Starry Night Pro version 6.3.3 vs Starry Night Pro 7.1.1

I believe I have touched on this before, but I wanted to do a review on the Starry Night Pro software. I have two versions, version 6 which I received about 8 years ago or so, and version 7 which was purchased just after it came out. I guess that is my first mistake, buying new software right after it comes out.  It ended up that in many ways, getting version 7.0 right after launch met you became a beta tester for the developers and for Stimulation Corporation, the company that owns Starry Night Pro. So before I begin I want to explain what I use this software for.  My main purpose in using this software is print out finder charts for objects that I am going after. I find that I usually am able to print off a larger finder chart showing the objects for the evening (in 6.3.3) and then closer finder charts that allow for even a more refined star hopping experience. Now there are other software out there that will do this, Astro Planner, Deep Sky Planner and Sky Tools 3 to name a few. I have used Astro Planner but found that it does me little good since it only allows me to look at limited objects that I can find and document in my sleep.  Perhaps one day I will expend the funds to  try a few of these out, but for now, Starry Night Pro has always delivered for me.

Here is an example, kinda of of how I use Starry Night Pro. The charts I print I tend to have a white background with black ink for the stars and objects to save on ink.  I have recently started uploading images like this to DropBox and then accessing them via a portable laptop/tablet combo in Windows 8 and that is heavily shielded in rhyolith to keep the light down. I transfer my observing file from DropBox since I usually do not have internet access or limited access in the field and then it allows me to view them like this image:

Clicking on the image will allow you to see it larger I believe. Anyway, I can then zoom in even closer to finish my star hops and be at the object. It is convenient and I have been doing this for 8 years now very successfully. I usually use Starry Night as a back up for logging my observations, keeping my main copy in an Excel spreadsheet for several reasons. I like the log feature and it works nice as a backup, and some would and do like it as a primary logging method.

So everything has been going great when I got an email about version 7 coming out. With a deep discounted price, I bit the bullet and got into the market by buying version 7.  Well, I learned quickly that I was a beta tester for version 7. I could not get to objects, I could not print star charts as the printing command crashed the program. I filed some reports and decided that version 7 just wasn't for me and went back to 6.3.3.  I stay away from the 6.4.3 upgrade as it freezes or crashes frequently on me and so to avoid that, I stay at version 6.3.3., my happy place.

So flash forward to this weekend. I have a new computer and I decided to try out 7.1.1 as I know the crash issue had been addressed.  Well, I loaded 7.1.1 up and I now got to my object, can print a FOV but the object, even when clicked on, doesn't appear on the finderchart.  Worthless still to me. I have shared that feedback with the developers and hope they have a fix for it soon. While see as I believe they respond, but usually not quick enough. I HOPE, more than anything that this is a user error on my part and I am simply doing something wrong. However, I cannot write click, to bring the object up and print that way. I have to go to File, Print and then set up my 3 pane panel for 3 FOV of view I use and print.  No print preview anymore either which disappoints me.

So though I highly recommend version 6.3.3 of Starry Night, I still cannot and strongly won't recommend version 7.1.1 until a visual observer like myself can use that program for what we want. The observing log feature is gone in 7.1.1 and I find it next to impossible to click on an object and have the information for that object come up unless it is a star. I MUST do a search for the objects I want, even if I know where they are in the sky.  So version 7.1.1 is in my book, still a work in progress and I highly recommend that a visual observer does NOT, I repeat DOES NOT purchase version 7.0 to 7.1.1 because there is still far too much missing and that needs to be added back in to make this a program worthy of the visual observer. I will continue to run and love version 6.3.3 and use it faithful until the day comes when the developers feel that we who are lonely visual observers, still have a need for the features in 6.3.3 and they are put into 7.1.1 and versions there after. It is a shame because as a science teacher I have used version 6.3.3 to teach some wonderful concepts to my students and love the capture of the moon phases and having my students identify the correct phase to the time of the month and then figure out when the cycle is going to repeat for the next six months. Lots of stuff to do, and I will use version 6.3.3 for that. It is my sincere hope that one day I can recommend version 7.1.1 and above for use in the field for visual amateurs and for the classroom. Right now, honestly, I just don't see the use of it and feel I wasted my money in upgrading. The team is responsive so I do have hope that in time things will be corrected.



