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About the author

I’m Matt Wedel. I’m an anatomist and paleontologist by day and an amateur astronomer by night.

I was born in Dodge City, Kansas, on June 3, 1975. When I was three my family moved to the small town of Hillsdale in north-central Oklahoma. I grew up out in the  country, hiking through cow pastures, catching snakes and turtles down at the creek, hurling dirt clods at wasp nests, building Lego spaceships, and launching model rockets. But my primary interest from the age of three onwards has always been dinosaurs.

Through a series of coincidences and a run of improbable good fortune, I was able to pursue my paleontological interests through Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Oklahoma and a PhD at Berkeley. I’m now an assistant professor of anatomy at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California, where I teach in the cadaver-based gross anatomy course. When I’m not teaching I work on sauropod dinosaurs and on air-filled bones in dinosaurs and birds. You can read all about that stuff at another blog I contribute to, Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week (or SV-POW! for short). Don’t let the hyper-geeky title scare you off, most of our posts are more accessible than you’d think. If you’re after more technical fare, my theses and published papers are freely available at my website.

I’ve had a strong interest in astronomy and space travel for as long as I can remember. But growing up I had a couple of misconceptions that stopped me from ever doing anything about those interests. The first misconception was that you absolutely had to get a telescope before you could start stargazing, and the second was that telescopes were prohibitively expensive. I was in my thirties before I discovered that neither of these things is true. One of the great ironies of my life is that, having grown up in rural Oklahoma under radically dark skies, I didn’t get serious about stargazing or buy a telescope until I was living in the air- and light-polluted swamp of California. But even here there is plenty to keep one busy observing the night sky–as I intend to show on this blog.

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35 comments

  1. What is the piece of equipment partially behind you in this picture?

    Thank you, and keep up the blog.


  2. Hi Stumble, sorry to take so long to get back to you. This is my busy teaching season.

    I had written a longish response, but I decided that if I was going to write that much, it should be a post of its own. And it will be, very soon. The short answer is that the funny-looking thing on the tripod is a travel telescope that I built using mirrors from one of the lousier department-store offerings. More info soon!


  3. Hi Matt!! It’s good to see you doing all this stuff. I think I will begin my own astronomy blog soon, as soon as I defend my master thesis I will pick my telescope and take it to Teruel…
    Take care!


  4. My Grandfather was Dr.Gustav Wedel GP from University of Chicago class of 1904 and Director ofthe Norweigan American Hospital on Sanfranciso Street in Chicago.I know he had relatives in Northern California and wondered what your relatives’ background was.
    Enjoyed you piece on the Discover Channel.
    Alan R. Congdon


  5. Hi Matt-
    Great blog! And i really like what you’ve described having done with the “Walgetco” scope- turning it into a useful “travel-scope”! Very slick, indeed.

    Clear, steady, and Peaceful skies to ya!
    mike b


  6. Hi Matt, really enjoying your blog. I live in Scotland and have recently re-discovered stargazing with my ten year old son. We get some pretty cold winter nights up here at 57 degrees and too much good stuff in the sky is below our southern horizon, but the skies are dark and we have a lot of fun. Ten years ago I was living in LA and visited some of the desert locations you observe from which made your blog all the more enjoyable. Keep it up its great stuff.


  7. Hi Paul, thanks for the kind words. If I lived any farther north, I’d miss some of the great southern stuff I can see from SoCal. But I wouldn’t mind having darker skies at home. I suppose ultimately it’s not the sky or the telescope, it’s what you do with them that matters. Have fun stargazing with your son–I certainly get a kick out of looking up with mine.


  8. Hi Matt,

    I just saw your email from 3/24/11 a few days ago in response to my post from January on the Cloudy Nights Forum re: Orion tabletop scopes and my report on the Orion Skyscanner. So sorry for not responding sooner!! I’ve rarely used the Cloudy Nights (or the Astronomy forum) much until the past week, so I wasn’t even aware that I had a private email box for Cloudy Nights! I noticed that you had this cool website, so I thought you’d see my response quicker if I just posted here (also sent you a longer response to your CN mailbox).

