Sunday, February 28, 2010

BBFMO - A Back To Basics Full Moon Observe 2/28/10

Full moon tonight - the bane of backyard astronomers along with some high altitude haze. Is this worth the effort and time? Well that depends on your attitude, and what do you want to accomplish. I always see something new every time I observe as I exercise patience with a good dose of expectation. I was sitting out in the backyard lounging and reading when I started to complicated this observe and I found my expectation rising! No full moon is the same due to several factors:
  • The moons orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle so it's distance varies and accordingly it's size will vary.
  • Full moon time will vary depending upon where I am on the Earth and where Luna is in her race around the Earth. This full moon is official at 11:38 a.m east coast(8:38 a.m here) time. So by the time I see it in NV at sunset, around 6:15 p.m pacific time I am 9 hours past full and the eastern edge of the moon has receded a bit into shadow. Sometimes full moon time will be when it is right over my head!
  • And finally because of Luna's tilting action (libration) we see the edges (north south east west) more or less. In the pic note that the lunar south & west are very exposed, north & east is very closed. A bobbing moon - so cool!
Tools of the trade are very basic too - how about a GalileoScope (SUGALEO SCOPE as coined by Drive By Guy) with cheap camera tripod, basic eyepieces & two 2" eyepieces which fit and focus, filters which happen to fit real nice in the friction held dew shield, basic moon map and atlas book.

And of course there must be food and drink. Tonight it is a blueberry scone, maybe a espresso but for sure some hot tea - Earle Grey anyone? We must have 30 or so boxes of tea in various places around the kitchen. That scone has a subtle likeness to tonight's quarry - imagine a little if you please:
  • It is not perfectly round.
  • It has rough edges.
  • Lite and dark shading with a uneven surface texture.
  • Bright marks punctuate it's surface.
  • Looks like a full moon with a southern exposure!
I will let you know how it goes. Why not do your own?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Tale Of Two Refractors

Two telescopes, one story. What is that story? It is one of exploration, discovery, and happy moments. Sometimes a quiet evening out under the heavens in solitude , sometimes with a crowd of eager "I wanna seers"! These scopes share a tale of pin point stars, views of planets and the moon, sharp views views of double and multiple star systems, excellent sky contrast with the Milky Way's stellar graveyards & nurseries. They are just fun to look through! But with a scope comes a owner to and each pursue astronomy with vigor and delight. They too have a tale to tell.

This is the GOR - Grand Old Refractor as coined by it's owner Marc aka Backyard Astronomy who chimes in on this blog. In this pic GOR looks like the " Sentinel of the North " with her polar axis aligned on Polaris , the setting western Sun and her 102mm lens and observing gear all set and preparing to go to work . Refractors go the distance and age gracefully. GOR over the last years has had some upgrades and fixes which have given her a new life! She spends her time surveying double stars galore and giving her owner much to blog about along with helpful tips on telescope maintenance - Marc lets you into the everyday world of his hobby. GOR is one of several refractors which fill Marc's eye with photons. But this one is special. Marc also likes fast boats and motorcycles and also spends time in the slow lane taking in the sky above and photographing the Earth below. But nothing touches his life like this scope and the celestial vistas unveiled.

This is TV 101 or a Televue 101 Apo Refractor. These are the scopes of dreams with their color corrected optics and excellent workmanship - the picture of modern amateur astronomy. This jewel is shared with many as the pic shows. Yes it is savored alone by the Drive By Astronomy in Western NY Mike with DETAILED Lunar, double star, variable star observations but he relishes all opportunities to gather light energy for the curious showing off the heavens in all their glory. Look at that line, look at those faces! Look at what one telescope can do along with along with it's owner!

What is your scope? What is your story?

Friday, February 26, 2010

LHFS - Lunar Hot FlasheS

I do not know what it is about the moon. All these years observing her just makes me want more. This past Thursday our skies cleared between storms so why not drag out a newly repaired RED and have a quick view of a 9 day moon in our still blue skies.

Well before I knew it I was stuck with a case of LHFS - Lunar Hot FlasheS. What is this, the online dictionary defines it as : " An addictive experience derived from the overload of delightful moonscape views with Earth based optical telescopes. It is accompanied by a desire for fun food, body temperature elevation, heavy breathing, sleep deprivation, and astronomically based banter with other infected observers. It is very contagious." I got hit with it as I viewed these features and the accompanying 4 pics will show as close a view as I had .

Craters J.Herschel & Pythagoras : On the Mare Frigoris northwestern shore two ruined and rubble strewn craters are waking to a new Lunar day. I was imagining walking along the rubble fields and seeing in my minds eye flying molten debris carved out by the Imbrium event heading my way as I try to duck for cover - good luck!

