Levono 100s Laptop, Red Shielding to make Sky Tools 3 work in the Field

     I wanted to share something I am using in the field right now so I don't have to print off Sky Charts from Sky Tools 3.  I want to express that I really appreciate Sky Tools 3 and it is my primary tool for planning, observing and finding, and recording my observations and my sketches in one location.  To help with this I purchased a Lenovo  IdeaPad 100s 11.6" Laptop for use in the field. It has a small amount of memory on it, only 32gb and only 2 gb of RAM (I would have preferred 4 gb instead).  However, it has Windows 10 installed and I am easily able to load and use Sky Tools 3 on it with no problem.  The battery has a life of between 8 to 10 hours, but I have a recharging unit for either the car, or a portable one that will recharge it for use on multiple nights in the field.  Here is what it looks like on my wife's piano bench. 

Now in terms of dark adaptation, I purchased from ScopeStuff a clear red acrylic sheet of plastic and some rubylith film to go over the plastic to make it darker. Below you can see Sky Tools 3 in Virgo up and running. To the left is the clear red acrylic plastic that attach with two long and secure rubber bands without damaging the screen of the laptop.

The image below now shows Sky Tools 3 in its Red Mode and you can see the black rubber bands better.  The red acrylic clear plastic shows up better here also. 

Below I have attached the red acrylic plastic with the rubber bands. You can see them at the top of the screen and near the bottom.  The laptop will not close all the way, but it will close enough to put the laptop into a sleep mode to conserve battery life if that is needed.  I have not dimmed the lights here, but in the field I can dim the laptop and dim Sky Tools 3 to where I can still see the screen and the finder charts that Sky Tools 3 generates, but not enough light to bother me or anyone else.  

I have used it in the field twice now, and am VERY pleased with the results. I don't have to print off star charts. Sky Tools 3 allows me to access charts on the screen and the laptop weighs only 2.2 pounds, which is distributed evenly and makes it very light. I have carried it to the focuser a couple of times on some harder objects and it works that way. Usually I have my observing table near by and I place it there, facing away from the telescope and I can simply remember my star hop from the screen to the focuser/dob.  

I tremendously enjoy also the fact that I can enter in my observation right after doing it on Sky Tools 3, and be done with it! No more multiple systems, no more binders filled of finder charts. I have my finder chart right there as long as I keep the battery charged, which I can do.  So overall, I am extremely happy with this set up and thought I would share it with you. 

Oh, why not Sky Safari? I have tried Sky Safari at the telescope/dob using my phone or my iPad and I don't like the amount of light it puts out even at low levels. Also, the battery tends to drain far more quickly than the lap top in colder temperatures.  So that is why I have opted for this. I hope some find this useful.  If your interested, post a comment and I'll share the battery backup and power charger I got for this. 

Tele Vue DeLite 7mm & 11mm Review

Well, I broke down and purchased these two eyepieces for my eyepiece collection.  I have to say I was skeptical with a 62 degree FOV, but after using them in my refactors and in my two dobs now, I am sold.  For me the FOV is not that big of a deal because they are sharp across the board to the outer edge for me and in my scopes.  They are comfortable to observe with an the adjustable eye guard that locks into place for someone who prefers to wear glasses when they observe. They are light weight, another boon, I did not feel them in my pocket when I was observing. Just like in my pocket, where I did not feel their weight, they offered comfort at the focuser and this meant that I focused on my object, not on the eyepiece.   

I purchased the 7mm and then the 11mm and I may get one more higher power when they come out in June. We'll see.  I missed the sale that starts May 1st, but I didn't really care, I still got a great price with a discount on them from Astronomics. Quick shipping, their communication has VASTLY improved on when the item ships, the tracking number and thus I knew when it was arriving.  These have sealed the fate on the Explore Scientific 20mm 100 degree and the 9mm 100 degree eyepieces I have in my case. I don't like pushing my eye into the eyepiece to view so those just don't work for me. After the ES sale ends on May 1st, up they will go on sale.  

Views through these are neutral and don't add false color.  They are a pleasure to use, they are keepers, a welcome addition to my Tele Vue Delos and my beloved Pentax XW's.  Build is tremendous, no issues as would be expected from a Tele Vue eyepiece, easy to use, great eye relief. My only compliant, and I WANT TELE VUE to please change their eyepiece lids. Again, here, mine come off easily after you remove them the first time, and they sit slanted after you put them on correctly, one side lifts up.  I just don't like Tele Vue's eye cup lids.  Over 5/5 stars, perhaps a slight ding, - .25 so a 4.75/5 for me.  Here are my pics of them. 

