Skies and Stars
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
Saturn (3/13/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 13 March 2015 07:30

t takes some effort to find these things. Last night, I checked where Saturn would be this morning at 6:30 (preceding the moon). Got up at 6:10. Walked outside - clear with broken clouds and there was the moon. Transported the scope outside, set it up, lined it up, swung it to bear. Over the sight I could see the moon and a bright star off to its right. Lined it up. Lower mag lens (x25 or so) I cast around in that area and suddenly there it was. I could see it, tiny rings and dunish body and all. I was so nailed by this that I looked for about 10 minutes before remembering I had a 60x lens. That brought it up even bigger. She was full on to the sun, the rings back about 20 degrees like a cocked hat. I could see it all. Amazing.

I tracked her for about twenty minutes (pulling away when occasional clouds passed. With the sun coming up, I was starting to lose her so I switched on the filter and hopped to the moon. Scanned around the Sea of Moisture - many craters visible. Of course, I really couldn't go with the new moon map because it was (a) inside (b) somewhere and (c) if I turned on the light to look for it, I'd lose my night vision. So it was VFR for that.

Crossover hobby note: while setting up, I backed out a lens securing screw a little too far and it dropped off. This is most certainly an N-scale model railroading issue - I drop tiny things all the time. Rule one - DO NOT MOVE YOUR FEET! So I carefully stooped and fetched out the red penlight. Scanned around in the grass and found it - whew. Okay, I'm gathering does and don'ts in this new astronomy hobby, and one don't would be: don't ever back screws out of anything without keeping a careful grip on them.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 March 2015 07:00
Jupiter and M42 (3/8/2014) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 11 March 2015 07:01

'posed to go out to Geneva Saturday night to get a clear star view. That didn't go so well (heavy clouds). Next night, the computer told me that Io would be shadowing across Jupiter. Took the scope out at 10pm or so but couldn't quite make it out (at 60x). Where is that backordered extender?

While JB and I were running our usual drill around Orion, we did look in on M42 and that area, and caught a neat cluster of stars with a visible nebula around that. At first I thought it was some sort of smudge on my glasses but as I panned the scope, the "smudge" moved with it. Just stood stunned in the eye-piece - a nebula. Amazing. And I could see it, even with all that city light crap cast off of every street and franchise.

Little look ahead - 3/11/2015. Got up at 6am to catch Saturn trailing the moon to the south. Had a spot all picked out. Woke up, went outside, looked up at a solid bank of clouds.



Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 07:07

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