Thursday, December 29, 2005

old mags

Big Al dug into his archives to retrieve his old Telescope Making magazines (issues 1 through 33) including a couple of special issues.

I look forward to reading the How to Build Your Own Observatory with Mom so to get ideas about building something on her property...

As well, he pulled his Tirion SkyAtlas materials, which includes the book edition, loose-leaf desk edition (black on white), and the loose-left field edition (white on black).

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

grey skies

What a disappointment.

I was so keyed this winter holiday to do lots of astronomy, using both 'scopes, applying recently accumulated knowledge from the All About Telescopes book, to successfully use Mom's telescope clock drive to track objects, to do some new long-exposure tracking astrophotography, test my new viewing circles, repeat my star drift measurements, get one last good look at Mars, view the occultation of Spica, to have Big Al over...

And every day and night was overcast!


Monday, December 26, 2005

clock drive works

Reassembled the clock motor drive today, trying to follow the various diagrams in AAT.

page 144 from AAT

page 145 from AAT

As I examined the closest diagram closely, it seemed that I was missing one leather washer required for the clutching action against the main 96-tooth gear. But, happily, being at Mom's house, I knew she'd have some leather bits in her craft supplies such that we could make new leather washers.

I reconnected the drive and clutch to the telescope equatorial mount at a little after 9:00pm and plugged it in. I came out 2 hours later and the 'scope tube was turned about 30°. Woo hoo!

Friday, December 02, 2005

new viewing rings

I wasn't satisfied with the copper wire viewing rings that I made. So tonight I made viewing "rings "for the Celestron 26mm Plössl, the Edmund (assuming it has a 1" focal length and a 40° apparent FOV), and the Meade OR18mm and 4mm (assuming they have 40° aFOV as well) when used in both the 6" reflector and the 8" catadioptric. I also made viewing circles for the Telrad's 3 rings, the Celestron finder scope, and my Bushnell and Mom's Canon binoculars.

I made these circles on a document on my computer, properly scaling them to Tirion's skyAtlas (first edition), and finally (and here's the important bit...) printed it on transparency film.

the unknown eyepiece

Part of reason I obtained All About Telescopes (AAT) book was so I could continue to learn about eyepieces. In particular, I'm trying to definitively, once-and-for-all, know what Mom's unindentified eyepiece (EP) is.

  • included with the Edmund 6" reflector (from Big Al)
  • 1-1/4" shaft diameter
  • front or field lens (near the 'scope) is concave
  • rear lens (near the eye) is convex
  • rear lens diameter is 0.90"
  • no markings or printing
I want to know it's focal length for then I can determine it's power. Of course, if I know the power, I can calculate the focal length. Then I know how this EP rates with the other 3 that Mom and I have. And if it's similar to my (more modern) Plössl then there's not much point using it...

I want to know it's apparent field of view so I can then determine the true field of view.

I'd also like to know the exit pupil size and the relief figures.

Finally, I'd like to know the construction type (Kellner, RKE, Plössl) as that will suggest it's strengths and weaknesses.


My personal perception initially was that it was similar in power to my Celestron 26mm Plössl. My timing of the true field of view supports this: the mystery EP is slightly less powerful.

It was in the '74 and '75 Edmund product catalog that I learned that the included low power eyepiece was rated at 48x. If Mom's EP is the "standard" one included with the Edmund 6" reflector, then it's focal length is 25.5mm or 1".

Somewhere on the web (can't remember where now), I saw something about the field lens (the one toward the 'scope or furthest from the eye) of an EP and if it was concave then the EP was an RKE. But the AAT book shows that a "type 2" Kellner has a concave field element.

AAT mentions a trick to determine the image or focal plane of an EP. Having done this little experiment, I'm confident Mom's EP is not a Huygens.

Power, focal length, etc., I'll determine later.

an old book

Popped into the local branch of the Toronto Public Library to pick up my previously requested copy of All About Telescopes by Sam Brown. As I had hoped there's lots of information about using Edmund telescopes, clock drives, Edmund eyepieces... I should be able to learn about Mom's telescope and the operation of the clock drive. In addition, I should be able to learn a lot of general stuff about astronomy. This old book looks fantastic!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

found out

My bro-in-law and sis told Al, supplier of the telescope to my Mom, about my blog.

