Friday, May 16, 2014

Astronomy in Utah New Web Address

For those of you who following and post on AstronomyinUtah, the web address changed due to an update by the owners, Forumer.  The new address is:

Here is a link to it.


I do have some posts coming with some announcements so give me a few days and I'll post.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Lunt LS35THADX DELUXE Solar Telescope

I ordered this scope back in January and it finally arrived this last Wednesday, April 30th, 2014. A three month wait.  I just noticed that Lunt is also selling a 50mm solar scope that is coming out in June of 2014 and if I had known that and the wait, I think I would have waited to get that for the larger aperture. Outside of being billed and the wait time for the scope, I have not complaints.

The scope is small as you can see in these pictures. I have it mounted on my Explore Scientific Twilight mount.

I've used the scope in the backyard and once in the front yard for a total of three times. I really like the ease of alignment that the Tele-Vue Sol Searcher provides in terms of being to align the Sun to the eyepiece quickly. It took me a few minutes to figure how to put the rings on so that the dovetail would work on the mount.  The mount works great with this scope.  The build on the LS35 is solid, built to last and though small, it is fine with my Delos and Pentax XW eyepieces.  I start by using the 20mm Pentax XW as the finder, and I did find that I have had to adjust my eye to the field stop to get the Sun to pop. Once that adjustment was made the Sun showed beautifully in a red to reddish orange color.  There were several prominences that were vivid, wrapping up and curling around and two groups of sun spots that were visible. I like how I can observe for a while and then do something, come back in an hour and align and observe any changes. I need to pick up solar sketching so I need to figure out what I need to do that. Probably a template to use and then I have the materials I need. I'll see what Erika Rix has to say on it as she is a well known solar sketcher.

So there we go. I can now observe both day and night.  It is addicting I will say that! I am glad I have the 35mm and it will serve nicely and was $200 to $250 cheaper than the 50mm.  Do expect a wait though when your order and Lunt states that on their website.

The Night of the Refraction Part I

On April 19th, I had the opportunity to take my refractor out for a quick night session out in the West Desert of Utah, at Pit n Pole here in Utah.  The night was a decent night, it was clear which was a good start since it is has been stormy so much for the last 2 years at new moon.  I didn't take the dob as I wanted a refractor only experience.  I have committed to chasing down the Messier's again using the ES 102mm AR refractor. It's been a good challenge.  A dark site helps by bringing out more of a contrast.  Here is what I got done that evening.

1. Going from top left and then around clockwise:  M84, M86, M88, M91, M90, M89, M98, M87.  11:05pm MDT or 05:05 UT; 4/19/2014; Antoniadi III; ES AR102mm refractor; 10mm, 20mm Pentax XW, 27mm Panoptic; Constellation: Virgo.  Galaxies showed mainly as smudges with bright inner cores or inner core regions.  Some structure was visible in the spirals.

2. Messier 95 (left) and Messier 96 (right) April 19th, 2014; 10:40pm MDT or 04:40 UT; Antoniadi III; Pit n Pole Utah; ES 102mm AR Refractor; 10mm & 7mm Pentax XW, Constellation: Leo;  M95 showed a hint of an arm on the left with a bright inner core and stellar nucleus.  M96 showed an elliptical galaxy with a bright inner core region.

3. Messier 65, 66 and NGC 3628, Leo Triplet; 4/19/2014; 10:10pm MDT/0410 UT; Pit n Pole, UT; Antoniadi III; ES 102mm AR; 7mm &  10mm Penax XW;  Nice triplet in the 10mm XW. The 7mm shows more details though with averted vision with a hint of arms on M66, M65 shows evident of 1 arm.  I could detect NGC 3628 and it is in the sketch but very faint.

4 . Messier 51 The Whirlpool Galaxy in Ursa Major; 4/19/2014; 09:50pm MDT/0350 UT; Antoniadi III; Pit n Pole UT; ES AR 102mm with 7mm Pentax XW;  The two spiral arms were easily detected and then held in the field.  NGC 5195 easily seen with a bright inner core.  Some mottling also evident in M51.

