Caley's Observations and Other Stuff

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by , 02-09-2014 at 06:27 PM (5310 Views)
I couldn't find an area on the forum to post just my general observations and other antics in astronomy, so I guess this might be the place.
This will be where I describe what went on in my observing, participation in star parties and other general stuff.
Yesterday, 2/8/14, I participated with one of the local clubs in what you could call a sidewalk star party. The Astronomical Society of the Desert out of Palm Desert, California puts on these informal gatherings to provide a way of reaching out to those interested in astronomy.
Last night saw just three of us with telescopes to show and tell. We had a Discovery 10 inch Dobsonian, an Orion 8 inch dob and my own little Orion Starblast 6i.
For once, seeing was fairly good, despite the fact that we are just off the main highway going into the mountains and just above Palm Desert. The skies finally cooperated with only an occasional puffy cloud, and unfortunately quite a lot of water vapor remaining from previous overcast conditions. But seeing was fairly good, even though the Moon was straight up.
About 12 or so interested people showed up to peer through the scopes and ask questions. Disappointing was that only one youngster came this time, but we did have enthusiastic participation. Of course, the Moon was the first target for me to show. I used an 8mm Orion Stratus Eyepiece with variable moon filter. Many had never seen the features in this manner, so sharp and craggy.
Next up was Jupiter, and three moons, possibly the fourth very close to the planet. Two dark bands were just visible, I was also using that 8mm eyepiece without any filters.
DSO's were a problem due to the moon, but I managed to show the Orion Nebula with that same eyepiece. We also managed to observe the core of the Great Andromeda Galaxy, and myself and another seemed to manage the possible sighting of the outer portions. The double cluster in Perseus was also a good target, as well as the open cluster M41 in Canis Major.
Later, after the visitors had gone home, we managed a little personal observation. I got M81 and 82 in the eyepiece, though they were not as vibrant as on a clear moonless night. The look through the 8 inch dob provided a much better view, and two said they thought they saw the Super Nova. I am not sure that is still visible with the telescope of this size. I also saw something in that area with averted vision.
This is my favourite form of star party. I enjoy, very much, sharing the hobby with those newcomers. One young gentleman is already planning a trip up to the Society's dark sky observation site at Sawmill Trailhead in the mountains above Palm desert. Hopefully the skies will cooperate for him, as he is very interested in astronomy, and wishes to learn more before possibly acquiring a telescope of his own.
I took one picture of where we did our observing. Only two of us had arrived and set up at the time. The big Discovery is in the foreground, and my little Starblast on its perch is in the background.
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  1. astronomynut's Avatar
    I forgot one observation from yesterday. The young man who I was showing things in the sky to, also got to sight the three nebulas in Orion's sword. I used, I think it was an Orion Stratus 17mm eyepiece, which allowed, barely, all three into the field of view. He had difficulty for a while seeing the two fainter nebulas, but he eventually got them. This is actually the first time I have seen all three in one field of view myself, with the exception of one view in a pair of binoculars. Those binoculars, which I have no idea what they were, actually provided a sharper, and clearer view of these objects. I sure would love to figure out what those binoculars were. They are wonderful for quick astronomy forays when it is very cold.
  2. astronomynut's Avatar
    I followed up a lead given on the forum about an observing site in the 29Palms area today. And yes, it does exist about 5.5 miles from my doorstep. It is called Sky's the Limit, found on the net at Sky's The Limit | Observatory and Nature Center in Twentynine Palms CA
    You can see that it is a pretty large facility, and is getting larger with the acquisition of another five acres.
    I drove up and found there actually was someone there doing a show and tell of observing the sun with various telescopes, including the large 14 inch SCT inside the dome.
    I asked and was told that, yes, I can use the site any time I wish, and that being a member is not necessary. Apparently, there is almost always someone up there on a weekend with clear skies. Now, if only we could get rid of the cloud cover that has plagued us the past four months.
    So, it looks like another site I can use. So far, I am a member of the Riverside Astronomical Society, and use their GMAR observing site once a month when the star party is scheduled. I travel down into Palm Springs once a month when the Astronomical Society of the Desert holds their sidewalk star party at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitors Center just above Palm Desert.
    Now I have this site for the other weekends, and possibly some weekday nights.
    There is one other organization in this area, the Southern California Desert Video Astronomers located on the web at Upcoming Events They meet down in the Joshua Tree Lake RV park. I am not sure what they do other than educational classroom type things.
    And there is the Andromeda Society that has been having problems of late, and is struggling. The meet occasionally up in the Yucca Mesa Community Center. They are trying to find a new site to do their star parties now that the Joshua Tree National Park rangers do the star party up in the park, which formerly had been done by the Andromeda Society.
    So, you can see that this is a hotbed of astronomy here in the Morongo Basin along Highway 62 that goes through Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms.
    So, if anyone reading this is interested when they come up to view the Park wonders, why not view the sky as well.
  3. astronomynut's Avatar
    2/22/14 There was a star party up at "The Sky's the Limit" viewing site. Unfortunately clouds made things fairly poor. Also, they are using the little white LED solar powered lights along the sidewalks and at the viewing pads, which makes things a bit difficult. But, got to see the two main attractions, Jupiter and the Orion Nebula. Actually saw the three nebulae in Orion's sword. Also managed to glimpse, just barely, M81 and M82.
    There just was too much water vapor in the sky, as well as the thin high clouds. Maybe we will eventually get some nice seeing conditions up there.
  4. astronomynut's Avatar
    06-06-2014 I was all hyped up about finally trying to make a success at ASPA alignment. So I packed up and headed up to the local observing site, set up and started.

