Archive for December 2020

My Home Observatory Has Endured The Test of Time, But Is Now Improved. It Serves Multiple Purposes; One Being My Humble Observatory, a Sun Deck and for Blue Bird Watching

December 7, 2020

I started with just a deck, but over time, especially in the past couple years, I’ve tried to improve and make my observing site a bit darker, and I’ve been successful. At the zenith or overhead, on a real good and transparent night, I can reach a 5.5 NELM. Not too bad for a location inside the city limits of a small town.

And with no ambient light shinning into my eyes.

After a few revisions….

You might wonder why I’ve not built a dome or roll-off roof observatory, after being an amateur astronomy for almost 50 years. The reason. My back yard is not worthy of a permanent structure.

For 35 years, I’ve been using my back deck for the majority of my observing. My house blocks ambient light from the south, but I needed to improve my overhead and northern views. I can observe anything from ~+12º north latitude, anything more southerly, I have to leave my deck and find the darkest spot in my back yard.

On the west side of my deck, I use a couple large sheets of black auto/marine fabric, with a backing that makes light impossible to penetrate.

I just “clothes-pin” it to a nylon rope, and when my session is complete, it’s very easy to take down, fold up and put away. It is similar to heavy duty “old time” tent canvas. It’s very thick, and is perfect for my use.

So for the past couple of years, I’ve been slowly adding various light blocks:

A couple weeks ago I added a small section to my current wooden light block petition, which now needs to be stained. And also a new small shed to block light, and for storage.

In my larger shed, I store my CGE-Pro Celestron mount, which is much too heavy to take in and out of the house. This mount is really designed for a permanent observatory, and too heavy to set up for a night or two of observing. Most of the time, I use a lighter equatorial mount with my 10-inch. I also keep tools, counterweights, an astro-chair and other astronomy and non-astronomy equipment stored in this shed.

So, my point of this post: Despite street lights, or other lighting there are things you can do to improve your ability to observe, even from your back yard.

Star Trails Image: By Guest Hosts: Babak Tafreshi (Photographer) and Mario Motta

December 2, 2020

Star Trails image at the residence of amateur astronomer Mario Motta, by renowned photographer, Babak Tafreshi.

Click on image to enlarge:

Babak Tafreshi is an award winning photographer working with the National Geographic, a master of night-time photography and nightscape videos. He used the context of night sky to bridge Earth and sky, art and science, cultures and time. He is also a science journalist and the founder of The World at Night (TWAN) program; an elite group of about 40 photographers in 25 countries who present images to reconnect people with importance and beauties of the night sky and natural nights (since 2007).

Born in 1978 in Tehran he is based in Boston, United States, but could be anywhere on the planet, chasing stories from the Sahara to the Himalayas or Antarctica. He is also a contributor to Sky&Telescope magazine, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and a board member of Astronomers Without Borders organization, an international organization to bridge between cultures and connect people around the world through their common interest to astronomy. He received the 2009 Lennart Nilsson Award, the world’s most recognized award for scientific photography, for his global contribution to night sky photography.

As a science journalist he has contributed to many television and radio programs on astronomy and space exploration specially when living in Iran. He was the editor of the Persian astronomy magazine (Nojum) for a decade and been involved with various science education and outreach programs.

Babak started photography of the night sky above natural landscapes and historic architecture in early 1990s when he was a teenager. He has always been fascinated by the universality of the night sky; the same sky appearing above different landmarks of the world. Photography, science stories, and eclipse chasing has taken him to the 7 continents.