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Monthly Archives: October 2007

31 Oct

With Halloween, today, I’ve been thinking of hauntings. Being an astronomer, I’ve heard of haunted observatories and I suspect my ghost may someday haunt one or two. I can’t say, however, that I have ever encountered a haunted telescope or binocular, though I suspect just about any zoom binocular is demonically possessed and cursed. In my opinion, giving someone a zoom binocular is akin to sticking a pin in a voodoo doll. Ouch. If you plan to give someone the gift of a binocular, be sure it is a fixed power binocular or you may be sending them the wrong …

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30 Oct

Our first frost this last weekend was something of a wake-up call that summer is indeed over and, for me, it means adjusting to my winter pattern of activity. Most years, I simply move my hobbies indoors – put the bike on the trainer, pull out a microscope and so on. Not this year, though; Joanie is not moving indoors without a fight. I bought some cold weather bike clothing and it’s going to take some really nasty cold and heavy snow to keep me off the bike trails. If you see some crazy nut on the trail, binocular around …

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29 Oct

With all the excitement regarding Comet 17P/Holmes, I just had to give it a try. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about seeing it, here in the badly light polluted Chicago suburbs – my limiting visual magnitude is about magnitude 3 on a good night – but I trudged over to the park, anyway, to see what I could do. One look with my astronomy binocular, though, and I yelped, “Wow!” There it was, like a big snowball, hanging in Perseus, near Algol. In fact, it is actually bright enough, even from my location, to be seen as …

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25 Oct

As I left the parking lot at my place, this morning, and turned out into traffic, I looked to the west and gasped. The moon was sitting low on the horizon with clouds passing in front. It was truly a “Kodak” moment – absolutely magnificent! If I had been carrying my digital camera in my purse – my Pentax Optio A10 (now the Pentax A30) – I would have pulled off the road for a pic. The heck of it is, I usually carry my camera, but I had left it in my bike jersey from my bike ride last …

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24 Oct

Urban astronomers are victims of light pollution. Not doubt about it. I can attest to this, firsthand, here in the Chicago suburbs. Trying to see faint objects is often mission impossible where I observe. Light pollution is moderate to severe. Ouch! Does this mean I have given up on astronomy? Never! If you live in the city, too, never fear – you can still do a lot of astronomy. Don’t let those light pollution blues keep you from enjoying one of the greatest pastimes, ever.

The bright spot, literally and figuratively, for urban astronomy is observing the moon and planets. …

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23 Oct

No doubt about it, if you choose to do celestial navigation the old fashioned way – without a computer – and you are dealing with a lot of light pollution, you have a challenge on your hands. Finding deep-sky objects with an astronomy binocular is one of my favorite things do to do and, here in the Chicago area suburbs, we have a lot of light pollution. Gone are the old days when I could just casually star hop or just drift my binocular so many degrees from one object to the next. Now I have to pay much closer …

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22 Oct

Okay, so maybe the moon isn’t the most glamorous thing to study in binocular astronomy. After all, you an only do so much with a typical 8x or 10x binocular as far as detail. Doesn’t mean, however, that you cannot have fun with a binocular if it is your only instrument. In fact, the moon is so bright, you can even use a compact binocular – no need for a special astronomy binocular, here.

What can you see with a common binocular? You can, for instance, see all the maria and count enough craters to keep you busy for a …

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18 Oct

For those of you trying to decide on which astronomy binocular to buy or which telescope to buy, let me just say that you can do a lot of astronomy without ANY optics. While you are making that binocular or telescope purchasing decision, get out under the stars and learn some basic constellations and, better yet, throw in the names of a few of the better known stars. You will be that much ahead when your new binocular or telescope finally arrives. Believe it or not, even an optics nut like me sometimes enjoys a quiet evening under the stars …

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17 Oct

I am sometimes asked to name my favorite bird group. That’s a tough one to answer, since I love all types of birding and would hate to limit myself in any way. However, given that I enjoy a challenge and given that most of my birding over the years has been on the prairie, I would have to say my overall favorite group is the shore birds – can’t think of a better way to spend the day than on a prairie marsh with a spotting scope. On the other hand, when working with a binocular, my favorite songbird group …

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16 Oct

As a telescope and astronomy advisor, here at OpticsPlanet, some folks just assume that I started my astronomy pastime with a good telescope and a good binocular. Not so. My first serious attempt at astronomy was with a cheap, department store 60mm refractor with awful .965″ eyepieces. My first binocular, was a bit better – a Tasco 10×40 porro prism. Together, the telescope and binocular cost me less than $75, but, for a poor college student trying to pay her way through college, that was a lot of money. I had to skip a lot of lunches to get that …

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