    Hahahahahaha is all I can do, as nothing I did would even let me do a standard 2+4 alignment. I thought I was as perfect on polar alignment as I have ever done, then started the 2+4, only to find that the first alignment star wasn't even in the finder scopes view. I was way off, and just could not locate the first star. I kept redoing the polar alignment, which was always, as I thought, spot on, only to discover I must not be doing something right, because I could not find the alignment stars.

    Finally, my friend Steve came over and located the first alignment star in the finder scope, and set that. The second was another washout for me, and he had to step in and do that also. Finally on the first calib star, the star came into the field of view on my telescope eyepiece, and the last three the same way.

    I then chose another alignment star, and centered, then chose polar align on the handset, and did the manual realignment. So far. so good.

    I then did what the instructions say, and did Undo Sync. But when I tried to slew to the first alignment star, the mount would not move. So I had to resync, and then slew to the alignment star. But I could not redo the 2+4, as the instructions required. I am not sure why the handset will not allow another 2+4 alignment, but I finally gave up with that one alignment star.

    I then proceeded to slew to M13 using an 8mm eyepiece to see just how close the alignment was. It was not centered, but the whole object was in the FOV at the edge. So I figure I failed on my ASPA.

    Somewhere I need some success at this frustrating ASPA alignment monster. I am itching to take longer exposures than 60 seconds. Guess I will forego the local observatory, and head on up to GMARS tomorrow night to try to learn ASPA. At least I won't have people pulling up with their headlights blazing, get out of their car and try to carry on a conversation, or try to get a peek through the telescope. It wasn't even a star party night. We were up there solely for the purpose of learning ASPA. But enough! Totally frustrated. I need to learn this ASPA before the next Moonless nights get here, because I want to take 120-180 second exposures. Hopefully something will click, and I will finally figure out what I am doing wrong.
  5. astronomynut's Avatar
    Last night seemed to be a nightmare when it comes to alignment of my mount. After sleeping, I did some browsing around the web, and find that I have been fretting about ASPA too much. Seems I have misinterpreted things, and except for my initial polar alignment problems last night, my ASPA was fine, and that you do not need to do another 2+4 alignment. All you really need to do is check your alignment with one of the first alignment stars, and maybe a calib star. If acceptable, you are ready for taking photos.

    But I also read that the handset is dumb, and assumes you have done a precision job on alignment. So, you definitely need to get each star perfectly centered before pressing align.

    So, tonight, feeling a bit better about what I did last night, I will be out practicing again. Since the Moon is washing out everything, probably just do observing after my practice.
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