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?!