By Dave Fuller on 4/23/2013 9:02 AM
I have had this 4.5" f/8 primary from Meridian Telescopes for quite a while (sadly not sold there anymore), and always planned to build a scope around it someday. In the interim, I have had a number of other telescope projects come and go.

With that f/8 mirror, I had plans to put a tube on a bowling ball, and make the scope so it could point any direction.  Yeah... ummm - WAY too much weight up top, and not enough mass at the bottom.  There's a reason why an Astroscan telescope is so short and squat!  So from that field project, I had an old Meade tube sitting around doing nothing from that project that didn't get too far.

When I went to build my 6" f/11 reflector, I bought a used, Japan-made focuser for a reflector. It turned out to be too heavy for that telescope, so it has been sitting around. The 6x26 Orion finder that came with my 90mm f/10 Orion refractor has been doing nothing, as I had swapped in a 9x50 on that...
By Dave Fuller on 4/17/2013 8:44 AM
Lunar X feature graphic

The Lunar X feature is visible on the Moon tonight!  See this week's "Eyes on the Sky" video for more information, or download the free pdf Moon map for observing the Lunar X, V, S and Apollo 16 landing site here.  Cloudy?  No problem - it will be visible again later this year - here's the 2013 dates and times of best visibility for the Lunar X (calculated for Central Time Zone in the United States - convert to your time zone here):

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By Dave Fuller on 4/11/2013 11:30 AM

I've been a dark skies advocate for some time now (going back to 2008), and recently Thilina Heenatigala from Astronomers Without Borders contacted me about writing a blog post for their Global Astronomy Month on the Dark Skies Awareness blog.  I encourage you to check out that post here, and be sure to peruse the Dark Skies Awareness blog and the whole Astronomers Without Borders site - there's a lot of great work being done around the world for astronomy on a variety of levels, and you can learn a lot about it there.

By Dave Fuller on 4/11/2013 6:41 AM

Algieba in Leo is not hard to find from most locations.  At magnitude 2.2, it cuts through most light polluted areas, residing about 8 degrees to the northeast of Regulus in Leo the Lion.  Regulus us 77 light years from Earth - I suppose you could say that start isn't exactly in our cosmic neighborhood, but it is in the suburbs.  Algieba, at 130 light years, is in the far suburbs, but in the cosmic scheme of things, is still somewhat close - it's not like it's in the next country or anything.  

Strangely, Algieba in Arabic means "the forehead," so given our modern-day interpretation of Leo's shape, it obviously differed from how Ptolemy and Al-Sufi saw the lion.  As we see it today, Algieba is at...

By Dave Fuller on 4/9/2013 7:33 PM
I am strange in a way.  I see "good" and "bad" outdoor lighting even during the daytime.  Lights do not even need to be turned  on and I can "see" if they are good or bad.  And one of the most vexing problems is how to modify / change behavior, particularly of the ubiquitous "post" lamp here in the United States.  They have a "bulb up" orientation, which does not lend themselves to "good" downward facing lighting in an easy way.

Until now, perhaps.  Let me explain.  And this is a bit circuitous, so bear with me.

My wife and I do not get out all that much together.  With two teenage daughters, there are a lot of other expenses that come before "a night out," but we had made a date to go out this last Sunday.  I had tasked her with deciding where she wanted to go eat, though by that afternoon, she was still undecided.  We had a few errands to run first, so we talked about some options.  Finally, she said, "Let's go to Texas Roadhouse."

I was skeptical.

"Isn't it loud there?  You don't...
By Dave Fuller on 4/8/2013 1:40 PM
So what's up in the night sky this week besides the Leo Triplet?  The sky is a bit slower this week, but this is when many amateur astronomers attempt a Messier Marathon - trying to see all 110 of Messier's 'non comet' objects in a single night.  Want to try it?  Here's a planner for it.  I've never done it myself, and it's not easy, but it can be done if you know where to look for all of them.  Even if you don't, the search for many of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster galaxies is an amateur astronomer's observing paradise!  So many galaxies in such a small area of sky.  

What else is happening?  The Moon is new on the 10th, which is why deep sky observing is ideal now.  Next weekend, the Moon rejoins the evening sky and skirts by Jupiter in the evening sky.  And all week long, you can spot the double star Algieba in Leo - even...
By Dave Fuller on 4/3/2013 9:24 PM
A photo capturing Jupiter between Tau Tauri and NGC 1647 in Taurus.  Aldebaran is at center/left.  NGC 1647 is faint, but look for that gently curving line of 5th, 6th and 7th magnitude stars.  The cluster is right next to a pair of K-class, orange stars - one at 5th magnitude, the other at 7.5.  Both are visible in even small telescopes from light polluted areas, but the cluster may prove more elusive, and require darker skies and/or larger aperture.

On the other side of Jupiter, Tau Tauri is an easily split with a small scope, with as little as 25x magnification splitting that pair with no problem at all.

What can you see?  Give these objects a try this week.  If nothing else, Jupiter and it's Galilean moons are worth the look!  The planet is moving in the direction of the arrow, so it will move away from these two objects as the week wears on, but both are easily found nearby until early next week.

NGC1467, Jupiter and Tau Tauri in Taurus, April 2, 2013

By Dave Fuller on 4/2/2013 8:53 PM

My (admittedly not very good) photo of Comet PANSTARRS as it moved near Messier 31 on April 2, 2013.  This was taken with a 200mm lens at f3.5, approximately 1 second shot using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i.  Given that I  am south of Chicago, and many of the southwestern suburbs were tossing light pollution into the sky near where the comet was, this is about the best shot I could muster.  It has faded significantly from a couple of weeks ago too, so it's much fainter and not as easy to photograph.  

The comet is in the lower left of the frame, and M31's core is...

By Dave Fuller on 4/1/2013 5:49 PM

As Earth speeds ahead of Jupiter on its 12 year orbit around the Sun, the planet works it's way slightly eastward even as Earth's motion pushes the it and Taurus ever westward.  As the giant planet struggles to stay out of twilight in the evening, it is moving between two objects that are worth perusing with a telescope as long as your telescope is already in the area:

The double star Tau Tauri and the open cluster NGC1647.  And look!  All three fit in a binocular field of view for a couple...

By Dave Fuller on 4/1/2013 12:55 PM
The Moons of Jupiter are often described as "shuttling" back and forth on either side of that planet, and that is because Jupiter's tilt is a mere 3 degrees.  Saturn on the other hand, is tilted at 26.7 degrees.  In one way, that is incredibly fortunate for us, as when the tilt is at maximum to Earth's perspective ever 15 years or so, we see the best views of it's ring structure!  What that also serves to so though, is cause some people to misinterpret Saturn's Moons as stars, because they aren't expecting them to be in locations outside of a "nearly straight line" like Jupiter's moons are.

And this week, we have front-row seats to quite a display of Saturn's moon Titan.  This moon is not nearly as bright as the Galilean moons.  They shine at 6th magnitude, despite being smaller.  However, that is aided by the fact that they are some 300+ million miles closer to Earth as well!  So to spot Titan, you'll either need dark skies and a 60mm scope or larger, or a 114mm to 150mm telescope under moderate to severely...

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.