Monday, November 30, 2009

Buying a Telescope Series (Part 5 - Purchasing A Telescope)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Buying a Telescope Series (Part 4 - Types or Telescope/Mounts)

Volume is a little loud on this video:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Buying a Telescope Series (Part 3 - Types or Telescope/Importance of Size)

This video is MUCH better advice than the video I posted on Thanksgiving.

Part 1:

Part two Will be posted tomorrow!!! Check back then!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Buying a Telescope Series (Part 2 - Planispheres & Binoculars)

Not the best quality video... but has some good information for all those considering getting a Telescope for Christmas.

Next Blog on this subject will be posted on 11/28/2009.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chistmas Shopping.... Buying a Telescope (First In Shopping Series)

Happy Thanksgiving! Tomorrow is black Friday. Here is a video that I found about buying your first telescope.... now know I don't agree with this stance of Go-To's to me it is far faster to use a dobsonian style telescope... yes I had to learn the night sky... but why own a telescope if you don't want to LEARN something. I would avoid telescopes at department stores.. instead look at the sites listed below the video:

Good places to shop:

Don't get caught up in magnification power... that is useless in astronomy... it is all about the light gathering ability. Bigger is better, the bigger the main lens or mirror the better.

Next blog about staring out in astronomy/Buying a telescope will be tomorrow and it has way better advice than the video you just watched so come on back.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Website Spotlights: Cloudy Night Telescope Reviews

One of my favorite places to hang out on the internet is the Cloudy Night Telescope Reviews website. This website has many reviews of telescopes and astronomical gear, but the thing that I enjoy the most is the Forum. I invite you to take a look at the resources this site offers, especially the forum, where you will find many helpful people. It was because of this site that I took part in a challenge of making a telescope for under $100, I did so in January 2009 when I made the 4" "Helotescope" more on that later.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Apollo 15's Landing Site

Video takes a look at the landing site of Apollo 15 and compares photos from the Apollo mission to that of ones taken by Japanese Lunar Satellite Kyuga (launched Sept. 2007).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First Light: Celestron Skymaster 20x80

Well I decided to try our a set of the Celestron 20x80 binoculars after taking a look though Rick's at Hill Country State Natural Area a week or so ago. I've read many mixed reviews about these. Rick's seem ok. I found that B&H Photo in NY had them for $115 with free shipping. Not bad considering MSRP is around $300.

I figured I'd take my chances and hope for the best so I ordered a set and figured I had about a 50% chance of getting a good set. If not they came with Celestron's No Fault warranty or I could exchange them through B&H. Or if worse came to worse sell them to a pawn shop.

So I rolled the dice and today UPS delivered the binoculars. I have to say before I got the box open I had the same feeling as when I got my 16" Lightbridge from the "brown Santa"...that feeling was kind of like... these are a little bit bigger than I thought it would be.

I paid a little extra for shipping so they would be here today this paid off in more than one way. #1 clouds are rolling in as I type this, #2 our club had our weekly star party at a local park. So I took these and left the telescopes at home.

Binocular Night at the Park (First Light!):
I set the 20x80s up on my very best tripod a Velbon Carbonfiber Model and I took a stool along. I arrived at the park just after sunset and just before moon set. This week our club's weekly star party must have been unoffical binocular night. There were 3 astronomers using binoculars Wednesday night, the most binoculars we've had at the park. Because the moon was about to disappear behind trees first light was on the thin lined moon. I have to say I was impressed with the view. These binoculars really "rock" the moon! The view was excellent and sharp.

Next, I set my sights on Jupiter. I could see the 4 moons and Jupiter. I was a little dissapointed in the amoount of color distortion on Jupiter itself... I got some red on the side of it. I happened to set up next to another astronomer, Ed H., using the Celestron Skymaster 11x70's I called him over to take a look. We compared we agreed the image in my 20x80 was clearer than the 11x70's. (I thought about getting the 11x70's instead so this confirmed my choice). Needless to say this image wasn't that bad and it acceptable in my book as I didn't buy these to use for planetary work.

Then I moved to M31. This was a really nice sight even in the light pollution of San Antonio, TX. I could clearly make out the galaxy and I was totally impressed with the image I got. It was 142.58742221% better than my 10x50 Celestron Close Up Binoculars. I sat there a long time just staring.

I searched around Cassiopeia for a while and then I landed at NGC457 a.k.a. "ET"/"Wall-E". Nice sight the eyes of "ET" looked great.

Then I moved on to the double cluster and that was really nice. It is amazing how small it looked with only 20x. I'm used to seeing it at more magnification in my telescope.

At this point in the night I started to really think my purchase had paid off. I had rolled the dice and actually got an acceptable pair of these discount 20x80 binoculars.

