Saturday, September 29, 2007

First Venus Sighting of the Season

This may sound like an odd observation, but I just went up to shut off my little one's feeding pump and decided to pull up her window shade for a look out at the sky. Her window is on the second floor and faces due east. As I looked out all I could think was, "boy oh boy, Venus is huge." Can't wait to get the telescope out and view it and Saturn. I have not seen either with the new scope.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Moon: September 23, 2007

Got a better shot today. I focused on a star first and then moved to the moon.

BTW, The moon looked wonderful today using the 4mm BO/TMB. Best view of the satellite I have ever had. Detail was great and crisp. Two thing I would like to add are a variable polarizing filter and a 2x Barlow. They have been added to my wish list along with a better mount.

1/200 sec

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My First Scope

This piece of history has been hiding in my parent's basement for nearly 20 years. I decided to open the box and present it for whomever to see. The views through it are not good anymore, too much fungus on the glass.

The scope is a Jason Empire StarSearch 303. It has a 50mm objective and is 625mm in focal length. This makes it an F12 scope. With it, I used to view Mars, the Moon and even caught Halley's Comet back in 1986.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Quarter Moon 9.20.2007

This on came out better than the last. I was able to play with the ISO and shutter speed settings. Again, it is prime focus with the Sony A100 and Orion 80ED.

ISO 100
1/100 Sec

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Moon Image from 9.18.2007

Played around a bit with the A100 and 80ED. Did not have enough time to work on focusing.


Friday, September 14, 2007

September 13, 2007 Observing Report

Had a quick look last night around 8:00-8:15PM. I want to get a chance to find M101. It was pretty on the horizon, maybe 22 degrees. I did find it, but got not much more than the central core. It took the 10mm plossl at 60x to verify.

I then moved the scope over to Jupiter, which was even lower in the sky at about 18 degrees. It was just over some trees. I did see some nice cloud bands at 150x, but had to end the session because of a hungry child(bottle time) At least I can check another Messier off the list.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

September 12, 2007 Observing Report

Transparency was great, 9 out of 10. Could see the Milky Way nicely across the sky. I am always awed by the sight. The air was cool with a slight wind, around 5-7 mph.

This time I had 2 sessions. The first was from 10:30-11:00PM. The goal was to locate Uranus and Neptune. Uranus was found easily at 24x with the 25mm plossl. Neptune eluded me tonight. It was a little lower in the sky and light pollution coupled with my unfamiliarity with the area of the sky lead to my failure. To feel better, I strolled over to M27 and M57. I never tire of these subjects and they did not fail to impress. M27 looked superb all the way to 60x, while M57 was pushed successfully to 150x. It did not breakdown at all and was quite the sight.

The last session started around 1:10AM. The following subjects were viewed:
M45: Crystal clear in the 25mm, a beautiful sight
Mars: Looked great at 150x with the BO/TMB 4mm.
The disc seemed to be about two thirds formed.
M31: Nice shape at 30x with a 20mm plossl. Great night for this galaxy.
M103: First Time. One of many clusters in the area, this one framed nicely at 60x.
NGC457: First Time. Another nice cluster in the area. I love these.
NGC889/: The Perseus Double cluster again. Can't help but going there.
M34: First Time. Very nice looking cluster especially the double star near the middle.

As I was closing up shop at 2:00AM, I noticed The Hunter starting to rise towards the northeast. It was a very nice sight to close the night with. That area of the sky has so much to offer now.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Gallery of WO EZ-Touch Images

Because of my interest of the EZ-Touch mount, I decided to ask Cloudy Night forum members to post pictures of their scopes on their mounts. I have received some great results so far. The capability of the scope seems to be even better than I thought!

EZ-Touch Gallery

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Alt-AZ Mount Research (WO Easy Touch vs Vixen Porta)

I have been looking at a couple of Alt-AZ mounts to replace my EQ1 style mount. The current mount came from the Bushnell Skychief III and is not meant to handle the weight of the fully loaded Orion 80ED. Views through the scope are not steady and I have to resort to using the scope as an Alt-Az to easily move it.

I have resolved to get an Alt-AZ over a GEM(German Equatorial Mount). I don't really need a computer right now to locate objects. I enjoy using an atlas or 2 to help me locate objects. Also, I figure if I go for a GEM it would have to be for astrophotography., and for that I would consider no less than an Orion Sirius. This means a minimum investment of $750 for a used mount. I would like to spend no more than $450 for a mount at this time. Another reason for an Alt-AZ would be portability. It would be nice to just throw ever thing in the car and go for a drive to a dark sky and then be set up within minutes.

The mounts I like within that price range are the Vixen Porta Mount and the William Optics EZ-Touch mount. The Porta can handle up to a low weight 4" refractor. The sweet spot for stability is probably a 3" APO refractor. The EZ-Touch can handle up to a 5" scope, with the sweet spot being a 4" tube. The latter mount can also handle 2 scaope at ones.

I have seen the Port for as low as $275 used. While the EZ-Touch has been listed as low as $400 used with a tripod. I am now leaning toward the EZ-Touch because of the ability to add larger or multiple scopes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

September 4, 2007 Observing Report

I had 1 good, 1 great and 1 awesome session last night. Transparency was very good here. The Andromeda galaxy was visible with the naked eye.

The first session was around 8PM. I spent a few minutes looking at Jupiter. It was really nice save for the wispy clouds that were cruising through now and then. I did see several more clouds bands then usual, using the BO/TMB 4mm in my 80ED. At 150x the view was holding pretty steady. At this time, I had to go back in the house to put the littlest one down to sleep, which requires a half hour of listening to jazz on PBS, Eric in the Evening for you in the New England area.

