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Tongue-tied but trying!

I couldn't believe it, I had waited till 10:00 pm and I still didn't have the inky black skies needed to see most of the stars except the brighter ones in each constellations. Deep-sky objects were clearly NOT going to be on the table for this particular night! I will have to take a strong coffee before doing any serious stargazing from now on as spring approaches summer! Since the planets outshone everything else, I decided to concentrate on them. Like usual, my first gaze fell on Venus. When the moon is not around, it is still outshining everything else! Once again, its clarity surprised me and I took the picture you see at the bottom. I am quite proud of it! I used my 26 mm Plössl with my 2X Barlow lens which gave me a magnification of 76.9x. I then, using the same magnification, took my chances with Mars once more but like the previous night, it offered little. In its defense, it's not because he wasn't picture-friendly but simply because the planet is slowly receding away. My last stop was Saturn and it surely didn't disappoint! Using my Sony point-and-shoot, I caught a short 20 second video file. Once by my computer, I utilized the RegiStax 6 program to stack the individual frames. The result gave me the following! I couldn't be happier! Tonight, I'm going to stretch the limits of this procedure. If the length of the video file creates better images then we'll see what I can capture by filming the planet for an extensive period of time! This is very tricky because a Dobsonian telescope isn't the most stable when it comes to photography. I should accept my equipment's limitations but then, it's just a "tongue-tied, twisted earth bound misfit" as I am right? Isabelle

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(super)MOONSTRUCK!

One would think that after last night with the famous "supermoon" , that many posts covering the event prevail but no. To tell you the truth, I must admit feeling quite bothered about the "hype" the news conjured up with their flashy headlines and promises of wonder. In the end, there was little to see without some sort of measurable reference that the moon was "bigger". The media did it again, promised something they knew little about, raised excitement and only delivered an illusion based on the power of suggestion. Yes, the moon was it its closest, this is called a perigree. That's it. However, there was a time last evening where I felt elated since for once, all eyes ventured above to the night sky and searched to be mesmerized. The feeling we all have as stargazers was shared by all (even if just for a moment)! I hope it continues to grow and does not wane once the headlines become yesterday's news. The moon is always beautiful. LUNAR WONDERS Liquid-less seas of rugged terrain with borrowed light, Bombarded, impacted, now cratered shadows in time. Daunting shine creating shadows in the subdued night. Waxing, waning, eclipsing, sometimes reigning sublime. Illness, destruction, the promise of monsters you bring are all creations, wishes of doom born within the mind. supreme darkness where feathered silence takes wing, Intriguing, unknown, a sense of wonder to all humankind. An attraction force, a pull far greater than we can surmise elevating, decreasing, reducing, creating the ocean tide. A magnetism, a scientific lust for discovery under disguise, we searched to land, to walk, make you an object of pride. But with all you've become and wonders you've captured, I stand captured almost enraptured in a sense of awe at the hope you may reveal many questions unanswered always humbled by your presence, I could never withdraw. Isabelle Last night, I took the following pictures of the moon not really because it was bigger, but because it was there : Isabelle

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Have you ever danced with the galaxies?

April 21st, 2012 The peak of the Lyrids settled in on this night which boasted a dozen or more meteors per hour. Did I see any meteors? Yes, I saw a couple but I have to admit that I wasn't really looking. According to me the "real show" was a little bit further,... I made my way outside after fixing my TELRAD which had become unattached at one side since the glue wore off with time. I realigned my viewfinder using bright Venus. When I stopped fumbling in the dark and actually glimpsed at our shiny neighbour I was aghast as to it's clarity! It's crescent, illuminated at 33%, was spellbinding! There have been other nights when it's phase brightened up the sky to a greater degree but tonight the view was extremely sharp! Our other neighbour, Mars, was very present on this night and offered a spectacular view as well. I checked the humidity levels wondering if it was low but it registered at 81%. At levels this high one would believe that my transparency (how steady the sky is) would be affected but no,... everything was pristine! I skipped across the sky to Saturn that showed a definite hint of yellow with a whisper of an orange tinge colour. I told my husband, Steven. to come out and look. He came out in his shorts and t-shirt but didn't stay long since the temperature was flirting dangerously close to -10 degrees Celsius. I looked up in the direction of Lyra a couple of times during the night for signs of meteors but there was another constellation that beckoned my attention: Virgo. This beautiful constellation hides so many wonderful gems! Knowing full well that it was a new moon and that light would not be a problem, I pointed my telescope towards the regions of Vindemiatrix. Why there? You see, herein lies the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies! It is possible to point your telescope anywhere in this region and stumble upon a galaxy. I sat back mesmerized. We are indeed specks of dust in comparison aren't we? I guess you now all understand why I sign all of my astronomy journals with the same quote: " Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I" I located, M59 and M60 which are elliptical galaxies estimated to be about 55 million of light years away, each holding billions of stars! All I could see was a hazy blur, a cloud, something that looked "not quite like a star" but more so! Tell me,.. Have you ever danced with the galaxies while a couple of meteors streaked by? Did you know that the planets were watching you all along? Isabelle

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Have you ever danced with the galaxies?

April 21st, 2012 The peak of the Lyrids settled in on this night which boasted a dozen or more meteors per hour. Did I see any meteors? Yes, I saw a couple but I have to admit that I wasn't really looking. According to me the "real show" was a little bit further,... I made my way outside after fixing my TELRAD which had become unattached at one side since the glue wore off with time. I realigned my viewfinder using bright Venus. When I stopped fumbling in the dark and actually glimpsed at our shiny neighbour I was aghast as to it's clarity! It's crescent, illuminated at 33%, was spellbinding! There have been other nights when it's phase brightened up the sky to a greater degree but tonight the view was extremely sharp! Our other neighbour, Mars, was very present on this night and offered a spectacular view as well. I checked the humidity levels wondering if it was low but it registered at 81%. At levels this high one would believe that my transparency (how steady the sky is) would be affected but no,... everything was pristine! I skipped across the sky to Saturn that showed a definite hint of yellow with a whisper of an orange tinge colour. I told my husband, Steven. to come out and look. He came out in his shorts and t-shirt but didn't stay long since the temperature was flirting dangerously close to -10 degrees Celsius. I looked up in the direction of Lyra a couple of times during the night for signs of meteors but there was another constellation that beckoned my attention: Virgo. This beautiful constellation hides so many wonderful gems! Knowing full well that it was a new moon and that light would not be a problem, I pointed my telescope towards the regions of Vindemiatrix. Why there? You see, herein lies the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies! It is possible to point your telescope anywhere in this region and stumble upon a galaxy. I sat back mesmerized. We are indeed specks of dust in comparison aren't we? I guess you now all understand why I sign all of my astronomy journals with the same quote: " Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I" I located, M59 and M60 which are elliptical galaxies estimated to be about 55 million of light years away, each holding billions of stars! All I could see was a hazy blur, a cloud, something that looked "not quite like a star" but more so! Tell me,.. Have you ever danced with the galaxies while a couple of meteors streaked by? Did you know that the planets were watching you all along? Isabelle

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A little bit of beauty goes a long way!

