Friday, July 31, 2009

Online Astronomy

I'm sure most of you have heard about SETI@home a downloadable screen saver that using your computer to decode radio signals for a search for extraterrestrial live... more at

Today, I found something more hands on and in the realm of actual astronomy! You might have heard of it..Galaxy Zoo. At Galaxy Zoo you can register and get training on classifying galaxies for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. I found it a load of fun and something I will do on cloudy nights. I was classifying galaxies about 10 minutes after registering. So far I have done over 700!
Check it out.

According to their website:
Galaxy Zoo was launched in 2007. Twenty-four hours after it's launch the site was receiving 70,000 classifications per hour. This rate mystified the Galaxy Zoo team. Thanks to amateur efforts many papers have be published and they have been successful at getting time on research telescopes to follow up on data collected through the site.

Milky Way

Milky Way
Originally uploaded by MPR Photography (Matthew2000tx)

Milky Way and beginning of the Perseids Meteor shower over McDonald Observatory.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

ISS and Shuttle

Earlier tonight I was at Woodlawn Lake in San Antonio. At about 9:12 PM CST. I watched the ISS and Shuttle appear out of the northwest horizon. It was really a nice pass. I've seen but the ISS and Shuttle together before but this time they were viewable at the same time.

I was at the park with my wife and sister-in-law. We were there to walk around and talk. I took my Jeep, which at this point of the summer has to top off. While walking I saw a man in a white shirt looking in my Jeep. At first I thought he was up to no good, but then I kept seeing him look up at the sky. So I asked if he was looking for the ISS. He stated yes and eventually we were standing there together looking up. And we weren't disappointed.

The Photo chosen for this entry was actually taken last week while visiting McDonald Observatory.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Impact! Jupiter

Recently while at the McDonald Observatory my wife and I got a chance to view the impact site on Jupiter using the Bash visitor's center's LX200. I've read some reports that say the impact spot is growing. I'm planning on trying to take a look tonight in my Lightbridge (16") or my 10" Dob.

The impact spot is very small so it will require steady sky and high magnification. I encourage you to get your scopes out and look up.

Some info and videos on the impact that happen on Jupiter.

Following is a dumb video:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stupid People's Company

Some one needs to set these people straight

Sunday, July 26, 2009

McDonald Obsevatory Video (Not my video)

This is a scheduled blog post... as this posts we are driving back to San Antonio after spending a week in the Davis Mountain area and volunteering at the McDonald Observatory.

This isn't my video... but it will give you an idea of what we saw.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

McDonald Observatory - Outreach and Research

SAAA at McDonald
We started off the day with going to Balmorhea State Park and when snorkeling in the natural spring pool. It was really fun we saw many different types of fish and a turtle. Later we drove back to Alpine to take a nap. Public Star Party at McDonald
At around 8:30pm we set up our 16” Dobsonian at the visitor’s center at McDonald Observatory. I kept the my scope on the Ring Nebula all during the public star party. Tina ran an old orange tube C8 SCT and she kept on Saturn most of the time and eventually switched to Jupiter. Tina and I were each paired with a UT research student. There was around 400 people in attendance. At around 11:30 PM the star party was over and Tina’s partner, Jose, was talking about going to the 36” Telescope to do some observations on Jupiter. He did some calling around the mountain and found out that wasn’t going to be possible. Then my partner, Greg, was telling us about his research project a pulsating white dwarf star GD66. Greg is a research assistant using the 82 inch Otto Struve Telescope to collect data on the star.
AlpineTrip2009_day4_5 153
Since the 36” was unavailable he invited Tina and I to go meet the lead astronomer on the research project and “hang out” at the 82 inch Otto Struve Telescope. We drove up around 11:50 pm and went into the 86” observatory. We walked in the control room and met the researchers and a few people that were there also just hanging out. I met Jimi Lowery, owner of the largest privately owned telescope a 48” reflector. I met many people about 10 and I can’t remember all their names but a few knew people from San Angelo that I knew from when I got started in Astronomy. We literally got to see the raw data collection being done and analyzed. The particle count was up so they were required to shut down observations and so they dome was closed. We were allowed to go into the dome telescope area and walk up the inside service ways to look at the scope. Later that night we walked out the outside catwalk of the observatory. It was really dark outside however you could see some far off light glow from El Paso and Ft. Davis. I asked the astronomers and they did seem very concerned about the encroaching light pollution.
Me at Hobby-Eberly Telescope
About 1 am after playing around the 86” we got clearance to visit the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) 11.1 x 9.8 meter telescope. We walked right into the control room with the research partners we paired up with. We got a first hand look at the scope. They have to shut down sooner than the other telescopes because the HET doesn’t have a cover for the mirror like the 107” and the 86”. So we were allowed to go right up to the HET inside the dome. (On a tour you see if through a glass window.) They even moved the scope around for us. We spoke about an hour about the telescope and about the research being done that night. They were analyzing and collecting data for exo-planetary search. We left about 2:30am and drove the hour drive back to Alpine with an experience of a life time. We were literally standing on the forefront for Astronomical research.

