AAVSO Data Submissions

by Umair Asim

I have started submitting variable stars' data to AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers), the largest group for variable star observers in the world; it has more than 20 million observations and counting.

This image is the screen shot of my submission report on AAVSO homepage. So happy to see 'PK' there at the website :)

The equipment and softwares i am using are as follows:

Telescope: Celestron C14

Mount: Losmandy Titan


Filter Wheel: SBIG CFW-8

Focuser: TCF

Filter: Astrodon Photometric V Filter

Softwares: Maxim DL and Maxpoint


'X class' Solar Flare

by Umair Asim

Sunspot 2192 got flared up with an X-class flare this Sunday. I received a notification of this flare on my iphone app 'Solar Monitor' when i was about to put Lunt 152 Solar Telescope on CGEM DX mount. My excitement got flared up as well!

Solar flares are the explosions on the sun, which can cause disturbances here on earth. X-class is a a very big explosion which can initiate radio blackouts on the sun facing side of earth. This was a X1-class solar flare.

Planetary Nebula- NGC 7026

by Umair Asim

This is a view in the Cygnus, the swan, constellation. The view here is almost 9*9 arc minutes, 3.5 times smaller than the full moon in the sky. This is the field of view of Celestron C14 telescope and SBIG ST9XE CCD camera; TCF focuser and a SBIG CFW8 filter wheel is placed in between them.

At one o clock in the image, there is a seemingly double star like object with some very faint nebulosity around it. Let me introduce:

Friends meet dead star.. dead star meet friends!

NGC 7026 is the closest astronomers could get to name it as poetically as they could (NGC stands for 'New General Catalogue'). This designation is of a star who died a thousand or a bit more years ago (exact date is uncertain) and lost its out layers into the interstellar space. These objects are called 'Planetary Nebulae'. The gas a star loses in its last stage of its death, keeps on becoming thinner and harder to see and in about 10,000 years or so, it becomes invisible mixing up with the interstellar medium.

The location of NGC 7026 is already in a bad place for us to observe. It is in the milkyway (most Planetary Nebula (PN) are because there the most stars live) so light loss (interstellar extinction) must be happening severely. And talk about my beloved city, Lahore, where i reach my sky-limit even before i open the telescope! (okay... that is not so true.. it takes a few minutes). When it comes to deep sky imaging, i am up against all the odds. But nevertheless, i did try to image this PN with a luminance filter. It has two bright lobes, very bright.. so capturing the nebulosity in the surroundings seemed harder. With a few test exposures, i settled on 4 minutes of sub-exposures. It seemed to give me enough light for capturing the nebulosity and not overexposing the bright lobes, i did however got a little bit of bloom in the neighboring star but that was not an issue for me.

Two nights and a total of 4.8 hours of luminance data. Calibrated carefully with a lot of Bias, Dark and Flat frames. Here is the magnified and resized image of this PN:

This PN has a complex lobed structure and many studies have shown a lot of intricate pattern in the nebulosity. See here and here and this talks about the central star in NGC 7026.

I found an image from H D Curtis of Shapley-Curtis Great Debate fame; this image is some 100 years old. Now compare it with my image:

okay so my image is not so clear.. remember: i live in Lahore!

So after a 100 years, we must expect some changes in the nebula's extending nebulosity... hmm.. what has changed here.. want to take a minute to compare?

Maxim DL provides a nice tool in 'Graph Window', called 'Area Plot'. This shows a 3D view of a particular user selected area in terms of brightness indication and the location.

See the two bright lobes are peaking in the intensity, changing colour from blue (sky background which is supposed to be dark but here the value is in a few thousands!) to red the brightest. Notice the nebulosity is also visible as small bumps in the background sky. Actually the dimmest nebulosity here in my image is just about 1.3 times the brightness of the background sky. Yes i was using LP filter, Hutech LPS2.

What else can i do with this image? hmm.. oh yes.. let's measure the size of this PN. So my image scale with my current setup is 1.045 arcseconds per pixel. I again used Maxim DL to show me the size of the nebulosity in pixel counts.

The line graph shown the intensity at each individual pixel and the total pixels the line has covered. They are about 40. So the line is covering 40 * 1.045 = 41.8 arcseconds.

If the distance of the nebula is 2000 parsac then using the ABC formula in astronomy, the small angle formula, the size of the nebula is 1.3 light years, which is a typical size of a planetary nebula.

Oh and this is what hubble space telescope could image in this PN.



SkyWatcher Dob 10 inch

by Umair Asim

I have started selling astronomical telescopes here in lahore! This was one of my big astro dream that people should be able to buy telescope within pakistan. As far as i know, Karachi and Lahore are the only two cities which are providing astronomical telescopes for sale now.

I had never used a skywatcher telescope before and i was keen to open up a box, any box and the one i opened was a 10 inch manual dobsonian.

Assembly was easy and quick. The telescope looked very nice.

At night i saw moon with it and the contrast was amazing indeed. Skywatcher produce very nice products! Here is the moon image i took with my cell phone, single frame no enhancements.

Solar Outreach - Govt Girls High School

by Umair Asim

I was invited for a solar observation session, by RABTT society who is very active in reforming traditional educational routines in the lives of school children. Today i went to Government Comprehensive Girls High School which is located at Wahdat Road, Lahore.  

I first distributed the solar glasses to all the students and talked briefly about how to view to sun safely. They were all so very excited about actually looking at the sun with the solar scope that they wanted me to skip the words and go outside to watch the sun.  

With the Lunt60 telescope and Lunt zoom eyepiece, they saw the sun in its full glory.. a big prominence, some smaller ones and a couple of sunspots near a big filament. I have rarely seen the excitment they were having on their faces. 

Thanks RABTT for this wonderful oppertunity to show the sun to these students.

Oh and in the end, one of my new friends and my fellow TEDx UET speaker Omer Najam appeared from nowhere! Good to see you janab! 


Solar Observation for Madrassa Students

by Umair Asim

This was one of the most memorable outreach session for me. The students of a Madrassa literally came running to the solar telescope as soon as they saw an odd looking machine near their mosque.

First i gave them the solar glasses. Now just look at them smiling with these on their faces :) I gave them all the glasses i had in my car and requested  to take these to their homes and show their class fellows, siblings and parents. Next they saw the sun through the halpha telescope. Everyone just glued himself with the eyepiece; i was requesting for others' right to see the sun.

Nothing was planned there. I actually went to see my friend and when we ordered the food, the thought came to my mind. There is a Madrassa right there so why not show the kids the wonders of the universe. Wherever i go, my halpha telescope is always in my car trunk. So there i was, showing them the 'fire' on the sun and how much they got excited is beyond the words i can write.

Another solar outreach.. another happy day :)

Saint Peters School

by Umair Asim

One of my astro buddy, Ahsan Khursheed requested a solar outreach at Saint Peters School a few days ago. Maroof Ahsan and I went to the school on 7 May 2014.

It was an amazing experience indeed.. we showed the sun through halpha telescope and solar glasses to more than 400 students and the teaching staff.. these pictures show all the enthusiasm they showed for the sun.. It was more than 100 F and they still wanted to see more of it!

By far the best part was when we showed 12 mentally challenged students (pictured in red shirts in the last pictures) from the adjacent school. They were not speaking clear words but the expressions of joy on their faces made me so happy. I have so much respect for the teachers who are teaching these students!