Saturday, March 31st, 2012 and into the wee hours of the first day of April. It had been nearly a month since my last serious stargazing session although I had caught many glimpses as the weeks strolled by. Each time, I was either swamped with school-related work, had no time to properly record what was observed or was away from my telescope altogether. There were times that I ached to be outside and other moments when my passion for the stars completely overwhelmed my senses. However, I remained silent and my telescope collected dust from lack of use. On March 15th, I definitely wanted to scream so all could hear. I'm sure that many of you would agree that there are moments in life when you experience something you never thought you would and are well aware that the occasion would never present itself again. The evening of March 15th was such a night. My science students had participated in the Regional Science Fair and had placed first and third in their categories. As we left the building, we witnessed the most spectacular auroras ever! Unfortunately, I did not have my camera and all I could do was stare. The moment was fleeting yet awakened a most profound part of me. As the small bus drove away from the small building where the students had displayed their winning projects, all I could do was lower my head and cry. I knew, I knew,.. that I had seen something that few had experienced and that I would never see again. I attempted to find a picture online to share a little of what I had seen (image from borealis2000.com). On March 31st, I was finally able to perform my much needed collimation. This usually takes 10 to 15 minutes as I align the primary and secondary mirrors. This routine task ended up taking me 45! For reasons that have me completely baffled, the mirrors were completely misaligned, enough for the adjusting laser to miss the secondary mirror completely and appear on the wall behind it! I was careful to keep my eyes away from the light as I attempted to fix the situation to no avail. The mirrors refused to budge so I concluded that the Allen key used was dysfunctional. Frustration set in as I vowed vengeance to all that reflected light until I finally found a new tool hiding in the bottom of our kitchen drawer. You know the drawer that simply accumulates all unused items of the household? That's right, you have one of those too I'm sure. Imagine trying to find something of value there! Finally, the mirrors were perfectly aligned and the telescope was acclimated to the cold. It was -14 degrees Celsius with humidity levels at 92 percent. This was clearly not ideal conditions to be outside (in terms of condensation issues) but I was in no position to complain. Venus welcomed me as soon as I stepped into the tampered darkness. Once again, she shone beautifully while the moon basked the rest of the sky in light. I am extremely proud even if other images on this forum is 100 times better! 30 minutes into my session, both my eyepiece and my viewfinder (TELRAD) suffered from condensation greatly reducing what could be seen. I decided to abandon my quest but left my telescope outside in case the conditions changed. It did! As the clock struck 12:30 am of April first, I made my way outside once more. I knew it was there,... I had not seen it for many months BUT I knew it was there. There it was! Please help me in welcoming our ringed wonder to our night sky once more! The tilt of the planet displayed the rings beautifully! I decided to attempt using my husband's camera (a Panasonic Lumix - DMC LX5) which is more sophisticated than mine. Eureka! Yes, I think I finally have a picture of Saturn that I can be proud of! Isabelle

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PLINK!

February 29th, 2012 Stargazing during the week when there is school the next day is always very tricky since time is a factor. Each minute I remain outside means less time to prepare for classes to be taught for the next day but sometimes,... passion wins over. Last night was one of those nights! Besides it's not every night where one can stargaze on February 29th! Ready for the LEAP? Since I knew I had little time and had not made any previous research to what I was going to observe, I knew that being outdoors would consist of a rapid stroll around the block. My gaze was immediately captured by the moon. I decided to capture its spendour both with my point-and-shoot camera and with my video camera. Both files were subjected to photo-altering programs (one is Picasa which helps with normal pictures and the other Registax that renders raw video files to a single picture by stacking the individual frames. Here are the finished picture files: The one above was created with the aid of Registax but left the finished picture with a blueish hue which better represents what I saw through the telescope. The other, using my point-and shoot camera and altering the file with Picasa gave me a more rich black and white texture of the moon. Using Registax, I also tried my luck with the planet Venus that shone so brightly near our own satellite (seen below). My personal weather station announced -16 degrees Celsius but the tips of my fingers thought differently. As I stepped back to warm them up, I accidentally knocked over my carrying case holding all of my lenses and collimation instruments. That's when I heard it,..... PLINK! I instinctively looked to the ground but there was nothing to be seen but the wooded floor of the balcony. I sighed to myself,.. of course, whatever had fallen had to fall through the cracks! 5 minutes later, I was fumbling around in the snow with a flashlight looking for the runaway "plink". I knew what it was. Such a small "plink" could only mean my Allen key, used to align the mirrors of my telescope. It was small, practically insignificant but the only instrument I could use to alter my main mirror. In other words,.. "plink" was bad news! After 10 minutes of looking around in the snow, I found it! With my Allen key in hand I made my way back outdoors. Mars and Jupiter were also out and for once, I was more enthralled with what our little red neighbour had to share than the biggest planet of our solar system. The truth of the matter is that Jupiter was slowly exiting out of our evening sky. He shall be back and soon,... Saturn will be coming out to play! I wonder how much of its ring system will be seen this year? Although I had little time, I scanned the constellation Monoceros once more since my discovery of M47 earlier this week. I wanted to see more since M46 another open cluster was close by but harder to see, especially with the baseball flood lights on down the road. I waited patiently for my eyes to become accustomed to the darkness and,... Alright, I hope many of you will skim over this part without really reading it since I would hate to be "one of those people" that claim to see things but,... I saw something. I know what a satellite created by humans looks like through a telescope for I have seen many. This didn't whiz slowly by like an overly tired meteor. It was very, very slow and steady. I glanced away from my telescope to see if it could be seen with the unaided eye but no. When I looked back in the eyepiece it was gone. Could it have been a different type of satellite? I looked to my Stellarium program that lists all natural and human born objects in the sky according to latitude and time of stargazing and no,... No satellites were to be seen within the vicinity of the place I had been looking at. So my Stellarium program had a glitch, I was overly tired after a day teaching, it was a "different satellite than I have seen in the past,... I do not know what it was. Let's leave it like that okay? I packed everything and returned to the warmth indoors. What did I see tonight? Venus, Jupiter, a new Messier object, Mars, something weird (that's it) and the moon. And what a moon it was! Isabelle