Observing April 6th into April 7th 2016

     April came and for new moon, the skies were absolutely perfect. In the days of old, and I still use the term, we came to know that two days after a storm, in the winter or spring, or even fall, if the moon was not up, conditions are ideal if not near perfect for observing where we live. The jet stream meanders to the north and we get a pocket of stable air from high pressure that settles in over head, until the next system moves in from the west coast.  This was such a day, a day of days, I would label it perfect.  Temperature during the day was near 60 degrees F and by the time I was observing they were headed down to a low of about 35 degrees.  Here is what I saw as I drove in to the site in my Outback.

Driving up FR006 passing Site 1 Owl's Roost on the left, it was occupied by a family of 4 in a trailer. FR006 had been graded except right after the Cattle Guard. 

Approaching the Cattle Guard, to FR006 Site 2 Juniper's Grove. 

Driving in to FR006 Site 2 Juniper's Grove

FR006 Site 2 Juniper's Grove; Looking east, south-east after parking the Outback. 

FR006 Site 2 Juniper's Grove looking south; AWESOME!!!!

Panorama of FR006 Site 2 looking south to south-west. Gorgeous! 

Set up with 17.5" Star Catcher, table, observing chair, step ladder. 

 Outback, 17.5" Star Catcher, observing table, chair, Observing Chair, Step Ladder. 

Looking East. 

Looking South to the SheepRock Mountains. 

17.5" Dob, Star Catcher 

17.5" Dob, Star Catcher 

Outback set up with camping air mattress on bottom, 2 inch memory foam, -50 degrees F bag, a quilt, a fan, my CPAP hooked up to the battery and ready to go, and I'll put the eyepiece case on the back and use this as an extra table until I go to bed that night. I had considered tent camping but decided against it. 

This is how the Outback looks when it is all packed up! 

Looking North 

So that is how I set up and if I am going to sleep over, how I set up for that IF I am sleeping in the back of the Outback. If I am staying for more than one night, I usually tent camp bringing my Cabella's XL Cot and the same padding mentioned above to sleep on.  I use a good old 8 person tent and I put carpet under the feet of the Cabela's XL cot so it doesn't puncture the bottom of the tent. Good set up!

This night was gorgeous and I was joined near sunset by a family I have observed with before. Sorry, I don't have permission to use their names and in truth, since four were children, I wouldn't use their names anyway. That's the educator in me!  Later after dark two of my fellow SLAS members joined us to observe also.

I spent the first part of the evening showing show objects to everyone in the 17.5" Star Catcher dob. That was enjoyable. I liked having the kids around and showing them objects, until they got cold and worn out.  Daylight Savings had arrived by now so it did not get out of astronomical twilight until around 9:00pm MDT, maybe 9:20pm MDT.

By 11:00pm MDT though, everyone had left and I was left alone. I then started working my list and going after objects I had done to observe that night.

1. NGC 2765 Lenticular Galaxy in Hydra: April 6th, 2016, 11:15pm MDT or 5:15 UT on 4/7/2016;  FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove.  Antoniadi I, clear, mild, 44 degrees F; 17.5"f/4.4  dob Star Catcher, 27mm Panoptic, 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II.

Small, rather faint lenticular galaxy, elongated almost due W - E. Brighter inner core region though no nucleus. One time visit.

2. NGC 2555 Spiral Galaxy in Hydra; April 6th, 2016, 11:30pm MDT or 5:30 UT on 4/7/16; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove; Clear, cool, 42 degrees F; Antoniadi I; SQM 21.8; 17.5" f/4.4  dob Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic, 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II.

Round, rather bright and moderately large galaxy. Could be considered slightly oval, though more round to my sight. Lays NW - SE with several stars forming a triangle around it. Includes a 12 mag star on the SE side.  No nucleus and the outer edge is not well defined.  Some brightening near the core.

3. NGC 2618 Galaxy in Hydra; April 6, 2016, 11:50pm MDT or 05:50 UT on 4/7/16; clear, cool, 39 degrees F; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I; 17.5" f/4.4 dob, Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic, 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II;

Galaxy lays NW to SE and is oval in shape.  Uniform surface brightness not much else. One time visit.