    Anyways, I’m glad you had an interest in my rather long and rambling report. Since I wrote it back in January, I have bagged many more DSO’s (mainly galaxies) with my Skyscanner and made sketches of ALL of them on those increasingly rare nights here in SoCal when clear skies presented itself around the time of the new moon.

    Thanks for your Claremont offer, I will consider.

    Anyways, I will be attending the RTMC Astronomy Expo in Big Bear City during the Memorial Day weekend. If you are also going I might be able to meet you there.

    Thanks again for responding to my report, and I’ll have to explore your cool website in depth!

    Terry Nakazono
    Gardena, CA


  9. Hi Terry,

    Thanks for the report! I am probably not going to be able to attend RTMC, but if you’re passing by Claremont and have time to stop for lunch and/or a beer, give me a holler and we’ll set something up.

    All the best,

    Matt


  10. Hi Matt,

    After reading a few of your posts on telescopes (e.g. aperture vs. portability, small telescope quest), I can understand why my long CN Skyscanner review would have been of interest. The optics aren’t as good as your grab-and-gos, but you won’t find a scope that gives so much aperture (100 mm) for the price ($100). I’ve only been into astronomy as an adult since March of last year, starting out with the Orion Funscope (76mm). With it, I learned how to star-hop using deep-sky charts (in a light-polluted sky), before moving on to the Skyscanner a few months later. Although I’ve also owned a Starblast 6 since last December, NOT ONCE HAVE I OBSERVED THE SKIES WITH IT (but I’ve played with it in my living room a few times!). The Skyscanner in a backpack is so much easier to carry around (I don’t drive) and the number of DSO’s observable in an orange-zone sky is so great (with 100mm aperture), that I’ve not had the urge to use my 150 mm. yet!. I especially get a thrill out of finding faint DSO’s at the theoretical limit of my aperture’s capability (you have to if you’re using a small scope to bag faint fuzzies!). So far I have about 175 DSO’s (mainly galaxies) logged in my database and sketched in my field notebook – a DSO observation doesn’t count unless I’ve made a sketch of it, including the surrounding marker stars.

    I’ve never observed with a medium or larger-sized amateur scope yet (6in. or larger), nor have I ever observed in darker-than-orange zone skies, so I still have a lot to learn (and amazing sights to see!). The RTMC will be my first star party ever, so I’m looking forward to it.

    Anyways, I will let you know when I’ll be in Claremont (probably on-route to some darker skies)!

    Happy observing,

    Terry

    BTW, I like the picture of you standing next to your XT10 with a drink in hand – it makes me want to finally take out and use my Starblast 6 …


  11. […] Minute Astronomy is a blog authored by Matt Wedel, an anatomist and paleontologist by day and amateur astronomer by night. Geared toward hobbyists […]


  12. […] Minute Astronomy is a blog authored by Matt Wedel, an anatomist and paleontologist by day and amateur astronomer by night. Geared toward hobbyists […]


  13. Hi Matt,

    Having just gotten into (binocular) astronomy, I was going to dust off and use my old blog as my astro log, and wanted to include a picture of tonight’s view of jupiter. Would it be alright if I use some of your pictures? I’ll obviously link and give credit to you when and where I use them.

    Example here (I will take it down if you request):
    http://fredrikpaulsson.blogspot.com/2012/01/amateur-astronomy-starts-now.html

    I don’t know if I’ll use more of your pictures, although if I get your general approval, I’d probably like to. If they’re not your pictures, then that would obviously be handy to know, too, heh.

    Thanks!
    Fredrik


  14. Hi Fredrik,

    Glad to hear you’re getting into binocular astronomy, it’s a great hobby. Yes, please feel free to use any images on the blog. Best of luck!

    Clear skies,

    Matt


  15. Hi Matt I’m justin from the last pvaa general meeting. I’m the person that came with Mr. Stockton. You have a really great website. Keep it up!


  16. Hi Justin,

    Great to hear from you! Sorry it’s taken me a while to respond. When the weather gets a little warmer we should make a run up Mount Baldy for some evening observing. Hopefully I’ll see you at the PVAA meeting this Friday. Feel free to email me at mathew.wedel@gmail.com anytime.