And now... Big Al. Or should I say, Borg Al.

I have past issues of Telescope Making from the late 70's and early 80's; issues 1 - 33, plus Observatory making issues. Also I have W. Tirion sky charts, both positive and negative prints, and several astronomy books from my own library. All items are suffering from attention deficit.

Slainte, Al"

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

time warp

I spent a couple of hours at the downtown Toronto Reference Library of the Toronto Public Library (TPL). You know, at the centre of the Universe, just north of Yonge and Bloor!

Guns, traffic madness, pollution, hustle and bustle aside, this is one of the fantastic benefits to living in the big city. It seems everything is here. What a tremendous place. Nice building too.

I haven't been to the Reference Library for a long time... Flashbacks, romantic memories, I remember the smell of this place. Wow, look at all these young, good-looking people. Holy crap, look at all those computers! You could have a major frag-fest here...

The old way to conduct research, I asked to examine some ancient periodicals.

From 1985 through 2000, I requested the RASC Observer's Handbook, searching for familiar covers. I was trying to jostle some dormant engrams since I can't seem to find my old copies. 1991 and 1996 looked very familiar. Something about '92. The '85 through '90, '98, '99, and 2000 did not ring any bells. By accident, they brought up a 1947 issue. Wow! Fascinating stuff. I particularly liked the hand-drawn planet charts and monthly constellation charts.

While I was waiting for the handbooks to be dredged from the bowels of the building, I had a brainwave to search for the keywords "edmund" and "scientific" in the library computer system. Cool: the old Toronto Edmund Scientific Co. product catalog came up. I ordered the librarian slaves to locate the 1974 and 1975 editions. And struck gold!

This is Mom's telescope!

Some key discoveries:

  • this 'scope is referred to as the Super Space Conqueror
  • main tube is aluminum, 47-3/4" long, baked with white enamel, interior is painted flat black, pre-drilled to take a camera holder
  • focal length is 48"
  • should go down to 13th magnitude stars
  • will split double stars separated by less than 1 arcsecond
  • the mirror is parabolic, made by Pyrex, hand-finished, and rated to better than ¼ wave
  • came with a wide-field achromatic 48x Kellner
  • mount has teflon bearings and fine setting circles
  • the clock drive has a quick clutch with lock and a manual slow-motion, lever-operated control
  • catalog number 85086
  • shipping weight is 68 lbs.
  • listed at $249.50 in the '74 catalog, an addendum advised that the price was adjusted to $259.50, and the price rose to $285 in the '75 catalog
I copied the separate page for the clock drive.

These dry, tinted old catalogs are a treat! They take me back. I'm not the only one who feels nostalgic about them...

I love libraries (despite The Age of Internet).


Old link:
Updated TPL link:

Saturday, November 19, 2005

varied session at Mom's (Union)

While I had packed many of my books and charts and planispheres and all our eyepieces and my red flashlights and my Mini Maglite night vision accessories, it wasn't looking like it was going to be very nice out, based on first impressions at 7:30am. But after I had arrived at Mom's and as I was helping with errands around the yard, it turned into a pleasant, sunny afternoon. There was lots of blue in the sky. So, I thought it might be a good idea to set up the reflector 'scope.
  • location: Union, Ontario
  • time: 4:30pm - 8:45 EST
  • temperature: 6ºC
  • humidity: 60%
  • seeing: 9 / 10 (very steady; too bad it was so windy)
  • transparency: excellent
Clouds, from the lake, from the south, came in later.

For the first time, I carefully checked Ursa Minor to gauge the sky’s transparency. Early on, I could easily Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. Later I could make out the middle handle stars, and the one near Beta (SAO 8024), all about mag 4.4. And after checking the position, I confirmed the 5.0 mag star (SAO 7958) a bit further from Beta.


I fired up RedShift 2.0 on Mom's iMac at around 3:00pm to see what planets would be up. Mercury was trailing the sun! Ooh. It'd be good to see this elusive planet again (although Sky & Telescope said it would be hidden in the glare). Venus would be high up at sunset, at about 20º altitude—an easy target. And Mars would be rising at sunset.