Around 10:00PM, I went back out for a half hour session w/ The Ring and surrounding area. The views were great and I was able to split a few of double over there. M57 was just wonderful, even at 150x. I know I was pushing the limits of an 80mm scope, but the image was still pretty bright. From my experience the past few night, I know that the seeing conditions played a major role in this. Aperture is king, but a good clear night can make a world of difference.

At about 10:30PM I had to go back inside to workout and unplug my daughter from her feeding tube. The 3rd session started at 12:30AM and lasted till a bit after 1:30AM and was the bet of the night. The skies were much darker than the earlier sessions.

The list of items I saw were:
Collinder 399 (Coathanger or Brochhi's Cluster) First time
M15 First Time
M2 First Time
NGC884, NGC869 (Perseus Double Cluster)
NGC7789 First Time

All items seen were great. It truly love finding the globulars with a small aperture scope. Mars looked wonderful at 150x and I can only imagine how it will look in December.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

September 1, 2007 Observing Report

Tonight was very clear before the moon came out. Transparency was about 7 out of 10. I got to test a new eyepiece. Ended up getting a used BO/TMB 4mm off of Astromart and I have to say I was very impressed. The FOV is great compared to the plossls and the eye relief is so big that it too some getting used to. Also, the 4mm eyepiece gives me a magnification of 150x, which is at the limit of the 80mm scope.

Jupiter looked good, but I think it suffered from late summer haze. I could see several cloud bands, but could remember a more contrasty image on better viewing nights. The size was still impressive though.

M27 lost some detail as I went from the 10mm plossl to the 4mm BO/TMB, but M57 was another story. The 4mm eyepiece brought out some extra detail in the Ring. I loved the view and could have stayed there longer, but the moon was starting to rise, and I wanted to see some globulars.

I moved to M13 and M92. Both looked great in the BO/TMB eyepiece. I could actually resolve some core detail in both. I was surprised at this, because I thought such a high mag eyepiece would cause some loss of detail. The moon was my last subject of the night. It ended up being my favorite too. What detail this eyepiece showed and with little loss of light.

Tonight I also split Albireo, in Cygnus, at 30x with the 20mm Sirius Plossl. It was quite the sight. The secondary star had a bluish tint to it, while the primary was yellow. M31 also provided some good views to it. I would like to devote some more time to it as it gets higher in the sky. It is definitely worth a trip to darker sky.
My only complaint tonight was the mount. I definitely feel that I am using it beyond it's capability. I had problems keeping some object in view and could not track as well as I wanted to.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Search Has Begun

For as far back as I can remember I have had an interest in the dark skies. Maybe it is because I am part of the Star Wars generation or maybe it was Carl Sagan's old Cosmos PBS series. I first started looking up with a Jason 50mm tabletop refractor telescope back in the early 1980's. I remember the nights when I would set it on the family coffee table and point out the window with the light out. With that little scope, I had my first closeup views of the moon and some decent views of Mars. Also, this little scope did some hard work on Comet Halley. What wonderful sights it gave me

In the early 1990's I moved up to a Bushnell SkyChief III. It is a 60mm f15 refractor scope. This scope really served me well. Mars, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter were all tracked with this great scope. In 1997, the scope was set to work on Comet Hal-Bopp. It did quite well.

During the late 1990's and early 2000's the scope was not pulled out much. This was due to full time work and apartment living. It was not until we bought our house that the scope was setup again. Even then, because of some run ins with some rather smelly nocturnal animals, skunks that is, viewing was limited to sa couple occasions per year.

In 2004, my wife surprised with me with a nice Orion Scenix 10x50 binocular. It was used handled to scan constellations and the moon. Not until early 2007 did I decide to mount the binos. I ordered an adapter from OrionTelescopes and placed them on my video tripod. This made for much better viewing.

At this time, I also decided to upgrade the eyepieces on the scope to 1.25". Also from Orion, a hybrid diagonal and 20mm Sirius plossl was ordered. What a difference this made. Now armed with a mounted binocular and "souped" up scope, I decided to search for DSO's (Deep Space Objects). I first viewed the easy ones, M42(Orion Nebula), M45(Pliedes Star Cluster), M44(Beehive Star Clister). Saturn also proved a very nice subject. later in the winter I added 10mm and 25mm Sirius plossls. The 10mm gave me some really nice views of Saturn.

Springtime came and I was itching to get a scope with better optics. Refractors were still my favorite, so I start looking high and low for one. After doing quite a bit of research, especially on the Cloudy Nights website, I decided to go for an Orion 80ED APO telescope. It is an 80mm f7.5 ota. My reasoning was that the scope was portable yet could work well at higher mags because it was an apochromatic. As a Father's Day gift, I ordered the scope and a WO 1.25" dielectric diagonal from Oceanside Photography and Telescope. Because of costs, I decided to keep the same mount that carried the SkyChief III. A new mount would be much better but I am making due for now. I also added a 9x50 RACI find from Smart Astronomy on ebay.

The scope has been a pleasure to use this summer. With it, I have had great views of Jupiter. On a couple of occasions at 60x, a couple of cloud bands have been seen across the planet. The scope has also provided me with first time sightings of globular clusters M13 and M92, galaxies M31, M32, M81, M82 and also a few star clusters. The apo optics give a crisp contrasty image, especially on the moon. Here is a picture of the moon I took at prime focus with a Sony Alpha A100 DSLR.

At the funds permit, I would like to add a higher power eyepiece. The BO/TMB Planetaries look real good. Later I would like to replace the plossls with some better glass, maybe Vixen LVWs or the TMB Paragons. Also, a better mount is in order, ALT/AZ first, then a good EQ mount for tracking and picture taking. For now, I am enjoying the views that the scope gives me.