While pondering my gamble it was also about the same time the Pleiades (M45) was high enough to see with the binoculars. These 20x binoculars provided and eye filling view of these 7 sisters. I thought I'd better get a wider set of binoculars like some 11x80's but I think that 20x is nice. I'm still close enough to see things in detail but still wide enough to take in a lot of the sky.

I chatted with folks for a while. People came and took a look though the binoculars and they were all impressed. Bryan T. also was using his binoculars to work on the Astronomy League's Binocular Messier Club. When I walked up to him he was looking up Neptune on his iPhone. I have to say I love these apps on the iPhones... I just don't want the bill! I'll have to look for a used iPod touch! (Rick what are you doing with your old one?) Neptune was above Jupiter and just above 3 stars in a line. I decided to star-hop with the 20x80. I started out on Jupiter moved to Nashira naked eye visible star above and to the left (south) of Jupiter, then to Deneb Algedi which was above and to the left (South) of Nashira. From Deneb Algedi I simply panned to the West to find a line of 3 starts. (I really like lines of stars as the are easy to confirm your in the right place!). Above this line I could see a blueish little "Star" that became more visible with adverted vision. That was Neptune! The line of stars I saw were (45 Cap, 44 Cap, and 44 Cap).

It was getting cold and and saw just about everything I wanted to except Orion's Nebula which was still in the trees. So I packed up left the park. After a quick stop to get a bean and cheese taco at Taco Cabana I was home. Now Orion's Nebula was at a point in the sky where I could get a look, but some thin clouds started to roll in. I set up the tripod and binoculars and took a quick peak before heading in to write this. I was treated with the nebulosity in the Nebula which was a nice sight despite the thin rolling clouds. After a quick look at the red star Betelgeuse I headed in and the clouds did the same!

First light was a blast with these binoculars. I saw one Galaxy, 2 Star Clusters, a nebula, 5 moons, and 2 planets! I'm happy with my el'cheapo binos!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Basics of Telescopes- Part of the Buying a Telescope Series

This is a video I found that would be useful to watch for anyone who is thinking of purchasing a telescope this Holiday Season. More videos like this coming soon so please check back. I have a whole series like this planned between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Website Spotlight:

" constitutes a non-commercial effort to provide the deep sky observer's most valuable tools online; the map and the lists of objects. Great effort is made to make accurate data accessible to both the novice and experienced observer."- According to the website itself.

I stumbled upon this website on Halloween morning. From the start it peaked my interest since I'm really a deep sky fan.

I really like the Deep Sky Browser. A user has to register (free of charge) but this is a powerful too for planning. It is basically an online database that presents the information if a spreadsheet type of layout. It gives the RA and Dec, Magniture, Constellation, Type, Classification, Size, and SkyAtlas Number for each object as well as many much more user selectable information. If you wanted to get more details on a specific object you can click it and it will show a detailed page listing all the other names of the object, and even 3 star charts to help you star hop there. Also provided is a photograph of most objects so you can verify what you are looking at.

The Messier Gallery is fun to look at. It shows pictures of each Messier Object. There are dozens of sites out there that have this but this is by far the best I've seen.

There is a Hershal 400 section for all those Dim Objects. The Articles and Guides section has some good reading.

Go out and take a look at this website I think you might want to bookmark it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Leonids Meteor Shower (Nov. 17 and 18)

November 17th and 18th at after midnight looking toward to constellation Leo you will be able to see the Leonids meteor shower during the New Moon sky. The moon will be out of the area this year so it should be a good show.

To prepare you for this I found this wonderful resource (Posted a while back here but it is still good):

Upcoming Showers
Leonids - November 17/18, 2009 at night and in morning; moon will be new Moon.
Geminids - December 13/14, 2009 at night; moon will be near new Moon

For more information:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Types of Telescope- Choosing a Telescope

I will be posting some videos and blog posting over the next month or so to help educate those interested in buying a telescope.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hill Country State Natural Area- Monday Night Astronomy

While most guys are watching Monday Night football a fellow astronomer and i headed out to Hill Country State Natural Area (HCSNA). Near Bandera, Texas. Our local astronomy group had an event planned that evening with a local school but they canceled around 2 pm. My Monday was a stressful one and I really wanted to get out and do some star gazing. Rick and I headed out around 6 pm and arrived at HCSNA about 30 minutes later.

I took my 10" Coulter Dobsonain along (a.k.a. Big Red). Rick had is new Celestron 20x80s and his Binocular Chair (Couch Potato Telescope). The viewing wasn't all that great but there was some moisture in the air. In about 30 minutes my Telescope's telrad was dewy so I packed it up. I sat for a while just looking up at the sky while I ate my subway sandwich my wife generiously bought for me before I took off for HCSNA.

It is amazing how peaceful the sky can be when you have had a stressful day. Today might be even more emotionally stressful as I've some some private issues going on medically. It is nice knowing that the stars will be there to comfort those who look up.

