October 29, 2008 #052 – Maksutov Modification

My Apex 127 Maksutov has been an excellent scope. Earlier this year I mounted it on a new William's Optics EZ mount. The addition of some mounting hardware from ADM produced a first class setup. After putting it through it's paces for a while using my 1.25” eyepieces I began to wonder if it was possible to use my University Optics F30mm - 2” eyepiece. After searching the groups for posts on this subject I received mixed signals. I decided to pick up an SCT Schmidt Adapter and a 2” GSO - SCT Diagonal from ScopeStuff. The GSO Diagonal has unbelievable quality. The quartz mirror is advertised as 1/12 wave with a 99% reflectivity dialectic coating. If it didn't work for the 2” the setup would raise the observational quality of my 1.25” eyepiece use, I reasoned!

Everything fit and worked great. I can detect no vignetting. Stars are pinpoint sharp and the Mak provides a very dark background. I can hear someone say, “Mak's are for higher power!” Yes but, this combo gives excellent views of globular clusters and low power views of the moon and brighter planets. My 1.25” eyepieces still provide that power boost. I have a Clave 30mm and Clave Barlow along with a couple of University Optics Konig's that brings the best out in the small scope at higher magnification.

The bottom line is that it works on my 127 and adds enjoyment to the hobby. What more could we ask for!

Clear Sky - Rich


October 11, 2008 #051 – Vacation Odyssey Episode 5

After we left our son's home we had a week of vacation left. We decided to cross the mountains and then head north into Wyoming. That evening by luck we found a wonderful remote desert campground in southern Wyoming. There were no lights or light pollution, no other campers, and the moon was not due to make an appearance till almost dawn. It was a sky watchers paradise.

As the sun went down I stood and watched the sky darken. The stars began to appear, with more and more over the next few hours until I reached down to, at about midnight, a magnitude somewhere between 7 and 8 with my old eyes. M31 was amazing, the Coal Sack was as dark as I can ever recall seeing it. I had a hard time taking my eyes off the Milky Way. I do not think that I have ever seen so much even in the 1950's from my boyhood sky in the Midwest.

I must confess I never got out my telescope. I would stand and observe, jumping from one section of the sky to the next, then back again. Occasionally I would look through binocs but not for long. It was an eyes only night for me. A couple of times I caught a few winks in the tent then knowing that new stars were rising in the east I was up and out under the night sky again. I'm sure my wife thought I had lost my mind. My last observing session was just as the eastern night sky was beginning to fade and the crescent moon rose over the cliffs in that direction.

Over the next few days we traveled through the Tetons, Yellow Stone, west over the Big Horn Mountains, through southern South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and then a last minute dash home through the most light polluted skies in the Midwest, Chicago. I know that when I retire I will be spending more desert nights under the stars. Maybe I might get to that telescope!

Clear Sky - Rich


October 10, 2008 #050 - Mosquitos

Here in the Midwest, at least at my observing location a biblical plague is upon us! The hurricane passed through in September dropping up to 12" of rain here in the lower great lakes region. This has produced blood suckers in clouds. I would estimate 5 anopheles, all biting females, per cubic foot of air. My record so far has been 7 killed with two slaps! I even considered cutting a hole in a mosquito net to stick the eyepiece through. Needless to say the sky is off limits till a good killing frost hits.

As a consolation for very little observation time, Mercury Messenger has returned some spectacular views on it second flyby. If you haven't seen them by all means take a look. Imagine what we will see when it goes into orbit in 2011.

The other story I have been following was the photographic capture and atmospheric entrance of the 3 to 15 foot Asteroid 2008 TC3 over Africa a few days ago. That must have been a spectacular sight. Most meteors are only the size of a grain of sand. It is amazing that even non professionals are able to catch photos at such short notice. Hope they didn't have to contend with the mosquitos maybe they used one of those remote control observatories! Perhaps I should look into that when my wife wins the lottery.

Clear Sky - Rich


October 9, 2008 #049 - Vacation Odyssey Episode 4

During our stay in the Denver area one of my goals was to attend a meeting of the Denver Astronomical Society. A check of the Internet told me our stay fell between meetings so that was a disappointment. It leaves something to look forward to in the future.

