Skies and Stars
Visitors to Jupiter (5/15/2016) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 15 May 2016 20:56

must becoming an astronomaniac. This is the second night in a row I've had the scope out.

My brother, his wife and their oldest daughter came out tonight. We had dinner together, then ice cream, and yeah, I was stalling. I was trying to give the moon and Jupiter time to go high so I could show them off. Kirstin (my niece) had wanted to see Jupiter and now was the perfect time. But she had a haul to St. Augustine and couldn't stay long.

We got home in the dusk - moon was up and half-full, with a big juicy terminus fulla craters - perfect. Showed everyone that (and taught them the controls so they could moon-buggy their view around). Lots of ooohs and ahhhs (music to the amateur-astronomer's ears). Then a twinkle - Jupiter was in the house.

The problem was finding it.

Turns out that Death Star laser system doesn't work well as night is still falling. I could put my hand over it - yeah, there it was. But you couldn't see it overhead. So, to line on Jupiter, we did it the Galileo way - backed down to my lower magnification lens and started sweeping. There! There it was! Only took about five minutes. Let everyone see it once at low mag (in case I screwed up and couldn't find it again when I stepped up). Then jumped up the view with the Barlow and higher lens, getting about 120x. Nice and crisp and bold - equatorial bands and moons about. With their ability to use the equatorial now, they could keep pace with it so I hardly had to adjust. So it was a good night.

Afterwards, we sat around and tried to identify constellations (yeah, downtown, good luck). Too bad Orion wasn't up these days - I'd love to show the nebula. Anyway, as of the time of this writing, I'm waiting for Mars to chug higher into the sky (behind the trees now). After all, the next time I'll have the scope up, it will be the weekend star party and I won't get a chance to look down my own barrel. So I'm having a look tonight. I'll tell you how it goes after the picture...

Niece on the eye piece (Photo Credit: Younger Sibling Raymond)

Wow. That's all I could say.

Mars didn't cooperate. It didn't come up through the gap I'd figured. That meant I had to shift tripod and scope 50 feet over to a new viewing spot. Also, the sky overhead was layered with clouds - east was still clear. And there it shown, orange-red.

When I swung the scope online (laser works just fine now) I could see it at the same size I see Jupiter. Here, it was orange, with the southern highlands visible as darker brown (upside down, because of the refractor). I think I could make out the polar ice cap (but I'm not going to say definite - Percival Lowell haunts my thoughts). But I looked at it for a good half-hour, just letting my eye ease into it. Really, I'd never seen that sort of detail before (It's been an tiny orange sphere until now). So, yes, worth the late night effort.

All in all, a very enjoyable night under the stars.


Last Updated on Sunday, 15 May 2016 22:27
Laser sharp (5/15/2016) PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 14 May 2016 23:41

y brother is coming out tomorrow. First problem - no good restaurants open on Sunday night (I thought Orlando was hipper than this). But before he came out I wanted to fiddle with my new laser sight.

Some assembly required. Not too bad. And once I got the entire scope set up in the backyard, I tried to shoot at the second-biggest object in the sky - Jupiter. This took some doing - I lined it up with the old sight and eyeballed the gas giant with my most generous lens. Once I got it lined, I dropped off the old sight, installed the new one. Then, checking for airplanes, I tried to line it up. So it was back and forth for a while, with me doubting this would work. Finally I just started to drill myself, lining up on brighter stars (the big dipper was a fav), then seeing how close I came. Then I found out I could see the laser through the lens, actually adjusting it to the center of the lensed view. After that, pretty simple.

Still, against the moon, it can get a bit lost.

Outside of hardware games, I did do a lot of time on the moon tonight. Located the Messier craters - always wanted to see them. Looked for M81 and 82 but didn't find them. Even with the laser, there were just not enough secondary stars around Ursa Major for me to locate it. Did some blind shots, guestimating it in with the laser sight, but didn't locate anything. Of course, downtown, on a moony night, not much chance.

Still, it was more of a relaxing evening than anything serious. Just swapped lenses, looked at this and that, and kept the laser off when aircraft were anywhere near.


Last Updated on Sunday, 15 May 2016 00:03
M6 over the gun range (5/7/2016) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 08 May 2016 00:08

kay, went out with CFAS to the Geneva Gun Range for a clear-night sky with lots to see. And even after a year in this hobby, there is so much to learn.

For example, I need to mount a laser beam on the side of my spotter scope. The spotter scope is great for locking on big bright objects. However, for lesser ones (or at high angles) it gets harder. Tonight's goal was M81, a galaxy just off the tip of the big dipper. And I looked and looked, but simply coudln't get enough of a line up to go searching. Very frustrating. I've come to the conclusion that I need a laser to let me light up and line up on sky areas so I can follow with a sweep. Never did find it.

I did find Mars (close approch, but low in the sky so it was kinda washed out), Jupiter and Saturn. Then, I just pushed the scope low to the south-east and caught a galaxy on blind luck. Not sure what I was looking at - possibly M6 but since they don't come with side markings or subtitles, I could only guess. It was pretty cool - tracked him for about 45 minutes.

And then came my second learning experiece. We decided to leave just before midnight. However, the damn car lights up like the titantic moments before the iceburg. Just putting it into gear fires the headlights. And opening a door illuminates all manner of interior lights. I tried to back out from the line of astronomers and threw out more light than an alien mothership. Crap. Well, we'll see if I'm still in that club next week. I promise that before the next event, I'll get out my wife's car manual and find out how to kill those features. Either that or bring a lot of electrical tape to block them. Or pop fuses. Anything. I'm such an idiot.

Anyway, still, great viewing not that far outside of Orlando. Glad we could come.


Last Updated on Sunday, 08 May 2016 00:26
Spring Star Party (4/16/2016) PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 16 April 2016 22:37

o tonight was looking bad for the CFAS (Central Florida Astronomical Society) Spring Star Party. At 4pm, clouds were rolling in. I was pretty much not going and then I checked the Orlando Clear Sky Chart, an awesome site that gives you star gazers an idea of what your viewing night is going to be like (taking into account clouds, the moon, the winds, everything). And according  to it, at 8pm we'd be clear. So I loaded up the Jetta with wife and scope and off we went.

It really didn't look good. The clouds grew darker and I capped off my scope (and tossed my coat over it) when it started to rain. But that was really all it was. After that, the skies cleared and darkness fell. Something like 15 or so scopes popped their caps and swiveled skyward. The crowds came. And we were in business.

I'd been looking at the moon while the sun was still up (speaking of which, the club prez let me drop an eyeball into his solar scope and I got to look at the sun - way cool, with that big ol' sunspot on it). However, as darkness fell I swung to my old pal Jupiter and spent the rest of the night tracking it.

Even though I was one of the smallest scopes present (some of those things - trench mortars!), we had excellent viewing and gave a lot of people a good look at our majestic gas giant. I would like to have swung over and shown off the Orion Nebula but we had pretty constant business and the crowds like Jupiter - bands, moons and everything, so I stuck with that. Had three young guys want to see the moon near the end of the night so I capped on a filter and let them prowl it. One of them was talking about getting a scope. Yes, let's hope he does.

Anyway, a good night out with JB showing herself to be accomplished with the scope - she could track Jupiter well enough to please the crowds while I was helping a fellow-club-member get her car door unlocked. Great night to be in a good club that knows how to advance their message.


Last Updated on Saturday, 16 April 2016 22:56

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