Skies and Stars
Close in before Close out (2/2/2017) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 02 February 2017 22:08

finally got a free evening with clear skies to test out my new Explore Scientific eyepieces (thanks, Mom!). I'd picked up a 24mm and was disparately looking for an 11mm (which finally came off back order). I'd borrowed the 24 from a CFAS friend and the high quality really shown over the comparable focal length eyepieces that had come with my scope.

Anyway, clear skies. Got home and got cleaned up after the bike ride. Set up the scope while dinner was cooking - got it leveled and sighted early, picking out the best location to view Southwest, to track the fall of the moon and the inner planets. Finally, once enough darkness fell, I went out and popped the eyepieces in and give them a whirl.

What a pleasure it was to use them. Venus was amazing - perhaps the best I'd ever seen her. And with a barlow lens and later a moon filter, I could marvel at the details of her featurless clouds. smiley Seriously, I could clearly see the cresent with its shadows cusping the spherical surface. Mars, yeah, I looked at and got a pretty nice view, but he's falling away behind in orbitally and not really much to see these days.

But the moon!

Could see most of the East face in sunlight. The first thing I hit with the 11mm was the Sea of Crisis, my favorite lunar location. The two distinguishing craters, Picard and Pierce, were easy to make out. And with the barlow (usually an eyestrain) I could comfortably see them even closer. The Sage Bill Koestring was right - eyepieces make all the difference.

After about forty-five minutes of lunar roving, I aimed the barrel at the oak behind me - not to see how close I could see leaves but in readiness for Orion. I really wanted to hit M42 and see it with the improved eyepieces. And here's the rub - because of one part concern over shifting an established scope (with everything piled under it) and one part laziness (because it's equatorial, and hence heavy) I went back inside to do a little computer work. Finally, an hour or so later, the belt had risen over the tree edge and I could laser-line it. Settled in, popped off all the caps, inserted the 24 (figured I'd glide up on it) and tuned in.

Oh, it was there, all right. But it looked washed out and disappointing. I blinked. Had I fingered the lens? Looked up to eyeball the situation. A gradual haze was drifting in, that milky airbrushed atmospheric glaucoma that spoils so many evenings. I tried to burn through it with the 11 but no soap. With a partial moon up and haze all around, seeing had gone into the dumper. Shows over. Please disconnect the speakers and depart by the exits.

Still, it was a pretty good night. A little bright for stars, but fairly good for planets and the moon, top notch!


Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2017 22:45
M36 and M42 (of course) (12/4/2016) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 04 December 2016 00:06

uddy Greg was supposed to come over for movies and dinner and some Go. I figured, with predictions for a fine night and Orion marked overhead at midnight, to set the scope up. But then he called and canceled (I can't tell you the reason, but man, what a reason). So here I was with an evening suddenly free and a need to fill it.

In the cancelation call, I'd mentioned my intention of the scope. He told me that it wasn't high on his list. With the planets all shyly in conjunction, he didn't want to look at pinpoints of light close up. He'd enjoyed looking at planets, but didn't see the fun in stars.

I was thinking about that as I pulled the scope out under my suddenly-free night. Pinpoints of lights? Anything but.

With the scope set, I let it cool a bit before going back out. I was mainly focusing on running more tests with my new 24mm Scientific Explorer eyepiece, rapidly becoming my favorite. My first look-see, the Pleiades. Is there anything prettier in the heavens than those faintly blue burners? I tracked them for a while and then, with the help of the laser, moved over to Taurus and checked out The Hyades. Very pretty - that's on my list for looking at further. Then over to the constellation Auriga, boresigthing Capella with the spotting scope (I'm too dependent on that laser). From there, I hunted out M36, a cluster just off the line between two of Auriga's stars. The trick here (in finding something in deep space) is to line up on it so that the ecliptic is roughly set. Then scroll along that line until you find what you are looking for. And that's what I did. And there was M36.

It's a very pretty cluster. I actually got the barlow lens on the 24mm (for about 60x) and just looked it over. Really stunning, this tight clot of stars. While I was looking, suddenly everything got glaucoma-ish. Blinking, I looked up. Broken clouds were moving overhead, clouds both unpredicted and unwelcome. Nothing to do but cap off the barrel and go inside. There was still something I wanted to see.

An hour later, came out and found the skies clear. Orion, as expected, was above the trees, that distinct old favorite. And that's what I'd planned my evening around - M42, the Orion Nebula. And with my new eyepiece (and the barlow) what a view I enjoyed. I could clearly make out the gas cloud, one of my favorite deep sky objects. I sat out under the stars for a good 45 minutes, until I leaned back and saw that a new bank of clouds (solid to the horizon) were moving in. This looked like quitting time - moved everything in and called it a night.

And that's the thing. Yes, stars aren't as sexy as planets. But there is something about them, of plotting the star-hop and moving about, looking. And with all the clusters and nebulae I got to look at, how can you say is was a dull night under the pinpoints?

You lost out, Pal.


Last Updated on Sunday, 04 December 2016 00:38
Quiet night (11/20/2016) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 20 November 2016 22:15

unday is my best night for going out. During the week, I'm tired, I've got incoming calls from friends, just not good for dragging the scope out. So, yes, it's Sunday. Yes, it's clear. Yes, the moon is down. So let's go scoping.

I cast about as best I could given our downtown location. Picked up the double cluster, tried for Andromeda (no joy) and hunted for a couple of other clusters. We've got problems with the lights and a restricted viewing area (the trees) so I did as best I could. Still, I got to use the new StarBound chair (very easily adjustable) which was comfortable. Yet I'm suffering from sciatic nerve pain, which was not.

So, as they said in The Grand Budapest Hotel, "I'd call that a draw."


Borrowed scopes (10/29/2016) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 30 October 2016 12:31

t was like the Pony Express, bolting out of a model train session held under moonlit conditions (as described in part 1 of my day, HERE) in Palm Bay to race back to Orlando, swap cars, pile in binoculars, planispheres and lawn chairs, and then run up to Geneva for the star party there. Unfortunately I got there after dark. This meant we were fumbling our way out onto the driving range pad with no idea where the scopes had set up (every time we go out there, they move for some reason). Worse, we were in the Jetta and the only way to shut off the headlights is with a brick. Swung one way to park so I could get out to look and there in my beams were a bunch of disgusted astronomers protecting their precious night vision. Oops. Swung the car almost into a ditch to save them and heard someone say, "Another newbie". Shit. We probably need to set up reflectors so cars can find parking without running over refractive telescopes. That's the problem with dark-sky sites. They are also dark-parking sites.

Anyway, after enduring the ringing shame of my arrival, we found that there were quite a number of scopes in play. I hadn't brought mine - there just hadn't been time, but I got to play on some of the others. Interesting to sight out the various clusters and galaxies in space (saw Andromeda several times that night, each time more breathtaking than the last). Also saw several clusters of the sort I'd never viewed - all very beautiful.

Still, after all those high powered scope-views, the best view of the night came while JB and I sat on the bumper of her light-happy Jetta, making out the constellations and looking at things with the noks. Really, the Pleiades are nice enough in a scope but in binoculars they really shine. Just gorgeous, like blue stones on a velvet backing (and all that writer rubbish). But it was fun, wrapping up my day of two nights.

Good weekend, all together.


Last Updated on Sunday, 30 October 2016 12:46

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