4. NGC 2695 (center) & NGC 2697 (upper left) galaxies in Hydra.  April 7th, 2016; 12:15am MDT or 06:15 UT; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove; SQM 21.8; Clear, cool, 38 degrees F; Antoniadi I; 17.5" f/4.4 dob Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic with 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II

NGC 2695 is a rather high surface brightness object. It is oval and roundish in shape depending on whether I use direct vision or averted.  Probably more roundish than oval though.  Very uneven edge to the galaxy and shows the outer envelope with an inner shell. The inner shell has a bright core region and a faint stellar core, though I believe mine is too bright in this sketch.

NGC 2697 is a slightly smaller galaxy, slightly fainter, oval in shape, with an even surface brightness with no detail or core in the core region. Fun pair to observe.

5. NGC 2708 (large galaxy in center) and NGC 2709 (small galaxy in center top), galaxies in Hydra.  April 7th, 2016, 12:50am MDT or 06:50 UT; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove.  SQM 21.8; clear, cool 37 degrees F; 17.5" f/4.4 dob, Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic, 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II.

NGC 2708 is a spiral galaxy that lays inclined to us.  It is rather bright, diffused stretch of light extending NE to SW.  Even surface brightness in the envelope, with well defined edges.  Brightening in the core region with a stellar nucleus in evidence.

NGC 2698 and NGC 2699 are rather bright nearby galaxies just out of the sketch that I have covered before.  They lay north of this pairing.

NGC 2709 is at the top of the field, as a faint fuzzy patch, with even surface brightness.

 6. NGC 4105 & NGC 4106 merging Galaxies in Hydra.  April 7th, 2016, 1:10am MDT or 07:10 UT; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I, clear, cool, 35 degrees F; 17.5 f/4.4 dob Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic, 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II.

NGC 4105 is the larger of the two galaxies in the sketch and eyepiece.  It is almost if not completely oval in shape, moderately bright with an even surface brightness in its outer envelope with defined edges.  Bright inner core region with a small stellar nucleus, which averted vision helps to bring out.

NGC 4106 is the smaller and rounder of the two galaxies.  It is more concentrated and has a more even surface brightness, with a bright and larger inner core region.  Very fun pair to observe.

7. NGC 3242 The Ghost of Jupiter, Planetary Nebula in Hydra; April 7th, 2016, 2:10a.m MDT or 8:10UT; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove, Antoniadi I, clear, cold, 32 degrees F; 17.5" f/4.4 dob Star Catcher; 20mm, 10mm, 7mm, 5mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II; OIII Thousand Oaks Filter;

One of my favorite Planetary Nebula.  Very large in size, easy to identify when your in the FOV.  Used the 27mm Panoptic to capture the FOV, then worked down on my eyepiece list for observations. PN has a teal color to it, perhaps a greenish teal.  OIII showed the outer and inner shell and I could just pull out the central star with the 17.5" dob.  The 7mm Pentax XW showed more detail to the PN as did the 5mm Pentax XW.  Best view was with the 7mm Pentax which I used on the PN to sketch it.  Happy with the overall sketch.

8. Messier 51 or NGC 5194 with NGC 5195 (the companion); Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici; April 7th, 2016, 2:40a.m. MDT or 0840 UT;  FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove; SQM 21.8; Antoniadi I, clear, cold 30 degrees F;  17.5" f/4.4 dob Star Catcher; 20mm, 10mm, 7mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II.

I do not think my sketch does service to the view the 17.5" dob Star Catcher provided me of Messier 51.  Both arms this night were easily observable and visible as they came out of the bright inner core. The various HII regions were also observed.  The bridge seemed to attach to NGC 5195 faintly.  Just a tremendous view and one of the best nights I have had in a LONG time.

9. Messier 101 or NGC 5457 called the Pinwheel Galaxy in Ursa Major.  April 7th, 2016, 3:20a.m. MDT or 0920 UT, FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove;  SQM 21.8; Antoniadi I, clear, cold, 29 degrees F; 17.5" f/4.4 dob Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic, 20mm, 10mm Pentax XW's;  Paracorr Type II.

FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove provided just an outstanding view of this large, low surface brightness galaxy.  Arms were clearly in evidence as were the H2 regions.  There was detail galore this night in M101. Bright inner core region and a stellar nucleus in evidence.  Mottling was clearly evidence in the arms as well.  After observing and sketching this beautiful galaxy, I put away essential equipment, covered the 17.5" up and crawled back into the back of my Outback for a nice, warm and long spring nap.

Observing Catch Up! March 10, 2016

Well, I am sick and am running back and forth to a certain room in the house today, so I figured I can update my blog since I am certainly not working today. I have three entries I am going to post on.  My first is on my observing done on March 10th, 2016 out on Forest Road 006 at the Owl's Roost site.  Here are my usual photos from the set up and from twilight moving in.