On loading the Fingal Clear Sky Clock, I noticed that it was not dark later in the evening. Right! A gibbous moon would be rising. I had seen waning Luna last night, rising through the trees over the Runnymede subway station.

Double-checked the sunset time. It would happen at around 5:00pm. Yikes! That was 2 hours away. If we're gonna do this, we better get a move on.

I set the 'scope up on the back porch. While waiting for it to darken, I noted some of the labelling and printing on the 'scope proper and the base.
  • There is a small metal plaque under where the finder scope would be mounted, between the clamps. It simply says: Edscorp, Edmund Scientific Co., Barrington New Jersey.
  • On the primary mirror, on its back, embossed in the glass, it says: Pyrex, Made in USA. Elsewhere: 6”D.
  • There’s a sticker in the middle of the primary mirror from UPCO OPTICS. There’s some interesting fine print alluding to specifications for building the mirror and what looks like an inspector number.
  • On the tripod, Edmund Scientific Co. is embossed in the metal everywhere. The code C2058 shows on the base cap. And on the equatorial mount, B-2088 or B-2089 shows.
The clock drive motor has the following printing:
  • CRAMER DIVISION, Old Saybrook, Conn.
  • Type 117, P27MABA3, 18A1XA08A-L, date 6 72, RPM 1/15 V115, CY60 W2.7
It has a 96 tooth ring gear and a single helical worm gear.

I measured the main telescope tube: it’s 47-5/8” long.

The mirror's getting dirty...

I kept watching the sun and trying to spot Mercury. But when the sun set, it was behind the neighbour’s barn (not to mention the hills). If the 4º elevation from RedShift is correct, then I definitely will not be able to see it. I turned south and kept looking about 20º up and—bam—there she is! How did I miss her earlier? Bright, Venus is almost due south, well up over the trees on the hill. I turned the telescope to her, switched on the Telrad, and called out to Mom.

Venus showed very clearly in the reflector at lowest power (the unmarked eyepiece and my Celestron 26mm seem about the same). The Meade 18mm doubled the effective size. A pretty bright crescent at 5:15pm. Mom asked me if it’s The Moon. She’s surprised by the shape but understands why Venus shows this way. I quickly sketched it.

scan of my Venus sketch, inverted colour in Fireworks
up is down, east is west

The clock drive is not working. I mean, the motor’s running but it’s not engaged, it seems. I thought (after I replaced the bent screws) I had figured out the clutch mechanism. Where’s a User Manual when you need one...

As it darkened and while I waited for Mars to climb, I decided to try for Uranus in Aquarius. Sky & Telescope says it’s magnitude 5.8. So I should be able to see it! I look up the coords in RedShift: 22h35m by -9º43’. I looked up this location in Tirion’s SkyAtlas. But I got frustrated with the pages blowing around in the wind, losing my dark adapted vision in the bright red light, and struggling with my deteriorating close vision (I need bifocals). I remembered that I can use the telescope’s integrated setting circles. I looked up the middle star in the Water Jar (22h29m by 00º00’). After 3 or 4 attempts, I gave up. At least, I learned a new constellation...

Aquarius has no particularly bright star. I could see Fomalhaut below. I need to look up some constellation patterns to get a better sense of the asterism...

I’m a little surprised that Andromeda is still visible. I could easily see Messier 31 (M31) without aid.

The Milky Way is visible.

At 7:45, I saw a bright meteor, yellow in colour, travelling due west, from the direction of Taurus. It was visible for about 30º before burning out. A Leonid would be from the north, no?

(On checking my meteor shower "calendar" in my palmtop, I learn it was a Taurid, of course! They run from 10 Oct to 5 Dec, peaking on 1 Nov. They are described as having "persistent" trains. I would agree.)

I turned to Mars. Once again, I tried our combined 4 eyepiece set. The Edmund and Celestron 26mm seemed the same. The Meade OR18mm is quite good. I have discovered that the way the Edmund focuses combined with the Meades is odd. At first, I couldn’t focus the 18mm. But I unscrewed from the 4mm and changed the inner tube piece. Then I could focus the eyepiece. Just barely. The 4mm, even with the shorter inner tube, cannot be focussed! This is weird! Or someone was scammed. I forgot to try the doubler.

