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Thread: The Observational Astronomy Thread

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    Senior Member Room2201974's Avatar
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    Default The Observational Astronomy Thread

    This is a spill over of a conversation that broke out in another thread. Rather than interrupting that thread, it's better to continue the conversation here.

    So this thread is dedicated to talking about equipment, dark sites, web sites and favorite targets of observational astronomy. I'll go first.

    I own an old C8, a solid, dependable and outdated scope that I purchased many years ago second hand from one of the astronomy websites. I also own an Orion short tube 80. However, most of my observational astronomy work now is done with 50mm and 70mm binoculars and a lounge chair. I used to do a lot of galaxy hunting with the C8 back when I lived in a more rural location. Now, due to a move, I've lost much of the night sky to light pollution. I've also used a binoviewer with the C8 for planetary views. If you've never seen Jupiter through a binovierwer you are missing something special.

    Many years ago I also owned one of the legendary scopes of the last 30 years - a "red tube" 10" Coulter dob. I didn't keep it too long however after I did several nights of side by side comp with the C8 and discovered there wasn't enough difference in the observational power between the two scopes. And this was before clock drives on dobs, so the Coulter was really more of a hassle to me than the C8.

    The highlight of my observational history happened during a three week visit to the Philippines a couple of years ago. There, in the month of February, I had several perfect observing nights, and the Southern Cross all to myself! Stunning views!
    "He who makes songs without feeling spoils both his words and his music. " ~ Guillaume de Machaut

    "Music that is born complex is not inherently better or worse than music that is born simple." ~ Aaron Copland.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Way to go, Room! My backyard astronomy began in the 1950s with a 60 mm Unitron refractor, back when skies were relatively dark even in suburbia. I remember how delighted I was in splitting Polaris. I wandered into other interests, but came back into informal astronomy about 20 years ago with the purchase of a Teleview Ranger 70 mm refractor which I posted about using to watch the transit of Mercury. For a bit, I've also owned a 12-inch dob and a 6-inch dob, both big and/or heavy. My only other scope now is a short, lightweight Vixen 8-inch Newtonian mounted on a homemade dobsonian mount. But the light pollution here in my current location is severe, so I mostly limit myself to solar and lunar viewing and the brighter clusters and planets. I agree that, for beginners especially, much can be seen in dark sky regions with binoculars--I recall how delighted I was as a kid when i found that the moons of Jupiter that Galileo saw, i could also see with a pair of 7X binoculars!

    I envy your visit to a place where you could see the Southern Cross--echoes of CS&N ring in my ears. To see Omega Centauri, the Magellanic Clouds, etc., would be a dream--so much to see in the southern skies. Happy seeing!

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    And to accompany those stunning clear views, Beneath the Southern Cross from Victory at Sea.


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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    My story also starts off modestly with a small refractor on an alt/azi mount as a kid. When I got married, my wife's wedding present was a pair of 15X80 binoculars and tripod. Soon after I built a 6" Newtonian on a dobsonian base. I was going to grind my own mirror but life never gave me the time as I was writing music for media then. In the end I purchased the mirrors and a finder scope, but did manage to make everything else.

    Today I have a goto 10" Schmitt Cassegrain from Meade and she's lovely. I'm fortunate enough to live under reasonably dark skies in England with just a touch of light pollution on the northern horizon. We also have a big open sky and I can see a good 250 degrees -ish of horizon. I would have loved to build a shed with a slide off roof, but probably wont bother now. I did lay a concrete triangular base that fits the tripod and is oriented north for ease of levelling and set up.

    The goto functionality is rather neat in that I can bring up facts about whatever the scope is pointing at and although, being old school, I can find my way around the sky without help, the added functionality is a great help in remembering facts.