Looking West 

Looking West - North-West at Twilight. 

Upper Ring with Curved Spider of the 17.5" 

17.5" Star Catcher Set up.  You can see my -50 degrees F bag set out in the back of my Outback. 

17.5" Set Up with My Observing Chair: Balmy at 50 degrees F. 

Twilight with Clouds Leaving 

Set Up: Observing Table, Chair with padding, Observing Chair, Step Ladder and the 17.5"

Belt of Venus with 17.5" 

17.5" Set Up, Cooling 

Clear Skies Looking East 

Clear Bright Skies looking South to the SheepRock Mountains 

17.5" Set Up in AWESOME Skies! 

Fun with Jupiter and the Galileo Moons

 The Waxing Crescent Moon

The evening of March 10th, 2016 was extremely clear and beautiful.  Temperature was in the mid fifties and I was itching to get out and observe. I loaded up the Outback and took the 17.5" this time, I had considered the 14" since it has been a year since I had that scope out.  I took the 17.5" though as I was and am going after some fainter objects.  Driving out to FR006 I found that the main road was heavily gutted by ATV's and 4WD's driving out there over the winter which was wet and snowy.  Here are a couple image: 

Above is from a different day's shot, but show the ruts that are deep, but okay for an Outback.

 I love observing out here at this time of the year.  The grass was green, fresh and the land is flush with new growth.  I got set up at FR006 Juniper's Grove as I call it now, the site after the cattle guard off of FR006 where you turn right immediately after the cattle guard.

It was totally clear, crisp and at sunset a few cirrus clouds came in but blew out after sunset.  This night I was going to work on some fainter objects in Orion, Monoceros, and Hydra.

 1. Messier 78 or NGC 2068 Reflection Nebula in Orion (upper left/central).  NGC 2071 (lower right) diffuse nebula in Orion. FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; 08:01 pm MST or 2:01 UT on 3/11/16; Antoniadi I, clear, mild at 45 degrees F.  17.5" Dob Star Catcher with 10mm and 20mm Pentax XW and Paracorr Type II; No Filter. SQM 21.8.

Rather easy to find as always from Alnack  I observed both objects with no filter, and with a Thousand Oaks NB and OIII, both reducing the visible nebula but the OIII enhancing the nebula detail a little more.  Winter Milky Way easily visible with structure, dark lanes showing. M78 is a little larger and brighter near the star and fading of behind it.  NGC 2071 is a little more diffused but the concentration appears brighter to me.

2. NGC 1762 Galaxy in Orion; March 10, 2016 at 8:51pm MST or 2:51 UT on 3/12/16;  FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost;  Antoniadi I; Clear, some clouds to the far north, no impact, mild 46 degrees F; 17.5" dob, Star Catcher; 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II.

At first I thought this was an extremely faint and small galaxy. With averted vision I could detect more size. Has a bright inner core area with a somewhat stellar nucleus, possibly, won't confirm. Fun object to observe.

3. NGC 2245 Diffuse Nebula in Monoceros; March 10, 2016; 09:49pm MST or 3:49 UT on 3/11/16; FROO6 Site 1 Owl's Roost; Antoniadi I; SQM 21.8; 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II: No Filter.

Rather easy to find from a diamond asterism. I used both the Thousand Oaks DGM Narrowband and their OIII filter.  The DGM NB seemed to be the better filter to me on this, giving some more detail on the object.  Nebula flames out behind a star that is probably lighting it up.  Brighter nebulosity near the star and then fades as it fans out behind it.  Very fun object to observe, I spent a good ten minutes simply observing it.

4. NGC 2718 Galaxy in Hydra: March 10th, 2016, 10:20pm MST or 4:20 UT on 3/11/16; FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; Antoniadi II, clear, mild at 42 degrees F, clouds are beginning to move in. 17.5" dob Star Catcher; 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW with Type II Paracorr.

Relatively easy to find galaxy in Hydra going from L Hydra.  Galaxy is best viewed with averted vision showing a bright inner core region, with a fainter shell. No nucleus is observed.  Fun Galaxy.

After this observation, I captured four more galaxies in Hydra, and then the clouds begin to pour in so I spent some time looking in Leo and Virgo on the Messier objects for fun. By midnight I was breaking down, and though I had planned to spend the night, there was no use sleeping the cold with clouds pouring in that could threaten moisture with exposed equipment when I could pack up and be in bed by 1:30am MST.  So that is what I did. Still, I had a wonderful evening and enjoyed my time out at the site alone.