    All the best,

    Matt


  17. Hey Matt it’s Justin again. I will definitely be at the pvaa meeting again. I’m not sure if you’ve already gotten the telescope for the
    library check out but you might want to check this one out:

    http://www.telescope.com/Telescopes/Refractor-Telescopes/Refractor-Telescopes-for-Beginners/Orion-Observer-70mm-Altazimuth-Refractor-Telescope/pc/1/c/10/sc/331/p/9881.uts?refineByCategoryId=331

    It is my personal telescope and it’s one of the best telescope I’ve ever looked through. Hope this helps. thanks, Justin 😀


  18. Hi Justin,

    For the Library Telescope Program, we’re going to follow in the footsteps of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society and use the Orion StarBlast 4.5. But the Observer 70 is also a very fine telescope, and one you can be proud to own. Sky & Telescope chose both the Observer 70 and the StarBlast 4.5 as top picks when they reviewed inexpensive telescopes a few years ago–you can read their review for free at this link.

    See you at the meeting!


  19. Hi Matt,
    Spending the weekend here in Claremont and made it to the PVAA meeting yesterday around 8:50pm but was so exhausted getting here by bus and train from UCLA after work that I didn’t have the energy to introduce myself (I was the one sitting behind you with laptop during Alex’s talk). Really wanted to meet you, but I guess yesterday was just not meant to be – hopefully it’ll happen soon.

    I’d eventually like to check out the Starblast 4.5 from the Claremont Library. I know there have been comparisons made with the Orion Short Tube 80 and the Skyscanner (I own both scopes), but I need to see the views from the 4.5 for myself.


  20. Hi Terry,

    Great to hear from you! Sorry we didn’t catch up at the meeting. I was a little harried–yesterday was a very full day at the end of a very full week. Now I know what you look like, so next time I’ll come over and introduce myself.

    It certainly is nice to be living in a time when there are so many fine scopes available at low cost. I’ve looked through a StarBlast but I’ve never seen a SkyScanner in person, so I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts if you get a chance to compare them.


  21. Matt,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your small scope blogs on this site and your threads on Cloudy Nights.

    In November of 2010 you posted a thread on Cloudy Nights re: collimating the SkyScanner and other small Newtonians which didn’t have primary collimating screws – not sure if you saw my recent response to it from December 2011 so here it is:

    http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/4155863/Main/4155589

    I’ve tweaked one scope to near perfection, now I’m working on improving the performance of my recently acquired Orion Short Tube 80-A. The original scope I received and its replacement I requested both came miscollimated, but I was able to collimate the replacement scope by tweaking the objective lens assembly. Now I’m working on getting rid of the astigmatism in this scope (slightly defocused star shows a triangular shape rather than a round circle).

    Once this pinched optics problem is resolved, looking forward to comparing the views between this scope and the Skyscanner. Will do the same with the Starblast 4.5 (vs. the Skyscanner) if I can get a hold of one.


  22. Hey matt, it’s justin I saw the link and I appreciate it very much.
    My leg is doing much better and I saw the sun with my 70mm refract.
    It has been very cloudy and I hope we can make a run up to baldy
    some time. All the best,
    Justin 😀


  23. Hi Matt,

    I like your updated pic (it was about time!) of you and your scopes. I see you’ve added an XT12i Intelliscope to your collection – nice! Have you mentioned it in any of your blogs?

    Just wondering why your Sky-Watcher “Shorty Long” (80mm refractor) and “Stubby Fats” (5-inch reflector) aren’t in the picture – did you get rid of them?

    One thing I learned from this site is that you should always keep an eye out for great deals on quality scopes and snap one up quickly as soon as you see one (regardless of how many others you own), as long as it fills a niche not covered by any of your existing scopes.