5. Messier 104 The Sombero Galaxy; Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo with dust lane; 4/19/2014; 11:40pm MDT/0555 UT; Pit n Pole UT; Antoniadi III; ES AR102mm Refractor; 7mm Pentax XW;  Small bright galaxy with dust lane observed running through the middle. Stellar core region dissected by the dust lane.

I then went out this last Wednesday for a few hours with my friend Mat.  I didn't sketch that night though I did pick up another 12 Messier and then these camera shots. Mat had his 8 inch looking for a deep southerly glob to finish a list. I took only the refractor (don't worry, I am ready to go back to using my dob!).  I do like my 4 inch refractor through! Here they are set up at the Pit.

Above is a bad moon shot taken with my iPhone 5s with the craters evident. I need to work on that but I think it is cool Eyepiece was the 12mm TeleVue Delos.

I wanted to go out tonight but on Thursday my stomach started acting up and today I realized I had gotten gluten somewhere. That kept me home on a beautiful night when I had a whole bunch of galaxies to go hunting and sketching but I had to be by the bathroom and as a Celiac, when I get gluten, besides the bathroom issue, I get really fatigue and thus took a nap. Now I am starting to come out of it, still tired and after this heading back to sleep but I missed a beautiful night tonight and that makes me frustrated. I hope the end of May at new moon has much better weather and the opportunity for a couple of good days to get caught up on my spring objects.  We saw the constellation Hercules rising in the east early and thus summer isn't far off either. Orion is going to fade quickly now I fear. So good clear skies to you and enjoy the hobby!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Observing Sessions March 22nd & March 28th 2014

On Saturday, March 22nd, 2014, I had the opportunity to drive out to the West Desert and observe for the evening. My friend Jeff was there and later we were joined by my friend Craig and several of Jeff's co-workers and friends.  I took both the 14" and my 102mm (4") refractor with me and set both up.  The skies that night were steady, good transparency and excellent seeing. I spent the first part of the night looking at winter objects that I really have not had time to observe this year due to the weather.

That night my friend Craig borrowed my Orion XT10 and he brought it out after picking it up from my house. After Craig set it up I was amazed at how rough the azmuith motion was as I have become use to the buttery smooth motions of my 14".  Anyway, Craig used the scope that night and the old 10" gave some good views of objects.

I started with eye candy myself. This has been a horrible winter for observing again and I have only gotten out about once a month since November.  This night I visited the Orion Nebula, Messier 42 both in the 14" and in the 102mm refractor.  I have to say that after looking in the 102mm refractor at a dark site, I have committed to taking only the refractor out to do some deep sky, wide field observing one night. I loved how it framed M42, NGC 1981, NGC 1977 and brought it out so nicely.  In the 14" the Zambuto brought out a wonderful contrast of the nebulosity, with vary degrees of complexity and depth easily seen. The dark lane really stood out and E and F in the Trapezium were easily seen.  From there I popped over to Sirus and took a look at the Pup which is easily split right now. Then down to Messier 41, and continuing down to my favorite open cluster, NGC 2362 or the Mexican Jumping Bean.  From here I went up to Messier 82 and took a peak at the supernova there which was still visible and then I had fun seeing M81&82; M108, M97 the Owl Nebula.  At that point I was ready to get to work as Leo had now risen.

In Leo was going to focus on working on some of the Herschel 2500, and using Bratton's guide, I've decided to revisit them by constellation.  So Leo is up and I chose to work in Leo.

1. NGC 2872, 2874 & 2873 galaxies in Leo.  March 22,2014; 5 Mile Pass, Utah; 10:32pm MDT or 04:32 UT; 14" dob; 20mm Pentax & 10mm Pentax XW w/Paracorr Type I. Antoniadi II

These three galaxies are faint, with NGC 2873 being the faintest, it is the little faint fuzzy to the upper left of the other two.  NGC 2872 has bright inner core region, with diffusion around it. It is above NGC 2874 which is the largest of the 3 galaxies. NGC 2874 has a stellar core, bright inner core region and diffusion around that.  NGC 2873 was only seen with averted vision, and it seem t come and go.