I cannot make out any Martian details really. Maybe, there’s a dark patch in the middle. I keep thinking there some bright white patches but it's probably my imagination. Mars is smaller in the reflector than my cat 'scope. And the wind continued to shake the OTA or deck or both. I got frustrated again.

And I grew frustrated at getting frustrated! In an effort to make something worthwhile of the evening, I pushed myself to measure the true field of view of all the eyepieces (save the 4mm). While the neighbour’s security light is on, I reviewed my notes.

It took a few tries but I figured out the drift angle and I started timing. I used Zeta Aquarii again, the centre star of the Water Jar, which is right on the celestial equator.

eyepiecemmtime enters and leavesduration
Edmund?8:03:55 - 8:08:154:20
Celestron268:10:35 - 8:14:454:10
Meade188:16:40 - 8:18:552:15

So, it does indeed look like the Celestron is more powerful. But only slightly. Maybe it is more noticable on the cat 'scope.

As I adjusted the angle and timed with the Edmund eyepiece, I observed a great deal of distortion at the edge of the field. And, oddly, that the eye relief is poor. The Celestron, by comparison, blows it out of the water: clear, crisp, flat imaging to the edges; sharp, well-defined edge; easy eye relief.

At various times, I used Mom’s small binoculars. They’re great for the Pleiades and M31. They are Canon 8x23A specs, with a 6.4º field. Oh, I should make a viewing ring for these binocs too.

When Mom returned home, we checked out Mars together. She noted it was less colourful; when she had left, it was very close to the horizon in the west, ruddy in colour. Now it’s pale, tan. The wind had picked up so it was hard to concentrate. She recognised the Pleiades with her naked eye. I turned the 'scope to them to show her how “busy” the field is, that it’s filled with hundreds of blue-white stars. She enjoyed that. And finally we looked at the Andromeda galaxy which was directly overhead—she had never seen it before.

In summary, the highlights:
  • gathered more data about the 'scope
  • gauged sky transparency with Ursa Minor
  • observed and sketched Venus crescent
  • tested clock drive (unsuccessful)
  • tried for Uranus (unsuccessful)
  • examined Mars with reflector (smaller, too windy to make out detail)
  • measured true field of view of 3 eyepieces
  • shared 'scope with Mom
Lots of homework to do...


Ran into a snag at Mom's! I couldn't update my blog there. Her iMac with OS 9 running the Mozilla 1.2 browser is not compatible. Damn. That's the whole point. That I can update my blog from anywhere... Gonna have to look into this further.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

errors in Sky Atlas

I was just reading Tom Polakis's review of the Second Edition of Wil Tirion's excellent Sky Atlas 2000. I don't know why exactly but I was surprised to learn there are errors in the first book! It only makes sense, I guess. Any work of this magnitude (no pun intended) is bound to have errors.

I have the non-laminated, large "book," Deluxe Edition © 1981, reprinted in 1989, with black stars (down to magnitude 8.0) on a white background.

I'm going to add the Second Ed to my "wish list!"


Some errors noted on various web sites:
  • M24 points to a small open cluster in the vicinity rather than the small Sagittarius star cloud (chart 22)
  • the Vela Supernova Remnant can be mistaken for the nearby Gum Nebula (chart 20)
  • NGC 254: it is misidentified as NGC 259 (chart 18)
  • 2962: incorrectly marked as 2967 in Hydra on Field Edition first edition (chart 13)
  • 3203: incorrectly marked as 2303 on Field edition #1 (chart 20)
  • Sharpless 301 nebula, an unmarked box, in Canis Major (chart 19)
  • Cederblad 150: an unmarked box which is between M6 and M7 in Scorpius (chart 22)
So now I'm interested in finding a listing or a report of what the errors are. And I'll then mark corrections in my first edition...

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Mars again (Toronto)

A rather balmy evening. But some light high clouds are drifting in...
  • seeing: 3 to 5 / 10 (images less stable than last night)
  • transparency: ClearDarkSky said average again
  • time: 10:30pm - 11:00pm EST (off Daylight Savings)
  • humidity: 69%
  • temp: 9°C
The planet seemed a little washed out. Only occasionally would it clear.

