Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cloudy (Windy and Rainy) Night Link: NYAA

If you want to jump to the next step apart from some basic get togethers and observing, you might be ready for a club that offers more, quite a bit more. Yet this group is also a down-to-earth, friendly gathering of astronomers. The North York Astronomical Association or NYAA is a great place to meet new friends, enjoy members nights/meetings, do some observing, enjoy dark sky weekends away from the city and of course be part of something super-special, an event called StarFest.

Joining your "local group" is something you won't regret.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Observing Challenge: Delta Cygni

Located in the constellation Cygnus at RA: 19h 44m 58.52s Dec: +45° 07' 50.6", Delta forms the tip of the western portion of Cygnus the Swan's wing and is very easily placed in the night sky for routine viewing in June around 10:30pm and onward. Oddily enough, given the 2.7 magnitude, Delta lacks a proper name. Around 11,250 AD, Delta will be the North Star.

In a quality 3-4 inch Refractor, you should be able to resolve Delta into two distinct pairs.
The challenge here of course is the magnitude differential in the companion. It is a mere 6.3 magnitude. The Antares 105mm Refractor split this without a whole lot of effort in the 223X power range but became very apparent when that image was barlowed to 447X. Generally, this would be a difficult power to work with, but the steadiness was slightly above average. At this power, the companion lay outside the first concentric ring in the Refractor.

Good luck and let me know if you were able to split it!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Another Porrima Report

The Porrima saga ended last night in an impromptu observing session that coincided with a nice party thrown by Cow Jazz's John Merchant and his lovely wife, Maggie. I have to say that at 370X with the Antares 105/1500 as conditions permitted showed Porrima as two distinct stars although I cannot cleanly split them with space in between. But it looks definitely like a pair now. That I can confirm.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

SP Mount goes steel

Not that I will do away with the wood legs, I was able to scrounge some spare parts and a steel tripod for the SP Mount to try and resolve the matter of the stability which became oh-so-bad when I mounted the f/14 Elite 105 to the head. Wow that was a wobbly experience to say the least. The 2" steel tripod is from the Celestron CG5 mount or SkyWatcher EQ6. It is taller and allows more room for longer tubes. But more importantly, firmed up the shakes and jiggles that were inherent in the old wood Vixen legs which are slowly deforming and the spreader is almost useless. It's not 100% yet. The leg spreader is still dinky but there is a big fix for that thanks to my friends Gary and Dave who can change that.

The weather is going bad for the next few days, so no end-user report will be available for a bit, so bear with me.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Porrima IS pulling apart

Further to my post on Porrima, it is indeed pulling apart and I could make out two spheres of light. It is quite a site given after my last posting on actually observing Porrima back in April it has moved beyond the classic figure eight pattern to a more discernable double disc.

What I did not see was a space between them, not yet. Granted, it was lower in the sky and seeing was not all that terrific.

Tonight was a first trial run of an Antares Refractor, the Antares 105mm, 1500mm focal length. This is an f/14 Vixen Spec achromat. Hopefully I will have a lot more time to thoroughly test it and post a review. So far results look very promising.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cloudy Night Link: The Stargazers Group of Mississauga

While I know it's not exactly cloudy out tonight, I'm baked.  I am going to rest up after paddling and mountain biking in my quest to the ultimate cardio-fat burning machine....anyway, moving right along...

Want to know how to start off right in astronomy?  Well there are a couple of ways.  First is a good reference book like Terrence Dickinson's Nightwatch, a good set of 10X50 or 8X56 binoculars, and, and, ready for it? A GROUP!

Nothing beats joining a small gathering of like-minded astronomers. You might find it intimidating or daunting thinking that you will be blown away by all the techno-jargon or the shear knowledge base. If you live in the GTA, one such group stands out and you will find yourself right at home amongst those who love astronomy and won't make you feel intimidated. They are called The Stargazers Group of Mississauga. Please check out the link to the group and you will find it a warm and friendly place to start on the path of becoming an amateur astronomer.

Here are some pics from the Saddington Park location in Mississauga (the main page photo above the blog is also from this site).