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It's easy to become greedy

February 24th, 2012 The mercury boasted a temperature of -21. Since the wind was inactive, this created comfortable viewing conditions outside. I wanted to post many of my own pictures with this entry but my chosen photographic subjects were not very cooperative except for the first two seen on the bottom left. Early in the evening, around 6:30 pm, a small crescent moon seemed to dance in the advancing darkness while Venus and Jupiter praised our natural satellite with their brilliancy. The night surely promised to be interesting! The "moon shadow" can be seen in this picture giving a new significance to the term "Dark Side of the Moon". Yeah, yeah,.. I know, "There is no dark side of the moon. As a matter of fact, it's all dark" Pink Floyd Venus on the other hand did not show any hint of a shadow and it's light beams seemed to stretch beyond what I could see in my eyepiece. With these two pictures I went back indoors to cook and eat my supper since it was past 7:00pm. I made scallops, balsamic rice and asparagus. I washed this culinary delight down with a small glass of Sauvignon Blanc (Bordeaux). For dessert I made myself a small apple turnover and Espresso. Dessert is supposed to be the last delight of the evening. It my case, it had just begun! I had noticed for some time now an interesting object in the constellation Monoceros on my Stellarium program. The catalogue indicated a cluster of bright stars engulfed in a reddish haze named the Rosette Nebula or NGC 2244. Further research unraveled this majestic image: A favourite object for many astro-photographers, and backyard astronomers, it was about time the nebula and I became better acquainted. I was not looking to be completely mesmerized sinceI know far too well that pictures seen above cannot be seen in a telescope but only through a camera with long exposure capacities. Needless to say that the human eye is therefore incapable of such a feat but I would see something right? A blur, a small distortion in the darkness? Alternating between my telescope at low power and my birdwatching binoculars, I made out something of a haze (maybe more out of wishful thinking) and some bright stars. Further reading highlighted the importance of extremely dark skies and pristine viewing conditions. I had neither. Disappointed? Come now, knowing exactly where these super hot stars delivering extreme amounts of radiation can be found in the night sky is enough to give me chills! The constellation Gemini is one easily recognized and holds many treasures of its own. I therefore set my gaze towards M35 (NGC 2168). A hop, skip and a jump away from Propus, my eyes fell on this open cluster that takes up an area in the sky as big as our full moon. Rather faint, this 1billion year young cluster still packs enough punch to capture ones imagination. During all this time, Mars seemed to look over my shoulder probably wondering why it was being ignored. I just knew it wouldn't show me any detail but since our little red neighbour had made its way far from the horizon, I couldn't evade it any longer. This time, since there was little atmospheric disturbances, Mars gave me hints of black patches and not the usual red ball I had grown accustomed to! I attempted to take a picture to capture the glory I had just witnessed but the details were not distinct enough for my camera. Three planets and two deep sky objects were seen on this night but although my eyelids were protesting for some much needed sleep, I resisted packing up my equipment knowing full well That Saturn was out as well. I was being greedy. Saturn could be seen but was extremely low in the horizon at this time. I simply had to wait till the end of March and the view it will grant me would deliver much more detail than it could now. I shivered, looked in the direction of our ringed planet and gave a salute. Till next time sir Roman God of agriculture and justice! Isabelle Click on individual targets for image sources: - M35 - Gemini Constellation - NGC 2244 (Rosette Nebula) Isabelle

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Dodging work!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 Many purchase telescopes and once that the moon has been spotted or a couple of chance views of planets, the excitement wanes, the equipment is soon forgotten and collects dust somewhere in the backrooms. We all want to see the planets don't we? I admit to jumping up and down upon seeing Saturn through my eyepiece and I also confess doing a "dance of joy" upon seeing Jupiter the first time but that's not where my interest lies. I always want to look farther than my own backyard, my own solar system that is! My passion lies in deep space objects such as the one I discovered on this night. I had little time since school related responsibilities kept me glued to my computer for most of the week and this night was no different. Well, yes it was. The night was warmer than usual boasting a very comfortable -6 degrees and the sky conditions looked good. I worried at first about the presence of humidity and wondered about condensation issues with the scope but they turned out minimal in the end. Since I didn't have much time, I decided to channel my efforts into finding a new Messier object. Usually, I have little trouble finding Charles' little fuzzy collection of wonders but this winter is a little different because of the construction project down the road. Since this major building is very costly to the community, the baseball flood lights remain lit for the whole night. The light pollution is immense making most of the more remote stars disappear into the light. I used Sirius in the constellation Canis Major and Procyon in Canis Minor to star hop towards the majestic open cluster of M47 ( NGC 2422) that you see to your left. This was no easy feat since these two locations aren't too close to each other but created a very neat "L" to my desired location. There are times that I wish my mount was more of an equatorial one since I would be able to discover the stars with the help of celestial coordinates but then again,.... I do believe in a challenge! After a couple of tries, the Messier object came into view! M47 is an open cluster which boasts an age of 78 million years. It is not as spellbinding as globular clusters since it does not have many stars but really distinguishes itself from other deep space (Messier) objects because of the brightness of some of its members. Of course the image found at the top is not my picture since my camera and telescope can't handle this attention to detail. After making my notes, I swerved the telescope to face our red neighbour Mars. I have to say that I admire this planet more when seen with the naked eye since its ruby like texture disappears with magnification to a dull red. Jupiter was also out but was not very cooperative with my camera. Venus, however, out for a stroll at the beginning of the evening was more than willing to show its wonders to all who wanted to see: You can clearly see the phase in the picture at the top and the reason why it is so bright at this time of the month. Although the sky conditions were pristine, I was unable to stay much longer since I had 6 classes to tend the following day at school. The weekend is upon us but this will not be very helpful when it comes to me escaping outside since thick clouds are expected to be visiting for the whole weekend! Although this night offered me little time for serious stargazing and was pretty much over in 30 minutes (done sparsely as I tended to my teaching duties) I consider 3 planets and one deep sky object nothing to scoff at! Now I wait once more for clear skies,... Isabelle

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Foiled again!