The face of Mars tonight, at 10:43pm, looks very similar to yesterday's first sketch.

observing Mars (Toronto)

It's been 2 years since the closer approach of Mars. I still think fondly of that evening, in the summer of 2003, when Alan and I took my 8-inch 'scope up to York U, and were swamped with a couple hundred people! Funny. Quite the opposite tonight. Quiet, solo session, not a human in sight.
  • seeing: 5 to 7 / 10 (improved as Mars approached zenith)
  • transparency: unknown (couldn't even find Ursa Minor!); ClearDarkSky said average
  • time: 11:00pm - 1:30am EDT (still on Daylight Savings)
  • humidity: high

Set up my telescope in "back yard" at around 10:00pm. Connected the heaters to combat dew. Had to turn them fairly high...

My back yard is the size of a kitchen but it is relatively dark, particularly when the neighbours turn out their porch and bedroom lights. The altitude angle of Mars was perfect such that I could set the 'scope up just outside the garage.

Earlier in the year there had been a plan with Malcolm to take the 'scope up to Val and Bruce's near Holland Landing during their Hallowe'en party. But things conspired against doing that. And I didn't feel going alone. The skies would have been pretty dark up there...

Still, the back yard is convenient.

Mars was spectacular, hovering 10 degrees right of the Pleiades!

Mars at 10:55pm.

Tried eyepieces from Mom's 'scope. The 18mm Meade was very nice, clear, good eye relief. Mars at 110x was very good. I also tried the 4mm Meade but it produced a magnification of 500x which is beyond the telescope's usable range (not to mention well past the normal ground-based limitations). Challenging eye relief as well. Not surprisingly I had to take off my glasses. Combined with my 26mm Celestron Plössl, we now have a good range of eyepieces.

Enjoyed the rotation of Mars. I wasn't expecting that.

Mars at 12:30am.

It appeared to be rotating from right to left in my 'scope. Is that right? I cannot seem to remember if my 'scope presents upside-down or reversed left-to-right...

I wanted to know which part or side of Mars I was looking at. But I'll have to do some research to determine that.

Through the glare, I tried to catch the moons of Mars. But I don't think I saw them. I read about a trick part way through the session, of masking the centre of the eyepiece. Perhaps I'll try that on another evening.

I examined my Tirion's SkyAtlas and RedShift software closely to see if I could account for the other markers in the field. But the SkyAtlas only goes down to magnitude 8 and my software to 10.

I was seeing some objects, probably stars, fainter than that.

Pangs of photography. Briefly considered hooking up the camera. But I'd have have to manual track the 'scope for a long exposure. Thought once again I should get a single-axis motor to permit this...

Monday, September 05, 2005

considered RASC

Thought some more about joining the RASC.

I reviewed the info on the membership page of the Toronto web site...

clamp still broken

I added to my to-do list an entry to fix the binoculars clamp...

considered an observatory at Mom's

Thought some more about a permanent observatory at Mom's... Options included atop the garage roof or some where in the back yard. Atop the house? That was kind of radical.

take better notes

I made a note. To take better notes. I'm not happy with my astronomy record keeping. I considered again a binder or a book. Something custom? What about posting online? I looked at the artist's sketch pad book I had. It has thick paper. I'm going to look at the info on the RASC pages and review my various astronomy books for ideas...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

more eyepieces

At my request, Mom brought down her 2 extra eyepieces from her telescope. They're Meade eyepieces, marked as 18mm and 4mm. She also brought the unidentified Edmund.

They're 1¼" in diameter. That means all her eyepieces are compatible with my telescope and visa versa. And with my doubler, we now have 8 total eyepieces ranges each (although the 4mm Meade is useless in mine)! Awesome!

I don't know the type or design. The "OR" printed beside the focal length suggests they're orthoscopic. Scoured the net but I couldn't find any information about them.

I'd like to know their apparent field of view but I'll have to calculate it backwards, measuring the true view...