2. NGC 2893 galaxy in Leo.  March 22, 2014; 10:03pm MDT or 04:03UT; near 5 Mile Pass UT; 14" Dob with Type I Paracorr; 7mm Pentax XW; Antoniadi II.

This galaxy is a mix between an elliptical shape and being kinda of roundish in its shape. No further structure seen though the core was brighter than I have it here.

3. NGC 3894 Spiral Galaxy in Leo; March 22nd, 2014; 10:55pm MDT or 0455 UT; near 5 Mile Pass, Utah; Antoniadi II; 14" dob with 7mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type I.

I really enjoyed the star field on this galaxy. It was interesting to have the stars next to the galaxy.  The galaxy is elongated, diffused on the outer edges with brightening near the core.  Core is stellar in appearance.  Field stars are 1 to the west and 3 to the east. Fun object to sketch.

4.  I have been to this object before on March 28th, 2010 and it is at this LINK on my blog, about 3/4 of the way done. NGC 2903 & NGC 2905, Spiral Galaxy in the constellation of Leo; March 22nd, 2014; 11:15pm MDT or 0515 UT; near 5 Mile Pass Utah; Antoniadi II; 14" dob with 10mm & 7mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type I.

Galaxy has a very bright inner core with a hint of spiral arms on each end to the north and south.  The core region is bright with diffusion going out from there. There is a bright region to the south of the core which is NGC 2905 and ti has a mottled appearance to the galaxy.  Nice object, worthy of the visit or in this case, revisit.

5. NGC 2906 Spiral Galaxy in Leo; 11:25pm MDT or 0525 UT; near 5 Mile Pass, Utah; Antoniadi II; 14" dob with 7mm Pentax XW, Type I Paracorr;

This is a case where I like my actual sketch rather than my photo I took of it. I just didn't capture the detail I had made on the sketch in the photo.  This is a small but bright galaxy with a very bright inner core and a hint of structure on northwest side of the galaxy.  Fun object to tease detail out of.

 6. NGC 2964 is the center and largest spiral galaxy here. NGC 2968 is the next on up to the uper left of NGC 2964 and NGC 2970 is the faint fuzzy to the top left and all are spiral galaxies in Leo.  March 22nd, 2014; 11:40pm MDT or 0540 UT; near 5 Mile Pass, Utah; Antoniadi II; SQM 21.61; 14" dob with 7mm & 5mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type I.

NGC 2964 is irregular in shape, has a bright inner core region and mottling is evident in the galaxy as captured in the sketch.  NGC 2968 is somewhat elongated and opaque in shape. Has a brightening toward the core but is very much diffused.  NGC 2970 is just a roundish smudge or  fuzziness. Averted vision helps to view it. This is a repeat of a capture of the two main galaxies on March 10th, 2010 in my 10 inch dob. That is at this link if you want to go and view it. A lot more detail with a more experience eye and the larger aperture.

On March 28th I got out but I really didn't do any personal observing. My friend Mat had his two friends come out and they were using binoculars and then Mat would show them what they were viewing in his 8 inch dob and I would show them the same object in the 14".  We actually saw a lot of objects that night from M81, M82, M51, M101, NGC 2362 which I need to sketch again.  Also M42, M41, M44, and Thor's Helmet, NGC 2359 among them all.  In both cases the zodiacal light was very bright and obvious.  A good night that was. This was a short session of about 3 hours due to weather coming in, but it was still a fun night!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sketching Light for Astronomy: Black Diamond Spot, Rigel Starlite or Photon Freedom II

As a sketcher, I am always in search of a better lighting source that will preserve my dark vision while allowing me to sketch. So of late I have gathered three items to help do so. I am going to present them here and discuss their pro's and con's.

