Archive for February 2018

International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Fully Shielded Home Lighting. Sold by Lowe’s Home Improvement

February 22, 2018

My first fully shielded house light, with one more to go.  I purchased this one at Lowe’s on Sunday, and put it up today.  Threw away the old standard brass coach light which  spewed light in your eyes when coming in the front door.  You can actually see the house much better when driving up the street.  All the light shines down in a nice concentrated beam.  I need one more for my back door.  The fixture is well made and was very simple to install….

 
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Edmund Scientific of Years Past

February 21, 2018

Edmund Scientific was the company that spawned my interest in amateur astronomy. From the following books to my first serious telescope, an Edmund 4.25-inch EQ reflector. A Palomar Jr.

It’s really too bad that books like the ones pictured below are no longer available. It was the “Edmund Sky Guide” that taught me all about Sirius and the companion. However, it would be almost forty years later, before I would finally see the companion.  It was worth the wait.  

It was the mid to late 60’s thru the 70s that were what I call the golden years of amateur astronomy. The days when 6-inch reflectors ruled the day (or night) and fortunate indeed was the amateur that owned an Edmund Scientific or Criterion 6-inch f/8 EQ reflector.

The days when the solitary observer spent many nights in their backyard. The days when every amateur wanted to see all of the Messier objects.  As a young enthusiastic amateur, the thought of seeing all of these showpiece objects didn’t seem possible. 

The wonders and excitement of being young:

Being really young, always feeling great, no responsibilities, dreaming of a better telescope, or another Kellner eyepiece.

Now what more could anyone ask for…..

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Planetary Nebula IC 418 in Lepus:

February 14, 2018

Planetary Nebula IC 418, Lepus, magnitudes; nebula 9.3; central star 10.3

IC 418, also known as Spirograph Nebula.  The name derives from the intricate pattern of the nebula, which resembles a pattern which can be created using the Spirograph, a toy that produces geometric patterns (specifically, hypotrochoids and epitrochoids) on paper.  Source “wikipedia”

The following image:  Hubble Space Telescope

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I had a telephone conversation with Glenn Chaple yesterday.  Glenn mentioned PN IC 418 as a potential object for the 2019 observer’s challenge report. This planetary had been suggested by Joseph Rothchild at the most recent meeting of the (ATMoB) Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston. Richard Nugent also of Massachusetts sent me an email, saying he had recently observed this very interesting planetary, using a 20-inch reflector.  

It was only after checking my notes “this morning” (February 14th 2018) did I realize I had also observed this planetary…..25 years ago on (February 14th 1993) which is very coincidental.  

My notes (verbatim) from February 14th 1993:  

10-inch reflector: ” Looks like a blurred star. I would focus on stars outside the telescope field and then sweep back. The nebula was very apparent and obvious when using this method. Nebula fairly bright, mostly round and featureless.  Bluish in color and very small.  No nebula filter was used.”     

Skiff & Luginbuhl:  “This planetary is clearly visible in a 6 cm, appearing as an undistinguished mag. 9 star.  In 15 cm the central star becomes visible, while 25 cm shows it clearly at 200 x.  The surrounding nebula has a high surface brightness, making a poor contrast for the central star.”

RI 
 

Visual Observing with a 6-inch f/6 Imaging Reflector Telescope

February 10, 2018

 

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The above photo is my now “prized” 6-inch f/6 telescope.  When I first became interested in amateur astronomy, in the mid to late 60’s, the 6-inch reflector was “definitely” one of the most popular telescope during this period.     

One of my desires or ambitions has always been to bring back the excitement of the glory days of amateur astronomy, when all kids wanted a telescope.  The nights of the solitary observer in the backyard, attempting to locate and observe a few of the Messier objects.

I often wish it were possible to go back to those fun days.  However, each and every night when I’m out in my backyard with a telescope….I’m a kid again.  What a great feeling! 

A couple difficult test using my new telescope….so how would it fare? 

Would it be possible to see Sirius B and all six Trapezium stars with this scope? 

I made my attempt (February 8th 2018) with the 6-inch to see if the companion to Sirius would be possible with this telescope.   The weather was perfect, 35º and totally calm. When I took my first look at Sirius it was obvious that seeing was very good.  I started with a magnification of 150x, but to no avail and worked my way up to 232x, and there it was, but was unable to hold “the Pup” constantly.  

After more than 30 minutes with Sirius, it was time to move on to another favorite challenge of mine:  The Trapezium in the heart of the Orion Nebula.  

Starting with 232x, I was surprised how easy it was to see the E star, but the F star required a bit of patience and was difficult.   

There were beautiful airy discs surrounding the primary four Trapezium stars.  The beauty of double or multiple stars doesn’t get any better than this! 

Note:  An imaging reflector most often requires the use of an extender tube when observing visually with an eyepiece for proper focusing.  

 

After selling my Criterion RV-6, more than 40 years ago, I just wanted another 6-inch reflector, but not an f/8.

The quality of my new 6-inch:  

I don’t remember my old 1970’s Criterion RV-6 f/8 reflector being anywhere near this good, either optically or mechanically.  

The optical tube assembly:  6-inch OTA, f/6, TPO brand, made in Taiwan, purchased from OPT in California, 2-inch focuser, a 6 x 30 finder and it also included tube rings, designed for a narrow-Vixen style dovetail.  The original dovetail was too short, but I found a unique way to utilize the “too short” original.  

The telescope optical tube is fairly heavy, and it was difficult to set up on the mount.  I needed a handle to more easily mount the telescope.  So….I just flipped the original dovetail upside down, and it bolted perfectly on the top of the optical tube.  This became the perfect handle I was looking for. 

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I don’t remember my old 1970’s Criterion RV-6 f/8 reflector being anywhere near this good, either optically or mechanically.  

I added an 8 x 50 finder.  

My primary reason for purchasing this scope was for portability, ease of carrying and set-up.   

 

Fortunate for me, I had a Vixen GP equatorial mount from a refractor purchase in 1997.  

There was a problem, but not with the telescope:  

My older Vixen GP tripod was designed for a refractor, and too tall for a reflector.  I didn’t realize until the other night that Vixen offers a short tripod, designed for Newtonian reflectors, but just the shortened legs with a base sells for ~ $200 dollars.

A light bulb turns on in my head: 

About 12 years ago, I bought a Vixen set of (standard) tripod legs for $20 at a local astronomy event.  They appeared to have never been used, and I’ve had them in storage ever since. 

I thought, why not attempt to shorten my extra set of standard tripod legs to Vixen height specs?  So….for most of the afternoon, I spent several hours,  sawing, drilling and filing.  The results were worth my time and effort, and all modifications looked really good.  

And now, I can enjoy observing with my 6-inch while seated.

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I’ve found it “almost ” impossible to look through an eyepiece, make notes and a sketch, in a standing position….. 

Roger