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"The Nightlight" by Eyes on the Sky is all about how to see things in the night sky, things you can build to improve your amateur astronomy experience, and general thoughts on astronomy and light pollution.
By Dave Fuller on 8/23/2012 5:56 PM

Yesterday on the "Eyes on the Sky" Facebook page, there was a great discussion among several of us about the craters Hercules and Atlas which were nicely positioned for viewing the tiny craterlet inside the larger crater Hercules - as well as how to do lunar photography with a telescope.

By Dave Fuller on 7/27/2012 3:28 PM

I read a lot in the Beginner sections on Astronomy forums.  One of my main goals with the "Eyes on the Sky" videos is to help beginners learn the sky, and find things easily.  Of course, it's not a simple task - learning the sky takes time.  Andlearning about telescopes is even more daunting, given the myriad choices out there.  So when I see a beginner say, "I've enjoyed the stars for a long time - I'd like to buy a telescope, and even do astrophotography.  What scope should I get?" I want to cringe a little.  Okay, more than a little.  I want to cringe A LOT.  And usually I do.

Why, you ask?  Good question.

By Dave Fuller on 7/25/2012 2:53 PM

You know what bugs me?  And I don't mean bugs, as in mosquitoes (although they are annoying - but that's another, future blog post).  What bugs me is when a newcomer to astronomy - already having taken that first step towards discovering the wonders of the night sky, and is very likely very uncertain, hesitant, and doesn't want to feel stupid - asks a simple question, and is given a completely flippant, simplistic answer.  The one that comes to mind is the, "Hey, I'm trying to find things in the sky - can someone help me?" and the responses come back something like this, "Just download Stellarium."


By Dave Fuller on 7/16/2012 2:17 PM

Two days ago, there was an alert from Sky and Telescope magazine that indicated likely aurora over the next few days.  I had downloaded the app "Aurora Buddy" to my smartphone, and occasionally had received aurora reminders in the past.  In fact, I remember getting one on a night where lots of people in the Chicago area (who are also amateur astronomers) saw aurora.... and I MISSED it!  So I wasn't going to miss out if they were visible this time.

I looked on Friday night, as my phone "notified" me a couple times, but several treks outside netted me absolutely nothing.  On Saturday, the same happened, though this time the notifications were indicating higher activity.  I was REALLY bummed at this point, because not only had no one else see anything, but much of the higher activity had occurred during the DAY!  Ugh... had I missed the aurora due to... sunlight?

Turns out, I hadn't.

Apparently the best was yet to come....

By Dave Fuller on 6/27/2012 10:01 AM

Tonight (and into tomorrow morning) there will be three trios in the sky: Mercury is near Castor and Pollux in the evening, Jupiter and Venus are close to Aldebaran in the morning, and tonight, the Moon visits Spica and Saturn.  Look in the southwest about and hour or two after sunset, and don't miss Mars towards the west southwest too.

By Dave Fuller on 6/25/2012 5:01 PM

Mercury is near the "twin" stars of Castor and Pollux of Gemini about an hour after sunset.  Visible for longer, but moving towards the west-northwest, is the Moon and Mars, with Regulus of Leo sitting between the duo and trio.  For more information, see the June 25 thru July 1 "Eyes on the Sky" video.

By Dave Fuller on 6/24/2012 3:42 PM
I had made a video about how to find Pluto, and why this time was a good opportunity to try and spot the little pla... uhhh - dwarf planet.  Two weeks ago some of my friends who are part of the informal Chicago Astronomer group indicated this last weekend might be a good time to try it.  I put it on my calendar, and was not disappointed!

We met at Conway Observatory in Lowell Indiana.  The skies are between 5.5 and 6.0 magnitude, NELM - well, overhead and to the south that is.  To the north, the glow of the city and urban sprawl still block stars down to 3.5 or 4.0 about 40 degrees and below.  But we weren't looking north.  I had researched how high Pluto would be above the horizon: It was to be 20 degrees by 10:45, 25 degrees by 11:45, and culminate on the meridian at 29 degrees around 12:45 or so. Being a glutton for punishment, I started trying around 10:30 or 11:00.  But, I had something going for me: VERY transparent...
By Dave Fuller on 6/6/2012 6:08 PM

The 2012 Venus Transit could not have gone better for me.  A once (or twice!) in a lifetime event that turned out perfectly - or as perfect as one can hope, anyway.  I had occasionally mentioned the Venus Transit in past weekly videos.  The full week before was my pièce de rèsistance for my "Eyes on the Sky" videos, as I made quite a few characters, most notably Guillaume Le Gentil.  But of course the real thing - the actual transit - was the reason for all of this hoopla.

The weekend had indicated clear weather for Tuesday evening, but I know better than to get too excited about clear weather conditions too far in advance.  But Tuesday arrived, the sky was blue, and the temperature was a comfortable 75F - though it was a bit windy.  I had first raised the idea for this event with a local park district back in November of 2011, which has a prime west-facing location outside of town - and they had been looking to get more people out to this spot anyway.  It turned out to be ideal (more on that later).  

Arriving at 4:00 or so with a ice-filled cooler stocked with Sunkist orange soda (could there be a better drink name for a Venus Transit?), I had plenty of time to ....

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....

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.