First come an image of all three together. They are on the bottom: 1. The Rigel adjusting red light; also called the Starlite here.  2. To the top the BlackDiamond Spot Headlamp.  3. The Photo Freedom Light which is on the right.

1. We'll start with the Rigel Starlite as seen below (with a Lego Darth Vader Key Chain).

This light is about four inches long by about 1 1/2 inches wide. It has a wheel that turns on and off the two LEDS inside the clear plastic on the front. I question in the build if the wheel will endure but some people on some of the forums like CloudyNights swear by them. One guy reinforces his with duck tape.  I would use the red lanyard to make sure it isn't dropped or better yet, I'll probably make a wrist loop so it stays on my wrist for sketching. The light varies in intensity and here is an image in a darken hall during the day of the dimmest setting of this light. The hallway was darken, no flash went off but it sure seems bright there! Here is the Rigel Starlite a couple of inches from the door to the garage. It's dimmest setting is workable for sketching but not something to float around. I would keep my observing eye closed on this one.

Here is the Rigel Starlite in the dark with a clipboard and an actual sketch.  The first is at the brightest setting. This is way too bright for sketching and for keep dark adaptation.

Here is the Rigel Starlite at its dimmest setting. The light is spread out more evenly on the sketch and allows one to see the two galaxies that are close to each other here, along with the bright core. It didn't really allow for me to see the mottling on the galaxy with the bright core. Not bad, but you need something to hold it in position over your sketch.

2. Here is a headlamp made by BlackDiamond and it is called Spot. It puts out 130 lumen on the white light, and if your the last one cleaning up at the end of an observing session, it is bright, very, very bright.The build quality is good to very good, it is built more sturdy in my opinion than the green Energizer headlamps I have and it swivels into 3 positions; straight on, 45 degrees and near 90 degrees, more like 75 degree probably. Adjustable headband. The only thing I do NOT like about this is when you go to change the batterys' it is REALLY flimsly on the piece of plastic that connects the two parts. It would be easy to break. So I would watch the battery meter and change it at home before going into the field or you'll need white light to change the batteries.  Better to change these ones out at home.
Both the red and white light have a variable in how bright they are. Depending on the mode, you simply push down the button and the light dims down to its lowest levels.You can view a lot of the details to this product at this Black Diamond video at YouTube: LINK. Again, it doesn't show the red light dimming which it does. This is a workable headlamp for me.

Here is the dimmest setting for the red light. The light from the Spot at its lowest setting was low enough that the DSLR I was using would not register the light, so I had to move to the wall next to the door. It was very dim, so dim that at night I cannot leave it on my head at the lowest setting an illuminate the clipboards I use for sketching.

Here is the Black Diamond Spot in the dark on its highest setting. Again, this is too bright to maintain dark adaptation and to not bother others around you. It does show the 3 galaxies and the stars I had put in place though .

Here is the Black Diamond Spot at its lowest red setting. Still a little brighter than the Rigel, but it does light up the paper but the two rings from the two LED's do show up on the paper in the dark, even visually. This one would work if one had to use it.

3. Photon Freedom

The Photon Freedom is about the size of a fifty cent piece though in the shape in the middle of the picture above.It comes with a clip, a tie on clip, and I ordered a finger clip. You can see those above on the packaging. I also ordered mine in red as they do come in many colors. This one like the Rigel, is red only.
I also have a regular lanyard that it will clip on to if I want to use it that way.

The Photon has the following items to it. A pulse, that flashes red. A safety mode, actually 5 of them, 4.5 lumens,  about 18 to 20 hours of battery life; waterproof, and variable brightness. I love the size, the ease to use it, and the ease of use. It's build is okay, I'll see how it holds up over time. My only worry on he build is how enduring is the switch in it.  At the price though, I can't beat it, and I love the size, the light it puts out and the ease of changing the battery. It is the lightest of the three and as such, after a few moments, no matter where I am wearing it, I cannot tell it is on my finger, around my neck, or clipped to my sketching clipboard.  Here is a link to the WebSite and there are two videos you can watch in the lower right. In terms of brightness here it is at the end of the hall during the day.

