Skies and Stars
Plato (11/26/2017) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 26 November 2017 20:07

t was something to see – the slowly (very slowly) rising sun flaring across the eastern wall of Crater Plato, its rim-shadows thrown halfway across its 110km enclosure. To the south, Mt. Pico gleams in the slow-motion dawn, standing in its gloomy plains. And further west, the Teneriffe Range stands as white as teeth in the early morning shadows.

Yeah, that was what I looked at tonight (since it was a double scope usage, the sun and then the moon). Locked on the moon a hell of a lot easier than I did the sun earlier, running the terminator line and looking for something to identify. Caught sight of a crater that looked like a cup of coffee with its dark floor and highlighted flanks. Stared at the map, stared through they eyepiece, back and forth until the existence of Cassini – a distinctive flooded crater - to the southeast locked it down for me. I looked at Plato and its environs for about forty-five minutes until it was time to come in. But before I struck the scope, I did wander over for a look at my favorite lunar place, the Sea of Crisis.

Beautiful night with some high soft haze that didn’t get in the way (too much) of excellent lunar viewing.


Last Updated on Sunday, 26 November 2017 20:10
2689 (11/26/2017) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 26 November 2017 13:47

inally, finally, finally I got my solar filter out. It’s clear in sunny Orlando, the heat wasn’t too bad and other than the twangy shit-kicker music coming over the back fence (where the neighbor is working on any one of his many cars) I decided it was a good day to try out my new solar filter.

So I got it out and carefully mounted it over the barrel of my scope, handling it like it was a loaded weapon (you don’t casually knock around what is potentially a live laser beam). Anyway, got the scope mounted and pointed the right way. Decided to look through it without any eyepiece, just to find the sun. Did the trick I read about, lining the tube on the sun until it’s end on, but nothing. I couldn’t find it. This was a problem I hadn’t considered.

What I saw (credit: I uncapped the sighter scope and carefully moved the scope about until I saw the sun on my palm (at which point I snatched it back). Now lined up, I could look into the lowest eyepiece I had and gaze directly at the sun.

And there it was, sunspot 2689, with a scattering of little blemishes following it. Looked at it for a while and stepped up to my 11 eyepiece but that made it actually trickier to see and lent no further details so I backed down again. Very fascinating to look at these and see them for what they are, gigantic disturbances in that roiling nuclear furnace.

After looking for a bit, I left the tripod (an equatorial and hence a back-breaker) outside (the moon’s up tonight and I can save the carry-trip out). Brought everything else in. The black eye-piece and tool cases were pretty hot, so I’m glad I didn’t leave them outside all day.

Anyway, tonight (if it stays clear and our tandem ride to dinner doesn’t end in disaster) we’ll do some long-neglected moon-viewing.


Last Updated on Sunday, 26 November 2017 13:52
Model Star Party (10/18/2017) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 22:14

y star-pal train-pal Terry had a great idea – let’s have a star party in the grassy parking lot of the Orlando N-trak Model Railroad club this very night. Saturn would be up, no moon, a perfect viewing evening.

So things started off dodgy. Heavy clouds all day, belts of rain. After dinner we looked up at iffy skies, pretty cloudy with breaks. As it was, we pulled our cars over at the far end of the lot, setting up as the sun went down, prepping. My old Orion went together pretty well – I’m getting good at this.

So we were looking for Saturn and then we spotted a star-like glimmer well above the horizon, weller-above then I would have thought. Swung the scope on it and saw it turn into a ball as I focused. And there it was with its tiny ring. At first it swam through clouds, making viewing iffy. But we kept at it and exhausted its ability to fight. Everyone got a turn through the scope, and I stepped things up through the barlow lens which worked well, even under the hazy conditions.

I did spend a lot of time looking at the wrong leg of the Summer Triangle for the coathanger. I think I was groping around for fifteen minutes before the bands of clouds moved off and suddenly I realized what was wrong. After that, I jumped over the Cassiopeia and the double cluster. To me, it’s always breathtaking, but to everyone else, meh. No accounting for taste.

Anyway, we had the best viewing we could hope for, even with the clouds coming and going and the constant parade of hayseeds in trucks sweeping their lights across us. I never lost my night vision because I don’t think I ever had it.

Still, thanks to Terry for getting me to dust off my scope and pass a new round of eyeballs through it. Now I want to set up in the backyard and look at stuff. M57 still tasks me…


Post Script – At Cody’s request, I will admit that while locking up the clubhouse I had to do a few last minute things and couldn’t find my keys. Opened the door and told him I was sunk – couldn’t find them. He pointed out that they were still stuck in the door. So there you go.

ENVISAT 1 (10/14/2017) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 14 October 2017 22:01

haven’t had the scope out in like forever (specifically since May) I decided to give it a workout since we have a star party over at the model train club on Wednesday. Just back from dinner with Mom and the family, I checked the skies – clear with a little haze and some passing puffball clouds) and set up in the back where I could line on Cassiopeia and most of the summer triangle. The tripod was as heavy as ever but everything went together well enough. Got out the seat and had a look.

First, ran a bead on the double cluster just to see if I could do it. Easy enough, and enjoyed just spending a couple of minute there. Then over to the coathanger in the triangle – I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it through the scope before, just the ‘nocks, so it was fun to find that too. Then I started poking around Vega – I’ve been looking for M57 for a long time and hoped to maybe spot it tonight. I did see a satellite cruise by which turned out (with some post-scope research) to be ENVISAT 1, a European climate monitoring sat. I think this might become a new phase of the hobby for me – spotting satellites and space stations and identifying them via the time and position I caught them.

At least that sure worked better than finding M57.

I might have found it this time, too, if it hadn’t been for that meddling humidity.  All I knew was that my glasses were steaming up. I’d lean back, taken them off and shake them clear. Then I’d put them on and in thirty seconds, I’d mist over again. It finally got so frustrating that I quit with only forty-five minutes of viewing. Annoying to get the scope out and get rooked out of eye-piece time.

I’ve since pulled information on M57 and will make a determined sweep for it next time the sky is clear and the temperatures a little cooler.



Page 1 of 12