Skies and Stars
Two for one (6/30/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 30 June 2015 22:31

onight was the big show - Venus and Jupiter lining up just about on top of each other, a perfect astronomy night. And our club was going to take advantage of it, setting a line of telescopes up for the public to view around a lake at Seminole State.

JB and I got there early. It was our first true remote setup, and our first setup with a group. In this, it went easy. The telescope was lined and leveled in no time (I've had plenty of practice) But we were early so we sat in our chairs and read for a while.

Others set up around us. Eventually crowds formed. The moon was up and a couple of scopes swung that way. Me, I'd set up just past some trees and my equatorial wasn't really good for quick-shifting so I stayed. Another guy slapped on a filter and showed the sun. Finally the sun dropped. And then someone called out, "There it is! Venus!" A dozen scopes swung into line with it.

I'll say this - we were lucky. Every other direction - heavy clouds. But where it counted, where the two planets hung next to each other, we could just make it out. I boosted to the 10mm lens, 60x and could catch both planets sharp and within my view. All the scopes (mine included) had a line so I helped people to see both planets. In this, they were like Greg from a couple of weeks back - totally impressed. We had a great time.

I'd like to say more but I'm beat. Was up early (to ride the train in) and now I have a beer sloshing in my gut. I'm ready for bed. But I'm happy - I was able so show the kids who lined up at my scope some amazing things.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 22:45
 
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
 
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