Coming Comparisons; New Additions; TeleVue Delos 8mm & 10mm, DGM vs Thousand Oaks OIII, Narrowband Filters Coming.

Well, I've been busy but not so busy as to avoid some product reviews. I just need some time at my dark site with the products to finish my evaluation.  Here is what is new for me. You will have to excuse my favorite reindeer in the background, he is delivering Holiday Astro Cheer!  Now I have the complete Pentax XW line from the 3.5 to the 20mm so why the Delos? For a comparison and since I have two scopes and my son comes home from being in southern Italy for the last 2 years and wants to go observing, I need a set for him to use. I get the Pentax XW line and he gets to use the TeleVue Delos line (or vice versa depending on my mood).

Above: The 8mm & 10mm TeleVue Delos. Nice. 

Above: The 10mm Delos 

The 8mm Delos. 

The coming battle: the 10mm Delos vs. the 10mm Pentax XW. Yes, I admit my bias for the Pentax XW line upfront but this will be a fair contest with my opinion (and remember, it is MY opinion) being shared. 

The top down view of the TeleVue 10mm Delos on the left, and the 10mm Pentax XW on the right. I need to clean the Pentax XW it looks like. 

The Thousand Oaks Filters in 1 1/4. I have what I like in the 2 inch variety but find I do use my 1 1/4 a lot and don't mind switching them out.  Here you have from right to left, the green OIII filter, the blue Narrowband Filter and what is suppose to be the H-Beta filter but instead of saying 1000 Oaks H-Beta on the filter, it says Moon Filter. I have sent an email to Astronomics to see if they will take this filter back and exchange it. I will post more pictures of the lettering down below and it is weird. The lettering on the OIII and Narrowband are in white, the Moon Filter is not colored in. Weird. A mystery to be solved and I wonder if Astronoimics picked the wrong filter or if Thousand Oaks is using an old casing to put their H-Beta in (not a good move on their part as it will confuse many purchasers like me if they have).  

Above: Another shot of all 3 filters. 

Above: The 1000 Oaks Narrowband vs the equivalent DGM Narrowband. I am not one to take others opinions for stuff, and given the time and money, I will confirm their findings myself so I am going to compare the DGM filters to the Thousand Oaks Filters as soon as I can get time under the stars in a new moon period. 

Above: The DGM OIII 1 1/4 filter on the right; the green Thousand Oaks OIII 1 1/4 filter on the left. 

Again, this is suppose to be the Thousand Oaks H-Beta filter and initially it surely looked like this. When I opened the box, took them out, and then quickly put them into my Pelican 1500 Eyepiece case, I thought it was until I actually looked at them today. This one says Moon Filter as you can see below. The first one is the closest image and shows Moon, but blurry.  The second image is the best and you can see the end of the 1000 then Oaks quite clearly and Moon. Same with the last one I am holding. If you look at the image on the bottom, I took that off the Internet and it is what the H-Beta filter by 1000 Oaks should look like. Yep, I think they sent me the wrong filter and I am hopeful that they will clear it up over at Astronomics.  

So those are the two major comparisons I have coming. The Battle of the 10mm Kings and the Filter comparisons.  Now for clear skies to come about . . .

UPDATE TO THE LP-4 H Beta Filter Mystery . . . .

I graciously received a reply from Thousand Oaks (same day turn around, well, about a 6 hour turn around) to my question on the filter above. Here is a copy of the email I received:

"Sorry for the confusion. The moon filter cells were originally gold and re-anodized red for the H-Beta filters and not re-printed. Unfortunately we missed some with the faint image showing through. It’s definitely an H-Beta (red color coded cell) but you are welcome to exchange it for a new cell. We will have a new batch ready just after the first of the year."

So the filter is a H Beta LP-4 filter from Thousand Oaks but I got one they missed! Cool! Unique! No way I am exchanging it, I love novelty. Just good to know though. 


