Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cloudy Night Link: Endeavour STS-130 images courtesy of Malcolm...

Yes, Malcolm got to go to Florida to witness the launch of Endeavour STS-130 and also back in Toronto imaged a few passes...very cool Malcolm!

See the images here


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Addendum to a post: A case for the quick set up...in Winter (or why astronomers should never HIBERNATE!)

I was talking about a quick set up

I also want to add that, not only is the cold a factor in your portability, it's about taking a risk. In Ontario this time of year, skies are forecast to be clear but may be less than ideal...SO...you probably don't want to drag that hernia causing scope out when you know that observing might "only be an hour or so"...

Less than ideal is the norm in winter months. Lake effect clouds (or worse) wreaks all kinds of havoc. I mean lets be honest, Southern Ontario is like one giant penninsula. But when it is clear and you know for sure that the conditions are more than ideal, then maybe the big scope will work...but as you know, when it's clear, it's usually quite chilly to downright freezing (see the first post)


Refractor pic of the day

I shared this on Cloudy Nights and on Facebook...
The old Refractor in Mississauga...just before observing started...

A case for the quick set up...in Winter (or why astronomers should never HIBERNATE!.

Just to summarize:

I have been looking at double stars...like I normally do. Eta Orionis is fab! Go look at it! Mars has been great. This has been a good opposition. Go look at it! Saturn is back, it's great! Go look at it!

So anyway...

But what I want to do is talk about the quick set up. I honestly feel today's amateur short changes himself/herself by imposing a moratorium on winter observing because of the usual excuses...it's too cold, the set up takes too long, it's too cold...blah, blah, blah. The question of portability has more involved in it than "can I lift it"...just like picking the right clothing, picking the right telescope is very important.

Okay so it might sound more like a "Pronto Brag" (thanks SUG!). But whatever you have, the case for the "quick set up" is this. If it takes too long to set up, takes too long to cool down and quite frankly, is too cold to touch in the dead of winter, chances are you have the wrong "winter scope". This assumes you live in a snowy country (what snow? Toronto has had so little this year). If you are observing in Florida, you might want to skip this blog entry.

Any small Refractor, SCT/CAT, 6"-8" Dob or Reflector that can be mounted to a sturdy, portable AZ mount (or EQ if not too big) is desirable. In my case, the Tele Vue Pronto which can be converted to so many different types of observing, it's been a great scope in the quicky set up (assuming I remember to convert it to the right dovetail--side note to that is I merged the universal dovetail to the TV balance plate--that worked!).

How fast is the Pronto up? Well, under 10 minutes. I would hazard a guess that I could set up the Pronto in five minutes with heaters and e/p's ready to go. Simple AZ mounting, no motors, no polar alignment, no elaborate GO-TO alignment. Set up fast, to be taken down fast. Oh and the big thing. Short cool down time. Less than 30 minutes on average. You don't know how important that is till you drag out the monster aperture and it cools down after you want to go home.

So whatever you do, the quick set up adds to your winter enjoyment. While you don't have the aperture to work with, or perhaps the elaborate, imaging set up, the old argument, "the best telescope is the one you use most often", comes into play. It's far more important that the astronomer is "out looking through equipment" rather than "looking at equipment"....