February 3rd, 2012 There are certain people that fill us with resentment and make us shrink into a world where battery acid pulses through our veins. Of course, one understands that such a negative power is controlled entirely by you. Although you are the only one that can stop the unbelievable crippling sensation, sometimes it seems much easier to do nothing and let it fester. Yeah, one therefore creates their own suffering. "It comes from others!" you scream! "I wouldn't be like this if she/he would be more understanding and less cruel!" That maybe true but resentment is a feeling you create and is simply a matter of perspective right? This astronomy journal is undeniable proof that resentment lies only in the eyes of the individual that nurtures it. You see, I hold a grudge against Mars. This feeling developed slowly throughout my stargazing experiences. One by one, I "captured" different planets in my eyepiece and each one filled me with awe! First there was Venus which was quickly followed by Saturn and then the majestic Jupiter. Seeing Mercury and Uranus were also a mesmerizing experiences since both were more elusive (one so close to the sun and the other farther away). Then there was Mars,.. Mars has yet to fill me with any excitement. After reading so much on the planet, I expected so much more from what my eyepiece shared with me the first time. All I saw was a red blur! Unfortunately, nothing has changed since that first encounter. It's not the telescope or my stargazing prowess that's at fault but circumstances beyond anyone's control. Time (I had professional restraints which kept me bound to my computer), an orbit that doesn't coincide with my viewing pleasure, bad collimation because of a lack of adequate tools, clouds, being too close to the horizon and,... more clouds. Last night I told myself that nothing would stop me! I set up eagerly, making a serious attempt to forgive the misdeeds of yesterday. "My efforts will be in vain." I told myself as I set up and checked the status of my weather station module. The humidity was at 86% while the mercury boasted -26. Once outside, this translated to extreme condensation. I thought that maybe I could see "just enough",.. No. Once again, it was a big blurry mess and absolutely no detail could be seen. I would have settled for so little yet, my efforts were ignored once more. My failure has nothing to do with the red planet. However, being foiled for so long by a heavenly body bright red, an arrogance bordering on snotty so easily seen with the unaided eye deeply insults my proud Dobsonian and I. Isabelle

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It's been a long time!

January 16th, 2012 It has been nearly 2 months since I last gazed at the stars. As each night filled with clouds passed, a small part of me ached and succumbed to darkness. December sneaked by without revealing any sky splendours yet I rejoiced about being reunited with loved ones. My return to the north was one filled with many teaching responsibilities making stargazing difficult. That January night, the skies seemed to come out and embrace me as I brought out my telescope to acclimate to the cold. Since this felt more like a reunion than mere exploration, I decided to gaze at sights I knew well but stirred strong emotions from the past. The first was Venus, the first planet I found and observed with my telescope a long time ago. Looking at this planet like it's first observers from earth did in antiquity, I marveled at its beauty. I resisted thinking about its hostile surface and tried to imagine exactly how early astronomers saw this planet. Aphrodite, Goddess of love and beauty,.. With time we now recognize it as something totally different. Mind you, does that translate to our view of love and beauty today? Can danger be beautiful? Is love, a state of mind and emotion, devoid of danger? Tell me now,.. Does this look dangerous to you? With an atmospheric pressure 92 times more prevalent than earth's, an atmosphere consisting mainly of carbon dioxide and clouds of sulfuric acid,.. you should. Then again, we say that a sunset is beautiful as well but I wouldn't go strolling around on it's surface either. Love? We all know the perils yet we still venture forward. So Venus,... shine bright, your title is well deserving! Jupiter was also shining brightly but was quite camera shy so I tried my luck with something that pushed the limits of my small point-and-shoot technology. It was with this picture of the Orion Nebula that I packed up my equipment and returned to the warmth of my living room. It just doesn't get any better than this: Isabelle

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It's just the girls!

October 7th, 2011 I was comfortable watching a movie with Steven when the doorbell rang. After a few seconds, I could hear a series of knocks. I made my way to the door and three of my science students were standing there. "Did you see the moon and the stars tonight Isabelle? We want to see it! Is your telescope out?" :rolleyes: The fact that it wasn't and that I preferred returning to the comforts of the couch to see the rest of the movie is proof that my husband had finally found something on video that was worth my while. We were watching "Thor" in 3D and I was completely mesmerized by the science fiction special effects. I told my students to come a little later and right on time, when the movie had finished,.. they were there! The students that make their way to my house on starry nights are usually boys. Unfortunately, in my class and in society in general, astronomy enthusiasts seem pretty much dominated by the Y chromosome. I say this because most people who enjoy discussing the wonders of the night sky with me and most of my contacts on my stargazing forum are all male. Seeing the inquisitiveness on these young girls' faces was a breath of fresh air to me. They asked if they could see Vesta (Yeah, I had told them that I had found it earlier this week and my whole class had clapped) but the moon had whitewashed that whole section of the sky. Besides, even if it hadn't, by the time my movie was finished, it would have been too low in the horizon to see much in any case. Like all the students that come to my house for the first time to look through the telescope, I quickly went over how it worked and then pointed out some constellations. I then showed them something small even if they kept insisting to see the moon. I explained that it was always wise to start with faint objects and make one's way to the brighter ones since, this way, a person retains their night vision longer. M31 didn't impress them much. Their eyes became wider when I told them what it was and showed them a picture but I knew that this was clearly not what they wanted to see. "What about Jupiter?" I said. This they became quite excited about. I told these wide eyed girls that I would show it to them only IF they could find it in the night sky. They responded to this with an air of gloom. "Come on,.. I know you can find it. Look up and point to me the brightest object in the sky besides the moon!" This they did and were quite happy with themselves in having found it "all by themselves". One after the other they crowded around the telescope trying to see Jupiter and its four moons. One of my students had her iPod with her and wanted to take a picture of it. I helped her, knowing full well the excitement of 'bringing a piece of space home". The moon's light was constant and so was the desire of my young observers to see it. Of course, as the teacher that wants everything to be exciting, I aimed the telescope at the moon and when it came into view put my hands in front of the eyepiece. Like a laser beam, the moon's light struck my fingers. I then opened my hands as if to cradle it. "See", I said, ",.. it IS possible to touch the moon!" With that sentence, I unleashed a power I never knew existed. These three girls all huddled desperately around the eyepiece hoping to capture the light of the moon. I then offered for them to see it: I proceeded to augment the magnification further with my Barlow lens and again the iPod came out for them to take pictures. I'm afraid that none of those will come out since I have had little success myself with my camera at this setting. They then asked what else they could see. Unfortunately with the light of the moon, there was little else I could show them. They offered to come by later since I had mentioned during class that Mars, Jupiter and Saturn could be seen in the early mornings. It was perfectly clear that I had succeeded in lighting a fire of curiosity but I couldn't do it. Staying up all night or waking up extremely early on a Saturday morning after a full week of teaching simply didn't "sit well by me". They were disappointed but they perked up once more when I said that soon Venus would be out in the evening sky and that I would be waiting for them! Don't worry girls,.. we'll do this again real soon! Isabelle

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Brrrrr! It's cold, might as well reach for my Vesta!