Friday, August 26, 2005

a return to the Muskokas

Malcolm and I returned to Val and Bruce's cottage, after 2 years, for some relaxation and good times. As promised, I brought the telescope. From the (new) dock, there's very good east and south exposure. I had my new Sky & Telescope's Messier Card on hand but I didn't really use it.
  • seeing: 8 / 10 (good stabililty)
  • transparency: above average
  • time: 10:00pm - 1:00am EDT
  • humidity: low
I trained the 'scope on the Andromeda Galaxy, Messier 31 (M31). I always enjoy it. Bruce's reaction is mild, which, at the time, was off-putting. But it reminds me that people are used to fantastic, rich, colour-enhanced images on TV or off web sites; not a dim, grey, fuzzy object that you need to stare at for several minutes...

There was more I wanted to do this evening but I had trouble thinking clearly and staying focused (sic)... Maybe it was the beer. Yeah, that's it—the beer. I couldn't even find the Ring Nebula. I tried several times, star hopping, to no avail. Admittedly, the 'scope is difficult to use for objects directly overhead.

Still, we looked at Mars (before the Moon rose). I could make out the disk and colouring. Luna rose around midnight and that was a big hit! People (some 8 or 9) enjoyed the power of the 'scope (77x eyepiece) and seeing the craggy details.


Some weather moved in on Saturday thwarting us from another session. Wishfully thinking I left the 'scope out on the dock all day. The wind, at one point, blew the large cap of the main tube. After we moved the boat, I could see it on the lake bottom, just off the dock. Recovered! I tied a leash to the handle with some rope to prevent it from going further... Consider a formal tether device for the future.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Messier Card

No, not the hockey player... I bought (from Kendrick) the Sky & Telescope's laminated quick reference card for finding all the deep sky objects in the Messier catalog.

I think I need this map as I prepare for my "Messier Marathon."

For some reason, I thought this thing would be a pocket-sized card; it's a 8½ x 11" in size. It's double-sided, with 2 small detailed maps, and a complete listing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

observing from Huntsville

Elinor invited me up to the cottage for a couple of days. I leapt at the chance. And packed the telescope. First time using Steve's old backpack frame and the battery in an old laptop bag.

The backpack works! I can now carry the 'scope case, counterweights, shaft, books, and other materials on my back, battery on a shoulder, tripod and dew shield in one hand, and mount in the other. Can you say "mule?"
  • seeing: 2 to 5 / 10 (very poor on the horizon)
  • time: 8:00pm - 11:00pm EDT
  • location: Lake Fairy, 45.3°N
We checked out Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon. We could see the 4 big moons of Jupiter. They were slow close to the horizon, it was like looking through a fish tank...

Jovian moons at 9:30pm EDT:
Ganymede and Io left of Jupiter, Europa and Callisto on the right

I stayed on later to try to catch some deep sky objects but the gibbous Moon was very bright and there was a thin, high cloud layer messing with transparency. Still, after much fiddling, I found Messier 57 (M57), the Ring Nebula.

I created a "viewing ring" (blue) for my finder scope (7x) , which will also work for the old Bushnell binoculars. I tried to make a ring for the 26mm eyepiece but I could not find helpful markers.


Elinor produced a telescope of her own (or her son's rather). It was a table-top! I've never used one of these. It was the Bushnell Voyager with a cradle base.

I found it a little awkward to use. It's partly that the image presentation is different than my cat so I kept moving it the wrong way. It's also partly the base. The thing is "nose heavy" so if you're trying to view things close to the horizon, it keeps slipping in the cradle. And, of course, it wasn't on a tripod. So, you really need to be sitting at a table or have it placed on a tall platform.

Still, I got it aimed at the Moon as it rose over the lake. It produced a nice image. The kids enjoyed it!

Monday, August 08, 2005

conjunctions (Bon Echo)

Colourful sunset again. Some wispy clouds.
  • location: Bon Echo provincial park
  • Joeperry Lake backcountry canoe-in site #524

I photographed the Moon at approximately 8:20pm.

I noticed Venus at 8:24pm. It's about 7° right of the Moon tonight.

Spotted Jupiter at 8:40pm. Looks like it is a little further left from Venus... Maybe 21°.

Photographed the conjunction with the Pentax body, Kodak 200 ASA print film, with the 28mm and 55mm lenses, from 1/30th of a second to down to a full second.