Why Amateur Astronomy Has Failed in Outreach with Our Youth

There was a wonderful letter in the Reflector magazine from the Astronomical League by League President John Goss.  Mr. Goss makes a wonderful appeal to reminding all of us of the wonder and questions that outreach brings to many people of various ages and especially to our youth.  In reading the letter I enjoyed Mr. Goss' themes and it got me thinking.  I have really backed off over the last two or three years on doing outreach, except at my local library.  As a professional educator which is my second career, my first a successful business career, with 12 years of education and 14 years of experience in education teaching, I have a strong and proven belief on why the current model of outreach is failing to attract both the youth and young people to our hobby, and what does work.

The current model of outreach is an outdated and almost extinct model of where a group of amateurs meet up, set up their telescopes at a publicized location and then show objects to the public as they rotate through the field of telescopes.  This is akin to the lecture demo model in education where the teacher lectures to their students from the front of the room and students are expected to take notes and learn.  The teacher is the holder of the information and dispenses it to them and the type of object is in the eyepiece, and looking. Okay, so what? How the hell does that attract new people to our hobby?  It doesn't. It is fun for an evening, people enjoying viewing, especially those that don't want to find and own a scope.  For those people and amateurs they have figured out that the best "GOTO" telescope is the one where someone else does the work and they get to see the view.

In education today there are several models of pedagogy used in the classroom to ensure that student engagement is high, so that their interest is high and that learning is high.  A quick story shared with me this week has to do with the superintendents of the local school districts meeting in a small school district here for a working breakfast to review how to improve student attendance. While right in that restaurant were several high school kids from across the street who should have been in class and were sloughing. The students were invited over and they shared when they want to be in class. "When the teacher has a lesson where we get to do stuff, where we get to learn by doing then I go." one of them shared.  We call it using constructivism, Bloom's Taxonomy where creating from learning is the highest form of learning.  Some call or use inquiry learning to promote student engagement and learning. The point that this student made so wonderfully is that the youth and young people today have grown up doing. They have taught themselves how to use computers and software, how to master video games, how to do many things we in our late 40's and beyond never learned until we were adults. To think we can capture them and rouse their interest in our hobby by simple sharing is to put down their abilities and intelligence.

One argument I see on a regular basis is that amateur astronomy is a middle age and older hobby. I don't buy it as I got into it in my early 30's.  I was exposed as a kid by my Dad and as a teen by some adults who were teachers. That peaked my interest and in my early 30's I got into the hobby at that point. As I have seen the youth and young people will get involved in the hobby and do what they want to do with it which is what this generation seems to do like the ones previous to it. They may not be a club officer or be largely involved outside of doing their own observing, but that is okay, they will be involved as much as they want to IF they are allowed to participate and contribute fully. Then you may just get a younger club officer or other contribution that is meaningful to them.

So what are the alternatives?  It has to be where students are engaged in the learning process. Teach students how to collimate a reflector, to align the Telrad with the eyepiece, and to look at the constellations, identify them and to star hop. Teach them how to use a scope with goto on it. Share with them how to identify the type of object, how to create an observing list, and to have studies what those objects are (before or after depending on your goal) and then be there to watch and observe as they go after and nail their lists. I have done this both in schools and at my local library for some time. I have a former student who graduated last June and for Christmas she wanted a solar filter for her 6 inch dob so she could take up solar viewing. She is 18 and has been viewing/observing since she was 12 as a result of this type of program. Think she is hooked for life though astronomy is just a hobby for her? Yep, her and about 12 other kids and about 8 families.

The problem with this model is that an amateur has to trust that kids can learn to use their equipment and be safe with it. We have to trust that as we are there scaffolding these wonderful new people that we can catch before they make a mistake, and fix it is they do. Outside of dropping something on a primary mirror of a dob, or jamming up a goto mount, there are very little things that someone operating a telescope can do that cannot be undone and fixed. The biggest problem I see though are two. First, amateurs have to be willing to give up control of the scope and what someone else is going after and focus on not what they want, but in helping someone else get what that person wants out of that session. That is hard with limited time for events, and observing and wanting to be in control of "YOUR" own equipment. Two, it takes social skills to interact and to teach, and yes, it does take skills to be an actual teacher and to interact with the public.  Some may be needing our help there.