Sunrise on Craters Aristarchus, Prinz, Montes Harbinger : Viewed so many times but never old. The moon's terminator was splitting Aristarchus down the middle and the surrounding terrain was causing me to lapse into fever! I was imagining viewing the Aristarchus complex from the Harbinger Montes and then looking eastward to the plains of the Ocean of Storms curving away in the distance!

Crater Letronne & Dorsa Rubey : Breathtaking indeed and very over looked with the nearby sunrise on the western shores of Mare Humorum stealing the show for most lookers. But with a case of LHFS you will begin to notice other things - like the shadows meandering through the walls of Letronne's southern exposure or Rubey snaking it's way into the flooded craters floor! I was getting pretty hungry by this point. You will burn calories with a case of LHFS!

Crater Schiller : This misshaped crater is easily recognized but what captured my attention was the steepness of the brightly lit southern wall. I saw myself in the crater looking up at the wall with the sunlight to my back and pondering the oblique impact that formed this excavation. Who can I share these views and musings with?

My LHFS had a gradual subsiding over dinner, conversation with Cindy, and 2 MASH reruns. But later that night all cozy on the couch I made the mistake and picked up one of my moon books and...............

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How About Another HEOC or No Outreaches Yet Due To Weather

Well the weather keeps me sidelined but not deterred in the least with astronomy or food! When I started this blog last year my intent was to post as a record my outreaches with the public. I want to do that still. But other things started to happen and it is kinda fun for me so here is another installment of the Healthy Eating & Observing Club.

The Dish: Firecracker Red Beans. When Cindy showed me this recipe I flipped. Simple yet complex with lots of different flavors but none master over the others. This dish has attitude and yet totally unassuming. I had so much fun putting this together - and more eating it. Red beans pressure cooked, olive oil, red wine, onions and garlic, allspice, ginger, thyme, mustard, salsa, brown sugar, almond butter, chipotle peppers (go easy Mr.SUGO) all cooked into a thick sauce on the stove top in a dutch oven. The smell is intoxicating. We serve it with brown rice, lime wedges and sour cream. Along the bowl sideline we have warmed flat bread and butter which are just divine when dipped in the sauce. Creamy, spicy, slightly sweet with a lite burn on the roof of your mouth but not overpowering. KEEPER recipe!

The Object: Open Cluster NGC 1502 in Camelopardalis. Oh this one is a treat indeed. Not on the mainstream of constellations The Camel has 3 fun filled objects that are must see but I want to highlight this gem. I love open clusters and NGC 1502 is one of my favorites. Attitude and yet unassuming. A wonderful mix of star colors, double stars all over with a neat double right at the compact heart of the cluster that would be a show piece even if it stood alone. Last seasons observe of this jewel kept me at the eyepiece at least 1 hour surveying its environs. Faint stardust punctuates the lanes between brighter members. It seems to me that every star here is beckoning and jostling for your attention, but none having complete mastery of your eye. One observer but it " this is a fine display of celestial fireworks". I could not agree more as this is a KEEPER object for me!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gumby & Pokey Astronomy

My two favorite TV characters growing up. I would dream about being in their world of clay partaking in their adventures, dueling with the Blockheads, model car racing, toy trucks, entering into books, cookies & milk from my loving mother, dad's sound advice and timely rescues from trouble. Can they teach us something about backyard astronomy?

Be flexible: this pursuit requires patience both with yourself & nature AND SOMETIMES WITH OTHER PEOPLE. You have the rest of your life to learn this subject so pace yourself. Weather will not always be your friend so use the web, read a good astronomy book. The Moon is not your enemy - learn it and unlock it's treasures. I have missed events over the years due to sickness, weather, broken telescopes, just plain bad luck. Don't worry things tend to come around! These two characters could shape shift in any situation they were in. Can we?

Use what you have: yes you heard me, use what is right at hand at this moment. We can maximize what we have available to us. You want a bigger, better scope? Great - but "max observe" the one you have. I have surveyed the sky with all kinds of stuff and I always get something good no matter what I am looking through. This includes the sky conditions, moon cycle etc. Maybe I can see only a few bright stars, OK pull out a book or do a online search and learn about these stars. Star names and astronomical history are one of my favorite things to study when seeing is less than optimal. Yes we can do great observing with simple equipment and gear, star wheels, binoculars, a book in hand. I have never owned high end stuff and after all these years I still have not "max observed" with what I have. These clay guys always always got into trouble when they did not appreciate and use what they had and were.

