My View of the Night Sky

March 7, 2008

A While Back

Filed under: Lunar Eclipse, Planets — Phil @ 9:16 am

It has been a while since I have been able to post, or got outside to view for that matter. The last time I was out was for the lunar eclipse.  I brought my 4 year old out with me so that session was just about pointing the telescope and seeing what we could find. There was no worrying about the auto-star system or how I was going to get my camera to work. I even brought out my old telescope for my son to point around with and imagine. I must say it was the most fun I had observing yet. We watched the eclipse slowing happen for a little while before I pointed my telescope to Saturn. With my old telescope it would have looked like a fuzzy white dot indistinguishable from any star. With my new one I as able to see the unmistakable shape of the rings. Both my son and I were amazed. It really made me want to go out and by a Powermate so that I can see more. The cold and snow has made me really wish for spring to hurry the hell up and get here.


January 30, 2008

Minus 52

Filed under: General — Phil @ 1:20 pm

That was the temperature with the wind chill yesterday. Today we have improved to a balmy -42. If the temperature is not enough to deter me my observing site is now buried under 3 feet of snow. When does spring start?

January 24, 2008

The Moon and More

Filed under: Astrophotography, Moon, Nebula, Planets — Phil @ 3:28 pm

Last night my whole family fell asleep early so I took the opportunity to get out side and play with my telescope some more.  Before that happened I had peeked outside to see if I could find Mercury as the sun was setting. I was surprised at how bright it was and how easy it was to find. Unfortunately I did not have a lot of time to linger and enjoy the site.

After dark my first target was the large bright moon. It was the first time I actually had success with my telescope tracking an object. Tracking the moon may not be all that impressive but I am taking small steps right now. I also took the time to try out my #80A Blue filter. With the full moon it toned down the brightness and some of the features really popped out.  In particular I focused in on Crater Plato.

I was planning to take a look at Mars next but I was starting to get cold so I decided to set my sights to the Orion Nebula. Because of Orion’s location in the sky I had to set up in my driveway.  My backyard provides a lot of shelter from light pollution, my drive way does not. There is a street lamp only 30 feet away from me and of course the entire neighborhood had their lights on drawing a disapproving look from Al Gore. Even with all these obstacles there in the middle of my eyepiece was the faint form of the Orion Nebula. Found, I might add without the use of my telescope’s autostar system.  I was able to view it for a while even with changing eyepieces and putting on my LPR filter. I lost it after I put my 26 mm eyepiece in. At that point I was having difficulty using my hands to I decided to call it quits. Still I very successful night of viewing.

Where are the pictures you ask? I tried but with my recently arrived camera adapter but I was unable to get my camera to focus.  I quickly gave up and just decided to enjoy the view. What makes my camera great for taking pictures of my sons playing soccer makes it absolutely craptastic for astrophotography. I think I will start saving my pennies for a DSI.

January 21, 2008

Life in a Northern Town

Filed under: General Gazing — Phil @ 8:09 am

I had plans to get out and do some viewing this weekend. It is a great time of year for sky watching because we have  probably close to 12 hours of of usable darkness. As is usually the case on the weekend it snowed all of Friday night and Saturday.  On Sunday the clouds went away and it was perfectly clear a few hours after sunset. An excellent night for viewing, except for on thing. The bitter freaking cold (about -25 Celsius with the wind chill). Not my idea of a good time. Tonight is going to be only -4. If I am going to get any viewing done I may have to sacrifice a little sleep and accept being tired at work this week.

January 16, 2008

First Bit of Viewing

Filed under: General Gazing — Phil @ 12:25 pm

I have finally made it out to use my new telescope a bit. The skies cleared and everyone is healthy again. I have had limited success with the “three star alignment” from Celestron. I am getting better at it each time I try but I have yet to have complete success with it yet.

My first target was the moon. I ran through all the eye pieces I have and the 2x barlow also. I was very impressed with the sharpness and the detail I was getting. The 2″ eyepiece upgrade would seem to be well worth it.