I also photographed the planets with my cheap digital camera. At first glance the pictures look pure black. But I let Fireworks perform an AutoLevels and voila! Hopefully, the silver-oxide versions will come out better. Still, I'm amazed that Jupiter and Venus even show up...


Continued exercises to memorise Greek alphabet.


Tomorrow, I'll go into town, jack into the net, and learn how the Shuttle astronauts faired.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

aligned binos

I was getting a headache looking through my binoculars.

Despite adjustments to the eyepieces and focus, changing the distance between the barrels, trying to contort my eyes, I generally could not bring the two images into one, synchronised. The double-image was annoying.

I wondered if it was possible to adjust my binos. It must be possible, I thought. But then, they were cheapies. Maybe it couldn't be done. I looked closely at the barrels of the Bushnells. Hmm. Strategically placed near the prisms were these round areas. Three were bumpy; but in the other I could see a flat-head screw, painted over! I realised the others were covered in a thick layer of glue or silicone.

I peeled the material from the top of the screws. Shiny brass screw heads were my reward!


Later, in the dark, focused on a star, I adjusted—small moves—the screws. It worked! I was able to bring the images into alignment. Close enough that my eyes could comfortably do the rest. It is so much better!

The old clunkers are working again.

Maybe, they are like a Newtonian telescope: you simply must align them from time to time.

viewing alone (Bon Echo)

Everyone's gone home. I'm staying at Bon Echo another few days.
Instrument: naked eye and Bushnell 7x50 binoculars
Mount: hand-held
Method: star hopping
Bon Echo doesn't really have any good astronomy sites. The Joeperry boat launch has excellent west visibility but it's a 500m hike down the portage trail. There's the The Rock itself! Incredible site lines in essentially every direction. But how would you get to it after hours? Hmm, I wonder if the camp itself would be amenable...


Getting itchy to do a Messier marathon. OK, maybe not the one-night thing. But I'm interested in starting to see all of the "classic" Messier objects. I've started making notes about where they are, by season and by month. I need a map though, something that shows where every one is...


Having decided a couple of days ago to not bring my telescope down from the car, I'm limited to naked eye and binocular viewing. It's a beautiful sunset (despite some clouds) highlighting the conjunction.

Spotted the Moon at 8:25pm, 15° above the horizon. It is still a very thin crescent.

Spotted a planet 3° (south or left) from the Moon. It's Venus. Binoculars confirm it.

I found Jupiter at 8:50pm, 20° (south or left) from Venus.

Saw a Perseid meteor at approx. 10:50pm. It started in Draco and ended in Boötes.

Observed Messier 13 (M13)—the Great Hercules Cluster. It is very faint.

Not great seeing. I think there's a thin cloud layer.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

kids got it! (Bon Echo)

After dinner at Laurie and Stu's site, we all watched the planets come out. I was keeping my eyes peeled for Venus and Jupiter when all of a sudden the kids spotted the Moon! It was a very young, new Moon, a very thin crescent. I congratulated them on the find and explained that searching for a new moon is a casual competitive thing with amateur astronomers. They beat me!

The Moon was not unlike this photo I shot in 1991.

shot with Pentax SP-II onto Kodak Gold 400 ASA at 1/8 sec (through glass window)

A spectacular sight. Further enhancing the conjuction...

Friday, August 05, 2005

observing from camp (Bon Echo)

Observed Venus and Jupiter with the naked eye with Ben and Cam. Possibly saw a half-filled Venus. There's a nice conjunction starting to happen...
  • location: Bon Echo provincial park
  • Joeperry Lake backcountry canoe-in site #524
The sky was very clear. Lots of stars!

This camp site has excellent north-west viewing sightlines. Laurie and Stu's site (523) is pretty good too although the treeline opposite the lagoon is closer / higher.

The only problem is, the portage down to the canoe-launch is long! If we're going to use my telescope and all the gear, I'm gonna need some helpers... Ugh.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

astrophotography tips

Found a great web page by Jeffrey R Charles with lots of tips and tricks on astrophotography. Including exposure settings. Sweet. It's pretty old, he last revised it in 1997, but a lot holds true.

