Skies and Stars
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...


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.



Last Updated on Sunday, 26 April 2015 11:10
Big scope, little scope (4/4/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 04 April 2015 06:15

fter texmex with my old NASA buddy Mike and his lovely daughter Tara, we caught up with his wife and then went over to Eastern Florida State College Friday - they have a great observatory and we got a chance to check it out. The sky was clear, and on the rooftop outside the dome we chatted with one of the staffers and picked out the constellations. Also caught a satellite with the naked eye - cool to see it arching past.

Anyway, the dome was very impressive. Big scope pointing out to the slit, and unlike other big scopes, these guys were more than happy to go touring. Got to see the moon so very close, Jupiter, and the Orion Nebula - all at about 200X+ (as opposed to my desperately shaky 120X). Anyway, really really cool.

So that was Friday. Saturday there was an eclipse - for those of us on the east coast, we'd be catching it between dawn and treeline, not the best window. We woke up early and drove over to Fashion Square Mall with my FedEx scope, a puny (but easily transportable) 35x. Set up on the parking deck roof and waited, reading the morning paper and occasionally scoping the moon.

I can see why ancient people freaked out when this happened. One moment it was hanging there, all full and fine, the next, a sinister corruption began. I tracked it across Oceanus Procellarum, sliding across the oranging landscape. Seeing that, one can imagine the some sleepy astronomer-apprentice night-watch Babylonians atop their ziggurat, blinking as the new phenomena unfolded, sending their youngest to "fetch the masters". As we watched the eclipse, the first flights of a nearby crow roost were launching, with groupings of 3-6 birds croaking past us - this took me back to my Indigo days. Interesting when two hobbies intersect.

So a good night on the roof. Now I'll go check the sheep entrails for portents.


Last Updated on Saturday, 04 April 2015 06:44
The Sweep (3/29/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 29 March 2015 21:06

t's been a busy period here, one full of frustration. Right now I'm wrapping up an evening sweeping everything I can identify - clear night, finally. The last thing I want to look at is the moon, currently hiding behind grandfather pine.

Anyway, my barlow lens arrived a week and some back, which doubles my existing lens (giving me 120X, but I'm begriming to realize that isn't all that it sounds). Still, the day it came, cloudy. The next day, cloudy. And cloudy cloudy cloudy. Finally, while coming home from the club Wednesday night, I saw that the moon was up and the high clouds not bad (sucky, in other words, but beggars and choosers and all that). So I finally got a look at the moon just as it dove into the trees. Not bad. Pretty impressive.

Friday I went with the wife and my mom to see James Webb, noted astronomer (but not the guy that new space telescope is named for) (little inside joke, there). We went over to Emery Riddle in Daytona to see him - they have a bank of roof telescopes and a big mother under the dome, but, of course, cloudy. Still, they did what they could with movies and games and 3-D Mars images, so it wasn't bad. Webb was a very entertaining speaker and we had a great time - even bought a CD of his music.

For yesterday it was finally clear but I was bushed from a dispatchers gig, as detailed HERE. Crashed at 11pm, dead to the world. But the clear skies website said tonight would be pure; nice and clear and vast, with a full moon riding overhead at midnight. Set up at dusk, got all lined up, and got ready.

So, played with the various lenses. Ran a combination of lenses and filters at Venus - sharp and clear (not much to see there, though). Got a peek at the moon before it went behind grandfather, spotting out my favorite sea (Crisis, naturally). Then over to Orion, well up to the south and quite accessible. Got a look at my favorite nebula. I'm starting to realize that super magnitude comes at a cost. When I backed down, I could actually see a little better and enjoy it more, so there is that. Swung over to Sirius and tracked down Adhara, reportedly a double star but I couldn't make it out. I also swept the Milky Way between Sirius and Procyon at lower mags, getting some real stunning star fields. So far, its rather depressing that the only thing I can reliably hit is M42 (the Orion Nebula). But a look out that way is always breathtaking.

One item of note - while scanning out towards Capella tonight, I was settled in watching and something streaked across the lens. I didn't think it was a meteor - too regular. Went inside and check my software - could have been Iridium 8, making a pass about nine o'clock right through that stretch of sky. How about that - caught a satellite!

So I'm getting better at setting up and sighting in. I think I'm going to need an adjustable chair to make this a little more comfortable - right now, I boost up on a low lawn chair and hope for the best. But viewing is fun - going to have to try a run to Geneva soon, so see what things are like without lights around.

Okay, time to spell check this and get it to Facebook - the moons almost out of the trees and I've got the filters up and ready.


Last Updated on Sunday, 29 March 2015 21:36

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