till M101 effectively set before packing up the scope.  Skies were, I have to say good!

Next day, I meandered over to the John Day fossil beds.  They were on the map and I had no real idea what the hell it was all about.  Turns out there are some fairly reasonable badlands here, full of fossils.  Regrettably however the fossil museum was an hour down the road in the wrong direction, and a tired thunderf00t wasn’t really up for it.  The sedimentary stuff here coincidentally is from the primitive cascades, and goes back 20 million years!  Yeah, exactly to when the supernova overhead capped off…..ooooooh!

Some of the 'Badlands' near the John Day Fossil Beds Oregon.

Picked up wifi and power at Prineville and processed the acquisitions of the night before, as well as a video of supernova so far.  By that time I had really only enough light in the day to make it back to Pine Mountain, where fortuitously, the deep sky forecast was near perfect!  Plus this really the last chance before the moon becomes a serious issue for a couple of weeks to get a good piccie of the supernova.

On Saturday night on Pine Mountain they do outreach, so I agreed to give them a hand: that night many a person was put into perspective with the Cosmos! 🙂  The odd thing was, all of this was apologetically put into perspective with distance and years in the millions, and of the hundred or so people I talked to, there wasn’t so much of a sign or a peep from anyone expressing the young earth creationist view!

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12 Responses to “A bright Supernova for NOT the Oregon Star Party!”

  1. Marlo Rocci Says:

    If you meander to Portland, send me a note and I’ll show you where the good beer is.

  2. Marlo Rocci Says:

    I keep telling you to get a Jeep.

  3. Erica Says:

    Thanks for sharing that about the price. I had thought of going out there before, but that is ridiculous.

  4. TheGamingAtheist Says:

    What is your experience with using telescopes when you are in a suburbs of a major city? I’ve thought about getting a nice scope, but don’t know if it’s worth it.

    • Thunderf00t Says:

      you will be able to see many of the brighter deepsky objects, a lot of doubles, and for the large part, light pollution isn’t an issue for planetary observations. You can, if the atmosphere is still get some very nice views of planets, even from near cities!

  5. PCPete (aka Cephas Borg) Says:

    You should’ve shown them the interior of your car.
    “Oh, you’re a professional astronomer on sabbatical! That’ll be $85″
    Hmm… If you could convince ’em to smell your armpits, they might’ve recognised Crater Lake residues…
    Sniff…”Oh, it’s Thunderf00t! That’ll be $95”

    Ah well, don’t forget to clean all your gear, and brush out all the threads that might’ve been exposed to the dust.

    It’s probably not a bad idea to use the camera’s sensor cleaning function too, just in case.

    I still can’t believe they wanted to charge that much for camping!

  6. PCPete (aka Cephas Borg) Says:

    Oh, I forgot to ask…

    What’s the mechanism behind the brightening at this late stage of the SN?

    My first guess is the debris is covering an increasingly larger volume of space around the core, but wouldn’t that be cooling by now? Or is it still being irradiated by the core?

  7. Jonathan Lynch Says:

    Mr. f00t, I’m looking to get a hold of you for a story I’m working on for Word of Mouth on NH Public Radio on social media being used to propagate anti-evolution beliefs. For fear of being written off as a spambot, I won’t link to anything I’ve written before in this post, but if you’re interested in this, please message me at jlynch-at-nocrisisyet.com.

  8. Supernova: how to see an exploding star | Astronotes Says:

    […] in M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy. It has been designated SN 2011fe (it is also listed as PTF11kly). The supernova has already reached itspeak brightness, slightly ahead of schedule (astronomers expected it tol reach its peak on 9 September). It is […]

  9. Prelude610 Says:

    OK, probably a dumb question, but how can we know in advance that a star will go supernova, or nova, or, yea, how can be know this? Did some signal get here before the light did?

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