Approach with childlike wonder: you have nothing to prove to anyone. The race here is not for the swift, the smart or educated. It is your pursuit. I love learning, but I really like to be inspired. As an adult this is my time to go back in time and touch a part of my life that will not go away. And if you are of the swift, smart, educated ranks be a kid from time to time and you will enjoy yourself even more. My claymation buds of the past where not afraid to try new things and go places and did not loose their sense of adventure.

Place yourself out there: when I observe I imagine being there. What is the view like from the center of a planetary nebula, or from a moon of a gas giant? How many stars can I see inside a globular cluster? What is the view like from the surface of the neutron star - very round and smooth I imagine as I am flattened out by immense gravity like Gumby under a giant rolling pin! Go there!

Get some help when stuck: so important as we all get stuck from time to time. I have fond memories of folks that have helped my development in the past and those that do this now. Both Gumby and Pokey depended upon each other and a whole host of characters through their clay world exploits. I need the experience, and skill of others to help me along too.

Have big eyes: these two TV characters have big eyes in portion to their bodies. When looking take your time in your viewing, unless you are in marathon mode! Let your eyes gather the light from these far flung vistas and give time for your brain and imagination to make a picture for you. It is outstanding to say the least what you can see over time and with consistency.

Share it with another: oh yes my friends share it! I realize not everyone is a people person but sometimes we get in the way of others development because of our own selfishness instead of taking some time and possible inconvenience sharing the universe with others. We all need personal time & pursuits but have you shared this with another? A little effort goes a long way and may change a life and you may make a new friend in the process and discover new things about yourself as we never grow in isolation. I would always be amused when Gumby would divided himself up into several little balls at one time, we have the potential to experiment with ourselves and develop other areas of our lives. I find that there is always plenty of me to go around. I enjoy to no end sharing what I have learned, showing what I have seen, spreading a little cheer to someone else. All of us have our ways and can find ways of sharing our experience, passion, expertise, and resources with another - just do it!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's Cloudy So Here's Another HEOC..........

Fun day on the 22nd with our northern NV skies clearing by midday. So outside to clear off the accumulated frozen waters & get some fresh air. Just awesome out here, cold, and bright, dry air with a hint of spring . My gaze turns toward the east and there rising off my neighbors roof is my pal Luna day 8. Seeing our moon in the daytime sky is always a treat for me. I shovel and clear my piece of real estate with haste for the skies look good for at least a late afternoon & early evening Luna show and as I walk back in and I hear the voice of my wife "SUG whats for lunch?" My brain goes into overdrive through my cooking files : fast, tasty, filling, with reserve energy stocks as I try to ignore the call of the Lady Selene in the eastern sky - got it!

What's for lunch: Course Mashed Refried Bean Burritos is the lunch that fits the bill. I soaked and cooked up 2 pounds of pintos the other day and they are ready to use. Olive oil in the skillet heated, add some beans. As they warm up I add garlic, jalapenos, salt, some prime rib rub, oregano, green chili salsa, lime juice and a little water. Simmer 15 minutes and then course mash. When cooked through these are served on streamed flour tortillas with leftover salad fixings, Greek style yogurt creme, avocados, brown rice and your choice of hot sauce. The smell in the house was inspired. Mrs. SUG enjoyed her piled high version as she worked on school, and SUG had the satisfaction of eating his gazing out to the backyard and dreaming of a moon view.

What to look at: Fra Maura Crater Complex at Lunar Daybreak. Sitting on the border land between Mare Cognitum and Mare Nubium this fine treasure trove is largely ignored accept if you are interested in locating the Apollo landing sites. Here we have ancient craters either flooded by flowing Lunar lavas or covered by Imbrium flying far and fast debris. Maybe both! The two "smaller" craters on its S.E & S.W create a interesting shadow dance as daylight advances. The scoring and depositing effect of the Imbium blast is obvious in the area and the interplay of morning light and shadow only enhance the view.

Like a bean burrito this may seem like a ho hum Lunar feature and lunch. But do it right and it is a very satisfying optical and lunch treat that you will want to experience again!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Bunch of 52's

February 22 is my B-Day and I want to celebrate with this posting. Here's a bunch of celestial 52's for SUG'S turning 52 courtesy of Steven James O'Meara my favorite observer/astronomy writer par excellence. I have his books on my bed stand, Messier, Caldwell, Herschel 400 and Hidden Treasures. These observing guides inspire me to no end. I looked over at them earlier today and this idea filled my brain. Here we go:

M52 : Open Cluster in Cassiopeia: A SUG favorite with its dense compact star field and blueish glow set against the Cassiopeia/Cepheus Milky Way. This area has always been one of my favorite hunting grounds.

