I’ve been busy starting to do packing work and realize I have a bit more packing to do in front of me. I’ll be ready in time, though.
I’m looking forward to Stellafane, hanging out with fellow members of the Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers, and learning about amateur telescope making (ATM). I already have two telescopes (10″ and 8″ reflectors) as well as three binos, so after I get a 80mm refractor, I’m done. But, I’d like to see how they are made.
I’d also like to try to pick up an 11mm Nagler eyepiece for mid-range observation (I have a 24mm eyepiece). I also have my eye set on a 3-6mm Nagler for really up close work, but that resides on my Amazon Wish List and won’t happen until after my next quarterly bonus.
I’ll have a bit more to post after this coming week after I go to Stellafane. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, check out this cool commercial for the Weather Channel about Cherry Springs State Park in the boonies of PA. That’s my next major destination.
Bringing my daughters and two, possibly three, of their friends. I’m bringing binos (they usually have telescopes only).
It starts at 7:30. Come if you’d like and bring a friend. Dress in layers and bring a blanket that you don’t mind getting dirty or wet as well as binos if you have them. It’s at the Valley Forge Model Plane Airfield.
The weather doesn’t look awesome, but it isn’t bad, either. It should be pretty sufficient, according to Cleardarksky.com. Bradstreet Observatory is the observatory at Eastern University, the nearest weather observation site. Click on the chart to see an explanation. The key things are in the top 4 rows of blocks.
Here’s some (admittedly bad) pics in a slideshow format from ones I went to last year with my daughters.
If you are an astronomer already, you know where I’m going. Read on anyway.
Yep, clouds. Clouds are often the bane of my existence when it comes to this stuff. All the good stuff lies beyond them. It seems like ever since I started astronomy, I’ve rarely had anything but cloudy nights. And on the rare non-cloudy night, it has been as cold as space is.
When I see this on my astronomy weather app, I just have to let out a big sigh of disappointment.
However, there is a cycle to astronomy. Some nights I can look at stars. Some nights I can only see a couple. Some nights I can’t see any at all. Some nights I’m too busy or tired to do anything but think, however briefly, about it.
During nights that I can’t observe, however, I can go to the other part of the cycle of astronomy. I can read, and I can reflect.
As a beginner, I tend to look at beginner texts. The one I am reading now is Nightwatch, by Terence Dickinson. It is a beginner book, but pretty good. I’m almost done with it. It covers the basics of equipment and has some beginner star charts.
I also have enjoyed the forums at Cloudy Nights (aptly named). Pretty much anything you ever wanted to know about astronomy can be found here, and they have specific sections for beginners.
Seriously, you can get lost in there.
For quick and dirty but comprehensive information on things in the night sky that I am currently researching, there is always the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to the Night Sky. This book includes lots of information on things that you will see if you use a telescope, binoculars, or the naked eye.
For binocular research (which is limited due to its fixed limitations on magnification and aperture [ability to take in light]), I enjoy Touring the Universe through Binoculars: A Complete Astronomer’s Guidebook. The funny thing is, I bought the book used off of Amazon. It said it had scribblings, highlighting, etc. I didn’t mind, thinking I might benefit off of someone else’s research, and that I would get the book at a discount, which I did. Here’s the only scribbling I found in the book:
The book is a guide to things that can be seen with a set of binoculars. No, Virginia, you cannot see zits on the face of the Man on the Moon with binoculars. For that, you might need the Hubble Telescope, if it is even THAT powerful. That’s why books like this are important.
Another thing you can do is see what your local astronomy club is doing. At this point, I’ve only been to star parties (more later when I get some pics from a local one in March or April). However, I plan to get to some of the meetings (where they have lectures, etc.) when I get a chance. They will range from extremely technical to simple, I understand. But, I have found members of the club to be very approachable and enthusiastic about your progress in understanding and enjoying the hobby.
The other thing you can do is reflect on the hobby. As a man of faith, I am often reminded of my favorite verses in the Bible on astronomy.
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Ps. 8)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Gen 1:1-31).
I am sure that there are other writers, religious and secular, who have written on the feelings of awe one encounters when looking at the sky. Whatever your beliefs, you have to admit that all of these are just wonderful examples of humanity’s reflection on the majesty of the creation that is above. I really enjoy marveling at the wonder of what was made, and I note that the more I look to the skies above, the more I appreciate what is here on the earth as well.
So, even on the cloudiest of nights, or during times when you can’t see the stars or anything else for that matter,
you can always, always engage your sense of wonder. That is what you can do on those Other Nights.
These are some extra things that I did during my observation on 14-1-20 that aren’t necessarily going to go towards the AL Observation Program stuff. I also talk about my use of binoculars (binos), and some learning experiences in astrophotography.
Basically, when I did the observation, I focused on naked eye observing, looking with a Nikon Aculon 10×50 binocular (on a tripod) and taking pictures with my Canon 60D using my Tamron 18-270mm lens (with a polarizing filter–forgot to take it off) which was on a tripod. While doing the observations for the 20th, I also focused on Jupiter and the Moon, which was waning. It was a pretty busy night. However, I think, for now, that I like this mix of naked eye, binocular work, and astrophotography. It works.
I’m going to bring out the Dobsonian (think big reflecting telescope) when things get warmer, as it has to cool down for an hour, and takes some other time for set up and take down.
For now, I really like binocular observations. Binoculars aren’t as sexy as telescopes. They also aren’t amenable to things like filters, and they only has one set magnification capability (side note–for astronomy–NO ZOOM BINOS–it degrades the quality of the image). However, they have some definite pluses. The best explanation of these I’ve found is here:
Getting back to the other stuff observed that night, I saw Jupiter and the Moon.
Jupiter in 10×50 binos and a 270mm camera lens is simply a white dot. I think that looking at it through a telescope will make a better difference when looking at it in terms of being able to see the bands of Jupiter. Still, I did try to take a picture of it. My mistake was zooming in on it to take the picture, which led to a need for a slower shutter speed due to a smaller aperture. But, this whole blog is about the learning curve, so here we go:
I also took pictures of the Moon.
I think that the tactic of taking pictures using prime lenses and/or zoom lenses at their widest point, then cropping the heck out of the pics will be my preliminary strategy, in addition to applying the Rule of 500 (which I learned about after this observation). The cropped image of the Moon pretty much suggests that this is what would work.
Hey, it’s a work in progress, folks. Hope you join me in learning.