Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dings & Nicks Astronomy

This past Sunday found me on cold recovery/prevent defense against further infection mode. Folks around me have been dropping like flies with this stuff and I did not want to make mine worse or spread the cheer to another. So with a need for some astronomy some Solar fun on the patio seemed about right. Yes sunlight on my face and some narrow red band in my eye will perk the guy up! But I almost did not make it to this private therapy observe.....

I am grateful for the astro gear I have and use it all. Nothing ultra hi tech or super fancy. But I have have a disturbing problem with my gear and that is what I call "Nick & Ding Astronomy".

I like most in our hobby value what I own and have a sense of pride of ownership. It is always fun to go to astro events and see all the bing and better to look through the bing! One thing that has always amazed me is just how pristine everyone else's gear looks; hence my problem.

No matter how hard I try, plan, think ahead, exercise care etc my stuff is gonna get some battle scars! Here are some examples:

My AstroTec Alt/Az recently took up diving! Yes diving off the shelf head first with a half twist! OK this is not a premium setup but its mine and I love it. So now it has a dandy scar on the head to with all the other nicks it has received since joining my household! Oh yea the altitude movement is a little stiffer since the fall......

Oh this really frosted my cake. Yes even 60mmLunt could not escape trouble! I handled this scope like a new born when it arrived and waited patiently for all the other pieces to show up due to holiday shipping snafus.

Please note that the dovetail bar needs 3 washers to properly seat the scopes mounting clamshell....no one told me this so Lunt received a nice series of dings and scratches against its nice pearl like finish. Imagine "feeling the tube scratch" as you rotate it! I was heartbroken........for days. There's more the very same day! Oh CR150 had a date too with my clumsiness. To make the story short this beloved scope has had its battles getting dinged in transport, knocked over by a drunk at a paid star party which broke the original focuser. But today while trying to forget about the above mistake with the Lunt a wrench fell out of my hand onto the scopes tube and produced a wonderful nick down to the base metal. This along with more scratches produced by my not having the rings seated properly! I amaze myself some days.....but there's more!

AT106 Le is not a premium Apo scope. But it is my Apo scope well loved and used. On it's first outing in my garage it recieved the nicks you see on the retractable dew shield; all because I did not have the altitude tension tight enough. Yes I learned that a 4" 3 unit lens set is heavy! Oh there were scratches too on the tube from the tube rings being out of alignment!

Here's some more. The AT ALT/AZ 's tray has been bent 3 times; once in the "dive" once in the car, and the nicking of AT106 LE !

My observing chair is very battle scared! One heavy weight guy bent the seat supports in the back just by sitting on it........so now my bottom is sideways when I sit!

Here's my latest incident that almost kept me from my therapy Solar observe. This really nice sun shield from ScopeStuff did a fall off the shelf as I was reaching for other items! It's nice enamel finish dinged down to the metal.

Speechless.......but the sky is clearing and SOHO/SDO are showing great Solar activity so I suck it up and press forward.

Oh this eyepiece a few months back had a "tumble" and now sees paint flakes across the field of view which mimic sunspots or UFO's coursing across the moon! Fun to fake out people on outreaches.....

Time and space will not allow me to tell you about the dings & nicks with my dobs!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Debbie & Caleb Astro

The past Thursday we had a very fine Ganymede shadow transit to see in the early evening. I have found in my experience that the public could easily see these events with moderate skies and some coaching at the scope. Besides they turn into excellent educational experiences for those who want to broaden their knowledge and experience base.

So with good sky I head out to the Sparks Marina for a few hours of outreach fun.

Upon my arrival there is a lady stretching out next to her car as I am backing in my space. A look of curiosity is on her face as I park. Is it the inflatable Earth's and gear in my back seat or am I parking to close for comfort? Well as it turns out my reputation has reached her ear and she asks "Are you the astronomy guy I heard so much about?" "Why yes I am and at your service" was my quick reply!

"I want to learn about the moon!" was Debbie's first & fast request. "But when?"

"Well how about now. Let's get familiar with Luna's phase cycle as I just so happen to have my mini moon stryo balls in the planet scale kit!" By the way I have not even unloaded and set up yet as I must catch this opportunity of astro interest!

And off we go. My new pupil is indeed a eager learner. Here she is modeling the new moon placing the mini moon ball between her and the Sun. After 10 minutes or so she has the Moon Cycle down! Now she will have to be a observer and see it for real which she is ready to do. After an exchange of phone numbers she is off to round up some friends for the fast approaching Jupiter show as this is a moon event to be enjoyed with others!

Vicky at the scope was totally impressed with this 3D Jove Treasure Trove of Mooness taking place before her eyes! For there is a shadow amok on the cloud tops of Jupiter! These ladies braved the sudden chill of early February with such cheer. Debbie's excitement opened a wonderful experience to her pals.

Not to be left out in the cold Caleb got a eye full too. Doing laps with his mom on his bike he had to be a part of this moonfest! He was one serious observer nailing the transit, moons, belts, and swirls in the belts, polar hoods of Jupiter! Hey he looks like a amateur astronomer already! Mom was totally impressed and never realized her son liked this astronomy stuff!

But there was more fun to be had with our one day past full "waning more moon"on the rise over our eastern foothills! Perfect timing for my new lunar addict to get subjected to the SUG JUMBO MOON ILLUSION EMERSON ! OMG timing is everything and this moonrise was awesome with a jumbo maze colored orb kissing our foothills; and I just happened to have the cardboard tube to help dispelled the illusion which left Debbie & friends aghast!

What a evening it was. My people count was low but meeting Debbie & friends along with Caleb made this outing a success.

Why is Debbie so interested in learning about Luna? Well her budding passion is to photograph Luna every month along our foothills and mountains. This night helped to set the stage for this endeavor in the mind and heart!

Thanks Debbie for letting me be a part of your new passion!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl Weekend Astro

Clear sky and cool temps continue so out we go!

Friday evening found me at Starbucks doing a Moon/Jupiter/ Star Stuff program. StarStuff is where I show off a Star Cluster or Nebula dejour' and present Stellar Evolution. This is usually well received and most are excited to be able to see the M41-42 complex from a suburban setting! This old C8 gives nice contrasty views and with some patience most saw lots of detail.

Jonathan was totally digging the Lunar Poles and crater hopping all over the place!

Sunday morning found me at the Marina Park for a 3 hour Super Bowl SUNday program. The place was busy with folks getting the fresh air, exercise, and sunshine this cool morning before heading out to cheer their team. The park security team was excited at my presence and promptly got on the ATV and promoted the Sidewalk Guy around the complex - Nice! Soon folks were coming by expecting something good and good they got with Sol putting on a magnetic display easy for all to see!

On this outing I just happened to met the owner of the most popular used bookstore in town and she really enjoyed what I was doing. So now we are planning an event for her store in March/April. This was a good encounter and I am looking forward to this!

I had 80 visitors in the course of these events.