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  1. #1
    OleCuss's Avatar
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    Default Went to a public viewing last night. Not superb, but nice



    I had a busy evening last night and it was well after 2100 hours when I could finally leave to go home. Still on call this weekend so it doesn't work out very well for me to break out my telescope myself (might have to leave immediately while I'm still setting up).

    So I settled for what might have been second-best. Instead of going straight home I drove to the local university - which just happened to be having a public viewing last night.

    I'd been to a public viewing at a community college about 1/2 hour away from here, but I'd never been to the one here in town. But then, I think they've only had 3 or 4 previously. Part of the reason I'd not gone to the ones here in town is that I'd been told of long lines to just get a brief peek through the eyepiece.

    Well, last night there were no lines at all. I hopped in the elevator, went to the roof, walked right into the observatory dome, and after checking to make sure it was OK - went to the eyepiece of the 24 inch RC telescope and was treated to a nice view of M13. It was not a superb view (too much light pollution and I wasn't well dark-adapted), but it was still a wonderful view with lots of resolved stars in that Great Globular Cluster in Hercules. Nice. And the optics were nice with no apparent aberration anywhere I could see (I'd never before looked through an RC).

    Outside the dome they had 8 inch Meades showing the Moon and Saturn. The moon was beautiful, of course, but Saturn was pretty messed up due to atmospheric turbulence (didn't help that it was aimed almost directly above another set of roof for storage and utility rooms set on the "roof" I was on). Still, even a messed up Saturn is beautiful.

    It was really nice having the university prepared to let me borrow their telescopes for a few minutes when circumstances meant I probably shouldn't use my own. And great luck ending up there on a night when they had almost no one wanting to share the telescope.

    One thing, however. M13 probably isn't the best target for public viewing. It's great for someone who has previously looked for faint fuzzies and understands the beauty of being able to resolve so many of those stars - boring as all get out for someone who has never hunted DSO's. I'd have chosen Saturn for the big telescope as well - would've gotten lots of "wow" factor for those who are even less observationally skilled than I am. Boring those who come to look through your telescope isn't a great way to hook them on astronomy. . . They should've had someone there explaining what we were seeing, how far away it is, and any significance.

    Well, I shouldn't be too critical. They brightened my evening!
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  3. #2
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    Thanks for the great post. If I was there I would be extolling the virtue of not being clouded over I think they called it right though, planetary in highly perturbed atm with a big scope not ideal, point sources a better bet?

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  4. #3
    OleCuss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by klaatu2u View Post
    Thanks for the great post. If I was there I would be extolling the virtue of not being clouded over I think they called it right though, planetary in highly perturbed atm with a big scope not ideal, point sources a better bet?
    Good logic.

    But it might've been great through the big telescope. . .

    I should have pointed out that once you enter the observatory you have to climb a set of stairs to get into the dome itself - and then another short set of stairs to get to the eyepiece. That means that the big telescope is significantly above the rooftop obstructions which I believe were causing most of the Saturnine commotion. M13 was remarkably steady in the big scope - and I never found out what eyepieces they were using (didn't bring a flashlight and the telescope operator was a kid who really didn't know much about the optics but instead told me that the telescope cost $35K and the mount and pier cost $65K) - but I'd bet M13 was magnified more than was Saturn.

    Ah, well, we'll never know. Maybe I'm just grumpy?

    Edit: I'm sounding kinda harsh on the kid. Understand that he probably wasn't even high school age and the fact that he was able to contribute as much as he did was commendable. Overall I actually had a favorable impression - didn't really expect him to be able to tell me the focal ratio, the specs on the eyepiece, etc. But I did ask. . .
    Last edited by OleCuss; 05-07-2011 at 07:53 PM.
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  6. #4
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    Default

    Thanks for the report, sounds like it was a good night to drop by. I can see why you wouldnt want to set up your telescope, would suck to get called away before its even set.
    Josh L.

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    Excellent report OleCuss! That is what got me back into Astronomy after 36+ yrs. I went to Union College 2x's last summer to see the sky in there 20" RC scope. Union College Observatory

    Well to say that S..ks due to Light Pollution was an understatement!!! But, the professor was very engaging there and he even did some AP of Jupiter with our help...that was fun. Glad you got out to see a professional scope...now if they would only locate them in a dark location. Cheers! Greg
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  9. #6
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    Er, what's an RC scope?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Widespread View Post
    Er, what's an RC scope?
    Carbon Tube 12.5 inch f/9 Ritchey-Chretien Telescope

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    Quote Originally Posted by Widespread View Post
    Er, what's an RC scope?
    The Union College telescope is a 20" hyperbolic mirror (Ritchey-Chretien).
    f/8.1 54" tube.

    http://www1.union.edu/wilkinf/observ...nchdetails.htm
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    Muchas gracias, Flaco (Skinny) and Greg.
    I had wondered what Ritchey-Chretien scopes were (they're one of the telescope classifications on Astromart's Classifieds page). I even clicked the Astromart link, but there were no items For Sale or Wanted.
    Hyperbolic mirror, that's fecking wild.

    Skinny's link lists advantages of the RC design (aberration/ coma). Out of curiosity (I'm pretty confident I'll never $22k on a scope), do RCs have any disadvantages, aside from price?
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    All in all, still sounds like a fun evening. I'll have to look for an event like that in my neck of the woods...
    Chris
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