Saturday, October 1st, 2011 A VEST? It was so cold that I reached for my winter coat and hat! Staying pretty much immobile in 2 ºC / 35.6 ºF with 70 km winds can become uncomfortable with time but the skies called out to me. Our geographical area goes through a second freshet in the autumn months. This means cloud cover for two months straight as the rains come in so right now, I don't want to let any chances pass me by! There was also the little matter of Vesta,... Throughout September and into October, this large asteroid is seen near the southern border of Capricornus. My astronomy magazines and my Stellarium program have been hinting at it's location for sometime now. With astronomy, there's always an allure for the first time. If I could catch Vesta, it would be my first asteroid. My firsts? I jumped up and down upon seeing my first planet ----> Venus I danced around my telescope the first time I found Saturn. I called all my friends when Jupiter made it's first appearance in my eyepiece. I patted myself on the back for finding Uranus and Mercury. I nearly cried when seeing my first nebula in the constellation Orion. I simply stared in wonder the first time I saw northern lights. I was mesmerized upon seeing my first star cluster. I laughed and nearly hugged my telescope upon seeing my first galaxy. (Andromeda) The green comet Lulin was my first dusty ice spectacle (comet). Now,,... I want Vesta to be my first asteroid. I think that I was indeed successful last night since I did encounter something looking at the stars in Capricornus. The problem is that an asteroid looks pretty much like a star and therefore difficult to decipher it from other surrounding heavenly bodies. One did stand out to me. It's not that it was bigger but,... it's light seemed more stable to me and after sometime, I started seeing a hint (make that a very small hint) of colour. I have to say however that after peering at the same object after some time through an eyepiece, sometimes what you see becomes what you want to see. Before heading back in I gave my telescope a whirl and "popped over" the Andromeda galaxy and the planet Jupiter. It's not that I had never seen them before but the thing about being out here,... many times, it feels like the first time all over again! The skies are clear so far. At 8:00pm, if the weather cooperates,.. I'm heading out again. I need to know if I have indeed become acquainted with this asteroid, the same heavenly body that is currently orbited by the Dawn spacecraft. How cool is that?

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stolenfeather

 

It doesn't get better than this!

Saturday, September 24th / 2011 (9:00 - 11:00pm) Actually this star session started in the late afternoon when I went through my second collimation (aligning my primary and secondary mirrors so the image being seen comes out crystal clear). This time, it was much easier and I was able to finish it in 20 minutes. I was extremely surprised when I stepped outside since the night greeted me with a very comfortable 10 ºC or if you prefer, 50 ºF. There was no wind and everything was quiet. Finally, I would lose myself in the stars! There are times when stargazing when everything goes wrong. This was NOT one of those times! The night was absolutely still, there was no moon present and everything seen through the eyepiece was crystal clear! High above was the constellation Cygnus. Although it strained my neck, looking straight above in order to better orient the scope, I was extremely pleased with what I saw. First there was the open cluster M29 that seemed to pulsate with light and finally, after trying many times before, I saw the North American Nebula. Every time I have used my program Stellarium in the past month, it has shown me the location of a certain Vesta. This object, found in the constellation Capricornus would be my first seen asteroid. The night was going so well so why not? I found this object hard to locate when suddenly, I came across a familiar looking "fuzzy" star! This was no asteroid but M30! I was so lost! I didn't mind the mistake since this little object was worth further investigation. I had never come across it before and this is probably because I found it so faint! What wasn't helping was that this particular constellation was low to the horizon. It was around this point that I gave up on Vesta. My sense of direction was completely off and even if I saw it, I'm sure that most of it would be concealed due to it's location in the sky. There was one more destination I wanted to see and it lay deep within the Great Square of Pegasus. I wanted to experience the Andromeda galaxy once more. When I located it, my eyes actually watered with excitement. I had seen this little beauty many times before but this was last year when I had not mastered (or even tried) the art of collimation. I had seen this majesty of a galaxy with a very misaligned scope. Not this time! The image was crystal clear and seemed to jump out of the sky! When M32, an elliptical galaxy sprang into view I couldn't restrain myself and actually looked around to see if there was anyone around to share this with. My new neighbour, as if on cue, called out to me, "Isabelle, are you out there?" Of course it is hard to see me since I am blanketed with darkness when outside with my telescope. "Come quick, I need to show you something!" I said. It was her first time looking through a telescope and what she saw was Andromeda! Since the constellation Pisces lingered below, I decided to find Uranus as well. I have to admit that unlike many who have stated that they saw colour when looking at this particular planet, I never have. I wanted to show my neighbour the planet Jupiter but it was found on the other side of the house so, like I had done with my students about a week ago, we carried the telescope through the house to the front door, The view it shared was one of extreme clarity and the bands were clearly defined. When my neighbour left, I decided to stay indoors for a couple of minutes to warm up and work on my "Ultimate Messier Object Log" (program found online) which can be printed and filed, as seen below: Yeah, It doesn't get better than this! Isabelle

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stolenfeather

 

The dessert today will be a supernova drenched in northern lights.

September 9th, 2011 The stargazing forum had been abuzz for the last couple of days about a supernova that had been recently discovered in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M 101). Boasting an easy find, I decided to give it a whir after a succulent supper of lobster tails, rice and broccoli (I'll eat broccoli with just about everything). The supper was perfect and adding a glass of wine from the Loire Valley made it sublime! I left the table for a well deserved dessert,... a galaxy and it's supernova! Unfortunately, I encountered a couple of inconveniences. You see, the Gibbous Moon was casting way too much light and what was not basked in our natural satellite's glory was overtaken by wisps of auroras! The entire night sky seemed all aglow! Inconveniences couldn't come with more beauty! Some students came by for a look and what astounded them was not the auroras since they are pretty much a common happening in the north but the moon. It was the first time they experienced it through a telescope and they were completely taken aback! Come now,.. why would they NOT be? My students were full of questions and listened carefully to what I was saying but deep down, I knew what they wanted to see. A couple of nights before, I had showed another bunch of young enthusiasts the planet Jupiter and that's all they could talk about the next day at school. These new faces wanted to see it too. We therefore brought the telescope to the front of the house where the Roman God had taken center stage. "Behold the mighty Jupiter!", I said as I let them look through the eyepiece. When I told them to count the stars they saw around them, they gladly said, "4!". Imagine their surprise when I said that they were not stars at all but the planet's moons! This is exactly what they saw through my telescope and that's all it took to make them gasp in wonder. I then reached for my Barlow which increased the image by two. I think I did it,... these young ones are hooked. There's only one problem though. I don't think I'll be able to look at the night sky alone ever again! Isabelle

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stolenfeather

 

A night with my students and,.. something else!

September 6th, 2011 I wasn't thinking of staying long outside and didn't have any set goals but I simply couldn't let a cloudless night pass by without attempting to explore the skies! I set up and decided to return to the constellation Cygnus for another romp. As I was making sure everything was aligned, I heard a strange noise. It was subtle but I recognized it right away. Something or someone was playing with the tarp found around the BBQ. Could it be that a wild animal was attracted by the smell of the chicken my husband had made the night before? No,.. It was the neighbour's dog which I have nicknamed "Silly Pup" which had come by to keep me company. The man never ties his dog but this does not concern me since he is great pal to have around on a starry night! After taking the above picture, I heard my name being screamed over and over again. I recognized the voices immediately, my students were coming over for a look! They couldn't see me since I was sitting on my back porch in the dark. I went to the side of the house and called them over. It was at that point that I saw them,.. the northern lights were out! Considering the solar activity in the last few days (if not weeks) and my northern location, I wasn't surprised. Unfortunately, the lights were quite faint and picture-taking was impossible. So, we were starting this little astronomy class with the presence of the mighty Aurora Borealis! Who can ask for anything more? I then showed my students a couple of constellations but they were barely listening to me. What had attracted their attention was the light that loomed above, our moon! I gave them a chance to navigate the telescope to our natural satellite and wasn't surprised that they "whooped" in pleasure at the sight! Pssst! Try a little higher! Once the moon exploration was over, one student remembered something, "You said in class last week that Jupiter was out here! We want to see it!" I explained that it was still close to the horizon and was actually found on the other side of the house. I also stated that it was best for us to wait and that I didn't like the idea of walking around with my 10" dob around the house in the dark. I couldn't see them in the dark but I could sense their eyes starting to glaze over. They just looked at me with "puppy dog eyes" (once again I could sense this with no problems in the dark) and said: Now, How can I say "no" to that? We carried the telescope to the front of the house and they marveled at the fact that they could see Jupiter's moons. Some colour could be seen and this made them extremely excited! Now, I must warn you, taking pictures of young teenagers when excited can result in this: After we were all blinded by the flash, my students helped me bring my telescope inside. It's nights like these that I pride myself for being a teacher. The young ones that left, had acquired something very special, a taste of a passion that will remain with them forever! Isabelle

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Cygnus, Oh Cygnus, Wherefore Art Thou?

September 5th, 2011 (9:30 - 10:30pm) The last time I was out with my telescope, I was pressed for time and didn't experience the night sky as much as I wanted. My earlier quest had been simple, I wanted to harness the light capturing power of my scope in order to observe Messier Objects,... any object! I had not been successful in doing this with my smaller telescope during the summer and wanted to make-up for lost time. Nothing went in my favour and I returned home defeated by the night sky. It's not what I did or what I had as equipment that left me empty handed,.. It was what I didn't do. I had not been prepared and did not take the time to fully orient myself to the sky before commencing my observation of the heavens above. This time,.. It was going to be different. I took ample time for my eyes to accustom to the lack of light, made sure everything was well aligned and let the pressures of the day escape. I wanted to start my romp amongst the stars with the Andromeda Galaxy but the roof of my own house hid it's many wonders. I would have to wait for it to climb higher in the sky. I therefore looked for an easier area to observe and saw it,... Cygnus! It had been high overhead all summer but my small telescope was little help in showing me it's hidden beauty (or maybe I was simply not patient enough). Now I had a chance! There were so many clusters and nebulae to discover, why I decided to look for M29 (which does not even figure on the picture above) is beyond me. This little cluster is difficult to distinguish from it's rich stellar background but I did it. Was I looking for a challenge? Maybe. Let's just say that NGC 6960 was a whole lot more easier to locate! To be fair and share something of my own, I captured the easiest heavenly body around, the first quarter moon! I know,.. it's not as spectacular as the others we see on this forum and I'm definitely NOT trying to duplicate any of them,... but this one is mine! Isabelle

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stolenfeather

 

I should have remained indoors. :(

August 28th, 2011 I hope this post doesn't often anyone for it is not my intention. I'm writing out of sheer disgust and frustration. I was finally back in the north where stargazing was at it's best. My 10" Sky-Watcher had been waiting for me during the month of July but what had welcomed me home were not skies of bliss but heavens completely littered with clouds! I watched as one night blended with another and still I had no chance. School had started which limited my stargazing moments to the weekend. This Sunday, with the following school day looming, I simply couldn't take it anymore. It had been so long and the sky above finally showed windows of opportunity. The rest of the week, however, promised clouds. It had to be now BUT I had to come back in for 11:00pm. Staying up any longer would surely impair my teaching day. I therefore timed myself. Upon heading outside, I knew that this would not be easy. Baseball fever had overtaken this little northern community and guess who lives right next to the baseball field: The night around me was basked in light, as one would see when in the presence of a full moon. It was impossible to make out all the constellations but thought that I could navigate successfully in any case. My Telrad was overtaken by condensation which considerably added to my frustration. I was losing a battle that had been won by the light from the very moment I had first stepped outside. However, I wanted a taste, a glimmer of a view. Andromeda could still be seen right? All was not lost! That's when I heard it. It was coming from my neighbour's house. It was a rustling and then something else,... Utterly disgusted I packed up my telescope and asked my husband to help me bring it in. "So soon?" he said. I looked at him and remained quiet as frustration set indeeper. The condensation had not broken my will. Neither did the excess light or the fact that I had little time. The vision of my neighbour's back relieving himself at the corner of his own house did. Come on! Your bathroom can't be that far! What's wrong with you? Stargazing for me signifies a moment of release, where peace can be found in a world where chaos reigns. Way to bust my "peace bubble" buddy! Tonight, the baseball field lights are off. Furthermore, there doesn't seem to be any sign of life in the house next door. Maybe I could,.. Nah. Never mind. It's raining. Isabelle

stolenfeather

stolenfeather

 

Ever look at stars with the help of high beams?