Hobby-Eberly Telescope Control Room

Other Photos:
Public Star Party at McDonald

My Telescope with 107" and 86" in background:
Public Star Party at McDonald

Visitor Center Observatory with Milkyway:
McDonald Observatory Star Party

ISS Pass Over Visitor Center at McDonald Observatory
ISS Pass over McDonald Visitor Center

Iridium Flare over Hobby-Eberly Telescope. Jupiter in Tree.
Iridium Flare over McDonald Observatory

Line at telescope:
Public Star Party at McDonald

All Photos Copyright 2009 -MPR Photography
All rights reserved.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Marfa Lights Star Party


Today we slept late and then drove out to Marfa and poked around. After taking some photos of the local buildings we started to Geocache. Eventually we drove back to Alpine and got some lunch then headed out southeast on Highway 118 and grabbed some geocaches. Some of them we got in the rain and some required some rock climbing.. It was fun and slightly dangerous we encountered a javelina out in the wild while geocaching.
Later we drove back to Alpine then grabbed dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse in celebration of our wedding anniversary. After dinner we drove out to the Marfa Lights Viewing area and set up our 16” Lightbridge. There were some clouds be we were hopeful that they would clear and they did. We got a chance to show about 65 people various objects in the night sky including M57, M4, M80, Jupiter, and more.
One fun moment was when I used my green laser pointer to show a constellation and everyone on the viewing area flipped out… you could hear “What was that… Look it is a green UFO…The mother Ship is coming!!” I had to contain my laughter and compose myself. I then went and invited people to come take a look though my telescope.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Report Form West Texas

Update for Out West.

Tina and went to the Alpine Visitors Center and Big Bend Museum at Sul Ross. Later that day we decided to drive out East to Marathon, Texas to see what was here…. Not much. Later in the day we drove started heading to the Marfa Lights Viewing area with the goal of setting up out 16” Dobsonian Telescope. But as we drove out there we could see that the storm cells north of Alpine were moving into the area. We snapped a few photos around the visitor center then our focus went Photographing the Lightning. It was clear that we weren’t going to be able to set up the telescope but we enjoyed capturing the storm with our camera. Later we moved our equipment to photograph the “Marfa Lights” I was able to take some long exposures about 10 minutes f/2.8 with a 200mm lens at ISO 12,800. I also took some 30 second exposures and later I will stack them in software to total a 30 minute exposure. More on the photographic findings later.

Today we got up and headed out to the McDonald Observatory and took the tour. It was really educational. I was allowed to control the 107 inch Harlan J. Smith Telescope. Others in our group moved the dome and opened the shutter. I was amazed at how hands on the tour was. We were able to get up close and personal with the telescope. After looking around the huge scope I noted that there was a telrad base mounted to one of the smaller scopes mounted on the side of the 107“. We then Moved to Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) a 403 inch segmented mirror telescope. This was really great to see. Last time I was at McDonald the HET was under construction. Today we were there while they were cleaning the Mirrors on the HET so we got to see them move the telescope. The design of the HET is really amazing, it moves on an air bladder and it is fixed at an angle of 50 degrees. We got to see the cleaning crew move the telescope around which is something our tour guide said he had only seen once before. While looking at the telescope I noticed a smaller Meade LX200 (12”-ish) mounted on the base of the HET… and guess what.. It had a tel-rad. I was really amazed that these huge massive scopes still find use for a tel-rad something that I use on my telescopes.
After to tour we went back to the visitors center and got the receptionist to call Frank Cianciolo, the director of the visitor’s center. I’ve been talking with him over the past week about setting up and observing. We talked with Frank about a hour about astronomy and he knew a lot of my old astronomy buddies from San Angelo, so we caught up on some old stories and old friend. Mr. Cianciolo showed us were we could set up our telescope for the Friday and Saturday Star Party (Today is just too cloudy and rainy). He gave us a personal tour of the visitor center’s telescopes and he showed Tina the telescope she’d most likely be running. If the weather is nice Tina will run the observatory 1 telescope a 16” Meade LX200. She will have to work out the dome control but it should be good. I’ll have our 16” Telescope set up outside. We are all set up and we are hopeful the weather will be good.

