Saturday, August 1, 2009

First Light

Photo of setup
Finally put my new Astro-Tech AT80LE on its Voyager mount and set up for First Light (what astronomers call the first time a new telescope is used). Optical tube went onto the mount with no problems. I was trying to find Albeiro, a beautiful double star in the constellation, Cygnus, the swan. I was using an astronomy app for the Apple iPhone called Starmap. It uses the built-in compass of the iPhone to scan the sky. By holding the iPhone in front of your face, you can see what stars, constellations and other astronomical objects are in the sky at the time you are looking and the compass direction you are looking. That way you can see where what you are looking for is supposed to be.

However, I didn't have much luck. The skies are very light polluted where I live plus all my neighbors have their porch lights on plus a street light plus trees. Therefore, my field of view from my backyard is limited. I had fun though and learned how to use the scope and the mount. Even though I couldn't find anything I wanted to look at, I feel I had a productive time. Hopefully next time I'll be able to see something. I know where Sagittarius or the teapot is supposed to be. There are lots of cool things to see near Sagittarius.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


This year 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy. Everyone all over the world has a chance to participate in the events associated with the IYA 09. One of the projects was to make a telescope similar or almost the same as the one Galileo used when he discovered the moons of Jupiter and many of the other astronomical discoveries he made. The invention and use of a telescope changed forever humans' view of the universe. The telescope was made and sold over the web to individuals and to organizations who wanted to donate some of these telescopes to children's groups and other types of groups so as to introduce the universe, sky, astronomy to everyone in the world. In addition to donating telescopes which were very reasonable in price: $15 US, problems with light pollution and other obstacles to observing the sky.

I have ordered 3 Galileoscopes. Shipping was to start the middle of June and orders shipped according to the date the order was placed. I haven't received mine yet. According to some posts on "Cloudy Night" forums, some individuals have received theirs. The scope, although only 50 mm aperture (about 2") is an ideal beginners scope. I don't know if orders are still being accepted. There was a tremendous demand for them. If you are interested go to the Galileoscope web site.

Picture of the moon taken with a Galileoscope.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Star Party

Photo from 2007 Shingletown Star Party
GSSP Photos later

I returned Tuesday from the GSSP star party held on a cattle ranch in Adin, California. Really dark skies. It was great. Towed Tabacat (my little T@B trailer) to Adin and set up camp on Friday night. 'Te' who shared Tabacat with me towed her since I am not experienced in towing. We slept well. Te is tall but she managed to fit on one of the couch/beds.

Saturday am we awoke to cloudy skies and cool temperatures. Not much to do but wander around a little and read. Saturday night we went to the barbecue held in the Hospitality tent. It was ok. I don't eat beef which of course was part of the meal (being on a cattle ranch), but the salads were good. No observing Saturday night. The weather turned very bad; RAIN and WIND. It was sort of nice, tho sleeping inside Tabacat hearing the rain on the roof, nice and cozy.

Sunday woke to clear and sunny skies. Wandered around and ended up at the vendor booth. Bad idea. T succumbed to desires and purchased an Ethos eyepiece. I succumbed and bought an Astro-Tech AT80LE apochromatic refractor. I told T it was all her fault since she succumbed first; of course I was just kidding. Went to the barbecue; meal was about the same but with excellent apple pie for
dessert. I was anxious to try the my new toy out, but the forecast for Sunday night was for freezing so we decided it would be too cold.

Monday again clear and sunny. Time spent walking around, talking to people, what a great bunch. Amateur astronomers are, as a rule, some of the nicest people one could ever meet. Friendly, helpful, knowledgeable and willing to share that knowledge, just very very nice. It is a good hobby to get interested in. One doesn't need a lot of expensive equipment; one can see quite a lot with the "naked" eye (no optical aids). Binoculars are excellent for starting. It is amazing to go out under dark skies, look up and see the Milky Way stretching across the sky. You almost feel like one with the universe. Parents, try to get your kids interested and you get interested also.

Monday night was good for observing and imaging. T does imaging (astrophotography). I set up my new toy with T's help, waited until dark and went out to find Saturn. Not to be, Something weird happened to my vision; I couldn't see anything. Don't know if it was something with my night vision or what but it was scary. I got disoriented and fell (no bad consequences), was helped up and back to Tabacat, my observing not to be this night.

Tuesday, we discovered the battery in Tabacat was dead, tried to charge it with my van but that didn't seem to work. So for that reason, my "accident" Monday night and other reasons, we decided to pack it up and head home. GSSP was over on Wednesday so we just missed one night. It was good to be home.

We had a good time in spite of mishaps. Met some people I had known only through email and others that I had never met. Lots of people came by to admire Tabacat. She is a cute little teardrop trailer red in color.
Now I have to figure out how to and where to go somewhere to actually have first light with my new toy. Her name for now is "astrocat". I may think of a different name later.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How I got interested in astronomy

Many years age,when I was in junior high school (now called middle school?) I had a social studies teacher whose husband was an amateur astronomer. One cold wintry night with snow crunching under foot, she invited the class to her house to look through her husband's telescope. He showed us how to look at constellations and all sorts of cool things in the sky. But I think what I remember the most was; we got very cold so eventually my teacher invited us all inside to drink hot chocolate and eat cookies. All in all it was a terrific experience. My interest in astronomy faded but has now returned big time. More to come on various astronomy adventures. Stay tuned.