Another goal was to visit S&S Optika in Denver. I remember when they were prominent advertisers in Sky & Telescope but they have not been present in recent times. My son and I drove through downtown and headed south toward their store location. It is not a big place but what wonders they have in their show room. They have rows of scopes and cabinets full of optical goodies. There were many excellent quality used scopes and the people working there were very helpful. If I were a wealthy man with a big truck I would have taken several with me. Kind of a kid in the candy store syndrome! They had some excellent deals. They also have evening observing sessions where the public is invited to try out the scopes. If you get a chance to stop in, by all means it is well worth it. I have scanned a copy of their flyer for the blog.

I received another astronomical treat from my son, which he brought back from a recent business trip to Australia. I mentioned that I would love to see a copy of the Australian Sky & Telescope which he picked up for me. It is an interesting read, the local stories and the southern sky articles were great although a portion was articles that were published in the North American issue. Of coarse it was great to browse through the advertisements.

Clear Sky - Rich


October 8, 2008 #048 - Vacation Odyssey Episode 3

The night sky is great but other wonders pulled our eyes to the west. The Rockies are a wonder and to top it off snow fell in the high country. We took several trips to Rocky Mountain National Park, culminating in a drive to the alpine level above two miles.

One evening as we returned from the mountains their was a spectacular meteor fall just at dusk. We were traveling south about 40 miles north of Denver. A slow, brilliant green meteor trail began forming about 35 degrees above the city and appeared from our perspective to travel almost vertically down to burn out at about 5 degrees above the south horizon. I can only imagine what a show this would have been in dark skies away from the the city lights and an almost full moon.

On the subject of the moon, we were treated to amazing moon rises for almost a week. Coming off the mountains with the city lights stretching to the northern, eastern, and southern horizon the moon would rise, perfectly clear over the earths edge and looking larger than life. No haze was visible, and the lunar features were clear and distinct as it climbed above the earths limb. I have only observed this in the north country where the pristine orb rises out of Lake Superior, never over a fully illuminated city.

Clear Sky - Rich


October 7, 2008 #047 - Vacation Odyssey Episode 2

We reached Denver, CO and the odometer read 1100 miles. That's a lot of small towns and some great scenery. All but the first night had been clear. The desert sky was dark, the stars were sharp and magnitude levels fell as we traveled west. We didn't have any physical problems with being a mile high. The only problem was the moon, it continued to take an ever larger bite from the night sky.

I have a Fuji E900 camera which takes great digital pics but the lens is not suited to photographing the night sky. I have always used a Cannon F1, 35 mm. This was a top of the line film camera in it's day but is now decidedly long in the tooth. My son had just purchased a new Nikon D40, just before we got there. I can never resist a new gadget. We began to experiment with it in the evening and after a while we were able to capture some serviceable lunar pics using the manual settings and a 300 mm lens.

It is amazing how sensitive these cameras are in low light conditions. Colors are captured even though the eye sees only shades of gray. The lights of Denver prevented any long exposures but here are four of our early tests. The fifth is a fast hand held snap of the moon with the E900 through the eyepiece of my 127mm maksutov.

Clear Sky - Rich


October 6, 2008 #046 - Vacation Odyssey Episode 1

My wife and I left on vacation in early September. We were bound for Denver, CO to celebrate our only granddaughter's first birthday. This trip was kind of a first for us as we have always traveled in a pickup camper and later a motor home. Economic conditions being what they are, we decided that a tent might be more our style.

We have a Jeep TJ and behind it an old military trailer in which we packed all the Stuff. You can bet my telescope found it's way in! I was itching to see some western skies. We headed out US 136. Traveling has always been a treat for us. We like to see small towns on the back roads and take our time. Interstate roads are for trips home as we always stay gone to the last minute. We crossed the Mississippi River at Keokuk and headed west across Missouri and Nebraska.

We really got into this tent camping. It took a couple of nights to work out the system, I having camped but my wife is new to a tent. By the second night we had it down pat and began enjoying the new life style. When we hit Nebraska the skies were getting much darker and trees were becoming few and far between.

Picture of our setup.

Clear and Open Sky - Rich


October 1, 2008 #045 - Astro Vacation

Have not written for a month as I have been on a vacation out west. Did some camping in Co., Wy., and SD. Will write of the trip more in the next few days. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Denver and S & S Optika. Spent some desert observation time and tried my hand at some digital photography of the night sky.

Clear Sky - Rich