Also today we noticed many private observatories between Ft. Davis and McDonald. We even saw the roll off roof observatory that houses Jimi Lowery's 48 inch reflector the largest Privately owned Telescope. I've been in e-mail contact with Mr. Lowery and we might be able to visit with him also on this trip.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Video about McDonald Obsevatory

This is a video I found on the place Tina and I visiting this week:

So I'm a Certified Nut... (Monday West Texas)

Today we drove out across Texas and we picked up a few geocaches along the way. We ran into some rain in Sonora, TX and then some spots hear and there every 70 miles or so. When we got to Alpine we got some glimpses of some beautiful rain bands and lighting. (I’ll try to post a picture if I can get this intermittent e-mail to work.) We left San Antonio around 11:30 am and got to Alpine around 6pm. We stopped for dinner at Fort Stockton. We basically unloaded the Honda Element and took a nap. Then around 9 pm we drove to McDonalds grabbed some dinner and headed to the Marfa Lights Viewing area. We had 2 pair of 10x50 Binoculars and viewed the lights with a back drop of the desert thunder storms that dotted the area. After viewing a while the clouds cleared and we could see the Milky Way and even m80 Naked eye. We counted about 5 satellites and talked with a family from Southern Alabama and another from the Clemourne, TX. They were a younger couple like us. Tommy was the mans name and I never got the name of his wife or mother-in-law.

Tommy drove back to Alpine and got his 8inch Schmit-Cass. Telescope and set it up at the viewing area. We pointed it at the lights. What we say was a small sun like ball of gas. Some moved around slowly. On time while at the eyepiece I saw was zip by really fast then come back in a very erratic behavior. They were Yellow/Orange in the center and had a red line along the outside like a ring. Many people that weren’t at the telescope thought they were just cars… but we could actually see cars in the telescope and they were noticeably cars! We could see the headlights and tail lights in the telescope. The “Lights” were much larger and a single ball like shape. One thing we all noticed was how gaseous they appeared in the telescope. There was a radio tower in the same general area and we looked at it in the telescope and it too appeared gaseous… wavy like. Almost like when you see heat waves on a hot road or roof of a car. To make sure it wasn’t the scope we looked at some stars and they appeared tack sharp.

I can clearly say that I’m convinced they are not… headlights (I saw head lights near them.. And it was distinct 2 lights illuminating the road and headlights following). The Marfa Lights were way different and moved in very strange ways and faded in and out in an unpredictable behavior. As I said before there was a thunderstorm near by and we saw flashes of lighting behind the balls of light, and It appeared that they were above the horizon. So what do I think they are…. Well I my guess is a natural phenomena like gas vents.. Swap gas or something similar. I doubt they are “Ghosts” or “Aliens”. So I guess if you don’t believe in what I have written then I mark me as certifiably insane, but I know what I saw… and it wasn’t headlights or airplanes, it was not man made.

We did get in some Astronomy. We looked at Jupiter, M80, and about two dozen other objects in the 8inch scope. Tommy was new to astronomy and not as good at star hopping so he let me take the wheel so to say and we star hopped across the sky while talking about our shared love of astronomy.

Tomorrow we are planning on taking the 16” out to the Marfa Observing site if the weather holds up. Also I want to take some long exposures with my DLSR and see what pattern if in the lights move in.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On the road again...

So this morning we are making our way across Texas from San Antonio to Alpine, TX. We have our Honda element Locked and Loaded and as this posts we are rocketing down I-10 with our 16" Meade Lightbridge in tow. Hopefully the weather will be nice and we'll get some observing in. I don't know if the hotel we are staying at has internet... but I'll try to find a hot spot so we can update.

