Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Kicking off the New Year with some Stargazing!

My daughter and I took our Dobsonian scopes out this past weekend. We had a great clear night on Saturday, and the thin crescent moon sunk below the horizon shortly after we set up our scopes - as did the temperature! We were up at a popular observing spot, the Mansfield Dam in Austin, Texas, frequented by local astronomers and curious others. It had been years since I had been there but felt like some social astronomy. While the skies were clear and steady, the light pollution there was terrible. There has been so much development in the area that it's just not that good a spot anymore for serious observing. Sure, with my 12" I was able to snag some great views of the objects below, but the overall quality of the astronomy from that site has deteriorated a lot.

Having said that, it was definitely fun to hang out with other astronomers, including a few I hadn't seen in a while. One chap had a homebuilt 8" reflector and equatorial mount which offered great views. The old school, home-built stuff is brilliant. Another guy was field testing an astronomy video camera which produced very impressive results.

Anyway, my daughter and I hunted down various objects including:

  • M31 Andromeda (Very hard to find visually/manually but got it eventually!)
  • M42 Orion Nebula (Always a delight in the 12" Lightbridge - tons of nebular detail despite the light pollution)
  • M35
  • M37
  • M38
  • E.T. Cluster (Phone home!)
  • Jupiter (Looked amazing, very clear, sharp cloud bands!)
I also tested out some new apps on my iPad, focusing mostly on Luminos. I quite liked it - very clear star charts which enabled me to do some star-hopping to various objects. It had some nice logging functionality as well as data on various objects. Highly recommended!

Til next time, from a darker site!

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