In the Skies

Skies and Stars

March 3, 2019

Spot 3 (3/3/2019)

ere’s a neat little game. You’ll remember in my last blog how I spotted a booster in orbit and used time and position to figure out what it was. Well, this game can be played backwards. You can go to this site, Heavens Above, and get all the information about current debris lofting over your rooftop. If you click on a row, you’ll get a nice map that shows exactly when that vehicle will cross, time, location, everything. If you pick an hour or two after sunset, you’ll get a brilliant contrast, the item still in sunlight, the sky black […]
March 3, 2019

Geneva and all things stellar (3/2/2019)

oughly twenty years ago. Somewhere in China. A Long March rocket boosted off its pad for whatever mission it was tasked for, assuming an equatorial orbit, forever sailing for the western horizon. March 2nd, 2019 – 7:02pm. My scope, leveled at Sirius in Canis Major, was undergoing sight calibration testing for club night at the Geneva Gun Range. The sunlight was draining out the sky and I was just focusing in when the leftover rocket booster moved through my sights, just a pinpoint of light flashing by against the royal purple backdrop. “Just after seven,” I called to my wife. […]
February 24, 2019

Sirius, a black cloud behind a white one, and a lot of nothing (2/24/2019)

t’s been since August that I had the scope out. A lot of stuff happened – a trip to Japan, a hernia operation (and the recovery), then two friends in hospitals (with tri-weekly visits) until just recently. And closing out a career. And everything else. With the dark skies event coming up this Friday/Saturday, I’ve been thinking I need to tune up the scope, to make sure I remembered how to do this from a half-year ago (before I do it out in some field in the dark). And while I dusted my Orion off, I discovered the laser sight […]
August 7, 2018

CZ-3 and Coathanger (8/7/3028)

ust a quick entry, showing that you don’t need to lug the scope out to enjoy astronomy. I’d gone outside with the binoculars to hunt a couple of things – the night was pretty clear (though a heavy bank briefly obscured the entire sky at one point). Still, I looked around at Polaris and tracked a few stars I liked. At about 9:30, I saw a satellite pass over, west to east, just a little north of due overhead. I used to have a pretty good tool on my old computer setup to follow such things. A little desperate looking […]
August 5, 2018

Jupiter and Saturn and maybe Mars (8/4/2018)

’ve been very busy with the train club recently, which means I’ve not been out with the Astronomy Club for two months. And that’s my excuse for why I wasn’t out when they were showing the masses the various opposition planets tonight. I glanced on Facebook a few hours ago and realized that they were having a star party. Just as well I didn’t go – outside of an aborted star party earlier this year, I haven’t had the scope out since November. I figured doing a major event rusty like this would just be a disaster. So I figured […]
November 26, 2017

Plato (11/26/2017)

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 […]
November 26, 2017

2689 (11/26/2017)

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 […]
October 18, 2017

Model Star Party (10/18/2017)

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 […]
October 14, 2017

ENVISAT 1 (10/14/2017)

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 […]
August 21, 2017

“Almost” Total Eclipse (8/21/2017)

e were supposed to go up to North Carolina where we’d rented a block of hotel rooms for my mom, my sister and us. That was the plan. But then the cat’s kidneys eclipsed about two months ago. As she got sicker, we decided to cancel our plans. And as it always goes in astronomy (and life), she passed away between that decision point and the event. That left us stuck in Orlando with an 85% coverage. Better than nothing. We watched it through pretty dark glasses (no aftereffects while I type this (and I’m not blind) so it must […]