Archive for the ‘My off-blog astronomy writing’ Category


Notes from the underground

September 25, 2010

This is my teaching time of year, and between that and attending a conference in England the week before last, I have had precious little time for observing. But I did get out this week for half an hour to take some pictures of the full moon. Not nearly as detailed and sharp as some of the others I’ve taken in the past, but most of those were taken with 6-10″ scopes, and this was taken with my 2″ SV50.

Now that moon is on the wane, every night will be better and better for observing comet Harley 2, which is cruising through Cassiopeia right now. S&T has a nice page with info on the comet and finder charts. I haven’t looked for it yet, but it’s on my to-do list.

Finally, the fourth installment in my series on the world’s largest telescopes appeared in this month’s PVAA newsletter. This link will be good for the next three months, after which it will be available on the Nightwatch archive site.


No eclipse for me

June 26, 2010

I did get up, at about 4:30, to see how the eclipse was progressing and maybe take some pictures, but it was completely clouded out.

As a consolation prize, this month’s Nightwatch, the PVAA newsletter is out, with the second of my “World’s largest telescope” articles and my detailed observing report from Mount Wilson. This link will be good for about three months, after which it will be available in the PVAA archives.


While I was out…

June 1, 2010

May turned out to be a pretty eventful month for me, astronomically-speaking.

As noted in my oath-breaking last post, I bought one of the Sky-Watcher scopes that is on crazy sale at Amazon right now. I got the 130N-EQ2, a Newtonian reflector on an equatorial mount. I’m not a big fan of EQ mounts. Yeah, they let you track the sky by moving the scope slowly on one axis instead of two, but for that convenience you get to pay quite a bit more than you would for an alt-az mount (normally, that is; right now at Amazon you get the whole kit-n-kaboodle for about what the eyepieces regularly cost), and you get to lug around a lot more weight, too. YMMV, but I like to lug optics, not machinery, and I don’t mind nudging the scope every couple of minutes. So I sold the EQ mount on the Cloudy Nights classifieds (bringing the net cost of the scope down to a ridiculous $40) and used some scrap wood from the garage to build a Dobsonian mount. That project is still ongoing; it’s about halfway painted right now. More construction details soon.

Back in April, I started writing a series of articles on the world’s largest telescopes for Nightwatch, the newsletter of the Pomona Valley Amateur Astronomers, and the first one came out in the May newsletter (that link will be good for about three months, after which you’ll be able to find the article on the Nightwatch archive page).

Finally, and most excitingly for me, at 4:30 in the morning on May 25 I found and logged my final Messier object. The quest is complete! And one of my astronomical resolutions for 2010 is fulfilled. Two more to go…

What does June hold? Well, on the 12th the PVAA is going back to Mount Wilson. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that–last year they got clouded out in June and had to reschedule for the fall (which worked out well for me). Venus, Mars, and Saturn are all well-placed right after dark, and Jupiter is up before dawn. There’s a minor comet to chase if you’ve got optics and reasonably dark skies. And I’m about 10 objects away from finishing my observations for the AL Deep Sky Binocular Club.

So, lots to do and see. My posting will probably be hit-and-miss this month also; I’m going on vacation for the next week and when I get back, I have to knuckle under and get to work on some lectures. If you need ways to entertain yourself, the advice given here still holds. Clear skies!