Dim, and what I like is a nice even oval of light.  Here is another in the dark of the Photon at its highest setting. Again, it is way to bright but it does show the galaxy and the stars though with enough bright red light to make your night vision running away for around 30 to 60 minutes.

Here is the Photon at its dimmest setting. I love how it is an even light, spread out on the black paper and it feels comfortable to my eyes. Out of all three, I like this one the best as long as it holds up and I surely hope it will.

So the winner for me is the Photo Freedom II followed by the Rigel, then the Black Diamond Spot. Don't take me wrong, the Black Diamond Spot will be the headlamp I use for observing when I need one. The Rigel will work on some big projects but I simply love that I can clip the Photo Freedom II to my clipboard, use the magnets to attach it, or put it on my finger and give the perfect illumination to my sketching. Lastly I can hang it from my lanyard and it illuminates the paper quite well. Here it is on my finger. I'll do a follow up post to this in a few months when I get some good time observing to ensure these play out well with intensive use. I like all three, but so far prefer them in the order I have listed. We'll see if that holds up with time.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Getting Older, Habits, Changes . . . and Astronomy

I have been out twice in the last week so I will be posting some observing reports sometime in the next several days! Yeah!  I just wish the weather was going to cooperate over the next couple of days while I am off for spring break. Alas, it isn't.  Well maybe the refractor will be a go in the backyard. I was hoping for one more night of good observing on my list I am working.

One thing I have to say that I've noticed as I get older is the sins of our youth catch up with us as we get into middle age and beyond. I have reached a point in my life where I have to lose weight. Yep, I am a rather big guy, a combo of bad lifestyle choices and genetics. I will never be a slim Jim so to speak. However, I am going to have to get real serious and lose some weight to stop some major issues from developing. My heart is slightly enlarged, the beginning of heart disease and related to higher blood pressure. To correct means diet modification, exercise and a blood pressure pill. My goal is to lost a total of 100lbs in 20lb increments over the next 18 months.  I want the weight to stay off. How? I eat a healthy diet, since my celiac disease demands that, fruit for breakfast, fruit and veggies for lunch with some protein, a normal dinner (I have hadto change my portion sizes at dinner though) but I have not really given up soda, Powerade or Gatorade. The sugar drinks have to go my doctor say. I love cold water so that shouldn't be a problem.

Next, is my weight has caused my knees to begin to have minor arthritis in them. I can reverse this through exercise and losing weight so there is another reason to do so. I suffer from sleep apena and the hope is as I lose weight that will lessen to where I hopefully don't need to sleep with a mask.

So how do all these things deal with astronomy? Well, I figure my choices are to keep my habits, bad as they are and let my knees go bad and heart go bad and perhaps lose the one thing I really love about the hobby, going to the dark sites that are so close to where I live.  Second, modify my habits so  lose weight and continue to enjoy the aspects of the hobby I love, going to dark sites.  Last, sell everything off, accept that I refuse to change and leave it at that.  Well of the options the only one that makes sense to me, is the second one, to modify and change my habits so I am healthy and can enjoy the things I can do. Luckily for me, we have a new elliptical we bought for this purpose, since due to a long time knee injury and a very bad back injury, I cannot run or bike, the two exercises I did in my youth.

So I guess from this I have learned that keeping one's body physically up is very important in this hobby. If I want to enjoy what I love about this hobby, then I will make changes. So I am going public on the blog to express that I am going to do that, to post from time to time how my progress is going so I can be accountable to someone, and hopefully gain some support.  Here's to starting to make changes so my wife, my adult children, my future grand-children, and my love and enjoyment of this hobby can continue for a long time. Cheers and thanks for enduring this post.