The plan:
We'll there isn't really one..other than setting up our telescope for private observing Wednesday night at McDonald Observatory and then we are helping out with 2 star party outreach events also and McDonald Observatory.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Today: Amazing Skies @ Witte Museum

Today (Sunday, July 19, 2009), Tina and I will be helping the San Antonio Astronomical Association out with the "Amazing Skies" event at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, TX. We will have our Meade 16" Lightbridge and our Meade 60mm Refractor (My First Scope) on display for the public to see inside the museum and outside fellow astronomers will be having Solar Telescopes set up for viewing. Tina will be helping with running one of the stations and I will be the photographer for the event and help relieve people when they need a break.

This is what the Witte Museum's website says:
"Experience outer space right in our back yard! This exciting event will feature NASA astronauts, hands-on activities, space exhibits and feature presentations for the whole family. Meet former NASA Astronaut Rick Hieb and John Blaha, shoot model rockets and ride the Rockit Rider in this informative and exciting atmosphere. Free with museum admission. For more information call 210.357.1910 or go to"

Saturday, July 18, 2009

China Grove Star Party

Friday I headed out to the east side of San Antonio with my 10" Dobsonian in tow. As I was packing the car at my house near Helotes, TX drizzle was making it way down from the clouds and I could hear thunder off in the distance. Knowing Texas weather a summer time thunderstorm in the afternoon doesn't mean that the sky will not clear later in the evening.

Around 5:30pm I left my house and set my GPS to find a BBQ place called the Smoke House on Highway 87. As I drove across town I ran into intermittent heavy rain. My GPS receives traffic information and it told me to expect a total of 15 minutes added on the to trip due to traffic.

At 6:20 the rain had stopped and I arrived at the Smoke House and other astronomers from the San Antonio Astronomical Association were already in line ready to order. We enjoyed some BBQ as we talking about stuff. Then we caravan-ed out to St. Jerome's Church in China Grove.

Once at the church we got out some lawn chairs and sat and talked and joked around until the Boy Scouts came. The clouds started to part some and we could see a big patch of sky off to the east. After a while we set up our telescopes hopping for the best. Keith L. had to leave with the LX90 because his wife called and had a medical emergency. We helped him pack and sent him on his way. Later as night fell the clouds started to close in on us and we joked Keith left early because he got a new weather report and it called for rain. Debbie B. was able to show a few kids Sirius. But soon we packed up as it was starting to lighting.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Stand Up San Antonio!

San Antonio City staff is accepting comments until July 31 at: Andrew Spurgin [207-8229]

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apollo 11 - Forty Years Later and In Real Time

If you don't know July 20, 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and the first steps on the moon.

NASA has something really special planned in celebration of this event, a virtual time capsule of audio. You can listen in "REAL TIME" plus 40 years to "live" streaming audio of the entire mission via the internet. So get your computers, PSPs, PS3's, iPhones and other webdevices ready and you can listen.

After July 20, 2009 you you can listen to audio from pre-launch, launch, orbit, on the way to the moon, to the landing, walk, and back at your own pace.

So take a walk back in time. Have a computer on in the background like the old AM radio of 40 years ago and let your imagination run wild.

Listen here:

Some historic Videos

Some video on the current Apollo 11 video Restoration project:

Future of Moon Exploration - SkyNews Australia "Spaceflight analyst and author of 'The New Moon Race' Dr. Morris Jones talks about America's goal to return to the moon by 2020 and China and India's space ambitions."

Unique Look into Apollo 11 from Down Under:

Sky News' Kieran Gilbert talks to the staff of the Honeysuckle Tracking Station and the role they played in mankind's giant leap.
(video broken into parts)

Part I

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4 and final video

Davis Mountains here we come.

Next week my wife and I are going out to the Davis Mountain area of Southwest Texas (the same place the Texas Star Party is held) for our 4th Wedding Anniversary. We are are planning on viewing the Marfa Lights and taking in the sights of Marfa, Alpine and Ft. Davis. Thank to Bryan T. the chairman of the San Antonio Astronomical Association got in contact with the head of the McDonald Observatory Visitor center and we have been granted permission to do some private observing with our 16" Lightbridge. We are also volunteering to do 2 outreach events at the visitor center.

If our hotel has internet I'll try to update next week.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

3 AM Observing

Early this morning I was crawling into bed around 3am. Then I noticed that my dog, a 3 year old white miniature poodle was trying to sneak into our closet... a sign that she needed to go the restroom. I put on a some shorts and off we headed downstairs and out the door. While outside I noticed a bright object up in sky. I thought it looked like Jupiter but I thought I'd like to know for sure. I opened my garage door and grabbed my little Celestron IYA firstscope (3" Reflector) and set it on the hood of my old Ford Ranger. Within seconds I knew that it was Jupiter. My little scope is an f/4 and with the 18mm eyepeice I had in there I could see a few moons.

