I have been getting quite a bit of telescope time in lately, mostly in the driveway, usually using the old 8″ Astrola. I find myself awake at 4am often enough, and can get in a pleasant hour of observing before dawn.
A large star party is an experience worth seeking out… Hundreds of people, hundreds of telescopes, all under a dark sky.
A star party is a meeting of geeks. Technical talk of optics, electronics, and fabrication techniques like 3D printing abounds. In the afternoon and evening you will find small conversations in the shade, pull up a chair and join the discussion.
The plan was something I had executed successfully before… Fly into Portland, spend some time with my folks, then borrow the family camper for the trip out to the Ochoco Mountains for the star party.Continue reading “Oregon Star Party 2023”
Wandering the sky using a telescope and a field guide published in 1844, the better part of two centuries ago, is… uhhm… interesting. In mid-April the classic winter constellations are dissapearing into the sunset, with constellations like Monocerus and Puppis well placed for observing from my driveway just after dark. On my observing table is a reprint of that 1844 field guide, The Bedford Cycle.
Working through the entries I come to the entry for a double star Argo Navis 72 P. VIII, a designation from a very old catalog. It takes a few moments research to convert 72 P. VIII to the slightly more modern catalog number HD 71176. Modern? The Henry Draper Catalog was first published by Harvard Observatory in 1918, still over a century ago.
With the HD number I can look up the position on a modern chart and spend a few moments star-hopping the Astrola to the correct star. This double star is now located in the constellation Puppis after the ancient and absurdly large constellation Argo Navis was broken up into Puppis, Vela, and Carina.Continue reading “Of Green Stars…”
A dark moon weekend? I had not been out in a while, time for some dark skies with a telescope. This night had been scheduled for a while, the folks I work with keep asking me about getting a look through one of my big ‘scopes. Thus this night had been set aside on a calendar normally used for staff meetings and investor conference calls.
Where? Kaʻohe of course, the best place for this on the west side, easy range for my friends coming up from Kona.
Everone arrived on schedule at sunset, car pooling up from Kona. Greeted by a spectacular sky, a slim crescent Moon seeting into the golden glow of Hualalai, the bright planets Venus and Jupiter appearing in the gloaming.Continue reading “A Bright Night at Kaʻohe”
As an evening pastime in these COVID restricted days I have been delving into the past again. Again reading the work of an amateur astronomer from long ago.
I had previously read through the work of Rev. Thomas Webb, a vicar and amateur astronomer active in the late 1800’s. Webb frequently refers to the work of a yet earlier observer, Capt. William Henry Smyth.
Retired British Navy Captain Smyth was a backyard observer, gazing at the stars with a 150mm refractor from a garden behind his home in Bedford England. His telescope was quite good for the time, made by Tully of London, the best money could buy. This telescope was eventually purchased by the British Government to be used in the 1874 transit of Venus expedition to Egypt and the 1882 Venus transit in Jamaica. It now sits in the collection of the Science Museum, London.
Smyth published two volumes on astronomy in 1844 under the title A Cycle of Celestial Objects . Volume II of this set, commonly called The Bedford Catalogue or The Bedford Cycle, contains descriptions of more than 850 double stars, clusters, and nebulae, serving as a guide to what may be observed with a small telescope. The Bedford Catalogue became the standard at-the-telescope reference for other amateur observers for many decades until it was generally replaced by Webb’s Objects for Common Telescopes.Continue reading “A View from the Past”
Given stay at home orders and a virus haunting our community I have gotten quite a bit of eyepiece time this year. Mostly quick driveway session in the evening, or sometimes the early dawn hours, a solo activity perfect for social distancing.
I usually use my roll-out scope ready in the corner of the garage, a classic 8″ Cave Astrola. Just roll it into the driveway, plug it in using the purpose located power receptacle on the corner of the lanai,. slide an eyepiece in… Ready to go in two minutes.
Last night was a perfect example… It was raining at sunset, but an hour later the skies were clear and dark. Better yet the rain had left clear, haze free air overhead with great transparency. I spent an hour hunting down dark nebulae in Aquila, dark clouds of galactic dust best visible with perfect skies.
The pages of the observing notebook fill quickly, a page or two each evening until the Moon comes back. I have so many object I have never viewed, so many easily visible from the driveway with a fairly small 8″ ‘scope.
Often I come across pleasant surprises, a pretty binary or a deep red carbon star, the region surrounding my target rich with stars and wisps of nebulae, so many wonders I have never seen despite years at the eyepiece.
Social media is currently full of advice on what to do while stuck at home waiting out a pandemic. I find I need no advice… A dark sky and a telescope? No problem.
Awake at 4am this morning I pulled the Astrola from the garage and observed until the dawn lit the sky.
Once the evening clouds dissipated I again pulled out the telescope and observed for another two hours this evening.
Following the advice of staying at home I have been observing alone from our driveway. This weekend would have been our normal club dark-of-the-moon star party at Kaʻohe, getting together with other observers. Obviously this was cancelled.
This period of social isolation is measured in pages of notes on stars and nebulae, measured in the light-years I cross while peering into the universe.