Saturday, October 29, 2011

Same Size Sun & Moon Street Astro

Awesome fall day here and what a opportunity to get out and share some of the universe. One thing I enjoy doing in my outreaches is to challenge my visitors to see and examine the sky delights in detail and context. This includes our Sun and Moon sharing the same angular size in our sky. With our Moon being 400x smaller than the Sun and the Sun 400x farther away provides for us one unique same size view of our Sun and Moon. A total Solar Eclipse demonstrates this very well! But with no total eclipse available we have to demonstrate this in other ways. The first challenge is picking out that 3 day smiley face Moon against the bright daytime sky.

This is where Jumbo Styro Ball comes in. With a little coaching from yours truly and with the lunar phase cycle now understood and modeled one can set out to find this thin Moon with the JSB modeling what they should see. And you know what, they will see it! The joy and glee of this self discovery never gets old. With no prior astronomy experience these 2 women out for a day in the park with the kids had 20 minutes of discovery and enlightenment!

Next we move to the Solar viewers as we compare our now discovered day light Moon and our nearby star. OMG they are the same size! Look at David's as face it tells the whole story. He was floored by this new revelation. Daye nearby quietly complicated the whole show.

Jason went through the whole of this Saturday afternoon program and made quality observations of Luna and Sol - this is the last stage. Yes they are the same size here too with the same eyepiece! The Solar limb action kept Jason glued and in the process he was able to catch a glimpse of a white light flare! Changing Lunar shadows reviled jumbo craters showing peaks over the hour he spent at the scope. His son Andrew was so well behaved as pop enjoyed the changing celestial show.

Daye came back twice during the afternoon to enjoy the changing faces of the Sun and Moon. Having some vision challenges she patiently observed and was rewarded with great views and detailed observes!

I think she really enjoyed the daytime astronomy thing!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sales Pitch For The Pemb's Astronomer......

And anyone else who will listen for that matter. Yes if you want to go deep and explore the heavens within the full potential of your scope, long term personal stamina and curiosity these two volumes in my humble opinion are a must have! My astronomy went off the scale years back when I acquired these two volumes from a die hard night sky hound who before his passing saw my appetite and fervency for all things cosmic. They are my ultimate resource. Yes I do use other atlases, maps etc but these volumes are in one word - priceless.

Wonderful overviews and look; variables galore! Easy but detailed charts break down every constellation into manageable parts. I have spent hours observing one small section of sky and getting photon loaded.

Enough double stars to keep you occupied for ?! Separations, magnitudes, colors, star types all there.

These volumes made me a double star addict! Want to learn a constellation? Do doubles!

The pics are from film shot in the 80's - 90's. But they give one a very adequate feel for what you may see depending at your scope, conditions, and viewing skill. The drawings and observing notes are incredibly accurate and well done. You will know in most cases what you are seeing without difficulty. Object detail becomes easy. Even open & globular clusters which to some all "look alike" will become individuals with their personal physical features, surroundings, highlights and charm. Yes charm!!!!!

A number of years back I started a open cluster survey out of these volumes which still inspires me today! I spent 2 years on it and have not finish it yet. Will I? Is there enough time? Those with 8"-12" scopes will have plenty to see for a long time. Smaller scope? Do not be intimidated these volumes are for you too! Doubles ,variables, clusters, dark nebula are waiting for you to discover! There are plenty of "bright" galaxies out there to hunt down. How much time do you have is the question. 4 years ago I did a Dark Nebula Observe at a high altitude site with my 12.5 Dob and a 35mm 2"eyepiece. I cannot explain the wonder of it all and yes because of these volumes.......

The tutorials are excellent. With practice you will be observing at a high level even with a small scope.

The first volume has a whole section called "Comprehending Our Fascinating Universe" which will give one a wonderful overview of the contents of our universe. Good solid science which is not meant to read in one seating but easy to understand. The section on variables was outstanding with so much to digest and ponder. You will understand what you are seeing! I still resource these sections often!