That leads me to my final point here. IF a club or the League is serious about getting more younger people involved, I challenge both to getting some educators to share some basic teaching techniques and to having a part of your outreach events set up where people who have signed up in advance can meet in groups of no more than 4 to receive instruction on how to use a scope.  No matter what though, and there are many other ways this can be done and there are many other people who are trained in education in the field that can share, but this notion of just showing objects has to be supplemented with other outreach activities where the public can be trained how and be given the chance to use an actual telescope.  We will grab some now, plant a seed in others for later but we need to diversify how we are getting people interested by letting them do.  Lets be giddy about what we observe and be giddy in helping others to observe.


Explore Scientific 20mm 100 degrees or 22mm TeleVue Nager 82 degrees

I have to admit, I have become an eyepiece junkie. With 3 major dobs now I wanted a couple of sets of eyepieces.  My favorite eyepieces are the Pentax XW line. They are not perfect as in the 14mm and 20mm with curvature, but the Type I or Type II Paracorr clears up that curvature. I love the contrast the XW's give and the eye relief since I wear my eye glasses while observing, while most of the time I do. So my main eyepieces are the 20mm, 14mm, 10mm (my favorite), 7mm, 5mm and 3.5mm (the last two for when conditions allow which are only a couple of times a year for the 3.5 and a few more for the 5mm).  Anyway, observe with me and you'll find the Pentax XW's in my focuser the most.

I also own the following eyepieces.  From Explore Scientific I own the 20mm and 24mm 68 degrees; I had the 24mm 82 degree EP that I gave to my friend Alan so he could have a wide field eyepiece.  I also have the 10mm and 6mm Baader Classic Orthos which I enjoy for detail loo the 27mm and 35mm Panoptic, both favorites and now I have the 17.3mm, 12mm, 10mm and 8mm Delos to back up my Pentax XW line and to do some hard comparisons as viewing allows over the next couple of months so expect those.

I have never really gotten into the 100 degree eyepieces though I have tried and sold a few in the past. Recently I have purchased the 9mm Explore Scientific 100 degrees and in my AR102, M42 was wonderful and the 4 stars of the Trap showed great.  More on that another time.  I also borrowed a 20mm ES 100 degree and ordered one. Then I had a chance to compare it to the 22mm Nagler by TeleVue.  In reviewing that I found that the 20mm ES was pretty sharp across the field though the sharpest was near the 75 degrees from center. Contrast was also excellent. Then I put in the 22mm Nagler and WOW!  Contrast was superior for me (key here this is MY observation and others will and should differ on their opinions from me as my eyes and preferences are not yours so take my review as my review, not yours. You have to do your own review to find out how they work for you), and stars were crisp and sharp across the whole field, just a tad better than the ES 20mm.  The crispness and contrast was enough that for me, I cancelled by ES 20mm 100 degree order for $225 and got the 22mm Nagler for an additional $200.  Regrets on the additional cost? Not at all.  If you don't have the money to buy then one would be happier with the 20mm ES 100.  I did keep the 9mm ES 100 as I want to use it in one of my dobs at a dark site.

I made a point here and I think it is critical.  What is right for me, my eyes and my brain is not necessarily right for you and your pocketbook.  If you can afford the ES 20mm 100 degrees eyepiece you are going to be very happy with it.  For what I am trying to accomplish the 22mm Nagler is a better overall eyepiece based on what I saw, the price, and how I will be using it with my scopes. That is my second point, don't be afraid to go against the crowd and find out for yourself at a star party how different eyepieces your interested in will work. What about the Televue 21mm Ethos for me? Far too much money for an eyepiece I will not use enough so I don't own one. It has tremendous views but I observe 98% of the time deep sky objects and I use wide field on objects that need a wide field or as a finder eyepiece.  There are not a lot of those objects and I find that the ES 30mm 82 degree eyepiece is sufficient for that or the 35mm Panoptic.  I don't need to spend the money on the Ethos as I have two eyepieces that serve my purposes better for me.  For that matter that is why I did not get the 31mm Nagler as I just don't use it enough and the cost is far more than I want to pay for an eyepiece I don't use and its competitor is equal to it or about 90% of it depending on who you talk to.
Third, take your time. If you have to wait one or two years to make a decision do that. If that is too long then six months is no biggie. Wait until you can use the eyepiece and make a decision based on your scope and where you observe and what you have and your observing goals and then make a decision.  We rush far too often here in the U.S. as our society pushes that a lot. Sometimes waiting is the best decision to make when purchasing equipment.  The objects in the night sky are not going away in my life or yours. Our lifespan is not even a twinkle in the eye of the universe.  Take your time. I waited 3 years for a Panoptic 35mm and I got one that has meaning to me as I got it from a friend who left the hobby.  Every time I use it I think of Tom.