    It's always a thrill to look through the scope and peer back in time. One day I might try astrophotography, I've got the books, but not so much the time. I also like the look of some of the solar scopes available, anyone got one?
    Last edited by mikeh375; Yesterday at 09:33.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Nothing quite so uncenters one from a fixation on human hubbub and self-involvement as quiet hours under the starry infinite. One gets a sense of perspective, and a clearing of mental cobwebs. Sort of like fishing,... for some--the urge to catch fish, and then just the experience of being out there fishing.....

    Luckily, there is still a fine magazine linking backyard astronomers both to their peers and to the scientific professionals--Sky & Telescope, unlike another of my loves, open water kayaking, where the linking publication--Sea Kayaker Magazine--died a number of years ago as people aged out of the interest, got sick, became couch potatoes.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    Nothing quite so uncenters one from a fixation on human hubbub and self-involvement as quiet hours under the starry infinite. One gets a sense of perspective, and a clearing of mental cobwebs. Sort of like fishing,... for some--the urge to catch fish, and then just the experience of being out there fishing.....

    Luckily, there is still a fine magazine linking backyard astronomers both to their peers and to the scientific professionals--Sky & Telescope, unlike another of my loves, open water kayaking, where the linking publication--Sea Kayaker Magazine--died a number of years ago as people aged out of the interest, got sick, became couch potatoes.
    Totally agree StrangeM. It's quite humbling once you understand what you are looking at. I get awed just thinking about the light years it has taken those photons to reach our retinas going at c.186,000 miles per sec.. I tend to get my info online these days, but I used to get S&T often, glad to know it's still there. I love looking at the moon in high magnification on a clear crisp night but only when in a phase and not full. I'm still hunting along the terminator for the alien bases you see on YouTube...
    Humbling though stargazing is, I still nevertheless wish it wasn't so bloody cold at times.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Yesterday at 15:28.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Mike, you may be interested to learn that S&T was recently "sold"--if that's the term--to the American Astronomical Society, who agreed to take it over as is, as a means of strengthening interaction between the professionals and the amateur community. There are a growing number of very sophisticated and dedicated amateur astronomers with the equipment now to do serious observing that can be either tapped into by the professionals or is truly collaborative. This should guarantee decades of future health for S&T. I just hope they retain the print edition also far into the future.

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    Senior Member Luchesi's Avatar
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    At the National Observatory of Athens (NOA) I observed the sun day after day. Razdow and radio telescope and polarimeter and short wave fade.

    We had a slip of paper taped to our teletype machine which said;

    "And all this science I don't understand, it's just my job five days a week." Elton John
    Tradition is not the worship of ashes - but the preservation of fire!
    Gustav Mahler

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    Senior Member Room2201974's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    Mike, you may be interested to learn that S&T was recently "sold"--if that's the term--to the American Astronomical Society, who agreed to take it over as is, as a means of strengthening interaction between the professionals and the amateur community. There are a growing number of very sophisticated and dedicated amateur astronomers with the equipment now to do serious observing that can be either tapped into by the professionals or is truly collaborative. This should guarantee decades of future health for S&T. I just hope they retain the print edition also far into the future.
    AAVSO - The American Association of Variable Star Observers - made up largely of amateurs - has made significant contributions to our understanding of the stellar life of these types of stars. Our local university has a 16" Schmidt Cassegrain devoted to asteroid tracking - feeding their info directly to Harvard's database.

    BTW - anyone else bummed that there is a full moon during Geminids this year? I love the greenies!
    Last edited by Room2201974; Yesterday at 22:32.
    "He who makes songs without feeling spoils both his words and his music. " ~ Guillaume de Machaut

    "Music that is born complex is not inherently better or worse than music that is born simple." ~ Aaron Copland.

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    Senior Member Luchesi's Avatar
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    The border between the Klingon and the Romulan Star Empire rises tonight at midnight, so be careful out there. Because Regulus is three quarters of the way to their border from here.
    Last edited by Luchesi; Today at 03:18.
    Tradition is not the worship of ashes - but the preservation of fire!
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