Archive for March 24th, 2010

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Binocular Messier bling

March 24, 2010

More bling in the mail today: my certificate and pin for the AL Binocular Messier Club. The pin is already on my Kepler cap, which is now triply geeky (once for this pin, once for the Lunar Club pin, and, let’s face it, once for being a ballcap that celebrates a space probe).

If you are a member of the Astronomical League–and if you’re a member of a US astronomy club, AL membership is probably included with your local club membership–this is a no-brainer. You only have to see 50 Messiers with binoculars to complete the Binocular Messier Club requirements and score your own bling. I’ve gotten 99 Messiers with binoculars so far, not because I have to, but because it’s fun. And because the more I see with modest instruments, the less I feel like a wuss next to Jay Reynolds Freeman.

But mostly because it’s fun. After looking at small patches of sky at medium or high magnifications, it’s nice to sweep large swathes of the sky at low magnification. I’ve learned more about the forms of celestial objects at the telescope–but I’ve learned more of my way around the sky with binoculars. It’s the perfect project for a beginning stargazer, whether you’re in the Astro League or not. Give it a shot!

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The Moon and Pleiades, again

March 24, 2010

I wasn’t happy with the photo/sketch of the Moon passing the Pleiades that I showed in the last post. The field of view was too cramped to match what I saw at the eyepiece, and I put the stars in by flipping back and forth between Stellarium and GIMP and eyeballing things.

So this time I did it right: got a screenshot from Stellarium, pasted it into a layer in GIMP, placed the stars in a separate layer on top of that, and then got rid of the screenshot layer. Here’s the result, which is very close to what I actually saw Saturday night:

I liked the new version so much that I made a full-screen version. I don’t have any eyepieces that can actually show this much sky at once, but it looks pretty and I don’t care. Here it is: