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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 8/18/2013 9:54 PM

I am thankful that I can manage wide-field astrophotography, because I am not good at through-the-scope shots. Below is a photo of the nova that was discovered just last week in Delphinus. It's a bright one - right now around magnitude 5.0 or so, and this picture shows the area it is located in. Sagitta is at upper right, while Delphinus is below. This week's Eyes on the Sky video shows exactly how to hop to this spot, and see the nova with binoculars too. 

Nova Delphini 2013, August 18, 2013

By Dave Fuller on 6/17/2013 8:36 AM

Yes, it is a bit like cooking, but without the mixing and heat.  (The clean up still exists though!)  I have offered an adult-oriented astronomy program to libraries for a couple of years now, which has been incredibly well-received.  I have been asked if I had a children's program.  Though I never put one together previously, I had thought about what I would do for one.  This last week I got asked if I would present at a camp for 6 to 12 year olds, and decided I better put a presentation together that works for that age group.

One aspect I thought would be fun  to share is to show how craters are made.  It is one thing to see an animation from a NASA video; it is another to actually witness an impactor striking "soil" and forming a crating / producing ejecta

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):

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...

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.