Friday, April 1, 2011

My first premium eyepiece is on order

After a long time pondering the purchase 0f, and wondering what the big deal was with these expensive eyepieces, and wanting to be able to use a 2-inch eyepiece in my 2-inch diagonals, I made the leap.

Of course, I'm having to be very careful with my money these days as my finances are taking a beating thanks to my separation, and the troubles my ex dropped into my lap by not mailing my 2006 taxes back-when, but each month I budget some money to either go out, buy a toy, get a massage, or some other thing I can do just for myself.

This month, a Baader Hyperion 17mm 2-inch eyepiece, with the 14- and 28-mm fine tuning rings is what I decided to spend some money on. I did some basic research to choose the Baader and the 17mm, and hopefully it won't let me down.

From all that I can see, I've probably picked one of the best of the Hyperion line, according to a considerable number of reviews. The Internet is wonderful, because you can simply type into Google, "Review [insert product name here]" and come up with more than a handful of opinions on a product. Everyone seems to really love the 17- and 13mm EPs.

I bought mine from OPT, so here's link to their site and the reviews on it:

But only too late did I look into Agena Astro to find that I could have saved myself $10 in shipping costs:

The Hyperion 17mm has two special features which I wasn't really looking for at first, but it makes it a cool thing to own. First off, there is the fact that you can use this eyepiece as both a 1.25-inch and a 2-inch eyepiece -- it transforms by simply unscrewing the 1.25-inch collar. Secondly, if you remember the fine tuning rings I spoke of before, you can use either of the rings, or both in combination, to create three more focal lengths directly from the one eyepiece. Baader has a chart on their site to show you what eyepieces and rings combine to create the different focal lengths. According to Baader, though, their 24mm eyepiece is the only one that cannot do this transformation, so make sure you understand that before you buy the rings with that eyepiece.

In my next post, if NYC has some good weather, after my eyepiece arrives (you know what they say about the curse of new equipment) I shall try to write up an honest-to-goodness review of this EP.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Too many scopes / No time / Splitting Doubles

It's been a long, long, time since I bothered to post anything here. If you once followed me and stopped, I wouldn't blame you.

My life continues to be in turmoil, and it seems every step is a new problem, and the Astronomy part of life is no different.

I'm a Travellin' Man

First a little filler background. Last year's NEAF 2010 conference gave me the itch to buy a refractor, since that's what I had wanted from the start. My 8-inch Meade SCT was just too cumbersome to take traveling. So I made the foolish jump into refractors by buying not only one but two: an AstroTech 80ED (carbon fiber body) and the Explore Scientific 102 EDT. Both are great scopes.

If you have read some of my previous entries, you know I travel a lot for my job. Last year especially saw me going up to Boston by way of Rocky Hill, CT, at the beginning of every week, and coming back at the end of every week. This I did all summer long in 2010.

I began to get tired of not being able to get under the stars, so I brought along the AstroTech 80ED (the carbon fiber body). While I had a car, it was a no brainer and I would enjoy using the scope at odd times that I had in Boston or Connecticut.

I also once tried to bring the ES102, but ended up hurting my back trying to get it in the car, because the trunk storage box is too heavy.

Unfortunately, right after summer, I got more bad news that the TaxMan was after me thanks to someone who shall remain anonymous. Right about that time, the LXD-75 mount died, and so I have not had a GOTO mount since then.

Recently, an AT90EDT was listed on Cloudy Nights classifieds, and I had to jump at that.

Too Many Scopes

See the trend? I now have 3 refractors, and the Meade SCT. Yes, I've got the fever. And now, with the 2011 tax season here, plus with all the other financial and tax problems facing me, it is obvious I have too many scopes, and not enough money.

It was decided that it's time to sell the scopes.

However, that was easier said than done. I have posted the AT80ED and the ES102EDT three different times on Cloudy Nights classifieds, and it seems no one wants them for the price I was asking (initially $500 and $1020, respectively). So the price has dropped a number of times now. I hope I can sell the scopes and recoup some money to pay the TaxMan.

Splitting Doubles

As I said, my mount is also busted, so I need some money to fix it. Meanwhile, this year, I resorted to using a 3-way photo head on a medium-duty photo tripod to see if the 80 and the 90 can be used on it. The 80, being so light since it's made of carbon fiber, is no problem. The 90, however, is not so good on it. So I've had to pull out the busted LXD-75 to use it sans GOTO, as a manual GEM. It's not too bad, considering all. I would, though, like to get a real Alt-Az mount and I've been eagerly awaiting a good one for a good price on CN.

Because I must use the mount in manual, I decided that I should go back to trying to learn and identify some things, as an exercise. This led, one night, to chasing double stars.

I really like it! It's a new thrill to a) try to find the star that is reported to be a double star, and b) to actually split it.

I've known about Mizar/Alcor, always a favorite. But the other day, using the book Turn Left At Orion, I was able to find B-Monocerotis. Quite a thrill to be able to split a double.

Tonight, I did the Mizar/Alcor set again (it's easy and I know where it is), but then moved on to splitting Pollux with a 6.9mm eyepiece, barlowed 2x.

Just now, I ran across a great site that is dedicated to splitting doubles: Star-Splitters. The link will take you to the FAQ, where you can see what it's really like to find a star is actually a double-star system, and know how to classify it. About half way down the page you'll find animated images of star samples, which helps to understand what people are talking about when they report that "seeing" was 4.

I have a new found hobby, splitting doubles. I'm so happy to be using my new AT90EDT for a good cause.

So, as I sign off, if there's anyone out there who is interested in buying my AT80ED or the ES102EDT, please give me a shout.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Angst Over Which Scope to Buy?