So there you go. For me the 22mm Nagler is my 2 inch eyepiece in the low 20mm range that is right for me. If your looking for one, try them out and see what is right for you. That is the best advice I can give you and be patient in your purchase and in making your decision.  Also remember for many, eyepiece collections outlast a lot of scopes as scopes are upgraded to larger sizes or down graded to smaller sizes depending on our life factors. Last, the very last thing is get out with whatever you have, as often as you can, and just be giddy as you explore the night sky however you do so.


Be Warned, I'm Back . . . .

This week has been a tremendous one for me personally.  I completed an advance degree I've been working on for some time, while finishing up my administrative license for education as well.  Well, since last July this has been an extremely time consuming set of projects and finally, I am done. No more classes, no more papers, no more putting off observing because I know I have to get stuff done for whatever was required at the time, usually multiple things.  Astronomy, as much as I love it, had to take a second place over this as did a couple of things I had volunteered to do.  Regrets? None at all as I believe personally that one of the most important things we can do throughout our lives is to keep learning, to keep our minds active and engaged.  It is one of the things I LOVE about astronomy.

Now having said  that, I tried out another site for blogging, and I do very much prefer in many ways how that site is set up, but I have decided to simply keep my blogging stuff on Astronomy right here. It is easier for those who follow and have asked when I am coming back (well, yep, be warned, I'm BACK) since most people know about it.

I will be updating the blog each week now, and have about five entries including some sketching I've done in the last month to share.  I hope for the new moon period in December to get out to the West Desert of Utah for an evening of observing (I LOVE these nights when you can get to the field, set up at dusk, observe after cool down from 6:00pm til 11:00pm, break down, go home, unload, be in bed by 12:30a.m. and have a normal day the next day!).

I also have been using the AR102mm ES refractor in the backyard for convience and am going through the Messier catalog with that scope and doing some sketching with that scope. I much prefer a dark site, period, but that little scope does a really decent job and it allows for a quick set up, cool down, use and take down on a work night. To be honest, it has been my only use of astronomy for the last couple of months due to weather and scheduling conflicts and due dates for school.

So what am I going to do with my time? I have a new venture that I am putting together and is coming together quite well that I will be announcing soon I hope so look for that. It is 100% astronomy related.  I have my dark site observing I will be returning to on a frequent basis.  I've lost 68 pounds and will be losing the next sixth pounds over the next year (now through 2015).  I feel stronger as I work out and exercise, my diet is following the Omni Diet as found at this link over at WebMd.  Basically it was a major lifestyle change.  Some would find it hard but having had to make a major lifestyle change 9 years ago when I was diagnosed as having Celiac disease and could not eat gluten, this lifestyle change fits right in with it. I do not have any health issues on the diet, and I feel so much better on it eating healthy and avoiding those radical chemicals that really mess with one's health.  Food is no longer a crutch for me, it is a tool to help me do what I love, be active in life. That includes astronomy.  The biggest thing, no more sugar drinks, just water and sparkling mineral water which includes Le Croix which I really like.

So I have work, time with Lynda, time for projects like cleaning up my office and telescope room and other projects that I need to do (I cleaned the garage out again over Thanksgiving though and that helped!).  The bottom line is that I am anxious to be back and will be sharing things like a review of the 9mm and 20mm Explore Scientific 100 degree eyepieces (I kept one, sold the other); a comparison of the Delos vs PentaxXW lines as I have the 17.3, 12, 10 and 8 Delos to the 20mm, 14mm, 10mm, 7mm, 5mm and 3.5mm Pentax XW.  Part of that is a head to head on the 10mm Delos vs 10mm Pentax XW.  I have a comparison of the DGM OIII, NB and H Beta filters compared to their Thousand Oak's filters of the same type comparison coming up.  I also have a new power source for powering items in the field to review, some programs and books that I have gotten and will have time to read now, a review of my eyepiece cases (new ones for me) that I am using and my experiences with my Lunt Solar Telescope and some other equipment I haven't mentioned.