Monday, June 1, 2009

A users opinion (review): Tele Vue Pronto Part Two

Observing with the Pronto: Functions

With the correct mounting plates for whichever mount I am using it mounted on the clamshell, it’s time to look at the operating aspects of the Tele Vue Pronto. Focus is typical Tele Vue, butterly smooth. However I have noticed that this particular focuser may have a bit of image shift. This could be age or something is out of adjustment. A trip to Uncle Al (Nagler) of Tele Vue might be in store or is it something I can fix myself. Not sure yet. But it’s there at moderate to high power. Not really a big issue, not like older SCT’s. Clamshell adjustment to balance the tube is straightforward with one little twist of the wing nut. Not a lot of room to move the tube though because it is short. It remains somewhat bottom heavy on the SP mount because of the limitations of the adapter plate which cannot be adjusted. I might be able to adapt the balance plate with the SP plate adapter to alleviate that. Just haven’t tried that. The sliding dew shield/light shade is smooth without any issues. The Quikpoint is OK but nowhere near what a StarBeam could do. It’s a little small and can be hard to aim when the tube reaches an awkward position. On the SP mount the OTA looks over-mounted but it is quite the stable platform. The legs do not need to be raised too high as the OTA is short enough to keep the tripod lower. At only 480mm, this is quite the little tube compared to the 1000mm SP-C102.

Observing with the Pronto: Looking at stuff

I’ll get this over with now. It has false colour (chromatic aberration). Okay, I said it. Now here’s where it always go south. People tend to *demonize* a very well built refractor on this one big hiccup. Really, it’s not a big deal the actual false colour; but, if you are looking for virtually colour free or any aberration free system, be prepared to spend a mint on that refractor. No matter how you look at it, there are very few “essentially perfect” telescopes. I think, collimation, spherical aberration and surface roughness are less forgiving than colour correction. But it always seems to end up on this ONE thing. If it has a hint of blue out of focus, it isn’t “good”. That’s bunk. Personally, I don’t care.

Indications so far are that the scope is very well collimated with stars at high power being well rounded with concentric rings being circular when seeing permits. I have yet to have a really steady night to test real high power with this Pronto (my old one hit 600X one night). I did not detect the rough images that the C102 suffers at higher power. The entire image of a star at high power is smooth. Everything snaps into focus as it should. As noted there is a bit of image shift at powers greater than 75X but not pronounced enough to shift the field of view out of the eyepiece. Did I say it had false colour? Shhhhhh! Enough of that!
Lunar detail is always easy so I won’t spend much time on that. In fact, I’m done. But I did enjoy a nice view of the Appenine Mountains last night.

Planetary detail: Well we have only had Saturn to look at so far and the Pronto has delivered although I find the image a tad dim. Not a surprise given that the rings aren’t tilted the way we want it. I have seen at least two moons in the Pronto. Not bad. I have detected minimal false colour on Saturn...wait a minute, we’ve talked about that already...shut up you chromatic aberration demon!

Double Stars: The Pronto is stellar on doubles...hehehehehe...stellar, that was not intended now wasn’t it? I have enjoyed many doubles mainly because the optics are quite stable. Problems inherent in the C102 sometimes diminish my enjoyment of double stars, not that it isn’t enjoyable in it, but the Pronto being sharper adds to that although the aperture and thus, the resolving power is less. Porrima shows as a slight figure-8 and from what I have heard MIGHT be able to be split in it at super-high power during a stable night. Alpha Herculis has been glorious showing the components colour although some false colour is shown on the companion...BUT WHO CARES! Trickier doubles like Algeiba still split although with some measure of difficulty. Again, the smooth, sharp optics help. Easy doubles like Alberio and the cats eyes in Draco are a total pleasure with the Pronto and fun to share with people.

Deep Sky: It’s small. It’s not really a deep sky scope. But I can see where the 480mm focal length will come in handy (M31, M81+82 etc). It’s just that the scope has yet to enjoy a dark sky, so I haven’t got a whole lot to say about deep sky observing. However, seeing M44 and IC 4665 really look like open clusters. With the field of view of the Pronto at low power, this has been the case. But again, apart from this I can only remember deep sky objects from my old Pronto, which I won’t comment on.

Small Refractor Renaissance

Mini-meets: It seems that the arrival of the new-used Pronto triggered more city meets than previous most likely because we are all starved for observing but are not able to drive the hour long distance to a dark sky. Seems that a few of us have been more than willing to put up with the sky glow and just observe in local parks. It has also triggered a large following of small refractors ranging from 66mm to 102mm. Most of us have been checking out doubles, had a few "Galileo Moments" like finding Mercury or just sitting back enjoying the odd bright open cluster. But for some reason or another, more local observing has taken place since the arrival of this Pronto. Others blame it for all the clouds! I won't take credit for this surge in interest but it is possible that with smaller, more portable instruments, more observing will take place. The old *portability question*.

Daytime Use:
Thats another story, stay tuned for Part Three.