I'm really glad I have a little grab and go telescope like this, my other scopes aren't as quick to setup. This little scope might just be the best $50 I've spent. I have a homebuilt 4" Dob... but it still isn't as easy to set up. I can grab the first scope in one hand and have it on an object in less and a minute after taking it out of the garage.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Types of Astronomers

Lately I've been reflecting on myself the astronomer. As a dual career as photographer/educator I feel securely confident in my abilities and understanding of the subject matter. Astronomy...well at times I feel that I'm lacking.

Recently at a few star parties I've attended I did some basic observations of fellow astronomers. I was trying to see where I fit in. To me there seem to some various types of astronomers:

Type 1- Daddy/Mommy Astronomer

These are the moms and dads who are at star parties for their kids. They might have limited knowledge of astronomy but they are there to foster their kids learning.

Type 2 - Hungry Astronomer

This is the type of person that has had a taste of astronomy and recently decided to come back for additional helpings. This person may or may not have a telescope/binoculars (if they have one it is usually a department store off the shelf model that leaves much to be desired). Generally this type of astronomer comes to star parties to learn more and get advice as they start out in the hobby. This might the most common type, however, sadly, many of these fail to stick with astronomy.

Type 3 - Angler Astronomer

This is the type of astronomer that has some decent equipment they are still starting out in the hobby. The are standing in the water but they don't have the knowledge or equipment to go deep sea fishing yet, but that is the where they are headed.

Type 4 - Inspector Gadget Astronomer

This is the type of person, usually out with a GO-TO, fancy telescope, DSLR, etc... With them it is all about the dazzle of the equipment. They like buttons, little LED lights, things that use batteries. They probably have a smart phone with a data plan and are surfing the net as much as they are stargazing.

Type 5 - Serious Astronomer
This is the person who is "into" astronomy they are rather knowledgeable and have nice appropriate equipment for the type of observing they do: star-hopping, astrophotography, planetary, deep-sky. These people are generally resourceful with the equipment they use.

Type 6- Too Smart for their own good.
This is the most knowledgable person. They know the ins and outs of the universe and astronomy. These people are often so knowledgeable that they often talk over peoples heads and make references to movies and television shows that cause you to move you fingers in awkward positions.

I'm sure there are more types of people out at star parties but thought I'd mention these as sometimes when I'm out with my telescope I feel like I move between being one type of astronomer to another. Sometimes I feel like Type 6 when I'm talking with some people and at other times I feel like type 2.

So what type are you? (Post your comment and explore your inner astronomer.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Seeing In The Dark a Review

I have a copy of the PBS video titled "Seeing In The Dark" by Timothy Ferris. It is based on a book Ferris penned with the same title. The video was given to me a while ago by a fellow member of the San Antonio Astronomical Association.

The PBS website store described the video as such, "Seeing in the Dark aims to redefine the standards of quality in nonfiction science programming for television, and is meant to introduce viewers to the wonders of the night sky, making casual stargazing or serious amateur astronomy a part of their lives."

I have watched this video a number of times and I do feel that the video is top quality with one flaw. It is clearly apparent that the videographer paid much attention to composition, detail, and lighting. I can easily say that this video is rather pleasing to the eyes as it is visually pleasing.

The sound track on the other hand can at times become annoying. There is a scene when Mr. Ferris is recalling his youth when some friends are at the beach and listening to blues from a far off station. After this semi-cheesy 1950's themed scene the video seemed to lose focus at times like a junior high student hopped up on sugar and soda. Timothy Ferris seems to go on a few tangents, or rabbit trails if you will, about musicians and music throughout the rest of the film. Some of these trails were fitting like mention of the famous astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel's musical connection and an interview with Prince's former recording engineer and amateur astronomer Michael Koppelman who produces the podcast Slacker Astronomy. Slide guitar is used almost exclusively on the sound track of this video and at times, at least to this viewer, is not as pleasing as the visuals the film presents. Some might disagree, but I found the music chosen for this film at times very distracting.

