Observing with Street Lights

Observing with Street Lights
Dark sky sites not always necessary to see the Milky Way (This image was taken ouside of a B&B in Julian, CA)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Met with friends in northern california and tried out new scope

We just returned from our fantastic road trip to Northern California.  We had a good time visiting with our great friends Carroll and Tom.  It had been way too long since we had a chance to sit down together and so it was great when we could finally get together at their wonderful farm.  We wined and dined and had a delightful time experiencing the quiet and restful Lower Lake Farms on the outskirts of Placerville and even eventually found
time to remember that we had packed the telescope, which Peggy and I enjoyed sharing.

Seteting up the scope and mount in front of guest house (Source: Palmia Observatory)

So, we unpacked the scope, tripod and mount from their new shipping cases and set up in a couple of spots that afforded the best view through the tall trees.  We had two nights of viewing and used this trip to discover some new bugs with the scope.  Or at least with my working of and getting acquainted with the new scope.  Using an equatorial mount still takes some getting used to compared to my old alt/azimuth mount.  I did find that if I just turned off the computer control, freed up the motion clutches and just moved the scope by hand, kind of a just let the force be with you moment, that I finally begin to get a sense of moving around in the sky.   Moving around without using the motors or computer was very freeing.  These trials are all part of the normal experiences that descend on all new amateurs, or so I am told.

Second, the moon was almost full and obscured a lot of stars on the normally dark skies.  It was hard to find and identify any of the usual suspects because of the moonlight and trees blocking some views.

The third and main problem was that I still have not mastered the use of the new 8x50 Finder scope.  I have a hard time using the hand controller buttons and controlling and moving the scope to find the alignment target, when I am looking through the finder scope.  This finder has only a little bit less magnification than my main scope, which has a magnification of 950/40 = 23.8 times.  I can't seem to get the knack of finding a known object in the finder scope, when it has a field of view only about  3 times that of the main scope.  I haven't figured out how to move the scope, while looking through the finder scope and being able to zero in on the sought after target.  I just don't have the skill.  It took about 10 minutes to finally zero in on the moon and somewhat more time to zero in on Jupiter, which is much smaller.  I wasn't going to be able to find any alignment stars, which I had a harder time finding, even though I could mostly make them out with the naked eye.

So, help? what is the answer?  My first frustrated  answer at this time is to get one of the red dot finder scopes, which I had very successfully used on my old scope.  The red dot finder projects a red dot in the image plane of the finder and makes it very easy to move the scope and just line up the red dot and the sought after object.  I don't know for sure but I think that is what I am going to try.  Trying to use the magnified types of finders, whether right angle ones to ease the contortions needed to navigate the sky or the straight through magnified finder which I can't seem to get it to work.  I never had any problems with the red dot finder so I think that will be my next attempt.  Seeing what other amateurs do with their finder scopes is going to be my main objective at the next star party.

Anybody want to share any thoughts about getting through my unease with the 8x50 finder scope? Am I having trouble because I haven't got the mount controller set up right to transition to alt/azimuth motion once I get close to the alignment object?

Anyway, we had a chance to practice setting up the scope at dusk and then taking the setup down in darkness and putting everything back in their proper shipping cases.  I did take one photo of the moon and one photo of our setup on the lawn just below the loft where we stayed in the guest house, which was just next to the main farm house.  Wow, just seeing the photo reminds me of how relaxing the farm living can be, when you are a visitor.

Moon (Source: Palmia Observatory)

Now, after a another day to drive through and enjoy Yosemite on the return portion of the trip, the scope and equipment is back at the observatory, in the city, unfortunately.  But I won't be doing any observing this week anyway because I will be in Pasadena attending the dynamic astronomy conference.  The conference deals with the dynamics of exoplanet detection and planet formation, formation of rings and moons about planets and some discussion about galaxy formation and measurement techniques. This is maybe just the break I need to find either a new finder scope or learn how to get along with the ones I got.

If you are interested in things astronomical or in astrophysics and cosmology
Check out this blog at www.palmiaobservatory.com

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