So I believe I have a lot to contribute so stay tuned and of all things, it will be my observations and reflections of everything that is me that perhaps has the most meaning for me. I am too a point with the arrival of a new telescope that I am content with my own personal inventory of equipment to use in the hobby.  I will share what works FOR ME, what my opinion is of things, but I would remind everyone that my experience is and will not be everyone's experience. What I see and observe in an eyepiece, or what I do and observe with a telescope is what I choose to do and there are reasons for my choices.  You can read and then the best thing about this hobby is that it is in so many ways a reflection of what life is like.  The hobby like work, family, other activities or organizations we commit our time to, will suck up as much of our time as we give it.  Maintaining a proper balance in my opinion is critical.  Equipment can be an endless quest but some of the best experiences I have had, have come not from what some may consider top end equipment be that telescopes, eyepieces, filters, etc. Sometimes just getting out wherever one is and enjoying the sky with whatever one has, is the best thing for enjoying the hobby.

Bluntly, I have learned that I can get so caught up in the hobby and what I have and how good it is, that I forget that most important thing is getting out, enjoying what I do have and can use at that moment and making the most of that time.  That to me is what life is all about.  It is about being content with where you are, what you have and using it and enjoying as you plan for the future.  I love astronomy, there should be no doubt about that. I love being in the field in ALL seasons when there is a clear sky.  However I know from going through these last six months that astronomy is only one aspect of who I am, and that I had to put it aside for that time as I finished with more pressing and yes, for that time, more important things.  Lynda lost her mother during this time and above all things, it was important for me to be with her, and I have to admit, after 26 1/2 years of marriage (yep, I appreciate there are many of you out there who have done it longer but 26.5 isn't too shabby in today's world) I really do enjoy, even above this hobby, just spending time with my sweetheart.  She is the moving force behind the project I mentioned that I will be announcing soon.  She is incredible and this last summer, Lynda went observing with me twice! That in and of itself was just terrific and I LOVED having my wife with me. We are making plans for travel as our 21 almost 22 year old daughter has moved out into her own place, and our 20 soon to be 21 year old son will be returning from living in Italy for the last two years and will become busy with work and his own college education.  Part of that travel is a trailer and a way to haul one of the scopes so as we visit and stay in the national parks we visit, and sleep in our trailer, I can set up and observe.

So whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, no holiday or another holiday, in the spirit of the season I wish you Happy Holidays. I hope that instead of seeking something, we look to our better natures and give something to someone in need, who is less fortunate than ourselves.  May we look at the heavens above and be amazed and dazzled by what we view, what we learn and the great expanse of space with all of its marvelous creations.  It is good to be back.



Partial Solar Eclipse October 23rd, 2014 near Salt Lake City, Utah

I had a wonderful time after school today showing some students, their parents and a few others the view through my solar telescope. I posted about it on my other blog with images I took on my iPhone 5S through my 10mm Pentax XW.  Here is the LINK and here is the url:


Comets, Asteroids Oh My!

Well another post over at my new blog. Still trying to decide if I want to migrate this one over there or keep this one and get rid of that one. The interface on Weebly is easier to use I believe so we'll see.  The latest post is about a program I saw on PBS News Hours on chasing down comets and asteroids, some info on that and about Robert E. Holmes hunt for NEO's and the dedication of his 50" telescope. Here is the LINK and then the url:

Curious, if you live in the Salt Lake area. Yesterday while driving home with my wife Lynda, we saw an explosion or bright light out west. I then pulled over when I saw this trail, and it wasn't a contrail. Contrails around 6:00pm or 6:30pm were much longer and much straighter so I am thinking I might have seen a Bodie as it came in over the west desert.  This was taken with my iPhone 5S zoomed in to maximum. Here is the image:


Sketching Observing Locations

A new post on the Weebly Blog at this LINK about sketching observing locations. One I am happy with, two are okay but need work. Then again, the only way to get better is to practice!