Again according to the write up on the PBS store's webpage for this film the film is "meant to introduce viewers to the wonders of the night sky" and I feel this film fails to live up to that claim. If does offer some statistics and shows some fancy Hubble images... but it really is not an educational introduction to the night sky. It comes closer to being an introduction to various types of astronomers. It isn't a film that will teach you constellations, or have you star hopping after watching it, but I don't think it was meant to be that film either. With that said I rather enjoyed learning about various astronomers around the country.

As a Christian I found this video offensive when Ferris, while talking about Galileo's telescope, alluded to the bible as "some allegedly infallable book". Granted the "Priests and Professors" of long ago and astronomers haven't had the best past... but it seems Ferris wanted to take one more hit at Christianity and religion.

Over all despite my knit picking, annoying music and some hidden agenda slapped in there at the end. I enjoyed the video and I would recommend it to fellow astronomers to watch, the videography is top notch. It is available on blue-ray and highly recommended if you have a blue-ray player.

Here is a preview:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hot Hot Hot... weather weather weather

If you don't know central Texas has been very dry this summer and San Antonio gets it's water from the Edwards Aquifer which has gotten very low this summer so we are at Stage 3 water restrictions. It has been unseasonably hot lately and today's high is expected to be 105 degrees; a temperature we usually don't see until the first part of August.

Why all the weather talk?? Well hot dry conditions are generally great for astronomy. I have gotten in some good viewing in lately because of the lack of humidity in the air allows the day time clouds to dissipate after sunset.

This week things have begun to moisten up a bit with rain the past two days. This is mostly due to the usual afternoon thunderstorms. Although we are in dire need of the rain, as is evident with the hue my lawn is showing, I have found it too humid in the evening to get the telescope out.

This week I have my parents in town from San Angelo, Texas and today is Wednesday which means it is the day of the week that the San Antonio Astronomical Association does it's weekly star party at McAllister Park near the San Antonio International airport. I would like to take my little Celestron First Scope out of a spin at the park and introduce my parents to the other astronomers that I talk about often. I see from the weather widget that the day's high is forecast as 105 and partly cloudy, so we might be able to make it to the park. All we need to hope for is that we don't have another one of those much needed rain clouds.... at least not today.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

4th of July Star Party

My family came in from the dark skies of west Texas to visit my wife and I in the light polluted city of San Antonio, TX where we currently live.

Modification to the Celestron 3" Dobsonian:

After a run to Home Depot for a 1/4" T-Nut and some drilling and hammering I had a tripod mount and it made it easy to set up the 3" dobsonian on our slanted driveway. We took in views of the moon and later in the evening Jupiter. Once again we are really enjoying the wide field of view (FOV) that this 3" offers. My wife noted as she was looking at the moon, "I like that you can see the whole moon and yet the details are crisp and clear."

All in all it was a real joy to show my family some astronomy on a semi-smoke filled night. (all the works from before). My dad even asked if I thought he should get one of these little $50 telescopes... I stated it wasn't bad but new eyepieces are a must to make the telescope shine.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

First Light with new telescope

So I was in Dallas/Ft.Worth area this week for family and photography business. I stopped in at Fry's Electronics on I-635 (I think..) and I bought a little telescope I've had my eye on for a while, the Celestron 76mm International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) first scope. Telescope is what I call a baby (maybe a premature baby) dobsonian telescope that retails for $49.99. I couldn't resist. The telescope is tiny pointed a zenith it sits about a foot and a half tall.

I'll post some more details about this little scope later. But this post is about the first light with this scope. Today (July 3, 09) after driving the 5 or so hours back to San Antonio I decided to get this thing out and take it for a tour of the light polluted sky of San Antonio.

The telescope comes with 2 eyepieces and I took the 20mm out for tonight. My object of choice for first light was the moon. I needed something easy to spot since the first scope doesn't have a finder (an optional accessory kit is $20 more). It wasn't too hard to align the mini telescope to the lunar surface. The first thing I noticed about this telescope was how wide the field of view was. I was able to take in the whole moon with a 9mm eyepeice. I got some decent views with the the supplied 20mm eyepiece but I got some slight blue ghosting at the edge of the moon. This isn't the worst view I've seen in a beginning telescope however when I put in my Orion ED-2 18mm eyepeice it really took the views up a notch. I was rather pleased with the views in this scope. I also got to take in Jupiter. I didn't see any details of the planet but I could see a line of moons.

I have some big plans for this little telescope.. more on that later.