This is a re-post from a thread on the Cloudy Nights site. Someone had asked about what kind of scope was good for astrophotography. Lots of answers there, and you should read that whole thread, but I gave some advice that I think is really good and wanted to post it here for the general astro-community that might not have seen it on CN. Here you go:

I am a photographer. My main interest in getting into Astronomy was to take pictures of the stars, nebulae, and galaxies. I went through the same hand-wringing you did about 8 months ago. I ended up with a Meade 8in SCT with Coma free optics, and LXD75 mount.

To this day, I have not taken one real picture.

This is for two reasons. 1) I found that the learning process is quite slow. Both in terms of theory, and reading, and also because you have to get to know your equipment. Astronomy is the perfect "lab-oriented" hobby. You read about something, you go and do. and 2) I became really enamoured with just trying to learn the night sky. You have to know what to image. There are quite a few objects you could find right away and try shooting, but the more I learned, the more I just wanted to look through the scope to get better at knowing the sky and its contents.

So with the SCT I'm learning. But then I got the itch to try a refractor. And with the Northeast Astronomy Forum just a month or so ago (NEAF), I ended up buying 2 refractors.

This is an expensive hobby. Go slow, and don't worry about "getting the wrong thing."

All that said, if you want to have the best luck at imaging, and you want to also do some visual study, get a small Apochromatic ("APO") 80-mm refractor scope, with as good a mount as you can afford (I myself want to upgrade to the Atlas -- BTW, these mounts are larger than you think from the pictures on the websites). Small scope, hefty mount, and a few nice accessories like a 2-inch diagonal, 2 or 3 eyepieces from wide-angle to high-magnification. You're already talking about $1500 easily.

But if you start with a small scope, you can use it anywhere, you'll like the hobby better, and you won't feel like you got the wrong stuff.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

NEAF 2010 at Rockland Community College

This last weekend was the North East Astronomy Forum, otherwise known as NEAF (pronounced neef). It was my first ever astronomy show and fair, and I gotta tell you, it was a complete geekfest. I've never had so much drool fall out of my gaping mouth before. The janitor was following me around with a mop.

By the way, if you don't recognize these two fellas above, they're the stars of the Discovery Channel show, Meteor Men. I don't much follow the show as meteor hunting doesn't really appeal to me, but hey, they're celebrities, so I figure they gotta rate something, right?

So, anyway, in my early days as a computer hardware geek I used to go to PC Expo here in New York at the Javitz Center. The next big event after my computer tinkering days was PhotoEast for photographers, again at Javitz. Each year, these shows get less and less exciting, and so I've been less enthused about going to anything like that anymore. But NEAF was a new venue, a new adventure, and certainly a new problem: they sell stuff at NEAF for the duration of the two days, and many vendors drop their prices considerably in order to have you spend money.

Well, I couldn't resist. I did spend some money. In my next post I'll tell you what I bought, and also report on some of the neat equipment I looked into at NEAF. Until then, enjoy this photo of one of the largest and most expensive telescopes I've ever laid my eyes on.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Long time no see, and things to report

It has been a very, very, very long time since I wrote anything here. The fact is, the kids and work always takes precedence, and with my job, I've been traveling quite a bit.

Right after the last post, I got shipped off to California (sunny LA) to work on a Disney project. What was to be a 2-week stint turned into a 3-month engagement.

Then soon after I came back, I'm now traveling back and forth from New York to Boston for another project. While travel is compensated well, it unfortunately does not allow for much stargazing or time to write your thoughts down. It's one of the reasons my personal photo website lays stale for so long.

Anyway, let's get to some things I can report. First off, my hand controller arrived while I was away in California, and I was able to make use of it. Let's talk about expectations: I figured now that I have the computerized module, I would be able to see all sorts of things. Well, that didn't quite work out, as I had a lot of trouble at first trying to do the initial alignment the very first night. The scope would slew to places far from the target, and what I now know as backlash played havoc on my enjoyment of the instrument.

The next day I decided to read some more of the manual, and do the training that Meade says you should do by targeting terrestrial objects and using the hand controller. With training done, the next night I was able to do a much better job of getting the right target in my viewfinder.

The sights I saw that night amazed me. It's been a little too long to remember which objects I saw, but suffice it to say that I was able to view a variety of star clusters for the very first time in my life.

Some weeks ago, I also bought an SCT focuser from someone at Cloudy Nights. I was hoping to use the focuser in lieu of the SCT's own focuser. The additional weight is not great on the scope, but if it would prevent me from touching the mirror focuser, I'd be happy. Unfortunately, tonight I tried the focuser for the very first time, and found that I did not like it.

Fortunately, however, having gotten the Autostar to work properly last time, I was able to use the hand controller to see the "Night's Best" objects, one of which was Saturn. I had never in my life seen Saturn, and was quite excited to be able to view it through my telescope. In fact, I was so excited, I got my parents to come see it. My mom was completely amazed, and so has now, near retirement age, has seen Saturn for the very first time in her life.

Goes to show, astronomy will amaze everyone.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Awesome Birthday Present

I forgot to write about this.

The weekend that I got my telescope, when my dad and my cousin brought it to me, I got another present from my cousin and his lady friend. It is a book.

Normally, my heart sinks at the idea of getting a book for a present. In actuality I frankly love books, I'm an avid collector of miscellaneous books and series, but when I get a book for a present, I'm a little disappointed. I'm like a kid. I want a toy. Book? Blah!

But this one is a bit different. It's quite up my alley, considering how I'm now getting more into astronomy. And it comes with an additional cool factor attached.

The book is titled, The Very First Light: The True Inside Story of the Scientific Journey Back to the Dawn of the Universe. It is written by John C. Mather, and John Boslough.

The coolness factor lies in the fact that John Mather is the 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics.

And he signed my copy!

How. Awesome. Is. That!

(I will try to review the book at some point later on, stay tuned).