Monday, August 01, 2005

made rings

I was reading the "getting started" pages at Sky & Telescope and came across the little note suggesting to build wire rings to approximate the size of the field of view for your finder scope as well as the eyepieces for your telescope.

wire ring to show eyepiece scale on paper chart

Cool. I dug out some coloured wire and started bending it around pencils and nails and such. It's hard to get perfect circles with the small ones!

I'm going to build rings (calibrated for my Tirion Sky Atlas, First Edition) for my binoculars and finder scope. And now that Mom and I have 4 eyepieces combined, I'll build 8 rings for our 2 telescopes.

Friday, July 29, 2005

observing with Mom's 'scope (Union)

This is the first occasion where I made a point of not taking my telescope down to Mom's. Now that she's got her own (sic), I'll I need to do is bring my notes or star charts.

Cousin David and his girls Miranda and Rachel and Aunt Pauline were visiting. So we enjoyed the 'scope, over 2 nights. Thursday night was very clear but very humid. My books were soaked! The next night was not damp at all but overcast. We only saw Jupiter briefly.

It occured to me that there's more gear that I needed. It wasn't enough to have the books. I need my (red) flashlights, stool, software, dew heaters, and my telescope's eyepieces. So there's more I'll need to pack next time!


Early during my visit to Mom, I rejigged the telescope on the mount, so collisions would be reduced. It worked better. Still, it doesn't seem as easy to use as my EQ mount.


Mom and I discussed some pie-in-the-sky plans for building a permanent observatory. I was surprised to find she's not opposed to the idea. I sketched a special, elevated observing deck, employing a tall central post, mounted in concrete.

As I sat on the roof of her garage waiting for planets to appear, I even considered a platform on the very top of the house!


I thought of the Shuttle astronauts overhead... docked to the International Space Station.

I should plan to try to observe the ISS sometime.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

along for the ride

I was anxious, like many, about the launch of NASA's Space Shuttle. Not having a good television feed (yes, I still use rabbit ears), I was a little disappointed that I was going to miss out on live reports of the Return to Flight mission STS-114. Well, I'll continue to keep tabs on the web site, I thought. Hopefully reports will be posted regularly.

I couldn't believe my eyes! There was a streaming media live feed! And somehow I had missed this during my previous visits, particularly as I monitored the fuel tank sensor problem. Anyway, cool, I can get NASA TV straight to my home. I love the internet. It's too bad that I didn't realise all of this 53 seconds sooner. By the time I got my media player running, they had already successfully launched. Still, I was practically there from the onset. And there they go...

This was very exciting. Somehow I felt the same deep exhileration from over 30 years ago, when they reached the moon. I was on the edge of my seat for hours. I avoided phone calls, didn't play any music, did dishes with the computer speakers turned up loud. Sometimes I just stared in awe at the images. I felt like I was right there.

Thank goodness there were sleep periods for the astronauts otherwise I would not have gotten any work done...


I forget what day it was. But I laughed my ass off when I heard this; and was chilled at the same time. A mission specialist came on the radio and told ground control about all the stuff he had been working on. Seems they had been having some trouble with their computers, laptops, and the network. But he had swapped some network cards around and rebooted a bunch of times and got things going. I could relate totally to this--computer troubleshooting.

At one point, he reported that a computer had gone into "The Blue Screen of Death." Very funny. To hear a skilled astronaut use such a geeky, casual, computer support phrase. And then I immediately wondered how many "viewers" listening in glossed over that assuming it was some NASA space flight mumbo jumbo technospeak.

But then I got creeped out. Oh great, I thought, the Space Shuttle's using Windows! That's just great... Couldn't they use an industrial operating system?!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

two hobbies (Mosport)

While at Mosport, enjoying some fast cars and racing, I also got to enjoy some astronomy. I set up the 'scope in the middle of the paddock!

44.052° N
78.674° W

Went Mercury chasing (I knew it was at a good elongation) but couldn't find it. Still, caught Venus at sunset. As it darkened, we checked out Jupiter.
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: star hopping
I was very surprised to learn that Bill is a closet astronomer! He was very knowledgeable. And it seems I lit a fire. He said he was going to dust off his old telescope when he got home.