By Dave Fuller on 5/21/2012 7:07 AM
My friend Dave Sommerfield was with me while we were hoping to see ANY of the eclipse, as I blogged about yesterday.  Both armed with nothing but our smartphones, we were probably pretty fortunate to get pictures as good as the ones we got.  But Dave had a bit of serendipity with one of his shots - check out the lens flare in the lower part of this picture.  You can't see the Moon "bite" out of the Sun where the Sun actually is in the sky, but in the lens flare... well - check it out:

And in Japan, one of my friends lives just outside Tokyo.  If I understand it correctly, that part of the world hasn't seen an eclipse since the 1800's, but I may be wrong on that count.  In any case, I spotted some of the eclipse as it occurred there yesterday via live internet feeds.  But my friend Shinji captured this excellent shot through the...
By Dave Fuller on 5/20/2012 8:37 PM

All week long, the weather was supposed to be potential thunderstorms for today.  Early in the week it said 20%.  Not bad, that means 80% chance of clear, right?  By Friday, that was up to 30%.  Meh.  On Saturday, it was 50%.  Uh-oh.  And Saturday?  60%  Gah!  But Sunday rolled around, and it was sunny most of the day.  That is... up until 6:00, when it got cloudy.


But wait!  Something incredible happened.  Or should I say... my telescope cleared the clouds, just enough... again.

How?  Well, I don't know HOW, exactly.  But it has cleared the clouds for two outreach events, AND there were no clouds for three nights after I got it.  Trust me when I say that latter thing NEVER happens for amateur astronomers.  "New to you" equipment is a guarantee of cloudy weather for a week.

So I got to the field where I have a low western horizon around 7:00 p.m....

By Dave Fuller on 5/20/2012 7:07 AM

A friend had a birthday party last night, and she asked me to bring one of my telescopes.  I showed partygoers Saturn and a a few other objects.  Although I wasn't part of this conversation, a couple people were discussing "How do you KNOW that?" - for example, if the Earth if round, or some other metric of astronomy.  Those are interesting things to ponder of course, and the basis for rational and critical thinking.  It forces us to consider what is true and what is not, and to me anyway, it serves as the basis for me accepting the things that astronomers tell me, as opposed to... 

By Dave Fuller on 5/17/2012 2:38 PM
The May 20th solar eclipse will be occurring this coming Sunday, and much of the western United States and a lot of the Pacific Rim region will get a shot at seeing this "ring of fire" annular solar eclipse.  That, and the Venus Transit that is coming up in early June made me realize that I ought to put something together about solar safety, that is a bit more comprehensive than what I did for this week's video
By Dave Fuller on 5/11/2012 7:07 AM

I'm really starting to appreciate having my backyard from which to observe.  Certainly, the tall trees to the south and west, house to the east, and another good sized evergreen to the north mostly restricts views to overhead, somewhat east-ish, a tiny slice to the northeast, and... well that's about it.  But where is the best place to view objects anyway?  Overhead!  So what's the problem... oh yeah, there isn't one!

Alright not exactly.  I can't see much lower than 30 or 40 degrees north declination from there, and below 60 degrees up from the horizon east or west.  So I lose a lot of potential targets.  But now that my neighbor parks his trailer in his driveway, blocking their "always on" post lamp, I gain something far better....

By Dave Fuller on 5/10/2012 5:54 PM

The Sun may seem angry lately, but it's not really - it's just going through it's usual cycle of sunspots.  But given how incredibly quiet it was up until just recently - the sunspots over the past few months have seemed downright incredible.  I have been working harder to not only get some better equipment to view the Sun - a couple larger solar filters for my existing scopes - but also learning how to take better pictures of it.  Well... I'm doing what I would term "okay" - mostly because all I am doing is holding my cell phone over the eyepiece and snapping a WHOLE LOT of pictures, then comb through them on the computer to see which one or two captured the most detail or have the best contrast.  (This is similar to what I have been doing with my Saturn pictures.)

So in the last week or so, this new sunspot group...

By Dave Fuller on 5/8/2012 9:39 PM

I didn't plan on going out tonight - I do have to work tomorrow.  But it was clear, and it hasn't been that way for a while, so my wife encouraged me to take advantage of the opportunity.

So I did.

A quick rundown of the objects I viewed...

By Dave Fuller on 5/4/2012 2:22 PM
I have been posting my videos and replying to some folks on's astronomy section recently, and I've come across some posts by others responding to "beginner telescope?" questions with something like the following: "Well, you can't buy a REAL telescope for under $400."

Really?  Apparently this person is not familiar with how small the objective lens was on Galileo's telescope.  (It was about a 37mm objective lens with a 980mm focal length.)  In case you're not aware, there are very inexpensive telescopes available today for $40 and $50 with lenses or mirrors twice this diameter.

Granted, given the prevalence of light pollution in the vast majority of today's work, a 70mm refractor or 76mm reflector isn't going to show you nearly as much as it would under truly dark skies, which are rare for most people.  And it is true that many inexpensive telescopes, while adequate optically, are mounted on (ahem... excuse the pun) less-than-stellar mounts - usually too much scope on too little mount.  This is likely to introduce frustrating vibrations into the system when focusing or aiming the scope, making them difficult to use.

By Dave Fuller on 5/3/2012 4:01 PM

Where I live, in the Midwest part of the United States, the jet stream tends to be mean.  Mean in the sense that it likes to sit right above where I live and make viewing planets less than ideal.

Except last night.

Wow... was that a treat.  It was supposed to be cloudy - actually, rainy.  I was testing a new motor drive for a smaller scope on the Moon as the sky was getting dark.  Then, out of the blue - literally - there it was, Saturn, sitting above a neighbor's house, right where it should be at that time of night.  I put the smaller scope away, and brought out the 6" f/5 reflector.  As I kept changing eyepieces, and increasing magnification, I wondered....

The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.