How’s it going, Bill and Ted?

This isn’t an observing update, rather, a observation update. I read an article recently about observing styles, people who plan what to see, and others who just rock the ‘scope out, and view what and where they want.

I am very much of the former. I’ll sit with my atlases (need! more! atlases!) and my pad and pencil, and decide what I want to tackle. A few objects a night, generally. Although if there are guests, I tend to do the ‘introductory Grand Tour’, which is Albireo, M92, M13, the double cluster of NGCs 869/884, eta Lyrae, Mizar, the Ring/Dumbell nebulae as starters.

As for using the actual telescope, I’ve gotten better at alignment. Polar aligning is key, but luckily not hard. In fact, I can set up in daylight, and only be a few degrees off Polaris, only having to nudge the mount a little. My favoured alignment stars are Arcturus and Dubhe, with Vega and Albireo for calibration. Then we are set for the night, the mount can pretty much do the rest. I was…sceptical of GOTO mounts, but in the end, it saves me time, and saving time there means more at the eyepiece. For some objects, I have to plug the RA/dec in by hand, and the mount gets close, but some nudging by me is still needed. Depends on the accuracy of the catalogue I am using. Did I mention I need more atlases? Well, more catalogues as well please!

A brief aside, I’ve been more than happy with the service I got from Tring Astro, both during the buying and after, and now I buy all my bits from there. A filter is on its way to me, OIII, for nebulae.

And it turns out I much prefer visual observing. Which I am both surprised and not at. I had thought I’d get more and more into astrophotography, and while I like that, I am happy at not buying guidescopes, and CCDs. Well, not until I build my obsrevatory, anyhow. But visual observing is just…fantastic. It calms me, and I spend time on the same object, teasing out more detail, getting to know it, where it lives, and how it lives. And boy, do I love my doubles. (OK, so yes, my thesis was on double systems, but that never killed it for me 🙂

In fact, given I use Ablireo as a calibration star, that is generally the first object I settle on in an evening. It is a pretty thing, no doubt about it. The Webb Deep Sky Society double star atlas is a great thing, too.

Every night it has been clear, I have been out. I can’t wait for the winter when I don’t need to wait until midnight before it gets even close to being dark. And I can get to bed before 2am. A procession of teenagers (and older) have had the aforementioned Grand Tour, and Valerie has been out as well. The family are well aware I like doubles the best, but diffuse nebulae and clusters too. I had great fun with ‘The Blinking Nebula’ the other night, as well.

I might be getting a little obsessed, but nothing wrong with that. The planning has meant I don’t come home from work and go online, rather I pour over books and charts. And curse at cloud cover. The world is quiet here, and up there.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There is an open invitation, come round anytime. If it is clear, I’ll be out the back. If not, we can sit inside and have coffee 🙂

No darkness

It was after 11pm before it got anyway dark, so alignment stars were few and far between. Arcturus, obviously, Vega for calibration.

Targets: Arcturus, Mars, Mizar, Vega

Valerie joined me for a bit, though had to hunt for extra clothing to keep herself warm. And yes, I was in shorts, sandals and a teeshirt. Our targets differ, she likes lunar/planetary, whereas I, as you know, am all about the doubles and globulars.

Still, she enjoyed it, as did I. But work tomorrow…later on…so I best be off. But here, have an inverted picture of Arcturus, taken using daughter’s camera, as mine ran out of battery after a few shots of Mars. Long exposures, eh?



GOTO considered harmfuls

It weren’t like that when I were a lad…but supposedly it makes things easier. These new auto-slewing mounts, with keypads programmed with a bazillion and one objects. All your deep sky objects, all your doubles, all your clusters, all your planets, all your everything, even no doubt things beyond the limit of the scope you are using.

No matter, I have one, and thought I’d try it. I can follow instructions, I am not a total technophobe, I always made sure the clock on my VCR was correct. And I know my way (ish) around the sky, this whole ‘two star alignment’, sure I can find the stars they want. So power it up and away we go. Well, not quite. First off, polar align it. Luckily, I know where Polaris is, and that is close enough to give me within a degree of the actual pole. I also know my latitude, again I can push the scope into position of that. Drag the mount down on to the patio, lined up, and let’s try and do the star alignment.

(Bear in mind this is the first time I did this, the second time went swimmingly. But I had read the instructions a bit closer before then. At this point, I had them in my hand, had read them and was now trying it.)

Turn on. Press a few ENTERs to get along a bit, ok. Right. Time. Check. Date. Check…wait, it said it was going to ask me my lat/long, or I could select my city. Nope. Ah well, battle on, it must know best. Right so. Choose a star to slew the scope to. Wait…I don’t recognise that one…hmm..southern hemisphere? That is a bit odd. Scroll throw..dammit, the direction buttons aren’t the scroll-through-menu buttons, the scope now moved, try again. Nope, not recognising any of these stars. Why is it offering me bits in the southern hemisphere? Eh? Read more. Dammit, where are those menu options. This makes NO SENSE. Read again. LESS SENSE.

(A slight break: the only intuitive interface is the nipple, everything else is learned. Anyone who says their interface is intuitive is lying. What they mean is they have gotten used to it by experience, and can’t remember what it was like to stumble through. Back to the post…)

One more read. More presses and clicks. Nothing. Nothing at all. So I gave up, did everything manually again.

The next (clear) night, I decided to try again. I read a few words I missed last time. When setting up, sure why not click back a few times at a certain point, *then* you can enter you lat/long, as that makes sense, that is a good way to get to it. Anyhow. Hoo-rah. Job done. Now go for the star alignment, hoping for the best…yup, stars I recognise, and can slew to. Excellent.

Of course, I still never really made much use of it (there is a star tour mode, the Messier/NGC/more catalogues) as I was tootling around in Gemini. But still, seems like it might be useful, if even just to save me from pushing the scope around when I want to hunt elsewhere.

But damn it isn’t a good interface. I still keep pushing the slew arrow the odd time in menu selections. Granted, the menu scroll selection buttons feel a bit different, I get I just have to get used to it. Then it will be intuitive.

Or I am just getting old, out of touch and tech is leaving me behind.