Skies and Stars
The Grand Tour (5/30/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 31 May 2015 13:16

nce a month or so, my friend Greg comes over and we watch flicks together. The couple of times he's come over to watch since I got my scope, we've had clouds. Finally, last night, we had a great viewing night.

Well, great for planets - the moon was up and full, putting out even more glare than OUC ever managed. Worse, we're in our lousy viewing part of the year - no good constellations, no good things to look out. But on the plus, Saturn is in opposition, about the best we'll see it. Before he arrived, I stationed the scope at the best spot for the ecliptic, got it lined and leveled, and then went back inside to meet my guest.

We watched a show ("Misfits") and then went to dinner. When we came out of the restaurant, it was clear as a bell. In the ten minutes it took to drive home, it clouded up again. Dejected by the heavens, we went inside for a bit. Then, about 9pm we took a look and the skies were good (little haze but no clouds). So we went outside and I fitted the barlow lens over the 10mm and swung the 4.7" tube around and cocked it high; first stop - Jupiter.

And what a magnificent view we had. At 120X, we could see it arrayed with all four moons, the bands visible (but will I ever see that spot?). Greg marveled at what he could see, and we kept it aligned on that planet for some time, just trading hits off the eyepiece. Stellar view (no pun intended).

Then, before going in (the moon and Saturn were still below our trees), we swung it over to Venus, descending to the west. I don't think I've ever seen it quite so defined before - usually it's just a small glowing blob, too bright to really get anything off of. This time, she was half-illuminated, the terminus clear from top to bottom. Greg and I were both taken by this and tracked it for some time, just stunned by... I don't know... the 3D nature of something that usually looks 2D to me? Probably.

Watched most of The Deer Hunter - now it was about 1am. Went back outside and caught the moon as it lofted over us, due south. I'd backed off the barlow and was just running the 10mm with a filter (a little close for casual but good for detail). The moon was quite the showpiece of the night - yes, I know, you're supposed to see it when a terminus lights up the craters but still - there it was. Pointed out several of the places where Tubitz and Mergenstein will take place (I am such a fanboy of the Sea of Crisis). We looked her up, top to bottom, for some time. Just amazing.

Back inside for another 45 minute show. Came back out and Saturn was now up at 3am or so, high and right where we thought she'd be. Rebuilt the barlow to the 10mm, filter off, lined it up and focused it in. And there was Saturn, as clear as I'd ever seen her, separate rings and faint planetary bandings. Greg, JB and I all spent time on the eyepiece, just tracking it in its slow journey across the southern sky. I'd stand to one side (and occasionally reacquire the planet, using the fine tuner as someone else called "more... more... almost... there!". And I kept thinking "okay, one more look and then we should go in". But every time I took the eyepiece I found myself fascinated with what I saw. I think we were there for an hour, until our old bodies could no longer hold those hunched positions (gotta find out what sorts of chairs astronomers might use).

But overall, a fantastic evening. After Greg left about 4am, I thought about how much I'm enjoying that scope as I stood under a pre-dawn sky, breaking down the tripod. A good evening all around: one night, four clean viewings.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 31 May 2015 13:46
 
Saturn again (5/17/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 17 May 2015 01:45

onight is the closest Saturn will come to Earth - the wife and I have been keeping up on this and kinda wanted to see it. So, at sunset, we planted the telescope in the backyard. I knew Saturn would be coming up at it's highest angle above the southern horizon at 2:00am, and it would be somewhere just ahead of Scorpius.

Of course, given the fact I couldn't make out that constellation, not with all the city lighting, made things tricky. I ended up doing the Galileo method - that is looking at every bright star in the sky. Found it pretty quickly (and figured out where Scorpius was right after that).

JB came out and we shared the lens for about an hour, getting best results at 60X to 120X (35X was a bit small). 120 is always tricky to use (that's the 60x atop the barlow lens). So there was Saturn, right in our laps. As we settled into our viewing, we could see more and more of it, the rings, the bands, and moons Dione and Rhea. Way, way cool.

We then looked at Antares, trying to spot some of the interesting things in its neighborhood but nothing going. I'm still trying to get used to the reversed view the scope affords - when I was up in the mountains, I should have gotten used to it by looking at distant peaks but I didn't think of that - alas. Next time.

It's going on 3am and this little stargazer is beat. Off to bed.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 17 May 2015 01:59
 
Lost in Space (5/2/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 02 May 2015 21:50

ot such a good night tonight. I was clear so I had to break the scope out for a look. The problem was, the full moon pretty much washed everything out so I could only get a vague series of stars. And now that the sky has shifted about and my buddy Orion is a no-show, I'm having a hard time determining what is where. Tried to line up on the pour spout of the big dipper but it made for high angle sighting - a difficult line up. Still, I got a good look at Jupiter with full magnification, but the moon just didn't seem comfortable with any lens. Too big, too small, all sorts of problems.

I need a better compass. That crummy map-reader compass sways all over the place. Imagine my surprise when I lined up on what I thought was north and found the big dipper lined up about 20 degrees starboard. Still learning this hobby, it seems...

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Last Updated on Saturday, 02 May 2015 21:57
 
On high (4/25/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 26 April 2015 10:55

ugged our scope and tripod all the way up to Beech Mountain for our vacation. First day here, we were scouting possible locations. The Grandfather Park location someone mentioned was impossible to find - I have no idea what they were referencing. Closer to home, we found two possible - the big dead mansion on the curves coming over the hill and Buckeye Lake Park. I checked with the park folks and they said, sure, come in after dark. No problems with that.

That evening, the clouds swept away (thunder to the north) so we gave it a look. The haunted house had a big old streetlight hanging over it, totally lousy (that and the cars going past). No good. The park was better - its got a huge field out back with a bear fence (actually a ball field) that we could set up in. The problem was the building itself - they'd neglected to tell me they light it up like an alien mothership - total glare. But the stars were nice.

Came home and found the clouds really moving off. By 10pm, the sky was brilliant. Decided to set up outside on the back porch, using the hole in the overhang where the grill usually sits. My shabby compass thinks (possibly) that our house lines up directly on due north - right down the railing). Anyway, set up and calibrated off Venus. Not bad. But when I looked at stars, I realized that that high porch actually vibrates. Even when nobody moves, you get a vibration down the scope, making the stars dance. Soon as the wind blows, there goes your vision. Still, I checked out the Orion Nebula - while looking at it, a satellite rushed past, which I tracked across the sky. Looked at some favorites - the background stars were amazing. Still, that vibration was troublesome - bouncing all over the place. We ended with the moon, but it was bouncing like a ball. So the porch is not optimal for this sort of thing.

Which pretty much puts paid to the idea of shooting off my sister's dock. I can see now that you really need a firm foundation.

Still, amazing stars. So many, in fact, that it made identification of the constellations difficult (well, that and the barren trees in the way). Still, we might get another night in. Here's hoping. If today's rain lets up, we'll go back down to Buckeye and see if we can find something a bit out of direct glare from the building.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 26 April 2015 11:10
 
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