January 31, 2013 #131 - Cartes du Ciel

Cartes du Ciel has improved over the last year and I have just  upgraded to beta version 3.7-svn2418. Patrick Chevalley continues to produce, amazing free sky charting software. By downloading the UCAC4 data base and installing the files in the CAT folder you can produce charts  to magnitude 16. There are 4 files in this set: North, Equator, South, and Index. With other available files you can even have charts reaching magnitude 20. These file are enormous though, but you can tailor them to your needs. His site gives clear instructions on what you need to download and how to use this data. Below is an example of the mag. 16 chart.

A control program can be linked to this charting software that also functions well and can be set up to control many GOTO scopes. It goes by the name of RTGUI v9.2. (Real Time GUI + SKY CHART) by Robert Sheaffer.

Both application are well behaved, provide tons of features, and can be downloaded for free.

Clear Sky - Rich


January 30, 2013 #130 - Catching the Venus Transit

I was able to see both the Venus transits from northern Indiana (2004.06.08 & 2012.06.05). The first was ending just at dawn and the weather conditions were atrocious. I was able to catch it through a break in the clouds just after dawn. The second was under much better circumstances. The sky was clear all day and I set up my 60's vintage Unitron 2.4 in projection mode. Ingress through most of the transit could be seen until sunset brought observation to a colorful halt. It was clear enough to watch the event as the sun slid below the horizon.

I was surprised by the size of Venus compared to the transits of Mercury I had observed in the past. I have observed Venus many times during it's appearances over the years in the dawn and evening sky, and even occultations by the moon, but nothing really enables you to judge it's size like a transit.

The Unitron optics still present classic diffraction rings after many years of use. In the 60's I was able to ferret out many NGC, Messier, planetary, eclipses, occultation, and comet observations in the dark skies of the time. It still presents double stars in admirable style.

Clear Sky - Rich


January 29, 2013 #129 - On the Road Again

This is my first post in a long time. The last year and a half have gone to take care of family needs. Recently my wife and I have returned to traveling in our RV for a third year. I have a new Celestron 9.25 HD on a CGEM DX mount to use on the road. I must say that this setup is way beyond anything I ever dreamed of using as a boy. The optics are superb and having a GOTO mount is a real treat after 60 years of star hopping while contorting the body in directions it was not designed to bend!

We are now in the hill country west of Austin, TX. The skies are clear and dark and the weather has been mild making for enjoyable observing sessions. Recently I have been observing Jupiter and a few days ago, it's lunar conjunction. The far southern sky has also been a treat but thus far I'm still hoping to add the Centauri  Globular Cluster to my log. February brings it to it highest point in the southern sky and lets hope the weather cooperates.

I'm attaching some recent photos for your enjoyment. Will try to update the blog as the internet becomes available in our western travels.

Clear Sky - Rich