I know that I have made myself scarce this summer but the camping season is coming to a close and I should be back up north (armed with my computer and electricity) on an everyday basis soon. Isabelle July 29, 2011 August is right around the corner and as night fell, so did the mercury (no,... not the planet, although I have been told that it is visible before sunrise). At 9:00 pm, already a chill could be felt in the air so I grabbed my jeans and sweater. Since the mosquitoes are still making themselves present for some stargazing action, I also grabbed some OFF! I set up in the front of my mother's house since the backyard has way too many trees. Unfortunately, this left me in plain view of cars passing by. They were few so I can't complain but,.. sigh. Here's a question you might want to answer: What does a driver do when they see the view seen above on the side of the road? Don't know? They flash their high beams for a better view of what is in front of them. Since it is an object of interest, they drive slowly by and when I look up, completely blinded by the lights, they smile look down and drive away quickly. Needless to say that this was NOT the night to go out looking for elusive Messier Objects but with the moon nowhere in sight,.. I just HAD to. My viewing destination was the constellation Sagittarius where Messier Objects are abundant. In my mind, I was bound to come across something interesting. Armed with a telescope much smaller than my 10" Sky-Watcher, I found myself having a hard time adjusting to the viewfinder which was far inferior to my Telrad! The big red spot on my Orion Starblast proved to be more of annoyance than an aid with the small Messier Objects. Did I find any Messier objects? I tried for M25 and M17 with little luck. Was the aperture of the scope too small for the objects chosen? Was the awkward viewfinder the cause for my demise? Was the fact that I was negotiating my way around rose bushes when viewing a handicap to my cause? Were the cars driving slowly by looking at the side of the road "phenomenon" a disturbance? So,.. was my night successful? Well, let me put it this way: Seeing a plane pass by through the eyepiece of the telescope was a little cool and well,.. that's it. Sigh,...there will be other occasions I'm sure! Isabelle

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stolenfeather

 

The little telescope that COULD!

Being on vacation makes it hard for me to come online. This entry is a feeble attempt to reconnect with those that thirst for the stars. I hope everyone is doing well! July 12th, 2011 I couldn't wait to try my summer telescope ever since I had purchased it many weeks ago, My new acquisition was nothing compared to my ocular masterpiece (Sky-Watcher seen below) back in the north. Let's just say that there is quite a difference between an aperture of 10" and one of 4.5". However, this being said,... my little Orion Starblast held its own! Granted, its light capturing abilities came short but it still had much to deliver! At first I had to become reacquainted with the stars since not only was I using a new telescope but the surroundings were very different as well. I decided to set up in front of my mother's house since there were less trees. However, being close to the road meant that I was periodically blinded by passing cars. This little telescope had traveled 14 hours on our backseat from the north. We then surrounded it with camping gear and drove an extra 4 hours to our first park. It was carried across heavily wooded areas and it even toppled (albeit gently) from the car seat to camping bags beneath. Could you believe that after all this abuse, the little telescope needed no collimation? How could the mirrors have remained perfectly aligned? It granted me a very detailed view of the moon and gave me no issues in spotting the rings of Saturn (however, I definitely saw it with lesser detail then my Sky-Watcher). I am therefore very pleased with what my new telescope has to offer. The biggest test, however, will be seeing my first Messier Object. Since it has much less light gathering power, I know this is where it's small size will show. Instead of being disappointed in this little telescope, I will see this as a new challenge. Finding galaxies and clusters might be harder but well worth the effort! Isabelle

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stolenfeather

 

The summer means many things,...

There is much less darkness and when it does appear, coffee becomes our best friend!

We never stargaze alone,. there are always mosquitoes to keep us company.
Stargazing means grabbing a t-shirt and shorts. Heavy coats and mitts can be left aside. This is a huge plus for me since it means no FROSTBITE!
and,.. and,.. and,.. Wait for it,... Wait for it,... School's out! Sigh! :rolleyes: Yes, I am a high school teacher and I can now taste the sweet nectar of freedom! I will be leaving my isolated teaching community (8 hours from the nearest city or town) for a much warmer place (about 45 minutes from Montreal). Here I will stargaze to my heart's content and spend time camping in various provincial parks. Unfortunately, since I will be "roughing it" I will not be online much. Pssssst! There's no electricity out there! Just bears, stars, waterfowl, deer and,. well mosquitoes right? :headbang: As you can see, we are well equipped. :headbang: I will try and make my way to this forum once in awhile but for now, I wish you all a wonderful summer! Isabelle

stolenfeather

stolenfeather

 

COLD, Sweat and FIRE!

June 18, 2011 Since nights are incredibly short, this stargazing evening went far into the early morning of the 19th. I am more of an early riser than a night owl which makes viewing the night sky quite difficult at this time of year. Stargaze in the morning? This would mean setting my telescope up at 3:00 am. I do love astronomy but I've been told that sleeping was a good thing,... I set up my telescope around 11:30. It was at this time that the ISS was streaking across the sky. I followed with my binoculars and gave it a salute when it dipped below the horizon approximately where the moon would be rising (maybe it was already there but stood behind my neighbours house where I couldn't see it). I stopped by a fuzzy Saturn which seemed nestled next to Porrima in the constellation Virgo. I immediately thought that it's lack of detail was caused by it being so close to the horizon but it wasn't. I felt like I was watching the sky through water! The waning gibbous moon, when it finally made it's appearance, seemed to be dripping with sweat! I should have packed up my telescope right away but something told me to stay put. I decided to do something that could only end up in frustration and set out to look for M51 (a whirlpool galaxy). To tell you the truth I had never been able to see it and have given up many times. Why I would choose this night to look for it,.. I don't know. All I can say in my defense is that there are many things about me that simply can't be explained. When I noticed a smudge, I told myself that I had finally found it. However, no details could be seen. I patted myself on the book for finally spotting it but,.. now what? I had found it on a night where little could be appreciated! That's okay. If I found it once, I'll find it again! As I turned to pack my equipment away a light caught my eye. It looked like a lone firework which sputtered flames behind it for a couple of seconds (maybe even three) and then was gone. I stared at the darkness, holding my breath, half expecting it to come back to life but no,... I had seen a HUGE FIREBALL! Maybe it was a remnant of the Lyrid meteor shower since it's peak ended days ago. Tonight, in a small northern community in James Bay the atmosphere had shown it's power. It had orchestrated a weather pattern that had me reach for a hat and gloves in the middle of June, turned the moon a very distinct orange colour (this is created by atmospheric disturbances), had rendered every celestial object in sight into a perspiring mess, and had shown its protective characteristics by turning a rock fragment into fire. Burn Baby Burn! Isabelle

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stolenfeather

 

I caught the ISS on video!