Charles Messier; Update to Tombstone?

I saw the letter to the editor and the DeepSkyVideo on the tomb of Charles Messier. So over on the new blog I have made an entry with an idea if anyone is interested in raising money for a new tombstone if we can find someone in France or there about to contact the cemetery for how to do this, and then to price a headstone that fits the requirements of the cemetery so we know how much to raise, and then a club or organization to handle the money and the purchase of the tombstone. Here is the link to my new blog with the information/idea. It is located at

Observing September 26th, 2014

I was able to get out for a night on Friday, September 26th, 2014.  You can read about that experience over at my new blog at this link:  Jay's Astronomy Blog 2.


Last Entry for Now

Well, a lot has happen this summer, and more than I will disclose or go into here. I will say that with my 14" inch dob I now have a wonderful 17.5" dob and in 6 months, another larger one is on the way. I feel that this blog has become rather large and cumbersome so I am moving over to a new blog located at this link.

I haven't had much time for anything the last couple of months and the weather here has not allowed for more than a few observing trips. Those are on the new site.  So I hope to see you over there. Oh, I posted here about being committed to my health and I am glad to report I am down 38 lbs since June! I am very excited about that. .



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.



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!


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!


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.


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.


Utah Star Party August, 2014

Well, I made a decision without consulting with anyone. I moved the Utah Star Party this year to Thursday, September 25th through September 28th .  I will not be able to be out at the site on Thursday, September 25th and will drive out the afternoon of Friday, September 26th and observe Friday evening, Saturday evening and perhaps Sunday evening.  Others may come out on Thursday and set up their camp and observe that night and everyone is welcome to leave when they want. The sole purpose of this experience is for amateurs to gather, enjoy each others company, observe and then share what they want to.  This last year we had a wonderful experience and hope to repeat that.

So why the move from October to September? First, I had thought of July but the new moon weekend falls on the weekend of July 24th, and July 24th is a large holiday here in Utah, and the sites will be full.  I opted not for October after last years experience of freezing at night.  August can be monsoon so we agreed to bypass August, and because in September you have longer nights, both summer and fall objects are up, and if your up late enough, winter objects, can we say hello to Orion?

Here are some photos of the area.  The car and the telescope have been replaced . . .

Looking South: 

A small tent under a Juniper Tree . . . 

Looking from the tent to the observing area. 

Looking north to northeast. 

Looking west (zoom on the camera). 

Looking south-southeast

Looking south to southeast

Looking east. 

Looking south

Well, that's the site.  No registration. I have updated the website to Utah Star Party 2014 and that is at this link.  For some information if your interested.

1. No toilets at the site. Your on your own kinda of. I will have a portable toilet with a bad under it and you are responsible for bagging, zipping and getting rid of any poop you put into a bag.  Here is a view of the portable toilet I have: Link. IF you want to use my toilet that is fine but you will need to bring a bag which is at this link to know what to bring. You have to dispose of the waste and don't bury it at the observing site.

2. Forest Service Toilets and trash are available at the Vernon Reservoir 4 miles to the east.  Quick drive and the toilets there are actually really good. I've used them.  They also have some great camping sites at the reservoir and you can set up your equipment on the field and we can watch it (I leave my equipment set up and covered) and then drive away when your done (have your car ready to pull out where the lights don't impact us) and go to your RV at the reservoir. We also had two RV's at the ite last year and that worked fine for us.

3. Bring your own water/drink and food.  What you bring in, you need to pack out.  I'll have some extra large black garbage bags but feel free to bring your own and haul them out when your done.

4.  We are not light freaks but some etiquette is expected.  Let the site know if your leaving early, park your car so the lights are pointing west toward an exit. Use a red light like me to sketch? Don't set up near me if you don't like that and I won't bring to your observing area if your observing and not using lights. Just live the golden rule please.

5.  Quiet on the field til 10:00 a.m. each day.  It's okay to talk etc, just be quiet and perhaps use a whisper level voice and be away from sleeping tents.

6. No tents on the observing field please.  Set up on the edges of the field.

So that's about it.  If you want to discuss this event, please go to this link over at astronomyinutah. I know I am a little more open there. I really hope to see a good turn out, to see old friends and make some new ones also!