Caldwell 52 (NGC 4697) Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo: A fun lens shape against the inky blackness is intergalactic space. It seems very alone out there!

Herschel 52 (NGC 7006) Globular Cluster in Delphinus : A very dense Globbie way out 127,0000 ly away out in the Milky Way's Halo but easy to locate its subtle glow. It is a neat catch anytime!

Hidden Treasure 52 (NGC 3134) Face On Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major : Like most face on galaxies this one is dim, but great in pictures. It is located near the intersection of the faint constellations Lynx and Leo Minor and the Great Bear (not faint). I sure wish I could see it as good as this pic.

And finally from my other favorite astronomy writer, lunar explorer Chuck Wood :

Lunar 100 #52 Crater Cruger : This is a possible volcanic caldera!

You see turning 52 is not so bad!

What celestial goodies match your special day?

Mrs. SUG Adds Her HEOC

Part of being a successful Mrs. is to have the ability and patience to "train" her guy. Over the years this pint sized powerhouse has done that with my eating and astronomy. Right from the start my eating and health habits came under her items to "adjust" and I have benefited greatly from her wisdom and insights with exercise, nutrition, cooking, and is a consent voice of encouragement in my astronomy outreach. She enjoys a occasional look through the scope as SUG is in the backyard getting really worked up about the photons he is collecting - more than once she has heard " hey Cindy you have got to see this NOW! " Of course my cosmic timings and hers sometimes do not match up as she is doing her online classes, evening yoga unwind. How do you unwind by getting so twisted up?

The Treat : Cindy's Vinegar Chocolate Cake. This item is the bomb - moist, dense, rich in taste and texture with a gooey cooked topping. No diary in the cake, some butter in the topping and low sugar content with a hint of cinnamon. This cake is simply wonderful and when served with some Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream or by itself your taste buds will sing. This one is for the SUG 'S B-day! Usual lifetime of one of these cakes around here is 12 hours - much shorter than the age of the universe.

The Object: M104 The Sombrero Galaxy of Virgo locale is the object that graces Cindy's school laptop desktop. Soon to be seen in our evening spring skies this celestial spindle of photonic delight is a joy in most backyard telescopes. It's dense core, halo along with it's dusty disk are easily seen even from suburban settings. This is a regular object in my outreaches. Cindy loves the pic. Enough said!

2010 HEOC - More "Healthy" Eating & Observing Club

Two of my favorite things, astronomy and food. I like big flavorful, eye popping portions of each with leftovers, imaginings for quick snacks, and dreams throughout the day. Besides my street programs have been bust this weekend due to a severe late winter snow storm piling white stuff up - what is a SUG to do? Anyway lets have some fun.

What to Eat : How about this quick,easy meal - Honey Ginger Garlic Chicken with Peppers. This was so easy to prepare and cook (25 minutes) served on brown rice. I topped mine with red pepper flakes and I never go easy on the fresh garlic when I'm cooking! This flavorful dish disappeared in a flash with copious portions being doweled out. Just the broth alone with the rice would have been tasty! A warm filled feeling in the tummy and spicy sensations in my mouth as I view the snow fall piling up in the backyard.

What to See : Our northern winter skies are filled with so many wonders but this one is a favorite. NGC 2371-2 of Gemini is a planetary nebula of the bi-lobe variety hence the 2371-2 designation. This gem is easy to find being just southwest of Castor. But at a staggering 4400 ly in distance makes this a object "not of the quick glance" variety! To enjoy this celestial morsel good skies and medium aperture (8"-10") telescope is needed along with some patience. But you will be rewarded! This compact stellar detritus responds well to high magnification and OIII filters. So much here to ponder and savor as we see stellar winds, shock waves, stellar pulsations in action along with a bit of cosmic recycling!

As stated last year if you have a fav food and object combo you would like to share just email me under these conditions:

  • Must be healthy - a relative term depending on the individual. Healthy portions are accepted.
  • Average backyard telescope friendly. That's it!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Morning Coffee and The Herschel 400

Well after yesterdays little set back it is time to shift gears and move forward. Upon inspection this morning of Red's antic mirror cell reveled that 2 of the screws were completely out of their sleeves so there was movement of the mirror was possible last evening. Normally I will adjust him at home before I go but I was running late from a busy day. Yes I was disappointed. I enjoy doing outreach and meeting new folks, having fun conversations and making new friends.