Next I tried Mars. I was happy to see the distinctive orange dot in my eyepiece. However I was expecting to see some detail. I am not sure if it is because of my location, eyepiece power or something I need to do better. Or perhaps I was expecting too much. I was using a 26mm eyepiece with a 2x barlow.

I also had a look at the Pleadies. I was absolutely amazed at what I saw. The sheer amount of stars the NexStar was able to see blew my socks off.

I have yet to see a Nebula or a Galaxy but I have been also going with out star charts or any type a plan as of yet. This weekend I think I am going to explore Orion and see what I can find.

No pictures yet. But my camera adapter shipped on Tuesday so I should be getting it soon.

January 7, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil @ 2:19 pm

My telescope has finally arrived. However I am being plagued by the new equipment curse. Since I brought my NexStar home I have had about 30 minutes of clear weather. Plus I caught strep throat. Then my kids got pink eye. Good times for everyone.

December 18, 2007

On the Way

Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil @ 9:12 am

I got a call last night from the Science Shop. My telescope has been shipped from Celestron as of yesterday. I am desperately hoping to have it by the weekend

November 30, 2007

Been a While

Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil @ 9:58 am

I have not been here for quite some time now. I have had a bunch of minor house repairs come up that have kept me busy. Also my youngest son become ill and required a trip to the emergency room. All is OK now but there has been very little time for sky watching. As soon as this arrives I will be getting back outside again.

October 3, 2007

Still Here

Filed under: Star Gazing — Phil @ 11:40 am

Due to a combination of bad weather and fatigue I have not been out with my telescope for a while. Even so there have been some neat things going on. Sometimes after one of my five month olds 4AM feedings I will take a quick peek out my window. The normally washed out south sky (light pollution from Edmonton) has become alive. Orion is dominating the sky as it rises earlier and earlier each day. Venus is shining as bright as I have ever seen it. All this with the moon still shining brightly and washing out the sky even more. I think I will finally get my chance to get out this weekend. Clear skies are predicted and it is the Thanksgiving long weekend. I am not looking forward, however, to the sub-freezing overnight temperatures.

My new telescope almost became a reality this weekend. My wife confessed that she almost went out to buy me one to surprise me. She decided to wait so that I would get what I really wanted. It won’t be long now. I am a lucky man. I do want to go visit our local astronomy club to find out what exactly I can expect to see with a larger telescope so close to a light polluting city before a make a purchase.

September 18, 2007

Fall is in the Air

Filed under: Astronomy, Star Gazing — Phil @ 7:52 am

Saturday night quite possible may have been the last warm summer night I get this year. It is now mostly dark by 9:30 and the night air is feeling a little more fresh. I even had to scrape frost off my car windows one morning last week. It has even been cold enough that there have been rumors of some overnight snow. It is all good though. As nice as the evenings are in July, even at midnight it is not completely dark. Saturday was a rare combination of completely darkness, cloudless skies and warm overnight temperatures. We had spent the hiking in Jasper National Park so I was a little tired (we spent a total of 8 hours driving and 3 hours hiking), but I did not want to waste the night. I thought that finally I might be able to see a deep sky object in my telescope.

Once again my little telescope let me down. I tried to find M103 in Cassiopeia and M81 and M82 in Ursa Major. No luck. I tried to get a look at Mars but is was very low on the horizon and quickly moved behind some trees. I decided to move onto some naked eye viewing. I was looking around the summer triangle (Deneb, Vega and Altair) when I saw a relatively slow moving meteor make it way NNW. It had a decent size trail was was visible for about 1.5-2 seconds. That alone made it worth the effort to go outside.

Just before I went inside a lone Canada Goose did a flyby. It was odd enough for a goose to be flying around a midnight but what made this even more out of the ordinary is that it circled over head a couple of times before heading on its way. Perhaps he was out for one more night of goose merriment before heading south, had a little too much quack grass and had some trouble getting back to the pond.

One that note I decided to pack up and go to bed. Before I called it a night I scattered some Astronomy magazines around the house left open to some “random” telescopes advertisements. Christmas is only three months away after all.

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