    Terry


  24. Hi Terry,

    Thanks for the kind words. Shorty Long and Stubby Fats aren’t in the picture because it’s an old picture and I didn’t have them yet. Of the scopes in the photo, I’ve since sold all but three: the XT10, the Astroscan (which is really my son’s scope, I’m sort of holding it in trust for him), and the SV-50 (the little white refractor). But I’ve picked up four: Shorty Long and Stubby Fats, an Apex 127 Mak, and–less than an hour ago–a SkyWatcher 90mm Mak on a tracking mount. So my total number of working scopes has stayed the same, although the average aperture has decreased!

    One thing I learned from this site is that you should always keep an eye out for great deals on quality scopes and snap one up quickly as soon as you see one (regardless of how many others you own), as long as it fills a niche not covered by any of your existing scopes.

    Well said! That’s why I ordered the little SkyWatcher Mak: I wanted another 90mm Mak for grab-n-go, and it’s on a crazy good discount right now, under $200 shipped for the scope, mount, 3 eyepieces and backpack. Heck, I ought to blog about it.

    And although my wife and friends often do not believe me, every one of my scopes really does fill a different niche. I should blog about that, too.

    Anyway, I’m happy that my blogging has helped you rationalize buying more telescopes. It’s hard to have too many. 🙂


  25. OH! I just saw on the CN thread on the C90 that you ordered one, Terry. I’d love to hear what you think of it when it comes in. Sometime we have to meet up and do some stargazing together.


  26. Wow – you’ve been doing a lot of selling and buying lately! From your blogs, I can see why you held on to the XT10 and the SV-50; the Astroscan is probably good at withstanding rough handling from a youngster, so that also makes sense.

    I see you repurchased the Apex 127 – I believe this was the first cadiotropic you owned before unloading it for a StarMax 90. The Stubby Fats I’m assuming has a parabolic mirror and is a faster scope (F/5?) than the other Skywatcher 5-inch reflector you had.(on a homemade Dob mount), which is why I’m guessing you held on to the former rather than the latter. Probably also because it can be mounted on your Skywatcher tripod, along with some of your other small scopes. I own Orion’s version (VersaGo II), and this tripod will support 5 of my scopes (including the Starblast 6 OTA).

    I just came across the Celestron C90 on Amazon.com a little over a week ago and not being sure whether it was a good scope or not, did a Google search and came across Ed Ting’s recent article. After reading it, I ordered the scope immediately. The Skywatcher Mak is probably a better deal because of the three Plossls and motor drive for automatic tracking, but at least this new version of the C90 has the stamp of approval from an authoritative source. This is the first cadiotropic scope I’ve ever owned and I’m pleased with it’s sturdy construction and optical quality so far. Testing it in in my light-polluted driveway (replacing the stock diagonal with an Orion dielectric mirror diagonal), it shows very good collimation and no signs of astigmatism (unlike my Orion ST80-A scopes when I first received them, although I’ve fixed the collimation problem since). The focuser is very smooth and the finder scope works well. Because of its long focal length, the C90 Mak is a welcome addition to my collection of small and fast scopes (all F/4’s and F/5’s).

    Looking forward to your upcoming scope blogs. We will meet up soon.


  27. You have a good memory for my scopes! Only one edit: this Apex 127 is my first, that first Cat you mentioned was an Apex 102. So now I’ve owned all three of the smaller Orion Maks. In retrospect, I should have held onto the 102 and gotten a better mount and tripod sooner. As I think Ed Ting said somewhere in one of his reviews, you can spend a lot of money in this hobby to find out that you didn’t have to spend that much, if only you’d known what you were looking for.

    Also, I did most of that buying and selling in 2009 and 2010. It’s been pretty sedate around here since then. I picked up one scope in 2011, the Apex 127, and now one in 2012.

    The flurry of buying and selling in 2009 and 2010 was valuable because it let me try a lot of scopes, but it didn’t actually cost me that much. Used scopes hold their value pretty well and I mostly bought used, so I could try things out and sell them for about what I paid for them. As I said in last year’s New Year’s post, I am gradually converging on the set of scopes I actually need.

    I’m sure my wife and most of my friends would scoff at that assertion, that I actually need all of the scopes that I have. And it’s true that they aren’t essential to my existence. But as someone who pursues this hobby seriously, I now feel that I have a pretty complete toolkit. I have a lot more to say about this, but I’ll save it for a separate post.