Spring is in the air here in Northern NV and as I arose from my slumber there on my bed stand was my Herschel 400 Observing Guide ( O'Meara ) saying very loudly "pick me up you knuckle head"! Yes it is time for my yearly backyard sojourn across the skies with the 400 - how could I forget that February/March is my annual kick off to do this. So I grab my night sky friend and begin to pour over pages of fun stuff seen from the SUG yard with his 12.5 Discovery dob. Coffee calling so down stairs I go with new enthusiasm and vigor. Part of the new SUG observing program this year is the addition of my son Jeremy's new espresso machine along with the flavored syrups and stuff to go with it. So I'm "pulling shots" steaming milk and cosmic vistas are filling my brain.........yes it is time to do this again! Oh I hear another voice calling deep from the garage shelves........who it is but the Orion Deep Map 600 yelling "don't forget me"! Twice a year I pull this out for a night long astro blitz just to see how many of the 600 I can see before I drop over. Insane yes but fun! Now the Sirena Espresso machine is chiming in "I fully expect to be a part of these celestial forays Mr.SUG as somebody must keep you fueled, warm and I want you to invite others to enjoy my liquid pleasures".

OK guys I am getting the picture.

But wait is this another voice I hear? Yes from the car comes a muffled but distinct voice of "The Cambridge", the one and only Double Star Atlas given as a gift year. "How could you leave your first love?" bemoans the guide and my heart breaks in two as I hear these words and remember the double star bliss of seasons past. Looks like I have some observing to do................

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Coulter Curse? - No Owner Miscue

Good old Red was bad old Red tonight. My little workhorse Coulter 10" tele really let me down to say the least.(Wrong, it was my mistake being in too much of a hurry! My anticipation got the better of me.) Here I spend my day cooking, cleaning making sure my wifely is taken care of and helping my neighbor Edi with his gardening working my time around one thing - outreach program at the park! The weather is wonderful and I am geared for outreach. I am loaded for bear thinking about Mars, Luna, Orion, Gemini stuff to show off along with new posters , books and stuff to use in my street program. The Sidewalk Guy is back and primed! The park is busy tonight with the good weather - lots of walkers, runners, families. Yes it will be fun tonight.

Well I get to the park and I start to unload and some folks from last season recognize the SUG and the word is spreading quickly around the park - He is back! Table and materials out and people are coming over, questions are flowing already and my outreach mojo is at peak level. Time to set up trusty old Red - Red who has had LOTS of space on this blog and my fav outreach buddie.(yes he is and will be still) Time to aline the mirrors and........Oh no broken mirror cell! (WRONG - I was not paying attention to what I was doing. I was conversing with a visitor with excitement and moved the adjustment screws too far out!)The old push pull just died. Red is down and out and I'm totally bummed as are the 5 folks waiting for a glimpse of Luna and Mars. THERE WAS A COLLECTIVE SIGH FROM THE ASTRO STARVED MASSES GATHERED AT MY LITTLE OUTPOST. Yes indeed the Coulter Curse hit tonight. ( Not accurate at all, no curse just being mechanically challenged as I am even with this simple thing.)

What a way to kick off a new season! Well there was some redemption. As I was packing up a fellow stops by and introduces himself , Craig who is the proud owner of a 8" Reflector EQ Mounted Orion Telescope. He saw me setting up and had to find out "what's up"! Well anyway he and his scope have been sidelined for sometime with backyard lighting issues and navigation problems. As we converse I give ideas has to to how "we" can move his astronomy forward. His eyes light up with excitement and he is ready to start again. Is this a potential local astro buddy and street astro partner? He was impressed with the whole outreach thing - maybe a kindred spirit? I await his phone call!

2/22/10 Update From RED the Plumbing Piece Focuser 10"f4 Telescope:

Yes I am back after SUG'S fix and a scolding by me with a clean mirror, and aligned optics. We enjoyed some Lunar time and had a blast watching sunrise across the Selenic landscape. We are a pair to say the least - SUG with his floppy hat,
bottons and pins on his vest, red flashlight around his neck and acting like a kid who never seen the moon before. Me a primitive scope sitting on a orange milk carton case, particle board box mount, and well my focuser........

A perfect match!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not Totally Out Of The Picture

Hey guys I did do a teachers training in Dec'09. I had 20 very focused folks to work with over 3 evenings and it was much fun to be active again. We covered the Solar System, Constellations, and Seasons. Nice group of teachers with plenty of support from Sierra NV Journeys who sponsored the program.

Thanks Mr.Drive By Astronomy for the pic AND THE HIGHLIGHTS!

I Am Back Again

Hi gang the Sidewalk Guy is back for another season of outreach astronomy in Sparks NV. I hope to connect with my old blog buddies sometime soon and get up to speed with you all. I sure enjoyed our online friendships, stories, discoveries and banter. I am looking forward to more enriching experiences sharing the universe with the public and you all!