Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Getting back into it, new binoculars and a view of Comet Lovejoy

Well, hello there!

It's been a LONG time since I have posted here. Life, work and bad weather made for a rubbish astronomy year for me last year. Plus, guiding issues persisted which added to the misery. I'm working on replacing my autoguiding setup, and should be ready for some more long exposure astrophotography by February.

I did score some nice new binoculars for Christmas this year. Celestron 15*70s, which offer great views but require a tripod for extended use. They offer some great vews of the Orion Nebula, and the Double Cluster looks pretty good through them as well.

In the meantime, enjoy this 10*30 second exposure of Comet Lovejoy, shot at ISO2000 with my Nikon D7000.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lunar Eclipse of 2014

We got very lucky in Austin, Texas yesterday! The day started off with severe thunderstorms, wild winds, hail warnings, fire and brimstone type stuff! Magically, the skies cleared beautifully and when I peeked out at 1:30am this morning, voila! Great view of the eclipse from my front garden.

Here are a few shots!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Moon with an iPhone 5S and 6" Dobsonian Reflector

This shot was taken, hand-held, with an iPhone 5S and my Orion 6" dobsonian reflector. It took a bit of maneuvering but after a short time it worked out well. I used a 22mm Pantopic eyepiece, so that I could have a large piece of glass to work with. This image is straight from the iPhone - only edit was a crop.

The Very Large Array in New Mexico

Astronomical highlight #3 of our Route 66 road trip was a visit to the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope in Socorro, New Mexico. Okay, this was really far from Route 66 and well off the beaten path, but you can't drive past a sign for it and ignore it! It was very interesting - 27 dishes in all. It was superb fun to stand under a dish and watch it track and recalibrate every now and then. A lot of interesting work gets performed here, including research into quasars. While the site was used for the "Contact" movie, they state they don't do any SETI work. Interesting... ;-)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona

Astronomical highlight #2 of our Rote 66 tour included a visit to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. This was where Percival Lowell discovered old, poor Pluto and also made maps of the 'canals" on Mars! :-) We went rather late on a somewhat cloudy night and viewed a number of objects through the observatory's stattic scopes, as well as some portable scopes set up in the grounds (a 16" Discovery dob, 8" Meade LX200 Classic and 8" Orion dob). Views were okay. My Lightbridge easily rivaled the view of Jupiter through their 16". The large scope at the observatory was out of commission due to some recalibration work being done to their drive gear system. Oh well. Still, it was great to walk around a historical, astronomical site.

We also took in a general lecture presented by one of the astronomers on staff. He gave a brilliant review of the Drake Equation which my whole family understood, as well as a beginner-level review of the constellations. All in all, a worthwhile visit!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Meteor Crater in Arizona

The family and I took a great road trip recently along the famous Route 66. We toured Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. This area really showed off a lot of the splendor that the United States has to offer. Part of our trip included a visit to the meteor crater near Winslow, Arizona. Absolutely fantastic stuff. Granted, you have to pay a small fee to get through the visitor center to access the crater rim itself, but the center has some interesting displays and movies concerned with meteors and asteroids, impacts, gravity, momentum and the like. The view of the crater is great from the various viewing platforms, especially under some nice, mostly clear Arizona blue skies. Well-worth a visit if you're in the area!