    I’m glad you’re digging your C90. I am looking forward to having a little Mak around again.

    I love the VersaGo II. Mine supports every scope I own except the dob and the Astroscan, which have their own mounts, and the SV-50, for which it would be immense overkill, and for which I have a separate tripod anyway. It’s just a good, solid, smooth mount.


  28. OK, thanks for clearing this up (re: when the flurry of scope activity occurred) – I just know that you’ve been very busy last year, given how quiet this site was for long stretches.

    I have no experience in the unloading of scopes, but it will come eventually.

    The C90 mounted on the VersaGo II gives me very steady views at high power (first time I’ve used powers above 126X), so I’m very pleased. Can’t wait to take it to a darker site and try it out on DSO’s.


  29. I have no experience in the unloading of scopes, but it will come eventually.

    Oh, I’m glad you said that, I will blog about that, too. It seems like it could be a tarpit of bad scopes and shady deals, but I’ve bought and sold a lot of used astro gear and had no problems so far–literally zero bad experiences. BUT that’s probably because I’ve been careful about where and how I did business. I’ll tell all in an upcoming post.


  30. Super – looking forward to hearing about it! I’m not considering selling any time soon, but plan to get the maximum enjoyment out of all of my scopes whenever possible.


  31. Hey Matt
    I noticed that you updated the picture on the about the author page. I was curious as to what is the telescope that is next to you and what are the apertures of the classic dobsonians?

    Thanks and clear skies,
    Justin


  32. Matt: I read that you’re going to be fairly inactive for a while, but thank you for posting the design for the simple Dob. mount. Back in the 80’s I bought a small Celestron newtonian reflector. Scope is lots of fun, but mount options are inconvenient. Thanks to your design, I can build something portable and stable so that I can show my kids some stuff far more amazing than what’s on cable.

    I hope that things level out for you and you can start regularly blogging again.

    Off to the garage (and the table saw!)

    Kent.


  33. Keep up your good work !


  34. Hey there Matt,
    I stumbled upon your Dr. Vector blog when browsing links referencing Celestron Upclose 10x50s (my first binoculars) and have been very much enjoying it, your posts are going to keep me occupied for ages…. when I saw that you have this site also I thought all my Christmases had come at once.
    I’m starting out in amateur astronomy, and am soaking up all the free wisdom I can glean here in the internet, so thank you in advance for the advice and interesting reading that I’m bound to find here. I see you are a paleontologist, nice! I was a dinosaur and prehistory buff as a kid, then I studied archaeology at uni, but never actually entered the field after studying. I have a small fear of turning a passion into a job (read: obligation!) so I chose instead to work a somewhat mindless part-time job – now I get to keep my mind and time free to indulge in all of my whimsies!
    I live in Perth, Western Australia and luckily we can find some pretty dark skies here with just an hour drive inland. I cannot wait to get a tripod and a clear night to drive out into the cold Aussie winter and start gazing!
    Thanks for this blog, it’s brilliant
    Chelle


  35. Hi Chelle,

    Many thanks for all of the kind words! Sounds like your stargazing situation is not too different from mine–living in a city, but with dark skies within easy striking distance. It’s a pretty good trade-off, I think.

    The only time I’ve gotten to see the southern skies was on a trip to Uruguay in 2010. I was there for a scientific conference, but I brought along those 10×50 binos and a small–well, tiny–telescope, and every night I’d go to the beach near the hotel and stargaze until my fingers were numb from the cold (I was there in July). The southern Milky Way is absolutely stunning. I envy your easy access to it.

    Best of luck with your stargazing. As far as paleontology and archaeology, maybe there is some way to stay involved without turning that passion into a job. A lot of natural history museums here in the states have volunteer programs, and it might be worth checking to see if the same is true in Australia. One of my colleagues down the hall was working as a waiter in NYC and started volunteering at the American Museum of Natural History. Within a decade, he had a PhD in biology from Berkeley. Hmm–that might be a cautionary tale about how addictive this stuff is!

    Clear skies,

    Matt



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