Eventually, I got my 10x50s out and did some poking around. Eventually Rick let me try out his Binocular chair and 20x80s. I have to say I need more practice using that bino chair I found it difficult to use and find objects.

On the way out to HCSNA we dicussed the possibility of rebuilding my Lightbridge base like Rick's base for his. I've got some minor improvements that we might try to implement.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

First Successful Week of outreach events

This is the first week since the time change and the weather was nice. I got to do many out reach events and this past week I've have about 650 people look in my 10" Telescope! 650! and it is only week 1!!

- Took 10" Dobsonian a.k.a "Big Red" to Westfalls branch library - 75 people looked through it.

Wednesday - John Glenn Elementary School- took Big Red (10" Dobsonian telescope) to a school about 200 people looked through it.
School Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -SnapshotSchool Star Party- John Glen Elem. -Snapshot

Thursday - Sun Valley Elementary School- Took Big Red (10" Dobsonian telescope) to school about about 230 people looked through it.

Don B.Me blocking Light PollutionMe blocking Light PollutionIMG_0038IMG_0033Keith L. My ScopeJohn E's ScopeKeith's ScopeRobert's Scope

Friday- Scobee Planetarium at San Antonio College. I set up my 10" for about 3 hours and let the public view through it. I'd estimate about 150 people.
Celestron DobsonianNina haloLookn' n' PurpleReadingEye at PeaceManning the ScopeLooking in TexThe Mothership is Beaming me up!Rick checking the Sky with an Iphone ApRick checking the Sky with an Iphone ApscobeeNov 025Looking at the Star MapPointing Up

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Video- Moon Photos

Monday, November 2, 2009

Life insurance for your telescope.

A while back I was reading on Cloudy night forums about a 10" telescope that someone bought for a cheap price. The mirror looked like it had been sitting under a sprinkler for the past 10 years. It was scratched, the coatings had mildew on it. It was in sad shape. A fellow astro friend of mine, Rick, rebuilt an 8" telescope that was tossed in the trash by a family that lost their son, who was making the telescope.

Stories like these really make me wonder what the future will bring for my telescopes. One post on the thread about this badly damaged 10" telescope summed it up very well:

"For those of us living in households where our wife/SO/kids aren't tuned into astronomy much at all, and for whom our equipment represents at best some mildly interesting clutter they put up with as part of the package of having us around: THIS MIRROR REPRESENTS ONE POTENTIAL VERSION OF "THE FUTURE THAT MIGHT BE" FOR OUR SCOPES AND EQUIPMENT, UNLESS we keep our immediate family members accurately informed of the potential $$value of our equipment (if kept in decent condition) as well as its tremendous usefulness to some other astro-enthusiast, (again, IF passed along in decent condition). Whoever originally owned the scope this mirror was in either died, or else moved away or completely lost interest and track of this scope. Whoever was in charge of the household it was located in simply did not recognize or place any value on it beyond being a bulky piece of junk (to them), but it was out of the everyday way enough to not be bothered much about it, and so it was left as long-ignored clutter in unprotected space,. Point is, even if the scope had no attraction or use to them, the custodian would still likely have taken much better care of it had they had better sense of its potential worth. It would have been simple to have kept the scope wrapped in heavy-duty plastic to protect it from grime and moisture.

My wife is totally supportive, yet at the same time totally uninterested, in astronomy, and I buy all of my astro-equipment out of another modestly income-producing hobby. So, although I'm not hiding anything from her about the amounts I've invested in scopes, eyepieces, etc, for a long time neither was she informed at all about their true value. Every now and then when I'd come across a story similar to this one, I'd have a daydream nightmare where something happened to me and I passed on, and my wife's holding an estate sale and my Naglers are on a card table with a sign "$10 apiece, three for $25". And my dob is up for sale (in extremely poor, dusty, rusty condition) for $25. So finally I informed her, hey if something happens to me don't casually give this stuff to Goodwill or sell it cheap at some yard sale - it's really worth several thousand dollars altogether, get someone from the astro-club who knows what it's worth to help you unload it for near fair value, or else help select an appropriate donee to give it to.

Unless you do this, your equipment may be allowed to deteriorate neglected until some person may eventually come along like the OP and buy the scope, recognizing that while it needs LOTS of work to get it back into useable shape, they might just have something here, but at best they'll have to put several hundred dollars into it to get there. Everyone concerned would have been much better off had it been kept in better shape all along, and sold for more money that the purchaser would otherwise have to sink into refurbrishing it anyway."
- FirstSight

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Old Video To Kick off Outreach 2009

Well, this month kick's off the "Out-reach" season of 2009 for the San Antonio Astronomical Association so I dug up this old video I made last year. Enjoy!