June 17th, 2011 For a couple of weeks now, I have been obsessed with the International Space Station. This is rather peculiar on my part since I am usually this passionate about the natural world, not the one created by the means of human technology. However, to indulge in the knowledge of the natural world one must also hold a deep respect in the technology that helps us achieve this knowledge in the first place. The ISS is therefore a crucial step in obtaining this knowledge as well as the efforts of all the astronomers out there. Why am I obsessed with the ISS? It was build here on earth yet outshines most celestial objects at night (especially if the moon is not around). It travels across the night sky with such a speed that it poses quite a challenge to see with a telescope and even with binoculars. You can therefore imagine how hard it would be to capture it on camera (yet I did). In my northern latitude, darkness takes time to fall. Even at midnight, some stars still have not made their appearance. With a full, waning or waxing gibbous moon (like we've had the last week), this makes it nearly impossible for me to chase Messier objects. Well, I could but the view would be better if more darkness was available so,.. why not chase something who's brightness demands attention? Let me make this clear before you view the video below: I used my old point-and-shoot camera to capture this (I forgot my new one at school) and I own a Dobsonian telescope. Although it has great light capturing abilities, the only guidance it offers me when looking at the night sky is the guidance I offer. Following a moving object like the ISS and capturing it on camera is therefore practically impossible so,... I cheated and caught it on video instead. It is not my best project but was definitely my HARDEST! Uhmmm,.. I'm sure you'll recognize my Pink Floyd signature at the end! For video click Isabelle

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stolenfeather

 

ISS - I See Something (June 14, 2011)

My ultimate goal in surveying the night sky is experiencing the wonderment of the natural world and how incredibly vast it is. The program Stellarium helps me find remote Messier objects such as nebulae, galaxies, clusters and also comes with a plug-in that enables the viewer to identify man-made satellites. Up till now, because of lack of interest, I haven't used it that much. However, after going to Florida, seeing the Space Shuttle Endeavour and then seeing it a couple of weeks after docked at the ISS, I have been obsessed in spotting it in the night sky! Unfortunately, there have been many conflicts up till now (clouds, time, school responsibilities,...)! After reading a post created by Phil announcing that the International Space Station would transit the moon, I quickly checked the weather outside but the horizon was littered with clouds once again. About half an hour later, the Stellarium program highlighted the path of the ISS and I looked through my window out of instinct: It was happening at that very moment and the clouds were,.. GONE! I had no time to take my telescope outside. The ISS was quickly making it's way across the sky and I have trouble taking "my behemoth" outside by myself. I therefore grabbed my birdwatching binoculars, tripped over a chair, uttered some words that should not be repeated online, and headed outside! Most times when searching the sky at night, careful scrutiny is needed. Objects are usually hard to find but the ISS? I stood back,.. It was much brighter than I had expected! There was no mistaking it! With the binoculars I could make out individual lights. My telescope would have surely let me see the structure and some detail but the binoculars were all I had. It went by silently but it's light could not be ignored! Although I couldn't make out the structure, I could see the lights very well and it was awesome! I screamed for my husband to come but by the time he made his way outside, there was only a few glimpses left before it disappeared over the horizon. Now, lets see, the first two steps are done: Step 1: Locate and see the ISS for the first time with the naked eye. Step 2: See the ISS with the help of binoculars. Step 3: See the ISS with my telescope. This will be a little hard since it travels pretty fast across the sky. My dobsonian will have to be set in a way to intersect it's trajectory. Step 4: Capture the ISS with my camera as it passes by my eyepiece. Now,.. that will surely be a feat! I believe that the best way to do this would be with a video camera to then stack the individual video files into a picture. For now, I sit back and relish what I have experienced. Feel like giving it a try? I recommend using this SITE (and Stellarium of course)! Isabelle

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stolenfeather

 

This is what I've been missing?

June 11th, 2011 The clocked seemed to tick forever yet still,.. the sun wouldn't disappear completely. It wasn't before midnight when most of the stars could be seen and the last light of day disappeared. I waited impatiently since it was the first time I would take my telescope out since my first collimation one week ago. No collimation after using my telescope fifty-eight times! What was I thinking? That's the problem, I wasn't thinking. I was simply nervous about tampering with the telescope. Now? Well, I feel like a chump. It was relatively easy and was done within 30 minutes or less. With time i believe I can reduce this to 10. I was also excited about this stargazing moment because I was having an "inauguration ceremony" for my new Celestron Ultima 2x Barlow lens which consisted of me simply breaking the seal of the box. The balloons and hoopla were all in my mind. The old Barlow I was using had developed a crack (top left) in it. I have no idea how this happened, I never dropped it and am tempted to believe that it was caused by the extreme difference of temperatures of going outside in -40 weather and back to 22 (inside the house). All I know is that I had been using it for months and it was about time I purchased a new one. Let's see here,.... No collimation for 58 nights AND a cracked Barlow? How on earth could I see anything? You'd be surprised what determination will get you! The weather, after a long week of temperatures flirting with the freezing point, was quite comfortable. I knew exactly what my target would be: Saturn. With spring advancing fast, I was well aware that Saturn's moments of fame was coming to a close. With the collimation finally done and the new Barlow, I was in for a spectacular view! The bands were clearly marked with no haziness due to the collimation and this combined with my new Barlow gave me a crisp image. I felt like I was looking through a completely different telescope altogether! I would love to try share this with you but please believe me, the picture taken below does not do justice to what I saw: I filmed this wonderful ringed planet for one of the last times this year and used the program RegiStax to stack the files (for some reason it always comes out small). My summer vacation is looming closer and I'm afraid I won't be able to do this while camping. The reason is very simple: I don't have any electricity out there! Well, we'll see, I will be touching "home base" many times during the following month and a half. Isabelle

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Collimation DONE!

June 1st, 2011 I have dreaded this day since the first time I have looked through my sky-watcher. That would be the day when I would have to "tinker" with all that makes it "tick". Today, I grabbed the Dobsonian by both horns and attempted collimation using the HoTech SCA Lazer Collimator. I bought this little gadget with the hope that it would make the task at hand less intimidating. It wasn't complicated at first since I followed a YouTube video and the somewhat simplistic directions that came with the device. Click for the video.I tinkered, second guessed myself many times, and finally let out a sigh of relief, "It was done". Just to make sure, I asked my husband to take a look. This is where I learned a very valuable lesson. Two people attempting collimation is a recipe for disaster! My husband, being the perfectionist that he is argued that the scope was still off center and started re-adjusting the primary and secondary mirrors. The result? It was grossly misaligned! I then tried to help and we were both tinkering here and there (probably making it worse as we went along) until I couldn't bear the sight of my Sky-Watcher anymore. After two hours, it was still misaligned! Steven gave up and adjourned to the living room where he watched a movie called "White Noise". Upon feeling some major "heebie jeebies" coming along, I decided to give my scope another try. Fifteen minutes later, it was perfectly aligned! Personally I blame the telescope. IT doesn't play well with others!

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