These volumes are bulky and require a table to use - they are not hand held as mine with broken bindings will attest. Some folks use these as a at home reference; mine I use at home and in the field which in most cases is the same haha! When in the field ( patio for me ) I place a red cellophane in a cardboard border over the pages which cuts down on the glare saves my night vision. I also plan ahead what i want to see before I go out to observe as the amount of stuff here is prodigious and you have to go back and forth between pages at times.

Oh did I mention great info on each sky pattern with attention to interesting stars, objects, spellings, names, history?

This is a serious resource.

Are you a dedicated observer -want a lifetime investment into your astro passion? Want to go to the next level?

Newbie? No problem! Take it bit by bit and you will be fine!

I am not a good reviewer and writing in detail is laborious and difficult for me. But I hope this pitch encourages you to consider these volumes and turn off your computer. In my mind there is nothing like flipping through a well made book with my scope under the skies or on the couch on a lazy weekend day. There are lots of quality observing guides out there. I really like Sue French's, O Meara's , Harrington's guides. But these have found a place in my heart and soul.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Getting Back Into Astronomy Mode And Loving It

Does your astronomy passion wax and wane like the lunar cycle - all full or barely there? Mine sure has over the months (for various reasons) but the Sidewalk /Patio Universe Guy aka SUG/PUG is back and is doing his observing and outreach thing. This weekend provided a full slate of astronomy for the this NV sky guy and the public being exposed to his astronomy resource table and telescope.

I did 2 events at the Marina sharing the wonders of the Sun and our daytime waning moon. Many where lassoed in without the SUG having to say a word: just show up, set up, and dress it up ( be prepared with lots of hands on stuff to involve one and all) I like to say! Yes they will gravitate toward the pull of astronomy made simple. Zuzana and Michael encountered the SUG on Saturday afternoon. Michael had his first telescope views which left him spellbound. Seeing the daytime moon and solar plasma surface ignited his science oriented mind and a super youngster to work with! Zuzana was able to catch our fast setting moon and model its phase with the Jumbo Styro Ball, enjoyed scope views, and did the Same Size Sun&Moon activity, along zodiac basics! These things will add to her current interest in Exo Biology and things cryptic concerning our universe. I had about 60 visitors over my 2 outings, got a suntan on my face and arms and enjoyed myself immensely.

The Patio Universe Guy was getting into personal observing mode also. Last week CR150/pier was set up in my concrete jungle yard and busy pulling in solar, comet, double star, winter sky objects, waning moon, Jupiter, Mars, and Uranus, Neptune views. Did I mention the Orionids Meteor Shower too which was observed in between eyepiece views? Total enjoyment and bliss out in the cool fall mornings!

Drive By Astronomy joined me on the phone for two extreme lunar limb observes ! FUN FUN! We explored the far northern and southern regions - he was on the computer , PUG on the scope. All this along with silly banter, good french press coffee as two adults are kids under our sky doing astronomy over three time zones.

I love this scope as the views never disappoint. But it is a commitment to set up and take down so once it is set up it stays up for awhile with the OTA removed and secured. Kinda funny looking at the pier and mount throughout the day on the patio with sparrows roosting on the mount! I wonder how it would look on the front lawn as a part of a water feature!

Lots of possibilities!

Winter Skies In The Fall Mornings

Oh how I love this time of year on the Eastern Sierra foothills with it's warm days and cool evenings. But it's the wee hours of the morning that I get really excited about. Nice dry, cool, still air which makes for fun viewing at our 4300 ft elevation. The next two months I hope will be astro bliss for this suburban backyard astronomy guy.

What is on the docket to observe....well lots! Jupiter will soon be at opposition with it's parading moons and atmospheric show. We have several early morning comets which will require 12.5" dob to be set up and challenge the PUG's observing skills see them at all as they are faint and relatively low in my sky. Plus in keeping with my habit of "observing one season ahead" all our fabulous winter deep sky stuff. Watch out Mr.Unicorn your treasures will be explored soon from this patio setting!

Also I received a request from Sierra NV Journeys last week to work with two different groups of grade school teachers in Nov/Dec. This is a good opportunity to invest in our educators and then all the youngsters. Looking forward to this.

Here is a awesome group of outdoor educators that I had the privilege to inspire in August of this year with SNJ! They were a very studious group and will be very successful in their astro efforts to the younger generations.