Skies and Stars
Spring Star Party (4/16/2016) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
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.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 16 April 2016 22:56
 
M3 and the Queen of the Skies (4/3/2016) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 03 April 2016 22:35

t was pretty clear tonight. Looked at the star charts and decided to shoot for M3, a star cluster I'd never seen. It would be rising above Arcturus tonight, above the line formed between this and the dipper handle. Like, how hard could it be? Messier found it - his first one.

My view east sucks (remember how we learned that watching OA-6? The oaks get in the way). Anyway, squidged over to the corner of the garden on the path and got as much east as I could. Saw Jupiter shimming in ascent and took an early shot - she was up with all four moons visible; pretty neat. Still,  Arcturus was not due up until 9pm and probably not much for viewing until 10pm. Tossed a shower curtain over the scope and went in to Hulu with the wife.

After confirming my opinions of why teens should never be in charge (i.e. The 100) I came back out. Arcturus was further north than I'd thought, pretty much in the oak. That would put M3 pretty much behind it. Walked about and found a better angle between tress. Always a joy, to lug a carefully sited telescope (with counterweight) to a new location. Lined and leveled, then moved the base camp over. And then I started hunting for M3.

Looked here. Looked there. Swung the scope in free mode back and fourth. Couldn't find the damn thing. Came in and checked my astronomy program again. Carefully noted where it would be - From Arcturus, shift up to the star Muphrid, then hang left and a touch up. Tried again and again. Nothing. The program noted that it was visible with nocks and I got mine out, tracked the path and bang - there it was, a hazy cloud. Did it a couple of times. Easy. But the scope - it took twice more (with a little scrolling) and suddenly I had it.

It was pretty cool, not only looking at a 500,000 stars 35,000 light years away, but having located the damn thing in the first place. What a nice feeling of satisfaction that gave. After looking it over for a quarter hour, I thought I'd better be getting in, but not before doing a straight-overhead shot at Jupiter again. Now that it was darker, I could hit it clear with maximum magnification and get a spectacular view. Just sat there and marveled at the equatorial banding, nudging out to check out the pinpoint moons. Wow.

Anyway, I'm still trying to check out Mars in it close approach. Hopefully I can find a morning where I can get out there and shoot south.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 03 April 2016 22:58
 
OA-6 (3/22/2016) PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 22 March 2016 22:14

lear skies for the last few nights, a full moon with Jupiter in formation. Wanted to check these out with the telescope but just no time.

But tonight...

Standing out in the back yard, my father's old wristwatch hanging easy (I can read it by starlight), the big Orion astronomy nocks around my shoulders. OA-6, an Atlas-V on an ISS resupply mission, was launching at 11:04 pm. I'd never gone out and shot a glance at something like this - with clear skies, I'd be able to see just where it was going up from.

Got out about twenty minutes early. Looked at the moon (I really need a filter for this, so it was literally painfully beautiful). When my eyes recovered, I looked at Jupiter - could see the moons fanned out as usual, a wonderful sight. Checked out my old fav Orion and its nebula. Made out the twins, the big dipper, all those things. Wandered around the back yard, leaning to hold the nocks better, focusing them on stars, leaning to bring them up and quickly lock on planes.

Saw a shooting star that fell like a burning basketball to the east.

As time drew nearer, I found a place in the garden, up close to the fence where I'd get a maximum eastern sweep. And waited.

After some time, it became apparent they we running late.

But since I'm not a millennial, I stuck it out for a few more minutes and suddenly there it was, coming up like an inverted highway flare, further to the left than I'd anticipated, and since this was an ISS job with an orbital match, it was burning north. Still, I got a lot of good viewing in. Once it went behind the oak we'd so lovingly planted ten years ago, I moved around to the north side of the yard but there are simply too many tress. Lost it.

But still, wonderful viewing from right outside.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 March 2016 22:25
 
A full rack of balls (1/24/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 24 January 2016 13:32

agreed with the fool's lack of hesitation when CFAS agreed to host an impromptu dawn viewing of the planets. The entire rack of them would be up: Mercury (in a tree-top cameo), Venus (with her self-important illumination), Mars (sulky and red), Jupiter (on stage from the first act, and falling to the west), and Saturn (perfectly placed, the little angle). Even the moon was up, well to the west behind a building but full and missed. Did I leave something out? Oh, the Earth. My telescope doesn't depress that low.

However, at 3:30am this morning, with temps frozen at 30 degrees, suddenly it wasn't that good an idea.

But the wife made coffee. We'd staged the scope and stuff in the car, so it was out the drive and off to Sanford. Bit of a bad moment when we came into the Seminole State parking lot - nobody was there. Wait, one car. And better, one scope. So we pulled up, unloaded, and set up on steps looking east across the lake. But, yes, at 4:30, I didn't know if anyone would show up.

Looked at Jupiter and then Mars - the latter too distant to really be worth anyone's time looking at. Jupiter is my darling but she was kissing a building's parapet - she'd be gone soon. With that in mind, I lowered my sight and barrel and locked in on Saturn. And gorgeous she was this morning, with her ring canted saucily like a derby in Cabaret.

Then people started showing up.

Students. Families with children. All sorts of folks drawn to our line of scopes by an interest in space. It seemed like every host-scope picked a planet - sounded like a carny midway for a while, with astronomers pitching the merits of their views. Fortunately, this time we brought a step stool for the kiddies so everyone could get a good solid look. And all this, the cold, the early hour, the distance, it all was made right by little kids looking through my eyepiece and marveling at Saturn, seeing the rings and a moon (Titan, I'm guessing) - not in a picture book or CGIed in a movie, but naked-eye live.

JB (the wife) really surprised me. She's been paying attention to what I do and how I work the scope. So when I had to step away to answer questions, she kept Saturn aligned. She even resighted through the spotter scope, helped the kids up the steps and answered questions. My little Galileo.

Everyone had a great time. Even the ISS made an appearance, rushing through the northern sky, driving east - I don't think I'd ever seen it before. But visibility was superb, the air was still as pond water, not a cloud in the sky. I think I showed Saturn to a hundred people this morning. And in the end, it was with a sense of sorrow that I noticed the eastern sky was turning light and the event was pretty much closing down.

And the best thing about this public viewing - it was too early for mascara. I won't have to clean off my eyepiece this time!

>>>WHEN NOT WRITING ABOUT THE COLD AND DARK, I WRITE ABOUT ANCIENT PEOPLE WHO THOUGHT THE STARS WERE GODS OR SOULS ARE WHATEVER. HAVE A LOOK DOWN THIS LINK FOR MY NOVELS!<<<

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 January 2016 13:57
 
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